Archive for the ‘Switzerland and Swiss things’ Category

Prof. Dr. Monica Elisabeth Zwicky

November 2, 2022

In academia, she’s noted for her research on sex determination in insects and her more recent career in training biology teachers; meanwhile, through her Zwicky father, she’s in the line of the sewing-thread Zwickys (going back to 1840 — made memorable through Donald Brun’s Zwicky-silk cat poster, Soie à coudre) and is now the CEO of the real-estate development firm that evolved from that enterprise.


Prof. Dr. Monica Elisabeth Zwicky (Professor of Developmental Biology, Department of Molecular Life Sciences, Univ. of Zurich [so listed on the English versions of its pages; it’s Zürich on the German pages]); photo from the Molecular Life Sciences website

The thumbnail sketch from this website:

Monica Zwicky was born to a Swedish mother and Swiss father in Zurich and grew up in Lausanne. She has two grown-up children, is in charge of training aspiring biology teachers and is an Adjunct Professor of MNF [die Mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Fakultät, the Faculty of Science, the larger division to which Molecular Life Sciences belongs]

This is then followed by an interview with her about her interest in natural science, her life as a woman in biology, her drive for independence and authority, and her recognition that the role of mentor and nurturer of students comes easily to her as an extension of her maternal role. It’s a complex and self-reflective piece, also something of a surprise on a Molecular Life Sciences site.

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Apple men

October 13, 2022

The Wayno / Piraro Bizarro cartoon for 10/11 — Wayno’s title: “Surrealism Syndrome” — brings together the green apple of Magritte’s Son of Man with the apple William Tell legendarily shot off the head of his son Walter:


(#1) Yet another Bizarro Psychiatrist cartoon; the therapist is Wayno’s caricature of the surrealist artist René Magritte (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 6 in this strip — see this Page.)

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Blogger, interrupted

September 15, 2022


The Blogger, tied in furious knots

I was about the do a quick posting on Roger Federer, who announced his retirement from professional tennis today — because Federer is an admirable person in a whole series of ways, and because Federer is really really Swiss (he and I share the Alpine nose!).

But I was interrupted by Life, in ways mostly gratifying, but both time-consuming and exhausting, so the piece about RF and his splendid Swissness remains unfinished.

Well, the Federer piece interrupted my progress on a “RELAX ARNOLD” posting (about something that had popped up in a Facebook ad).

And “RELAX ARNOLD” took me away from posting on two other ads that had appeared suddenly: “funny aperitif board” and “the social lives of ruff dudes”.

And those two interrupted my advance on a whole set of half-prepared postings: “tastes like glazed donuts”, “ride the wild okapi”, and more.

I can’t imagine how I’m going to dig myself out of this hole.

But, you ask, how did I spend this day (after taking in the hot news about Federer)?

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Who will be this year’s Schützenkönig?

September 14, 2022

I now attempt to advance on the the topic of Knabenschiessen, roughly Boys-Shooting, my previous approaches to the topic having foundered on Monday 9/12, as feelingly reported in yesterday’s posting “Knabenschiessen!” (inspired by a Frank Yellin Facebook posting on 9/12).

The basic facts, as assembled in a compact Wikipedia entry:

Knabenschiessen is a traditional target shooting competition in Zürich, held on the second weekend of September each year [the 2022 event started on Saturday 9/10 and ended on Monday 9/12].

The festival, officially held for the first time in 1889, is one of the oldest in Switzerland, dating back to the 17th century.

The competition is open to 13- to 17-year-olds who either reside or are enrolled in a school in the canton of Zürich. Originally reserved for boys (Knaben), the competition has been open to female participants since 1991. The shooting is with the Swiss Army ordnance rifle, SIG SG 550. The competition is held in the shooting range at Albisgütli to the south-west of the city center, on the slope of Uetliberg [and is organized by the City of Zurich Rifle Association in Albisgütli.] It is surrounded by a large fair.

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Knabenschiessen!

September 13, 2022

The introductory paragraph below was written in a moment of hope yesterday morning (9/12). But then I was consumed by medical problems triggered by last week’s extraordinarily high temperatures; by hours and hours of making arrangements for medical appointments (one this morning, others on each of the following mornings this week, some in the future); hours of doing work-arounds for the continuing non-renewal of my Adjunct Professor position at Stanford; and then, this morning (9/13), trying to cope — all afternoon, problem still far from fixed — with Gmail access on my computer (receiving and sending) disappearing entirely. I am crazed, distraught, angry, gasping for breath, afflicted by joint and muscle pains. But Not Dead Yet.

I did achieve my minimal goals for symbolic recognition of the two cultural holidays yesterday, but at 7 p.m. had to give up on explaining Knabenschiessen to you in a timely fashion. But I’m not sure when I’ll be able to craft a posting. Watch this space.

[9/12] In one part of my life, the Chinese-culture-friendly part, this is the third and last day of the Mid-Autumn Festival weekend, for which I will sacrifice a red bean mooncake as the sun sets. In another part, the Swiss-culture-friendly part, this is the third and last day of (as we would say it in English) Boys-Shooting weekend, for which I am wearing (by fortunate accident) my Swiss flag gym shorts (I have four handsome lightweight gym shorts I rotate through by the week — last week’s Pride Rainbow pair just came out of the washer). (I am also wearing a pink Gay as Fuck t-shirt, but that’s untethered to any immediately relevant gay-cultural occasion.)

 

Cats, names, art

August 5, 2022

The cats prowl through ancient Rome, Egypt, and India — and modern Russia, Estonia, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Leaving their names and (in the work of graphic artists and cartoonists) their images. All of this triggered by the appearance — my copy came yesterday — of Bob Eckstein’s latest book:


(#1) As noted in my posting yesterday, which was unadventurously entitled “The Complete Book of Cat Names”, my name is in the book, in a list of people who suggested cat names to Bob

On reflection, I might have suggested any or all of the names of My Three Cats (now starring in a heart-warming bird and fish comedy shown on a loop throughout the day on The Cat Channel) to Bob, though none of them made the cut: Koshka the Russian cat, Marjarah the Sanskrit cat, and Kurniau the Estonian cat (kurniau is what cats say in Estonian — it’s a purr and a meow — so it would definitely be a candidate for Bob’s “names you would think your cat can pronounce” category). Yes, I know, Marjarah and Kurniau are obscure — arcane and professorial — but Russian кошка (fem.), transliterated as koshka, is just everyday ‘cat’ (specifically female if sex is relevant, but also used for male cats; a tomcat is қот (masc.), transliterated as kot).

That was yesterday. Today I’ll take you to one section of Bob’s book, on “Roman cat names” (which, the Roman Empire having been what it was, also takes us to Egypt), with two cartoons; and to Donald Brun’s famous Swiss thread-cat poster, depicting the cat Silken Zwicky (which will take us also to the Cat Museum in Amsterdam). So, a tour of Eurasia, from Nederland to Bharata.

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Zwicknames

June 28, 2022

On 6/26, this query from genealogist Randi Zwickel-Patrick (hereafter, RZ), offered as a comment on one of my very many postings on people named Zwicky (there’s a Page on this blog chronicling these postings):

Was the Zwicky family’s name originally Zwickel or another variation?

The query has no particular relevance to my posting “A Swiss thread in Paris”, from 6/24/18; that posting just happens to be about some Zwickys (and their thread company). So I’ve detached the query from that posting, to give something of an answer here.

But the briefest response is to say that a family name often has a number of histories (names are changed, inadvertently or intentionally, in ways small and large; names get mixed up with one another), but in any case almost never has something identifiable as the original name, and even for one version or variant of the name, we almost never have access to the first use of a name, to the circumstances surrounding that version’s choosing, an event or events that happened very long ago, far away, involving people who not only didn’t keep records of these things but were, most of them, illiterate.

So I can’t answer RZ’s query as it stands, and I don’t think anyone could. Even a much less ambitious query — what’s the history of the Zwicky name in the male line going back just from me? (forget about all those other people with the surname Zwicky) — runs aground 5 to 7 centuries ago, still in the same part of what is now Switzerland (a village in the canton of Glarus) that serves as Zwicky Central. (Brazil, where the nuts come from; Mollis, where the Zwickys come from.)

I have, however, looked at Zwicknames — not just Zwicky, but also Zwickey, Zwicki, Zwicke, Zwickie, Zwick, Zwicker, Zwickel, Zwickl — and also at Zwicky-adjacent names, like Zawicky, Swicky, Sowicky, and, oh my, Tsviki. This is all about names, not actual (genetic) ancestry, and given the naming conventions in Anglophone countries, it’s also all about descent in the male line, disregarding entirely all the female ancestors.

And going back 500-700 years ago is going back about 20-28 generations ago (with each generation about 25 years), so there are 20-28 ancestors in the male line, but (in principle) 2^20 to 2^28 ancestors total (1,048,576, or about a million, to 268,435,456, or about 300 million).

In either case, I can’t imagine much in this that could be actually relevant to Arnold Arnoldson. Swiss people can generally peg me as of Swiss ancestry from my facial features, but they also peg me (like my father but unlike my grandfather) as American, from my gestures, facial expressions, postures and gaits, speech, grooming, ornament, and dress. As for character traits, I (b. 1940) do have Swiss stubbornness, but I got that from the models of Arnold Melchiorson (b. 1914) and Melchior Johannson (b. 1879).

So this genealogical stuff, though entertaining, offers nothing revelatory. On to some of my postings on the subject.

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The Z of death

March 12, 2022

From Andras Kornai on Facebook today:

AK: As they say on Sesame Street: brought to you by the letter Z!


(#1) A tank (Andras says it’s a Pantsir missile system) with the glyph Z on it — not a letter in the Cyrillic alphabet (in which both Ukrainian and Russian are written) and now symbolizing the Russian iron fist of death

Livia Polanyi [pursuing the Sesame Street theme]: Zombie zombie zombie starts with Z

AZ > LP: The letter Z long ago became part of my identity, a symbol of who I was. Now it’s become the equivalent of a swastika, and I feel that I have personally been assaulted, dirtied, and shamed. (I manage to surmount Z is for Zombie as just a piece of cultural silliness. But the Z on the tanks is, literally, dead serious.)

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Rainbows and penguins at the gym

June 29, 2021

Yesterday was actual Stonewall Day, honoring the riots at the Stonewall Inn on that date in 1969 and serving as a flashpoint for Gay Pride events and political organizations — and, increasingly over the years, providing a hook for all manner of LGBT-oriented commerce (products for sale, advertising for those products) and feel-good publicity for companies and organizations of all sorts. On darker days, I get the feeling that queerfolk are just being used: rainbow everything, whether or not it has some plausible connection to gender or sexuality. I am myself far from immune to the allure of random rainbow objects.

Some items of apparel, however, are naturals for the rainbow treatment — for gay men, items worn in male athletic activities or associated with male sexual bodyparts (or in the case of jockstraps, both).

As it happens, athletic / running / fitness / exercise / gym shorts are a long-standing item in my clothes drawers: worn for doing exercises at the Y (when I could still manage that), as everyday indoor wear at home, and during the summer as comfortable outdoor wear as well. I’ve been accustomed to using gray cotton shorts (comfortable and cheap, also unremarkable), like these from ROMWE.com:

(#1)

But there are more interesting options.

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The lizard and the flag

June 26, 2021

Today’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with a pun on monitor; and a popular dad joke — even better, a Swiss dad joke, with a pun on plus — retold by Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show yesterday:

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