Monday, November 30, 2009

Blue Monday

I'm having a bit the blues today. It was just not my day. Can happen... So I call it an early night...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Advent

We could light the first candle in this year's Advent. At this point we Swiss gave up on being festive. First, we failed to turn swords into ploughshares by saying nay to put a ban on arms export* into our constitution (sorry World Peace). Nevertheless, we still managed to mess things up even more seriously by saying aye to put a ban on minarets into our constitution. We are still allowed to export arms but a significant part of the arms market is probably not all to keen to ask for ours. Besides now, carrying a Swiss passport will be the same as painting a bull's eye on the forehead when travelling certain countries (Hi Americans, we are now in the same boat). Blatant racism is not only complete stupidity, it puts us into the centre of cross-hairs. And these are the people who said aye to registered partnership for The Gays™ a few years back? I actually thought my compatriots were not so unreasonable. Fail!

* I actually am quite happy about this, since exported arms are my bread and butter.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009

Just In Case... are wading in money and you want to get out of this situation and considering that Christmas is just around the corner, buying me an IWC Ingenieur Automatic Mission Earth edition watch would actually help you.

I would also take the black version. Just in case...

Jammed by Visual Pollution

Sorry, another work related rant... but I just lost an hour of my precious life to visual pollution.

I was called to a compulsory course on my caring employer's new appraisal system. It lasted an hour, which is still better than the one about the new wage system which took four. The course was set at 8am, a time where my receivers are still quite far from operational. However, they were completely jammed when they detected that the presenter was dressed in worst 80es style combination: too long jacket left unbuttoned, shirt, tie and jeans. It did not help either that the jeans were so unfitting they could turn you straight and that his hair was touching the collar.

The day can go only uphill from here.

PS: we have also a new tool to submit/associate our worked hours to project accounts. The button you have to press to submit the data is labelled "Interrupt". Wtf?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm all right Jack, pull up the ladder

I'm a bit in a funk when it comes to work right now, or more in a rather indifferent après moi, le déluge kind of mood. Because it seems that doing a decent job does not solve anything. The mess is only get bigger.

The German idiom the fish reeks at its head describes it quite well. Things are rather badly organised around here so that you are given only quicksand under your feet.

One of the best teachers I've ever had was in organisation. He taught me the Hamburger Job Model: A good job is organised like a good hamburger. The buns and the meat have the same diameter and there is a balance between the amount of bread and meat:

The upper bun represents the tasks, the lower the responsibilities and the meat are the competences to get from the tasks to the responsibilities. Whatever, the real life Job Hamburger looks more like this:

You have got certain tasks, have to put your neck on the line for like everything and are not served any meat at all. How I'm supposed to achieve anything on that diet?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cut the Pear Bread

It is nasty when the days get shorter, the temperature drops* and the fog is all you see of the world. But there are things I always look forward to in November, like cutting the first pear bread.

* well, not so much right now

Saturday Flowers

Friday, November 20, 2009


I think I do not watch enough (Swiss) telly. Yesterday at our after swim pizza, this add was the part of the table talk but I could not add any wit or repartee to the discussion since I haven't seen nor heard of the commercial, although it seems to have been around for 4 months.

Vital Necessity: Meat Mincer

No, I'm not actually making my own meatloaf or burgers, my thoughtful sister gave me a handy meat mincer...

... to make the filling for pear bread.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winterly Chicken

Yesterday evening, Toño went to the gym and I jumped in to make dinner. Epic failure. I have never done that dish (Fasolakia Ladera) before and the recipe was totally flawed. Let's forget it and concentrate on something that actually worked. There is a recipe Toño has not only mastered but also improved significantly: chicken cooked in coconut butter with Ceylon cinnamon and oranges. Last Saturday, I asked Toño to cook it and it blew my taste buds into another sphere.

Everything starts with a slaughtered and plucked chicken of a reasonable size. Dab it dry with kitchen paper. Season the chicken with sufficient freshly ground salt and pepper inside and outside.

Stuff the chicken with a big knob of butter, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 twigs of mint, half an orange cut in slices (with peel) and the juice of the other half. Sew up the hole and put the chicken into an oven-proof baking pan. Preheat the oven to 200°C/392°F.

Heat up 60 g coconut butter together with a cinnamon stick. Pour it over the chicken and cook it for 60 minutes in the oven. While in the oven, pour from time to time some coconut butter over the chicken.

Reduce 4 dl orange juice with 1 tbsp orange flower honey* and a knife point of cinnamon in a pan. Cut the chicken in 8 parts. Pour the syrup over the chicken and glaze for 2-3 minutes in the oven.

For the coconut rice side dish add coconut milk to the water when cooking the rice (1 part coconut milk, 6 parts water). Before serving, sprinkle desiccated coconut over the rice.

* Don't compromise on the honey. It must be orange flower honey. It can't be substituted.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Going All Buff!

Toño still has plantar fasciitis and is not allowed to run more than 15 minutes a week on a soft surface (a thing we call here Finnenbahn). To compensate for this, a few weeks ago he signed up to a gym, which I'd recommended him (although I haven't been to a gym in 29 years).

To cut a long story short, Toño persuaded me to give it a try, which I did this morning. I somehow managed to get through this without having a screaming fit. Thus I signed up for a year.

While the fee is rather catholic baroque, the place is totally puritan protestant with strict attire guidelines (no wifebeaters, shorts at least to the knee). There is no background music, no bar where a sun-bed tanned fake-blond serves protein shakes, no fat-burn group workout, no free-weights, and no cardio workout equipment. There are only machines that build up brute force. My new mantra goes: Strength is not everything but without it we are nothing.

Russian Plait

I doupt that this cake has anything to do with Russia. I think it's just a name given by to it. At least my sister-in-law Татьяна does not know it (and I don't think it's because she's not really Russian but of Udmurt origin). But segs wies well (as we Swiss say), here is how to make a Russian Plait.

Everything starts with a simple sweet yeast dough: sieve 300 g flour into a bowl, add half a tsp salt, 3 tbsp sugar and 60 g soft butter. Dissolve 20 g yeast in 1 dl milk and add 1 egg. Pour the liquid into the middle of the bowl. Knead to a smooth dough. Let it rest covered at room temperature to double rise.

For the filling mix 150 g ground nuts, 3 tbsp sugar, 1 grated apple, zest and juice of half a lemon, 4-6 tbsp milk.

Roll out dough (rectangular, 3 mm thick, 28 cm wide). Spread first some apricot jam onto the dough and then the filling. Roll up neatly and cut almost in half along the roll.

Make a nice plait.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 220°C/428°F. While still hot, glaze with a icing sugar and lemon juice mixture.

It is recommended to let yeast pastry rest for up to 2 days before serving. This intensifies the flavour (according to my sister, who knos such things).

Monday, November 16, 2009


I have a difficult relationship with olives, although our relationship started rather innocently. I heard the first time of olives in Sunday school, when our teacher told us the story of Noah and showed us an olive twig, so that we knew what this thing was that the dove returned.*

Olives were not a very common thing where I grew up. The next encounter I actually remember was about 10 years later during my apprenticeship, where I had to install a pump for a tank for blue lobsters, which was located next to five huge barrels of olives. The combination is haunting me ever since. In other words the odour of olives in oil I find rather revolting.

Nevertheless, I like dishes that are cooked with black olives. Although, I don't eat the olives.

But there is an exception to my avoidance of olives: Tapenade, the Provençal dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil. It's just the perfect hors d’œuvre.

*In Sunday school we also had this collection box with a small black boy on the top, who bowed gratefully when you entered a coin. I don't think that is in use any more.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Drought Is Over

We had a bit of a panic here at the residence since the inventory of Toño's ostentatious wine cabinet was running short. But we managed to restock at the eleventh hour.

The wines that have arrived at the residence:
  • Réserve Blanc 2007, Mas du Soleilla, Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape
  • Les Chailles 2007, Mas du Soleilla, Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape
  • Clôt de l'Amandier 2007, Mas du Soleilla, Coteaux du Languedoc La Clape
  • Terre du Vent 2007, Mas du Soleilla, Coteaux du Narbonne
  • M2 de Matallana 2006, Telmo Rodriguez, Ribera del Duero
  • Lanzaga, Telmo Rodriguez, Rioja, 2006
  • Gago, Telmo Rodriguez, Toro, 2007
The Gago has a special place in our heart, since this is the wine we had on the evening I was seduced by Toño.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Evening with Alain Brumont

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure to discover Alain Brumont a.k.a. le roi de Madiran. The event took place in a posh club here in Zürich, one of these places an ordinary mortal like me is normally not granted access. However, the discovery of the evening are both Alain Brumont and his wines. Both discoveries show what an ignorant I actually am, since both are already well known and valued in the world of wine.

The first part of the tasting was a vertical tasting - that is, several vintages of the same wine are compared. In this case this was the Château Montus Cuvée Prestige, which is nicknamed Petrus de Madiran. This wines is made from 100% Tannat, typically very concentrated, and high in tannin. Thus it is probably the absolute opposite of an approachable New World wine, yet in return blessed with daring character.

Blessed with character is also Alain Brumont himself. He is full of passion, however without any dogged determination. He has an excellent humour (for all I understood, everybody spoke French all the time) and although being at the pinnacle of his trade, eager to experiment.

In the second part of the tasting (accompanied with tasty finger food) we could experience his other domains. There Alain Brumont showed that he does not only prevails at the top but is also able to make affordable wine with a stunning quality.

A Rose for Gauss Jordan

... who came out one year ago. Happy anniversary!

Saturday Flowers

Ganesh deity adorned with hibiscus flowers on the dashboard of my driver's Tata, Bangalore, India.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


This mission in India is over. I think I've accomplished for what I've been here *pats on the back*.

Here in India, after a meal one takes some Mukshwas as digestive aid and also to freshen the breath.

I reckon I'll need some (symbolic) Mukshwas too. I' can ponder what that might be until my flight will take off. There is sufficient time. I'm supposed to embark at 3:30am *yawn*.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tea Boys

One of the rare perks of working in India is being served tea at the desk by (more or less) cute tea boys on a regular basis.

I did not dare to take a picture of the tea boy actually serving the tea, since I have to sign every morning that I'm not carrying a camera on the premises; and since I have been almost arrested twice here in India for taking photos at 'inappropriate' places. Thus here only a picture of the served tea in this lovely cup with alpine flower motives.

Monday, November 09, 2009


It kind of comes with life, we are getting screwed, at least occasionally, and not always in a good way. Nevertheless, I feel sorry for this Ganesh. He has been screwed twice and at least once not in a good way.

Vital Necessity: First Coffee in Bed

The first thing Toño & I negotiate in the day is, who is getting the papers and who is making coffee. There are only a few other things I can think of, I like to start the day with, than spending almost an entire hour enjoying papers and coffee :) The worst for me, is to rush out of bed, quick shower & shave and out of the house. I just need some time to say hello to the day. Otherwise I'm kind of off the rails for the entire day.

At home we have a top notch coffee maker. But when I'm on a trip, I have to find other means to solve the logistics. Most hotel rooms have a kettle and some bags of instant coffee, but usually far to few to satisfy my caffeine addiction. Hence I have travel with a glass of instant coffee.

Instead of reading the paper, I was typing this in bed while having a couple of cups. Now I'm ready for the new week. May it be a prosperous one, for all of us.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Vital Necessity: Hugs

It was like the scales fell from my eyes when I woke up knackered this morning after I hardly could fall asleep last night (although I was quite worn out), and then saw this picture on Mr. HCI's twitter stream:

Yes, I miss Toño and being hugged by Toño. Bedlam sleeping patterns are another downside of business trips. And it could be cured so easily.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Vital Necessity: Comfort Food

I'm in India again. I don't mind travelling, but I also like to be home and one thing I associate with being home is comfort food such as this pasta dish, which Toño made last Sunday:

If you want to know how Toño made this dish, then see here. But instead of Swiss chard, I bought some spinach. Both work just fine. And Toño fries the chicken a bit in a pan, before he ads it to the sauce. This way, it comforts even more.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Vital Necessity: Travel Shoeshine Set

Because polished shoes are a vital necessity.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Vital Necessity: Messenger Bag

I hardly leave the house without my messenger bag. For over ten years, this has always been a black Timbuk2. But with winter approaching and thus cycling occurring again most in the dark, I decided to try a more reflective model this morning:

As you can see on the arrows, it's a British model, however, no car tried to overtake me on my right (so far).

My messenger bag usually contains at least:
  • 2 mobbies (private & work)
  • grab & shoot (Lumix DMC-LX3)
  • towel
  • speedos
  • goggles
  • pool subscription
  • agenda
  • some fruits
  • some pens
  • some memory sticks
  • iPod
  • some hotel reward cards
  • some aspirin.
If I'm not about to cycle there is also something to read.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Vital Necessity: Laundry Sorting Bags

Washing clothes is a tedious enough task, sorting soiled apparel prior to this is even worse. Thus a system, which takes over this task when clothes are disposed to be laundered, is a vital necessity. Like we have this 3 bags for coloured, white & wool:

The bags are fastened to the frame with press-studs. You can easily detach a bag and drag it to the washing machine. Your precious hands will never come even close to the soiled garments.

Celebrating Autumn

Ryan recommended it, Martin did it too, and we finally followed suit by putting up some autumnal decoration.

We did not include any pumpkins, although my sister-in-law Татьяна is a major player in the pumpkin business.