Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Monday, August 30, 2010


No time to properly blog, have this photo from the Mekong-delta instead.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Staff demo

Not much time to post today - my parents are visiting. But here is  an insanely fast staff demo I filmed in Saigon, Vietnam a couple of weeks ago. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cooking in your rice cooker

After reading this at lifehacker, I rushed out and bought a rice cooker. Best 25 CHF I've spent in a while.

But Boris, I hear you whine, can't you easily make rice in a pot?

Shaddup, and behold the

Fake Indian Rice and Lentils Dhalish Kind of Dish:

1 1/2 cups of rice
3/4 cup green lentils
a carrot, diced hacked into pitiful pieces
a clove of garlic, sliced into slices
an onion, likewise
a tomato, hexadecimaled
4 cups of broth

Put some oil into your rice-cooker. Add, in this order, while stirring: onion (stir until glazed), carrots and garlic (stir for a minute or so), rice (toss until coated with oil), the rest. Put in some curry powder, or ginger, salt and pepper, or five spices powder, or garam masala. I don't care, go wild. Heck, put in some diced chicken for all I care.

Close the rice cooker, it will do it's magic. Eat when finished.

Public Service Announcement, Sparring

When you see a foot coming, block. Don't use your face, though.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cao Đài

Which religion venerates Victor Hugo, Jeanne d'Arc and Julius Caesar as saints?

No, it's not the Illuminati, it is Caodaism. Founded in 1926 in Vietnam (then, of course, Indochine) by Ngo Van Chieu, it is an eclectic fusion of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, with a sprinkling of Christianity thrown in. Then Ngo Van Chieu stopped and meditated for a while - something was not right with his new religion. It was not... wacky enough. Bright colours... check. Weird saints... hey, what about weird saints? And how about worshipping a radical rationalist French writer? How about making Victor Hugo one of our principal saints? Huh, how about that?
Fast forward to today, we have the Holy Seat of  Cao Đài in Tây Ninh

Seemed to me that it was mainly designed for Tourism - a convenient gallery encircles the cathedral, full with tourists snapping pictures of the ceremony which takes place four times a day:

Here it pays of to have a long lens:

I think these guys are Caodaistic (?) laypersons, as far as I know only priests take part in the ceremony itself. Either that, or they are the Holy Seat's assassin squad.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Cold brewing

No time today for a long Vietnam post, although the Cao Đài are waiting in the wings.

Here is something else I've picked up in Vietnam: Cold brewing your own iced tea. It's right simple: Grab a bottle, stuff some tea in it, leave it in the fridge overnight. Hey presto! Iced tea. Philistines may want to add sugar or other horrifying additives; me, I take it straight. 'Cause I am manly that way.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hanoi: Streets

Chaos. Utter chaos.

And yet... as you step gingerly (and slowly, ever so slowly, if you value your life) across a street of Hanoi, a hint of pattern starts to emerge. Not real order, no structure to the insanity - but even chaos has a few rules. First of all, you, the pedestrian, are at the bottom of the pecking order, no question about it. You do not have a metal body, you are soft and squishy, and while there are rumours about the existence of Vietnamese traffic regulations, they are not confirmed, and I frankly do not believe in them. Neither do the Vietnamese.

At first glance, stepping on the street seems paramount to suicide. And yet, the pavement doesn't offer succour either, since for a Vietnamese on his scooter, the pavement is nothing less than an additional, if narrow, lane. So eventually you get tired of clinging to a tree, and, commending your eternal soul to Victor Hugo, you step on the street.

It will take several seconds for you to notice that you are not dead, although you might wish you were. Scooters, cars, every style of motor transportation known to man is rushing by you, missing you by a hair's breadth, honking merrily away to compliment your misery (Oh god, the noise). Still, you are not dead yet. And then you realise the chink in the seemingly impenetrable mechanised armour that is the Vietnamese traffic: No self-respecting Vietnamese wants to scrape your squishy organic flesh from his shiny new scooter. Therefore, and with an inhuman faith in the reaction speed of their fellow motorists they swerve, they evade, and (inescapably) they honk.Use this weakness to cross the street. There is no need to look left, right or in any other direction - rather, if you value your sanity, it is advisable not to look at all. You will not spot a break in the traffic, for there is none. The side of the road has no correlation to the direction of the traffic flow, as the Vietnamese scoff at the notion that such mundane things as the side of the road should determine the direction in which they travel. So why look? Just step on the road, slowly, with a slightly mad grin on your face. Step on the road in the secure knowledge that the Vietnamese motorist will do his utmost to miss you.

Also, it is either that or being run over on the pavement.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vietnam: cliché

Vietnam was one of the most excellent countries I've ever been in. The energy in the streets of Hanoi (or any other city for that matter) is astounding - and while I am not too sure that I could stand the constant noise for longer periods of time, I would be willing to try. Anybody know of any post-doc positions for plasma physicists in Vietnam?

But Vietnamese street-life will be the topic of it's own post, for this opener I thought I would start with some stereotypical pictures:

Not what it looks like - she is working.
The dichotomy between rich and poor is nothing short of astounding, and sobering. While many in the cities are poor, you still get the impression of modernisation: Everybody (and I mean everybody and their dog) has a scooter, and you can sense the economic upswing that Vietnam has been having since the introduction of a capitalistic economy in '86. Leave the city, especially in the north, and you find this:

Dirt-poor farmers, grubbing in the muck. I know that my impressions may be a bit off, since even in the north a farmer generally has two harvests a year, and they probably won't turn out their Sunday best to work in the fields, but still. Seeing any kind of technology being used in the rice-paddies of the north is rare:

The South, as always in Vietnam, is better off, with mechanised or at least partially mechanised farming the rule, not the exception. Stay tuned for some thoughts about Hà Nội, tomorrow.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Finally started sifting through the photos, de-shaking the video-clips and whatnot.

First post about Vietnam will go up tomorrow, have this short clip from the International Tournament of Vietnamese Traditional Martial Arts, Ho Chi Minh City meanwhile; it's part of a demo of the three section staff versus double sabre:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Back home. I'll start posting my impressions and the best photos soon.

But first I'll have to sort them: more than 4000 photos and a couple of short movies.

Have this Vietnamese wanted poster meanwhile:

- tales from the road

Location:Avenue du Tir Fédéral,Ecublens,Switzerland