Originally uploaded by Michael Tinkler.

We made a quick trip to Zürich over the weekend – click to see more pictures, including me at the Gates of Hell. No, I’m not depressed – quite cheerful, actually!

I realized that most of what I know about Switzerland I’d gathered from Heidi and Robert Ludlum novels. I saw no cows or goats. I saw lots of banks – including some of the ones so subtle they had no name on the door. The Bar au Lac really is close enough to the water for Jason Bourne’s activities, though somehow I’d understood it as being down the side of the lake a little further.

The physical setting of Zürich reminds me a lot of Geneva, New York – especially the way the city wraps along a lake. Except for the luxury hotels and banks, that is. No falling watchmakers, either!

Signs of the Times – Swiss Watchmakers go bankrupt

One of Switzerland’s most expensive brands says “you never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.” If buyers don’t heed that advice and send their watches to the shop, water-resistant seals may wear out, while straps can face permanent damage from luxury lifestyle hazards such as perfume or sea water.
Patek recommends servicing its watches every three to five years, and says that maintaining a self-winding timepiece can cost 800 francs. That means the bill over 40 years could add as much as 7,000 euros to the original cost of a 20,000-euro watch.

I like that listing of luxury lifestyle hazards to a leather strap. The losses the companies take on doing the repairs have sent one company into bankruptcy – and the outlook as reported in this Bloomberg article is grim:

Some 127 million Swiss watches will be due for maintenance as a five-year export boom that tapped newly rich status-seekers from China to Wall Street ends. The costs may both surprise owners and burden producers, including market leaders Swatch Group AG and Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, as they try to please customers in a recession. Expenses from filling repair orders helped push Montres Villemont SA into bankruptcy this year.
“When someone buys a Mercedes, the client accepts that within two years it’ll need servicing,” Baume & Mercier Chief Executive Officer Michel Nieto said in an interview, declining to specify figures on repair expenses. “When it comes to watches, people don’t understand this.”

I’m headed to Zurich today for a field trip – I’ll let you know if the streets are littered with the bodies of watch company executives!

Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill

Henry VIII: Dressed to Kill – it’s a show of Henry’s armor – sounds great!

Analysis of suits of armour made for Henry and reunited for the first time since the Tudor era proves that the king was 6ft 1in — well above average even today. As a young man he had a sportsman’s physique, with a waist measuring about 32in and a 39in chest. By his late forties, his waist had drifted to nearer 48in and in his final years he appears to have been carrying a 52in waist and 53in chest.

A first sentence indicative of the times

The annual Hedge Funds Care benefit – – backed by Kenneth Tropin and Michael Vranos — will downsize from a black-tie dinner to a cocktail party tomorrow night in New York.

It’s on Bloomberg.com/muse – but I can’t get the link to work. I guess we’ll have to live in suspense about how much money they raise.

Ann Landers says go to Sunday School

Glenn Reynolds says give blood. It gets you to some of the same places, gentlemen.

If I were single, I think I’d donate more often — there are lots of young, attractive women there, they’re presumptively healthy and probably somewhat altruistic, and it’s natural to strike up a conversation since they keep you waiting a lot. (I chatted with a lovely oncology nurse today). I didn’t really start giving blood until after I got married, so this is all academic to me, but you single guys out there take note. And besides, it’s embarrassing that men are so underrepresented.

Pretending to be a Covered Muslima in Arab, Alabama

And surprised that people smiled at her. Bet they offered her sweet tea, too.

You know, the gullibility of people conducting what passes for experimental social ‘science’ never ceases to amaze me.
Of course everyone was sweet to her – it’s Arab. That’s where my mother was raised! They’re all sweet, even some of our family who aren’t so very nice.
Driving around in America and having people not be ugly to you because you’re dressed funny does not mean they tolerate or fail to tolerate Muslims. I wonder how folks looked at my cousin the Orthodox priest when he was home for his father’s funeral. I mean, he wears what might well pass for a dress and certainly looks warm.
Would American Muslims please remember that all this practice of covering the head in public is a very recently-ended phenomenon in the West. My not-so-very-long-ago-deceased Grandmother only stopped wearing hats and gloves when she went to Birmingham to shop about the time I was born?
Oh, well. Good luck, fake Muslima. Don’t try Walmart if you’re looking for someone to be rude to you!

Tours I want to take, part 3,257

The triforium at Westminster Abbey! Read about it – they’re really thinking of opening the upper galleries, if they can just think of where to put an elevator without ruining the building.
Believe me, having climbed into the triforia or galleries of a few Romanesque and Gothic churches you don’t WANT to be using the tiny, tight, spiral staircase provided by the original builders if you can help it. I don’t have a lot of claustrophobia or acrophobia issues, but going down one of those makes my heart pound faster than going up.

One solution could be a new glass lift, tucked into an angle of the outside wall, but the debate continues over how then to get visitors through the metre-thick wall, and the tangle of rafters where the roof slopes to meet the triangular stone windows. An exhibition of development proposals – including a proper cafe instead of the present tea-stall in the cloisters – is planned for next summer.
Apart from buckets under leaks, stored scaffolding, Victorian heating pipes and ominous little piles of droppings, the Triforium holds treasures including stained glass windows invisible from the floor below, and a beautiful row of stone corbels – angels, monsters, and a dreamy man propped on one elbow – crisp as the day they were carved because they were never exposed to weather.

I wanna go!

Corbusier Chair from above – less comfortable version

We had an optional field trip to visit one of the great shrines of Modernist Architecture today – and was I going to pass that up?

We went to the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart (about 2 hours away). The housing complex was built as a demonstration of Modernist housing for varying income levels. The museum is in a duplex built by Corbusier – the concrete version of his LC2 arm chair, more usually executed in steel and leather, is out in the garden. There are also buildings by van der Rohe, Ouds, and a bunch of lesser known Modernists.

I really found the Corbusier house spatially interesting, but I don’t think I want to live with a kitchen that is “pedagogical,” to quote our guide.