Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Caring Peers

It's always good if you can rely on your peers. This week it already happened twice.

About a month ago, we achieved a major milestone in a project that started back in 1999 - we passed the final acceptance test for the first and second of class. Project management promised a smashing party (disguised as an apéro), but since then we did not hear of anything. Yesterday after a meeting, my colleague Hugo put two bottles of Gewürztraminer on the table and we made a toast to ourselves.

In the meeting, it came to light that I might not be able to go to the South-Tyrol for the grape harvest. This would be the second trip to this place in this year that flopped. My colleague Sämi showed some sympathy by bringing me a DVD with South-Tyrol documentaries. How sweet is that.

There are some other work related news:
  • I've been offered a position in another department. Shall I stay or should I go? I'm supposed to decide fast.
  • They have put a salesman into my office. I already envy his world time clock. Do you see the dial for the seconds? It's a plane continuously flying around the world. Kitsch always prevails.

Not to forget, the Swimming Update: there was vapour above the water surface today. Not because the water temperature was so high, far from it, the ambient temperature dropped further.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I haven't done it fore a two weeks. I knew why. My blood pressure reading this morning said one thing: "Do some cardiac workout now!" But, this is not so easy as it sounds:
  • I loath jogging, or to be precise, anything that incorporates running
  • I loath gyms
  • My indoor pool is closed for 5 weeks
  • The weather here in Zürich is a disaster:

I'm not up for cycling in this condition, so the only thing that remains is the outdoor pool. The lifeguard at the pool said that his last readings were 10°C/50°F for the air and 19°C/66°F for the water. Although, rather bad this is still better than vice versa, I said to myself. To my own surprise, I did my entire 1.08 nautical miles, which is my standard practice distance. I had the entire Olympia size pool for myself. I did not even have to share it with some ducks like last week.

In addition, I attacked my blood pressure by retail therapy. This morning my spanking new cycling garment arrived. It's made of 100% superfine New Zealand Merino wool. It wicks naturally, resists build up of odours, regulates temperature, itch-free - and it's supposed to feel real nice next to my skin:

Monday, May 29, 2006


This is a sequel to ¡Rabo y orejas! - that is, some more about Volver, the latest work of Pedro Almodóvar.

Almodóvar did not win the Palme d'Or at Cannes, however the entire female cast of Volver - led by Penélope Cruz - were collectively awarded the best actress honour, while Almodóvar won best screenplay.

Almodóvar could also have won for the music in Volver. Music is always very important in Almodóvar's movies. This time the essence is captured by the tango Volver by Carlos Gardel*. Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) is singing this song without knowing that her mother, who she assumes to be dead, is listening.

con la frente marchita
las nieves del tiempo
platearon mi sien.
que es un soplo la vida
que veinte años no es nada
que febril la mirada
errante en las sombras
te busca y te nombra.
con el alma aferrada
a un dulce recuerdo
que lloro otra vez.

Actually it's not Penélope, who is singing the song, but Estrella Morente. You will be able to see Estrella Morente in Carlos Saura's new movie Iberia:

*Listen here to Carlos Gardel interpreting Volver.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Москва, ёб твою мать!

If I would have to name a place where I feel as comfortable as a fish in water, I were to say Moscow. I like to dive into the masses of the metro, the parks and the squares. It's vibrant, full of history and over the top too massive.

However, my love is deeply disturbed. Not only that Putin and his cronies are robbing the wealth of the country and steering right back into a dictatorship, but also that civil rights count less every bleeding day. Yesterday's news that the country's first gay rally was violently broken up, is only the tip of the iceberg. One can't even say that Russia is heading back to medieval times, because then Russia was apparently very tolerant of homosexuality. Even 100 years ago, it was one of the most liberal places in this respect. My hope that they come to their senses is vanishing.

These are some pictures I took in Moscow, when I lived there for a winter in the early nineties (click to enlarge):

Saturday, May 27, 2006

¡Rabo y orejas!

I took almost a week, until I managed to see Volver, Pedro Almodóvar's new movie. There was none of his movies that I haven't seen at least twice. The second time I usually concentrate solely on the interior design. No one decorates his pictures with more care and passion than Almodóvar. However, the most disturbing decoration was this time Penélope Cruz' bossom. Her décolleté aroused even my passion - me, a bona fide pooftah.

