Friday, January 30, 2009

Mt Diablo Grand Loop Hike

Few weeks ago Anil and I went hiking in Mount Diablo State Park. We hiked "The Grand Loop" trail, which according to the park's website was supposed to be 7 miles round trip with 500-foot elevation gain. Soon we realized that the elevation change of the trail was actually ten times larger:

Mt. Diablo Hike

Widget powered by EveryTrail: GPS Geotagging

The Grand Loop is formed by stitching together several trails and fire roads in a following order: Summit Trail, Juniper Trail, Deer Flat Road, Meridian Ridge Fire Road, Prospectors Gap Fire Road and North Peak Trail. This is how we hiked it, but I would actually recommend doing it in the opposite direction and starting with first going up on the North Peak Trail.

I would strongly recommend this hike to anybody. It is very pleasant (especially on a sunny weekday) and offers spectacular views of - and from - Mt Diablo in every direction. In fact we liked this hike and Mt Diablo so much that we decided that next time we would go there we would spend a night at the campground that we could enjoy views from the peak during the nighttime.

Mt Diablo offers stunning views in all directions:

Mt Diablo peak (on the left) and snow-capped Sierra's on the horizon:

Industrial East Bay:

Happy Monika at the end of the hike:

Are those cones so big or is Anil's head so small?

Golden Gate Bridge at sunset:

Downtown SF, Bay Bridge and Part of Golden Gate Bridge:

Downtown SF:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

love of my life

One of the most beautiful songs ever:

Love of my life - you've hurt me
You've broken my heart and now you leave me

Love of my life can't you see
Bring it back, bring it back
Don't take it away from me, because you don't know -
What it means to me

Love of my life don't leave me
You've taken my love, you now desert me

Love of my life can't you see
Bring it back, bring it back
Don't take it away from me, because you don't know -
What it means to me

You won't remember -
When this is blown over
And everything's all by the way -
When I get older
I will be there at your side to remind you
How I still love you - I still love you

Back - hurry back
Please bring it back home to me
Because you don't know what it means to me -

Love of my life
Love of my life

written and performed by Freddie Mercury and Brian May

Monday, January 19, 2009

Newsweek on aging

Newsweek has this nice short piece on aging research. One of the people interview there is my boss :) It feels good to know that other people care about research that we are doing.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

palm reading

On Saturday I had a birthday party (which was fabulous, btw) during which I had my palm read for the first time in my life. Reading was done twice by two independent people, one of which met me only once before. The funny thing was that one of them read my right hand (as, apparently, this is the hand that shows our fate), while the other one read my left hand claiming that this is the hand that is used for palm reading of women.

Maybe because of that there was almost no overlap between my two palm readings. Still, according to both of palm readers I have a very good palm (or palms, actually), one of the best they have ever seen. They both also said that I have "a writers fork", which means that I am very imaginative, maybe even too much, so that I can have mental health problems later in my life...

Except for that, my two readings very completely different:

According to my right hand, my career path is very well defined and I will be very successful at it. According to my left hand, however, I might completely change my career path some time soon.

My health is and will be extremely good according to my right hand, but it will be only so so according to my left one. Nonetheless, my left hand predicts that I will live at least 82 years.

According to my right palm, I am/will be financially very well off, whereas according to the other one, my money situation will be only "decent".

My right hand says that I do not like to take risks, though I like challenges. It also says that I tend to not to worry too much and that I am happy and easy going person. My left hand says that I worry a lot, but that I am a very lucky person.

As for my love-life, according to my right hand I am more short-term than long-term relationship person and I like to "sample" the variety. I will have only one serious relationship in my life in my 40's and I will have no children. My left hand says that I had one serious relationship in my 20's, I have/will have second one in my 30's (this one is suppose to be a very long one and serious, but will still end prematurely) and the third one in my 50's. The left hand says that I will have one child.

In fifty years time, I am going to reflect upon my life and see which of my palms (or palm readers) was right ;)

I also hope that by then the anti-aging strategies and cosmetic surgery will improve and I will look not much older than on this picture taken at the party:

Thursday, January 15, 2009

O Rh negative

Only recently I found out that my blood type is "O Rh negative". I suspected that I could be "O" as both of my parents seem to recall being "O's" themselves. But I had no idea that I am also Rh negative. That makes me a universal donor and means that I can get blood only from other people who also are "O Rh negative".

I was very surprised (and scared) to find out that less than 1% Asians are "O Rh negative" (e.g. only 0.03% of Thai population has this blood type, <0.1% of South Koreans, <0.3% of Chinese people). In the internet I saw several calls from Red Cross in those countries calling for people with this particular blood type to donate their blood... I will seriously consider if I want to travel somewhere out there for extended period of time. It seems that it might be like playing with a fire...

However, even in San Francisco, I might be in a trouble during any major disaster, as "O Rh negative" blood type is given to all patients who urgently need blood transfusion and whose blood type is unknown. That means that blood banks might be running low on my blood type.

It also means that I should regularly donate my blood. I tried to start doing it 13 years ago. On my 18th birthday I showed up in a hospital and I wanted to donate my blood. I was turned away by a nurse, that also happened to be my neighbor, as I did not have national ID with me! (I had other documents with me confirming that I am 18, but they were not good enough for them). It was a bit traumatic experience to me. I wanted to do something good and instead I got yelled at... That discouraged me from donating blood regularly. But now I have a strong motivation to get over my trauma.

Like a vampire

It's 20+ Celsius here for more than a week now. Normally that would make me very happy, but in my current situation it is a major annoyance and inconvenience to me. If possible, I try not to leave the house during daylight hours. And if I have to do it, then I behave like a vampire - always avoiding direct sun and using the side of the street that is currently more covered by the shade.

Why? Because my skin is hypersensitive to the sun and direct exposure to it can lead to its hyperpigmentation. I do not leave the house without applying SPF20 moisturizer, followed by SPF20 make up foundation and SPF60+ sun block, but I am still not sure if that is enough to protect me from this intense sun that we have right now.

My skin is hypersensitive to the sun because of a dermabrasion surgery that I underwent 4 weeks ago. During this procedure the outer layer of skin (epidermis) is removed by abrasion, leaving the remaining skin more sensitive to the outside environment.

I decided to dedicate a separate blog to my experiences with the dermabrasion, as I feel that more people might find information that I will provide there useful. Here is link for this new blog: There is only one post there right now, but soon there should be more.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Botox for eyelashes

The very same company that introduced Botox into plastic surgery clinics, now hopes to make even more money with Latisse, an eyelash-extending drug/cosmetic.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Old Market Square in Poznan with Christmas Decorations

Anutek in Fidelio, an Italian Restaurant serving a delicious pizza with arugula and parmesan:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Matt Davis, Steep Ravine and Dipsea Trails Loop

Among several hikes that I did on Mount Tam, the one that I did on the past Sunday was the most beautiful one and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

The hike can be started either at Stinson Beach or Pantoll Ranger Station. I would recommend starting at Stinson Beach (as we did) as then you first hike up the mountain and then you finish your hike with going down. Moreover, as the hike makes a loop, you can do it in either a clockwise (starting with Matt Davis Trail) or counterclockwise (starting with Dipsea Trail) direction.

We did it in a clockwise direction, which had a benefit of offering great views of Stinson Beach during the last mile of the hike:

That's the only picture that I took during the hike. Somehow I was not in the mood for taking pictures. I also thought that the photos could not do justice to the beautiful landscape that we saw. The views were the more amazing as we were very lucky with a weather. Not only it was warm and windless (it was plus 20C, which was hard to believe to me as just a few days ago I was in a place where it was minus 20C...), but also the air was crystal clear - there were no clouds and no fog. I've never seen downtown San Francisco so clearly as on that day.

Here is a map of the hike we did:

California: Marin County: Steep Ravine & Matt Davis Loop at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail:GPS Geotagging

As you can see the hike stitches together three different trails (Matt Davis, Steep Ravine and Dipsea Trails) to make a 7-mile long loop. For most of the part the hike is well shaded by the trees, so it would be a wonderful summer hike. However, because of the crowds, I would recommend to hike it outside the main hiking season.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Road Trip 2008: Silverton

Agnieszka wanted to see a typical "Western" town. Upon recommendation of Mike I suggested visiting Silverton, a small town in Colorado that used to be a silver mining camp. What makes Silverton even more attractive to tourists is that it can be reached by a narrow gauge railroad that originates in Durango.

The line between Durango and Silverton was constructed in 1882. Initially it was used to to haul silver and gold ore from the San Juan Mountains, but soon it started to be used by tourists as well. Even though the distance between Durango and Silverton is only 72km, it takes the train 3.5h to reach its destinations. That could seem as a lot, but actually it isn't. The rail tracks wind through such spectacular and breathtaking scenery that one wishes the trip would never end. Moreover, the train is pulled by a coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive that makes whistle sounds and produces a lot of exhaust steam, which is also a lot of fun to watch. We truly enjoyed this trip, which almost became trip in time for us. In Silverton we visited "Olde Tyme Portraits" were we had photos of ourselves taken in original 19th century outfits of ladies of dubious reputation...

Here I am standing on the platform in Durango in front of the steam engine of the narrow-gauge Durango-Silverton train:

Our train going up the mountains to Silverton:

Inside the train (we choose open compartment to have better views):

The train crosses Animas River four times in each direction:

Old Thyme Portraits in Siverton:

Agnieszka trying to ride an old type of bicycle:

Few other buildings in Silverton:

On the way back to Durango:


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Road Trip 2008: Antelope Canyon

The most touristy thing that we did during our road trip was going on an organized trip to the Antelope Canyon. Before our trip I had seen many absolutely stunning photos of that slot canyon and I really wanted to see it, even though I knew that it would not be an intimate experience. As I expected, there were around hundred of other tourists at the same time as we in the canyon. However, since we had been prepared for that, we did not allow it to ruin our experience.

The Antelope Canyon is only accessible by high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles:

The colors and shapes of the rocks change every few feet: