Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Storm Approaching


Daily exercise is certainly part of Marcus and Agata's lives.   However needlessly getting soaking wet in the rain certainly is not!

In this 21st century we have Satellite and Radar images  that can quite accurately determine what weather is approaching and from where.



With this in mind we literally had to force ourselves to get our bicycles cleaned and prepared before noon this weekend as this afternoon the rail will fall.



Of course our backstop is still the Runkeeper application, though you have to be careful, the monitoring stations are not necessarily close to your position.

As you can see the weather in Switzerland is currently swinging violently from -3 degrees upto 12.





Let's just hope technology continues and the satellites don't all get blown away.

An except from

Subtitle: An except from the financier Paul Singer's newsletter. 

Since he can say it better than I, this is merely a cut and paste:


Money Tsunami
The concept of “money” used to be simple: items of recognized value, initially in the form of shells, livestock, and then precious metals. At some point, someone decided to print currency on paper, but it was widely understood that it had to be backed by something real, like gold or silver. That history is oversimplified, but it illustrates this central truth: Money that is created at will, rather than grown in the field, mined from the earth, or otherwise subject to supply limitations, can be easily degraded. Nobody would want to own something that may or may not have value and purchasing power in the future. What, then, determines the value of money? The worldview and ethics of those in charge of the printing presses are obvious answers that are often overlooked. Another is the confidence (or inertia!) of the people who hold and trade the money, or claims denominated in money.
Fast forward to the modern era, which features central banks, so-called “fractional reserve banking,” leverage, and derivatives. Central banks allowed commercial banks to create money by making loans while keeping small amounts of reserves on hand or at the central banks. As money market funds, bank CDs, and other like instruments were created and then became a sizeable portion of the global financial system, things got even more complicated. An obvious clue that the very definition of money, to say nothing of the appropriate ways to analyze and adjust monetary policy, have departed from the understanding and control of monetary authorities can be found in the proliferation over time of acronyms to describe what used to be called simply “the money supply”: M1, M2, M2A, M3, MZM, and several others.
Add modern derivatives, which entered the scene in a significant way only some 30 years ago, and the picture becomes even murkier. To demonstrate this, in slow motion, consider the creation of a credit default swap (CDS), and then a mortgage collateralized debt obligation (CDO). Assume an investor wants to be long the credit of IBM. The investor offers to sell to a dealer a CDS on IBM. The dealer purchases the CDS and either keeps it or lays off the risk by booking an offsetting transaction with someone else. Actual securities issued by IBM are not part of these transactions – the CDS is just a contract between the investor and the dealer. As IBM’s credit quality is perceived to change, the price of the CDS will fluctuate and money will change hands between the investor and the dealer (based on the “mark to market”). This position is basically a borrowing by the investor who now “owns” a security referencing the credit of IBM, and who has put up only a small deposit – a tiny fraction of the notional credit exposure that the investor is long. It also represents a highly-leveraged loan by the dealer. Although the investor/borrower does not receive the full proceeds of this “loan,”he or she bears the full risk of loss on the underlying asset. It is as if the investor borrowed money from the dealer, added a small amount of his or her own money, and purchased an IBM security with the total amount of money. Interestingly, such borrowings also have the effect of impacting the price of the actual underlying assets (in this case, IBM credit) due to arbitrage pressures. In effect, these transactions by investors and non-bank dealers represent many of the characteristics of the creation and dissipation of money, but they are outside the traditional and commonly-understood mechanics of fractional reserve banking. Most economists would not consider these transactions in the context of money supply, but we think that they are being mechanistic and not seeing the actual effects of the basically unlimited ability of private derivatives transactions to have many of the same effects as are caused by the creation and destruction of “money.”
The ecosystem of mortgage securitizations has similar characteristics. It starts with the tranching of pools of mortgages into mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and then the referencing (via derivatives) of low-rated tranches to form new securities called synthetic CDOs. Based upon fanciful assumptions about diversity that prevailed pre-2008, the bulk of synthetic CDOs that referenced low-rated mortgage-pool tranches magically turned into AAA-rated securities. These instruments, even in subprime mortgage securitizations, were consequently treated by regulators as zero-risk-rated. Until the music stopped, these high-rated securities had many of the powerful multiplier effects of money. Furthermore, the institutions that packaged and sold the MBS, and those that put together the synthetic CDOs, performed many of the functions of banks (conjuring credit out of small reserves) even if they weren’t banks. Finally, the entire process caused demand for houses to increase and prices to rise.
The purpose of this part of the discussion about money is to show that things have gotten really complex and subtle in the modern banking and derivatives era, and that the old model of money as being solely or mainly the product of bank reserves and bank loans is woefully inadequate.
Now one more element should be added to this mix: quantitative easing, or QE. The government spends money on roads, bureaucrats’ salaries, entitlements, etc. To pay for such spending, Treasury sells a security to the public, and it has an obligation to repay the purchaser when the security matures. The security might be a Treasury Bill, a 30-year bond, or anything in between. The Federal Reserve (or the Fed, as it is commonly known) has the ability to set short-term interest rates, which has incentive/disincentive effects on bank lending and consumer spending. In a nutshell, that model has prevailed as the status quo since the Fed was created in 1913, up until 2008.
