Thursday, May 31, 2007

are they crazy?

Polish ministry of education decided to remove from the high school curriculum books written by the following authors:
Gombrowicz
Witkacy
Goethe
Kafka
Conrad (Korzeniowski)
Herling-GrudziƄski
Dostojewski
Their plan is obvious: It's easier to rule over non-educated society.

link po polsku

check your sanity level

I am sure you all know the ink blots psychological test (the Rorschach test) that is commonly used in the movies to prove that somebody is (or rarely is not) a sexual maniac. Here is an improved version of this test: Furnham Shape & Color Test. Let me know your results!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Absolutely stunning!

Women in Art

polish connection US

Polish people abroad tend to look for the company of other Polish people. I do not fully understand this phenomenon, but my feeling is that the motivation that drives that sort of behavior is the basic human need to find people with similar to our own mentality, views on life and values.
After arriving to San Francisco I also looked for Polish friends (e.g. using my favorite craigslist), but somehow that did not work too well. And then, purely by lack, I met Natalia. She was a waitress in the restaurant to which Lev and I went for a dinner and she was as happy to meet me as I was to meet her. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses, but somehow we did not contact each other for around two months. The occasion to meet finally came last Saturday when Natalia was celebrating getting a BA degree.

Natalia is an artist/painter. That's the party invitation she sent to me:


I couldn't stay at Natalia's party for too long as Jochen was visiting me during that weekend and he did not feel like going there. Anyway, even during the short time spent there I enjoyed myself a lot and got to know yet another Polish girl (called Monika ;-)).

The party was mainly taking part in the garden decorated with colorful lights and Natalia's paintings:


During the party I also met Natalia's mother (Iwonka), whom I instantly liked a lot (I realized that if I like somebody a lot, I also always like their parents equally strongly). Iwonka must have liked me as well, as she asked if I wanted to take part in the video clip that Natalia and her husband (Matt vel Mateusz vel Muzeum) were shooting. Of course I agreed.

On Monday I got a call from Natalia: Can you be in 1.5h there and there, wearing this and that? Sure I can.
This is how my "ladder" adventure started. My role was very small: basically I was asked to carry a ladder from point A to point B. Few pictures from that evening you can see in the post called ladders. But still it was a very interesting experience for me to see how these kinds of things are done, and I was very impressed by the level of professionalism of everybody involved in the shooting of that video clip. I also got to know many interesting people and all along had lots of fun. Once the video clip is ready, of course I am going to share it with you (unless it is truly embarrassing for me ;-)).

On Tuesday we were supposed to shoot another scene in which I was supposed to "perform" again, but that had to be cancelled as the previous scenes took more time than Matt and Natalia had expected and their camera time run out. Thanks to it I had more time to document the process of video making. Here are few of my pics:











The song for which we were shooting a clip is called "Window" and was written and performed by Bajzel. You can listen to it here or live in "W starym kinie" in Poznan.

sense of humor

If man had more of a sense of humor, things might have turned out differently.

Solaris, Stanislaw Lem

another logical puzzle

A happily married woman comes back home, goes to the bedroom and on her bed sees: an electric drill, several syringes, needles, latex gloves and her husband smiling apologetically. Why?

Stories like this told by my friends actually make me WANT to get married one day.

communication issues

Recent discovery that I decided to share:
"maybe" in Italian means "yes".
It's funny to learn that in the country in which when people say: "Yeap, let's do it sometime", they actually mean: "No, we will only do that when I am bored to death".

PS Alessio and Mareike are "maybe" moving to San Francisco!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

Tinky Winky

Back to censorship: no Teletubbies for Polish children?

I heard a good "Polish" joke today:
po polsku: Najnowszy szczyt bezczelnosci: zaglosowac na PiS i wyjechac z Polski...
in English: The most outrages thing you can do: vote for Law and Justice (current Polish governing party) and leave Poland...

pcus

For the lovers of logical games, here is one from me:
Today I spent 3 hours walking with a ladder back and forth under the highway. Why?
Award: a ladder, of course.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

ode to skype

I love skype. I do not know how I could live without it. As I have aversion to mobile phones and talking over phone, I always assumed that I would not like skype either. So it took a lot of time and persuasion (mainly from the side of my father) to convince me to finally install it on my computer and start using it.
I think the reason that I like it so much is that I can see faces of people with whom I talk and from that I can judge better the mood in which they are.

For example Ann on this picture (taken during our last skype conversation on 14th of May) is clearly worried with something:


I rarely see her that sad. The image of her that I keep in my head (and heart) looks more like this:

(This photo was taken during our last hike in Swiss Saxony, on the 14th of October 2006)

Today I also talked over skype with my father (and his wife). He can make me laugh as nobody else. I guess we simply have the same sense of humor. I wonder why ;-)
I was surprised to hear that he uses skype to communicate with his students. Is that a direction into which modern education evolves?
He also told me a strange story today that one of his (female) students to all questions during a written exam replied things like: I like sex, both in the morning and in the evening. I wear such and such underwear and so on. (Just to make it clear: my father does not teach sexual education. The exam was from ethics.)

carrot field

As the video proves everything can happen. Classic "Marchewkowe pole" by Lady Pank:

on quality of life and other random thoughts

Quality of life could not be higher: I just came back home and got welcomed by the live piano performance of Kristina. What could be better than that?
Second good news is that John offered to me his saxophone and now I really do not have any good excuse not to start playing it. Kindness and generosity of people does not stop to amaze me.

Days like today also make me realize how lucky I was in my life to have met so many great people and made them become my friends.
Today could have been a bad day, but it turned out to be one of the best.
Today I got a new friend: with Bartek having his own problems, Ania on the conference without access to skype and having decided that my problem is too minor to wake up other friends in the middle of the night (there is 9h difference between SF and Europe) I turned for help to somebody else and got much more than I asked for. It melted my heart. I just can not stop smiling. Call me Mona Lisa ;-)

Sometimes we have to lose something, to gain something. Luckily, usually the gain is much higher than the loss.
Sometimes life kicks us in the ass, just to remind us how lucky we are and to teach us appreciate things that we have.
Sometimes one kind word, one smile, one email or one open heart can turn the darkest night into a bright day. Try not to forget that next time life kicks you ;-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

misunderstandings

I start to think that either I am getting crazy or my understanding of English is below the basic communication levels. I give you three recent examples and you decide:
1. Last Sunday Mike, Lev and I were playing logical puzzles (precisely this one: two man go to the pub, order exactly the same drink, drink it, one dies and the other one not, why?) and apparently at certain moment Mike came up with the proper answer but somehow I did not hear it and made them play this game for long time afterwards...
2. On Monday our secretary told me that one other girl from the lab was looking for a roommate and I told her that I am happy with my current roommates and my house situation. However, she insisted that I should talk to this girl and telling her that I was not planning to move anywhere did not help. Later when I was analyzing that conversation in my thoughts I realized that our secretary was asking if I needed a roommate for a conference that whole our lab goes at the end of June...
3. And now a real highlight. I am still puzzled by that. While I tried to tell to a certain guy that I feel zero emotional connection to him (and I find him unbearably emotionally instable), he understood that I want to date him (WTF?!?). Is there an idiom in English that I misused or what?
So what is it? Bad English or 301.9?
Positive asspect of all this: the last thing I can say is that life is boring.

EDIT: I just read it and I have to say that I start to think that the situation described in the point 3 is hilarious. But trust me I was not laughing when it happened. Actually, I was pretty much speechless. How do I get into situations like this?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

creativity

Creativity is important to me. I like to design things, create them with my own hands and after they are finished stare at them for hours and contemplate what went wrong and why they do not look as I intended them to... Even tough in majority of cases I am disappointed with things that I created, still simple fact of being able to create something gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Upon arriving to San Francisco my first creative task was to turn my room into a place in which I would like to spend my free time. I think that went pretty well. It might come as a surprise to you, but I did not paint my room black and I even do not have black furniture in it. Somehow I felt that my room needs a lot of colors (and it is the most colorful room I ever had!!!). It is also not as minimalist in its decor as my previous rooms/flats used to be. Still, I feel very comfortable in it. That encouraged me to continue with my experiment of using strong, contrasting colors and geometric patterns and apply this style also to my windows.
There are two big windows in my room that, unfortunately, overlook walls of other parts of our house. So I decided to make "a stained glass"-kind of thing from paper that I would permanently install on them. I worked on this project on and off for the last five months (yes, I am slow...) and finally today I finished first part of it. Here is how it looks:





PS When I was choosing labels for this post I hesitated if I should use the tag "art" or not. Which brings me to the old question: what is art? Is something art because I call it so?

the rape of europa

"The rape of Europa" is a documentary showing the impact wars (in this particular case WWII) have on our cultural heritage. Stating the obvious, any war leads to loss of lives and that is definitely tragic. But what we not always realize, wars also mean destruction of many priceless art objects and from the perspective of future generations that might be even more tragic than loss of lives.



"The rape of Europa" shows how different attitudes towards art Nazists and Allies had. It is a movie definitely worth watching.

Friday, May 18, 2007

blood thicker than water

If you think that I am crazy what would you think about my father?



It's nice to see that also "the old" guys know how to party:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bryce NP

After a slightly disappointing hiking experience in Zion NP, we moved to Bryce NP, another geological phenomenon located in Utah. In my opinion, the rocks forming Bryce Canyon are much more spectacular than the ones in Zion. Therefore, I was surprised to see less tourists there than in the other park. Moreover, most of them were only driving between one viewpoint and the other. That means that most hiking trails are not overcrowded and as soon as you will start hiking under the rim, you will have the park just for yourself.

To get a decent length one-day hiking trail we had to combine several trails. If I remember correctly we started at Bryce Point with the Peekaboo Trail, then we switched to the Navajo and Queen's Garden Trails until we reached Sunset Point. From there we took the Rim Trail back to Sunrise and Bryce Points. It was a very nice hike that allowed us to admire the geological formations of Bryce both from the birds and ants :-) perspective.

Jochen at Bryce Point:


One of many spectacular hoodoos, also at Bryce Point:


On the Peekaboo Trail:


Our perspective was changing gradually as we were moving along the Peekaboo Trail. First we were looking down at the hoodoos:


And then we started to look up at them:


Again looking down at the hoodoos from the Rim trail:


I could not resist not to "steal" this photo from Jochen. It was also taken in Bryce NP but not in November as other pictures, but in January 2007, when he went back there with his family. Puzzling, isn't it?


As Francis Bacon said: Man, being the servant and interpreter of nature, can do and understand so much and so much only as he has observed in fact or in thought of the course of nature: beyond this he neither knows anything nor can do anything.

Zion NP

As I arrived in San Francisco two weeks before the starting date of my contract at UCSF (18th of November vs 1st of December 2006), I decided to spend part of that time traveling. I went to visit Jochen in Salt Lake City and from there we drove together first to Zion, and then to Bryce National Parks. Although Zion NP was truly impressive we did not enjoy it much. It was overcrowded with tourists and there were no reasonably long hiking trails. We ended up sticking together four 2-3h trails, but that was far from satisfying. If any of you ever goes there, I would strongly recommend to apply beforehand to the park headquarters for the backpacking permit and do one of their overnight trails.

Zion NP as seen from the car:


The Lower Emerald Pool trail follows a picturesque river:


Spectacular rock formations on the way to Angels Landing:


One of many arch rock formations in Zion:


The power of erosion:


On the way back from Emerald pools:

Friday, May 11, 2007

nemo tenetur seipsum accusare

After the fall of communism in 1989 Poland made a big mistake of not opening its secret service archives (unlike Germany or Czech Republic). This mistake is now exploited by the current governing party (Law and Justice) to eliminate political opponents.

In March this year they introduced the law (“the spy law”) according to which all teachers, academics and journalists were required to disclose if they had collaborated with the secret police. The person that would refuse to provide such statement (or would lie) would be barred from working for any public company for 10 years.
This law caused uproar in Poland for several reasons. First (and in my opinion the most important one) is that nobody should be forced to confess its own guilt. Most civilized countries have laws which protect people from self-incrimination (e.g. In the US the right to silence is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment). Second problem associated with this law is that it still does not open the archives of Polish secret services to the public. That means that even tough you are forced to state what was the status of your contacts with the secret police, you are not allowed to see what files they have on you. Moreover, in case it would be decided that you lied in your statement (let's sat you claim that you did not collaborated with the secret service, whereas according to their files you did), not only you loose your job, but also YOU have to go to court and prove that you are innocent and you never collaborated with them. Isn't it outrages?

Now it becomes even better. In response to that law, Polish left-wing, post-communist party publicly asked for the secret service archives to be opened and also asked the constitutional court to determine if this law conforms to Poland's constitution. The governing party refused to open the archives (as then it would not have a chance to manipulate their content) and did everything possible to delay the constitutional court from working on that law. Finally, when the court was ready to start working on it, one of the members of Law and Justice party stated publicly that two (out of 15) of the members of the court "were registered" in the archives of the secret services and, therefore, should be excluded from the court. Regardless of the fact that Polish Constitution guarantees complete independence and autonomy of the constitutional court (and its members) those two judges got removed (at least temporary) from the court!!! (But luckily the remaing thirteen judges still decided that the law in question indeed violates Poland's constitution. See a BBC article. I just found this NYT article which is better. Note however that both of these articles wrongly refer to the constitutional court as "the highest court".)

You might think that there is nothing wrong with excluding somebody who is registered by the secret service from one of the most important courts in the country. But here is a trick: the file of one of the excluded judges was only created AFTER Poland became independent from the communist rule in 1989, and the file of the other contains a sentence: "refused to collaborate". Clearly, Law and Justice does not want to use the secret service archives to cause chaos in the country and eliminated political opponents.

PS There is an excellent recent movie about German secret police called "The lives of the others" (Das Leben der Anderen). You should definitely see it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City was founded by a group of Mormon pioneers. It's location is definitely spectacular:

(Photo taken on the 1st of January 2007.)

Nowadays Salt Lake City is the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the L.D.S. or Mormon Church). The Mormon Temple (The Temple of Latter-day Saints) is the most characteristic building of the city.
Here captured during the day:


And here during the night:

(Both photos were taken on the 26th of December 2006.)

By law no building in the city can be higher than that temple and, moreover, all streets in downtown are called "South/North/West/East of Temple".

Under the Banner of Heaven written by Jon Krakauer gives a good introduction to the history of the Mormon Church and its structure today. This book reads as good as a criminal (well, actually at least in parts it IS a criminal...) and presents very interesting views on religious systems in general. Read it if you have time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

what I learnt from my LTRs

During one of the recent discussions I made a clearly wrong statement that I hadn’t learnt anything from my previous relationships. So I decided to sit down and think what I actually had learnt from them. Here is a list of things that I came up with:
1. I learnt that the best basis for the relationship is to give the other person ultimate freedom
2. I learnt that not always you can have what you want, and that not always what you want is the best for you
3. I learnt that "to love" and "to be in love" is not the same and that neither of them is sufficient for successful relationship
4. I learnt to talk openly about problems
5. I learnt to ask for help and to accept it
6. I learnt to separate love from sex
7. I learnt that a compromise is not a solution for everything and that I do not want my partner to compromise too much for me (even if he is willing to do that)
Probably this list is incomplete, but it does have major points in it. Thanks to all past boyfriends for bearing with me while I was learning those things. Let me know what else I should change. Be realistic tough, I will never be sixteen anymore ;-)

Sunday, May 6, 2007

bike ride

On Saturday Dr. O and I went for a moderately long bike ride (56 km from the door of my house). We biked through the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, then we took "Paradise Road" to Tiburon, from where we took a ferry back to San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf). Below you can see pictures from this trip.

When not covered by the fog Golden Gate Bridge is beautiful:


For Mike, our mushroom loving friend, Dr. O, his bike and the champignon:


Wind in the face, Golden Gate Bridge in the background:


San Francisco's downtown as seen from the ferry:


Sealions, tourists and Pier 39:

bang for the last time

Ann and others claim that it is not possible to see any change in my hairstyle from the previously posted pictures. I hope that these two will satisfy you.



(un)expected phone call

Jochen called me today. We did not talk (or see each other) since the day we broke up, which was almost 4 months ago. During this time we only exchange carefully written, well-balanced emails. I asked him several times if he would like to come to visit or if we could at least talk over the phone, but he said that it was too early for him and if we would do that, he would not have a feeling that we broke up.
So for the last four months I have been waiting for today to come. And now when it came I do not know what I feel and I do not know what to think. I hoped that after we talk I would feel better, but that's not the case. Actually, I feel worse. Feelings of guilt and pain that I thought that I managed to get rid off a month ago, came back. But I also feel a bit relieved because at least he called. Moreover, he wants to come and visit within next six weeks. And as much as I am scared of that, I am also very much looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

In English and war there are no rules

As one of my resolutions stated I wanted to improve my English. That's why I was very happy to find an English course offered by UCSF to foreign postdocs, which aimed at improving our writing skills. The first class of this course took place last Monday and its subject was "Articles". As all of you know (or noticed in this blog) concept of articles does not exist in Polish language, that's why we (I) insert them semi-randomly wherever we think they might make sense. So I hoped that this class would help me to understand the rules of articles usage. I couldn't have been more wrong.
It seems that even native speakers have no idea which article should be placed where. We had three teachers and, therefore, three different opinions on this subject. (BTW: It would have been much smarter to have four teachers as there are only 3 options: no article, the or a/an; so with four teachers we would have had at least one of these options supported by two people.) At certain moment our teachers started shouting at each other (!?!) and I was almost sure that soon they would start using their fists too.
Here you can see a sample text that we had during the class. Our task was to fill in the blanks with the appropriate articles.

(1).... Sequence comparison between (2).... falcipain-2 and (3).... falcipain-3 showed (4).... 68% similarity. (5).... C-Terminal insert near (6).... C-terminus in (7).... mature domain mediates (8)..... binding to (9)..... hemoglobin. (10)..... Inhibition of (11).... cysteine proteases causes (12).... accumulation of (13).... undegraded hemoglobin and blocks (14).... parasite development. (15).... Falcipain-2 and (16)..... falcipain-3 were validated as (17)..... good drug target for (18).... malarial infection. Here, we report (19).... three-dimensional crystal structure of (20).... falcipain-2 with (21).... small molecule inhibitor E-64. (22).... Structure of (23).... falcipain-2 with (24).... E-64 reveals (25) .... details of (26).... interaction at (27).... active site. In addition, (28).... structure of (29).... falcipain-2 with (30).... E-64 will help to design and improve (31).... potential drug against (32).... malarial infection.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

San Diego Zoo

Last weekend I spent visiting my dear friend Bartek in San Diego. We spent most of the time talking about good old times and complaining about uncertain future. But we did find time to visit the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Actually, we liked it so much that we went there both on Saturday and on Sunday. I was not sure how much I would enjoy seeing animals in the zoo having experienced seeing many of them in the wild, but San Diego Zoo was so great and had so many animals that I hadn't seen before that it was still a very enjoyable experience.

Here is a photo of Bartek and me in front of the zoo:


On this picture you can see Komodo Dragon. I think it was the first time that I saw it. Even tough it did not move, I liked it a lot:


I believe it was also the first time that I saw okapi:


Sometimes it was not easy to spot some of the animals:


I was very impressed by this albino Burmese Python:


Guess whose ass is that:


Classic beauties:


Big attraction of the zoo were also peacocks that were allowed to walk freely wherever they wanted:


I also like a lot their little garden of insect-eating plants:


Allen's Swamp Monkeys were a real highlight of the zoo. As you can see from the photos below these guys can swim and dive!








Bonus 1: Two different species of bears:


Bonus 2: Two different species of elephants: