Monday, May 31, 2010

The Battle of the Gyms

I am beginning to fall in like with the new Pharmaceuticals company that I've just joined. Well, at last it allows me to meaningfully participate in the Considerate employer party.

This is a game best played by (typically Headquarters) employees of successful companies who make a convincing attempt to provide a decent working environment for their staff.

Now not only do I have free freshly ground coffee and fresh fruit for the taking but a beautiful gratis Gymnasium, complete with the very latest TechnoGym stations . And did I mention the state of the art showers? Or the exercise classes? And the free towels and locker facilities. There are even hair-dryers in the men's changing rooms.

Well this is wonderful, but Agata reminds me that she has all of this, but her employer provides not just towels but also free gym clothing and a running shoe subsidy. Plus they even pay the full participation costs of any sporting event.

As usual I am trumped by her, but now at least I am not so far behind :-)

NB: Some conditions may apply: Employees working in non headquarters locations may be irritated to find that no Gym, shower or decent canteen facilities are provided. Their position as dolts will be reinforced by Smug Headquarters staff on day visits continually asking where the Gym is located, or where they can get a freshly ground coffee.

Not my Day job

I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I once had a day job where one of my responsibilities was to find the daily Dilbert, print it out and attach it to the door of my office.

Ah the good old days

In respect to my Engineering heritage, my old manager, and the wonderful creator of Dilbert, Scott Adams who escaped from his PacBell cubicle. Dilbert .. we salute you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cyclotour Leman 2010

So we are rather proud to announce that we have just finished the Cyclotour du Leman 2010 performed in what can only be described as foul weather conditions. In just over 6 hours we battled around a very wet course, stopping only twice and finishing in good spirits, no injuries, punctures or collisions.

On Saturday night before the 6.30 am Sunday start Marcus checked the forecast. For all the 4 principal cities of Lausanne, Evian, Geneve and Nyon the forecast was rain rain rain. And not just for a part of the day, for the whole day.

So we tried to prepare Sunday morning. Marcus hurriedly fitted the SKS Race Blade mudguards which were bought for another purpose entirely. Agata remembered to put on some excellent Alutra cycle overshoes, and we both decided to wear waterproof tops. When we arrived in Vidy Lausanne it was indeed raining, something that was to continue for the next 4 hours and then gradually diminish

Agata and Ania at the start

Our second stop at Km 100 in a French forest

After 3 hours of cycling in the rain Marcus decides to eat anything he wants

Agata at the 100Km forest stop. Determined ... let's continue

After 6 hours we finish. Here Marcus is showing off his mudguards

His and Her bicycles cuddling, a perfect match, just like their owners :-)

Ania finishes

Agata the proud finisher

Learning Experiences

We took it fairly easy, mainly because of the appalling weather conditions. After the first stop we decided that the sub 5hour 30 min time we were hoping for was not going to be achieved, so we refocused on not falling off, drowning in water, and trying to enjoy a rather wet 6 hour cycle.

Marcus's SKS mudguards were truly excellent. They actually clip to the front forks and rear stays using a clip and 2 elasticated rubber ties. That's it! You don't need to screw them onto the bolt holder of the brakes. On the entire 180Km journey they managed to keep most of the water from hitting me. Don't forget these are sort of 50% mudguards. On the front they only cover from behind the brake downwards, and on the back they start at the rear brake and outwards towards the end of the bike. Anyway, they were fantastic and 27GBP from Wiggle and 70 CHF from Athleticum Switzerland (NB: GBP to CHF exchange rate is 1.6. If you realise that Athleticum is the cheapest Swiss sports store you begin to realise that somebody is really making a lot of profit here).

Course 175km, plus about 15Km cycling there and back from home
Time to complete course == 6hours 9 minutes
Marcus drunk only 750 ml of water! This shows how leisurely was our pace.
Marcus ate 1 Nestle Vanilla-Coconut protein bar and 5 SIS Go Gels

Saturday, May 29, 2010

European Vision: Germany First, United Kingdom Last

I can almost hear the cat calls of "Bl**dy Germans" ringing out across the British Pub Landscape.

You see the Germans have just won the Eurovision Song contest 2010. I did rather fall in like with this entry because it's a simple, uncomplicated song, with no exaggerated special effects on stage, or overly pretty female and over pronounced six pack male dancers smiling furiously like their life depended on it.

