Friday, November 30, 2007

Flashback: Cinque Terre

From Cinque Terre/...

While discussing travelling around Europe with friends at lunch today, someone mentioned the Cinque Terre, and what a wonderful place it is. I mentioned, yeah, I've got links to some pictures of it on my blog. Well I thought I'd written something...

Back in early July I went and met up with some friends of mine from Seattle in the Cinque Terre. It's a wonderful place, with great food. We were staying in a small town just north of the Cinque Terre proper. It's a bit cheaper that way, and a lot less touristy. That said, the proper Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. There are many hiking trails in the area, and train service between the small villages on the Cinque Terre is quite good, even if the trains don't quite come up to the standards of those here in Switzerland.

Levanto, a town just north of the Cinque Terre is also an interesting place to visit. There is a small but wonderful public market to be found here.

I spent a couple of hours in Sestri Levante on my way back whilst waiting for the Cisalpino train. I found Sestri quite tourisity, and not quite as nice as the other places I was at.

If you do go to the Cinque Terre, be sure to try restaurant Ciak
in Monterosso. Their seafood ravioli (pictured below, and looked even better when it was brought out.) is wonderful.
From Cinque Terre/...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Three years..

Swiss flag
I've been an official resident of Switzerland for three years so far, well as of yesterday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

BlogcampSwitzerland_2.0 Dannie Jost Video "The Swiss Myth"

I'm finally getting around to posting the videos from the Blogcamp. It's been a bit of a long time, but there have been a few roadblocks in the way, such as Google Video's upload client not working quite right. I'd embed this video in the page, but I've got it hosted elsewhere. So, you'll just have to view the video via traditional methods.

Dannie Jost gave the Blogcamp presentation that I saw in English. There might have been one other (not counting the Swiss Startup stuff) presentations in english, but I think they might have been at the same time as Dannie's. Dannie lead a group discussion on the topic of "The Swiss Myth", and what it meant to us. After a bit of a political discussion, the talk moved off into other, more interesting topics. It also wandered off into being discussed in German (so be aware, if you don't understand German).

Enjoy the large quicktime video(300MB), or download with a right click the smaller (100MB) mpeg4 version.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thoughts on Google Video

Last year I used Google Video to host the video I shot of the sessions I attended at BlogcampSwitzerland. It's mostly worked pretty well. However, I did have a bit of trouble uploading one of the videos.

This year's Blogcamp videos aren't getting along so well with Google Video. Google Video requires that you use this uploading client. The support for this client seems pretty low. At first I couldn't seem to get any of the video uploaded at all, then I noticed that the program had been updated. So, I downloaded the update, and then tried uploading the video. One of the presentations has uploaded okay, but the other I tried uploading hasn't been as lucky. As such, I'm now looking at alternatives to Google Video. YouTube isn't an option, as they limit you to videos of 10 minutes or less.

I'll probably end up hosting the video on another server someplace.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Noisy neighbor and I don't mind...

Our little apartment building isn't always the quietest place. Especially as I type this. But I really can't complain. You see, the guy who's causing the "racket" is a really amazing pianist. He just started up with one of the "Well-tempered Clavier" Bach pieces and is now playing all sorts of other stuff. It's all quite pleasant.

When we moved in, and I met him, I commented on the piano and asked if he could play it a bit louder as we really enjoyed listening to the music.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quick Thoughts on Blogcampswitzerland 2.0

Back on October 20th, I attended Blogcampswitzerland 2.0 held here in Zurich at ETH. I had attended the conference last year and found it quite interesting.

This year was a bit different. To start out with, nearly all of the presentations, with the exception of the start-up segments, were in German. Dannie Jost's presentation on "The Swiss Myth", a nice play on "Swiss Miss" - the chocolate drink, was probably the only exception and was in English. Well, most of Dannie's presentation was in English. As you will see when I finally post the videos, the discussion did branch out into a bit of German. I suppose this isn't surprising given that this is in a German speaking part of the country. Fortunately, my German has progressed to the point that I could understand most of what was going on. Dannie's presentation was quite interesting and I'll comment more on it when I post the video.

The other really good talk was Michael Gisinger's talk on copyright and it's history. Michael did me the great service and presented in that mythical language 'High German', as so I could understand it better. And, users that speak a non-Swiss German will also be able to understand the presentation when I post the video. As for you anglophones, well, perhaps someone will add appropriate subtitles. You can't really run audio through babelfish at this point...

It was mostly a good conference, but not as good as last year. I wonder if a conference on blogging is a bit limited at this point. Perhaps a more general technical (while still having a track on blogging) Barcamp is in order for Zurich?

