Monday, April 30, 2007

mirrorization

about "lustration" from Wojciech Orlinski blog
a tu po polsku

Dear Mankind. This is a Polish blog, but I have chosen English for this particular entry due to the worldwide importance of information contained herein.
I am a journalist whose primary task is to review TV series, graphic novels and sci-fi movies. Our right wing government has recently passed the law requiring that all the people who write anything to any newspaper (be it cooking recipies or tv guide) should reveal their cooperation with communist secret services. Failure to do so shall result in immediate termination of your job contract (don’t know how they want to enforce it but that’s the law they passed).
This process is called in Polish „lustracja”, which literally translates into English as „mirrorization”. Don’t ask how they got this stupid name - they are not particularly bright people anyway. Common English equivalent is „screening”.
Therefore I am required by Polish law to mirrorize - or to screen - my shady past. I hereby reveal my cooperation with a secret communist agenda known as Majestic Twelve, where I was occupying a post of „ufologist” since my 18th birthday.
The screening form (see above) contains a field for additional commentary. I am using it to reveal some even more important information. It reads: ELVIS KILLED KENNEDY AND HE IS ALIVE IN A POLISH VILLAGE CALLED KLEWKI (local joke, never mind).
Now my screening form will be further screened by the National Screening Institute which will determine whether I wrote the truth or lied through my teeth (and eventually punish me for the latter). I just hope it will be a good screening - something that every decent movie reviewer is ready to die for.


BTW My father had to write such statement as well, otherwise he would be prohibited from working at the university for 10 years.

Rostislav

At 4:45 am (GMT+1) in Dresden, Germany half-Ukrainian, half-Irish boy was born named Rostislav to happy parents Gary and Luda.
Congratulations both to the parents and their child!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

dream last night

I had a pretty elaborate dream last night, but I remember only one scene from it. It was very realistic and very disturbing to me. In this scene my mother told me: "You were so nice as a child, there were never any problems with you, but look at yourself now. What happened with you? You are not a person I knew."
I feel disturbed by it, because I know it is true. I am not as nice and easy-going as I used to be. That makes me sad. But on the other hand I also know that it is healthier for me to be the way that I am now, so I should just forget about this dream (= my internal voice) and move on.

Panther Chameleons Mating


Aren't they cute?

The Namesake

On Friday Bartek and I went to see “The Namesake” directed by Mira Nair (she also directed Monsoon Wedding). It is a beautiful, touching movie about cultural assimilation of a family of Bengali immigrants in America. It asks questions which most of immigrants to America must have asked themselves many times during the course of their lives, like: How much of your own culture/tradition you are willing to give away in order to fit in? Is the process of assimilation unidirectional, or can you come back to your culture if you want to? Can you be happy having one of your feet in America and the other in your country of origin? If you have kids born and raised in the US, can you expected them to live according to the rules of your “old” culture?
Go and see this movie. It will touch your heart and make you think.

New hairstyle


28th of April, 2007 San Diego; photo taken by BB
Actually, directly after the visit at the hairdresser it looked more drastic. But I am trying to do what I can to mask it and return to my previous look.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Day of the wacko


"So many times I swore: I'm not going to wrench my nerves over all this! By arguing over the matters of this country on which I do not have any influence anyway. Because I do not believe in anything anymore"

'Moherowe berety" by Big Cyc

Thursday, April 26, 2007

mood improver



The text on the picture reads: "Radziu, I tell you, the bear will get pissed!"

100 points question

What did I do today with my hair that makes me both cry and laugh when I see myself in the mirror?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

one of these days

Rationally thinking: Life is beautiful. I have the best friends in the world. My life is interesting and eventful. San Francisco is great place to live in. I like my job and people I work with. I have very nice and easy-going roommates. It seems like everything is going well in my life and I should have no reasons to complain, right?
However, whole day today I felt this strange urge to screw something up (and I think I was very close to achieving it). I felt accumulating dissatisfaction with something (I do not know what) and I was just looking for the occasion to blow up and unload whatever was accumulating inside me. Luckily I did not manage to get into trouble with anybody (at least I think I didn't).
I spent whole evening thinking and analyzing why I felt like this and what caused these bad emotions inside me. For long time I could not understand it and I grew more and more angry with myself for being such an idiot as I am. And then, finally, I understood it. It is one of these days when hormones take control over my body and say: be nasty, shout, argue and get into trouble. Lovely. What did I do to deserve it? (Yes, I know, my grand, grand,..., grandmother ate a wrong apple.) But why - on earth - even tough I should be able to predict when it will happen it still comes as a surprise to me?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Travel section of NYT

If I do not like something about The New York Times, it is its travel section. An article (or actually a series of articles) entitled Affordable Europe: city guides is a prime example of how useless it is.

