Sunday, March 30, 2008

End of ski season report April 2008

"Thank goodness" Marcus was heard to comment after this saturdays snowboarding session. This will be the last time in 2008.

Since we are not Swiss and live less than an hour from several good Ski resorts we are victims of Ski Guilt. Ski Guilt is the uncontrollable feeling that we are obliged to go skiing regardless of weather, conditions, or personal wellbeing just because now we can, whilst in our childhoods it was between difficult and impossible.

For the fortunate few in the England of the 80's or 90's ones mother and father might take you skiing each year or even own a ski chalet in Europe.
Our parents had severly neglected our ski education. We had to scrimp and save for that yearly ski expedition, and timidly wander into Snow and Rock Kensington and marvel at that often mysterious but always expensive ski clothing.

So with this background it seems the duty of all self respecting non Swiss residents to ski whenever possible.

Now we can with a clear conscience declare the 2008 season closed:
we've done our bit, we've supported that Swiss Ski economy, we've sent annoying ski emails and pictures to British friends, we now look forward to the athletic Swiss spring and summer

Crazy people walking up to ski down. Today thankfully this was not us

Agata with some last minute tapping

Dear Snowboards, you have performed well in 2008. Take the rest of the year off

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The State of the LED nation

Switching from regular or low voltage bulbs to LED in your apartment will currently only lead to two outcomes

  • poverty - since these bulbs are extraordinary expensive (17GBP for a 3W LED GU10 bulb for example)

  • blindness - since said lights kick out a mere fraction of the light of a regular incandescent light bulb or low voltage equivalents.

But here is the progress so far ...

First generation 9 LED white GU10 bulb from Do It ALL

About 6GBP - good price

On the negative side - puts out almost no light whatsoever, though the light is visible from hundreds of metres away

GU10 means it takes a 240V supply and has nothing to do with the light characterics of the unit

Second Generation: 20 LED bulb

Improved light emissions, but still no match for a 40W light bulb let alone a (say) incandescent 150W bulb

2.4 Watt power consumption, GU10 voltage interface

30000 hours lifetime means it could literally last you over 20 years at 4 hours a day every day.

Generation 3, a single large LED unit. 3Watts

Emits the light of about a 30W incandescent light bulb

Light not overly white so good

Cost ... about 17GBP

And the winner is this low volatge bulb

Power consumption 20W

Kicks out the light of a 200W regular bulb

So what's the answer so far ? A 20W low voltage uplighter and 3W LED ceiling mounted bulbs. Lots of light and total power consumption 30Watts. This is down from 3x75Watt original Halogens.

One day soon LED technology might actually be viable (in light terms) for now it needs a little helping hand.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Piotr and Masha

Happy Easter .... what

Another marvellous weekend, this time back home in London.

Not quite as icy as the photograph suggests but we had a nerve racking drive to Geneva airport with a motorway covered in Snow. After checking in we parked the car with minutes to spare.

A very tasty Bacon sandwich later we arrived a pretty chilly London. First stop ... well Starbucks of course [ NB Starbucks has now arrived in Lausanne. In fact it's a bit of a shocker ... there are 2 Starbucks in Lausanne. Don't tell us we live in a village]

In the evening the bijou expensive meal with our January 2008 Diving holiday companions was shelved in favour of an eating at home experience. We were introduced to Deliverance a reasonably priced Internet ordered home food delivery service.

In a combined bit to lose weight and subject me to torture we participated in the Windsor Asthma 10K. I trolled around in 46 minutes or so and Agata a few moments later. The good times were induced by the freezing cold wind, sleet and snow which told my body to hurry up.

We returned to London to acquire a Slingbox Solo. As a testament to how little TV we watch we found in January that our Slingbox classic had died. Last used in November 2007! The Slingbox allows us to take our TV signal (from our Internet TV subscription) and convert it to a digital Ethernet signal. Then any PC in the flat via a slingbox client can watch TV. This strategy has served us well, we have not had a TV since 2002, just a PC with a large screen.