Many thanks to the BlogcampSwitzerland 2.0 Organizing Committee for all the hard work putting everything together!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Rockin' in the House

Mitre Peak

I went to go see Neil Finn and Crowded House Friday night for the second time in just over a month. It's certainly good to see that they're mixing the shows up quite a bit, and I got a bit different of a concert than I experienced back in Seattle on the first of September. It was a great concert, and a great crowd.

It was interesting that they handed out earplugs before the concert. These were handy for the opening band, which did indeed play a bit loud. Crowded House wasn't overamped, but there were a few fans that screamed loud enough to almost entirely drown out the band. Ouch! It was my first experience with a show in the Volkshaus, which wasn't a bad venue. Though Neil did mention that the place had some interesting harmonics, that I also noticed.

I was scanning a few photos in, two of which are very appropriate to this post, but it looks like I'll have to put them up a bit later. I don't even have a photo of the Domain, here's a picture of Mitre Peak.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Scanning old photos...

So, I've got around to scanning a bunch of old slides that I have with me. I've got this big old box of slides, and a Canon CanoScan 8600F scanner to scan them in with.

I started out awhile back by using the CanoScan bundled software to scan them in with. Then I decided to give SilverFast a try. SilverFast lets you change all sorts of scanning parameters, and you can do multiple exposures. However, I decided that the CanoScan plugin for Photoshop (Elements, in my case) just works better for me.

Here are a few of the scans, the picture of Chrome Island was a lot of work, as it was horribly underexposed.




Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sitting at the foot of the Cascades....

Well, we're back on our yearly trip to the wonderful Pacific Northwest again. Out visiting a few folks, and specifically my parents.

The trip out was pretty good. I didn't sleep at all, though Alice got in some sleep. We were on Air France this time, as they added non-stop from Paris CDG to Sea-Tac. The flight from Zurich to Paris was a bit bumpy, and the plane was a bit cramped as it was a BAE-146 with 6 across seating. But the service was pretty good, and with a Pain au Chocolat as the breakfast, I was pretty happy. We were nervous about the connection and having to take a bus across the airport, after having nightmares with the same sort of setup in Heathrow, but the connection was fast and efficient. We were in the last row of the aircraft, but that was nice as we didn't have to worry about how far we leaned the seats back, we leaned them all the way back. The food was pretty good, the best we'd had on any flight in many, many years. Also, being in the back meant that I could drink as much water as I wanted, and I'm pretty much recovered from the Jet Lag. As for in-flight entertainment, "Blades of Glory" is a movie that is amazingly funny. There were quite a number of folks staring at those of us watching it as we laughed throughout the flight. I did only watch it three times though....

After a couple of days with the folks, we went up and hung out with some friends and saw Crowded House at Bumbershoot with them. The show was great, and they played a lot of the new songs, which were quite interesting and enjoyable. Neil Finn mentioned that they had a limited time to play, so they packed in as many songs as they could. He apologized for not chatting to the crowd a bit more, though he and Nick Seymore had some pretty funny comments. It will be interesting to see how their show in Zurich will differ from the one we saw here in Seattle.

After the show, we were off to visit some more friends for a couple days. And after that we're off with my parents for a couple of nights on the Oregon Coast.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

A late Swiss-National-Day post

We spent Swiss National Day this year by first climbing the local church's tower. The tower is only open to visitors a few times each year. Swiss National Day is one of those days. I figured it would be a good chance to get a good view of our new town. And I figured it'd be cool to look back to our balcony and see what our place looks like from the tower.

I took this picture from just in front of the church. The tower looks much smaller than it actually is at this angle. But, you can see the person in the corner of the railing hanging out. It was over 200 steps to where the railing is.

From Cinque Terre/...

The view to the south was very nice, with Lake Zurich in the forground and the Alps in the background.
From Cinque Terre/...

To the North is Thalwil in the foreground. The Uetliberg is in the center rear, and Zurich is in the right background.

We live somewhere to the West.

From Cinque Terre/...

Speaking of the West.... After going up the church tower, we then headed to Felsenegg for a short hike up to the top, followed by a aerial tramway trip back down. There's a restaurant on top of the Felsenegg, and it was getting ready to celebrate in the evening.

From Cinque Terre/...

We finished the day with a dinner of barbecued bratwurst and then watched a few of the evening's firework shows.

There is a website with the information on when the church tower is next open. Which is September 21st from 7-9 in the evening, and on Sunday September 23rd from 11am to 12 noon. It's only open when the weather is good. There's also a better picture of the tower on their website.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The tale of the BBQ and the little crescent wrench that couldn't

On Friday Alice and I headed over to Zugerland, a shopping center run by Migros, that is almost the same size as SihlCity. I think Zugerland pulls off the whole shopping center experience much better. That, and parking is only 50 cents an hour.

We were in search of a new BBQ. My old BBQ having been left in the US two and a half years ago. And with our new place having a balcony (two actually), we need a BBQ. So we went off and found a great little BBQ made by European Outdoor Chef, the Delta 480. It's a gas grill with a funnel system in it that you can adjust based on what you're cooking. A co-worker of Alice's recommended it to her. You can cook pizza in it if you've got the pizza pan (which we bought) or the pizza stone (which I just found out about). On Saturday I picked up a socket wrench set and a crescent wrench, which I figured would just about be able to handle any job I needed to do. Oh, and I got an electric wireless screwdriver for 30 chf, it was on sale.

So, today, Sunday, I got to work assembling the BBQ. It went together pretty well, and was looking great on the balcony. I even wheeled it around a couple of times, just to see how the wheels worked on it. Then it was time to light it up. I hooked up the fuel hose to the BBQ and tightened it up with my new crescent wrench, and then I hooked up the hose to the gas canister and....the wrench was too small! Argh! And, did I mention that today is Sunday? In Switzerland? Where all the shops are closed and no bigger wrenches can be bought until Monday? Doh! So, the bratwursts ended up getting cooked up in the pan tonight for dinner. Tomorrow, I'll get that bigger wrench, and get some outdoor chef action done.

Monday, July 16, 2007


So today I decided to go check out SihlCity, the big shopping center just on the south side of downtown Zurich. It's not too bad. It's not really all that big though compared to the malls I've been to in America.

Parking is a big problem. Yeah, I know, this is Europe, but 4 franks for the first hour and then an additional frank each for the next hours is just a little bit expensive. I did manage to park for exactly 59 minutes and only paid the four franks. On the other side, it's pretty easy to get to. Well, it is once I figured out the way to the parking lot. The big downside transportation-wise is that public transportation isn't too convienient, and that it's actually easier for us to take the train downtown and go shopping, or even go to the Airport.

There are a bunch of clothing shops. There's a huge MediaMarkt (the European equivalent to Best Buy) and a large COOP supermarket. Sadly though, the COOP supermarket doesn't have much more in the way of variety than our local shop, and the parking is much cheaper there, or it's about a 15 minute walk. There was also a big bookshop, but I'll bet that there is a better English book selection at the Orell Fuesseli shop downtown.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Movin' Day!

Tomorrow is Movin' Day, or rather the past few days have been moving days. So, we're busy with all of that and Alice still has a long commute to Zurich for another day. We're leaving Muttenz and the Basel area for Thalwil. We'll miss many things about living near Basel, especially grocery shopping in France, and all our friends in the area.

I need to finish up writing about the trip to Paris, and in the meantime, I've also taken a trip to the Cinque Terre in Italy.

What I REALLY should have studied in college

You scored as History/Anthropology/LiberalArts, You should strongly consider majoring (or minoring) in History, Anthropology, or related majors (e.g., African and African-American Studies, Chinese, Classics, Cultural Studies, Economics, English, French, Geography, German, Greek, Hebrew, International Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, Women's Studies, or other Liberal Arts majors).

It is possible that the best major for you is your 2nd, 3rd, or even 5th listed category, so be sure to consider ALL majors in your OTHER high scoring categories (below). You may score high in a category you didnt think you would--it is possible that a great major for you is something you once dismissed as not for you. The right major for you will be something 1) you love and enjoy and 2) are really great at it.

Consider adding a minor or double majoring to make yourself standout and to combine your interests. Please post your results in your myspace/blog/journal.





























created with

Hmm, so it says I should have studied Geography after all! Looks like I did the right thing. But wait, Political Science, Geology and Computer stuff is all up there too. Good thing I did Cartography and Remote Sensing to emcompass all of that stuff in as well!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Paris (Days 1 and 2)

From Paris-Vernon

You may have heard that there is now a TGV high-speed train that goes from Basel to Paris. It now takes 3-1/2 hours for the trip. That's pretty fast. Before last week, it took 5 hours.

We took our trip before last week. Yet, travel across the French countryside is anything but tedious. We quite enjoyed the views of the countryside as we wound through Belfort and Troyes before we arrived in Paris at the Paris-Est, or Paris-East train station. We hopped onto the Metro and the RER and arrived at our hotel, which was the perfect hotel for Paris as we were hardly in our room, just to sleep. The hotel was very near the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens, and just inside the Latin Quarter. Our first day in Paris, we just wandered around a bit. It was Sunday and many things were closed. We wandered over to the Musee d'Orsay to look at the building and then found a coffee shop. Then we walked along the river to Notre Dame and found dinner nearby.

Monday we headed over to check out the Louvre. We spent pretty much the entire day there. We saw the Mona Lisa, Napoleon's Throne, The Raft of the Medusa and the Crowning of Napoleon. It's an amazing museum, but it's very big. Eventually, we were worn out looking at art so we headed out and walked towards the Arc d'Triomphe.
On the way we picked up our train tickets for the next day's trip out of town and we walked down the Champs d'Elysees. We only did a little shopping along the way. At the end of the walk we went to the Arc. It was about 6:30pm, so we saw the relighting of the unknown soldier's ceremonial flame.