Since the crash of 2008, there has been an additional dynamic at work. Namely, the Fed is purchasing massive amounts of Treasury securities, either directly or on the open market. To be clear, the cash outlays by Treasury for government spending are the same as in the preceding paragraph. The difference is that post-crash, there are far fewer securities outstanding that the Treasury must pay off at maturity, because trillions of dollars of such securities are owned by another department of the federal government. We think this process is the effective equivalent of money-printing.
For those who think otherwise, we pose the following question: If QE did not have the effect of printing money, why would the Fed do it? We do not think that QE is merely a duration swap. If the government simply wanted shorter duration and cheaper borrowing costs, the easy course would be for the Fed to set interest rates at zero and for the Treasury to issue only 30-day Treasury Bills to pay for government spending. One possible outcome of such an approach would be that the price of long-term bonds would be uncontrolled, and could possibly fall precipitously, thereby driving up long-term interest rates. Instead, the government adopted a zero interest rate policy, or ZIRP, and Treasury’s borrowing rates dropped as the Fed purchased its bonds, elevating the prices of virtually all other securities. All of this contrivance is intended to be an indirect way of supporting economic activity, and perhaps it has done that to some degree. But it is causing massive distortions of risk-reward in stocks and bonds, as well as significant expansion of future risks of both inflation and severe losses in asset prices. These losses would be experienced by both the Fed and by investors.
The Fed’s explanations of these policies are delivered with equanimity and aplomb. However, in our view, the inventions of modern finance have “gotten away from them” and are not adequately understood by the money-printing overseers. A “smoking gun” is the complete failure of policymakers (and financial-institution executives) to predict or understand the circumstances surrounding the 2008 financial crisis – neither the inner workings/interconnectedness of the institutions involved nor the risks inherent in the system. Recently released minutes of Fed meetings in 2007 make it clear that they did not understand the modern financial system: its structure, the instruments that comprised it, the implications of the leverage and risk-taking afforded by untested derivative products, and the vulnerability and opacity of the major financial institutions. It does not mean that the Fed has no credibility when it acts or makes pronouncements today. But it certainly means that they should not have a great deal of presumptive credibility, especially about elements that are experimental and untested or that they got so wrong recently (like QE, and the risks of a system comprised of modern highly-leveraged financial institutions laden with derivatives positions, respectively).
It is critically important for investors to try to understand what global QE is actually doing, where it may lead, and what will happen when it slows, stops or shifts into reverse. What we urge most strongly is that the current atmosphere of calm and stability, and the lack of virulent inflation, must not be relied upon to continue forever. There are certain words and phrases in official communications that give some hint of the uncertainty that exists about key elements of central-bank policies: confidence, anchored inflationary expectations, and velocity are prime examples. Our takeaway is that when investors lose confidence in ZIRP-soaked, QE-ridden, faith-based paper money, the consequences could be abrupt and catastrophic to societal stability. We do not know exactly what to do about it, except to urge policymakers to STOP substituting QE for sound tax, regulatory, labor, environmental, and fiscal policies.
Due to the combination of the lagged nature of inflation in wages and consumer prices, the vital (if possibly more ephemeral than policymakers think) role of “confidence,” and the fact that each particular brand of paper money is competing with other currencies that are similarly mismanaged, the world is in a position today in which the major central banks see only the beneficial effects of QE and not the risks. Bonds that otherwise might be collapsing and repudiated are at sky-high prices with stingy yields. Reported consumer inflation is near historic lows. Consequently, central bankers think that what they got away with yesterday will also work today and next week. Investors either have not figured out that they are long seriously overpriced promises or think that they will all have the luck and perspicacity to reject such instruments before they plunge in price.
The reason we combined derivatives and QE in this discussion is that both are proud inventions of modern financial science, both have many of the characteristics of money-creation, and both are undertaken without any real understanding by public or private sector leaders of their nature, power, interconnectivity, and ultimate consequences. QE is exceptionally dangerous and way past its tipping point. We do not believe it can be unwound without serious consequences. Central bankers think (hope?) that it can be easily unwound at some future date, but they may not be right.
When the rejection of long-term bonds and paper money starts at some unpredictable future time, it may be fast and difficult to contain or reverse. History is replete with examples of societies whose downfalls were related to or caused by the destruction of money. The end of this phase of global financial history will likely erupt suddenlyIt will take almost everyone by surprise, and then it may grind a great deal of capital and societal cohesion into dust and pain. We wish more global leaders understood the value of sound economic policy, the necessity of sound money, and the difference between governmental actions that enable growth and economic stability and those that risk abject ruin. Unfortunately, it appears that few leaders do.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Photo Finish


