Monday, July 31, 2006

Coming Home

My seventh trip to India is over. I'm quite exhausted. We worked 12 days in a row up to twelve hours daily, not including travelling. Luckily, we had a decent hotel, The Taj West End, a ***** deluxe. Unfortunately, these kind of houses are completely overstaffed. On the way to breakfast, your are greeted by more than a docent of them. If you dare to care anything bigger than a stamp, each of them tries to carry it for you. One of the better experiences was a waiter knocking at my door at 10pm asking if I care for some leftovers:

Or complimentary wine in the room. Or the laundry brought back with a rose in a nice basked*:

But all these is nothing compared to coming home into Toño's arms. There were flowers everywhere. The fridge was stocked with delicacies. On the table was a bottle of vintage champagne and plate with freshly picked berries and apricots:

The first meal was Crema de elote. Despite the heat wave, Toño managed to take perfect care of my plants. Especially the chiles and the tomatillos are flourishing:

It will be hard to leave for my next trip**.

* On the other side, everything (even undies, socks & wife-beaters), was single wrapped and in a cellophane bag. It took hours just to unpack a daily set of clothes (change daily and keep friends!).
** By the way. I'm back into Frequent Traveller status at Star Alliance. It's always good to have some privileges.
***** read "Five Star".

Monday, July 24, 2006

Sämi's Birthday

Today, we could celebrate the jubilee of Sämi's arrival on planet earth. Sämi is a colleague of mine, and we're staying together in India for a technical assistance. The department of the company we are working for here in India organised a function for Sämi as they usually do when someone of them celebrates her* or his real** birthday.

We all assembled in a big meeting room. Sämi received a bunch of flowers, a birthday cake (without candles) and a touching speech from the head of the department. Then it was up to Sämi to announce his resolutions for his 51st year of life. Sämi refused to cooperate in this part of the function and said nothing at all. However, he did as he was requested, when he had to cut the birthday cake:

* Unlike in Switzerland, there are a lot of female engineers in India.
** A lot of Indians have both real an official birthday. The official is the one, the parents reported, when the children were enlisted in school. This date then made it into all official documents. As a resutl, the company congratulates on the official birthday, and the colleagues on the real one.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Will Coop Survive This?

Switzerland is a bipolar shopping world - that is, we have two major store chains, Migros and Coop, which together dominate the market. I clearly prefer Migros, because Coop is a organic food minefield. Organic food is more expensive and Coop has loads of it prominently positioned. If you don't concentrate, you might buy it against your will and even spend more money than necessary.

However, I might get help from an unexpected side. Today, the Deccan Herald run a front page story telling that Terrorists sneak into State as organic farmers:

I hope Dick Cheney's clerks read the Deccan Herald. He surely will immediately take all measures necessary to fight this new threat as fast as possible. This surely will include the banning of all supporters of organic farmers and the freezing of their asset. The Swiss government will be pleased to follow suit. Coop will either have to get rid of their organic products or they will be out of business within hours.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Off the List

We all know this before and after ads. I should have made a close-up. This bloke has serious skin issues. He's definitely a before:

Sandalwood is for India what Lavender is for the Provence. If you believe the billboard, Sandalwood makes your skin fresh radiant and youthful. I guess I better don't bring Toño one of those Mysore Sandal Soaps. He is the best boyfriend in the entire known and universe and hence far too valuable to serve as a guinea pig. Although Sandalwood from Mysore* region of southern India are generally considered to have the highest quality. Is it really so hard to find a poster boy with good skin?

* In 2000 is was alomost arrested for having tried to lomograph in the sultan's palace of Mysore.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Ticket for Jamming

Probably all foreigners visiting India have some difficulties dealing with the chaotic traffic. Driving oneself can ruled out from the beginning. One needs to have a driver. Traffic seems to be absolutely chaotic and only controlled by the right of the fittest, and especially the strongest. No wonder, most drivers have a Ganesh or an other another helpful deity on their dashboard:

There are no visible lanes and the central reservation is a limitation which can be adapted to current needs. It takes weeks to discover that there are rules which are actually obeyed, and thus there is something like structure behind this chaos.

Nevertheless, I was quite surprised when our driver got a ticket today (not only despite the sign On Government Duty behind the windscreen) for being caught before a red-light far too wide to the right and causing a congestion in the opposite lane. Here he is at the side of the road with two policemen, who are giving him a lecture on good behaviour and the ticket:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Trivia Thursday - Westinghoused

Thomas A. Edison is well known and credited for having invented the lightbulb. But did you know that his employee Harold P. Brown developed the electric chair in Edison's laboratory? And that Edison was promoting it although he was against the death penalty?

Edison was fighting for contracts for the electrification of entire cities. His hardest competitor was George Westinghouse. Edison used direct current (DC), and Westinghouse alternating current (AC).

It was already known that electrical power can kill living beings. Edison's engineer was conducting deadly tests with horses, cattle and even a circus elephant to prove the thesis and to create a device to electrocute humans. However, the decision to use AC for the trials and hence the execution device was entirely driven by Edison's attempt to claim that AC was more lethal than DC.

The cunning plan behind this project was to completely destroy the reputation of AC and to drive Westinghouse out of business. How can you install something into your house that is used to kill people? Edison even suggested to use westinghoused instead of electrocuted.

Mankind got the electric chair, but Edison's cunning plan came to nothing. AC and with it Westinghouse won the market. AC might be deadlier than DC. But it's much easier to distribute. This did the job.

Do you want to know more? Read Edison and the Electric Chair by Mark Essing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In the Park

This time, we are lucky in Bangalore and could get some rooms in the Taj West End, a really beautiful hotel in the heart of the city. The rooms are located in various bungalows. Everything is rather colonial. The room are tastefully decorated and have recently been renovated. This is the one, I've got:

But it even gets better, when I open the window and step out onto my porch. Then I'm in the middle of a beautiful park:

My room has even a feature, I've never seen so far. In the bathroom, the wall towards the bedroom is made of glass. When I open the shade, I can see the park through the bedroom, while I'm taking a bath and dreaming of Toño and his tender poems.


By the way, blogging and especially readings blogs from India is at the moment a tedious venture. A directive from the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) came days after the Mumbai blasts, and was aimed at shutting 17 blogs which carried material from religious and political extremists. But service providers were forced to cut all major sites, including the popular Geocities, Typepad and Google's Blogspot.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ready Made

I'm back in India for, if I counted right, the seventh time. Hardely landed, I already had my first ready made tea. It consists of tea, cardamom, milk a loads of sugar.

Again. it was the hardcore redeye - that is, leaving Mumbai at 3 am and reaching Bangalore at 5:30 am. But generally, the domestic flights in India are rather good (unlike the domestic airports). There is a fierce competition going on and it's fought on the service side. In India I had the best dinner on an airliner ever (Jet Airways) and the only flight with an all women crew (Indian Airlines at the time, when Swissair a) still existed and b) was proud of having the first female co-pilot).

It has been a short night. I was not easy to go to works after only 1½ hours in a bed (at least a good one). But now I'll definitely spend more time in there and I'm going to dream of Toño.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Finally Summer

Summer is not only marked by summer parties, but also by a wide range of delicious berries.

They make the morning smoothies so much yummier.


A harmless summer party brought me to the brink of death. It was at the yearly party of the fabulous Tina and Claudia, which marks the middle between our snowboarding holidays. This year, the party was held at the residence of Claudia's parents. This lovely mansion has also a swimming pool. Of course, Toño and I could not resist the temptation and got into the water at around midnight. It was rather dark - no underwater lights :( - and the pools has not quite Olympic dimensions, but hey, it's water and I've got to swim around. But my enthusiasm reached soon some limits - the edge of the pool:

Again, another scar on my forehead.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Trivia Thursday - Plimsoll

I haven't written about trivia for quite some time. Thus I shower you today with trivia about Plimsoll (he he).

Plimsoll stands here for:
  • Samuel Plimsoll, a British politician, who's tireless campaigning ended Victorian shipping malpractice and saved thousands of sailors' lives.
  • The Plimsoll Line, or Plimsoll Mark on as ship's hull.
  • The Plimsoll Shoe, which is linked to the above, as you will see later on.
The entire Plimsoll universe is linked somehow. All started at sea:
In the mid-19th century one British mariner in five died at sea. Mortality among sailors was higher than in any other occupation and between 1861 and 1870, 5,826 ships were wrecked off the British coast with the loss of 8,105 lives. Vessels were either overloaded and unstable, or were in such a poor state of repair that they inevitably sank. Unscrupulous shipowners could profit by deliberately over-insuring these "coffin ships" knowing that they were likely to founder.
It took Samuel Plimsoll six turbulent years, during which his health suffered, his sanity was questioned and libel cases piled up against him, Plimsoll's legacy was secured when the 1876 Merchant Shipping Act was passed. His simple solution to the problem was a line drawn on the ship's hull, which indicated the level of maximum submergence - the Plimsoll Line.

But how is this related to shoes? A Plimsoll Shoe is an early type of training shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole, developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company (later to become Dunlop), was first called the 'sand shoe', and they were named Plimsolls in 1876 by a salesman, because submerging them above their rubber trim results in disaster.

Do you still want to know more? Read the The Plimsoll Sensation by Nicolette Jones.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Poor Breeders

My technological skills are obviously jutting enough that at least a stunning lady ranks me among her Favourite Geeks! Together with this testimony I was sent loads of geek jokes, such as this one:
Two engineers meet eachother in the street. One is pushing a really expensive bicycle. "That's a really nice bike" says one, "where'd you get it?". The other says "well it's the most incredible thing that ever happened to me. I was walking through the park when this absolutely gorgeous girl rides up on this bike. She gets off the bike, tears all her clothes off, lies on the grass and says "take what you want!"". "Wow!" says the other engineer "you made a good choice! Her clothes probably wouldn't have fit you..."
This joke recollected what a hard life those heterosexuals have. The great advantage of a gay relationship is that you usually double your wardrobe. Those poor sods!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Seeing The Angel

Things get damaged, things get broken such us David Gahan's voice. We've been to Locarno to see Depeche Mode on the famous Piazza Grande. This was kind of the apex of our vacations. Unfortunately, David Gahan's laryngeal heavily suffered from the long Touring the Angel tour. Nevertheless, I was worth the trip to the south of Switzerland. Embarrassingly, this was actually the first time that I've been to Locarno!

Toño and I went together with Zerbi, who is an ardent fan of Depeche Mode since his youth. He's seen them for the third time this year, but at Locarno, it was the only time, when they actually played his favourite tune Stripped.

Here are Toño and Zerbi enjoying gelatti at the banks of the Lago Maggiore:

And now we are getting to the bone of this getting stripped...

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gomad en Provence

We just came back from a relaxing trip to the Provence, actually to Aix en Provence to see the exhibition Cézanne en Provence.

It was the first time that I've been to the Provence at all, it has even been the first time that I was riding on a TGV. Everything that people say about the Provence is absolutely true!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Coitus Interruptus

We had to wait a long time until the Lake of Zürich permitted an official crossing. Last year, the weather was so nasty that it failed on all three official dates. But WOW! this summer is something different. The Water Protection Police waved a green light already on the first date. Of course, the Katalin Sharks (our swimming class) could not miss this occasion.

Toño and I also invited Ms.Mac, an ardent swimmer as well, to join us for the crossing. Because Ms.Mac has also to take care of her lovely family, the scheduled embarkment time of the Katalin Sharks was far too late. Toño had the brilliant idea, to swim twice, once will Ms.Mac and once with the Katalin sharks. One trip is only 1450 meters and with a break in between... My flu is still in its last stages (i.e. funny head like a bit tipsy and swollen lymph nodes), hence this was not an option for me.

So it came that Ms.Mac and Toño went already on the second batch. Ms.Mac biggest fear was to loose her lovely swimming cap. She desperately wanted a pink one, but they were reserved for minors. Despite her adorable juvenile skin we couldn't get one of those for her. Neither Toño nor I passed as her legal guardian.

Less than an hour later or 1450 meter further both emerged again from the scenic body of water in the heart of Zürich:

We had a quick bite (included in the starting fee), sent Ms.Mac back in the bosom of her family and returned to the other side of the lake.

Ungratefulness greeted us over there. Probably, somebody of the Katalin Sharks did not finish his or her plate on Tuesday evening. Dark clouds sneaked in from behind green hills. The Water Protection Police switched from green to red and stopped the party after just 4774 swimmers.

All we could do was to splash around in the littoral waters until the thunderstorm reached it and then escape from the downpour into a Greek restaurant.

The next chance will be on Wednesday, July 4, 2007. However, maybe we should try the Limmatschwimmen on August 26. It's 2000 m down the Limmat, the main river of Zürich.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Holiday Fever

There are numerous reasons why I'm supposed to be in a tremendous exaltation:
  • I'm deliriously loved up
  • I'm on vacations
  • The weather couldn't be any better
  • Tomorrow will be the legendary Zurich lake crossing.
Nonetheless, I'm in a somber mood. I'm in bed grounded by a hideous flu. Not even Toño's traditional Mexican household remedies - lime juice and horizontal activities - show the desired effects.

This was the last picture of me taken when I was in an upright position:

By the way - on popular demand - an update on my career outlooks at work: The one who offered me a new position is now plotting to get me at my boss' position (who resigned), if this plan fails, the old offer still stands. The fight will be hideous and dirty.