Wednesday, September 30, 2009

St. Ursus

Yesterday was the names-day of my middle name Michael and today it is the one of my first name Urs. The day is related to Ursus of Solothurn. The Catholic Encyclopedia knows about him:

Patron of the principal church of Solothurn (Soleure) in Switzerland, honoured from very early times, as a martyr of the Theban Legion, and recorded in the Roman Martyrology, with St. Victor, on 30 September. Relics of him are shown in many churches of Switzerland, and since the twelfth century the baptismal name Ursus is very common in the neighbourhood of Solothurn. The legend, by St. Eucher of Lyons (Acta SS., Sept. VIII, 461), classed by Delehaye ("Legends of the Saints," New York, 1907, p. 120) among the historical romances, says that Ursus, after many cruel torments suffered for his constancy in refusing to sacrifice to the idols, was beheaded c. 286 under the Emperor Maximian Herculeus and the Governor Hyrtacus. Between the years 473 and 500 the body of St. Victor was brought to Geneva by the Burgundian Queen Theudesinde; it is probably that about the same time a church was built over the remains of St. Ursus. In 1519 the old coffin was found and the event was commemorated at Solothurn and Bern. The Roman urn containing the relics bears the inscription:

Conditus hoc sanctus
Tumulo Thebaidus Ursus.
(Buried in this tomb is the holy Ursus the Theban.)

The Saint Ursus Fountain, Solothurn.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I've pre-ordered the upcoming new album Love 2 by Air only because of this line in the review by Monocle:

...sounds like a warm, indulgent paean to a fondly remembered, sun-dappled morning fuck with a sleepy-lipped lover in the George V.

Behave Yourself!

Don't get distract by the lovely cleavage*.

This is my nice Susanne. However, you'll have to call her Officer Susanne from today on. This evening she'll be sworn in as police officer. Better behave yourself! I reckon Susanne can be quite merciless.

* and/or handsome Toño.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fantastically Suitable

While we were enjoying ourselves in the Languedoc, the postman put the latest issue of Fantastic Man into our letter box. While I already swooned when looking at Mr. Ewan McGregor on the cover ...

...Toño actually made it to the content and decided that he covets one these suits by Duckie Brown (left) and Dries Van Noten (right).

However, I got a bit worried when he started to google pictures of Mr. Paul Sculfor.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unbelting the Grape

Toño is an ardent wine aficionado, however, he knows little about how wine is actually made. And since he is more the haptic type, we used the opportunity of staying at a top-notch wine domain to get in touch with the grapes.

On the first day here at Mas Du Soleilla, we went with winery owner Peter Wildbolz and his régisseur into the vineyards and observed how they decided on which grapes are to be picked next and when will they be due to be picked.

Maybe this Syrah...

or this Grenache Noir...

but not yet the Bourboulenc, which will not be ready before October.

Over the years Peter Wildbolz & Christa Derungs have gradually moved their applied cultivating methods toward organic. This really shows by plenty of animals which inhabit their vineyards.

For white grapes, the maturity of the tannins which reside in the skin seem to be the decisive factor. For the red ones, it is how they part (like an apple) and the colour of the pips that are mainly taken into account.

On Wednesday, we actually spent a day in the vineyard with the picking crew. Pilgrim would have had no problem to understand this motley crew. Maghrebi Arabic and French were the linguae francae. Unlike on too many other vineyards in the Languedoc, on Mas Du Soleilla the grapes are picked manually and carefully handled in small crates. The picture below was taken in the morning, when we still felt fresh as a daisy. The merciless sun and hard labour of picking and carrying crates took quite a toll. Luckily, we signed up for only one day. Harvesting grapes is a tough job.

The freshly picked grapes are constantly carried back to the wine cellar, so that they are processed within an hour after they had been picked. A fabulous machine removes the grapes from the stems and idle hands get rid of everything one does not desire in the further process.

Here the communality ends. Each variety and even each plot is handles individually to produce the best wine possible. Of course, the process has to be carefully monitored and frequent tasting is mandatory :p

Once in a while it is not a bad thing to get ones hands dirty. So you appreciate a good glass of wine even more.

Cheers! I wish you a fantastic weekend. We will be heading home tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Like Pigs In Clover

Just to show a sign of life... We are having an excellent time* here at Mas Du Soleilla in the Languedoc.

Like we eat dozens of the most amazing oysters fresh out of the sea on a regular basis.

And yesterday, our hosts surprised us with Moules et Frites. Yes, we are at the Mediterranean. However, these could definitely match up to the ones you can get in Belgium.

And there is also time to be a bit romantic and enjoy the occasional wine from La Clap.

* Except when I'm driving. Toño keeps bleating when I'm at the wheel. I know I'm an awful driver but I wouldn't mind if he regained his composure. It's not really helping.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Languedoc, We Are Coming!

We are on the way to our holiday destination in the Languedoc. This estate will be our home until Saturday:

It will be pouring down the first couple of days, but then the sun should coddle us :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Drinking a Methuselah

We are having a simple pasta dinner but Toño is serving a wine that just makes me awestruck: Atteca Old Vines 2007 by Bodega Ateca.

'Old Vines' says it all. They are almost as old as Methuselah. Some of the Grenache vines were planted in the last decades of the nineteenth century. This is kind of the watershed in vine age (think phylloxera plague).

But how does this wine made of old vines taste? Toño smells ripe flavours of plums and Amarena cherries. The body is well structured with ripe tannins. Despite its intensity it is very elegant. As usual for wine of old vines, it can be stored for some further years, but we live here and now. Cheers!

Turmoil On The Farm

The wedding of my brother and Татьяна is over. Everything went well. My sister, Toño & I could run a catering service. We complement each other perfectly.

The only problem was that we kind of lost control over the guest list, which was made only last Sunday at a family conference (like all organisation). The first signs were when people started to RSVP, who had never been invited. In other words we had no idea how many people might show up. In the end, 20% more than invited sat at the tables. Quite successful for a invitation that went out only days before the event.

The farmers in our village have the tradition to give a young animal as a wedding present. The idea is that the freshly married couple fattens the animal and that all farmers are invited to partake when they succeed.

My brother and Татьяна received this lovely piglet.

Isn't it cute? But it's also quite shifty. When my brother and neighbouring farmer Franz were installing the fodder and water dispenser, it leaped through the ajar door and escaped into the meadow. Well if you're a piglet, better don't mess with pig farmer Franz. In not time it was back in the shed.

Saturday Flowers

Outside the milking parlour on the farm.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


While I was ironing, I put on old records and got kind of lost in memories. I don't listen quite often to Swiss music, but it happened today. There is this one song from 1992, which is IMHO like one of the best love songs ever. It's is called Scharlachrot (scarlet):

Die isch ja filmryf, die Szene i dere Frytignacht.
Dr Mond isch es wysses runds Loch
u luegt zur Wösch us wien'i.

Hie bini lang elei gsi u ha Fläsche ghöut,
Schtunde zeut i däm viu z'grosse Bett
u ha gseh wie sech d'Wäut wacker dräit...
nume nid um mi!

U jitzt bisch du cho, grad jitz, woni's nümm hätti dänkt,
u luegsch dry, wie wenn's öppis z'gwinne gäb
für die u für mi:
Im schlimmschte Fau nume'ne Nacht!

I boue mir mini Tröim uf
rund um di,
u male se scharlachrot a.
I brönne mir di Name
z'mitts i mis Härz.
Chönnt schwöre, dass i ewig blybe
we üs nüt drzwüsche chunnt.
-- Büne Huber

That could have come straight from a film, this scene on that Friday night.
The moon is like a round white hole
and is scowling like I am.

Here I was alone for a long time, emptying bottles,
counting hours in this far too big bed.
and have been watching how the world revolves valiantly...
only not around me!

And now you came, just now, when I had given up hope,
and you are looking like there is something to win
for you and for me:
At the worst only a night!

I'm building my dreams
around you,
and I'm painting them scarlet.
I'm burning your name
into the middle of my heart.
I could swear that I will stay forever,
if nothing cropped up.

Thankfully, I could also brand a name into my heart: Toño. And today Toño is celebrating his birthday. Unfortunately, there no present big enough to express my gratitude to Toño. As a humble attempt, I dedicate today this song to Toño

Monday, September 14, 2009

Going Into Hibernation

Our outdoor pool just closed for 8 far too longs months.

Around four o'clock the sun decided to shove the clouds away and give the pool a fair farewell. I decided to be a bad buddy and did not go with Toño & Gerardo for a film and pizza and headed instead to the pool for a last 2k outdoor swim.

If I had not been in the water, I would had to wipe away a tear drop, when the duck that came all summer with her ducklings joined me in my lane for a while for bit of farewell swimming.

For the next 8 months it's back to crowded indoor swimming. But the next summer is supposed to come. I think this year it was on a Wednesday. I wonder, which day it will choose next year?

Stay passionate and Godspeed!
Mr. Urs

Sunset Into The Swabian Sea

If you click on it, you can see in the background the extinct volcanoes of Hegau.

Stay passionate and Godspeed!
Mr. Urs

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Wedding Planning

The permit has arrived and my brother and his fiancée Татьяна can tie their knot this Friday afternoon in a civil marriage ceremony.

This morning, I received calls from both my sister and my brother while I was still in bed. My sister prepared me for my brothers request. He needed a suit and thought I might have what he needed.

In the afternoon we all met at my clan's residence. At this point of time only the date and the suit were solved. We had neither had a location for a reception, nor a menu, nor a guest list. These are the wedding planers in front of the residence.

The reception will be held in the arched cellar. We even agreed on a menu, a to-do-list and my brother and Татьяна made the guest list. So now, the guests have to be notified by them. Most of them do not have the slightest of a clue yet. And we need a caterer, heaps of flowers and Toño has to get some cartloads of champagne.

As usual, I think we completely forgot to ask my mother about her opinion.

Btw, my clan resides in this house since 1863.

Stay passionate and Godspeed!
Mr. Urs

PS: The ceremony in front of the altar will be held next June in Russia. How this will work with my brother being Zwinglian protestant in a Russian Orthodox ceremony will be something we will have to solve after this week.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Phallic Interests & Skagen

We came in early from out sailing in the Baltic Sea on Thursday night. I could neither change the flights nor get access to the company network on Friday. So I could not be arsed any more to do some work and agreed to accompany my colleagues on a trip to Skagen, the northernmost tip of Denmark (if you ignore Greenland and the Faroe Islands).

The wife of one of my colleagues is totally into lighthouses and he asked me to take a picture of the Skagen lighthouse from the 1850s for his wife.

Another of my colleagues however is a total gun maniac and showed much more interest in some newer buildings down the beach. Though he was quite disappointed that the guns had been removed.

And this finally is the reason for our trip. The place were Skagerrak and Kattegat meet.

Unfortunately the weather was far too nice to see the waves clashing together from each side of the tip.

Stay passionate and Godspeed!
Mr. Urs

Saturday Flowers

Friday, September 11, 2009

Devouring The Grapes of Wrath

Serendipitously I found out that John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath had been published 70 years ago.

The first Steinbeck I'd ever read was In Dubious Battle. The book was given to me by Tigresa some years back. A brutal yet passionate book. I then bough this copy of The Grapes of Wrath, but did not start reading it until today. This spring I devoured East of Eden. It somehow felt like swimming in a river. So, I'm really looking forward to this book.

Stay passionate and Godspeed!
Mr. Urs

Added Later
How could I forget to mention this. East of Eden was a present by the lovely Ms.Mac :) It looks like I really had to be shoved into Steinbeck.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Sunset Into The Sea

I don’t know what it is, but both sunsets and the sea have something fascinating about them. And if you combine them…

Btw, this post was sent via a satellite-uplink from a warship. The sky is not the limit.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Harbour View :)

Finally, also my luggage arrived. When I landed at the stop-over, boarding for the connecting flight started... Of course, my luggage did not make it on the same flight as I did. But now...
I'm at the sea :)
I like the sea :)
I like ships :)
My hotel room has harbour view :)

Tomorrow morning at 8am we will be boarding... See you later... on the weekend.

Same-Sex Reproduction FTW

I should be packing, but I have this nasty habit to read while sitting on the loo. While doing so, I came across this scientific discovery that the nasty fellow Candida Albicans* can reproduce by having male with male exchange of chromosomes (read about). Unfortunately this fellow is also quite ugly (see picture).

* A diploid fungus (a form of yeast) causing opportunistic oral and genital infections in humans

Qui vivra verra

I'm currently parted from Toño. We will not see each other for 180 long hours. No no, we did not have a tiff. We are parted for money - that is, business trips keep us from seeing each other.

This weekend, Toño has to represent his caring employer at the wine fair Vinea and residing in the tower of this lovely hotel, as he told me earlier over the phone.

I wish I could enjoy the tower with Toño. Whatever, in twelve hours I will be on my way to Scandinavia. And on Monday, while I'm away, we will get a visitor.

This is Gerardo. He is a friend of Toño from La Huacana, Toño's home town in México. Gerardo will stay with us for two weeks. So I will still have a chance to see him, if I'll survive the keelhauling.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


This might be the end of this blog. I'm not about to quit but the there is a significant likelihood that I might be dragged along the keel of a warship this Monday.

We are about to install new software. Since such systems can bear danger to life and limb, they are subject to severe testing. So we will be at sea for the entire week carrying out those tests.*

Of course, the customer expects all known open items to be closed and will but emphasis on testing them. Well, as project life goes, there are delays, key engineers are not available and you haven't finished the job on time. This is bad, but when you are honest with the customer those things can be discussed. There is even a formal way of telling him.

Such a document had been sent to the customer. Since I'm the one who will face the customer on Monday, I'd asked for a copy of it, which I finally received yesterday. In the evening, when I was collecting my things for the trip, I breezed through it:
  1. Essential still open items are not listed as still open.
  2. I am supposedly the author of this document, although I had not written this concoction of lies.
There is no way to rectify this before Monday and there is no way the customer will not find out. Since I'm both the alleged liar and the messenger, I'm completely fucked and not in a good way.

Should I be loyal to my caring employer present me as an out and out liar or should I be honest with the customer and present my caring employer as an out and out liar?

*better steer clear of the Baltic Sea.

Added Later

"It's about trust. I can overlook flaws, but if you can't trust someone, they're worthless." Patty Hewes - Damages, Season 2

Saturday Flowers

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Smart & Handsome to the Core

Until last year, I had been under the impression that the easiest way to shock inhabitants of the U.S. of A is to ask directions to the toilet. However, last year on a business trip to lovely Virginia I discovered an even easier way.

I was eating an apple*, when I saw faces in a state of shock.

Obviously, some months back they saw a Swiss colleague of mine also eating an apple with the core. I was asked whether all Swiss eat apples like that. I don't know, but at least the smart & handsome do.

By the way, apple season has started. I feel like a fish in the water again.

*I eat about a pound of apples a day.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

My Mammoth

This morning at 4:30 am, Toño woke me to inquire whether we overslept. Not yet. Unfortunately, I did not mange to get back to sleep and my mind started to wander around. To Siberia to be precise. To Lake Serechen in the Kolyma region to be even more precise. I have been in this area 5 times. My memories led me to the trip in the year 2000, when I celebrated my birthday there and received this piece of mammoth tusk with with a personal dedication:

In the morning on my birthday (August 21), we were greeted with snow on the tents. That is why I'm wearing a cap on this picture.

Nevertheless, I took a bath in the lake later that day. It is one of my habits to put a newspaper cover on books I take with me on travels. The picture has been taken here by Gertrud:

View Larger Map

On the following pictures, also taken by Gertrud, you can see why this area is worth many trips.

There is permafrost in the Kolyma area. This preserves mammoths, which have lived (and of course also died) there up to to 4500 years ago. During thawing period in spring, the rivers wash away some layers soil and occasionally people find the remains of a thawing mammoth. That is also how the tusk for my birthday sculpture was found.

Ham Wrap Cake

Preparation: about 45 minutes
Rising: approx 2 hours
Baking: about 1 hours
Serves 4 or 8 as aperitif

For 1 cake mould of about 28 cm/11 in in length

Baking paper for the mould

300 g of flour (⅔ wheat + ⅓ spelt)
3/4 teaspoon salt
15 g yeast, crumbled
1.75 dl milk, lukewarm
60 g butter, liquid & coooled

250 g ham, very finely chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, monder, seeded and cut into small cubes
2 gherkin in small cubes
100 g semi-bold curd cheese
100 g Parmesan cheese or Sbrinz cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 pinch of curry
Pepper from the mill
2 tbsp mustard for coating

1 egg, beaten
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds

Mix flour and salt and make a hollow in the middle. Dissolve yeast in some milk. Pour yeast with rest of the milk and the liquid butter into the hollow. Knead to a smooth dough. Let it rest covered at room temperature to double rise.

For the stuffing, mix all ingredients and season.

Roll out dough (rectangular, 3 mm thick, 28 cm wide). Spread mustard mustard onto the dough (leave a 2 cm margin at the sides). Spread the filling onto the mustard. roll the dough from 2 sides toward the middle. Put into the mould, which had been laid out with the baking paper.

Let it rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Brush with egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for 55-60 minutes at 180 °C/356 °F.

Serve warm or cooled out. Goes well with a mixed salad.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Blueberry Cake

Preparation: about 30 minutes
In the oven: about 1 hours

For 1 cake mould of about 26 cm/10 in in length

Baking paper for the mould

260 g flour
40 g cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
200 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 packet of vanilla sugar
½ lemon, zest and 2 tbsp of juice
3 eggs
175 g butter, liquid & cooled
1.5 dl buttermilk
150 g blueberries

100 g blueberries
1 egg white, lightly beaten

200 g powdered sugar
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp water

Mix flour, cornstarch and baking powder in a bowl. Add ingredients of the list up to the lemon zest. Stir lemon juice, eggs, butter and buttermilk, pour to mixture. Mix to a smooth dough. Add the blueberries carefully. Pour into the mould, which had been laid out with the baking paper.

Bake for 60-70 minutes at 180 °C/356 °F. Let it cool out on a rack.

Garnish: drag berries through the egg white, and then through the sugar. Let them dry on a kitchen paper.

Icing: Mix all ingredients to a thick icing. Pour over the cake. Let it dry a bit and spread some sugared berries on the top. Let it dry.