Friday, August 31, 2007

Monika and Bike: Summer 1982

Hmm, so already 25 years ago I was biking everywhere in dresses...


It seems that when you are a child many things are dificult. But at least you get many chances to master the art of falling and raising up:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

social spiders

NYT reports unusal sighting at Lake Tawakoni State Park (located in Texas, 50 miles away from Dallas). Several acres of this park are covered with a huge web containing millions of spiders, which is pretty unusual for these mostly solitary animals. Check out the photo of this phenomenon at the NYT webpage - it's pretty spooky.

Monika Summer 1983

When I was five-and-a-half we went with my parents for holidays to Baltic Sea. We stayed in city called Mielno. There I learnt how to swim as at that time there was no swimming pool in my home city. It seems that it was not that easy:

This was also age when I started to be aware of differences between girls and boys and when I thought that I am too big to be photographed naked. My father tried to take a picture of me when I was washing myself, which made me burst into tears:

Monika Summer 1981

Here I am 3.5 years old.

My love for biking started very early:

Here I am on my grandparents' farm, sitting on the well:

Here I am on the playground next to my house in Pila with my cousin Agnieszka (I am the one in the front):

Monika Winter 1981

Here I am. I am three years old and I am enjoying the snow:


Now I am going to terrorize you with photos from my childhood. As an award for guessing how my father looked when he was younger I received from him lots of photos of me as a child that were previously not easily accessible to me as we had them in 35mm negative-format.
Enjoy or come back in a week or so when I am done with photos...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Troyan horse?

Today I had one of my almost-weekly meetings with my boss. The first weird thing is that I am the only person in the lab that has such regular meetings scheduled with the boss. The second strange thing is that my boss wants to meet with me even when I have no new results to report and she says "we do not have to talk about data, let's just talk about science in general" and moreover she seems to be very keen on having these meetings. I do enjoy getting so much attention from her, but I feel that I do not need these meetings that much and I know that there are many people in the lab that would like to have them and would benefit much more from them than I do.

But the weirdest thing happened today. My boss asked me if I had been on holidays (that was actually the very first question she asked me during our meeting today). I kind of understood it as a complaint that she haven't seen me for some time, so I told her that I had taken one of Fridays off two or three weeks ago. Then she said that I definitely should go on holidays. I replied that I would have loved to (as my friends were coming to visit California in two weeks time and I would like to travel with them for a week or so) but that I was in the middle of four-week long experiment, so I would not really have an idea how to arrange for a break in such situation. My boss said that I should not worry about that and she promised to arrange for my experiment to be taken care of while I would be gone. Within hour after our meeting a person responsible for one of our lab technicians, as well as this technician, came to me to asked when I would be gone and what kind of help I would need as our boss asked them to help me with that experiment. Isn't that extremely nice and thoughtful of my boss?

hiking in Muir Woods

Last Sunday Anne, Sebastian and I went for a hike in Muir Woods National Monument which is mostly known for its old-growth redwood forrest. Most of the redwoods located there are between 400 to 800 years old, and the tallest of them is around 85 meters high. I find redwoods very impressive not only because of they age and height, but I also find their perfectly straight brown-red trunk very beautiful. However, I have to say that I was much more impressed with the redwood forest of Redwood National Park which is home to Hyperion, the tallest living thing on earth (it's 115 meters high). Muir Woods seems to be very touristy, whereas Redwood NP is almost completely desolate, allowing for better enjoyment of nature.
Still, we enjoyed ourselves and our hike a lot. Below you can see few pictures that I took on that day.

Anne and Sebastian are discussing fire marks on the cross-section of this more than 800 year old redwood:

One of the lizards on our way:

A success! I had time to change lenses and take a photo of this little deer eating its lunch on the other side of the creek:

Again my tele-lens in action. This Blue Robin was sitting on the bush around 30 meters away from us:

"Coastal View Trail" did not offer any views thanks to a very thick fog, so I had to take pictures of something else instead:

The same raven as on the photo above preparing to land:

Typical hills of Muir Woods:

Muir Beach:

View from the top of Divisadero Street:

quiz from my father

The previous post "konkurs dla taty" was my reply to my father's quiz for me. He sent me five old photos and asked to find him on them. In four cases I am 100% sure that I identified him correctly, and only in the case of the first photo I have doubts if I made a correct choice.

EDIT: My father confirmed that I made a mistake on this one. He is the third boy from left in the front row (that would have been my second choice).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

konkurs dla taty

Prosze rozpoznac, ktory stol laboratoryjny nalezy do corki:
Which bench is mine?






so long and thanks for all the fish

I've just found out that one of my best friends got married last weekend. I'm not disappointed that I was not invited for the ceremony or that I was not even informed afterwards. But I wonder if there is something wrong in my behavior if my very close friend does not let me know about his wedding because "I had other plans for that weekend already". He should have known that I would have cancelled everything to be with him on such special day.

Anyway, join me in wishing Bartek and Manja all the best for the future.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kenyan nightmare: Kanga Tours

After our terrible experience with Kanga Tours, we promised to ourselves that after coming back to Europe we would complain about them (and especially about the bribe attempt) to "appropriate Kenyan authorities". But in the end, we never did anything about it. Partially because we came back to our busy lives, and partially because I am not really sure how to identify the "appropriate authorities" in this case.

I've just googled "Kanga Tours" to see if anything interesting on them would come up and I found this:
Kanga Tours car rental manages a fleet of well-maintained vehicles ranging from 4x4wd Suzuki vitara, pajeros, landcruisers, saloon cars and safari minibus with pop up roof fitted with radio communication system.
My blood is boiling when I read about their "fleet of well-maintained vehicles"...

Luckily, I also found another webpage where tourists can leave their comments about different African tour operators, so I happily left my comments about Kanga tours there: my comments. I hope that it I will prevent at least few other tourists from making the same mistake as we did...

Friday, August 24, 2007

domestic violence

You are sitting comfortable (and naked) on your sofa drinking vodka and watching TV and then your ex-wife (with whom you share the flat) sets your penis on fire. Afterwards you wonder what you did to deserve this...

So everyday thousands if not millions of women get beaten at their houses, by their own husbands, and nobody gives a damn. But one guy's penis gets on fire and that makes it to the news. If alien civilization would be reading our newspapers they could get an impression that women are the stronger and more violent sex.

The main text reads: "Because she again did not have an orgasm."
The small print says: "Stop domestic violence".

American savoir-vivre (or lack thereof)

This time I am going to complain about table manners. Did you know that Americans put a fork on the right side of the plate and a knife on the left one? The first time I saw it, I thought that it was a mistake from the side of the person that was distributing forks and knives on the table. To spare this poor guy - what I thought would be - an embarrassment, I walked after him and "corrected" the position of all knives and all forks. Now I see that it was a faux paux from my side...
Moreover, even in the restaurants waiters do not know the symbolism behind arranging the cutlery on the plate that indicates when you are done with your food.
And the worse of all is that most Americans when they touch glasses of other people while toasting DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. How rude is that?

PS Cheers in 50 languages

Thursday, August 23, 2007

roads in Kenya

In the previous post about corruption in Kenya, I already mentioned that roads in Kenya (and to be fair also in Uganada) are in terrible state. Here are few pictures that illustrate that.

This is the major highway in Kenya connecting its capital, Nairobi, with a major city at the coast, Mombasa:

This is other major road in Kenya connecting Nairobi with Masai Mara NP, the most visited national park in Kenya:

In all countries that we visited (Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, South Africa) cars drive (in theory) on the left side of road. But in practice, as you could see from the pictures posted above, cars just drive wherever they want, trying to find an optimal route that will allow them to avoid holes in the road.

But 90% of roads in the country looked more or less like this:

Or like this:

This photo was taken after our fuel pump decided to stop pumping the fuel and we had to stop in one of the villages to have it repaired.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

corruption in Kenya

BBC reports that Kenyan police is one of the most corrupt ones in the world (according to Transparency International). Why I am not surprised...

During our last year's holidays in Kenya we ended up getting to know the chief of Nairobi Police Department.
We made a mistake of renting a car from local, Kenyan, company, instead of using one of the trusted European or American ones (like Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europecar - they had them all). Stupidly we decided to go for "Kanga tours". I kind of liked the idea of supporting the local economy, so I was initially fine with that. But after the first day of our "adventures" with the car, I was strongly advocating for returning it and getting a decent car from other, this time internationally known, company.
Just to give you an idea, here is list of things that went wrong with the car during 10 days that we used it:

  • Our troubles started already 5 minutes after we rented the car. After we stopped at a gas station to tank it, we could not start engine anymore. With help of local mechanics we realized that there was loose connection between the battery and the engine. It was good that we learned it there, as the same thing happened to us two days later, when we were on a safari in Masai Mara NP. So when the car did not want to start again when we are just 10 meters away from the group of several lions, we did not have to waste time on figuring out what is wrong. Fede got out of the car, tightened the loose connection and we could start driving again. Luckily lions were not interested in us as they had just have breakfast. But you can imagine that the situation was still pretty tense for us.
  • On the second day that we had this car, the bonnet opened while we were driving totally obscuring the view. We were lucky that this did not happened on the highway, but on not so busy road in the national park.
  • We got 3 flat tires during these 10 days (though I have to admit that roads were terrible there, so maybe that's normal).
  • When we were going through Masai land next to Amboseli NP, a gear changing stick disconnected from the gear changing box (sorry, I do not know proper words for these things, but I guess that you get a picture) and for some time two people had to be involved into gear changing, but luckily after some time it somehow repaired itself.
  • On one beautiful day when it started raining our car decided to stop and not move anymore - a mechanic concluded that the fuel pump was blocked and cleaned it for us (can you imagine? he completely disassembled it, cleaned each single part and put it back together... in any normal country when the fuel pump gets broken, you get a new one as nobody will spend 24h on cleaning it).
  • Although our car was 4WD, I think the four-wheel drive mode never worked.
  • Also the engine of the car was somehow weak, even on the highway we had troubles going faster than 80km/h.
  • Luxuries like: radio, air-conditioning were not working (but who cares anyway).
  • 2 out of 4 door were not opening from inside.
  • Occasionally, after you opened the window, you could not close it - we had to move it up holding the glass between our hands.
  • I have no idea how that happened but the front lights of the car somehow moved up, which meant that they were not providing good illumination of the road for us and at the same time they were blinding all drivers coming from the opposite direction. So all the other drivers thought that we are using our long beams and were switching on their long beams, making driving for us even harder...
  • Part of car's mask (above the front wheel on the driver's side) was loose and we had to use a climbing road to secure it tightly to the car.

I guess that is more or less it. Not much as for 10 days, right? At least our car kept us busy and entertained and thanks to its malfunction we got better to know Kenyan way of doing business.
The best part was, however, when we came back to Nairobi and complained to the car owner about the car. His response was more than amazing. He basically claimed that we ruined his car. He behaved as if he had given give us a new car, and we would be trying to give him back this 20-year old wreck. So he claimed that we owed him money and refused to give us back our caution money (and that was a lot of money, around 800$ if I remember correctly). We argued with him for around half a day and in the end we all went to the central police station of Nairobi. I was surprised that there we got immediately led to the chief of the department and that he, himself, was questioning all of us. I was also surprised that there was no other policeman present at that time in the room and that nobody was taking notes of what we were saying. Towards the end of that meeting it was more and more clear to us that he was friends with the car rental company owner and that there was no fair way out for us from that situation. However, thanks to our persistence and all the arguing we at least got part of our money back loosing only around 250$.
I guess the worst part of all that was that because we rented car from this highly unreliable company we lost lots of time of our precious holidays. First, we lost half a day waiting for the car rental company to hand over the car with all the documents to us. Then we lost lots of time every time that we had to repair the car ourselves or have it repaired by mechanics (it would add up to more than a day). We also lost half a day when we argued to get our caution money back. And finally, we also lost half a day and an opportunity to go to Tanzania.
When we tried to cross Kenyan-Tanzanian border we found out that we were missing an important document that was necessary to get customs clearance for the car. So we got stuck for few hours in no-land between Kenya and Tanzania waiting for the rental company owner to show up with the missing document. I remember Fede calling him and shouting: "We are f**king stuck here on the f**king border and it is all your fault." Local salesman were looking at him terrified and were telling us to tell him to relax. We told them back that Fede was Italian and that all Italians were like that. I also remember them telling us in ironic way after hearing about our troubles with the car: "Africa, hakuna matata", which means "Africa, no problem".
But there was a problem and we did not like the solution that was offered to it.

This nice poster was hanging on the wall of Kenyan customs office in Namanga:

Here, Jochen, Elena, Fede and I (not a picture) are waiting in tension for the outcome of the negotiations between the rental company car owner and the chief of customs office in Namanga:

This is document which would allow us to take the rental car to Tanzania. We had tried to obtain it unsuccessfully for the past three hours and we were told that we could not get it as we were missing important car documents. Then, the car rental company owner showed up (still without all necessary documents) and all of a sudden we were issued the document we needed to cross Tanzanian border:

(Sorry for the poor quality of this photo - I was taking this picture in a hurry after I stole (!!!) this document from the customs office.)

You might think that there was a happy end - we wanted to cross the border, the guy who owns the car rental company came and "solved" the problem, so we should be happy. But he made a mistake - he told us that he had to pay a bribe (not high, equivalent of 40-50$). We decided that we could not allow that and that we could not possibly be part of that. That giving up once, is giving up always. And that Kenya would never change if tourists would obediently agree on paying the bribes. So we refused to cross the border and started a BIG argument involving lots of shouting from both sides and attracting a lot of attention both from local people and other white tourists passing the border.
But we were proud of ourselves and I still stand behind our decision even though it meant not seeing Ngorongoro Crater, which is one of my biggest life dreams.

mad cow disease and feminism

again from bash:
[PsychoTeacher] These kids nowadays have something wrong with their heads...
[Krzeslo] Why? What did they do?
[PsychoTeacher] One of the questions on the test asked to explain what the mad cow disease is.
[PsychoTeacher] And one kid wrote: it's disease which attacks mainly middle-aged women and turn them into blood drinking beasts that want to dominate the world. The women affected by this disease are called "feminists".
[Krzeslo] hahaha, I think you should let this kid pass...
[PsychoTeacher] Well, the headmaster is apparently also feminist, so I think I have no choice...

[PsychoTeacher] Te dzieciaki to jednak mają cós nie tak w głowach...
[Krzeslo] co znowu narobiły ? :)
[PsychoTeacher] na kartkówce jedno z zadań polegało na krótkim wyjaśnieniu pojęcia "Choroba wściekłych krów"
[PsychoTeacher] to jakiś pajac napisał tak: choroba ta atakuje głownie kobiety w średnim wieku i przemienia je krwiożerczą bestie która chce zawładnać całym światem. Kobiete dotkniętą tą chorobą nazywa sie rownież "Femenistką"
[Krzeslo] hahaha xD ja bym zaliczył :D
[PsychoTeacher] dyrektorka niby też jest feministką więc wole nie ryzykować ;)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Polish Mafia in Dresden

A recipe for a good party: invite a critical mass of Polish people (depending on their characters it can be as little as 2), give them some alcohol (though it is not absolutely necessary) and ask them to sing any song they like.

Ewa, a newly hired Polish-French PI, was convinced by Tomek that it is her moral obligation to host a party for all Polish people working at the MPI. I think that she herself was a bit shocked with a direction that the party took...

On this video Agnieszka tries to "translate" one of the Polish cult songs ("Autobiography" by Perfect) to Jochen (one of very few not-Polish people attending the party):

Another cult song ("To be always where you are" by Lady Pank):

BTW: here is an original video clip of this song from the 80's..., shot in Chicago, I believe

And if this song is not sung then a party was clearly a failure ("Hey, Hawks!"):

As you could hear this song gives an excellent opportunity to join in singing even to non-Polish speakers. It is enough that you will occasionally shout "hey, hey" and you will not feel left out. This song is also a great song to sing on the streets of your city when you walk back home with your friends (or alone) as it is very dynamic and has a good, fast rhythm ideal to accompany your walk, but also because it will surely wake up everybody in the range of 500 meters letting them know how great time you just had.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention. This is Polish patriotic song about love to Ukraine... (We have also another very famous Polish epic poem that starts with words: "Lithuania, my country! You are as good health: how much one should prize you, he only can tell who has lost you". Moreover, action of this poem takes place in Soplicowo, which lies in contemporary Belarus...)
O, Yalta, o, Curzon.

Acid Drinkers live from Woodstock 2007

song: Acidofilia

Monday, August 20, 2007

Everybody can fly

This is one of my first flights from Buchenberg (mountain in German Alps) during the second part of the paragliding course. The elevation difference between starting point and landing was around 400 meters (it could have been much more if there were strong thermals). I know that from the video it looks like I was getting very close to the trees and avoided crashing into them in the last moment, but in reality there was still plenty of time to avoid them.

Here I am in the sky:

Here I just landed (notice how close I landed to the landing point - marked by a piece of cloth on the ground):

Here I am happy that I successfully landed and I walk with my paraglider to the packing area to prepare for the next flight:

I still do not have a full paragliding license as the weather was not cooperating during my last paragliding course. The worse is that I do not really have idea how to find time to finish the course. Maybe it's highest time to check what American regulations for getting license are and try to get it here instead of Germany.


Getting into a train, doesn't matter which
Not thinking about luggage
Not thinking about a ticket
Keeping the green stone in the hand
Looking at everything as it stays behind

That's a trip I want to take
But will I ever dare...

By Robert Gawlinski and Wilki

original Maryla Rodowicz version

Światem zaczęła rządzić jesień
Topi go w żółci i czerwieni
A ja tak pragnę czemu nie wiem
Uciec pociągiem od jesieni

Uciec pociągiem od przyjaciół
Wrogów, rachunków, telefonów
Nie trzeba długo się namyślać
Wystarczy tylko wybiec z domu

Wsiąść do pociągu byle jakiego
Nie dbać o bagaż,
Nie dbać o bilet
Ściskając w ręku kamyk zielony
Patrzeć jak wszystko zostaje w tyle

W taką podróż chcę wyruszyć
Gdy podły nastrój i pogoda
Zostawić lóżko, Ciebie, szafę
Niczego mi nie będzie szkoda

Zegary staną niepotrzebne
Pogubię wszystkie kalendarze
W taką podróż chcę wyruszyć
Tylko czy kiedyś się odważę

Wsiąść do pociągu ...

UCSF gym (Bakar center)

I am very fortunate to have a nice new gym just next to my work. The gym is really great - it has two swimming pools (one of them is on the roof with the view to downtown SF), a small climbing wall (also on the roof), one racquetball and two squash courts, three badminton courts, volleyball, basketball and indoor soccer fields, plus all the regular stuff that usually gyms offer. They also have plenty of organized classes (like yoga, spinning, body pump, hip hop, kick-boxing and others).
I have to say that I was not impressed with any class that I took there (I tried different yoga classes, hip hop and body pump). At least I did not like any of them to the extent that I would be willing to reorganize my life in the way to be able to attend them.
So it seems that the thing that I do most often in the gym is playing squash. I usually play it one to three times a week, and I would definitely not mind playing it more often (even every day). I am also trying to force myself to start going to the swimming pool, but to be honest, I find swimming boring. However, as my plans for near future include learning scuba diving and windsurfing (or kite-surfing or maybe even surfing), it seems logical to start practicing swimming beforehand. So here, officially, I commit myself to go to the swimming pool before the end of the week. Kick my ass if I don't.

This is a picture of the gym taken on 26th of July 2007:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

six continents

Internet does make the world small. I am not sure if you realized but I added to my site a ClustrMap that tracks location of visitors to my blog. According to it, somehow, magically, Internauts from six different continent visited my blog (moreover, that happened only within last seven days). I am more than curious to know how these people managed to find their way here. If you are one of the random visitors - let me know what brought you here and thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Masai invasion

After unsuccessful attempt to cross Kenyan-Tanzanian border we decided to travel via Amboseli and Tsavo NPs to Mombasa on Kenyan side of the border. We stopped in Namanga to tank our car and then...

Masais had very interesting selling techniques. For example they could put a bracelet on your hand and say: "that's a gift", just to say few seconds later: "now you give me a gift"... A truly interesting and enjoyable experience.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Art is the wor(l)d

SF, somewhere around 18-20th and Branan, 22nd of June 2007

Did I mention that I have a weakness for murals?

Je suis...

Wow. I do not remember a movie that touched me as much as this one:

J'ai cent ans. Je voudrais viver plus longtemps...

directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
title in Polish "Gadajace Glowy", in French "Tetes Parlantes"

There is an English version (subtitles) on youtube, unfortunately, in three parts:
part 1 part 2 part 3

Europe travel plans

Dear Friends in old good Europe! I'm coming soon!
Here is my when and where:

Dresden - arrival on Friday, 16th of November at 13:00
Depending on how many people wish to see me and if somebody will be that kind to provide me with a place to sleep, I was thinking to stay in Dresden till Sunday morning.
Dear ex-lab mates, if my flight is not delayed I shall come to MPI promptly, hope you will be there! And would be great if we could go to Il giardinio or Triangle...

Warsaw - arrival on Sunday (18th) evening

Pila - arrival on Tuesday (20th)
Does anybody still live there? Ela? Emilka will you be there? Please, please!!!

Poznan - arrival on Saturday (24th) afternoon
I am kind of hoping that Anut and Moli will adopt me for few days. On Saturday evening I was thinking to go for drinks somewhere (place to be established) with anybody who wants to see me that I do not have to say the same stories all the time. Individual appointments are possible for Sunday and Monday (please apply via email ;-)).

San Francisco - arrival on Tuesday (27th) evening

Please notice that I am not coming to Europe for Christmas. But I will be back in April 2008 for Ola's wedding:

Poznan - arrival at 17:55 on Thursday, 24th of April 2008

Pila - arrival on Saturday morning

No further plans yet... Open to suggestions. Would anybody feel like going to Moscow/Saint Petersburg for a few days? (There will be long May weekend, so holidays should not be an issue.)

See you all soon. I already can not wait...

hiking/biking and photography

For the moment, I have two lenses for my camera: 18-55 and 55-200mm. I was considering buying just a camera body and one 18-200mm lens, but I had problems finding a place that would sell just a body of Nikon D40 - it always comes "in kit" with a lens (usually 18-55, occasionally 18-135). Moreover, 18-200mm lens is very expensive and its demand significantly exceeds supply, which means that after you place your order you have to wait for it 1-3 months. That's why I decided to go for two-lens solution.
Now I kind of regret it. I lost few good shots (of wild animals) because I did not have my telelens handy enough or I was too slow in changing it. Also during hiking carrying two lenses with you in the way that you could easily access both of them is really tricky and not very practical.
I learned my lesson: next time I go hiking I will only take the 18-55 lens with me. I will only carry both lenses with me when I will go somewhere with a specific aim of taking pictures. The same will apply to other lenses that I will potentially buy in the future (I decided that I will only buy a wide-angle or macro lens when the quality of my photos with the current camera/lens set up will justify further investment in photography).

Today I went biking with my camera, and finally having a telelens with me paid off. I had time to exchange the lenses and take this picture of (1) Palace of Fine Arts in the foreground, (2) Alcatraz in the center and (3) the coastline in the background:

The fog is slowly approaching:

Golden Gate Bridge from the west:

Golden Gate Bridge from the east:

biking in San Francisco

I was biking today afternoon on Dolores Street and I got passed by a car not more than 15 cm away from my body. That was not very pleasant and it was definitely dangerous as both me and the car were very fast at that moment. (Moreover, there are two lanes going on Dolores in each direction and there was not that much traffic on the street, so the car could have easily used the other lane than the one on which I was biking.)
As the car stopped on the red light and the window on the driver's site was open, I decided to explain to the driver that it is very dangerous to pass so close to cyclists and ask him/her to pay more attention to that in future. I did it as kindly as possible and got yelled back, that this was a street and not a bike lane!!!
That would explain a lot. If all car drivers think that bikers are using "illegally" streets, that would explain why they are so aggressive and not friendly towards cyclists. That also shows that this particular driver (a) did not study properly for her driver's license exam and (b) never rode a bike in the city (as then she would have known that it is impossible to bike only on bike lanes).

Another problem are bike lanes themselves. There are many of them in SF, which is great. Unfortunately, they are designed in the way that you bike between moving cars (to your left) and parked cars (to your right). It happens regularly that the door of the parked car opens just when you approach it. I have no idea how it happens. Is it because drivers do not look in their mirror before they open the door? Or is it so difficult to see a bike? Or they just do not care?

On a positive note I wanted to say that I realized today that bike routes are very well planned in SF. Whenever I was biking somewhere and a hill in front of me was getting steeper and steeper, just before it reached "you got to be kidding"-steepness, the bike route would change its direction in such way that extensively steep hills would be avoided.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

bash rocks

Either I have a very good day when everything makes me laugh, or the latest bash is simply the best (unfortunately some things would not make sense after translation, so not everything will be in English):

[Satisek] I was in Cracow, I went to the restaurant, I look at the menu and I see:
[Satisek] Typical polish food:
[Satisek] Russian Pierogi
[Satisek] Beans Breton-style
[Satisek] Hungarian Cake
[Satisek] Pancakes Vienna-style
[Satisek] ...

[Satisek] Bylem se w krakowie, podeszłem pod restauracje by zobaczyc cennik i widze:
[Satisek] Typical polish food:
[Satisek] Pierogi Ruskie
[Satisek] Fasolka po Bretonsku
[Satisek] Placek po Węgiersku.
[Satisek] Nalesniki po Wiedensku.
[Satisek] ...

[ktosia] I have a logical game for you:
[ktosia] Ziobro says: Leper lies
[ktosia] Leper says: Ziobro lies
[ktosia] Knowing that both of them are politicians judge how true are their statements using the three-valued logic of Lukasiewicz
[ktosia] and judge which one is lying and which one is only not fully sticking to the truth?

[ktosia] Mam dla Ciebie zagadkę logiczną, w stylu rycerze i łotry:
[ktosia] Ziobro mówi: Leper kłamie
[ktosia] Leper mówi: Ziobro kłamie
[ktosia] Wiedząc że obaj to politycy oceń prawdziwość zdań w trójwartościowej logice Łukasiewicza,
[ktosia] oraz oceń który kłamie a który tylko mija się z prawdą?

[Gregor] Do you know the (Kama Sutra) position "the bike"
[Przetus] yyyy no.
[Gregor] you do it with two pedals
[Przetus] ....

[Gregor] Ty, wiesz jaka to jest pozycja "na rower"
[Przetus] yyyy nie.
[Gregor] robisz to z dwoma pedałami
[Przetus] ....

[beneras] Kiedy Jacek z Plackiem alias Lech z Jarkiem ukradli już księżyc, na ich drodze stanęła czarownica z kotem na ramieniu. Chłopcy wiedzieli już wtedy, że świadków przestępstwa trzeba się pozbywać. Nie mieli tyle odwagi by zabić stojących im na drodze. Dlatego Lech wziął czarownicę, a Jarosław kota.

czwarta nad ranem

SDM Czarny blues o czwartej nad ranem

Czwarta nad ranem
Może sen przyjdzie
Może mnie odwiedzisz

Czwarta nad ranem
Może sen przyjdzie
Może mnie odwiedzisz

Czemu cię nie ma na odległość ręki?
Czemu mówimy do siebie listami?
Gdy ci to śpiewam - u mnie pełnia lata
Gdy to usłyszysz - będzie środek zimy

Czemu się budzę o czwartej nad ranem
I włosy twoje próbuję ugłaskać
Lecz nigdzie nie ma twoich włosów
Jest tylko blada nocna lampka
Łysa śpiewaczka

Śpiewamy bluesa, bo czwarta nad ranem
Tak cicho, by nie zbudzić sąsiadów
Czajnik z gwizdkiem świruje na gazie
Myślałby kto, że rodem z Manhattanu

Czwarta nad ranem...

Herbata czarna myśli rozjaśnia
A list twój sam się czyta
Że można go śpiewać za oknem mruczą bluesa
Topole z Krupniczej
I jeszcze strażak wszedł na solo
Ten z Mariackiej Wieży
Jego trąbka jak księżyc biegnie nad topolą
Nigdzie się jej nie spieszy

Już piąta
Może sen przyjdzie
Może mnie odwiedzisz

lyrics: Adam Ziemianin
music: Krzysztof Myszkowski

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

tolerance: self-destruction Dutch way

The Dutch Roman Catholic bishop Tiny Muskens is urging the faithful of all religions to start calling God Allah in order to foster religious tolerance.

source of all evil: commercials

Wilson runs a nail factory and decides his business needs a bit of advertising. He asks a well-known advertising agency to make a TV ad for his nail factory. After a week the marketing executive shows up with a recording of and ad with the following content:

A roman soldier is busy nailing Jesus to a cross.
The soldier turns to face the camera, and with a grin,
says: “Use Wilson’s Nails, they’ll hold anything.”

Wilson, astonished, shouts: “What is the matter with you? They’ll never show that on TV. Can't you make an ad without Romans crucifying Jesus?!?”
Another week goes by and the marketing man returns with another tape:

This time the camera pans the Roman standing with his arms folded looking up at Jesus on the cross. The Roman peers into the camera lens and says: “Wilson’s Nails. They’ll hold anything”.

Wilson is beside himself. “You just don’t get it yet. I DO NOT want anything with Jesus on a cross! Listen, I’ll give you one last chance. Come back in one week with an advertisement that I can broadcast.”
Wilson waits impatiently. The marketing executive arrives a week later, as ordered, and puts the new video into the VCR:

A naked man, with long hair, gasping for breath, is running across a field. About a dozen Roman soldiers, coming over the hill, are hot on his trail. One of the soldiers turns to the camera and says: “If only we had used Wilson’s Nails.”

the one with a criminal motif

How do you know that something must have happened to your best friend?
When you are unsuccessfully trying to contact her for the past two days (sending an email to all her multiple email accounts, sending her several text messages, waiting for her on Skype, writing a desperate blog post) and in reply you get only two enigmatic text messages (that could potentially be written by anybody who kidnapped/murdered your friend and in that way overtook her mobile phone).
I suspect that an evil-doer is her husband (police claims that in more than 90% of cases victims know they oppressors, and moreover, that often they are related). So my best friends' husband just sent me those two text messages to buy some time before I realize what's going on and contact the police (and in meantime, he with all money will disappear somewhere in Nicaragua or other Cuba where he will live happily ever after with some Latino beauty).

Radzik, if you are alive contact me immediately. Disaster has happened: there are insects in my room. If I do not get moral support, when you come to visit YOU WILL SLEEP WITH SPIDERS!!! Black widows, tarantulas, brown recluse spiders, funnel web spiders, wolf spiders, jumping spiders - if you want I can send you pictures that you can get used to that thought.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I decided to get a tattoo. The idea of having something that will stay with me for the rest of my life does not terrify me anymore. Especially, that apparently there soon will be a new kind of ink on the market which can be removed "with a single laser treatment that is simpler and less painful than the barrage of treatments now needed".
Moreover, careful examination of tattoos of many people convinced me that lower back provides an optimal location for a tattoo. It seems that skin there stays firm until the old age, so the tattoos located there look pretty good even on older women.
As for a pattern, I would like something more-or-less symmetrical, of general geometry of a triangle, preferable one color (black, maybe splash of red would be also fine) and containing a dragon (or other medieval beast). I still did not find anything that would really talk to me, but the ones below I find at least partially appealing (maybe after a few modifications one of them will do):

  1. two symmetric dragons for lower back
  2. one schematic dragon seen from the side
  3. one schematic dragon seen from the side with potential of being used for lower back after adding to it its own mirror reflection
  4. a single schematic artsy dragon that could be used on lower back
  5. two minimalistic symmetric dragons for lower back
  6. a blue-violet symmetric dragon that could be used on lower back
  7. a very schematic dragon
  8. a green-yellow dragon for lower back
  9. a cute red dragon with potential to be used on lower back (after the modification of black sides)




I was raised in the house where TV was all the time on, even when nobody watched it. I was so used to having it in the background that even when I was studying I also kept it on (not the most efficient way of studying, you have to agree).
I was very happy when I finally moved out of my parents' place and could decide myself when TV should be on and when not. Still, I remember that I had it on much more than it was necessary - again using it as a background noise rather than watching it.
The final liberation from television came when I moved to Germany. There was no point in watching TV when you did not (fully) understand it. I did not even want to own a TV, but that was unimaginable for my father and he insisted on buying one for me (which again shows how important role television plays in lives of my parents...). So for a short period of time before falling asleep I would switch it on and try to watch some stupid program hoping that in this passive way I would somehow manage to learn German. Since that did not work, I moved the TV to the basement (where it stayed until I moved out of Dresden).
Strangely enough, whenever I went back to Poland I was actually interested in watching TV. I think the reason for that was mostly curiosity - I wanted to see how the programs changed since I moved out of Poland and I wanted to see at least one episode of any soap opera/entertainment program/news edition that everybody else talked about to see for myself what's the fuss about.
Here, in SF, we again have a TV, but luckily, nobody watches it. Moreover, I would have difficulties naming a friend that watches TV. So I wonder what is it about the generation of my parents that they are so addicted to it? Is it because when they were children there was no TV? Or because during most of their youth it was black and white and full of communist propaganda and now when it is is in color and full of different programs they just can't resist it?
Moreover, I sometimes wonder if internet is not for us what TV is for our parents (both are in the end source of education and entertainment)? Maybe the time will come that our kids will look down on us, as we do on our parents, shaking their heads in disapproval at the amount of time that we are wasting browsing the web?

When I used to watch TV, I did like watching this:

Monday, August 13, 2007

body fat distribution

I guess it is the first time in my life that I am grateful that my body fat is accumulating preferentially in my hips:
"Fat that accumulates around your waist seems to be more biologically active as it secretes inflammatory proteins that contribute to atherosclerotic plaque build-up, whereas fat around your hips doesn't appear to increase risk for cardiovascular disease at all."

the game called life

Philosophy is going in strange direction these days. There are people who believe that idea presented in the movie "The Matrix", that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation, is true: NYT link. My take on that: so what? Does it matter if what we experience is real or not? As long as I have my freedom of choices (or maybe: my illusion of freedom*), I am going to live this life the best way I can.
I also find it funny that nowadays we go away from religion and concept of God, but instead we come up with theories of "designer" and even reincarnation (just this time in stricte technological sense):
"You should try to be as interesting as possible, on the theory that the designer is more likely to keep you around for the next simulation".

* It's amusing that this article came up in Science section of NYT at the same time as an article that describes how light switch in the brain can control behavior of fruity fly, mice and worms.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

mind works in strange ways

Sebastian, Anne, Imke, Thomas and I played taboo tonight after dinner. Sometimes I found it very surprising what kind of connotations people were making.
Few examples that I remember:

S: Nowadays it's everywhere, mass...
I: Destruction!

(proper answer: media)

T: If there is constructions on the road...
We: Traffic jam...
T: then you need it...
We: Detour...
T: You need it more when it is cold...
We: Wheel chains...
T: It's kind of protection...
We: ?
T: You can also eat it...
We: ???

Time is out and Thomas reveals that he tried to explain "ear muffins".

I: I guess we all are it.
We: Scientists!
I: And how others would call us?
We: Nerd! Geek!

(answer: geek)

T: It's something that will grow soon in our garden...
We: Apples, plums, carrots, salad....
T: But it will not grow very well.
We: Pineapple, watermelon, grapes (and 1000 other things)

Time is out and we find out that it was "pepper".

Saturday, August 11, 2007

John Muir Wilderness

Unfortunately, my hiking holidays are already over. I came back on Tuesday night dirty, smelly, sun-burned, swollen, bruised, scratched, absolutely in love with Sierra Nevada mountains and with a strong resolution to go back there as soon as possible.

The part of the Sierras where I hiked is called John Muir Wilderness. As I learned, by law wilderness areas are even more protected from human influence than national parks are (e.g. even biking is not allowed within them).
I am mentioning this because my hiking expedition was part of a geological field trip. One of my friends' (Mike's) father is a geology professor at Stanford University interested in structural geology and geomechanics. Once a year he organizes a trip to High Sierras to find experimental evidence and collect samples that will support the theoretical models of rock movements and deformations that he and his students are creating in the lab. Several months before each of his trips to the Sierras he has to apply to US National Park Services for a special permission that will enable him bringing (and using) heavy-duty scientific equipment (like gas and electric drills) up the mountains.

That means that each such trip is a big deal for them and is always extremely carefully and well organized. As Mike said to me: "Imagine that you could do only one experiment a year. Wouldn't you like to prepare it very well and wouldn't you be extremely enthusiastic about it?" Of course I would and I was. I was also extremely grateful both to Mike and his father for giving me an opportunity of joining them during their field trip.

Being part of their geological team definitely added a lot to my experience in the Sierras. It was so great to see all of them (Dave - Mike's father, Ashley and Betsy - Dave's PhD students, and Georgio - a visiting Italian professor) looking at some cracks (proper geological name: fault or joint depending on the filling...) with such enthusiasm as you would expect from a 3-year-old child when she/he gets her/his first toy ever. They could spend hours starring at those faults and other geological features discussing in detail what they could mean for their model(s).

I think mountains will never be the same for me anymore. It's like a completely new dimension was added to my hiking experience. So far during hiking I was marveling at the beauty of landscape and mightiness of forces of nature, or I was looking for animals and I was trying to recognize different plants. From now on I will also look for faults, joints and pseudotachylytes (100 points for the person that knows what that is).

Now few photos and a short day-by-day description of our hiking activities.

Day 1:
A car trip from Stanford to John Muir Wilderness (around 7h including lunch break). Dinner at VVR restaurant. Setting up the camp at Edison Lake.

Day 2:
Visit at the packing station to arrange for mulls to bring some of our equipment to the camp high in the mountains. Breakfast at VVR. Hike from Edison Lake (located at 7600ft) up to Bear Ridge (9840ft). This section of the trail was pretty much constantly going steeply uphill until we reached a crossing with Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail/John Muir Trail. From there we hiked in direction of Selden Pass down to Bear Creek. This part of the trail had many switchbacks going steeply down to around 9000ft. Then we hiked along Bear Creek until we reached Hilgard Branch. We stopped few hundred meters after it at around 9400ft and there we finally set up the base camp. All in all it took us around 6h (with many breaks to eat and look at outcrops) to hike 10 miles, 2600ft up, 900ft down.

We started our hike at Lake Edison:

As soon as we were high up in the mountains (at Bear Ridge) we encountered first interesting geological features which were - of course - carefully examined by our geological team:

While they were all gazing at the rocks I made friends with this nice Alligator Lizard:

Our camp was located at the east side of Bear Creek:

Day 3:
First few hours of that day Mike and I spent following geologists at their quest to find pseudotachylytes. Here you can see them again gazing at some crack:

Then we decided to separate from them and take advantage of very low levels of Bear Creek to cross it and explore lakes located in the mountains on its west side. First we followed a nameless creek going up to Orchid Lake (10600ft). That part of the hike was very steep and all the time uphill, but it did not take us too much time.

This is the first lake (not only it did not have a name but also it was not even marked on our not-so-great map) that we encountered during that hike:

On the meadow nearby it we saw many pretty blue butterflies:

Few hundred meters after the first lake we finally found Orchid Lake. We stopped there for lunch and marveled at the beauty of Seven Gables and Gemini (the peaks in the background on the right side of the picture):

Close up of Seven Gables (now in the center of the picture) and Gemini (to the right and slightly behind Seven Gables). Two days later we were just few hundred feet away from Gemini peak:

From Orchid Lake we continued to Apollo and Cirque Lakes. In principle they were located at the same height as Orchid Lake was, but as there was neither trail between them nor we had a decent map of this part of the mountains, we ended up going several times up and down for several hundred feet before we got where we wanted. Moreover, again as a result of not having a good map, we ended up choosing a pretty bad route back to the camp. It was both very long and tiring (with lots of bouldering). We were hurrying up as much as we could and still we only managed to reach our camp few minutes before it became completely dark. After that both Mike and I were pretty exhausted. I was even too tired to eat dinner. I went straight to my tent and I immediately felt asleep waking up only 10h later...

Day 4:
On that day Mike and I packed all our gear and set up for a 2-day hike in high mountains. Our goal was to reach Floating Rock Lake, a lake that Mike named when he was 15 and which he hadn't seen for at least 10 years. First we gradually hiked up along Bear Creek until we reached Rosemarie Meadow (10040ft). There we stopped to resupply water as that was our last water source before our final destination for that day.

From there the trail led us through the forest to beautiful Lou Beverly Lake (10160ft):

After we passed that lake we again started hiking steeply up until we reached Sandpiper Lake (10600ft). From there it was supposed to be relatively easy to get to Three Island Lake as both of these lakes are located at the same height. However, that was the most exhausting part of our hike as we all the time had to climb on the boulders. Moreover, carrying full gear on our backs and being already on pretty high altitude were not helping. Still, we made it to the top in less than 4h. We set up our tent, rested for around 1h and then decided to try to go around Three Island Lake. We were not sure if we would manage to do it as it again involved a lot of bouldering.

Three Island lake:

Surprisingly, we managed without any problems and we even managed to get to Flat Note Lake, which is usually not easily accessible because of snow (which this time was not there):

After we came back from that little trip we ate fast dinner and immediately hide in our tent as all of the sudden the temperature fell drastically and it was freezing cold even though it was only 7 in the evening.

Day 5:
That was pretty tough day for us. We were on tight schedule to get up to Mike's lake, come back down to our tent at Three Island Lake, pack it and get down to the base camp at Bear Creek before sun sets down. Of course there was no trail where we were going, so we again had to do a lot of cross-country and bouldering. But even though it was physically exhausting hike, we enjoyed it a lot as there were many beautiful lakes and creeks all along our route.

One of the creeks on our way to Gemini:

We were also pleased to see several couples of Western Tanagers that were pretty much oblivious to our presence:

The higher we got, the more unmelted snow patches we encountered:

Unfortunately, one of these snow patches prevented us from reaching Mike's lake. On the photo below you can see the highest point to which we got (12200ft) at the footsteps of Gemini Peak:

Still, it was great to get at least there, as it offered spectacular views of Seven Gables and Seven Gables Lakes:

On the way back to our tent we again passed many beautiful small lakes:

Another example:

Taking a break to drink and rest:

We (or actually Mike) also found a very interesting artifact. If you look closer you will realize that what Mike keeps in his hands is actually plane's engine cover...

Because we did not manage to get as far as we planned, we were way ahead of our time schedule. Thanks to that we did not have to hurry back and we could come back to the base camp at relaxed speed. Here, Mike is crossing Bear Creek just few hundred feet away from the camp:

Day 6:
Four of us (Mike, Dave, Betsy and I) packed our stuff and hiked back to our car parked at the south side of Edison Lake (backtracking what we did on day 2). Ashley and Georgio stayed at the camp for another week to continue their research.

On the way back I made friends with another (unidentified) lizard:

From Edison Lake we drove back to Stanford with a stop at Los Banos to eat dinner at the restaurant called "French Basque" (located somewhere on H Street). Los Banos is just 2h of car drive away from SF. I would dare to claim that it is worth to travel for this 2x2h just to eat dinner at this restaurant. It's experience (not only culinary) that you will not forget.

Eh, I want to go hiking again!