November 30, 2018

A moment in time

The Dive Watch - Epilogue: the Not Really a Dive Watch

"If you're up for a super traditional diver that screams "tool watch," it might not be the best option for you, but if you're looking for something with a little more of a sporty, fun vibe to it, I think you'll be really happy with this watch. My personal favorite is the white dial version on the NATO – it's a nice change from the usual dark colors found on sport watches and feels like it would be right at home by the pool with an Aperol Spritz."


The Dive Watch - a succinct history (4)

2018 - The new Alpina SeaStrong 300 Automatic looks cool and has an amusingly over-dramatic video.


The Dive Watch - a succinct history (3)

2009 - CX Swiss Military unveils the 20,000 Feet, which breaks the Rolex Deepsea’s record for water resistance (20,000 feet is equal to about 6,100 meters) and enters the Guinness Book of Records. (CX Swiss Military had held the deepness record from 2005 until the Deepsea appeared in 2008.) The watch is a chronograph with a 28.5-mm-thick case and a domed back. According to CX Swiss Military, it is actually water-resistant to 7,500 meters, thus providing the 25-percent margin of safety required to meet ISO 6425.

The Dive Watch - a succinct history (2)

1967 - Rolex introduces the Sea-Dweller, a deeper-diving version of the Submariner. Its distinguishing feature is its helium valve, through which helium that has entered the watch case during time spent in a diving chamber can be released. The watch is produced at the request of the French company COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertise), which specializes in deep-diving equipment and services, chiefly for offshore oil and gas extraction. The watch is water-resistant to 610 meters.

The Dive Watch - a succinct history (1)

1953 - Blancpain presents its first dive watch, the Fifty Fathoms. The watch is water resistant to 100 meters. (Fifty fathoms is equal to 300 feet, or about 91 meters. It is the maximum depth divers can go at the time with the equipment then available.) The watch is the result of a request by Captain Bob Maloubier, who was a secret agent for the British during WWII and then became leader of the French military’s combat diving corps. He asked Blancpain to make a watch with a black dial, large Arabic numerals, clear indications and a rotating bezel. “We wanted in effect that each of the markers be as clear as a guiding star for a shepherd,” Maloubier later recalled.


November 29, 2018

It comes unbidden

In praise of the ETA 2824

Rather like the B18 and B20 engines that powered the rally-winning Volvo Amazons, it’s an over-engineered, under-stressed power plant that’s easy to work on and simple to fix and with a ready supply of spares. And it’ll run happily for years, often swallowing lack of maintenance, abuse and neglect with a smile.


Steller Agonistes

Charles Wohlforth is writing a column about this Steller photograph, as Tuckerman Babcock, now the Alaska Governor's Chief of Staff, demands loyalty oaths from hundreds of state employees.

November 28, 2018

What are you doing next week?


November 27, 2018


The early years

I've been out walking a lot, so loaded up an iPad with my old music library, which runs about 5,000 songs.  Of those, 99 are by J.J. Cale.  These have gotten considerable play.  I am really appreciating this music:  it is so detailed, and the guitar work is just strikingly good.  Here are some deeper cuts to consider:
Along the way I added some Mose Allison to the playlist because it seemed to fit.  Now I read (interview linked below) that Cale really liked Mose Allison.  Not shocked at all.


Ideas for countermeasures

Four years ago, along with some friends, I started a grassroots liberal democratic movement in Switzerland called Operation Libero. Since then, we’ve won four referendums (which under Swiss electoral law are frequent) against the rightwing populists. How did we do that? We fought tooth and nail to defend the institutions that protect our freedom and the rule of law. We believed in our goals. And we decided to never sing the populist’s song – only our own song...


November 24, 2018

Some viewers may find this disturbing


November 22, 2018

Groucho's finest hour

With Cavett in NYC, inspired by the hometown crowd, Groucho cuts loose for a solid hour.

Bad, but...

The new Robin Hood movie is very bad.  But it is bad in interesting ways, existing in a psychic space comparable to DiLaurentis' Flash Gordon and David Lynch's Dune.  If it is true that genius steals, then director Otto Bathurst is the new Orson Welles:  the plot is from The Dark Knight, the setting and costumes (and one villain) are from Rogue One, and there is a kind of chariot race like in Ben Hur but with fire.  Eve Hewson is Salma Hayek as Dale Arden, Tim Minchin makes a fine Friar Tuck, and F. Murray Abraham and Ben Mendelsohn are (as you'd expect) excellent baddies.  


November 20, 2018

San Remo, 1930

Edgar Colle (r) vs. Efim Bogoljubov.  Colle has Bogoljubov, a World Championship contender, on the run.


November 18, 2018

Like its subject: more sophisticated than it appears, and shockingly effective

Some selections -

  • The fact is that in the Vikings’ own language, Old Norse, víkingr just meant pirate, marauder. It wasn’t an ethnic label, it was a job description. And what this means for us is that if you come across headlines – as these days you very often do – which say something like ‘Vikings! Not just raiders and looters any more!’ then the headlines are wrong. If people weren’t raiding and looting (and land-grabbing, and collecting protection money), then they had stopped being Vikings. They were just Scandinavians...
  • [W]hat links all these characters [of Viking legend] is that they are alone, surrounded by their enemies, without hope of rescue and to all appearance completely helpless. Now that is the time to show what you’re made of. When you’ve lost. When you’ve nothing left but yourself. Die laughing, and die laughing because in one way or another you’ve still managed to turn the tables...  Only in final defeat can you show that you will never give in. That’s why the gods have to die as well. If they did not die, how could they show true courage? If they were really immortal and invulnerable, who would respect them?
  • Dying of dragon-bite, like Ragnar of snakebite, [Beowulf] says that fate has swept away all his kinfolk: ic him æfter sceal, ‘I must after them.’  Not a word wasted. Even the implied word ‘follow’ has been deleted. Meanwhile, the very last words of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings are, famously, ‘“Well, I’m back”, [Sam] said.’ One major author in the same field declared it ‘the most heartbreaking line in all of modern fantasy’.


Sure the air's toxic, but coffee's really important

Outdoor coffee shop, Palo Alto, California, 11/18/18

November 16, 2018


Foster City, California - 11/16/18

The Air Quality Index, a measure of dangerous smoke and exhaust particulates in the air, reached 246 in Oakland and 239 in San Francisco by late Friday afternoon, well into the zone of “very unhealthy.”

Those AQI measurements from San Francisco and Oakland on Friday are the worst in the 20 years of their recorded air-quality history...


November 15, 2018

The lost temple of HSBC

The Bund, Shanghai - November 2018; HSBC building (white dome) visible right of center

The HSBC Building has been called "the most luxurious building from the Suez Canal to the Bering Strait".  The building has a floor area of 23,415 m², and was, at the time [1923], the largest bank building in the Far East, and second largest in the world, after the Bank of Scotland building in Edinburgh.

The building exterior adopted a strict neo-classicist design, with a tripartite vertical and horizontal division. In the centre is a dome, the base decorated with a triangular structure in imitation of Greek temples...

The interior was luxuriously decorated, using materials such as marble and monel. The whole building was fitted with heating and air-conditioning. The main trading hall has four columns hewn from whole blocks of marble, which was at the time unique in Asia.


Thank you for your service

Memorial Gate, Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, November 2018

Today, the Chinese War Memorial serves no function in the official calendar of remembrance but remains as a popular photo opportunity at the entrance to the Botanical and Zoological Gardens. Its inscriptions along with its still visible signs of combat, in the form of bullet holes and shrapnel damage, remind the observant onlooker of the mark that especially the Second World War left on Hong Kong and its Chinese community. 


Still there

Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo, November 2018


It is...probably the only department store in Japan, and maybe the world, to have its own goddess. Standing on the ground floor and rising through the open center of the building, is five‐story‐high statue of Tennyo, the Goddess of Sincerity. According to a Mitsukoshi brochure, “the figure represents the goddess descending lightly to the fruitful earth, wrapped in a rainbow‐colored cloud and accompanied by a beautiful phoenix.” Sincerity is cherished virtue in Japan and can cover a multitude of sins. One can be forgiven many errors if only he has been acting sincerely.

- Richard Halloran, New York Times, 11/18/73