The fancy picture and a sentence: The euro remains strong, but you don’t have to max out your credit card to indulge might lure many people to read this article. But what you get if you do so is more than disappointing. For example, the paragraph that is supposed to provide you with the recommendations of places to stay is entitled Where to Stay for Under 125 Euros and in fact it gives you only recommendations of hotels with prices around 150$/person/night!
I would like to know which percentage of readers of NYT considers as "affordable" spending only on hotels during a two-week holidays in Europe 8.500$ (calculation based on the assumption that the average family size is 4).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dobre polskie filmy?

Kochani! Spojrzcie na ta strone i zobaczcie czy mozecie polecic ktorys z filmow granych pomiedzy 27mym a 29tym kwietnia. Dzieki sliczne.

marriage - what others think

Marriage is the triumph of imagination over intelligence. Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. (Samuel Johnson)

I won't promise to love you forever; I take promises seriously. (Amanda P.)

I think, therefore I'm single. (Liz Winston)

If you want to sacrifice the admiration of many men for the criticism of one, go ahead, get married. (Katharine Hepburn)

I don't believe in marriage. It's bloody impractical. 'To love, honor, and obey.' If it weren't, you wouldn't have to sign a contract. (Katharine Hepburn)

I love being married. It's so great to find one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life. (Rita Rudner)

Marriage is the death of hope. (Woody Allen, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy)

Sex alleviates tension. Marriage causes it. (Woody Allen, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy)

More Woody, more about sex rather than marriage but still I like them a lot:

I'm tired of making love to a woman I feel inferior to. (Woody Allen, Interiors)

Sex without love is an empty experience.
Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best.
(Woody Allen, Love and Death)

You are the greatest lover I have ever had.
Well, I practice a lot when I'm alone.
(Woody Allen, Love and Death)

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down. (Woody Allen, Love and Death)

Empty sex is better than no sex at all, right? (Woody Allen, Stardust Memories)

Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac. (No idea who said that but it is ingenious.)

Sex between the a man and a woman can be wonderful, provided you get in between the right man and the right woman. (Also have no idea who said that, but it is my personal favorite.)

Conscience is what hurts when everything else feels so good.

Promiscuous: Someone who gets more sex than you.

Love is the delusion that one woman differs from another. (H.L. Mencken)

A man on a date wonders if he'll get lucky. The woman already knows. (Monica Piper)

It is better to be unfaithful than to be faithful without wanting to be. (Brigitte Bardot; I felt in love with Bardot when I read an interview with her in which asked what the best day in her life was she answered: It was a night...)

Another quiz: a bottle of wine for the person that finds optimistic (and preferably funny) quote about marriage.

SF ballet

On Friday evening Assen, Ganka and I went to the San Francisco Ballet for the mixed program consisting of three independent parts. I tried to find a common theme between them, but I think there was none. If there was any idea behind putting these three pieces together, then it was to show three very different styles of the ballet.

The first piece was Elemental Brubeck and as the name suggests it was performed to the music composed by Dave Brubeck. Actually, it was even performed to the original recording of The Dace Brubeck Quartet (songs "Iberia", "Theme from Elementals" and "Elementals"). This was my favorite among the three parts. As you can imagine it was very jazzy (Assen complained that there was no rhythm...) and very sensual. Somehow blend of jazz and ballet talks to me a lot. I definitely liked the softness of the moves of the dancers and I loved the music.

The second piece was called Concordia and was performed to the music of a young Australian composer Mathew Hindson. Two of his pieces were used: "Technologic 1" for string orchestra and "The Rave and the Nightingale" for string quartet and string orchestra. If you click on the links above you can hear samples of this music. Apparently, "The Rave and the Nightingale" is based upon Schubert’s last string quartet (Quartet No. 15 in G Major) and Hindson wanted to make it sound as Schubert would have written it if he lived in the contemporary times. Well, we can be only grateful that Schubert does not live now and hasn't written this terrible piece. I hated it. Listening to it caused strong discomfort to my ears. Likewise I did not like the dancing that was accompanied by it: it looked like a dance of robots, very mechanistic, chaotic and with many artificial pauses. Surprisingly, both Assen and Ganka liked it more than the first piece.

