Saturday, March 31, 2012

To Glion and Beyond

This Saturday  Agata, Marcus and Valya decided to some gentle hiking in the area just above Montreux.   We parked in the railway station and for the next hour of so it was up, up, up to Glion and eventually to Caux

We have run the route through Caux on the way to Rochers de Naye.  So a little embarrassing that we did not immediately find the track by the river up

 Approaching Glion.  Shockingly beautiful

Marcus walking up

 Small local cemetery at Glion

Glion Church

 Glion Town Centre

 Agata and Valya at the school

 Approaching Caux outskirts

Railway mechanism

 This is the Goldenpass line from Montreux to Rochers de Naye

The Bees and plants confirm that Summer 2012 is indeed here, and it's only March

 View From Caux

 Arriving at Caux Swiss Hotel Management School

 Swiss Hotel Management School

 Train arrives at Caux Station

 English memorial plaque

 Marcus finds a kitty

On our descent we started talking to an amazing 82 year old Swiss lady.  She inches her way up and down from Montreux to Caux to tend to her garden  Simply amazing.

So we had a nice day out.  Thanks Global Warming.

Friday, March 30, 2012

2012 Twenty Twelve

The 2012 Olympic Stadium is just literally up the road from my old London Apartment.   Just east of the 'posh' Victoria Park you can clearly see the Stadium and the Aquatics Centre.

But how should one prepare for this monumental event?

Of course I would visit the Official Website,  and check out some of the venues online

But your first starting point should be the BBC fly on the wall documentary Twenty Twelve.  Luckily series 2 has just started and hence you have 7 days to catch up this Series 2, Episode 1 on the BBC iPlayer.

Viewers outside the UK can order Series 1 on DVD and pre Order Series 2.

This video will probably get you started  (in more ways than one).

Twenty Twelve: Video Clips :-)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cars are Expensive in Switzerland

I managed to keep the title clean, in fact cars are **** expensive in Switzerland.

And soon it appears even more so.

On July 1 2012 a new punitive tax will be enforced on anyone attempting to privately import of a car. The details seem to be unbelievable

  • If you goto a Swiss Dealer, then miraculously, no tax is payable
  • The tax is billed as a Green tax to punish car drivers with cars of high Co2 output
  • If you privately import the same car from outside of Switzerland, then in addition to the standard VAT and customs duty
  • Additional tax = 140 *  (Co2 g/km - 130)
  • Example: Audi A4 3.2 256ps, 252g/Km
  • Extra import tax = 140 * (252 - 130) = 17,000 CHF !
  • When the new tax is enforced you can imagine any discount the Swiss dealer might have been inclined to offer you, for fear of you going elsewhere, will evaporate to zero.

All this came to light when we began to consider the running costs of an Audi Swiss 100K CHF   (100K USD) car.

And how to buy it more cheaply to start with, or replace it when the time is due.

The frightening statistics are:  (all prices converted to USD for equivalence)

Sample Audi car

  • In USA  == 66,000 USD
  • In Switzerland == 89,000 USD
  • In England == 73,000 USD
  • In Germany == 76,000 USD
So basically in restraint of free Trade Switzerland is now penalising customers from buying a car directly from Audi Germany (say) e.g the country of manufacture by attributing a one time outrageous tax on buyers.

Perhaps a fairer option might be for Swiss motor dealers to price these foreign cars at prices equivalent to the rest of Europe.

This is a total disgrace!

All this came to light when we considered the running costs of maintaining a car in Switzerland.  Say over an 8 year period ... Assuming a buy price of 100K and a generous sale price in 8 years of 10K .. per year:

Depreciation = 11K CHF
Insurance = 2K CHF
Road Tax = 1.4K (figures for sample based on Co2 & KW )
Motorway Tax = 40 CHF
Petrol for 10K Km = 2K CHF
Tyres/Consumables = 0.5K CHF
Servicing = 1K CHF

So per year the car is costing 17K CHF (19,000 USD).

Expressed in these terms I am even more upset with Switzerland,  you are not playing fair.

130g plus import tax

The iPad3: Where art thou?

It is quite difficult for me to comprehend especially with my obsession with pixels  but so far Agata has resolutely refused to give in an buy the new Apple iPad (generation 3).

I had tried to cost justify it based on the hours per day used, and the increase pleasure of using something with that has a 2048x1536 pixel resolution.  But no.

A colleague already returned his because he felt it was a little too warm,  but for me I'd be prepared to make some tradeoffs.  The battery is now 42.5Watt verses 25Watts for the iPad-2 so one can expect some iPad warming.

There have been other slurs regarding 4G reception, but in Internet unfriendly countries like Switzerland, believe you me I would not recommend the SIM bound version at all.

As a fervent Apple skeptic I believe that these factors are more invention than reality and that the minor wrinkles <if any> will be be gone by the time a new Pad arrives if ordered today.

The main question that is really nagging me is:  If I get an iPad, and convert my Paper based magazine subscriptions to iPad format, how can I read those downloads on other devices like a Windows PC, or Linux system.  Currently my magazine scans which started before 1980 are readable via PDF format on any platform.  Ipad eMagazines? Answers anybody?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Are we there yet?

This irritating childish phrase has been circulating a lot in the Agata and Marcus household lately.

Spring is in the air, we seem to have a mountain of cleaning, planning, filing and sorting to do.  The last thing that is on our minds is the daily slog of working.

And so we <again> began to ask the question whether it was really time to stop.

Some of the justifications for stopping working are:

  • After substantially more than 30 years of sweat and toil. Surely that is enough
  • Time for those youngsters to take over?

Ironically in the West we have an ageing population combined with a youth population seemingly unable to take just any job.  The Government answer is to increase the retirement age in the UK up to a stratospheric 68  so that the elderly work longer and retire shorter, providing funding  for the youngsters to sit around, watch TV, sit on the Internet, and prepare for that Perfect job.

So exactly what does it take to say:  We can stop in N years?

The model is rather rudimentary

  • It is assumed that you capital you save neither appreciates or depreciates with respect to prevailing inflation
  • It assumes you don't place your money in an investment which evaporates to zero because a financial institution leant it to people who never had any intention or repaying it
  • It assumes you are only earning and living in one country.  (For multiple, convert everything to a single currency at current rates as an indication)
  • Pension policies normally have a minimum payout age not accounted by very small N
Still it is a good starting point.

(Note Parents with Children can use the modified equation below :-)

What did you calculate your N to be?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

When I'm cleaning Windows

I have several times commented  that life without Help sometimes weighs heavily.

Nevertheless it is a fact that keeping Switzerland clean does not happen magically all by itself.

Today I will consider how Mr Karcher WV50 is making our self-service lives just that little bit easier.

The Karcher WV50 and a Spray dispense or Window Cleaner is all you are going to need to keep any of your windows or other glass surfaces (e.g. mirrors),  car windows, fantastically clean.


  • Your glass surface needs not to be really dirty, example covered in mud.  If YES, then you'll have to do a first pass cleaning and then continue
  • Make sure your WV50 has it's Lithium Ion battery charged, and that the water compartment (open rubber plug and pour out) is empty.  You are ready to go.
  • Spray your Window / Glass surface from top to bottom jets of Window Cleaner fluid
  • Switch on the WV50, and in large strokes simply hoover up the fluid and dirt
  • Even a large window several metres square can be cleaned without blemishing in a few minutes.

  • When done empty tank and rinse unit and detachable head under a tap

And so that is it.  There really is no excuse for you not to have super clean windows anymore.

Karcher WV50 at Argos  (60 GBP)

Swimming in Peace

This Sunday was a little short.  At 02.00 somebody stole an hour of our sleep from us,  so we had to settle for a slighlty more compact than usual swim Sunday.

At first I considered my grumpyness  principally because too many other people seemed also to be there.  There seemed just no-exit as Jean-Paul Sartre might have remarked.

But I soon realised that it was the lack of Pool Etiquette that had struck a nerve.   And so if you are reading fellow swimmers, please observe:

  • There is a separate kids and diving pool.   So the main pool  on the right is the one that you should be swimming in
  • Anyone can make a mistake, this includes bumping, touching, colliding.  But if it keeps happening then I am going to be issuing you my worst Paddington Bear stare indeed.
  • Anyone attempting Butterfly stroke should immediately be extracted.   This is a very intimidating stroke, takes the whole whole lane width, and sprays everyone.  Come back when the pool is empty please.
  • The end of the pools are not an informal chatting zone.  For that you can get out and sit in the provided deck chairs.   Swimmers actually use this area for turning around.
  • Lanes exist for Fast Swimmers, for Swimmers with material (floats, fins etc.).   A super-fast swimmer in the average plod lane  (like the one I am in) is a constant humiliation!
  • Allow overtaking: If you are constantly being followed by a slightly faster swimmer let them pass at the end of a length.  Mid length, passing a fractionally slower swimmer is difficult and runs the risk of collision with oncoming swimmers in those narrow lanes.
  • The changing rooms are not Unisex!  In fact there are special areas for Parents with opposite sex kids.  I sympathise with swimmers who find it a little awkward when dad brings his walking, talking and pointing daughters in to change with us.

That having been said Agata and Marcus still had a great time swimming, and in this almost 20 degree heat, well, it is a wonderfully cool, shaded relaxing place to be on a relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Around the Lake Darling

Agata and I were just thinking this Saturday morning, how can we take advantage of unusually globally warm March weekend?

We decided on a not so small cycle expedition.

The intention was to set off early and cycle first to Vevey and then to cross the French border to Evian.   From Evian we can get the Ferry boat back to Switzerland or just keep cycling.

In practise a combination of Marcus faffing and some necessary preparation delayed the start till after noon

The view from the French side of the lake towards beautiful Switzerland :-)

Our first stop at 60Km, about 15Km before Evian on the French side

We stop at Nyon at the 140Km mark having passed slowly thru Geneva.

Nightfall beckons, but you can guess that we have our lights with us, so we keep on Cycling.

After a large celebration dinner having cycled all of 180Km today we notice that it is still 15 degrees Centigrade at 22.30.  Unbelievable.

So the learning points for today were:

  • If you are going to cycle around the lake, best start early an not at past noon.  The roads get busy especially on a Saturday afternoon
  • Marcus's ultra lightweight Mavic Huez  shoes proved comfortable on this long distance ride
  • Marcus's 81 gram Selle Italia CX saddle was as uncomfortable as you can possibly imagine.  All carbon fibre, no soft bits.  Might be sore for Sunday!
  • Both Agata's Ribble and Marcus's hand built Dedacciai Scuro RS cycles performed like a dream.
  • Neither of us wore thermals but we wore too much!  Marcus had 2 upper layers  and was hot and we did not even think about wearing any of the extra clothes we had packed.   Next time we'll remember that at almost 20 degrees, we can go light.
  • Both Marcus's iPhone Runkeeper and Agata's Garmin 310 XT crashed, so detailed logs were lost.  Luckily Google Latitude as shown above came to our rescue.

Another fine day of exercise.  Long may it continue.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hitachi 4TB 0S03363 HDS724040ALE640: A Big Disk

Okay,  now please bear with me.  Yes I am about to show you pictures of me unwrapping a Hard Disk.  Don't fall asleep just yet.

This was a terribly expensive compromise purchase.  Let us analyse.

  • Thanks to the Thailand floods of 2011, and the fact that most of the worlds production comes from Thailand, Hard Drive prices have rocketed
  • Prices have almost doubled!
  • 4TB disks are new and command a premium price

So putting these two factors together well we are talking ****ing expensive.   The only motivation for the purchase was that it is time for the periodic offsite copy disks to be made and shipped at least 1000Km away to safe storage.   After all,  if you lost all that data that was accumulated over the last 30+ years due to theft or disk failure, well you might feel pretty stupid right?

Some Pictures

Some Basic Stats

Some Performance Graphs

Price excepted I am happy with the drive performance and after a

  • Low level format test
  • A burn in read / write test
The drive will be ready for homebound production.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Farewell to Alpinus and Karrimor

On first inspection you might think me crazy and just overly sentimental when I say that it is both poignant and sad that both Agata's Alpinus Woodpecker and Marcus's Karrimor Jaguar rucksacks are on the short path to rucksack heaven.

But let me try to convince you.

There are many angles.

First some facts:  Agata's Alpinus rucksac is some 17 years old and my Karrimor well, so old I can't remember! They have served us well on countless adventure holidays, Kilimanjaro for example.  

In times gone by when you may only have had some physical print photographs or slides to remember your holiday's by these two rucksacks just keep appearing.

And in those earlier times the availability of Kit, or our available funds to buy something was more limited.  So our rucksacks were something quite special indeed.

Contrast this to today when in some environments it is even recommended that you buy new kit on each visit to prevent environment contamination

Health of Antarctic Wildlife: A Challenge for Science and Policy

 By Knowles R. Kerry, Martin J. Riddle

In less Globalised decades past the sight of an companion Alpinus owner was a practical guarantee of another Polish traveller in the same way that Karrimor pointed to a probably British owner.  The chance to strike up a conversation with a hitherto unknown explorer from our common land

Both rucksacks are still quite solid, but heavy by today's standards. They feature:

  • Cloth like fabrics, which can absorb water
  • Rough fabric, tough, but not easily cleaned
  • Heavy
  • Fixed frame size
  • No distinction between men and women's fit
  • No Side compression straps
  • No taped seams
So it is time:   Farewell Alpinus.  Farewell Karrimor.