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Monthly Archives: March 2010

I used the Port Authority Bus Terminal for my commute and witnessed the construction of the new New York Times building.  The building has several restaurants and NYC’s first Muji store (outside of Moma).  I pass it by every day but one day, I decided to walk through the building lobby  which runs from the 40th Street to the 41st.  The building’s main entrance is on 8th Ave.  The hallway that joins the lobby to the main entrance has lots of little boxes hung on both walls.  On closer inspection, they are tiny video screens suspended by cables that runs down from the ceiling.  It is a piece of artwork called Moveable Type (2007) by Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen.  Here is the official description (click here for more information):

Vacuum fluorescent displays, copper and steel cable, custom software  … Algorithms developed by the artists parse the daily output of the New York Times (news, features, opinion, blogs) as well as The Times’s 150-year archive. The activities and comments of visitors to The Times Web site also provide input to the work.  The information (and therefore the artwork itself) is in a constant state of change, because it reflects the up-to-the-minute production of the news by The Times, both in print and on-line. The artists have programmed the work to extract fragments – words, phrase, quotes, numbers and places – from The Times’s growing, living, real-time news database, and to recombine these fragments into a series of ever-changing kinetic compositions.

The video above shows one of the pieces called “To The Editor”.  I stood there for well over 20 minutes to film the performances.  Love the old fashion typewriter chatter and the occasional ding.

The two pictures below are borrowed from the official ftp site, not mine.


NYC is full of surprises.  I thought I know the streets of the city somewhat well, but I stumbled upon this piece of street art on East Houston St and Bowery (near DBGB).  In case you are wondering, the white specks on the photos are snowflakes, it was January –  around midnight.

The piece was made by Os Gêmeos, a pair of Brazilian twins. Love the N train.  I sense traces of Chagall and Hayao Miyazaki.  Fantastic stuff.

Here is their video blog and Wikipedia entry.

Nemo ?

The aquarium was really pretty.  Beside the fishes, which were quite difficult to photo because they were dashing around, the rocks were covered with corals and numerous other lifeforms.  To me, this is the closest to diving in a reef.

In the lobby of the Hotel Beaulac is this wall-mounted aquarium. This is one of the most beautiful and lively saltwater aquarium I have seen.  Part 2, tomorrow.

During my first week in Switzerland, I was staying at the Hotel Beaulac.  It was bitterly cold and I did not feel like exploring the town for dining options.  So I ate quite a few dinners at the hotel restaurant, Lakeside.  Further to my post yesterday showing the interiors of the restaurant, here are some of the dishes I had:

#1  creamy but light custard with nuts (above)

#2  Caramelized purple fig millefeuille, light Pinot noir flavored chiboust cream

#3  Tempura king prawn maymai sauce

#4  Loin of lamb, thin round polenta chest nut cake, grey shallot preserve

#5 some kind of fried fish … it was the plat du jour

While I was staying at Hotel Beaulac, I ate quite a few meals at the hotel restaurant – Lakeside.  It has a modern dining room with some traditional-looking cabinets with desserts inside, a bar with fluorescent liquors, and a sushi bar.  The sushi was surprising fresh and of very high quality considering Switzerland is land-locked.  Sushi is in fact much more common than I thought.  The food at this restaurant is overall quite good but eating alone is not fun.  My meals were always at night so I never saw the view outside.  It must be pretty in the summer since it overlooks the marina.  I will come back in the summer, and by that time, I will be a local already.

I stayed at Hotel Beaulac during my first week in Switzerland. It has a modern lobby, a minimalist fireplace, and a restaurant separated from the lobby by a saltwater aquarium (pictures of the creatures will follow).  However, the room I had was basic and much less attractive.  But they gave me mini Toblerone chocolate nightly.  In the pictures, it looks nice and warm with the boats docked outside, in fact, it was very windy and cold.

When I arrived in Switzerland at the end of January, I stayed at the Hotel Beaulac during my first week because the company apartment was not yet ready.  The hotel is on the lake front but apparently I was not important enough to be given a room with the lake view.  My window faces the center of Neuchâtel, with light reflecting from the snow, the whole town looked luminously golden.  I also have a view of the pier (looking left) and the local art museum (looking right).  This is the museum that put on an exhibition about Suchard, see my earlier post: A History of Chocolate.  Actually, this view was much better because for the entire time I was there, it was so foggy that visibility on the lake was minimum.