The third piece was performed to the Symphony No 1 in C Major composed by Georges Bizet. This was the only "classical" ballet among the three pieces we saw. It was visually stunning (imagine 100 of white angels flying over the stage) with breathtaking ending, but I guess it was too classical for me. I mean to say that I like it a lot and would not mind seeing it again, but I think I prefer more modern interpretations of ballet.

Anyway, we were all pleased with the level of the performance and for sure we will revisit this place.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

cranes of freedom

I bet you heard that if you fold 1,000 origami crane birds, your wish will be granted. I bet you always wanted to do that but probably you were either to lazy or you did not have enough motivation to do it.

So how about folding only one crane for a good cause? Let's call it a good beginning.
Check out this action of Amnesty International and make some noise today!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

travel journalism: Ryszard Kapuscinski

Since we are talking about travel journalism, I have to mention Ryszard Kapuscinski - Polish first, and for long time only, foreign correspondent. Among his many books my favorite one is "The Emperor", which describes the rise and fall of Ethiopian King Haile Selassie. Read this book, and I am sure that it will convince you to read his other books.

Also read this interview with Kapuscinski to see how interesting person he was and how much he was committed to what he was doing. Here is a piece taken from this interview:

Why am I a writer? Why have I risked my life so many times, come so close to dying? Is it to report the weirdness? To earn my salary? Mine is not a vocation, it's a mission. I wouldn't subject myself to these dangers if I didn't feel that there was something overwhelmingly important—about history, about ourselves—that I felt compelled to get across. This is more than journalism.

And here you can get a taste of Kapuscinski's writing from "The Soccer War":

I was driving along a road where they say no white man can come back alive. I was driving to see if a white man could, because I had to experience everything for myself. I know that a man shudders in the forest when he passes close to a lion. I got close to a lion so that I would know how it feels. I had to do it myself because I knew no one could describe it to me. And I cannot describe it myself. Nor can I describe a night in the Sahara. The stars over the Sahara are enormous. They sway above the sand like great chandeliers. The light of those stars is green. Night in the Sahara is as green as a Mazowsze meadow.

I might see the Sahara again and I might see the road that carried me through Yoruba country again. I drove up a hill and when I got to the crest I could see the first flaming roadblock below.

It was too late to turn back.

travel journalism: Blaine Harden

Africa: dispatches from a fragile continent is an amazing book. I would definitely put it on my list of Top 100 books. Jochen and I bought it in Pretoria (South Africa), on our way to Namibia. We both loved it and discussed for hours. Among many books that we read about Africa this was by far the best: the most honest, unbiased and eye-opening.

This book was written by Blaine Harden, when he was the Washington Post bureau chief in sub-Saharan Africa (from 1985 to 1989). There are seven chapters in his book, each focusing on a different African country: Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya, and Zambia. Harden writes about his travels and the people he met, and thanks to it the book reads like an adventure story. But at the same time he is analyzing the political situation of each area.

Even tough “Dispatches…” were published 17 years ago and describe the situation of only few countries, still, the observations Harden makes can be applied also today to almost all African countries. For example Harden says:
Westerners who give money and economic advice to Africa, as well as those who write about the continent, spend far too much time looking in the wrong direction. We concentrate our energies on semi-fictional, barely functional, frequently irrelevant Western imports: central bureaucracies, ministerial policy papers, macro-economic statistics, and the "sincerity" of leadership commitment to free-market reform. All of which can be condemned, applauded, or made fun of within easy walking distance of a four-star hotel. Meanwhile, we are ignorant of the indigenous system that help hold the whole sorry mess together.

As much as we are unwilling to accept it, the African way of keeping “the whole sorry mess together” is to have a rule of Big Men who forcibly takes control of the country until some other Big Man wrests power from him. This again proves to be true even in the case of today’s “democratic” presidential elections in Nigeria:

Nigeria's presidential election was tainted by violence and fraud, a far cry from the credible democratic vote many had hoped would mark the country's first handover from one civilian president to another.

Nigerians hoping for an honest leader to fight endemic corruption voted in presidential elections Saturday, but disarray at the polls and a failed truck bombing caused unease in a country trying to solidify democratic rule.

Obasanjo admitted that the vote was flawed, but said Nigerians were nonetheless devoted to democracy. (...) As was widely expected, Umaru Yar'Adua, the 56-year old Muslim governor of northern Katsina state, won in a landslide.

If you are still not convinced to read Harden’s book, maybe this review will convince you (The book can be bought on amazon under 1$!!!).

Here is also a sample of Harden’s writing for the Washington Post about Nigeria in 1987. Even though it is an old article, it is still very interesting and could equally well be written today.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Survival Polish in 60 seconds

On this mp3 file you can hear one of the top Polish TV journalists a bit frustrated with his job. The word he uses the most often during this reccording is the most common Polish swearing:
K.R.A

Thursday, April 19, 2007

the first law of petropolitics

While researching the internet for the material to the other post (yet to come) I found an extremely interesting article by Thomas L. Friedman that introduces "The First Law of Petropolitics". Quoting after this article that law states: "The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in oil-rich petrolist states. According to the First Law of Petropolitics, the higher the average global crude oil price rises, the more free speech, free press, free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, the rule of law, and independent political parties are eroded. And these negative trends are reinforced by the fact that the higher the price goes, the less petrolist leaders are sensitive to what the world thinks or says about them."



Case study: Nigeria
Quoting from the same article:
"Or, consider the drama now unfolding in Nigeria. Nigeria has a term limit for its presidents—two four-year terms. President Olusegun Obasanjo came to office in 1999, after a period of military rule, and was then reelected by a popular vote in 2003. When he took over from the generals in 1999, Obasanjo made headlines by investigating human rights abuses by the Nigerian military, releasing political prisoners, and even making a real attempt to root out corruption. That was when oil was around $25 a barrel. Today, with oil at $60 a barrel, Obasanjo is trying to persuade the Nigerian legislature to amend the constitution to allow him to serve a third term. A Nigerian opposition leader in the House of Representatives, Wunmi Bewaji, has alleged that bribes of $1 million were being offered to lawmakers who would vote to extend Obasanjo’s tenure. “What they are touting now is $1 million per vote,” Bewaji was quoted as saying in a March 11, 2006, article by VOA News. “And it has been coordinated by a principal officer in the Senate and a principal officer in the House.”
...
Clement Nwankwo, one of Nigeria’s leading human rights campaigners, told me during a visit to Washington in March that since the price of oil has started to climb, “civil liberties [have been] on a huge decline—people have been arbitrarily arrested, political opponents have been killed, and institutions of democracy have been crippled.” Oil accounts for 90 percent of Nigeria’s exports, added Nwankwo, and that explains, in part, why there has been a sudden upsurge in the kidnapping of foreign oil workers in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta. Many Nigerians think they must be stealing oil, because so little of the revenue is trickling down to the Nigerian people.
...
If Nigeria had no oil, then the entire political equation would be different,” said Nwankwo. “The income would not be coming from oil and therefore the diversification of the economy would become an issue and private enterprise would matter more, and people would have to expand their own creativity.”


Last weekend the state elections were held in Nigeria during which the governing party won (see a NYT or a BBC article for details), according to some not really in a fair way (link). Next Saturday Nigerians will be choosing their new president (luckily Obasanjo can not be reelected for the third term) and it seems that there are also reasons to be concerned about the outcome of this election. Nigeria opposition parties' leaders are even considering boycotting upcoming presidential election.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And the winner is...

I am impressed. I was not expecting anybody to get that close to my maximum speed as even I, myself, was surprised with it.

Lars correctly predicted that once I start seeing that my speed is exceeding 50km/h I start to break... He also correctly estimated my average speed for this month, which is 17.3km/h. (Actually, my average speed on the way to work is 24km/h and on the way home 20.5km/h. The lower value of my total average is the result of recreational biking with other people on weekends and also walking with my bike home and to the repair shop after my little crash.)

However, Lars overestimated the distance that I have to cover every day to get to work and back. It is only 5.0 km, which means that if the only biking I do is getting to work and back then I do 10 km/day (300 km/month). During weekdays I rarely bike more than that, as almost all the places to which I go by bike (like pubs or friends' houses) are in between my home and work. So the total distance that I biked during last month is 303.7 km.

