September 29, 2008

First things first

First tank explosion: While cleaning the tanks at work, one of them "exploded" - luckily, Rahel got away with a few cuts on her hands that will heal after a while. It's dangerous to be a marine biologist these days...

First iPhone: I couldn't hold myself back and bought an iPhone. It's not so much the price of the phone that held me back, but the two year AT & T contract that one needs to get the phone. This is an absolutely crazy little machine and will have quite an impact. I love it.

First pull over: This morning, as I was driving to work at 6:30 am (I have to mention this because I still can't believe that I became an early riser), the "check engine" light of my car came up and I had to bring the car over to the mechanic. They gave me a loaner car for the day, but that car's registration has expired, something I only noticed after I was pulled over by the Highway patrol (on the highway, with sirens and blinking flash lights and megaphone and the full show). I was surprised at how friendly and relaxed they were - probably because I'm Hollywood-brainwashed (expecting something like "KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE M*****F***ING STEERING WHEEL!!!" at gunpoint).

First rain: not yet! But according to some weather forecasts, it could be raining on Saturday (if you trust a 6 day weather forecast). This would be the first rain since we move here 5 months ago. We never thought that rain could be something to blog about, but there you go.

September 25, 2008

Interesting times

This is quite an interesting time to be in America right now. The financial markets are collapsing big time. Some people seem to think that this is a short-term thing, but I have my doubts. I would be surprised if things would be back to normal in less than 10 years.

On the other hand, America never ceases to surprise, in good ways and in bad ways. Who would have thought that after 8 years of George W. Bush, the people of America might elect someone like Barack Obama? And now it seems like this it what's going to happen.

Most would not be surprised to learn the George W. Bush has now officially the lowest approval rate of any American president since the introduction of presidential job approval ratings in the 1930ies - he's currently at 19%. Most, however, would be surprised to learn that the person with the highest approval rating of any American president since the introduction of presidential job approval ratings is - George W. Bush (at 92% right after 9/11). Consequently, the man also holds the record of the biggest approval rating difference during the president term in office - a whopping 73%. (This wiki article contains the links to the sources).

Either the man has changed dramatically, or the people (the ones who are voting) have changed dramatically. My bet is on the latter. If I'm right, then the 73% are a good indication of how much things have changed during the past 8 years. Given that George W. Bush was never elected with a large majority (if there was a majority at all), and given that anyone in this country thinks they're on the wrong track, it seems to me almost dead certain that Obama will be elected president in a few weeks. I would even bet on a double digit percentage difference. But then again, this country never ceases to surprise...

To us, neither of this will matter much, of course, as we continue to enjoy the excellent weather, the beautiful nature, our friends and neighbors, independent of who's going to try to clean up the mess in the next 4 years.

September 2, 2008

Politics & Veggies

Last week was all about politics - and a lesson for us about political campaigning in the US. The Democrats had their national convention, i.e. 4 days of speeches about themselves, essentially, which ended with a speech of Obama in a giant stadium:

(taken from

Quite a change of scale, compared to the out-in-the-garden speeches of the Swiss politicians... Talking about garden: we are currently getting more food from our garden than we can eat, it's absolutely great. A typical day's yield would look something like this:

(OK, this was an exceptional day, but still... good old homegrown veggies keep us from eating greasy high fructose corn syrup industry products)

We've been hiking a lot lately, around the Santa Cruz Mountains and in Marin County just north of San Francisco. Although it's getting really dry (haven't seen rain for four months now), it's still spectacular, and we can't wait to see how it's gonna be in Spring when everything is lush and green and wet.

August 19, 2008

Awesome TCHOcolate

Truth be told: the best chocolate I've had for a loooooong time is made right here in the Bay Area: TCHO. A start-up chocolate company, currently in BETA, but much better than Lindt, Callier & Co. (unfortunately also more expensive...)

Obsessed. Very, very obsessed.


August 16, 2008

When 100 * 10000 = 100 million

Some artsy news: Anthony & I put another bond up for sale over at Salathé & White - it was sold within a few minutes. Some people have asked what the project is about, and I would like to explain it with an example.

On reddit, I found an article yesterday, published online in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, and here's what it said:


Well, if 10,000 * 100 = 100 million, then it is no wonder that the art market has exploded in recent years. In the meanwhile, the Daily Mail quietly rewrote the article:


Is interesting to see that instead of changing the previous factor of 100 to the correct factor of 10,000, they completely omitted it. One possibility is that they just couldn't figure out the correct answer of 100 million divided by 10,000. Another possibility is that the factor is not newsworthy at all, but it's rather the price of a dazzling 100 million POUNDS! And indeed, that would be quite newsworthy, because the most expensive painting ever sold, supposedly, is Jackson Pollock's Nr. 5 at USD 140 million.

The point is: as long as there is no actual sale, that ostensible Da Vinci artwork has a value of, well, 10,000 pounds. That's what it sold for. Anything else is poor speculation, aimed at inflating the price of a painting. An that's exactly the point we are trying to reflect over at Salathé & White. Our paintings are quite possibly the only works of art that you can own and that, at the same time, have a very clear and concrete value - no estimates, no guesses.

June 19, 2008

Revival of the log book

There is clearly dust on this blog... And a clear need to fundamentally change things here. Instead of long entries with many pics, I think it would be better to have short entries but more frequent. That said, here we go (btw, ignore the date of this blog entry, it's August the 12th)

- Just had Anthony White from Australia for a visit.
- Rahel's back home (=San Jose) from a visit to Zürich
- The Californian summer treats us well. It can be cool at night, but it's always sunny and hot during the days, every single day since we got here (i.e 3.5 months).
- We bought an nespresso machine despite the environmental concerns with the capsules. As a counter measure, we will try to breathe more slowly in order to reduce our CO2 emission. Should also have beneficial meditative side effects.

June 6, 2008

Our new home

Home is where the heart is, or so the saying goes. It always takes time to feel home at a new place, but we are slowly feeling at home here in San Jose. Part of that feeling is that our flat starts to feel like a real home, with more furniture, more books, more things that make us feel home. Here's a selection of some pics I took from our new home (pics from the inside soon). It's a small but bright, natural and well located apartment in a four apartment house. In the meanwhile, we got so used to the occasional noise from an airplane that we hardly hear it anymore. We're really happy with the current situation and are looking forward to a warm summer (although it's hardly ever cold in this area).

The front (ours is the bottom left):

The side:

The back with the garden:

The patio in the back:

The entrance and the kitchen:

And just in case you live behind the moon:

Other than that, there's not much news. Two days ago, I was invited to Google by someone who bought a painting almost two years ago, and he is trying to schedule me to give a talk at Google. Of course, it would be quite an exciting opportunity to talk about the paintings projects in front of such an audience, so I hope this is going to happen.

I'm flying to Switzerland tomorrow and I'm looking forward to meet friends and family, and to feel some of the excitment about the Euro 2008. However, it is mostly a "business trip", because the reason why I'm going back is an interview with the scientific board of Society in Science, a program that offers fellowships to scientists as an opportunity of up to five years freedom in research with the aim to find novel ways of exploring the societal relevance of their scientific work. Fingers crossed.

May 28, 2008

Day whatever

Ok, let's stop the day counting. Completely lost track (probably somewhere around 25 or so).

So, we've really settled down. I started working at Stanford, Rahel at MBARI, and so far, we enjoy our jobs a lot. I can't speak for Rahel, of course, but from what she says the MBARI is a great place to work (a little misty at times, however - that's the price you have to pay for having an office right at the beach). Stanford's been great so far. Readers of this blog know that the only thing I didn't like was the cubicle without daylight. I have asked for an alternative, and now, not only do I have a window in my office, but I've got an office for myself! Quite an upgrade.

The apartment we have is quite cute, but it needs some work, and I think we're gonna paint most of the rooms soon. We've had bad luck with IKEA (I always have), and the sofa was broken when it arrived. We're now waiting for an exchange.

The best thing about this place, anyways, are our neighbors. We had a BBQ yesterday (it was a public holiday here in the US) and we had two Swiss visitors from Fribourg, friend's of Nicholas, one of our neighbors. After speaking french with them all evening (Nicholas is a french teacher), he played some Chopin on his Steinway Grand Piano. I wish that every European who I ever heard say that the Americans had less culture than Europeans (unfortunately, that prejudice still exists) had been with us yesterday. Nicholas isn't the only amazing neighbor we have, but let us not bore you with neighborhood stories - we hope you will get to know them personally sooner or later anyways.

Talking about prejudices - here's one I personally had to let go quite quickly: that American beer is bad. It might sound hard to believe, but the beers here are better than almost any beer I had ever had in Europe. My favorite here is a beer that goes by the name of "fat tire". The label says that the beer is named in honor of Jeff's mountain bike trip from brewery to brewery through Europe (Jeff isf is probably the owner of the company). And on top of that, the brewery is wind powered. You gotta love it.

In good Swiss tradition, let me end this entry with a complaint (talking about prejudice!). Living in San Jose means living next to the airport, no matter in which neighborhood you live. It can get quite loud sometimes, but we already (sort of) got used to it. Given the great things about this place, that's really just a minor issue.

What else? I am going to Berlin for an interview soon - I will also spend a couple of days in Zurich (June 7 -12). Hope to catch up with some of you!

May 15, 2008

Day, uhm, 13?

I completely lost track of how many days have passed since we arrived. I take that as a sign that we have arrived mentally, too. This is - again - just a short update on how things are going:

-We bought a car (a 2001 Honda Civic with a great mpg) three days ago.
-As I am writing this, Rahel is on her first field trip on one of those boats with the deep sea robots that are collecting stuff from the bottom of the ocean. I'm sure she'll write about it soon.
-A record breaking heatwave is predicted to start today. Temperatures should go as high as 100 Fahrenheit (i.e. about 37 Celsius).
-The Bedsofa has arrived and we are now officially accepting applications from prospective visitors ;-)

I need to get a social security number today and I am expecting to stand in line for an entire day, so I'd better get going.

PS There seems to be a problem with commenting. I'll try to fix this as soon as possible. Email always works!

May 9, 2008

Day 6

Still unlucky with cars. We switched to a long term rental car (for about a month), and our frustration level is getting into areas where we are considering buying a new car. So far, all used car sales people were trying to sell us accident vehicles or otherwise crippled cars. It's not often that people insult your intelligence on such a low level, but these guys made it happen repeatedly.

I had my first day at Stanford. I quite enjoyed it, apart from the fact that I am supposed to work in a cubicule without daylight. I am now looking for a nice place on the campus where I can work and where I can in fact enjoy the spectacularly beautiful scenery of Stanford campus. I hope I'll get a window upgrade soon.

I have briefly considered using public transportation to get to work, but after waiting for about 40 minutes for a bus (on campus at 6 in the evening which I would consider rush hour) that would take me to CalTrain that would take me to San Jose where I would have to take another bus, that idea died a sudden and painless death. Rest in peace.

What else? We bought a sofa bed on which we hope to see many vistors in the coming months. It's extremely comfortable and has enough space for two.