So congratulations to Germany, besides having the strongest economy in Europe, the least debt, a Chancellor who has Scientific roots (Physics), you now also lay claim to Eurovision.

Meanwhile the British entry was a song by veritable Peter Waterman (still alive then?), and Josh, a nice 19 year old Essex boy, with a song called "That sounds good to me".

We got a total of 10 Eurovision points. We were last.

What were they thinking?

Let's get back to Lena, please

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sell in May

Sell in May
And start to Pray

I can see whole investment communities are beginning to follow this advice.

Now if we could just convince certain Governments and also their citizens to spend within their means, we might actually avert and not just postpone a financial meltdown.

Those European PIIGS (Portugal Italy, Ireland Greece Spain)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost in 60 seconds

If you have thus far failed to keep up with Lost you are in luck.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

2010 Journee Lausannoise du Velo

May is certainly going to be a busy month for Agata and Marcus. There are not one but two bicycle races in Lausanne this month. Today we have attempted the shorter one i.e. the 160Km Journee Lausannoise du Velo.

After getting up at an all too early time of 06.30 on a Saturday we got our bicycles ready and set off the 5Km north from home to the start which is at Chalet a Gobet.

Here is Marcus's late arriving Condor Bicycle. Now it's running just fine I am really pleased with it. For this race I've changed the 81 gram Solid Carbon Fibre seat for a 125g thinly padded Selle Italia seat. This was not primarily for comfort but because the Padded seat has conventional rails to which the bicycle tool pouch can be attached.

Here is Agata's fantastic Ribble bike. We had previously tried to order a new bike from Ribble but they told us they don't and have never delivered bikes to Switzerland, which is strange since they did deliver this one.

Marcus has plenty of warm clothing on since it is only about 10 degrees C. But the weather for the afternoon is a summery 22 degrees C.

We meet up with Ania and now it is time to start our journey.

This is the first stop at Lucens. As with previous years a splendid selection of drinks and food including Chocolate and Gruyere cheese is freely available. As per last year there are no toilets!

Yes Gruyere cheese and squares of Chocolate. I'm sure either of these foods are totally inappropriate for a cycle race so I hedged my bets and had both Chocolate, Cheese and a SIS Go gel bar.

Here are Agata (on the left) and Ania flying past

Agata reaches the top of Mount Vully

Marcus stops for a liquid top up at Villars-Mendraz

Friday, May 21, 2010

An end to fidelity

Both Agata and I were raised in a parental manner which taught us that thrift, diligence and fidelity were important and positive virtues.

And so the producers of the various fidelity cards that we have been collecting have had an unconscious hold on us from day 1.

Last week we braved a local Swiss Japanese sushi shop to indulge in some Maki and Nigiri which in the usual Swiss tradition are well ... expensive. We received (yet another) fidelity card which upon examination declared that for every 400 CHF francs we spend at Uchitomi Lausanne, 10 CHF would be returned, upon presentation of the above completed card.

And therein lies the difficulty.

Let's examine my minimalist wallet, shown here next to an Apple iPod Nano for sizing. There is space for an ID card, driving license, credit and debit cards & swimming pass. If I'm very lucky I might just squeeze in a 200 CHF note. There is not room for any coins, mirrors, lucky charms, or crappy paper masquerading money saving fidelity cards and coupons.

Overall I'd like to put a curse on all fidelity cards. They typically offer minimal benefits, but force you to continually carry them around, thus cluttering up not only your wallet but your mind as they spring irritatingly into view. However, if you don't choose to carry them you are pushed into thinking you are surely wasting money.

I hope I am strong enough to consign this and future fidelity cards to their rightful place ... the recycling bin

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thanks to All

Well it is normally a quiet affair, but this year friends have been so kind as to remember my Birthday. Thanks for the good wishes everybody, it is much appreciated.

7 important points

A surprising number of British men have Polish wives or partners. Here are 7 secret things you must remember:

Women's Day

There are about 74 occasions during the year when you are expected to give a Polish woman flowers. At some point in history Polish women decided this wasn't enough and invented another one: Women's Day. The problem with Women's Day is that us foreigners have never heard of it. We're sailing along feeling quite proud of remembering the flowers for birthdays, name days, Valentines, and so on when, bang, another one pops up in the middle of March. The only warning you get is when suddenly every man on the street is carrying an upside-down rose.

She is a princess

Polish girls are brought up to believe in the traditional values of chivalry and deference to the 'weaker sex.' For Polish men this means they get to open a lot of doors, pay for a lot of meals and carry a lot of baggage. This can be a bit of a shock for the Westerner; we've been brought up in a time when assuming you are paying for the meal can result in a sharp kick to the groin under the table. I once accused my wife of being a bit of a princess when she claimed not to know how to use a screwdriver, "Only 'a bit!'" she stormed.

Your food is not your own

Polish women are generally slim and claim to eat almost nothing, especially after 6 o'clock. If you have a Polish partner
, always order more food for yourself than you could possibly eat: the moment your long-anticipated chips arrive she will suddenly develop the appetite of a blue whale and hoover down anything that isn't physically attached to your side of the table. She will then toy with her anxiously selected small salad as you weep hungrily over your empty plate.

She has a mother

Polish mothers of the post-war generation are convinced that all foreign men are feckless heathens sent by the devil to steal their daughters and carry them off to Dublin, De Moines or other uncivilised foreign parts. In other words, they are remarkably well informed. On the other hand, Polish mother in laws are the only people who know how to make gołębki and refuse to send this information abroad in case it falls into enemy hands.

There will be dancing

English men are not good at dancing. We grew up in an age when 'dancing' meant shuffling about in a darkened room occasionally bobbing your head and doing John Travolta-style pointing. Polish women know how to do proper dancing, with feet and everything. You will be required to learn this, or to spend a lot of time on your own at weddings while your better half sobs in the bathroom.

You can kiss other women

In England the only people men are permitted to kiss, other than their wives or girlfriends, are their grandmothers, mothers and aunts. If you wife is Polish, she will have lots of female Polish friends, and about 90 percent of these will be extremely attractive: not only can you kiss these women, you are actively encouraged to do so, up to three times each time you meet them. The only downside to this golden equation is that I never know where to put my hands.

She is smarter than you

Not only does she speak your language, she probably speaks one or two others as well. You will also find that she knows the history of your country as well as the history of her own country. As far as English people are concerned this looks like witchcraft, but it's perfectly normal. It's called an education system. We used to have one too, but I think we swapped it for season 14 of Dynasty back in the 80s.

Original Article is here (by Jamie Stokes writes for Wirtualna Polska)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Whither the Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio as explained by Wikipedia and others is an irrational mathematical constant coming out at about 1.618

It is commonly explained this ratio is believed to be aesthetically pleasing and in architecture and design one common idea is to keep your designs close to that ratio.

So we have been conducting a small random survey of potential new cars to see which if any satisfy this criteria.

If you click to enhance you'll find that the Corvette comes closest to the Golden Ratio, however some or all of the above violate our ideas regarding minimalism and balance. A 7 litre (and OHV technology !!) Engine in the Chevrolet Corvette seems like folly in these economical times.

However if Marcus's new contract does come to fruition it is too far to cycle daily even on a fine sunny day, so something has to be done. Choosing a car that is both aesthetically pleasing and fairly economical would seem to be the way forward.

Watch this space.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Combinaison Obligatoire

In principle the plan of going for a long swim either in the Lake Leman or our favourite local open air swimming pool today was a fine one.

However, in Lausanne, Canton Vaud, Thursday may 13th is a public holiday and most people also take Friday the 14th off too to make for a 4 day mini holiday. Agata and I were therefore afraid that the pool would be full of would be swimmers and sun-bathers.

On arrival at the pool however we found out the reason why there were actually zero (0), yes I really mean zero customers. Red flags were posted on the lake (meaning swimming is disallowed) and it was with a look of astonishment that the ticket lady let us enter. You see 15 degrees is rather cold.

You may not realise it but a normal indoor heated swimming pool is normally kept at about 26 degrees Centigrade. When we arrived at the 50 metre outdoor pool we were outnumbered by the 3 pool attendants who watched as we braved the cold waters.

Of course we had our Wetsuits on! We are not totally stupid, but even so it was still pretty chilly. A few Km later we felt that we had done our duty. I felt that the pain of the cold water was greatly offset by the luxury of swimming in what was today, our personal 50 metre, personally supervised pool.

Now if you want to see something really amazing watch this

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My English Political Comment

A deep repentance: nothing in his career
As one that had been studied in his resignation
To throw away the dearest thing he owed,
As 'twere a careless trifle.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Older yet faster

We are delighted to report that Marcus and Agata have just completed the Geneva Marathon and Half Marathon respectively. It was quite satisfying to note that 1 year after the last Geneva run we are older but yet faster. Marcus finished in 03:20 and Agata in 01:47. Very good times for us!

Preparation Before the Race: Like last year we managed to park our car about 200 metres from the changing rooms, then after changing walked down to the nearby start. Organisation as we have come to expect in Switzerland was perfecto. Before this Sunday I went out for 1 run last week to make sure my legs still functioned after last weeks 2 triathlons. Agata prepared by running to work most days last week. Also note that Agata was sick all Saturday, so she should get points for not cancelling the whole thing.

Marcus's Race report: I decided to just run gently and see what would ensue, the only guiding rule being "don't overdo it before half way". As a consequence the balloon pace setter guys marked 03:00 to 03:20 inclusive all shot past me and I was continually turned my head to see if the 03:30 pace man was gaining. He wasn't thankfully. At Km 18 there is a loop and I noticed the 03:20 pace man only about 0.5Km in front. Surely it was possible to catch him?... About 30 minutes later I had caught and passed him. (I finished the race several minutes ahead of him, he was clearly over his stipulated time!)

In terms of water, Geneva provides mostly water and some Isostar. Eats provided were mostly oranges or bananas. This year I decided to try carry all my own food in the form of SIS GO gels. This was a test inspired by a lecture last week in Lanzarote on nutrition from Peter Slater, Marketing Manager for SIS. I used 4 GO bars during the race at evenly spread 9Km intervals and post race I drank the rather delicious SIS REGO

The brilliant thing about SIS GO is that it is liquidy enough to be drunk without water, which in view of the irregular water points was advantageous. Some day SIS will be available in Switzerland, until then it is just another thing we have to import, at vast expense.

It was then time for a quick shower and run back to finish line where Agata's half marathon was to finish soon.

They had Oranges, Water and some rather dry Cakes to eat for post race recovery. I had expected something a little more tasty!

Agata finishes and she is looking very happy

We bump into Nicolas whom we met in the Lanzarote Triathlon last week. Small world indeed.

We both get a little keepsake. A Camelbak bladder.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The power of two

A tale of 2 triathlons ... one mini and one Olympic at the world renowned Club La Santa

Our luxury apartment complete with Cesar Manrique decorations. It's so nice to have my bicycle back in the apartment just like student days.

After our 3G Sim failed to work in the mifi router (shown left), Agata starts to put the 3G SIM into her 1G iPhone and then realises her error!

Agata relaxes by the pool

Marcus modifies his seat and bars position to enable him to actually reach the handlebars. The cycle top tube of this rental bike is too long for me!

Depressingly we find the Philadelphia cheese selection in Lanzarote (off the coast of West Africa) is better than back home in Switzerland.

Extensive el Grifo wine testing is in progress

We received a lecture on nutrition and a free bag of SIS gels and powders. Luckily SIS is our favourite sports food, yet unavailable in Switzerland. We will be stocking up!

Dan, Caroline, Chris and Nicolaus

Marcus and Agata before the mini triathlon

Simon limbers down

Wetsuit training session with Jo Lewis

Trace finishes mini triathlon

Agata finishes mini tri

Takka finishes mini triathlon

Sue finishes the mini triathlon

Mary finishes the mini Triathlon

(A fuller list of mini tri photographs is available in the high resolution Picasa album)

Marcus starts and continues the post mini triathlon drinking

Tanja Slater and Phil Price

The 3 princesses

Buoy setup on the lake for the Volcano Triathlon

Saturday morning and it is Transition setup

We start the swim and there seems to be an element of walking (i.e. cheating) going on here

Marcus battling with traffic on the bike

Agata on the bike

Marcus on the run

Agata on the run

Agata finishes her first Olympic distance triathlon A great time for her and she was truly a very happy bunny.

Proud finishers: Trace, marcus and Agata

Our team Volcano triathlon finishers dinner

The Volcano Triathlon 2010 winners take to the stage

Our luxury Citroen C3 hire car

Agata the art critic at Castil San Jose gallery

Time is short. Agata and Marcus are forced to use the secret transporter to come home

Boo hoo . We are back home. We dream of a longer trip next time

Full Picasa web album including high-res photographs
YouTube video diary (requires authorisation, email for access)