Now, even though Lars was pretty good with all his estimates, still he did not win. The winner is Anutek who predicted that my maximum speed is 63km/h. My speedometer shows 65.9... and I have to say that I would have not guessed it myself. I asked Ann how she came up with that number and she wrote back: Marathoners run with average speed 20km/h, sprinters with 40km/h, Adam Malysz jumps with 140km/h, so I thought that you can bike downhill around 60km/h, because 70km/h would be verrrrrry dangerous... Not only beautiful but also smart… my girl! And it seems that she knows me better than I know myself. A.: dinner anytime anywhere. You pick.

Monday, April 16, 2007

quiz! award!

The person that will the most accurately estimate the maximum speed (in km/h) that the speedometer of my bike is showing at this moment will be awarded a dinner at Fresca (or some other nice place on old continent if one of my European friends will be the winner) in my company.
Two factors you might want to take into account:
1. I installed the speedometer one month ago and during this time I only biked in the city.
2. There are many hills in SF (but also there are many stop signs and traffic lights even on the roads going downhill…)

Friday, April 13, 2007

elegant worms



Added: 4/15/07 10:08 PM

The lab that I joined four months ago studies the mechanisms of aging in tiny (1 mm long) worm called Caenorhabditis elegans. These worms are particularly suitable for studying aging as they live only around 20 days, and therefore, we do not have to wait too long to see if a tested chemical or genetic manipulation has an effect on their lifespan. Other advantage of these worms is that it is relatively straightforward to disrupt in them the function of specific genes using technique called RNA interference (RNAi). By doing that we can find genes that are involved in the aging process: if we silence (switch off) the gene A and worms will live longer, that means that a normal function of the gene A is to shorten the lifespan of the worm. Alternatively, if after switching off of the gene B worms live longer, then it is likely that the function of this gene is to prolong the life of the worm. [BTW: The guy who introduced C. elegans into the biological laboratories (Sydney Brenner) and the guys who discovered the RNA interference (Andrew Fire and Craig C. Mello) got Nobel Prizes for Medicine (Brenner in 2002, and Fire and Mello in 2006)].

Why do we care how long these worms live? Well, because luckily it seems that many genetic pathways are conserved between worms, flies, mice and (most certainly also) humans. So if we find that a certain gene has an influence on the lifespan of not only worms, but also flies and mice, then we can be almost sure that it will also influence the lifespan of humans. And once we know genes that are involved in aging, we try to understand the function of the proteins they encode (proteins are basic building blocks of our body, genes are only information storage units; one gene encodes information which says what one particular protein should look like and what it should do in our body). And once we know the function of the protein of interest, then we can attempt to make drugs that will affect its function in the way that we will make us live longer. At least this is what we hope will happen.

The movie that I attached to this post I found on youtube. It shows bunch of worms at different developmental stages (smaller are younger, bigger are older) moving around on the agar plate (of course since they are so tiny we look at them through the microscope). As you can see one of these worms is slightly different than the others: it is green. That’s another thing that we can do to (in) worms – we can mark single proteins with a color (like here with green) in order to investigate their expression pattern and cellular distribution (and potentially function). The person that made this movie is clearly more interested in this green worm than in the others, so what he wants to do is to separate this worm from the rest and to do that he uses a pick (btw: he seems pretty clumsy to me). We call it “transfer” as the worm gets transferred to the new agar plate. Transfer of worms is a basic daily activity of anybody working with them. Looks like lots of fun, ha?


Added: 4/15/07 11:53 PM

I just came back home from work and joined John, Kristina and their guests for dessert. One of the guys that I did not meet before asked me standard questions like: where are you from? where do you work? what do you do? So I said that I am Polish and that I am a scientist. He asked what kind of scientist, so I replied that a biologist. He wanted to know more specifically what I worked on, so I told him that I was studying the molecular mechanisms of aging in C. elegans. Then he asked if I were aware that caloric restriction had been shown to prolong the lifespan of rats and he continued explaining that to me... Do I look that stupid?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

keepon dancing with a robot?

keepon- isn't he cute?


Infanoid project

home alone report

Last two weeks I spent alone at home as John and Kristina went for holidays in Italy. I definitely needed some time alone, so I was not really sorry that they were gone. The only problem for me was that all of a sudden I became the only person responsible for feeding and walking the dog, and I was not sure how I would manage that. But in the end it all went better than I thought and I am actually proud of myself for passing this "responsibility" test. Sometime tonight John and Kristina will come back and I am really looking forward to see them again. I guess I will have a heard time falling asleep until they are back.

John at one of the dinners that we hosted:


Kristina and I during the same evening as above:

Valencia Cyclery

I had a bike accident on Thursday in which my brand new bike got slightly damaged. Today I had finally time to bring it to repair (to Valencia Cyclery) and I was surprised that I was not asked to pay anything neither for the time of the guy who was repairing it, nor for the parts (and I have to add that he did not even ask if I bought a bike at their shop). Also month ago when I was buying there my second bike they gave me several things for free (like a cable to lock the saddle and missing parts of the back light) and they also gave me 4 months instead of 3 of "break-in" adjustments. Moreover, even though they always have plenty of clients, they still take their time to help you as much as they can. I am very happy with this shop and for sure I will go back there if I need to buy some other accessories for my bike.
But to be fair I have to say that I also had a very good experience at other bike shop (Noe Valley Cyclery) located in my neighborhood. I went there to buy bike maps and books describing bike trails in San Francisco area and a guy working there spent one hour (!) describing different trails to me. So if you want to buy maps rather go there.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Waiting for Freedom, Messing It Up

In meantime, in Poland Big Brother is still watching:

The latest idea of the Polish governing coalition is “lustration,” which means looking for and eventually barring from public life all people found to have been secret collaborators with the security services between 1944 and 1990. The search will last as long as 17 years and will affect approximately 700,000 people, including jurists, bank managers, members of boards, civil servants, researchers and journalists. Everyone has to declare whether he used to be a collaborator. If someone refuses to make such a declaration or makes an untruthful one, he is barred from working in his field for 10 years.

Taken from Adam Michnik's article for the NYT about "lustration".

Apple, Orwell, youtube and the 2008 US presidential elections

I am astonished how much Internet changed our lives and especially how much power it gave to all of us. I would have never expected that thanks to it a voice of a single person can not only be heard by but also influence so many people worldwide. Phil De Vellis, "a citizen", not directly connected with any of the US political parties, made a pro-Obama, anti-Hillary Clinton commercial that is based on a famous ad by Apple that introduced Macintosh computers in 1984. He posted his version of the ad on youtube slightly more than a month ago. Since then, it was watched more than 3 million times and it attracted attention of public media both in the US and abroad. The amazing thing is that first, the "Vote Different" ad is so simple both in its form and its message that it could have been done just by anybody, and second, it showed that you do not need public media anymore to have your voice heard by millions of people...

Vote Different

Make up your own mind. Decide for yourself who should be our next president. NOTE: This is a mashup of the famous Apple 1984 Super Bowl ad.

Apple 1984 Super Bowl commercial


An article about the idea behind the "Vote different" ad

An interview with the guy who made the "Vote Different" ad:

hedonism

I am in love and with each minute my feelings grow stronger and stronger... Her name is Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee XXIX Zinfandel (I am sure that it is she, because it/she is too sweet to be a man). She smells like a mixture of plums and blackberries, she moves down the glass slowly, with grace and dignity, and tastes like lips of sixteen year old girl...

PS (added 13/04/07) Hey "Chyba"

Podaruj mi coś czego nie
Zdobędę sama
A wtedy ja szepnę Ci
Możesz mnie dotknąć

Może pozwolę byś ze mną budził się
Może powiem Ci jakie lubię wino
Może pozwole Ci zapalić świeczkę
Gdy w pewną zimową noc
Zgaśnie światło

Saturday, April 7, 2007

wiki and chat

It seems that all my friends have a sleeping disorder, are madly in love in wiki, like to discuss philosophy/psychology/politics/books late into the night.
Here is what BB just wrote (in Polish, adapted and translated by me) about childhood in Poland: you always heard about enemies, which wanted to attack our beloved country from all sides. We should be afraid of nuclear annihilation from the West, but also we should be afraid that we might be sent to Sybiria by our Russian friends. On top of that in TV you could only watch movies about WWII, in case you would be left with any doubts about the human nature: you eat dinner and you see piles of bodies being burnt in the concentration camps... Being raised like this, how should we trust and be open to other people? Would we be the same if we were raised in consumer rotten West with free love, stupid magazines, and among marihuana smoke...?

few interesting links to the key psychological experiments revealing the dark side of human nature:

solitude
role playing
role playing - wiki
obedience and authority

Nothing twice

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with exactly the same kisses.

One day, perhaps, some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

by Wislawa Szymborska

Homeless and businessman

A homeless guy stops a businessman and asks him:
- Give me some money for food, please.
The businessman takes out 20$, but then he hesitates and says:
- No, I will not give it to you, because you will buy alcohol for that.
The homeless guy replies:
- I did not have a droplet of alcohol in my mouth for the last ten years!
- Well, then you will buy cigarettes for that.
- No, I have never smoked in my whole life.
- Then, you will spend it on girls.
- No, never. I have a wife and kids!
Then, the businessman gives him 20$ and says:
- Please, get into my limo.
The homeless guy hesitates and says:
- No, I will make your car dirty...
The businessman replies:
- Do not worry about that. I have to show to my wife how I would have ended up if I hadn't drunk, smoked and spent money on the girls.


Podchodzi bezdomny do biznesmena i mówi:
- Niech mi pan da na jedzenie
Biznesmen wyciaga 100 zlotych, ale zaraz odciaga.
- Nie bo przepijesz
Na to biedak:
- Ja od 10 lat alkoholu w ustach nie mialem.
- No to przypalisz?
- Nie panie ja w zyciu nie palilem.
- A na dziewczyny nie wydasz?
- Oczywiscie, ze nie. Ja mam zone i dzieci!
Biznesmen daje mu to 100 zlotych i mówi :
- Wsiadaj do limuzyny.
- Ale panie, tapicerke panu pobrudze.
- Wsiadaj, musze zonie pokazac, jak konczy czlowiek, który nie pali nie pije i na dziewczyny nie chodzi.

Brian and Dana

Elena and Fede have two kids: a girl called Dana and a boy called Brian. They are the nicest children in the world (I mean it!). Actually, they are so well raised, that I would consider giving my own children to Elena and Fede for lets say first half a year of their lives hoping that that would be enough to make them as nice as Brian and Dana are.
Here are two movies with Dana and Brian that illustrate how Italian education works:

Here, Fede is teaching Brian and Kitaro how to make a salto:

Casa Calegari, Dana's birthday party 2006

When Dana was younger she never hesitated before jumping, but it seems as she grew older she must have started to feel fear:

MPI-CBG, PhD party 2006

Friday, April 6, 2007

1: the plan, the compromise

I decided to use this blog as a place to document my last year's holidays in Africa before I forget all adventures that we had there. This post describes how we decided where to go for holidays.

Already two years before the trip Jochen and I agreed that we wanted to go for longer holidays between our PhD and postdoc positions. I was hoping that we could travel even as long as half a year, but Jochen could not imagine himself not working for longer than 3 months. He wanted to travel in Australia and New Zealand, whereas I prefered to travel in South America. After a short discussion we both agreed on traveling for 3 months in South America. The plan got changed three months before the holidays. First, we had to shorten them to two months because of Jochen's other obligations. Second, as the time of our move to the US was approaching, we also realized that we wanted to spend more quality time with some of our friends. Around the same time Fede and Elena were planning two/three weeks of holidays in Madagascar. After four of us met and discussed what we wanted, we decided to spend together three-and-a-half weeks in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, after which Jochen and I would continue our holidays in South Africa and Namibia for another month.


We started planning our trip to Africa on the 23rd of May 2006, which is two months in advance!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

paragliding curios

kidnapped by the dust devil


face landing


tree landing


assymetric spiral - I want to fly like this!


incredibly fast spiral dive


spiral dive, helicopter and impressive landing


spiral landing

Monday, April 2, 2007

resolutions - progress report

Slightly more than a month ago I wrote down several resolutions and I promised to give you a progress report on them.
To be honest I am a bit disappointed with myself. I expected to achieve much more during this month. Still, I think that it was not completely useless to write down the resolution list as it made me realize which things I want to change/learn and thanks to it I also made at least small progress towards them.
I managed to achieve the following:
1. I did spend 1-2 evenings a week at home (and I am very happy about that!)
2. I read 4 books during this time and I am in the middle of reading 3 others.
3. I learnt a tiny little bit of HTML and I refreshed a bit my Spanish.
4. The only clothes that I bought were from the second-hand shop.
5. I started doing experiments in my new lab and I analyzed some of my old data for the projects from my previous job.
I failed to swim and run as often as I planned. I have no good excuse for not swimming. As for running I tried it twice but I did not enjoy it at all. There is just so much traffic on the streets and also running up and down the hills is not that much fun. I think what I have to do is to bike to Golden Gate Park and run there. The problem is that I will not have time to do it more than once, maybe twice a week. But I will give it a try during a coming month.