Yes we do of course remember our Morat-Fribourg run of October 7th 2012.

But it is now January and somewhat of a surprise to receive the unflattering photograph of Agata arrive in the post.

Agata informs me that it is not a free photograph that you have the opportunity to donate to as I had thought.  You have to pay if you want to keep the photograph.

How does it work?

Well on a race you will pass photographers.  They are normally actual people, though occasionally there might be a camera attached to a computerised motion sensor.

They snap your photograph, then in a deal with the race organisers they get your registered home address.

You then receive a colour print as shown above with a bill.   13.50 CHF in this case. Normally it arrives weeks after the event, not 3 months later.

So if you don't want the photograph then you are supposed to return it in the envelope it was delivered, scratching out your address of course.

It is all rather quaint don't you think!  But the last thing we would ever pay for these days is a physical photograph.  Where we would keep it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Small Fan Heaters

Honestly,  how difficult can it be to buy a small and powerful fan heater.

The answer is pretty difficult.   I suppose the issue is the fan heater target segment is CHEAP!

By this I mean that if you are accustomed to heat your house / room/ apartment with fan heaters then it is pretty much assumed that money is a real issue and that you will scrimp and save on the purchase price of a heater.

In Switzerland the established standard for House/Apartment heating is underfloor heating.  At the time of construction your concrete floor has some large section plastic pipes laid and these connected to a sealed and heat exchanged water supply.  (The pipes are then covered with concrete and on top of that tiles or wooden flooring).

But on a cold 06.00 winter morning when I'm trying to warm up my gloves and shoes ready for a run in -6 degrees, underfloor heating is not going to help me!

So as pictured above, the failing  red Migros heater is out and the Polish supermarket procured heater is in.  In Poland fan heaters are an acceptible heating source && long may it continue.




Of course then it only remains to trundle down to the DIY shop and replace the European plug for the Swiss one.

Job Done!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Remote Control Android



This is an instruction note to show you how to connect and display your Android phones display onto your PC

Note: This is going to cost you about 8CHF  (8 USD or about 6GBP) so if you are too tight to pay that then stop reading now.

Also: This is not a tutorial on howto extend your Workstation screen onto the very tiny screen that is your Smartphone.  Only a dimwit would want that right?

First:  Why would you want this?

Well I had the functionality using my old Windows Smartphone and it's great since you can dock the Smartphone and whilst it is charging you can interact with phone applications that you might not have on your Desktop PC.   Flipboard,  UBS banking, IKEA catalog,  Home Webcam security, SBB mobile are all example applications that I run exclusively on my phone.

So how do we do it.



  • Start USB Debug Mode (settings, Developer Options)  on your phone
  • Install VMlite VNC server on your Android Phone.
  • Install VMLite Android App Controller on your Windows system


  • Startup the VMLite Android Controller and Press the USB connect button


  • Accept the dialog



  • Start the VNC server on the Android Phone





  • So on the phone this should be displayed


Now there are two options.  Either you can browse via HTML or start a standard VNC session





Option 1: via HTML





So here is the case where you just used a browser


  • Or better to use a standard VNC client.  I already use TightVNC





  • Start TightVNC and start a session as advised from the Android screen



Yes, the Androidscreen is displayed on my PC


ALL IS DONE.


Alternatives:  If you rooted your phone there are a couple of other free programs you can otherwise install.  Personally, for 8CHF the paid app keeps me from having to hack my phone.  That's worth it to me!




Links
VMlite webiste
PS:Unlocking your phone in the USA now not recommended






Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Physicists by Friedrich Durrenmatt


Just to further demonstrate the total dominance of the BBC in the domain of  the spoken word I  remind everyone that it is not just from BBC Radio 4.   BBC Radio 3 sometimes makes a spirited contribution.

Especially appropriate as I write this from Lausanne is the recent broadcast of the classic play The Physicists by the Swiss Author Friedrich Durrenmatt



Fridge Maintenance

We have been waiting and waiting for some decent cold weather  Can you guess why?



Yes, it is time for the yearly Fridge and Freezer maintenance!

With below zero temperatures we have stashed all the food onto the balcony 

Then the cleaning has begun and tomorrow all the food will be stashed back inside.

So remember the winter can be good for cleaning too.








Saturday, January 26, 2013

Marcus's sub 30-minute Meals




Subtitle: Dinner at Aldi

Yes, it is all from our local Aldi supermarket.  Even the Sushi!

Since Aldi Switzerland introduced it's Sushi range Marcus literally can't get enough of it.

In England Sushi is now a commodity product.  Our Tesco local in London sells sushi, but until recently  only the local Coop sold Sushi but for a kings ransom.

Things have now changed and the Malbec 2011 red wine,  the freshly squeezed orange juice, the tomatoes, sushi and avocado is all from our local Aldi. And at reasonable prices.

 Raw Materials



 5 minutes and the oranges are squeezed and the avocado cut


The sushi is out and the wine is breathing.

So take that Jamie,   our meal is ready in about  20 minutes  (this includes time to Walk to Aldi).



Links
Jamie's 30 minute Meals

Friday, January 25, 2013

A good nights sleep


Ironically since I start to type this at 04.16 of Friday morning the last thing I am currently enjoying is a good nights sleep.


Confession: I JUST LOVE SLEEPING


There, I said it!  However most of us will agree that sleep is usually the thing we find time for when we have completed all the other necessary tasks in a day.  Trouble is, in our busy lives, this means sleep time is compromised.




So, until Agata and Marcus change their lifestyle we are trying to optimise and analyse what sleeping we do have.

The basic idea is to determine via body movement  what sleep state you are in.  Then based on your set alarm, your Smart phone  (which does the monitoring via its Motion sensors) will wake you up, ideally when you are in a light sleep moment.

How did I do ?


Overall statistics for the last week.



You will see that I wake up at about 02.00  The main challenge at that time is to remain in bed, and not get up and start working!


It is set to analyse 20 minutes before the alarm. So in fact you can see it decided to get me up at 05.10.  Marvellous!

[Note: But believe me, if you are about to undertake a 2 hour run in sub zero C temperatures, you have to do some planning, like the right clothes, emergency clothes,  hot fluids,  energy food, gadgets.  All that takes time!]


Other Sleep Technologies
Lumie Bodyclock 250
This is primarily an alarm with a light that gradually switches from from zero to full intensity at your alarm time.  Since Marcus and Agata presently wake at different times it's currently not in use.

Zeo Personal Coach



Learning Points:


  • Drains battery!  You start the Sleeptime application then put your Android smartphone face down on the bed  (don't switch it off). In the morning battery down to about 60%.
       
  • I need an emergency 30 minute charge in the morning to recharge the phone since I need to use the GPS/runkeeper app  for the morning run.
  • Not sure it works with our  Tempur mattress but I am trying anyway
  • The alarm is set for 05.30
  • It seems to be regularly waking me up at 05.10,  and I use the extra 20 minutes to prepare all items for my run, so it's not so bad
  • I really need more sleep, the app shows me
  • Since I have had multiple long 2 hour plus morning runs this week, I really need more sleep.  If only to recover.



Perhaps one day perhaps soon both Agata and Marcus will be able to enjoy all the sleeping time they want, not what is left over!


Links



Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dropping the Apple


Of course I am not primarily talking about the share price.  Besides you must surely have already sold based on this previous advice

Here I relate to often conflicting Engineering constraints of Beauty verses robustness.

My latest Apple Nano has a raised glass screen. Looks great, but can scratch.

AND NOW

After a drop onto a marble floor, the Nano hit its left edge where the headphone socket is ....


  • Apple  moved the socket of this gen7 nano (vs my last gen5) closer to the left edge as you can see above
  • The thickness of that left wall is paper thin
  • So in the collision, the circular hole deformed
  • So the Headphone cable WONT FIT IN THE HOLE
  • After some violent pushing and forcing the plug entered the hole
  • But now every time it is a struggle.
  • Every time it feels like the headset or the Nano is physically going to break!


To me, having a beautifully thin but bonded unserviceable screen falls into the same demented category.

Shame on you Apple.


Meanwhile, lets get back to that share price

Pre-market 467.. eek

But amazingly, still up on this time last year.




Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Last Resort


I was impressed to hear on the interweb that the final episode of the series called Last Resort, would be number 13 and that this will (presumably) be aired shortly [I know that episode 12 has debuted].

Then I consulted Wikipedia and was ever so disappointed to find that this was not because they wanted to have a well defined beginning, middle and end.  Oh no, the reason was that the ABC television network did not take up their option to have a full seasons episodes produced!

If we cast our minds back to Twin Peaks, this was originally a series about the murder of Laura Palmer, but then the series morphed into a episodal drama that went on, and on, and on.

So whilst I'll be sorry to view that last episode soon,  I feel that Last Resort will thankfully not develop into a developing series of diminishing returns.  It will have it's day and complete with honour and dignity.  Surely, the Navy would be proud.

Series will I am confident be available from the usual sources

Links
Last resort on Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Less is not More-on



We are now more accustomed to the Swiss and practically universal tax reporting system that ends at the end of a calendar year.

In fact Agata and Marcus took vacation last Friday to start this and other financial administration.

Aside: Recall that in the UK however a tax year begins April6 and finishes April 5th.  In the UK therefore you have until Jan 31, 2013 to report on the  2011 (6 April 2011 -> 5th April 2012) taxation year.

Meanwhile,  we have been receiving interest statements from our Swiss banks as shown above.   As savers, can you feel my pain!


  • On a balance of 2000 CHF
  • UBS bank works out gross interest as 0.03 Francs
  • They withheld 0.01 Francs withholding tax
  • They give us 0.02 Francs
  • They posted us a paper letter showing the above (a stamp is usually about 0.80 Francs!)
  • At this rate we calculated that a bank balance of  6,000 million Francs would be necessary to produce 60,000 CHF interest earnings (an amount that 2 people could uncomfortably live on in one Swiss year)
  • Yes that is a balance of 6,000,000,000 Francs
  • By comparison the Queen of England has a personal fortune (converted to CHF) of about 750,000,000 Francs
  • So if the Queen lived here and banked with UBS she would not be able to live of the interest from her savings.  Incredible.

If we step back and consider the global picture:

  • Governments worldwide are printing money  (Quantitative easing)
  • Bank interest rates are so low as to be worthless
  • Normally QE would generate rampant inflation
  • Rampant inflation allows Governments to inflate their debt away
  • However, now a significant part of the population is in serious debt
  • Governments fearful of mass personal (e.g. mortgage) defaults that large inflation would instantly produce now conspires  to keep interest rates low, approximately zero.
  • But this also means that Government debt remains and is not inflated away.
  • So the only consolation to savers is that whilst your assets grow by nothing, inflation is relatively low, so your assets are not shrunken as violently they would have been with regular rampant inflation.



  • And as of today the Swiss 2Year note rate is again negative!



Links
2012 interest rant from marcus






Monday, January 21, 2013

ebay saves the day

We think it must be worldwide Dental Hygiene conspiracy because we have now checked 2 countries and neither now stocks any form of Dental Floss tape.

Dental floss tape is the nice, gentle, wide, flat, well taped shaped floss; as compared to hard, cord like  regular floss which is brutal and can easily cause bleeding gums.


In fact regular dental floss could have been the weapon used in this horrific Marathon Man attack scene.   So IMHO  it's regular floss that should be removed from consumer shelves not that gentle tape!

So how did we solve the problem?   eBay of course.    15 boxes of Dental Floss tape arrived  without fuss proving once again:


  • That today International living is easily possible, provided
  • You have a good, reliable, honest, postal service
  • an Internet connection
  • Paypal
  • and eBay

(Here in Switzerland most prefer to use ricardo or anibis, and Paypal is not widely used or accepted. Oh so antiquated.)


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fibre Speed Fault Finding



I have moaned several times about Swisscom and their inability to deliver fibre to our doorstep.  But for the last 2 months we have at last been using fibre.

