A strange kind of holiday

It all started about two weeks ago when my wife discovered water on the kitchen floor that kept coming. The plumber who came immediately, found out that two parts of the waste pipe shifted out of each other, leaving a gap open. He told us that this must have happened two or three weeks earlier. During this time, the waste  water filled up the base of the kitchen, which turned out to be water tight. He sucked out all the water, and left one part of the base open, so that some air could ventilate. He also told us that probably we would get a giant hair drier installed to get the rest of the moisture out. Nothing happened for more than a week. The smell was disgusting, and we apologized to the guest at Levin’s birthday party. Our neighbour told us that the same thing happened to them last summer, and that they had 40° for some weeks in their kitchen as a result.

When the craftsmen came to inspect the kitchen, they discovered one giant mold fungus. Immediately, they sealed the kitchen from the rest of the flat and all the cupboards. They started to disassemble the kitchen and removed the appliances. Most of it would be replaced. They sprayed some poison to contain it. After they told us the whole flat would have to be sprayed, the house management together with the insurance decided that it would be best for us to move to a hotel for two weeks. The insurance organized it for us. It appears they asked some other hotels first which were fully booked. So we ended up in the best hotel in town, the Waldstätterhof. The breakfast is included, and it is a very nice and delicious buffet. The funniest part for us was the Prosecco bottle next to the fruit juices. We usually don’t make holidays in such exclusive places, but we know it from special events such as the Musical we go to almost every year.

The insurance even pays for the additional costs we have because we can’t cook at home. But he asked us not to eat at the noble restaurants downstairs all the time. Of course we don’t want to exploit the situation, but because Levin had a surgery the day before we had to leave home, we cannot go outside all the time. The first day we ordered some food from lieferservice.ch at seewendays.ch that I could pay with BitCoin. The second day, I bought a warm chicken in the local grocery store. For the rest of the week, Mirella organized to have the meals delivered from the hospital. I must confess, it feels awkward to walk into the lobby of a four star hotel with a hot chicken in the backpack to eat at the room. But yesterday we went to the restaurant downstairs for once. It wasn’t cheap, but delicious.

The kids enjoy the adventure, especially because we rarely have so much time to play with them. Levin got a dinosaur skeleton to excavate from Santa Claus the day we left. So we went to the big hotel terrace to carve out the artificial bones from the enclosing gypsum. He was totally excited as the bones started to get released. Yesterday, we assembled a KAKU robot. Putting the parts together was easy. I had to do most steps, but the boys could help here and there. Noah walks around full of pride with the enclosed emblem. As all the manuals and information I found are in Chinese, its not always easy to find the required information. But the programming system ArduBlocks is exactly what I have been waiting for since I learned about the Scratch programming language.


Visiting the doctor after 20 years

My wive usually rolls her eyes, when I tell her: “No, I don’t need that medicine. My immune system can cope with that, and needs to be trained.” or “No, I don’t need that painkiller as long as the headache is not overwhelming. My body reminds me that I should not shake my head too much at the moment”. But last week I had a flue that didn’t improve even after three days in bed. Usually flues weaken me for a week, the strong ones put me in bed for a day. But this was different. For the first time in twenty years (not counting vaccination for travel, and the dentist), I felt it necessary to visit a doctor. He gave me antibiotics, and indeed I started to recover. Would be nice if it took another 20 years until I need a doctor again…

Hello Kitty

Since she was a kid, my wive dreamt of having a pet, preferably a cat. Our kids also said they would love to have a cat or a bunny or a turtle or… I grew up with animals. We had cats and dogs and sheep and goats and chicken and once even a pig. We even had newborn cats and dogs and chicken in our house. Out of all these animals I like dogs best. They are a lot more social and intelligent then any other animal we had. But for our family, even I have to agree, that having a dog would be too big a commitment and responsibility. So after reviewing bunnies, turtles and guinea pigs, we settled for a cat. Mirella surfed the web evening for evening for weeks searching for cats. Then I saw a poster in a cablecar station when doing some tandem flights. Somebody uphill wanted to give away some young cats. They looked cute. So I took a photo of the poster.

After some back and forth and some planning and buying equipment, we went to get one. I quit work early last Friday. After I came home, we drove to Flüelen together, and took the cablecar to Eggberge. The boys were totally excited. We had to walk about half an hour uphill to reach the farm. A boy fetched the cat we had previously selected. They didn’t ask a specific price, but just wanted something to cover their expenses. Our boys could choose a name for the cat. They came up with “Simba”. Simba didn’t like the walk in the box too much, so she started to purr when we stopped at the cablecar. The ride with the cablecar as well as with the car didn’t look too pleasant to her.