From Paris-Vernon

From Paris-Vernon

We took the Metro back to the Latin Quarter to check out the Mexican restaurant we had seen on our way back to our hotel the night before, but it was, unfortunately, closed. We wandered around and found a sidewalk brasserie that was good on a side-street. Then we went over and relaxed in the Luxembourg Gardens until 9PM when the police chase everyone out with their shrieking whistles. Okay, they just toot on the whistles and mention that it's time for the park to close, and the guards at the gates wish you a good evening as you walk past....

From Paris-Vernon

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Been doing a bit of traveling

We've been traveling around a lot lately. When things settle down a bit more in the next couple of days I'll write a few entries. Here's a picture of me in 'My Town' ;-)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Budapest and Szentendre, Hungary

From Budapest

A couple of summers back, we met with some friends of Alice's who were out from Hungary visiting another of Alice's friends. We had a good time chatting with them, and they mentioned we should try to make a trip out to Hungary some time. I also remember that a past W3C conference was held in Budapest. At the time I was thinking that might be a strange place for a W3C conference, but I didn't know much about the city. A couple of folks I worked with were able to make the trip to the W3C conference and came back saying that Budapest was a pretty nice place. So, a few weeks ago, Alice and I went out for a long weekend to Budapest.

I didn't really know what to expect. I knew that Hungary has some nice wines, such as Tokaji, and that good Hungarian paprika is really, really good. I knew from history that Hungary was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. When I was in Grad School, I knew Gabby, who's parents came from Budapest, and she told me that Buda an Pest were really two cities (or three if you count Obuda as well). But I didn't really know all that much about Hungary. This was all to change.

Looking out the window of our airplane, I noticed that the village structure dramatically changed from the clustered villages of Austria, to more linear villages in Hungary. The sky was overcast when we landed, and the weather didn't clear up until later. Arriving at the airport, I thought about how things must have changed with immigration and customs formalities. I did have to go through the 'All Nationalities' line, while Alice sped through the 'EU + CH' line, but that was the biggest challenge we had at the airport. Although the customs officials had stern looks on their faces, no one said anything as we walked through the green 'Nothing to Declare' line as we only brought chocolate and some hard candies for our friends.

The drive into town went through some of the more industrial parts of town, which looked dreary with the overcast skies. Immediately upon leaving the airport I noticed a Tu-154 and an old Tu-134 at an open air airplane museum, which looked like it would be interesting to visit. Our airport bus whisked us to our hotel. However, the hotel we had booked had problems with some water pipes, so the had arranged for us to stay in the Marriott next to the river. Turns out the Marriott is a pretty famous building, as it was the first 'western style' hotels built in Budapest. The Marriott was also where the Warsaw Pact was disbanded. On top of all that, it also had great views of the Duna (or Donau/Danube/Dona) River.

Alice and I checked into the hotel, dropped off our bags and proceeded over to the Castle Hill in Buda. After looking at the huge line waiting to take the funicular up the hill, we decided we could walk up the hill. Which was a great idea, as we got nice views all the way up. More importantly, we got some exercise as we decided it was time to find some lunch. The first outdoor cafe was pretty busy, so we decided to keep on walking. By the time we walked to the next restaurant, we were pretty hungry, so we decided we could eat there. It had a really nice little courtyard, and when we arrived, it wasn't too busy (by the time we left, however it was packed). Unbeknownst to us, we had just walked into what our DK Budapest guidebook described as being one of the best restaurants in Budapest, the Rivalda Cafe & Restaurant. It certainly lived up to its reputation. I had pork in paprika sauce with dumplings. Alice had the Mediterranean chicken wrapped in bacon, filled with goat cheese in a cream sauce. We both decided that the apple crepe with cinnamon ice cream sounded great. This was on the daily menu, and the waiter talked me into trying the local Dreher beer, as he mentioned it would be about a Euro cheaper with the lunch. The food was all wonderful. The apple crepe was amazing. The staff there was very professional and friendly, and between them all they spoke English, German, French and Italian. If you're ever in Budapest - Go there for a meal.

After lunch we wandered all around Castle Hill, looking at Matthais Church, the Fishermen's Bastion and the Buda Castle. We didn't go into any of the museums as the weather was too nice. Then we headed back to the hotel.

For dinner we decided to head over to the Mirror Cafe at the Astoria Hotel for a light meal. Alice had a nice roasted duck salad, and I had beef goulash with spaetzli. My meal also came with a really nice marinated cucumber salad. We enjoyed the jazz band there, a three piece consisting of a guitar player, string bass player and a really talented hammered dulcimer player.

The next day we met up with our friends who live in Budapest, and they took us out for a ride to Szentendre (Saint Andrews), which is an artist's colony just north of Budapest. First we went to the Margit Kovacs museum. Margit Kovacs was a clay sculptor. Her sculptures are quite amazing. After that we walked up to the top of a small hill with a couple of churches on top. From there we had a nice view of the village and the surrounding area. We were tempted by the gelatti shops we saw, but as we hadn't had lunch yet, we decided to wait to have dessert.

From Szentendre we headed west to the open air museum. This museum is like the museums in France and Switzerland where they have houses from various parts of the country and have relocated them to the museum. It was amazing to see the craftsmanship of the houses. There was a church that was built with very few if any nails, using wooden pegs instead.

We had a huge lunch at the museum. The food there was quite good. I had chicken with paprika potatoes on the side. Alice had a mix of grain (bulgar wheat or barley) and peas. We started with soup, I had bean with bacon soup and Alice had a cold fruit soup. Lunch was big, so we looked at more of the museum afterwards. After we finished with the museum we headed back, but on the way we had a stop to make. Our friends had mentioned a bakery on the way out, and on the way back we stopped for some tasty desserts.

We were then dropped off at the hotel and bade our friends adieu. Alice and I headed back to the room to relax a bit, and decided we didn't need much for dinner. Now, in Hungary, lunch is the main meal. Dinner is usually cold cuts bread. There are delis everywhere open for dinnetime, and there was one across the street from our hotel. So, we headed over there, picked up some cold cuts, cheese, bread and a bottle of wine for dinner. Then we had our dinner overlooking the Duna.

On our final day we decided we wanted to walk up Gelert Hill to see the big Liberty Statue up close. We'd been looking at it from a distance the past few days. While we were at the open air museum we saw a post card of a wonderful looking market. We found out that it was in Pest, and so we headed there after looking at the statue. The market was huge, and wonderfully interesting. It was good we got there early, as it closed after lunch. I had plans to get some paprika...lots of paprika. And I got it, about 1 Kilogram, or two pounds. I got some of the stuff without seeds (both hot and sweet) and about 500 grams of the sweet paprika. And we got some saffron just for good measure. We went out again for lunch, and had some wonderful desserts. Then we headed to the airport and back to Switzerland.

From Budapest

From Budapest

Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's all so simple....

As I look for a job here in Switzerland, I have a lot of time to think. Lately, I have been thinking about some of the big web companies; Yahoo, Amazon, Google etc.

One thing connects all of these companies, and that is they all started out as really simple ideas. Good ideas, but really simple.

Take Yahoo for example. Yahoo basically started out as a single page of interesting links that people could visit. Then that page grew too long, and the page turned into categories of interesting links, then came a portal, mail and search. But it really started out just as links to sites that one guy found interesting.

Amazon started out much the same. A list of books that this guy was selling, at a good price. I think he was selling and mailing the books from his home. He might have even been using email for the orders at one point. Then he automated the ordering process, and went from there. Again, though, it just started out with one simple idea. Sell books from a webpage.

Google started out a bit differently, but it had roots in the same sort of idea. Google's first ancestor was Webcrawler. Remember Webcrawler? The first search engine? It was a Perl script that contacted webservers and tried to figure out what the pages were about. A Perl script written by one guy, Brian Pinkerton. The site had a cool name, and a simple idea. Webcrawler was eventually purchased by AOL. Then came other search engines; Ask Jeeves, Infoseek, Inktome, Excite, Yahoo!, Verity. Then came the metacrawlers like Dogpile that searched the search engines. But the guys at Google had a better way to do searching, and a cheaper way hosting things. They have taken what was a simple idea and have grown it into a huge enterprise.

All of these successful companies have started out with really simple ideas, but have kept growing and have become the beasts that they are today.

So, now all I have to do is come up with the right simple idea! ;-)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Joost Invites

I've got three Joost invites. Joost only works on Windows and Macs, and then only on Intel/AMD systems with enough resources. I'll give preference to folks I know, or that I know that have already commented on my blog. Then it'll pretty much be first come, first served.

Update: Since I've now got unlimited Joost invites, I'll give them out to anyone now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Muttenzer Fasnacht

From Muttenzer Fas...

Our own little village of Muttenz has its own Fasnacht festival that bookends the much larger Basler Fasnacht. It isn't a very big celebration, but it is still fun. Last year, when my parents visited, we got a huge snowstorm, so we went and enjoyed the local celebrations instead of those in Basel.

This year, it was sunny and warm. The Saturday after the Basel celebrations, the had the final parade through the village, and right past the front of our place. One marching band came from town, the rest from a number of other places, including at least one from the Black Forest.

I set out to take a couple of pictures and do a bit of video. By the end of the parade I was covered in Confetti, and Alice had enough oranges for a couple weeks worth of fresh-squeezed orange juice.

