Halloween 2009

Yesterday afternoon I went rowing for the first time, and loved it.

Nic and Franzi at Nordiska have kindly arranged an extra rowing course for beginners, and it takes place this weekend. After an hour or so of theory and practice on land, we actually got to take a boat out on the lake. It was both harder and easier than I expected. Rowing requires concentration on many small details: coordinate of the stroke with the others in the boat, balance & posture to keep the boat level, angle & depth of the oar, timing of entering and exiting the water, and many other tiny nuances of movement. When I realized how many things I had to think of simultaneously, I was actually surprised that we were able to make the boat move so well. Toward the end of our first tour on the lake, we were actually making pretty good time!

Today will be the second lesson; tomorrow is the last. I’m looking forward to seeing how I improve with a little practice.

Tonight I’ll go to a Halloween party at the home of a colleague. He and the others in his apartment complex got together and planned what sounds like it will be a really fun party. Each floor in the building will have its own theme: one floor will be devoted to lounging and chilling out; another to dancing; and so on. It’ll be a fun time I’m sure.

At this time of year, I remember those in my family who came before me. So before I leave you, I’d just like to link to a short piece I wrote four years ago, on the topic of a very special Halloween.


Inter-club Regatta 2009

_MAL3954, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Just a quick photo from last Saturday’s inter-club regatta. Together with Magnus, I bought groceries at the wholesaler near the highway in Rüschlikon. Then I helped Sibylle cook an amazing chicken curry in a huge pot, and occasionally ran outside to take photos of the races. 45 people came to the dinner, and the after-party was a blast. I left shortly before three and arrived home just after two. :)


Google Wave first impressions

Google Wave logo
Almost five months ago, I wrote here about the newly-announced Google Wave.

Yesterday morning, I received my invitation. I have spent a couple of hours since then exploring Wave’s capabilities.

The first problem I encountered was that I didn’t have anyone with whom to start a wave. Google was kind enough to give me eight invitations to share with others though, and before long, several of my more tech-savvy friends were online too.

Wave is both more complex and more capable than I realized. Some increase in the complexity of the user interface is an unavoidable consequence of the large number of features Google is trying to cram into Wave. This complexity can be a bit daunting at first. It’s also not immediately clear what Wave is for. I can think of several potential uses for it; but I haven’t run into them myself yet.

Farhad Manjoo writes that with Wave, Google is attempting to fix problems that don’t need fixing. He also opines that it’s not clear why one should go through the trouble of learning how to use Wave. I imagine that the same sort of comment was heard when the telegraph was introduced. “Who wants to learn Morse code just to be able to send a letter?” New methods of communications always require a bit of learning; and the more groundbreaking the advancement, the more adjustment people will require before they understand and accept the change.

I have a vague, and hard to describe feeling of anticipation when I use Wave. My gut tells me that Wave is the beginning of a new revolution in online communications and that what we see now is just the tip of the iceberg.


Best before yesterday

Best before yesterday, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

I arrived late to to work today due to chaos in the city. Apparently there was a power outage affecting the trams. I grabbed a coffee and skipped lunch, but got hungry later in the afternoon. I was glad to find a chicken sandwich in the vending machine. Once I had purchased it though, I saw that the expiration date had been written over by hand. The bread was a bit dry in some places and soggy in others. Aside from this though, it tasted okay. Maybe it wasn’t actually expired. I mean, I don’t think it’s too likely that the vending machines are stocked on Sundays, so perhaps someone just printed the stickers with the wrong date. Still, if I get sick and die of food poisoning, let this be used as evidence!


Hiking in the Alps near Clariden

_MAL2414, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Saturday morning, I got up early and went for a hike near Clariden with Kirsten & Simon. We took a gondola up part of the way from the Klausenpass side, and hiked up the rest of the way to the Claridenhütte, a cabin operated by the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC). In this cabin, like many, you can get a hot meal and a place to lay your head for not too much more than fifty Francs. The facilities were quite simple. Water was piped in from a stream of melting glacier water. It must have been filtered to remove silt, but had to be boiled to be safe to drink. There was a tap in the private kitchen only, so if you wanted water, you had to ask for it. A small amount of electricity was provided by solar panels on the side of the cabin. These solar panels charged a bank of batteries, and provided enough electricity to power a few dim florescent lights. These lights were on timers, and turned themselves off automatically after just a few minutes. There was no bathroom, no shower, and no sink save that in the kitchen. There was not proper toilet either, only a very simple outhouse fifty meters from the cabin. So yes, the facilities were quite simple; but the cabin was sturdy, and it kept out the cold.

We dropped off our bags, and made a short day hike up to the glacier. Around five o’clock in the evening, we returned to the hut and enjoyed a couple of beers in the last warm light of the sun. The weather was perfect for hiking—cool but not cold, lots of sunshine, and only a bit of wind. The dinner at the cabin was simple but filling: a warm and thick soup with pasta, vegetables, and pumpkin seeds; a cold green bean salad, and spaghetti with meat sauce. We shared a carafe of wine and some sparkling water too. After dinner, we retired to the communal sleeping room located two floors up, just under the roof. I could hear the wind howling outside during the night, and was very glad to be in a stone cabin and not just a nylon tent. I slept quite well considering the rustic facilities.

In the morning we woke up before dawn. Some of the other hikers had awoken hours earlier to embark on longer treks. I caught a few photos of the sunrise just before sitting down to a simple breakfast of hot tea, bread, and cream cheese.

After breakfast we donned clothing for colder and windier weather. The temperature was still just a couple of degrees above freezing, and the wind that had picked up during the night had not abated much since sunrise. We hiked again up to the glacier and looked for a way up to the pass. There was no easy way up that didn’t cross the glacier; and lacking ropes and ice axes, we opted to err on the side of safety and just call it a day. We retraced our steps back down to the cabin, picked up our bags, and then hiked back down to the gondola for the quick ride back down to the valley floor.

It was a great little hike and my first experience staying in a Swiss Alpine cabin. I look forward to more hikes in the coming weeks.

Helsinki business trip last summer

_MAL0374, originally uploaded by Michael A. Lowry.

Sixteen months ago, I went on a business trip to Helsinki. I recently found the photos from this trip in the dusty filing cabinet that is my computer. The photos are mostly of Temppeliaukio, a famous church carved into a granite hill in the city.