But at home she came out of the box, exploring our flat and cuddle. It turned out even though she grew up on a farm she is not shy at all. It’s clear that the kids on the farm spent a lot of time playing with the young kitten. She doesn’t seem to care if our boys drive their RC cars close by her. We try to teach our boys not to carry her around all the time, and watch for the signs if she likes something. Eventhough you can tell if she doesn’t like it sometimes when they play with her, she never hurts them.

sweet dreams

For my last army service, I was ordered to Eschenbach SG near Rapperswil to help in an arsenal. It’s actually a long story, how it came to that. Compared to a regular service, it was very much relaxed. I could go home every night, which is quite nice, especially if you have a young family. So, every morning when I walked from the train station to the arsenal, I passed a carpenter which had a gorgeous beam bed on display. The beams had crack, and looked really old, but perfectly restored. It didn’t have a price tag, so I assumed it was expensive. And I was not in need of a new bed anyway, so I just remembered it, for when I would need one. That was three and a half years ago.

Our bed recently broke. No, it’s not because I grew so fat. People say, that the mattress and the slatted frame should be replaced after ten years. So it was almost in time. And now I remembered the bed frame from Eschenbach. They did not respond to my eMail, so I had a look around other stores and websites. I found out that these beam beds with cracks are trendy, and that they are mostly made of swamp oak. Finally I found what I was looking for at Möbel Riesen in Brunnen.

They didn’t accept BitCoin directly, so I had to convert the funds first. At the time, the excange rate on MtGox was a steady ten percent higher than with other exchanges. This was quite tempting, even though most people suspected liquidity problems behind the long delays since last summer. So I split the risk, and traded half through BitStamp, and the other half through mtgox. BitStamp was quick and reliable as always, while I still wait for the money from MtGox. Meanwhile MtGox filed for bankruptcy, and I might have to write that money off.

The bed frame arrived earlier than expected, while we had some trouble getting the mattresses and slatted frames in time. So we had to sleep in a funny arrangement for a few days. But now finally, everything is in place. The beams are actually quite heavy, adding up to about 250kg.

As I work in the development of the PointLine CAD, naturally, I was interested in a CAD drawing for the bed frame. The guy from Sprenger Möbel was very friendly, and sent me a jpg, telling me there are no CAD files, as he draws everything by hand.

My grandfather

Yesterday, my grandfather passed away, roughly 40 days before his 95th birthday. After he suffered a first light stroke ten years ago, his condition slowly worsened. In the end he was not able to walk or eat on his own, and didn’t recognize anyone. But up to age 85, there was no sign of slowing. I sometimes went with him to his friends to assist, when he installed satellite tv receiver or video recorders, and explained them to his retired friends. He was a big fan of technology, as such he used photo and video cameras long before the people of the next generation started to do so. We recently watched a small documentary video he filmed in 1973. But what impressed me the most, was the self built radio that he demonstrated to me when I was a kid. He must have wound those coils in the first half of the last century, when radio waves were more like magic to most people.

VW Bus Treffen Schwarzsee

Last saturday we went to the vw bus gathering at the Schwarzsee. There were more than 460 VW Busses present from all different types. I had the impression, to see less vehicles than last time, but comparing the pictures from 2009, I’m not so sure anymore. It’s amazing in how good a shape some of the vintage hippie mobiles still are.

By accident we discovered a DVD of “The Bus” movie on the bugbus booth. It was apparently crowd-funded by a kickstarter campain.

Of course I went for a short flight, to see the event from the top, while Mirella and the kids listened to a “Guggämusig”.

The drive there was a good opportunity to test the SPOT Connect that I got for my birthday. [map link] Contrary to my previous understanding, It doesn’t provide internet connectivity, but allows to send custom messages to pre-defined phone numbers and eMail addresses. As the simpler SPOT devices, it contains a transmit only unit for the GlobalStar satellite network. The very bad thing about it, is that it was hard to perform the required firmware upgrade. They provide the upgrade program only for Windows and Mac. But communication afterwards seems to be better, as lined out by this blog post.

Enough blabbing, pictures tell more than words:

Chiemsee Holiday

Like for most people around here, summer holidays for us usually means going south. And that is what we usually did in the past. This year, we wanted something new. The countries north of Switzerland were unexplored territory for us in regards of holiday destinations. We had ideas to go to the netherlands, Belgium or the Provence. The Nordic countries, we wanted to save for later, for a bigger trip when the boys grow older. After some brainstorming and discussing, we settled on the north sea cost of Germany. It would be a long drive, but manageable wit the current age of our boys. Then we found out that Levin is still allergic to fish. So we figured, that going to the sea might be not such a great idea. At least a lake we needed so that we could do some kayaking. Thus, the next best thing was the Bavarian sea: the Chiemsee.
We both didn’t know the area. The closest I was before, was Berchtesgaden, where I was competing in the 2005 German paragliding championship. Lots of people told us that it is a very nice area. So we looked forward to it.
The day we drove there was full of postponings. We left only in the middle of the afternoon, and so we didn’t make it in time to check into the camping. Consequently, we had to sleep the first night parking in the driveway, with all the luggage still in the camper.

Our first canoe excursion was not so pleasant, as Noah didn’t sleep enough, and so he complained all the time. The area was nice indeed with lots of activities for the kids. Definitely the highlight was the fairy tale theme park in Ruhpolding. It is a paradise for kids, full of ingenious playgrounds and stuff to explore. Neither the flyer nor the homepage can describe how good it is. If you’re in the area with children, you have to go there!

The Chiemsee is on the flat land but very close to the mountains. As it’s on the flat, the underground is all mud. I had heard of two nearby flying sites before: Hochfelln and Hochries. One day we wanted to go to the Hochries, but the easterly wind was not suited for flying there, and the one person chairlift was a no-go for Mirella anyway. So we went to Kössen just after the Austrian border. I was very positively surprised of the flying area. It was well protected from the prevailing wind, and had enough room for many paragliders on takeoff and in the air. It reminded me a lot of Gstaad. After about an hour flying in the gentle thermals above takeoff, I decided it’s time to look after my family. Then I found out that landing next to the cablecar was the trickiest part of the flight. There were lots of small thermals close to the landing area.

One day we took the boat across the lake to have a ride with an old steam train. The boys were totally excited by the ancient technology. Next, we visited the castle on the main island. It was built for the fairy tail king Ludwig the second, who also built castle Neuschwanenstein. The castle on the Chiemsee island is a copy of the french Versailles palace, and although not finished, full of excessive splendour.

On the way home, we stopped in Munich to visit the BMW world with our two car fanatics. From every model sold in the BMW group, there was a piece in the exhibition. The kids could sit into all but the Rolls Royce. We had a hard time to get them out again.

tinkering with the kids

This Easter weekends the weather was really crap, so we stayed home. We had lots of time to spend with the kids, and we all enjoyed that. The boys are still a bit too young for the projects I usually do, but we just did our first electronics lession.. Even if Levin didn’t fully understand how a photon derails an electron in the silicon of the solar cell, he still liked to see how the prop blew more air when he better aligned the cell to the sun.

What you need is just a pack of match sticks, some glue, a small solar cell and a tail boom of a broken RC helicopter.

Levin also created a Triceratops. You see it on the photos, that’s the dinosaur with the three horns.

Wallis Ski Holiday

Last week we spent a ski holiday in the Wallis. We stayed with Mirella’s mother. Most days we went to Bürchen to practice skiing with Levin, and have some sledge rides with Noah. Levin went to the ski school for half a day, but he didn’t like it at all. He preferred being taught by us.

I did two flights from the Ski area above to Bürchen. Both were in downward wind. At the later one, the wind was blowing down so strong, that I inflated in the lee of a small building, and then skied really fast to get airborne. The icy wind was a good test for my new down insulation layer jacket.

Mirella and me took one day off, and went to Zermatt for skiing. We were mildly shocked when we saw the price for a one day ski pass. That’s roughly CHF 80. But we were never before on the small Matterhorn, and the snow as well as the weather was perfect. The cablecar for the small Matterhorn runs up to 3880 meters above sea level. Well, one could say the Jungfrau Joch is not as high, has no ski slopes and costs even more. We had lunch up at the top and could feel the altitude. Then we descended into Italy before returning back to Switzerland.

And then there was one day with clouds forecasted. As all others had better weather, we made a break. But still, the sun was shining when we walked around the town.

Fun with the canoe

Mirella and me started a new hobby after we could borrow the kayaks from a friend in Peru. He even helped us buy cheap Peruvian kayaks that we brought home in our camper. These kayaks are sit on top‘s. The kind that they rent to tourists. They are easy to operate and easy to climb back on top after you fell into the water. You can even carry sleeping bags or a small child with it. With the children growing, we thought about buying a Canoe. In Switzerland that type of boat is actually called “Kanadier”, while Kanu is a different type. Last year we had a good opportunity to buy a used one on a camp side in Austria. I didn’t even know that there are so light ones in this size. It offers room for three people and a lot of baggage, and it’s easy to carry around alone as well at putting it on the roof of our camper which is at 2.75 meters. It’s a sandwich construction with PE in the middle and glass fibre on the hull. A short while ago I had some fun trying to get back in from the water. It’s not as easy as with the sit on top kayaks.