Today I finally had some quality time at home to debug why the Fibre connection is slower than the outgoing VDSL!

Swisscom was innocent, it was the Zyxel Hardware Firewall!



So what were the learning points for today?











  • Zyxel not Swisscom was the culprit.    The calm fault finding procedure at Swisscom shone through



  • Turn off Zyxel IDP  Signature Detection on my principle hardware firewall
  • I'd previously tried to check the speed in the DMZ  (i.e.non Zyxel) patrolled Internet Zone.  But the speedtest.net website needs Java and this was not installed on my OSX test system in the DMZ.  (Because of course Java7 would not install on Apple's OSX only the less secure Java6) so I'd previously given up.  More fool me.




  • The actual connect speed is 100 Mbit/second but 50Mbit/sec is reserved for VOIP and Swisscom TV
  • From Jan 2013 Swisscom have pushed a 6.02 firmware update to the Centro Grande router.  This disables all the previous admin hacks and unlocks.  So for now, all of us Grande users are back to idiot mode configurations.



Links
Culprit  Zyxel IDP slow

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nexus 4: The Hardware







I'm going to confess.  I am the very proud owner of a Shiny Google (LG) Nexus 4 (smartphone.  And I've had it for over a month now! N4 for short.

This is a hardware review, since as an Android virgin I am still trying to find my way around the OS.

So here is the Hardware Review


  • Putting on the Zagg shield was as expected torture.  Everybody  (and I mean everybody) apart from me says it ruins the looks.  I don't care .. it is minimalist protection
  • The battery is not replacable
  • Came with a black USB cable but no charger
  • Last week I plugged N4 via another USB cable that made it red hot.  The battery did not charge, but now the battery capacity seems weak.  Did I somehow damage it?
  • There is no memory slot, so advise the 16GB model
  • It's approaching twice (200%) faster than my outgoing iPhone 4
  • The large screen is a pleasure to navigate especially with my failing eyesight
  • The micro USB connector is really terrible.  You have to squint to visually check orientation or use the push and try  (and eventually bugger up) the slot mechanism
  • Power switch on Right could protrude more. Difficult to switch on.  iPhone power button location superior.
  • There is NO decent/dedicated bicycle mount case for N4
  • Some Neoprene cases exist and I made one  (from a Decathlon neoprene swimming goggle strap .. thanks mama for the sewing!)
  • Built in camera is basic but decent enough for a quick photograph.  After you have used a decent Samsung Galaxy camera it hardly compares though!







Getting One
This proved very difficult.

The Google Play store in Switzerland does not sell any Google Hardware.  I'm quite sure this is Switzerland and not Google being awkward.

Initially I had tried to order 2 units to my old home in England.  But despite waiting over 1 month for availability it would not accept any form of credit card payment.

Eventually I coerced UK friends to order 2 units.

But then the local Swiss digitec.ch store had availability.  And so at an inflated Swiss price  (about 20% markup) I bought a 16GB model.  To all English Speakers .. on installation you can configure English.


AND SO
I am a delightfully happy Nexus 4 user.

Google, we salute you.  A review of Android 421 is to follow presently


Links
The Nexus 4 manual in PDF

Friday, January 18, 2013

Rewind: Christmas Holiday


Time for a short review of our wonderful Christmas holiday, back for the most part in Warsaw.

Arrival and the slippery roads provide for some heart skipping moments




Despite being rather ill Mama made the best attempt possible to be there for us.




Agata continues her worldwide Ice Cream Quality control survey



Christmas Eve and temperatures are up to -4, though it was -14 Centigrade a few days previously




View from the balcony where we are staying.  There is still a little snow



 Agata uses our specialist Ice Scraping tools




The Swiss shops are more useful here than in Switzerland




When I have a special effects lab on my  camera  it is difficult to get bored




 Coffee at Coffee Haven.   European prices. Yikes




 Some Christmas trimmings


 Christmas Wafers (sic)



A holy Christmas lunch. Praise be unto his noodly goodness.  Hark how he boiled for our sins.



A Christmas stroll down Nowy Swiat with Justyna and Agata

 The sky outside Decathlon is somewhat surreal




Agata negotiates the sale of some of our older  Hard Disks at the Russian Computer market


 New Years Eve Running Race Krakow - completed.



 Krakow by night


Happy New Year's Eve party


Our last run before returning to Switzerland

Thanks as usual to everyone for the hospitality and friendship that made us want to stay longer, a lot longer!