Friday, March 31, 2006

Visitors From Kirgistan

We will have some visitors this evening at Gomad Mansion: Anton and his girl friend* from Kirgistan. Anton and was my guide on one of my trips through the Tian Shan mountain range. Three years ago he came for the first time to Switzerland. Then we celebrated his 20th birthday at the Open Air St. Gallen. During that stay, he chose me as his party mate and showed me that I'm not 20 anymore:
  • I don't think it's a disgrace to return home before it's bright daylight
  • I don't come up with ideas like "let's mix beer with tequila and test if you get faster completely pissed than when you pour vodka into your beer."
Besides of this condonable juvenile behaviour, Anton is an absolutely great person.

Toño will be so kind and cook for us. He promised to make Coq au Riesling, an Alsatian dish:

*Anton only referred to her as "my girl friend" so far. It's not pure ignorance that I don't know her name.

The To Do Review

Ms.Mac was wondering whether my To Do List was working. Well, let's see:
  1. Make it simple
    We finally managed to implement a piece of code that really does the job (real-time tracing of shells that fly with about 1000 m/s in a heavily cluttered environment). A colleague of mine was supposed to do it. His version has 1664 and mine 846 lines of code. His works sometimes and gives reasonable result even rarer. Mine, of course works just fine ;). Well, the real test will be in the next couple of weeks in Malaysia.
  2. Make it clear
    If you work with Ada you are forced to define everything absolutely clear or it will not work at all.
  3. Make it graceful
    I tried to achieve this while swimming. We had to do uninterrupted laps while concentrating on a perfect style. Our coach corrected the position of my thumbs at the beginning of the stroke. The thumb position has a great influence on the axial body rotation. Give me a 7/10 for grace.
  4. Make it beautiful
    Everything that happened after dinner was without any doubt absolutely beautiful. You're wonderful Toño.
I did aim a bit high with my sculptor paragon. Whatever, I would say I got at least something made of papier maché.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


I've just got the confirmation that this Sunday, I'll embark again to Malaysia. How long will I stay? No idea. My plan was, to spend the Easter holidays with Toño and Kaag in the South Tyrol. It's impossible to tell, if I'll be able to join them. Bugger!

An other big problem, besides of being parted from my deliriously beloved Gatín, is to find a colleague, who can be trusted, to take care of my office plant. Who said life is easy?

My To Do List

I don't know about other countries, but here in Switzerland, bigger company like to send their employees to seminars where they are supposed to learn usefull things such as:
  • techniques to perform health-improving exercises at the workplace
  • presentation skills
  • negotiation skills
  • work techniques
  • you name it...
I managed to avoid such seminars for quite some time. However, there are still some things I can remember:
  • I've been told many times, but I've never managed to apply, is to make a To Do List.
  • As I've also been told, success supposed to be, when one stands up once more than falling. So, I will not be a chicken and will give it another try and make a To Do List for today.
  • As I've also been told, one should always have a theme or an inspiration. This however, I've applied many times with stupendous success.
I've decided to choose sculptors as inspiration for my To do List. How do you create a brilliant sculptor of X? You take a gorgeous piece of stone and remove everything that is not X. Derived from that my To do List:
  1. Make it simple
  2. Make it clear
  3. Make it graceful
  4. Make it beautiful.
Let's see if it works this time.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Loved/Loathed Journalists

I haven't made a list for quite some time. Here is one of Swiss journalists, which were able to stick to my memory:
  • Max Frenkel (Bright Star)
    A master of his trade who is able to handle his quill like a foil or like a Zweihänder, whatever is most suitable. He is the only journalist who made me change my point of view by 180° (E.g. he made a zealot of the Swiss federalism). Unfortunately, he's now a pensioner, but still maintains a column in the NZZ am Sonntag.
  • Constantin Seibt (Whirlwind)
    Either absolutely boring (columns) or astonishingly brilliant (political portraits). Seibt is everything but lukewarm.
  • Max Küng (Soul Mate)
    There is nobody writing better about trivia - i.e. the things in my life that really count.
  • Michèle Roten (The Big Hope)
    Still a student, but very promising. Roten wings my hope for future reading pleasures,
  • Simone Meier (Lost Hope)
    Started a promising daily column, but wrote herself into oblivion. Her newest project (a soap opera) proves that there is something worse than tiresome.
  • Mark van Huisseling (Insomnia Cure)
    Proves that one can't repeat a brilliant idea endlessly. He is long since dead.
  • Jürg Wildberger (Charon)
    A chief editor. If he takes over this post at a magazine, it's doomed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Trivia alert!

I was always jealous, because my friend Tina knew before me what SETRA* means. It is always bad, when somebody else is ahead of oneself in trivia.

Now I hope, that she hasn't got a clue what RADO means. Since 1953, this RADO is an essential design detail of the famous Swiss classic lever arch files. a.k.a. Bundesordner (federal arch files):

RADO is the abbreviation of "Richtige Anordnung des Ordners" (correct positioning of the arch file). Each arch file has got two RADO in the front cover. The lever is sticking through these holes and supports the arch file in the standard vertical position. In addition, these inconspicuous apertures reduce the storage space by mere 6 mm. This allows to store 15 Bundesordner with RADO in the space of 14 without RADO. RADO is like SETRA an ingenious master stroke from the fifties.

*SETRA: SElbsTRAgend = self-supporting. Stands for a revolutionary coach design with a self-supporting structure

Join the Movements

Spring woke people up and campaigns are sprouting everywhere. Here are only two which are well worth to join:
  • Mike's Support Walmart
    Mike points out that if we stick together and show Walmart that we are here and we are queer and were behind them 100% it will make a difference.
  • Jae's A Hug A Bigot Campaign
    Thousands of years of civilisation... and we still hate each other. It's your mission to hug some bigots this year. They need the love.
What are you campaigning for?

Paradigm Shift

Since the first of March, it's easier for the police in Switzerland to fine drivers (CHF 140) and cyclists (CHF 40), which refuse the right of way to pedestrians at a zebra crossing. [see Ordnungsbussenverordnung]

So far, I've not noticed an improvement, but a significant shift in behaviour. This month, there were much more women than men, which did not let me pass in front of them. Since when has being a knobend become something typically female?

Public Service Heroes

My personal heroes of the public service are the bus drivers of Zürich*. They are an outstanding example of how to apply stoic calmness while being surrounded by maniacs on wheels. Nevertheless, they mysteriously master to stick to the time table.

*) The ones of VBZ, which run the town services. I particularly exclude the drivers of the VBG (northern suburban areas) from any hero status. Most of these drivers are licensed killers in disguise.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Inside Man

To prevent this day turning into a late teen memory Sunday*, we went to the afternoon movies despite the inviting spring sun. I did not take much pondering to decide for Inside Man by Spike Lee. I like Lee's work since I was nailed into the cinema seat by his Do the Right Thing. I was at first reluctant to propose Inside Man to Toño, knowing that Lee does not mince matters in his work. All my fear was for nothing, Inside Man took not only Toño from the first minute. This is on of the sleekest and most deceptive thrill ride since House of Games. Inside Man does not only ensure that Lee's next rent is paid, but also shows that spotless mainstream entertainment can build a smart alliance with levelling against the current commonly approved agenda. I'm tempted to give it 9/11 rating but stick to 7 polished martens.

* This includes but is not limited to linen and mattress soaking sex and listening to old tunes like The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog in the much raunchier version Hund by Paul Weixler, who happens to be the author of the hymn Züri brännt, which has reminds me of Fight The Power by Public Enemy.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Lefties Fool Righties

[A sequel to Don't Mess With Lefties.]

Did you know that right-handed snails are far more likely than left-handers to show evidence of a lethal confrontation with a right-handed crab?

For more about this refer to the Biology Letters.

99 Years of Experience

Scouting has shown its qualities in many ways, since in 1907 Baden-Powell gathered together 21 boys of mixed social background and held a week-long camp on Brownsea Island. Bettina Dyttrich showed me a new aspect in her article in this week's WoZ:
It is hardly surprising that many squatters are former boy and girl scouts: they like adventures and refuse to stop liking them, only because they come of age. They learned as boy and girl scouts what they require: e.g. constructing ladders, painting flags and tying knots. And cooking with big pots.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Like Pablov's Dog

I've had many bicycles in my life. They where made of chromium-molybdenum steel, aluminium or titanium. I never fell for carbon bikes (though, my Klein Q-Pro has a carbon fork), until I saw the new SLC01 designed by the magicians of BMC:

My saliva started to flow immediately. The frame is made with Carbon Nanotube Technology (CNT) and weights a mere 960 grams. This bike is the flabbergasting acme of style, passion and precision.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Dust To Be Able To Shave

The Economist showed me a rather frightening dystopia:
  • In 1901, the American inventor King Camp Gillette invented a safety razor with one disposable blade. Gillette realized that a profit could be made by selling a safety razor at a reduced price and then making a nice profit margin on the (in)expensive disposable blades. As we all know, this model has been adopted by the printer industry.
  • In 1971 Gillette introduced Trac II, the double-blade razor.
  • In 1998 Gillette added a third blade and called it Mach 3.
  • In 2003 Schick tried to catch up with its quadruple-blade Quattro.
  • This year we face Gillette's Fusion with a quintuple-blade.
We all know Moore's law which predicts the growth of computer chips' power. There seems to be a similar pattern with razors. It is difficult to predict a curve with only five known points. If it follows a power law then we will have to shave with 14 blades in 2100 (which does not concern me at all). But if it follows a hyperbola we reach the 14 blader in a few years. It seems advisable to dust the dumbbell and train the shaving arm now.

One Blossoming Reason Less

I've never crossed the equator. Maybe, it's because I'm afraid of a sun shining from the wrong side. However, there is a reason less to do it, because the Giant Spear Lily a.k.a. Queensland Mountain Lily is blossoming at Zürich's Botanical Garden.

Obviously, this is a rare event. Read all about this marvelous organisms of the kingdom Plantae or even better, just go to the Botanical Garden a.s.a.p.

[some information on the plant in English]


UK's young women are out-drinking men - if one can believe the BBC (and who doesn't) [read about].

I always considered flavoured vodka something disgusting. Alas - I have to admit that the producers of this raspberry vodka had the right instincts while aiming. Pecunia non olet - as Vespasian already pointed out (Although, he referred to urine. Which seems not all too wrong in this case, hence all puns intended).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Descent to Indulgence

It's hardly to believe, but there are jobs with an even lower reputation than weapon systems engineer - lawyer is one, journalist the other.

Yesterday evening, I had to descent and pose as a journalist to enter an exclusive tasting of Argentinean wines at the five-star Park Hyatt Zurich, to which only restaurateurs, wine merchants, and wine journalist were admitted.

Nevertheless, it was completely worth the hassle. Not only the wines were of significant interest (did you ever try Patagonian wine?), also the bocadillos, which were served, the live music and the tango dancers were all well chosen.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Back in September we did some design for a new device at lunch (reminder). As I learned today, the product manager finally got the big go-ahead from the new CEO for this device that will come to the rescue of our caring employer.

At the presentation of the project, I discovered my name in the field of the head of Systems Verification. I have no idea what this function is nor how my name got there. However, I reckon, that it's not bad to be in a new box when the company is showing significant difficulties avoiding the pale horse of the Apocalypse while it is supposed to chase ahead of the red one.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Three Close Hits

I'm in Malaysia for some trials. Yesterday, we fired with a 76 mm gun at a towed surface target, which was about four nautical miles away. Out of six shells, four hit the target. Of these, three were within the width of a man's shoulder.

Not a bad start - but even better is that I'll fly back to Switzerland tonight. I long for cuddle from my beloved Gatín.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Today, We'll Have For Dinner...

In the ever so surprising series Today, We'll Have For Dinner we will reach a new climax. The fabulous Ms.Mac and Mr.Mac brought us a jar of POT AU FEU DE CANARD directly from the market at Fontainebleau in France.

I'm so lucking forward to this dinner. Although, it will also be a farewell dinner. Tomorrow, I'll have to fly to Malaysia for business. I have no idea, if it will be for a week or a couple of months. Taking into consideration how this week things went from bad to worse (only for this project at work), my hopes for a short stay are diminishing... But as Ms.Mac said: Enjoy!

Mea Culpa

I've been called Blödmann by a colleague, because I've used the value 256 byte while talking about a VAX memory block. Of course it's 512 byte. Data files under VMS are commonly in fixed length 512 byte records. I'm totally (or at least half) incompetent. How could I? Mea maxima culpa!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

More Flashbacks

A lot of memories of the 80es came up while listening to the Soundtrack of Marzo over at the México City Monthly. Memories of a time when we had no money, were both naive and bold, and did enjoy life without even being drunk... not to say that we never were.

80es flashback to a bit north west of México just before I joined the army...

Sniega Māte Is Still Awake

Sniega māte just won't go to bed this year and brought me a 22 year back-flash this morning. Back then, after quite some snowfall, my landlady announced that it's the youngest tenant's duty to clear the snow from her footpath and in front of her house. Usually, she insisted on a behaviour, which prohibited her neighbours from realising that she had to let rooms. Listen neighbours: her husband used to spend his weekends with another woman in the Berner Oberland.

Enough of revenge and back to the snow: A Blizzard crossed Switzerland and brought the biggest amount of snowfall within 24 hours at this time of the year since 74 years. Yesterday, it took us six hours to drive from Lausanne to Zürich. It is not much more it took with a bicycle.

This morning then, I had the back-flash while shovelling my path through the snow to the bakery to fetch some rolls.

By the way, my Sunday newspaper supposed to be in my letterbox since 3 hours. But I reckon, I will not get much sympathy for this kind of suffering.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Blonde Bombshell

There was one season of 24 where I hardly could keep the blondes apart from each other (Okay, it's the 'serious' women that count and they are anyway brunettes in 24). Nevertheless, all these would not have happened, if at least one of them would have been played by Jean Harlow a.k.a. the "original blonde bombshell", who was born on this date 95 years ago. It was also Jean Harlow, who gave us the important advise:
"When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas."

Unfriendly Exchange

The bad news just won't stop this week. My colleague Sämi really plans to cut down on his biweekly exercise during summer. He is going to replace his Wolf Push Cylinder Mower with its 5 blades made of hardened special steel with a soulless electrical mower.

Why on earth is he doing this? Doesn't he know that Push Cylinder Mowers are just so much friendlier? They are...
  • back friendly, because they are light.
  • neighbour friendly, because they are quiet
  • environmentally friendly, because they rely on human pushing power.
  • grass friendly, because reel mowers cut the grass like scissors, leaving a fine spray of cuttings as mulch for your yard, rotary mowers tear the grass
  • wallet friendly, because they are cheaper in both purchase and maintenance
  • health friendly, because they provide free exercise.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Nightmare at Lunchtime

Talking about nutrition: I had a very disappointing experience at lunch. The whole week I was looking forward to this lunch, because string beans were on the menu. They are my favourite veggies besides of peas. To my horror, they were sold out when I arrived and broccoli was served instead. I have a similar relationship with broccoli as father Bush, who declared "No more broccoli on the White House menu".

Swiss Nutrition Survey

The Swiss Federal Statistical Office has published a spanking new nutrition survey covering the period between 1992 and 2002. The bottom line of the report is:
  • Nutritious behaviour of the Swiss is subject to rapid change
  • Swiss eat more fish and less meat
  • Fast food became more popular among the young
  • Elderly pay more attention to a balanced nutrition
  • About a third doesn't give a toss about their nutrition.
The most surprising revelation is that fast food is more popular in the French and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland. But unfortunately, nothing is said about how Swiss value the benefits of red wine.

[download report in German]

Disloyal Labour Unions

Traditionally, Swiss labour unions fought for the employees in the formerly strong Swiss defence industry. Nevertheless, the wind has changed, now they seem to celebrate when those employees get redundant.

In the issue of February 17, labour union Unia's newspaper work wrote that last year Switzerland exported defence material for 257.7 million Swiss franks, which is 35% less than in the previous year. However, according to work this is still too much, because Switzerland obviously issues export licences far too freely.

35% less exports means more than 35% less work, because Switzerland is hardly buying any Swiss weapons anymore.

Do I have to declare my union membership redundant too, if my union seems to be happy when my job faces the same? I smell breach of trust!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Servile Swiss

Swiss International Air Lines have started to send me their newsletters in French. First I was shocked, because French is a language, which delights have been exorcised out of me by my teachers in school. But my colleague Sämi assured me that Swiss International Air Lines send their newsletters in French to the posh part of their clientele to suck up to them. I decided to believe Sämi.

Wine Blogs

I've made a search for some decent wine blogs. I could not find anything useful from Switzerland. However, there are some Germans, who do a pretty good job. For the blogs in English, I just refer to a website called Top 10 Sources. They did the job for me already.

In English
In German
Feel free to add.