Sunday night found us in Dudley with our charming friend Kang (and family)whose Champage hospitality is legendary

On Sunday we were a little shocked to find all the shops closed. It might have been Easter Sunday however if I had wanted to visit a lot of closed shops I could have stayed home in Switzerland

So we had to wait until Monday to visit Decathlon the ultimate in sensibly priced and really excellent quality sports clothing and accessories. So Monday evening our suitcases fully packed with delicious English contraband and with a very heavy heart that we set off on the long road back to Switzerland.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Well it is with a degree of annoyance and also amusement that we have to declare that our primary website has been hacked.
I say with amusement since I was told that in the digital world not having a website worth hacking is in some part a put down. It is rather like being a Hollywood A lister and never having had a personal stalker.
So what was the clue? Well our ISP in what I can only hope was an automated response sent us a polite email asking us whether we'd like to puchase more webspace since we has just exceeded our quota!
I had a browse over to and was annoyed to find the website's background covered in alternate text and links. A view source later revealed a bizzilion links some descending into our website which pointed to thousand of pages of other pornographic and other linked content. So they modified the index.html and then created further subdirectories containing further crap which they also pointed to. And the end code on the hacked index page was something like this

script language="javascript" type="text/javascript">var dc=document; dc.write('');dc.write('function x(){ ');dc.write('var x = (document.getElementById("myDiv332") document.layers["myDiv332"] document.all["myDiv332"]);');dc.write(' = -90000; = "hidden"; = 10;');dc.write('}');dc.write('eval(\'x()\');');dc.write('');

After 3 days and 5 emails later plus a password change from us we are still awaiting a good explanation, it's clearly a hack at the server end, we would just be curious as to why and how.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A day out in Ovronnaz

Well we did send out a group email asking friends to come to Ovronnaz this weekend but eventually we just went by ourselves. Perhaps people were scared we'd exercise them to within an inch of their lives. I can assure you, you missed a great time.

After a mandatory porridge based breakfast (the latest thing really), we set off on the 70Km route to Ovronnaz. Here is the official website (and it's available in English ... bless em)

Eventually we smoozed onto the slopes at a lazy 10.00 am. I would comment that from Lausanne the journey from the motorway to the resort is a better drive than say Diablerets or Champery.

The slopes turned out to be well pisted, pretty much Mogul free (cf Champery) and though the snow was a bit wet in the afternoon it very much served our puposes. Here is a piste map
You might just be able to see that there are only 2 chairlifts but I am proud to report that we didn't slide off any drag lift although it was very close call on several ascents.

The main purpose of the boarding was of course to try out Agatas brand new Salomon Optima snowboarding boots. For over 2 years she has put up with painful boots so we decided it was time for a change.

I am happy to report that Optima has been rated "as comfortable as a pair of slippers" so this is praise indeed.

Having skipped lunch we packed in all the boarding we thought necessary by early afternoon and then turned out attention to our new TSL snowshoes.

We had thought that boarding was getting a shade easy so the new plan might be to walk up mountains on snoewhoes and then board down. Today was a beta test of just snowshoes (i.e. no snowboards) ... Er it was rather difficult.

After an extensive survey of local shops that sell showshoes we chose TSL 305 shoes. These have a metal clip at the back to change the angle at which your boot will rest, some new designs are plastic.

The bindings are large enough to hold walking boots or snowboarding boots.

We wore our snowboarding boots as this is what we would have to use in practice. I continued to wear my padding and skintight ski race trousers which severely restricted my movement. So after about 2 hours or moaning (which Agata took very well) we climbed the 600 metres to the top of the chair lift. We did feel like heroes, but it is clear that we must get rather fitter if walking up to board down is really going to work in the future.

To finish off we thought we would relax in the Ovronnaz thermal baths. What a treat! There are 2 outdoor and 1 indoor toasty hot pools to choose from as well as the usual compliment of Saunas and SPA facilities. The water is specially composed like this Whether you believe that makes a difference it's great to relax in after a relatively tough day.

And so another great weekend, next week England!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Geneva Auto Salon

Well hello from the Geneva Motor Show. I figured it might be marginally less crowded on a Saturday, the only real Swiss shopping day of the week, than on Sunday when the default option for any swiss with any interest in cars will be the 78th Geneva Auto Salon

So what was interesting? Well for a start Mini had stopped giving away free drinks, the Cars were in exactly the same place as last year (more or less), and I bumped into more Italian speaking people than any other.

As for the cars ... I was primarily impressed with the Toyota IQ a new ultra small car which tries to provide seating for 3 adults and 1 child with infinitely small legs.

No detailed specs but in short
  • Available late 2008

118 inches or 300cm in length

Hatchback, and rear seats fold to provide the only luggage space.

Has Satnav and Air Conditioning

Compact differential, under seat fuel tank, super thin seats, rear angled shock absorbers all designed to maximise in cabin space.

And in less interesting news:

The super ugly Subaru Impreza was there

The Ferrari concessions store was almost as large as the stand

I went back in time and found a Volkwagen Scirocco

Audi had a single R8 enclosed so nobody could get close to it. There were 3 in our local Audi showoom recently, come on Audi!

I forgot to find the muscular, macho but capable Nissan GT-R

Geordie GT-R geneva review

For people who really like waiting several years for cars that might never even be manufactured you'd be interested to see many concept cars from Honda, Renault,

There were a staggering number of premieres of cars ... listed here

I quite liked the Mini JCW Cooper S and the Clubman, but no DSG and no 4wd

Walking towards the dark side

It's with mixed feelings and despite havng lambasted the iPhone at some length that I have to admit that this week I bought an Apple 16GB iPhone as a gift.

Before seeing it on its way I had chance to sample the brief highs and lows of iPhone ownership.

Initially before the new owner would surely get their contract in place it was time to jailbreak the iPhone using ZiPhone which by all accounts and now in practice I can confirm is a truely remarkable piece of software. Unlocking an iPhone used to be a tortuous and risky process, ZiPhone makes it apainless, swift and error free.

So after a few days what is the verdict?

  • Ergonomically and Operationally the iPhone is just superb. Everything it does, it does brilliantly.

  • Unlike most PDA/phones the phone actually works! It works well.

  • Although the 3.5 inch screen is not of the highest resolution graphics and video is rendered with extraordinary clarity

  • Connecting to wireless networks is very easy, iPhone tries to connect automatically only asking for passcodes if it fails

  • You can specify proxies specific to Wireless connections, so you can have a proxy based Work wireless and a home direct Wireless connection and the iPhone will auto connect

  • Integration with YouTube is superb

  • Integration with Google Maps is superb

  • iTunes can synchronise Outlook Calendar and Contracts items into the iPhone

  • Full iPod functionality i.e. it plays music and Podcasts and videos just like its iPod siblings

  • A web browser that is actually usuable thanks to the relatively larrge screen and the innovative (thought not by Apple) finger squeeze and pinch magnification facility.

Oh ... but on the "I can't believe you missed this out" feature list

  • iTunes will not sync your Outlook Tasks. That is ridiculous!

  • No out of the box decent text editor
  • Can you use the 16GB space as a USB connected hard disk i.e. disk mode .. of course not.
  • since iTunes will only connect your iPhone to a single PC you cant use it to synchronise your Work outlook calendar to home

  • It is only possible to play a restricted set of .mp4 videos i.e. does not play .avi DIVX. This means to watch you would have to convert every movie from (typically) DIVX source.

I will sure miss you iPhone, maybe one day in the near future we can work together.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Riddle of Epicurus

If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
Then He is not omnipotent.

If He is able, but not willing
Then He is malevolent.

If He is both able and willing
Then whence cometh evil?

If He is neither able nor willing
Then why call Him God?

Global Warning

The thing about the Worlds Carbon Footprint

Less footprints, less Carbon