Tuesday, December 13, 2005

¡feliz navidad y un próspero año nuevo!

Tomorrow, I'm embarking to Mexico to meet Gatín's family and commemorating the birth of Jesus in a climate that is bit more propitious for my rheumatism.

I dare to cite Kaag by saying "give every day the chance to be a Christmas day".

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Cookie Bitching

A colleague of mine has once called me the cookie bitch of my family. According to his theory, every family has one. It is the person, which makes the Christmas cookies. Whatever, this weekend it was again time for cookie bitching at Gomad Mansion™. The process is very simple. One takes this:

...and turns it into this:

This year, my bitching could be limited to the absolute minimum, because Gatín took over the cutting of the cinnamon and chocolate stars. He is much more patient than I am when it comes to handling delicate matters.

Almost Like Common People

Roe used to be the food of the poor. I once heard that in Basel it had to be prohibited by law to serve roe to the attendants every day. Sweet Chestnuts had been a cheep but nutritious food for the poor too, since they were introduced by the Romans into Ticino. Nowadays, both have turned into culinary frills (you will agree if you ever had a saddle of venison with chestnuts).

My beloved Migros has now brought this delicacy to my breakfast table by choosing it as the third flavour of their winter season yogurt collection:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Beware Of Being LONLEY

The The The song on DRS3 the other day brought back a frightening memory. It must have been in 1993, right after The The's Lonely Planet Tour passed Switzerland, when I made the mistake to show up at work with the tour T-shirt, which had very big LONLEY written all over the front. As soon as our late secretary caught sight of me, she grasped me and did not stop hugging me for at least five minutes, while she kept saying "everything will be all right".

La Belle Hélène

In 11 days we can celebrate the 141st anniversary of the premier of Jacques Offenbach's operetta La Belle Hélène at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris. I could not wait until then and tasted already the new Migros winter season yoghurt Pear and Caramel:

This yoghurt tastes like the desert that has been named after La Belle Hélène to promote the operetta back in 1864. It combines the delicious sweetness of caramel with the aromatic acidity of the pear.

A Hug For A Kiss

I've never quite understood what the xxxxx or ooooo at the bottom of a letter or card means until I dared to ask an Anglo-Saxon:
xxxxx: kisses
ooooo: hugs

Made My Day

DRS3 does not make it easy for me, because they like to play complete bollocks, such as Dire Straits and Florian Ast. Never mind, yesterday DRS3 somehow perfectly hit the vibes of the day by playing This Is The Day by The The.

Well, you didn't wake up this morning because you didn't go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red
The calendar on your wall is ticking the days off
You've been reading some old letters
You smile and think how much you've changed
All the money in the world couldn't buy back those days

You pull back your curtains
And the sun burns into your eyes
You watch a plane flying
Across a clear blue sky
This is the day
Your life will surely change
This is the day
When things fall into place

You could've done anything If you'd wanted
And all your friends and family think that you're lucky
But the side of you they'll never see
Is when you're left alone with the memories
That hold your life together ... like glue

You pull back your curtains
And the sun burns into your eyes
You watch a plane flying
Across a clear blue sky
This is the day
Your life will surely change
This is the day
When things fall into place

This is the day your life will surely change
This is the day your life will surely change
This is the day your life will surely change
This is the day your life will surely change
See the clip.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

In a Vortex of Seasonal Emotions

Love can have an influence on habitats. Switzerland has a bipolar shopping world, which is dominated by Coop and Migros. Gatín used to buy at Coop while I'm an ardent Migros shopper. Nevertheless, Gatín discovered Migros new winter season Yoghurts before I did and brought some home. This morning, I tasted the Apfelstrudel flavour.

Apfelstrudel (Apple strudel) is a traditional Austrian pastry, which consists of an oblong strudel pastry jacket with a filling of chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, raisins and bread crumbs. The art of preparation is in making the pastry very thin and elastic. A single layer should be so thin you could read a newspaper through it. The filled Apfelstrudel is baked in an oven and can be served warm, usually sprinkled with icing sugar. The traditional way to serve it is with vanilla custard.

Much to my surprise, this yoghurt really tasted like real Apfelstrudel. This seems like another victory for the artificial flavour industry!

Unfortunately, I prefer Apfelstrudel in the time between lunch and midnight and I use to eat yoghurts for breakfast. Hence, this flavour does not fit at all into my unconscious pattern of behaviour.

But maybe I have to change. As Nature reports in its latest issue, the North Atlantic's natural heating system, which brings clement weather to western Europe, is showing signs of decline. This means there will be much more winter in Europe, and hence, maybe much more of this Apfelstrudel yoghurt.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


My way back from Malaysia was full of reading. First, I finished Tolstoy's War and Peace in the restored original version, which I started reading in August 2004. Then I opened Jamie O'Neill's first published novel Disturbance, which turned out to be a real page-turner. I interrupted my reading only for a massage, the boarding and a nap. I managed to finish it five minutes before the plane touched down in Zürich this morning.
In the back of my mind, I knew, I was fiddling with something close to a madness. I had a notion to tamper with the jigsaw. Just, say, a quarter of a quarter of a corner of it. The idea was outrageous. Disrupting all that beautiful symmetry. My fingers tingled with the mere conception.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ho Let His Hair Down

This week we passed the acceptance test of the first patrol vessel in a project that I joined six years ago. When Ho, our head of the local team, started his work here at the ship yard, he arrived with a crewcut. From that day on he stopped cutting his hair until the day, we passed the test:

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Plunging Bird's Nests

The bird flue scare is also taking heavy toll on traders of bird's nest in Malaysia. Prices have plunged by up to 35%. However, the price of top-grade bird's nest "harvested" from caves is holding up at RM 12000 per kg (over CHF 4000).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Huge Tumble Turnover

I've been practicing front crawl for quite some time, however, I've never managed to do a proper Tumble Turn. Finally last Friday, I started practicing. The first attempts were horrible and included:
  • water in the nose
  • breathlessness
  • giddiness.
In the course of the weekend, I made over 200 tumble turns. The movement is still far from perfect, but at least I got rid off the above problems. Nevertheless, I'm still not quite able to do the following in a swift and harmonic movement:
  • Swim to the wall quickly
  • Forward somersault when you see the "T" on the bottom of the pool
  • Tuck your head in tight
  • Put your feet on the wall approx. 0.5 m under the surface
  • Stretch arms out before you push away from the wall
  • After a brief gliding phase, start with either a flutter kick or a butterfly kick before surfacing no more than 15 m from the wall.

As you can see, there is no "T" on the bottom of the pool. But I don't think that's the problem...

Friday, November 11, 2005


The Christmas gift bringer in Southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein is the Christkind (Christ Child). This has originally been invented by Martin Luther. However, this relieved St. Nicolas (Santa Claus) from this task and we assigned him a new one. His feast day is December 6, presumably the date of his death. On this day, St. Nicolas is handing out presents on a per-behavior basis to the children. But he threatens to put bad children in a sack and take them back to the Black Forest.

My friend Sirpa is celebrating this day in another way. She allows the ladies of her fitness class to bring their partners along. I just made her the flyer for this year's Chlausfitten:

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Jackson's Wedding

Mr. Jackson Lim Jan Shin & Miss Chee Su San are solemnizing their Sacrament of Holy Matrimony today. We from Gomad Mansion™ are sending our warmest congratulations to you both and wish you a lifetime of happiness and prosperity.

I will deliver the official present from the ON Zürich Office first thing next week to Malaysia:

We will provide our lovebirds the perfect Champagne for the occasion: Comtes de Champagne, Blanc de Blancs 1995 by Taittinger.

We can be grateful that there are archetypes, monuments, and values, to which one can still adhere. The 95 Comtes de Champagne is one of those. Even more mature, creamy and lascivious than we were used, fresher, more aromatic and complex, incomprehensible, finally at the acme.

Our Simple Life

Although we're literally swimming in money at Gomad Mansion™, we still know how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life:

In Bed With Mammon

It's cold and rainy outside. Nevertheless, my face brightened up while reading the stocks section in bed this morning:

One of my mutual funds has passed through the 50% earning level this year. This gives plenty of cash that can be used for worshipping Bacchus and Dionysus.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Foiling Fear

Terror does not only brighten up my résumé. It is also a great motivator in design, as an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art shows:
SAFE: Design Takes On Risk, presents more than 300 contemporary products and prototypes designed to protect body and mind from dangerous or stressful circumstances, respond to emergencies, ensure clarity of information, and provide a sense of comfort and security. These objects address the spectrum of human fears and worries, from the most mundane to the most exceptional, from the dread of darkness and loneliness to the threat of earthquakes and terrorist attacks.

Becoming an Expert

I had to fly abroad to attend a task force meeting with representatives of a government agency to discuss options and means to protect their naval forces against asymmetric threats. Moi, who can hardly tell the difference between a gun and a toaster*, had to talk about the effectiveness of guns and ammunitions against terrorists and their potential collateral damage. I somehow wiggled my ass through and can now at least add a new line to my résumé: Expert on asymmetric threats and counter-terrorism.

* both are loaded, charged and eject something really hot.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Lake In Our Backyard

At the end of July, Gatín and I made a trek through the new parks in our area. This afternoon we had a brief look into the future. Almost in the backyard of Gomad Mansion™ there is a new park being built. The whole area under development is called Glattpark and the actual park Opfikerpark. This is probably just to confuse people. Whatever, the important thing is that they are building a lake. It will be 550 m long and fill an area of 13 hectares. The opening will be in about a year. The builders even made a view point to look at the huge construction site:

Bridges of Gomad County

There is a new bridge between two older bridges just in front of Gomad Mansion™ spanning over the Katzenbach (cat creek).