There is no author and director, who can present stranger storylines than Almodóvar. Never try to tell one to someone who doesn't know his pictures. Incest, murdered husbands, ghosts that are resurrected. All these is presented and you don't even flinch. All you can see are Penélope's eyes and the passion of life itself. And these colours...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Good Place for Birth and Wine

Friends of mine will get married in a couple of weeks. One of the most delicate matters of this act, is to choose the wine for the reception. As I'm aware, the two biggest passions of Toño (he is very passionate) are wine and me. Thus they had asked Toño to consult them in this area. Taking all parameters into account, Toño short-listed two wines, of which they chose the Loriñon Crianza from the Rioja region in Spain. The other one had the prettier label, nevertheless, it's the content that should count. I fully accept their decision.

Our lovebirds show an odd behaviour (at least still for Switzerland) by espousing in the woods. Fair enough, but this is not the best place to store wine. One just can't control the temperature. Lucky as we always are, my family lives nearby:

Our residence was built in 1613 to collect the tithe for the church. If I recall right, my family lives in this village since 1604. But it was only in 1848,when my great-grandfather bought this house, after he fought in the Sonderbund war (not that events are anyhow connected). I was conceived, born and raised in this place. Legend says, the midwife was holding me out of the bottom left window to tell the blacksmith the news about my birth (when the blacksmith knew, everyone would know).

As being a former tax collecting place, which were often paid in kind, the place has plenty of store room. Of which, the cellar is the most impressing, with its vaults stretching over meter thick walls. And, it's just perfect to store wine. The only problem is to keep my father and brothers's hands off it.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Want Your Hands On Me

If there is someone guilty of procrastination, it's definitely me. Ten years ago, I bought one of these flashy Beosound 9000 CD players by Bang & Olufsen*. Since then, I was not able to listen to my brilliant vinyl collection. Finally, yesterday at 5 pm, I had all parts together to get the sound from my old turntable out of my Bang & Olufsen speakers. Ten years for some cables and a pre-amp!

It was not difficult to select the first song to play: I Want Your (Hands On Me) by Sinead O'Conner. There was never another record by her that could match up with the energy of her fist, The Lion and the Cobra.

Coincidentally, Toño called when I had just put the needle down. Telepathy is real. All I wanted in addition to listening to this song were his hand on me.

* This was pure necessity. I had borrowed a stereo set from a friend of my sister and she suddenly demanded it back. The only stereo set that really fit into my old 16 m²/172 sq feet flat was the Beosound 9000. I hung it between the bed and the book shelf, which I had mounted at the ceiling above my bed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Shocking Science

I always considered science to be something serious and well respected. However, while browsing through the Biology Letters, which are published by the honourable Royal Society, I discovered that the topics presented on afternoon talk shows are kids' stuff, if you compare them with the subjects respectful scientists are publishing:
Death feigning in the face of sexual cannibalism:
Death feigning males were more successful in gaining copulations, but did not have prolonged copulations. We propose that death feigning evolved as an adaptive male mating strategy in conjunction with nuptial gift giving under the risk of being victimized by females.
Sex and the single (-eared) female: leg function, limb autotomy and mating history trade-offs in field crickets:
for females, limb autotomy is also dependent on their mating status: virgin females autotomize front legs significantly more slowly than mated females.
And did you know that pregnancy tests are linked to global amphibian decline? Read more.

My First Strawberry

Yesterday was kind of a first time day. This is the first strawberry that has grown on my balcony this year:

Although, I was born in the year when The Beatles released Strawberry Fields Forever (I was conceived, when they recorded it), this is actually the first strawberry that has ever grown under my personal control and initiative. I feel kind like a father.

Now I've to find a way to serve it. What should it be? A cake, a mousse or should I just mix it with cream?

Best Ever

Yesterday evening after swimming, Toño surprised me with this:

I've had many potato salads in my life. Most of them were ok, but it was never my favourite food. However, things changed dramatically. I've never had anything alike. I could hardly believe that this was the first potato salad Toño has ever made in his entire life.

The recipe will be published in the June edition of Le Menu (Toño has good connections and gets a copy prior to the official release). I highly recommend that you secure yourself a copy.

The potato salad was accompanied by a bottle of Le Calice De Saint Pierre, a Chateauneuf Du Pape. And Swiss pop songs from the 50es (think something like the Andrew Sisters), such as Übere Gotthard flüget Bräme, Stägeli uf, Stägeli ab and Nach em Räge schint Sunne.

Delicious wine and food, we have it in spades.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lagrein Comes To Me

At Easter, Toño and I planed to go to the South Tyrol. Unfortunately, Toño had to go without me, because I was on a business trip. When I came back from another trip on Sunday, Toño had the good news that there will be a Lagrein event in Zürich tomorrow night. Lagrein is an autochthon grape variety of the valleys of northern Italy in the Trentino-South Tyrol region.

The event takes place at the Carlton* and consists of two parts:
  • In the Lagrein-Bar from 5 to 8 pm, you can taste the wide variety of Lagrein wines along with local specialities, such as brittle bread and bacon. This all you can get for only CHF 10.
  • After 8 pm, the trilogy Lagrein & Dine & Music starts. This is a four-course dinner with matching Lagrein wines. Both is accompanied by traditional Neapolitan songs. This is a bit more expensive but still very reasonable with CHF 120.
If you also want to save the money and time for a trip to the South Tyrol, you should put yourself on the guest list via, but a.s.a.p - it's tomorrow.

* Don't let you scare away by the crappy webpage and the fact that the Carlton runs after-work parties. The place is really nice. It's all Art Déco and the wines are well chosen.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Flat Speedos & Ducks

Before lunch, I went for the fist time in this season to our local outdoor pool. The locals call it Seebi.

Somehow, the Seebi made it to the 21st century and one can see the latest water temperature readings via the Internet (here). For this morning, they reported 20°C/68°F. Fat chance it was, maybe this was my body temperature after I'd been swimming the equivalent of 1.08 minutes of arc on the Earth's surface. When I've left the pool the front of my speedos were completely flat. This is rather unusual, you can ask Toño.

Due to the freezing water temperature, I was almost alone in the pool. I say almost, because by a snatch I crashed into a female duck, who was showing her hatchlings the ropes. The Seebi is a scaring place.

My swimming gear in front of a Siberian map in my office.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

India Trip

Early this morning, I came back from India. Everything went pretty good. There is nothing much to complain. Here are just some unconnected points that come to my mind:
  • Indian cuisine is fabulous and affordable, thus it was a bad week for my waistline. However, according to Toño, my armpits remained curry free.
  • Sachin Tendulkar (think cricket) is not cream of the crop anymore. He is not only not participating in the West Indies tour due to recovering from a shoulder surgery, far worse, Rahul Dravid (think cricket again) overtrumped him at the advertising front. TV spends for Sachin ads are down to Rs 1.46 crore* a month, while spends for Dravid reached Rs 2.91 crore a month.
  • Last year, I spent more than a week in the air on planes, mostly with South Asian airlines. This time, we had Swiss International Air Lines for the long haul leg of the trip. I was shocked how far Swiss has fallen behind. Almost everything from service quality, refreshments and the entertainment system could not keep up.
  • The domestic legs however, operated by Indian's Jet Airways, offered a flabbergasting experience in form of the best airplane refreshment in years. It consisted of marinated chicken pieces barbecued on a skewer in a clay oven, a mix of green peas, chilies, coriander and spices, and basil flavoured chicken filled in a pastry case and baked.
  • The hotel turned out far better than expected. It was recently turned from three to four stars. The hotel stuff did not care for the seniority order of our expedition and gave me a huge room with 2 tellies, 2 toilets and 4 telephones. My colleague Hugo had 2 tellies, 1 toilet and 3 telephones and my caring boss 1 telly, 1 toilet and 2 telephones.
  • Although I was in Bangalore, I did not touch the Internet for a week. There will be a lot to catch up...
*Ten millions; as, a crore of rupees (which is nearly $5,000,000).

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Passage To India

On Saturday, I received a call from my caring boss, telling me that I have to embark today for India. He will follow as soon he receives his visa.

At least, we were not travelling on Sunday (a first?). This gave me the opportunity to visit my mother on Mother's Day. I brought her my homemade apple cake and Toño a bottle of Chateau Doisy-Védrines, this is a Sauternes (both go very well together - like we do). I also met my sister, who paid my mother a visit too (her boyfriend wanted to see the F1 race - she hasn't got a telly either). I'm probably not the best family person, because I saw and talked her fir the first time this year. This is my mother:

I guess that this picture was taken when my mother and father were dating. Think of time when The Third Man with Orson Welles was in the theatres. I know this, because they planed to see the movie during courtship. But my father failed to show up and so my mother went alone. Luckily, my mother is not a resentful person and they eventually married.

Everything is ready and I'll leave the house in a few minutes. I'm on my way to India. The bodily hair is pruned (it's hot in India). I'll be back on early Sunday morning, around the time when Zürich's White Party will close its doors. But I should make it for Swan Lake in Zürich's Opera House.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Tonight, while reading the new BUTT, I was wondering, when screws were invented. Toño thought that it must have been before the French Revolution. A guillotine would not have worked without screws. I completely agree, but I still haven't got a date. My encyclopedia on the shelf and Wikipedia list a lot of details but no date of invention. Thanks to Google, I found a Dr Karl and his Great Moments in Science from the other end of the world (i.e. Australia). He had an answer:
It’s reckoned that the Greeks had invented the screw back in the 5th century BC. By the 1st century BC, the Greeks and Romans were using screw presses to press [...] wine.
It was for wine! Toño should have known.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Call me a spoiled bastard, but I'm so not looking forward to my business trip to India next week. It's not only that I'm separated from Toño again (this would be bad enough), but far too many things went wrong so far:
  • I's not clear whether I'll fly on Monday or not. Two of my colleagues did not receive there visa on time. My boss will decide over the weekend, whether we will cancel the trip.
  • I'm booked for a hardcore red eye. We will arrive at Mumbai in the evening. The connecting flight to Bangalore will be at 3 am an offers economy class only - and it's straight to work from the plane. There would be a nice flight from Frankfurt to Bangalore which arrived perfectly well at bed time.
  • Not only the flight, also Bangalore is completely overbooked. There are hardly any free hotel rooms. Since about half an hour, I've got a booking in a crappy three star hotel in a noisy neighbourhood for $200 a night. At Bangalore, I'm used to stay in the beautiful five star deluxe Taj West End, which is one of the best places to stay on this world.
  • Temperature forecast is 96°F/35°C, which is nice for holidays but not for extended working days.

Hay Buen Ganado

We Swiss still adhere to our rural roots and Swiss farmers are loyal patriots (they better are, they cost us a fortune). Our former Mister Switzerland was a farmer (see him milking). No one has ever made more money out of this title. The Swiss farmers in return took a shine to Fiona Heft, Miss Switzerland 2004. Last year, they named 1’211 female calf after her. That put her name on the top of the list. Most probably, the name Renzo will lead this year's list for bull calf.

To the title and more about Swiss cattle: "Hay buen ganado" (it has good cattle) was the phrase, a young Mexican friend of Toño used about the crowd, when he took her to a Swiss dance club. Cattle and people are united in Switzerland.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Catching up on Cricket

I've just received my Indian visa. The chances are rising that I'll fly on Monday. It's time to start preparing the social aspects of the trip. Small talk in India is impossible without taking about Cricket. As a Swiss, I'm of course a bit handicapped. We do Schwingen, Stone Throwing and Hornussen, besides of Yodeling - and yes, we're a Sailing Nation.

What do I know about cricket? It's an outdoor game played with bats, a ball, and wickets by two teams of 11 players each which can last for days. It's also a synonym for good sportsmanship and fair conduct.

Cricket is like baseball a tactics game. Watching cricket without knowing the rules and how they can be utilised for tactics is like watching grass growing. One has always to keep the 42 laws of cricket in mind. They tend to slip mine regularly.

Very helpful to talk about past matches is the scorecard. If you're able to read this, you don't need a report. The entire match is visible. Besides the scoring, you can read really weird things that happened to the players, such as caught, leg before wicket, stumped, and handled the ball.

Let's get to the current events form an Indian point of view. In April, India beat Pakistan by 51 runs after Pakistan beat India by 6 wickets. Maybe it's not a good idea to tackle such a sensitive issue as India's relations with it's neighbour in the west.

Less delicate is the outlook. India will be touring the West Indies. The series starts on May 16 in Jamaica with some ODI (One-day International cricket matches) and ends on July 4 with the 4th Test again in Jamaica. Apart form Jamaica, there will be matches in St Kitts, Trinidad, Antigua and St Lucia. All I know about the West Indies is that they used to have excellent fast bowlers. But I'm not sure if that is still the case.

There is a lot to catch up till Monday.

Added later
I remembered that I actually played some cricket when I was in Canada in 1983, but I gave up after a couple of hours. I was supposed to bowl. Somehow the bowling rules prevented me from bringing the ball anywhere near the wicket.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pet Fever

Toño said yesterday evening that he might get us a cat when we finally mange to move together. Well, then I will have to give up blogging since pictures of kitties are completely off-limits.

I love cats. I grew up on a farm and we had up to 15 of them, although my mother had a cat hair allergy. This shows how much we respected the needs of my mother. Shame on us. Our cat population was only controlled by the heavy traffic on the nearby street.

A dog would be completely out of questions since they have a revolting odour and I've had two bad dog experiences in my life.

I was about five when our neighbour's dog snatched my nose. It was probably the most patient dog in the world. I had to throw toys at it for at least half an hour to get some reaction from it.

The second did not actually happen to me, however it would, if I was a gentleman. We were cycling from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. When we approached Staraya Russa. At that moment, we were a group of three - a man, a woman and me. Suddenly, we heard barking and scratching noises. Three dogs were wrestling under a fence, each trying to be the first to tear us to pieces. We had to cycle to the hills asap. Unfortunately, the lady in our group had the lowest fitness level and fell back. This was exploited by two of the dogs, which snatched her off the bike. It was then, when we men realised what we have done. We reversed and put the dogs to flight. Luckily, the dogs did not actually bit her. She had four holes in her tight and four in a foot from the dog's canine teeth. Nevertheless, the trip was over for her.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Armpit Curry

I'm supposed to fly to Bangalore in India in a week for some discussions. They have been expecting us for quite some time. Right now, it looks like we have to postpone* the trip again. There are neither free seats on planes nor hotel rooms available.

Maybe, this is better. Once, I had a rather strange olfactory experience after India and I'm not keen to expose Toño to the same. I had to wear a suit in this tropical climate and got some sore spots in my armpits. They were not severe and healed quickly. One day after the trip, I was lying in my bed and it happened that my nose was in a armpit, when I woke up due to a strange curry odour. I washed my armpits with soap immediately, but the olfactory sensation did not disappear. The food I had eaten in India must had worked itself into my skin where it was soar. It took months until I was curry-free.

* The Indians introduced the term preponed into the English language. It means the opposite of postponed - although, I've never experienced anything like that in India.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Golden Nose

This weekend, Biel was the navel of championships. Yesterday, the award for the Best Swiss Blog was given to the fabulous Heather from Don't mention the skiing. However this could be topped today, when Biel hosted the final of the 7th Swiss Championship in Wine Tasting.

Toño and I were among the staff. My deliriously beloved Toño had to check whether all of the about 170 bottles where flawless. My job was to open the bottles.

In the morning 5 series of 4 wines had to be determined by the 67 contestants that made it into the final round. After lunch, the top 6 went into the playoff. The Golden Nose was won by the gentlemen on the left, Mr. Marcel Andrey. He really deserved the title. This was the fourth time, he made into the playoff.

I did win too - that is I was able to nick some left-overs, among which are a Sauternes and a Château Citran.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Sugar Baby Love

Enjoy the weekend!

Hay Fever & Chlorine

I have no big reason to complain. My yearly suffering from hay fever is limited to something between 2 days and a week. However, I get a fair impression how it is for all of those who are severely wretched by pollen. For me, this year's woe started yesterday.

This was the pollen count for Switzerland twenty minutes ago. The colour indicates something between medium and high:

It's not my only allergic condition. My nose is rather sensitive to chlorine. When swimming, I have to be careful that no water gets into my nose. This happens most likely during backstroke or a tumble turn. About four to six hours after the exposure, my nostrils close down for two days.

A couple of years ago, I was afraid that I've got another allergic reaction to chlorine. After swimming, I discovered red spots on my upper chest. They were either on the left or right or symmetrically on both sides. It took me weeks to figure out, that these were self-inflicted grazes. When I was swimming with a five o'clock shadow and not concentrating on a proper crawl style, I scratched my jaw next to my shoulder, which caused this weird spots.

Back to the hay. When I was a small boy, chickenpox started when I was lying on a cart load of hay on the way back to the farm. It took several years until I tried this comfortable ride again, because I thought, chickenpox is caused by hay.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I went to my GP this morning and he declared me healthy. My blood pressure is back to normal values and almost all strange symptoms have disappeared. He recommended that I monitor my blood pressure for a further fortnight. If it stays were it is, the current crises is over.

I cheated death again. Nevertheless, one should not rest on one's laurels. Here is some more about staying healthy.

I finally made a first step to reduce my caffeine consumption (a litre of coffee per day is nothing unusual). I've bought a kettle, which should increase my tea consumption at work. Now I have to get me a wide range of delicious and inspiring teas.

I realised that I haven't been cycling in April at all (due to travels, illness and nasty weather). In the last three days, I was on the bike every day (yes, my bum hurts). Cycling is the most refreshing way to move around. So, those four will have to stay in action:

But most important to stay healthy is a positive attitude towards life. With being deliriously in love with Toño, this is not a big problem. Toño's admirable ability to connect with people and his rich cultural heritage open new dimensions to me daily.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


My former flat mate Tigresa has finally sent her new address. It's not as Georgy-Boy said at the Gold Coast, where the rich & famous live (e.g. Tina Turner). However, it's quite close. There is only a mad house between Tigresa and The Place. Although, I haven't seen Tigresa's new flat, I already know that is has similarities with Russian Hill (yes, this a cultural reference to Tales of the City).

Tigresa has also implied that she might blog again. We hope, she really will. Because everything we heard so far about her new flat mate, implies that the lady has a rather risky mating behaviour. Of course, we want to know everything.
And knowledge brings disgust unspoken.
Let us the sensual deeps explore,
To quench the fervors of glowing passion!
from Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Here is an extract from Tigresa's moving announcement. It's me while sailing along the Dalmatian coast. Why did she choose this picture? I haven't got a clue.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Headlines in Switzerland are dominated by the former Swiss skiing champion Corinne Rey-Bellet, who was shot dead at her family's home on Sunday. Rey-Bellet and her brother were murdered on Sunday night and their mother was seriously injured. Her father and two-year-old son were uninjured and are currently in a secure location. To public distress, the main suspect, her husband, is still at large.

Again, a handgun was used. On a percentage basis, we Swiss beat even the infamous U.S. of A. in the involvement of firearms in domestic violence.

Her husband is a captain of the Swiss Army. The weapon has not been found yet, but circumstantial evidence indicates that he used his service pistol for this despicable crime.

An unwritten law states that an officer of the Swiss Army is supposed to use his service weapon outside the line of duty only to kill himself, e.g. in case of bankruptcy.

Not even officers follow the codex anymore. This country is going straight to hell.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bloody Cold

It was bloody cold the last week and especially the last weekend. Luckily, temperatures are rising now. in 12 days, our open air pool will open (usually with a water temperature of 17°C/63°F) Yeah! However, we are far from safe and sound. There are still two cold periods, which may come eventually:

Icy Saints (May 12-15)
In the middle of May, temperatures drop quite often significantly, at night even below 0°C/32°F. The reason is a high pressure zone over Schottland. The period is named after the feast days of the Saints Pancras, Servatius, Bonifatius and the Cold Sophie. The opening of the pool falls on Servatius

Seep Cold (June 10-20)
It does not go down to freezing temperatures, but 5-10°C in June is rather cold too. The name is derived from the shearing of the sheep, which happens in middle of Europe in the middle of June as well.