Frosta X fake Ikea instructions

Do It yourself design

Frosta X fake Ikea instructions

Saturday was quite windy and a bit rainy, as we had some guests, we went to the Schaudepot of the Museum für Gestaltung to see the exhibit on Do it yourself design.

As the title indicates, this was an exhibit about do-it-yourself designed and built object – mostly furniture – some bizarre, some quite smart. I really like things that were built out of Ikea wares, the exhibit even offered alternative assembly instructions for take away. I follow a blog with similar ideas: ikea-hackers

Museum für Gestaltung
Pfingstweidstrasse 96

While the exhibit was not bad, I felt it was too small, more like a sampler than a real presentation on the subject, and there is way more to say about the subject and the Schaudepot is larger than the current exhibit.

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Oroveso with a golden collar in front of the Druids with branches sticking out their back


Oroveso with a golden collar in front of the Druids with branches sticking out their back

Yesterday, despite the thick snow, we went to see Norma at the Zürich Opera. Last time I went to the Opera was six years ago, for Aida.

The mise en scène was interesting, with very stiff and formal poses and a set that looked like something between a modern art installation and a science fiction setting. The costumes somehow reminded me of the Star Wars prequels. Still this worked, and I think it was a good choice, balancing Bellini’s music which can be a bit pompous.

I really loved the duets between Norma and Adalgisa, but I actually enjoyed the whole opera and was moved by all the arie, it was really an astounding performance, which I recommend heartily.

The show features both german and english super-titles (they are above the scene), I found them to be in stark contrast with each other, where the german text felt very literary and dramatic, and quite close to the bits of Italian I could parse. The english translation was really plain, often with precise words replaced by more generic ones. So if you can, read the german text…

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Bon Yak trailer

Biking with a Yak

Yak trailer attached to my bike

Now that I have driven around with my new Yak bike trailer, here are some impressions about its use in and around Zürich. I was initially unsure on how practical having a trailer would be, but it solves one of the drawbacks of a normal bike: I can now transport some stuff around. This can means small luggage when spending the night at some friends, or groceries, the trailer can fit four Coop/Migros shopping bags, or three if I put them into the trailer bag. Not the cargo capacity of a car, but enough to move around cumbersome stuff.

From the biking perspective, I found the trailer very stable, despite the fact it has only a single wheel, in fact when driving straight, the bike feels much more stable, like biking on rails. The trailer ads some drag, so biking with the trailer is more work, in particular if it is well loaded, but it never feels heavy: when turning, I did not feel like the rear is chasing out because of the weight, basically the trailer ads more of a feeling of inertia than a feeling of mass.

Driving in the city felt good, the flag is definitely needed, as the trailer is low and the car would not see it otherwise, currently the trailer seems to encourage cars to have a more respectful distance, but as these become more common that effect might go away. The trailer has a reflector, but I added a small tail-light, I used one of those cheap clip-on LED lights that attach to the saddle stick, I needed more rubber padding to fix it to the bar holding the rear wheel.

One of the reasons I wanted a single wheeled trailer was to be able to fit to the side of cars in traffic lines, and generally not worry about the width of the trailer. This works fine: if the bike passes thru, the trailer will fit. While width is not serious concern, length is, when crossing streets, in particular if the there is an island in the middle of the road, the island will generally fit a bike safely, but not the bike and the trailer. A similar concern is when over-taking other bikes, as I now need the full length of my convoi to have overtaking before being able to pull back in. I sometimes feel I need one of those long vehicle signs.

Another issue is parking, most of time you cannot just park the bike cum trailing in a bike slot. There is also the need to lock one more thing. While it is possible to carry a bike, for instance to put it into the basement, this now requires multiple operations, nothing critical, but requires a bit more logistics when stowing stuff away at home. A final note about the bag: I bought the trailer with the adapted bag. I was a bit sceptical, as I already have plenty of bags, but this one is really well designed and fits the trailer perfectly and has some attaching hooks.

All in all, I’m very satisfied about the trailer, which is in my opinion a good compromise between a normal bike and a bakfiets. I had hesitated between the Yak model and the Ibex which has a suspension, but things are fine without suspension.

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E-Tram in Front of the Depot in Wollishofen


E-Tram in Front of  the Depot in Wollishofen

Getting rid of old electronics devices is somehow complicated in Switzerland, you could theoretically bring them back to the store, but this assumes that said store still exists, and is nearby. If you do not have a car, your definition of nearby gets pretty restricted.

The way electronic waste is recycled in city of Zürich is interesting, there is a special tramway, the , that stops in various parts of the city once a month; people can bring their electronic garbage there, with the only constraint that they have to come by foot or bicycle or public transport – if you have car, you are supposed to bring your garbage to the recycling center. There is a similar service for bulky items, called the cargo-tram

The two tramways that provide this services are themselves recycled, they are modified Schweizer Standardwagen, a standardised tramway model built by various constructors starting 1947, and used by the tramway companies of many swiss cities: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lucern, Neuchâtel and of course Zürich. While these trams were a common sight in the 80’s they have been slowly replaced by newer models, and most of them were sold or given to others cities: Belgrad, Iași, Sibiu, Pjöngjang, Winnyzja…

The way the e-tram was transformed is pretty radical, the pointy nose was removed (the trams served as snowploughs) and recycled materials are loaded on a cargo wagon. Both e-tram and cargo-tram were put into service in 2003, and for the tenth anniversary of the service, they were repainted green instead of the standard blue livery of Zürich.

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Limmatschwimmen 2013

Limmatschwimmen 2013


This year again, I swam in Zürich’s Limmat river. Blue sky and warm water, the weather was perfect. Everybody was riding the river’s current smiling. Because so many people wanted to participate, getting tickets was pretty hard, but it was so much fun that it was worth it.

Cette année encore, j’ai nagé sur la rivière Limmat à Zürich. Un ciel bleu et une eau tiède, le temps était parfait. Tout les participants se laissaient porter par le courant en souriant. Comme l’évènement est très prisé, il n’a pas été aisé d’obtenir des tickets, mais cela en valait la peine, tant c’était agréable.

Dieses Jahr bin ich wieder in der Limmat in Zürich geschwommen. Blauer Himmel und warmes Wasser, das Wetter war ausgezeichnet. Alle lassen sich lächelnd durch die Strömung tragen. Da so viele Leute mitmachen wollten war es hart, Billetten zu kriegen, aber es war so viel Spass das es sich lohnte.

While everything went fine, and the was much fun, I feel the organisation could be improved in multiple ways. First the ticket sale was handled by StarTicket, whose servers were instantly overloaded when the tickets came on sale. I have trouble believing this event was enough to overwhelm their system, they certainly sell tickets for highly desirable concerts.

The second part is getting the starting number, I had to wait in a queue for more than one hour, this after barely getting the tickets online. I think that while there is some amount of coordination involved, they could still have made this queue much faster.

Finally the queue at the start was, like every year, a mess. We were basically given a start number in a 3 minutes slot, to then be mixed with people from various time-slots. The queue was not structured, and there was a bit of showing and cutting in line which I found stupid and annoying. What is the point?

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A pink church in a yellow field with a blue sky in the background.

Street Parade and Bodensee

A pink church in a yellow field with a blue sky in the background.

This year, I did not go to the Street-parade. Péter had suggested we do a bike tour of the north part of the Bodensee, which, given the weather, I gladly accepted. The weather was gorgeous and it is a very beautiful region. While we though we would escape the bustle from the Street-Parade, we did not know there would also be the Seenachtfest in Konstanz. Compared to the 950’000 visitors of the street-parade, 60’000 does not seem like a lot, still Konstanz was pretty busy when we returned there to take the train.

One interesting thing about the street-parade is the amount of traffic it generates on my blog. I wrote a blog entry about it in 2007, and year after year it still gets a lot of traffic around the time of the party. See the graph below for this year’s spike:

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Tram Tango, vue de côté

Si le réseau de tramway de la ville de Zürich est très étendu, les véhicules qui y circulent ne sont pas de toute première nouveauté. Si certaines lignes sont à présent desservies par des rames de type Cobra construit par Alstom, la majorité des rames sont soit des unités Tram 2000 qui furent mises en service à partir des années 80, soit des vieilles rames de type Be 4-6 «Mirage» datant des années 70 (leur surnom vient des problèmes de livraisons). Ces dernières devraient peu à peu être remplacées par des Cobra, mais c’est un projet de longue haleine. Une caractéristique amusante des rames Mirage c’est qu’à l’arrière de la remorque au niveau du sol se trouve un bouton de sonnette.

Tram Tango - Vue Arrière

La ligne que je prends le plus souvent, la n°7 a longtemps été impraticable pour les nouveaux trams à cause de la proximité des deux voies dans les virages. L’automne dernier un grand chantier pour rectifier les voies a commencé, il n’est pas encore complètement terminé. De ce fait, la majorité des rames circulant sur la ligne sont des vieux Mirages. J’ai donc été plutôt surpris de me retrouver ce mercredi à bord d’un tram d’un tout autre type : un Tango fabriqué par Stadler pour la ville de Bâle. Les rame était visiblement flambant neuve, et portait sur le côté en guise de publicité le texte Erstes Tram-Casting der Schweiz (le premier casting de Tram de Suisse). Il s’agit visiblement d’un test du nouveau modèle par les transport public zürichois. Des bus à articulations multiples de Genève avaient déjà été testés il y a quelque temps.

Comparé au vieux mirages et leur banquettes en bois, la différence est marquante. Les rames font 45 mètres de long pour 57 tonnes et peuvent transporter 94 personnes assises et 182 personnes debout (fiche techique). Comme tous les trams modernes, le Tango a un pont surbaissé et des grandes portes, bien plus pratique pour monter avec une poussette ou une grosse valise. Les grandes baies vitrées font que le tramway apparaît très spacieux. Je peux imaginer que cela pose quelques problèmes aux heures de pointe, vu que cela fait qu’on peut se retrouver hors de portée des poignées. J’espère que si un jour ces rames sont mises en service à Zürich, les vitres resteront dégagées, et non pas couvertes de publicités. L’arrière de la rame est un angle entièrement occupé par une banquette courbe qui n’est pas sans rappeler un salon.

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Microsoft in ZürichMicrosoft à Zürich

Microsoft Office in Zürich Wollishofen

Microsoft seems to have a new office in Zürich, in the lower part of Wollishofen, along the south lake side. While the building seems empty, there is a nice decoration to show their appreciation of the city. Alas some of balloons have already popped. According to a Swissinfo article, this will be a Development Center for telephony and video-conferencing.

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For the next votation round, Zürich has implemented electronic voting. The implementation seems reasonable, you connect to a web server with https, and give in an identifier and a PIN that are given out in the voting documents. The PIN is written on the same hidden scratch documents you get for the PINs of credit cards.

While being able to vote via internet is convenient, it does not really make the process that much faster. The problem is, this is not about choosing between the black or the old guy. This round in Zürich, there were 17 questions: 5 at the federal level, 5 for the canton, 4 question for the city and 3 lists to elect people for various low level administrations. Questions ranged from criminal law on pædophilia to budgets for tramway lines. I was certainly thankful I could go over those question from home, with the ability to look up stuff on the internet and drink tea. I could not help thinking of this sinfest comic:

The situation is such, that in the French speaking part of Switzerland, the word “votation” is used to describe the act of voting on a bundle of questions. Very common in Switzerland, the word is never used in France. So while the word is not technically an Helvetism (it exists in official dictionaries), de facto it is.

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Hallo Google Zürich

So yesterday, I went to the Zürich Opera to see Aida. I could hardly be described as an Opera lover, but I certainly appreciated yesterday’s representation. The reason I went to this show is in itself a small story. Earlier this year, the Zürich Opernhaus printed out an advertisement that was quite targeted at Google. In essence it suggest that Zooglers (people working at Google Zürich) should go to the opera. This actually got our attention, and so contacts were taken and thanks to the administrative staff, an actual opera outing was organized. So we dressed up and went to the Opernhaus. Beside the opera itself, we we given an introduction by a very funny Englishman.

The opera itself was really nice, Aida has many powerful arie, and I like both the singing and the orchestra. As I was seated on the upper floor the sound of the orchestra was very powerful. It seems that at some point in the first two acts, the trumpets played from a balcony, but I was too concentrated on the stage to notice. I was less convinced by the dancing, which felt somehow weak and sloppy. The “Mise en scène” was very interesting: instead of setting the story in Antic Egypt, the costumes and the set where from a colonial period, the war between Egypt and Etiopia happening while western archeologists examine a huge and impressive altar of Ptah. When Radamès returns in triumph, he emerges of a steel battleship. The priests of Isis wear both fezes and costumes reminiscent of masonic societies. The set of the third act included a rounded veranda with Art Nouveau stained glass representing the pyramids and the sphinx that I really loved. In some sense, putting Aida into the historical context of Verdi was an interesting exercice, and I liked the result which was somehow reminiscent of the steampunk style. Admittedly I am not an fan of antic Egypt.

Besides the show itself, it was interesting to look at the other spectators. There were of course many dressed up colleagues (this normally only happens on the first of April). Expectedly there were mostly old people, probably from the Goldküste, but this being Zürich, I also spotted a girl with both a cocktail dress and extensive tattoo on the left arm…

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