From Muttenzer Fas...

From Muttenzer Fas...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Basler Fasnacht pictures

NSFW WARNING: Depending on where you work, a few of the lanterns in the Picasa album may not be suitable for work at the larger resolutions. The thumbnails should be fine.

I'm finally getting around to organizing some pictures I've made. I've uploaded them to my picasa web gallery.

The Basler Fasnacht is probably the most well-known of the various carnival celebrations that go on in Switzerland around the beginning of Lent. Nothing quite matches the impressive Morgenstreich parade at 4 in the morning on the first Monday of Fasnacht.

Most of my pictures were taken during the day this year. Taking pictures with a flash is frowned upon, as it blinds the people wearing the Fasnacht masks. Besides, the photos don't turn out with a flash anyways. I ended up shooting a bit of video at night instead. I have to put that up on a server somewhere as well.

From Basler Fasnac...

From Basler Fasnac...

From Basler Fasnac...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Other Alps....

From New Zealand 1993

The Alps in Switzerland weren't the first Alps I've been to. Not even the Alps in Europe. The first time I visited mountains with 'Alps' in the name it was the Southern Alps (which I suppose is what you can also call the mountains in Ticino) in New Zealand.

I first started thinking about a trip to NZ when I was an undergrad at Washington. I remember chatting with another student about his trip to NZ. I also remember talking to my cartography professor, the venerable John Sherman about NZ. I don't remember why John talked to me about NZ, but his descriptions of the West Coast intrigued me. Descriptions of 'Metal Roads', the mountains that came straight down to the sea. While in grad school I remember a few other people talking about NZ, but at that point very few people actually went there...

It was in 1993. I'd been working at Boeing for awhile, and needed some serious time off. I originally tried to talk my boss into letting me disappear for a couple months, but I ended up just going for a bit over three weeks.

At that point you ran into two types of traveler in NZ. Those with a lot of time and not so much money, or those with little time to travel, but money to spend. I was more the latter than the former, so I ended up doing the guided version of the Milford Track. I didn't feel too guilty about it, as I had already met one of the Track guides, Murray, who had guided a co-worker when she did the trip. I decided I could do the big splurge for the Milford, and then stay in hostels and backcountry huts the rest of the time. I wasn't the only one with this plan, as when I arrived in Queenstown, I found out that one of my roomates in the hostel was also taking the trip as well. After walking the Milford, I found that a couple that was on the track with me was also staying at the same hostel I did. The YHA system was pretty good in those days. I think it probably still is. Anyways, I think my trips to NZ ended up being cheaper than staying at home, except for having to pay for the airfare.

Back then you couldn't haul a digital camera with you. So, I took slide film with me and used my Pentax K-1000. I had purchased a Sigma 200mm zoom lens and hiked around with that heavy thing for this trip. On later trips, that was replaced by a 28-80 lens that worked much better. A few of the slides are a bit dark, but I think overall they turned out all right, considering I used a flatbed scanner to digitize them.

This is the slide-show that I put together when I got back. These are the best out of about 16 rolls of film I shot on my first trip.

From New Zealand 1993

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Alsatian Adventures

We've been out wandering around Alsace the past couple of days. Had a tasty dinner, saw some nice castles. We found out that Hohlandsburg doesn't open for another week.
From Alsace April 07

The three castles over Eguisheim seem to have been closed to visitors for quite some time, but you can still have a good look at them.
From Alsace April 07

Friday, March 30, 2007

Video: Evgeny Morozov

This presentation by Evgeny Morozov of Transistions Online is the final in the series from BlogCampSwitzerland 2007.

For the last presentation of the day, I had looked at the board and decided that "Blogging in Dangerous Places" sounded pretty interesting. I took a few classes in Russian/Central Asian studies while working on my undergraduate geography degree. I thought it would be interesting to find out something about contemporary issues there. Evgeny Morozov's presentation covers issues and challenges of blogging in Russia and Belarus. Evgeny also touches upon the topic of local bloggers as a way for more mainstream media to access local content, much in the same way as the Bondy Blog from Bruno Giussani's talk.

Enjoy the video.

Video: Christoph Blogger

Peter Hogenkamp introduces the Blog of Christoph Blogger. This is a word play on the name of one of Switzerland's politicians. This was the first video I did for the day.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Video: Dannie Jost

And now the latest in the series of videos I took at BlogCamp in Zurich on Saturday. In this video we have Dannie Jost leading a lively discussion on the question of "Why is it that Blogging is not about Blogging?"

Right now, there seems to be a lot of hype around "Blogging", but Dannie suggests it's not all about the medium, it's really the messages being sent over the medium that are really the important thing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Video: Stephanie Booth

Stephanie Booth's presentation about Multilingual blogging given at Blogcamp Switzerland is now online. Stephanie discussed blogging in multiple languages. Her own blog is in English and French, however, she doesn't post translations. Sometimes she writes a post in French, and other times she will write in English. She also discusses the difficulties encountered with posting in different languages and how differences in language and culture can separate people.

My question for Stephanie is: Do you notice that people often have a different personality when the speak (or write) in a language different to their own? I think I myself am a bit different when I'm speaking German than when I am speaking English. Another example I've noticed is the difference in Michelene Calmy-Rey's (a Swiss political leader for you folks not here in Switzerland) persona in German vs her persona in French. The first time I saw Calmy-Rey speak in French I was amazed at the difference to the way she spoke in German.

Video: Bruno Giussani

Bruno's video is finally available. This was my first time posting something to Google Video, and while it is available, I think I might look into tweaking a few more things. Like the size and quality of the video, for example.

Bruno Giussani's presentation about the Bondy Blog at BlogCampSwitzerland 2007. The Bondy Blog is a blog originally created to cover the unrest outside Paris in 2005. After the unrest had subsided, the blog was turned over to local young adults to write. It has since become quite a success in France.

The video can be downloaded now and is 54 minutes long. Enjoy!

(edit: Dyslexia strikes! Sorry about the misspelling Bruno, your name is now correct)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Google Video

I guess I can't complain too much, after all, I'm not paying for the service. They're also providing a good deal of bandwidth should the videos need it. But, it does take a while for Google Video to process an upload.

I was at the BlogCampSwitzerland in Zurich on Saturday as I mentioned in earlier posts. The night before I noticed that the organizers had made a request for folks with video cameras to bring them along. So, I packed up my miniDV cam and brought it with me. I had not done much in the way of taping since a High-School film making class back in 1982! But, I made sure to bring my tripod, and tried not to fiddle with the camera too much.

The talks I taped were quite interesting. I've just uploaded the first, by Bruno Giussani on the 'Bondy Blog' which is a citizens' blog in one of the areas in France that experienced riots in 2005. I also taped Stephanie Booth's talk on the challenge of doing multilingual blogs, Dannie Jost's discussion on why blogging isn't about blogging and Evgeny Morozov's talk on blogging from dangerous places. All the talks were quite interesting, especially if you consider this was a free event that was more or less informally put together.

It turns out I didn't need to make the video as small as I thought I would need to. So, I'll probably put Bruno's video up in better quality after I finish uploading the other talks.

Creative Commons

I've been looking at licensing some of my stuff under the Creative Commons license. If anyone is interested enough in what I have to say to repeat it elsewhere, they can pretty much do what they want to with it, as long as they also share the derivative work(s) and give me credit for my work. And if they don't want to do that, well, they can always contact me and I'll be happy to discuss other options.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


I'm videotaping a few of the talks here, so not much blogging right now for me. I'll have the video up later.

Traveling to Blogcamp Switzerland

And so the day begins....

After a quick trip from the house to the train station, I got my ticket from the ticket machine said goodbye to Alice, who so kindly drove me to the train station, and got on the train.
I decided it would be cool to travel first class, and as an added bonus, first class has a 'business car' which has nice tables and power for laptops. So, I decided to start up the laptop and do a bit of typing on the computer. I took a couple pictures of the setup in the train. It's a pretty good setup, but then SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) is pretty good about most things. If we only had public transportation like this in the Seattle area. Then again, it's not the cheapest way to travel. A roundtrip, first-class ticket to Zurich from Basel is about $35. But, if you commute, you can get a first-class all-you-can-eat railpass for about $4,500. And with all the gadgets one can buy these days, you can relax and catch up on your tv shows or listen to music while watching the beautiful swiss countryside pass by outside the windows.
It's amazing, after a winter with almost no snow, I decided to declare that winter was over. The calendar officially turned to spring. And, nature decided that we needed a bit more snow here. So it's snowed quite a bit. When I left Basel there was no snow there, but traveling to Zurich, there has been snow on the ground nearly the entire way.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Small earthquake in Basel.

So, there was an earthquake (2.9 on the Richter scale) this afternoon about 5:45 this evening in Basel. It is suspected that the now suspended geothermal power plant that was being built is the cause. The power plant was shut down in December after there was a 3.4 earthquake. Turns out pumping water into an unlined karst geologic structure is a bad idea. Who would have thought that? Pretty much anyone with a university degree in Geology, Geography or Civil Engineering, I should think.

The Basler Zeitung has the story (in German)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ferryboats in Switzerland?!!!

Last saturday Alice and I headed over to Zurich to wander around a bit. Alice had mentioned that you can drive your car onto the ferryboat and take a trip across the Zurichsee. So, we did just that. I had my camcorder with me, and I mostly shot video, but I did take a few still shots along the way. Here are a few of the better ones.

This is a view of the bridge of the ferry, but from the back, so there is no one inside.

This is a view of the upper deck.

This is a nice view of the ferryboat 'Horgen'.

A trip across the lake cost us 10 Swiss Franks for the two of us and the car. It took about 10 minutes to cross and it runs every 10 minutes during the day. There are about 5 ferryboats in the fleet, which quite surprised me. See the Meilen-Horgen ferry website (german only) for more info.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A look back at my experiences with blogging

The first 'blog' I ever came across was probably Phil Greenspun's Travels with Samantha. I suppose it wasn't exactly a blog, as Phil didn't post it on a web page originally. He posted it to, if I remember correctly. He also posted each chapter as he travelled, around the USA. Of course, there wasn't quite the bandwidth then as there is now, so pictures had to wait awhile. This was the early 1990s. There were few webservers then. In fact I remember certain webservers posting the hours they would be up. Phil continued his travels and his writing, which morphed into and a web consulting business.

There were a lot of online diaries before 'blogging' became a popular term. It was only around the turn of the century, when I heard about blogging. We had some folks at work that thought it might be a useful thing for people to do, as to document what they were working on. The first presentation on blogging I went to was a presentation at www2002 by Robert Scoble. At this point there was a sizable community that was blogging, and Scoble mentioned that blogging was a great way to get eyewitness accounts of events. He also demonstrated some early blogging 'software', or more likely templates at that stage. I remember him showing how it was a good thing to have a calendar pointing at your archives.

At this point, I didn't do much in the way of blogging. I put a few pictures of some trips up on my old website. They're still there but not in any sort of order. Just a bunch of holiday snapshots with a few captions. It was more about the pictures than about the writing. Most of my stuff was up on the web for friends to have a look at anyways. In fact, most of the stuff I've got up on the web is still that way.

Then I got married and moved here to Switzerland. I found I was often writing more or less the same email to people when I would email them. Often I'd forget to write a few interesting things in the next email. So that, and my old grad-school roommate sent me an invitation to yahoo360's beta, which had blogging as a part of it. So I figured I'd try out a bit of blogging there. It was an interesting thing to try, but I just couldn't deal with writing stuff in the little textarea input box. So, eventually I stopped doing much blogging there. Then I got a new iMac a few months ago, and that came with iWeb, which is pretty cool, but I couldn't use it when I was on another computer, so that wasn't going to work. Now I've ended up using this thing, but mostly because readers can see the entire entry in an rss reader, which is pretty cool. Anyways, so that's enough ABOUT blogging.

Monday, February 12, 2007

What's with the Name?

So you might ask, "What's with the name of this blog?"

Well, I was born, raised, schooled and lived in the Seattle area most of my life. I did spend two years to do a Masters degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara from '87-'89. Now, I'm living in Switzerland. Most people know that the Alps are partly in Switzerland. The other mountain range in the title is the Cascades. The Cascades are a lovely range of mountains that Stretch from British Columbia in the north, south through Washington and Oregon before they end in California. They are a set of mountains formed by the subduction zone where the Pacific tectonic plate goes under the North American continent. The Cascades get their name from the many waterways that flow down the mountains due to the high level of precipitation. There are many wonderful waterfalls in the Cascades.

So, a couple years back, I got married to my wife, who's swiss and we're now living here in Switzerland. And so, this name.

Where we live though, is at the very northern point of the Jura Mountains, but not many people know about them, and they're a short range anyways, though they're also quite nice. There are the Vosges, which are also not widely known, which are also a short ways away. Finally, there is the Black Forest, which most people don't know, is also a mountain range. All of these ranges even have skiing areas. Sadly though, this year there hasn't been much snow...

Another Blog for Greg?


You might ask: Why another blog for Greg?

Well, I've got the cooking blog, the old yahoo360 blog and my iweb blog. There's also the However, each of those have a drawback.

First, the cooking blog isn't necessarily going to be of interest to those who read this blog, which is going to be the catch-all blog about tech, travel living in Switzerland or whatever else I'm going to write about. The yahoo360 blog has an interface that's not very good to use. The interface here, while really only a little better, is better enough that I actually use it. iWeb seemed pretty cool at first. I really like it, in spite of some slightly dodgy HTML code that it produces, and that it likes to use JavaScript to set up the page. I also really like the way that iWeb deals with all of my multimedia stuff. However, it only runs on my iMac, which is how I got it. I can't install it from the iMac disks onto my iBook, and that makes it so I can't blog when I'm off for a weekend in Vals, or for a few weeks in the USA. With blogger here, I can update from whatever computer I happen to use. That's a BIG bonus. And so I'm now using Blogger. I just wish there was an easier way of getting pictures from iPhoto to this thing, but it'll have to do.
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