We have become a part of a statistic.  According to the latest figures:

Neuchatel, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Foreigners made up 21.98 percent of the Swiss resident population in 2009, figures released by the Federal Statistics Office show, a relatively stable percentage. Overall, the resident population of Switzerland continued to grow at a steady pace, to 7,783,000, with a foreign population of 1,711,000. The increase in the total population was due mainly to a positive migratory figure (immigration minus emigration), with immigration accounting for 81 percent of the total growth. The birth rate rose by 2 percent, with both the Swiss and foreigners showing increases. The average number of children rose, but almost imperceptibly, from 1.48 to 1.49 per woman. The age at which women start families continues to climb and is now 31.2, up from 31 in 2008. Women over age 30 were largely responsible for the growth in the 2009 birth rate. The figures also show the divorce rate slipping down for the third year in a row, to 19.000. Swiss marriages have stabilized at around 40,000 a year for the past 10 years.

22% foreigners – that is at least in one in five – I wonder what is the % of foreigners in NYC and the % in the US as a whole.

I took the picture above on a street behind the main train station of Lausanne.

After day one, almost everything was wrapped or packed.  The packing crew separated the stuff that was to be sent by air freight from those that was to be shipped by container.  The final count of boxes was 283 !! (can you believe it ?), of which 7 were to be flown over.  Don’t ask how we accumulated so much stuff.

Two trucks came on the second day.  The container that came to pick up our stuff was unexpectedly monstrously big.  We were told that if we wanted to take our car with us, the container can hold it.  Our 276 boxes apparently filled more than half the container.  To keep it from shifting during transit, the crew pushed the boxes to the end and installed from top to bottom several wooden bars to hold them in place.  It was a bit sad to see our possessions being moved out of the house piece by piece and leaving empty spaces behind.

I received the air shipment a month ago which included the iMac I am using to type this blog post.  The rest have also arrived by sea but are in storage somewhere in Switzerland.  We will not be reunited with them until we found a more permanent home.

Our move consisted of two days, a first day for packing up all the stuff in cardboard boxes and a second day for loading them onto a container.  Originally, it was scheduled for January 25 and 26.  But on Friday January 22, I asked the movers to come a day later since we were so behind in organizing our stuff.  Thank god they accommodated us.  On the 26th, a professional crew of four worked pretty solidly for a whole day, wrapping almost everything in brown paper and placing them in boxes or building custom-shaped boxes.

I cannot imagine the mess of paper and boxes that we will create when they are unwrapped or unpacked.

These photos were taken from our balcony at the beginning of our last day at Edgewater.  The movers were coming to pick up our stuff at 8 am so we were up super-early.  The NYC ferry just swept by to pick up its first load of passengers. Sue went to grab breakfast from McDonalds.  Rise and shine.

I’d better post these pictures before Spring arrives.  These pictures were taken a few days before Christmas 2009, some from our balcony.  The kids had a great day playing on a huge pile of snow in front our community’s Christmas tree.

We really enjoyed living there.

Continuing from yesterday’s blog on the book “The Geography of Bliss”, the author – Eric Weiner mentioned a World Database of Happiness that is maintained by Ruut Veenhoven at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  It describes itself as a continuous register of scientific research on subjective appreciation of life.  For this research project, happiness is defined as “the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his life-as-a-whole positively”, in short: how well one likes the life one lives.  Well, if one is academically serious about his/her happiness, this can be interesting.  The above map was clipped from the web site which has an interactive aspect to it on the internet.  Whenever the cursor passes over a country, a score for that country comes up.

Here are some random happiness scores:  US = 7.4, Canada = 8.0, Costa Rica = 8.5(one of the highest), Switzerland = 8.0, South Korea = 6.1, China = 6.4, Iceland = 8.2, Russia = 5.6.

The Geography of Bliss has a chapter on Switzerland, tagged “Happiness Is Boredom.”  Hmmm.

According to Weiner:

One Swiss said: Maybe happiness is this: not feeling like you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else.  Maybe the current conditions in Switzerland … make it easier to “be” and therefore “be happy”.

Weiner concludes by saying that a new word is needed to describe Swiss happiness – something more than mere contentment but less than full-on joy.  He coined the word “Conjoyment” and explained it as something “we feel joyful yet calm at the same time … There is a frenetic nature to our joy, a whiff of panic; we’re afraid the moment might end abruptly.  But then there are other moments when our joy is more solidly grounded.”

To me it sounds like Swiss happiness is contentment plus security, well, I will find out soon from some natives.  Hopefully, by osmosis, I will feel happier after moving from a place with a score of 7.4 to one at 8.0.

I finished this book last year in the summer and liked it a lot.  The author described it as a “philosophical self-help humorous travel memoir.”

Weiner was a veteran foreign correspondent for National Public Radio and traveled the world in search of the happiest places.

This is how the book was described on his web site:

As Weiner makes his way from Iceland (one of the world’s happiest countries) to Bhutan (where the king has made Gross National Happiness a national priority) to Moldova (not a happy place), he calls upon the collective wisdom of “the self-help industrial complex” to help him navigate the path to contentment.

He travels to Switzerland, where he discovers the hidden virtues of boredom; to the tiny-and extremely wealthy-Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, where the relationship between money and happiness is laid bare; to India, where Westerners seek their bliss at the feet of gurus; to Thailand, where not thinking is a way of life; to a small town outside London where happiness experts attempt to “change the psychological climate.” He also travels within the U.S.-and discovers that paradise is always a step away.

And here I am discovering the hidden virtues of boredom … zZZ.   His other writings are here: Eric Weiner’s Other Writing.

Here is another video of Ollie working the deck at Bar 13.  Very focused, he managed to ignore the drinks, girls, noise, and lights.  I guess a DJ has to filter out all the distractions, and concentrate on counting the beats, lining up the tracks, … a matter of ear-hand-eye coordination.  Ollie has a Serato Scratch Live setup at his apartment and he demo’d it for me.  What a piece of toy to have around.  Like an instrument, he can practice at home.

I had put together a new dance playlist for every one of my parties – some of you may remember the New Year’s Eve parties at my apartment off Times Square.  For a short while, I actually considered enrolling at the same DJ school – Dubspot – which also teaches electronic music production. Well, I have to postpone that phase of my education for now.

Ollie played mostly deep house which is a genre of house music that I like.  Check out François K – a well-respected local producer who plays regularly at Cielo.  Here are some of his CDs that I have and can recommend, and a link to his store on Amazon.

My friend Ollie went to DJ school last summer and had started playing at parties and bars downtown. I went to see him spin at Bar 13 (University Place and W13th St) before I left NY.  Selina was his roadie-groupie/manager, bopping away, and handing out his business card.

I gathered that DJ-ing in NYC is very competitive, and getting a decent sound system with an audience is not easy.  That night, all the DJs were DJ school graduates from classes of different levels.  They took turns and the changeover was managed by one of the instructor, JP Solis.   Many students did not want to leave the turntable.  Ollie’s slot started at 9:45pm, played for about an hour, and was to spin again after midnight.  Ollie worked intensely, it looked like he was kneading pizza dough, but he was for sure having fun and the music was great.

Is it me or can you see the silhouette of a city ?

I wonder if the inventor of Lego was inspired by octopus.

What do you think of when you see the image below ?

This is the third and last batch HSBC’s ads that I have gathered.  Just more examples of the juxtaposition of three different images and one word, or three different words and same image.  The other two posts are here: The Different Values of HSBC, and More Different Values of HSBC.

Disclaimer: I do not have an account with HSBC.  Nor do I own shares in JWT who created the ads, or its marketing giant parent WPP.

To see my first attempt in creating a panel, click here.

Here is proof that I made the right decision about buying my Canon Powershot S90 in NYC.  See My New Camera for details of the Canon and my old but still-in-use Lumix.  I bought my S90 at B&H on 9th Av/34th St for just under $400.  This picture was taken outside a camera shop in Bern, Switzerland, two weeks ago.  The 598.- is in swiss franc which is exchanged at about the same rate as the US$.  Now, I have to find more reasons to visit the states.