Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Shoot First, then Ask Questions

There is a new prototype camera on the market that I would not mind laying my hands on. Apparently, the camera allows a picture’s focus to be adjusted after it is taken: NYT link.

Before I read the NYT article in full, I was skeptical about it, thinking that the focus adjustment will be a photo post-processing trick. But it seems that it's not the case, and that the camera has a special sensor "microlens array", which captures more light data from many more angles than a conventional camera.

It will be interesting to see how this camera performs in real life and if it will indeed be the next breakthrough in digital camera technology.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

San Pablo Ridge Loop in Wildcat Canyon

On one summer day Anil and I went hiking in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, located in the East Bay near El Cerrito. The hike we did was 6.2 miles long loop made by stitching together Wildcat Creek, Mezue, San Pablo Ridge and Belgum Trails. It took us around 3h to complete this hike as it was relatively flat (just 700 feet elevation gain).

The hike was lovely, leading through a series of rolling hills covered with grass and wildflowers. I could imagine that the views from the top of San Pablo Ridge could be quite spectacular as well, if we had been more lucky and got there on a day in which downtown San Francisco was not covered by a blanket of fog. As it is very easy and quick to get to the trailhead of the hike, I'm sure we will revisit this hike on a better weather-wise day.

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park is dog friendly.

Rolling hills of Wildcat Canyon:

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kayaking in Tomales Bay

In June, Anne and Sebastian invited Anil and I to join them and our common friend, Sophie, on a kayaking trip in Tomales Bay. It was a very first kayaking trip for Anil and he was very excited about it.

The day was perfect: it was sunny, warm but not hot, and there was no sign of fog (which is somewhat unusual for that area.) The water was also pretty quiet: there were almost no waves and the current was not too strong. All that made for a perfect first kayaking experience for Anil and very enjoyable trip for the rest of us.

Then, to top it off, Tomales Bay is an amazing destination for kayaking. There is lots of wildlife (mostly birds) and it is completely oblivious to kayaks and people in them. Thanks to that you can get pretty close to any animal you encounter, and you can observe it in its natural environment.

Anil and I definitely had a great time during this little expedition, even though we were unable to make our kayak go straight forward... I guess we need a lot of practice. We definitely should try to go kayaking again some time soon.

A few photos from our trip:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

1'000 Posts

This blog was born in November 2006, after I moved from good old Europe to the new and exciting US. Its key purpose throughout these years has been to update my family and friends on my life. I think this function has been served pretty well, though some of my friends would have preferred to see more personal posts.

In the future, I'm going to try to make it a bit more personal from time to time, but I think finding a good balance between objective/informative and subjective/personal won't be easy. One idea that I have is to increase the number of posts written in "real time." Rather than reporting after the trip, I'll try to write the posts while still in the heat of the moment. Let's see if it will catch on.

Over the years the blog has also turned into a photo-blog. The primary reason behind that was to make "reading" of it easier to my parents, who do not speak English. For the same reason I also briefly considered switching from writing in English into Polish, and I'm glad that I didn't. My writing in English vastly improved over the five years of blog writing. I find it much easier to convey the message I want and it takes me much less time than it did when I started the blog. I also make fewer spelling and grammar mistakes than I used to. This is not to say that my writing is perfect. It is still far away from where I want it to be, but it's getting there.

Posting photos has also been good for me. It has helped me to keep my photos (and memories) organized and it also helps me to work on the quality of my photos. I believe my photos also got better with time, and I hope they will get even better when I'll finally find some time that I can set aside specifically for photography.

In general, I'm very proud of myself for sticking to blog writing for a such long time, and for doing it pretty consistently over the years. I'm also enjoying this adventure, so you can count on me posting here for a few more years. It seems that I'm not in danger of running out of subjects to write about as I still have 105 blog post drafts that are waiting to be finished and published (and that number does not even include posts from my most recent trip to Europe!). Yes, it means that life is treating me well. It is fun and exciting, and brings a lot of new experiences my way. For which I'm extremely grateful.

If you have any suggestions/comments on how I can make this blog better, please let me know. I'm writing as much for you as for myself, so your feedback is important to me.

Be well and I hope to hear from you soon.

Yours truly,
Monika aka monsun aka scientika

Monday, August 22, 2011

Views from Twin Peaks

When Bartek and Gary visited me in San Francisco, I took them to the top of Twin Peaks. We went there around sundown, which is the best time to take pictures of the city from this viewpoint. Sadly, there was a lot of haze that day over San Francisco downtown, so the pictures did not come out as well as I would have wished for.

Bartek and Gary at top of Twin Peaks:

Bartek, the photographer:

San Francisco's downtown and the Bay Bridge:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cable Cars in San Francisco

Finally, after four and a half years of living in San Francisco, I found time to ride one of its famous cable cars. I would have probably stay a cable care virgin for many more years, if it weren't for Bartek and Gary. During their last June's visit to San Francisco they convince me to join them on a cable car trip. We took the most touristy Powell-Hyde line from Market St to Fisherman's Wharf that passes through Union Square, Nob and Russian Hills, the top of famous Lombard Street and Ghiradelli Square.

It was fun to ride it, though not as much fun as you would figure from the movies featuring the cable cars. E.g. it is not allowed to jump on and off a cable car once it is in motion. On the positive note, it is allowed to lean out of the car for the purpose of taking cool pictures.

The cable car:

Views from the top of Lombard Street:

Bartek and Gary in the cable car:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chinatown in San Francisco

A few pictures from Chinatown in San Francisco:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lab Retreat Fun

At the end of May my lab went on a two-day lab retreat, which I organized pretty much single-handedly. I put a lot of effort into organizing it, so I was very happy to see that it went well and everybody enjoyed it.

The primary purpose of the lab retreat was to have in-depth discussions on selected few interesting topics in our area of research. The secondary purpose was to have a lot of fun. And a lot of fun we had :)

I was very happy (and proud) to see that all my labmates tried to make the lab retreat as entertaining as possible, and that they came up with many ingenious games even for the scientific part of the retreat. For example, one group created a game with similar mechanics to Magic: The Gathering based on theories of aging:

And to make it even more interesting, they traced the remaining life each player had on a lifespan graph:

I, on the other hand, organized an event called "Bio-Olympics". It included three activities: plate toss, rope pulling and building of a worm.

Plate toss. If you look carefully, you will see several agar plates up in the air:

Rope pulling:

My boss as a worm, and the rest of the lab behind her:

Lab on the rock:

In the evening we spent 2 hours playing science taboo:

And when we were done with it, we first played Mafia/Werewolf and then Jenga:

On the second day my awesome friend Nicole, who is an equally awesome personal coach, led a team building session for us. It was a highly valuable experience for us and we all loved it and truly appreciated Nicole's help. Thank you so much, Nicole!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Violin Performance

Concurrently with my art show there was violin performance and exhibition by Suzuki Violin Studio run by my friend. Suzuki method of teaching kids playing violin seems pretty awesome - kids learn by playing games, singing songs and imitating adults playing violin. All kids that performed seemed to have a lot of fun, which I think is very important. Needless to say, I also had a lot of fun watching the kids perform. They were super-adorable and professional at the same time.

A few photos from the performance and violin exhibition:

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Photos at the Crocker Art Museum

I got incredibly lucky and got offered an amazing opportunity to showcase several of my photos at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. I decided to display five photos that I took in 2006 in Namibia. Not many people travel there, so I thought these photos would be of interest to a wider audience. Don't tell anybody, but I did not have a fancy SLR camera then and all of these photos were taken with a compact digital camera. Yet another proof that any camera can take museum-worthy photos.

Here are my photos and I in the museum:

With my extremely supportive husband:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sacramento Crocker Art Museum

At the end of May a few of my photos were exhibited at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, giving me a chance to look at other art exhibited there. The Crocker is a typical small city American museum: it showcases everything from paintings to sculptures, from traditional to modern, from the US, as well as all over the world.

I was not too impressed with the traditional paintings in the museum (though Anil liked them), but I enjoyed several pieces of the contemporary art. I also liked the building in which the museum is located and I'll make sure to visit it again next time I'm near Sacramento.

A few artworks that I liked: