Showing posts from 2012

RtW Cities: Stuttgart (+Ludwigsburg)

Merry Christmas (/ Fröhliche Weihnachten) and Happy New Year to you all! I thought I'd sneak one last cities blog post in to 2012, rounding out my year with a trip to Stuttgart (and neighbouring Ludwigsburg) to enjoy some authentic German Xmas markets!

Since moving to Zurich, the only German city I've actually stopped in has been Dogern to go furniture shopping, so Christmas seemed a good time of year to actually make a trip out of it, Katie and I were both free for a weekend and heard good things about their markets so headed down for a long weekend - it's only a 3hr direct train ride!

The Xmas market influence was clear immediately, as the walk from the main station to our hotel went along Königstraße, the main shopping street which was lined with market stalls, reindeer and tannenbaum aplenty. We explored a bit further out around the gardens to the east, then headed back into the fray, as the crowd was getting big! After a quick dinner and a mug of warm Apfelglühwein, …

RtW Cities: Copenhagen (+ Lund)

Grüezi Mitenand! (Swiss German for roughly: Hello everyone!)
It has been a rather busy past month, visiting no fewer than five countries in two weeks - Switzerland (naturally), Australia to be best man (congratulations, Bodie & Courtney!), Germany (picking up furniture), and both Denmark and Sweden in a recent visit covered in today's post.

First up was Lund - a town of about 100k focused around Lund Univerisity, which is where a friend from Sydney (and our host for the trip) is currently studying. The abundance of cobblestone streets and cute small alley-ways was rather nice, and the sudden transition to hearing Swedish and using Krona was someone lessened by the fact that, being a university town with lots of imports, pretty much everyone spoke English. I appreciated that they also made good coffee at cafes, something I'd been missing in Zurich.

On the first night I also made it to Helsingborg (Sweden's closest place to Denmark, apparently) to watch Tommy Emmanuel p…

Swiss traditions: Rösti

Today was my first official day of living in a city with natural snow, though that was covered in my other Zurich blog so won't be repeated here (read that one first!). Instead, I thought I might cover a few things which seem particularly Swiss - starting with Rösti. This side dish (or, if you're adventurous, main course) is pretty much just grated semi-boiled potatos, fried in a pan (I used this) but can then have random stuff like cheese or bacon added. As not much is open on Sunday night (also a swiss tradition, albeit less tasty), I decided to practice my skills with a sausage and rösti combo, to the surprise of the bratwurst.
Overall, I'd say success for a first shot, but could be (and will be!) experimented with in the future. Speaking of Swiss traditions, a few more worth random ones of interest. Firstly, the house numbering ("Hausnummernschild"), where pretty much all the signs look exactly the same - white text on square blue background.
While it takes a…

Passport wake

Before moving to Zurich I decided it best to apply for a new passport - you see, I acquired my previous one a bit after turning 18, so it was possibly going to expire while I was overseas and it seemed easiest to update it while in Australia; which indeed it was, but that also meant invalidating my previous one, so I thought it an appropriate time to go through it and reminisce on the last 7ish years of travel: The most prolific stamp is easily the one you get for entering the US at LAX, that blue circle with the date in the middle. I ended up with 9 of those, a result of LAX being the main entry point of call for both programming contest trips, then work. Also probably from USA is one rogue date stamp (same red font as the others) - which I think they added next to a previous still-valid trip - and one really small green immigration form stub from the days before ESTA. I probably didn't need it, but it was stapled in, which gave it some permanence... Thankfully you don't get …

Round the world cities: Zürich

I'm soon to head off to live in Zürich for a few years, but just beforehand I got the chance to meet up with my team in person, which also meant spending a week in Switzerland! Unfortunately getting there is half the battle; I flew Sydney - Singapore - London - Zurich, about 28hr of flying, and arriving at ridiculous-o'clock which did have the nice side-effect of seeing a sunrise over London (above) and flying directly over Paris on the last leg.

The weather was amazing for the week - only one day of rain, the rest being clear, 25-30C days, so the two days of weekend I had were filled with exploring parts of the city. First up, my hotel was located just past the eastern side of the north tip of Lake Zurich, so I headed over the Qualbruke bridge and got my first sight of the 'old-town', apparently part of the really old settlements where the buildings look appropriately old european. The massive spires of Grossmünster and Fraumünster loomed large, plus the giant Lindt …

New Blog!

A very short announcement today - I've started a new blog today on program design over at, for those following me due to my programming rather than my random travel/life updates. So if you're a coder, have an interest in the architecture of programs, or want to read what I spend my time thinking about, head on over.

It's built on a few principles I've found while working as a programmer, which have also been put to the test in a new website I completed a few weeks ago:
If you ever need a site (or image) with a fancy saying, head over there and it'll create one for you :)
For example, and

For everyone else, I returned to my home town of Adelaide recently so plan to have a post about the visit up soon, and following that, one about Sydney too before I leave!

Kindling #2

This post is from a series of review posts - for the whole list, see my Kindling page.

Some of you may remember an earlier post I wrote covering my recent tendency to read a lot - now due to a few trips and further reading time, I've been able to get through a lot more, and so have compiled an updated summary for the purpose of those in the future who, like me, search for reviews of books they like to see if they can find suggestions for more. (If you're one of those, hello, person from the future!)

Finished recently: Blue Monday(Nicci French) - for those left in suspense last time: not a bad read, but the ending kind of let it down, it just fizzled out; the plot development left behind a few interesting characters and developed a bit too predictably. That said, I'm open to trying out a sequel as the psychological parts were better than average - and it turns out, "Tueday's Gone" is indeed going to be released soon;

Berlin Noir(Philip Kerr) - At the recommendati…

Mother's Day Run

A number of months ago, some friends and I decided to sign up for the 8km Mother's Day classic run in Sydney, as an incentive to get more fit while also for a good cause. Unfortunately for me, later I found I had to return to California for work for the two weeks around the event, but as 8:10am Sunday (the start time for the Sydney event) was 3:10pm Saturday California time, it seemed appropriate to still compete!

You can see above my approximate view for most of the trek - I followed the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, which seems to be a pedestrian/cycleway that simple follows the creek, and there were a few cyclists/roller-bladers/runners out at the time. I started where it intersected Old Mountain View-Alviso Rd (here) and simply followed it until it reached Central Expressway - which a distance calculator gave me as  around 4.3km - then turned around and went back.

The first thing I noticed when planning the route was that it went past 'California's Great America', …

Round-the-World cities: Brisbane

While compiling the page for this blog linking to all my round-the-world cities posts, I realised I was missing one continent - Australia! Just the continent I've lived on for the last 25 years... According to some folks from my Antarctica trip, Australia's often one of the last continents visited by people overseas due to its remoteness, so given some readers may never have visited, it seemed like a situation I should fix. It seemed unfair to write about the two cities I've lived in (Adelaide and Sydney), but thankfully I recently had the chance to visit Brisbane for two days for work, only my second visit to the city after a school sport trip a long time ago, so thought I'd take that opportunity to cover it in the same manner as London and Barcelona before.

My first thought while taking the taxi from the airport to the CBD, was how much like London it felt - a combination of the styling of buildings, how high they were, how randomly they were laid out, the size of the…

Round-the-World cities: Seattle

The most recent city in the Round-the-World series is one that I got to spend a day in during my most recent America trip; having a free weekend, and friends from Sydney who recently moved to the area, I flew my way north from San Jose up to Seattle, Washington, home of the Space Needle (pictured left).

It's an interesting place - being located so far North (bordering Canada) it's much closer to my preferred environment (dark-green trees, mountains, snow peaks, ...) and a welcome change from California - what's more, being winter, I did get to experience snow / frozen-rain, a climate I actually quite enjoy.

Before visiting, I didn't really know what to expect - I'd heard of Sleepless in Seattle, but having not watched it, the only cultural reference that gave me any insight into what it would be like was Grey's Anatomy, based in a fictional Seattle hospital -  so I'd heard of the Space Needle, but that was about it.

My first impression was that the public tran…

Planned Obsolesence #2: Future

This is a follow-up on my first post on Planned Obsolesence - the design principle of making things last shorter than they need in order to drive demand and increase production. There's some good discussion on the related Google+ post on both negatives and positives; e.g the increase in waste vs the extra cost of inventing/making materials that will last that long and providing support.

Today's post instead features something I've mused about before - automation of jobs. You see, as mentioned last post, we have the Man-in-the-White-Suit issues where making stuff that lasts longer negatively impacts both manufacturing companies (selling fewer things) and their employees (less stuff to get paid for making). With the increase in automation, we're still making as much stuff, but the employees don't get to make it.

It's easy to see why it's happening, but hard to know whether it's good or not - take content distribution for example. It used to be that an autho…

Planned Obsolesence #1: What/Why

What do the following have in common: Lightbulb, Printer, Nylon, iPhone? As you may have guessed by the title of this blog,  they've all been designed to live an artificially short life, and be expensive to 'fix' properly, so you end up just buying more; anyone who's upgraded a smartphone knows what I'm talking about (iPhone 4 -> 4S anyone? Apple's turned it into a business model...)

It's such a ubiquitous practice that there's a name for it - Planned Obsolescence, and there's a lot of thingswritten about it so I won't go too much into the background, but after watching The Lightbulb Conspiracy documentary on the plane about it, and realising it lined up with a few earlier concepts I'd mused over, I thought it relevant to document my thoughts and see what others thought.

There's a 1951 Alec Guiness movie about it: The Man in the White Suit, where as a scientist he invents a fabric that doesn't break or get dirty, but then comes unde…

Kindling #1

This post is from a series of review posts - for the whole list, see my Kindling page.

My posts of late have mostly been about cities around the world, and I have one coming up about Australian cities, but I thought I'd take a temporary break from that to update you on what I've been doing most recently - reading. I have a few friends that are bibliophiles, but since high-school, during my Maths/CS degree and the first few years of work, I slowed to almost nothing read.

...but then I discovered e-books! More at the end, but in short, I was using Apple's reader on my original iPad for a friend's fanfic and some old scifi classics; Sadly that was stolen, but after realising that's mostly what I used it for (plus Tiny Wings and Angry Birds), I opted for a Kindle instead, and am now 14 books through, averaging probably 30min-1hr each day! So without further ado, because it's what bloggers do (it seems) and because it might help someone, some time, who is stuck pick…