For years there has been the threat that a new road will be built here. I interpret this red span as a sign that we will be spared the noise and pestilential vapours of cars.

My Optimistic Tomato Plant

I always thought that plants are somehow closer to mother nature. But my tomato plant seems just not to care that there will be fog, mist and storm in due course. It's still producing blossoms. There is the end of the world as it knows it (and it feels fine):

Saturday, October 29, 2005


November is ante portas. The most melancholy month of the year will bring fog, mist and storm. However, when I finally managed to drag my old carcass out of bed this morning, I somehow liked the foretaste of what is to come:

Friday, October 28, 2005


Do you have people in the office that play absentmindedly with their tie like David Brent does?

I have and I just can't take them seriously.

Apple Geometry

Herbert does not like it, when I'm disappointed. Obviously, yesterday's apple had been picked a week ago. Laying around does benefit this cultivar. So this morning, Herbert brought me a freshly picked specimen of his apples. I'm pleased to tell that the flavour and texture were much better.

The apple was huge (height: 80 mm, diameter: 79 mm). Usually apples loose flavour with dimension, because the major part of it is right under the skin. An apple is, roughly speaking, a ball-shaped object.

Volume of a ball:

Surface of a ball:

If we increase the dimension of a ball or apple, the surface growths with a much smaller rate than the volume. Hence, dimension does not benefit flavour - generally speaking.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Polished Apple Without Apple-Polishing

I'm on a very low level with neither influence nor power. Nevertheless, this morning, I received this lovely looking apple from my colleague Herbert:

It grew in Herbert's garden next to the mirabelle tree. Unfortunately, Herbert does not know the cultivar. However, it was even worse that the taste could not keep up with the look. The apple's acidity was appealing, but its texture was far too ligneous. The mirebells, which I received from Herbert last year, were far better.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Pour être égoïste ou la choucroute

Supply of influenza vaccine is drying out fast here in Switzerland in the face of the approaching bird flu. Although, the vaccine can only help against the ordinary flu version. It's seems that the supply will soon be limited to the ones who actually need it (elderly or seriously ill or working with either).

But I don't mind, because I got my shot on Monday. Hehe. However, if you didn't get yours, there is still some hope. The solution is called Sauerkraut! Already James Cook used it as an effective remedy against amebiasis, scurvy and other deficiency diseases. Raw sauerkraut is an extremely healthful food and an excellent source of lactobacilli (more so than yoghurt), Vitamin C and other nutrients. Some people think it can even replace Tamiflu.

Sauerkraut is made by cutting fresh cabbage into fine strips and packing it tightly into an airtight container while mixing in a certain amount of salt. Traditionally, a stoneware crock is used and the seal is created with a piece of wet linen cloth, a board and a heavy stone. The fermentation vessel is kept at 23°C for three days, then left in cooler temperatures for eight weeks. Other vegetables, berries, spices and/or wine can be added.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Interspecific Vine

On Saturday, Gatín and I visited the Kartause Ittingen, which used to be a Carthusian monastery for several centuries. Monasteries are the ideal place for a autumnal sojourn and it was really delightful.

We used the opportunity to have dinner at the place and taste one of the Charterhouse's wines. There was one on the list called Maréchal Foch. Neither of used has ever heard of this variety. However, it was a pleasant experience.

Of course we asked the waiter about the origin of the wine. He told us that it's an old vine originated in the region of Burgundy. On Sunday, Gatín also asked his boss, who said that it's an interspecific vine cross, cultivated by a Swiss vine research institute. Two absolutely different answers ask for further investigation:

Maréchal Foch aka Kuhlmann 188.2 was developed in Alsace, France at the beginning of the twentieth century by hybridizer Eugène Kuhlmann (1858-1932). It is believed to be a cross of Goldriesling (itself a cross of Riesling and Courtiller Musque) with a Vitis riparia - Vitis rupestris cross. It ripens early and is very prone to bird injury and is resistant to fungal diseases.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


While taking this still life of random objects at Gomad Mansion™, I remembered my favourite Chinese joke:
If Eve had been Chinese, we would still live in the Garden of Eden, because a Chinese Eve would have chosen the snake.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Question Of Style

It's definitely a blatant example of bad style, when one buys a scent because one likes the advert. However, how is the case if one not actually likes the advert, but fancies the bloke in it?

Friday, October 21, 2005

200 years ago...

...today this famous flag signal was sent off the southwestern coast of Spain:


This is not quite true because it was coded and looked actually more like this: