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Archive for February, 2010

La Melena

La Melena

Ok, maybe not “The Happiest Day of my Life”, but most certainly one of such – I didn’t have that many small but great things happening to me in one day in a long time, and that’s why I’m smiling wide all since this morning.

First of all, I finally registered my new car, which I bought from my sister about a month ago. Now it’s legally mine (well, 10% of it, to be exact, but it’s me who drives it and it’s my house it stands in front of). My cute white Fiat Panda :)

After the registration I went to work and learned that my friend from my previous company got a job in my new company! That’s great news, especially since she was certain it wouldn’t happen, because the competition was very tough, but I was sure she’ll make it – and she did! Way to go, Ola, can’t wait to have you here!

But the greatest thing that happened today was a message I got from Karolina “La Melena”, a flamenco dancer from the group La Pasion whom I admire greatly. And not only was this message from her to me personally, but also – it was about Toastmasters! Wonders never cease…

And that’s still not everything! Today I wrote my first (of many, hopefully) work of microprose, or “twitter novel“, or “nano fiction“, how some call it. It was inspired by Patryk’s answer to a table topic question on yesterday’s Toastmasters meeting. It goes:

I travelled to the 22nd century for a cure for cancer. They told me they have it since some guy took it from thin air some 100 years before.

Exactly 140 characters.

And it all happened before 11 AM! What a day!

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"Fanaa"

"Fanaa"

So we watched another Bollywood movie. After “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” we fell in love with the convention, but somehow we haven’t watched anything since. Then we saw “Slumdog Millionaire” and for some time we were a little discouraged to watch anything Bolly again.

But that phase has passed and now we’re back to exploring Indian cinema. We started with the movie “Fanaa”, known in the English-speaking world as “Destroyed in Love” and starring known from KKKG Kajol (unfortunately, with no Shahrukh Khan …). We chose that film because my fiancee works with blind children, and Kajol’s character in this movie is blind, so she was curious how will that work in a Bollywood movie.

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I changed the photo in the header.

What was there before was a beautiful picture of some misty bridge over a stream in some garden – a default picture for this blog’s theme, and while I liked it and felt it matches the overall visual palette, I realized that since it is my blog, maybe I should replace it with some photo of mine.

Especially that I have quite a few photos similar in atmosphere to that one, which I brought from Sweden, where I visited my friend Lucy at the end of October. They were taken in three picturesque towns of Malmö, Lund and Ystad and you can see them in my web album.

Right now I have chosen one of them to put in the blog’s header, but I have selected some more and keep them waiting for their turn – I’m planning to change the picture every month or so.

For now, you can admire the bridge connecting Malmö’s Slottsparken and Kungsparken :) More are to come in the future.

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Spliter Cell

Sam Fisher

Sam Fisher

Several weeks ago I finally did what I was planning to do for more than year and a half – I upgraded my computer. I did it to work with photos, maybe edit movies, but above all – to play games. In this area I’m some 4-5 years behind and there are many titles that were just waiting for better times.

Some people advised me just to buy a console, but I was never a fan of those, and the only real reason to ever have an X-Box – “The Force Unleashed” – just became obsolete, since they released (unleashed?) it on PC (even though they said they never will).

Now those times have arrived – I have a new machine and I’m beginning to catch up. I started with playing again some of my favourites – Splinter Cell, planning to finally play the fourth part of the franchise, but I started from the first, to relive them once again.

The game was recommended to me after I finished the Best Game Ever Deus eX. With that game I truly fell in love with stealth games, and Spliter Cell was exactly what I needed. There was also the Thief franchise, which had a great steampunk/fantasy setting, but controls were irritating, and there were fricken zombies, who I very much hate in games. Spliter Cell was political fiction, written by Tom Clancy, and exactly the game I was looking for.

The first Splinter Cell (2002) is a very good and very balanced game – agent Sam Fisher (voiced by Michael Ironside) acts as the one man army and prevents the information crisis and a war with China, invoked by the self-proclaimed Georgian president, Kombayn Nikoladze (that’s Georgia the country in Caucasus, not the state north of Florida). Sam is always moving in shadows, crawling through ventilation ducts, climbing the walls or scaffoldings and hiding his trails. When necessary, he’s an assassin, but most of all he refrains from killing people on his way, instead just hitting them over their head and leaving them in some dark corner to sleep. Except for a very interesting gameplay, first Splinter Cell has some interesting mission locations, like CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, or a mining platform on the Caspian Sea.

The secong game, Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow (2004) has some minor improvements to the gameplay, but essentially is very similar to the first. The story is about dealing with an arrogant Indonesian terrorist Sadono, whose life insurance policy are several biological bombs with smallpox virus, placed around the US, ready to be set off if Sadono doesn’t make his daily call and give the password, which is “Pandora Tomorrow”. The game is okay, some missions have unusual settings – a riding train, a submarine or Los Angeles airport (in broad daylight, no less!) – but the problem with the game is that it’s too easy. Plus, about half of the missions take place in Indonesian jungle – a little boring, really.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (2006) brings major improvements to the gameplay: not only Sam Fisher’s visibility is monitored, but also the level of noise he creates. He has new equipment: his goggles, besides usual night- and termal vision, can now see the electromagnetic activity, and also, his agency finally decided to equip him with a new high-tech weapon – a knife. The story involves the Masse protocols (from the first game), and this time Sam is unable to prevent the war between Korea and Japan…

There is one more new element in the third game – humour. The exchanges between Sam and people he catches are often hilarious, with references to the first game and the movie “Brazil” (Sam Fisher knows his cinematography). And since the fourth game, Double Agent (2008), starts with the death of Sam’s daughter, the humour probably ends there.

Double Agent‘s gameplay has heavily modified gameplay, with less hiding in shadows and more dressing and pretending. From what I heard, the fifth game – Splinter Cell: Conviction – follows the same direction. We’ll see how it works…

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"Valentine's Day"

"Valentine's Day"

Yes, I know it’s tomorrow :)

But we celebrated it today, with a movie called “Valentine’s Day”. My Only Right Girl said she’s taking me for a movie of my choice, but instead of taking her on some post-apocalyptic thriller with Denzel Washington or action packed adventures of Sherlock Holmes I decided we should see that movie.

Girls from my previous job told me about it last Thursday and said it seems to be something like “She’s Just Not That Into You” or “Love Actually”, or some other movie like that – several simultaneous love stories about different people. Then I saw the trailer, and despite it containing the worst fucking song ever (“I Got A Feeling” by Black Eye Peas), I decided it could be fun, and I was sure my fiancee would love it, especially because of half of “Grey’s Anatomy”‘s cast starring in it.

We saw it today then, and we liked it. As far as multi-threaded mosaic movies go (like Altman movies, or “Magnolia”, or “Play By Heart”, or “Traffic”), this was pretty mediocre, but as a romantic comedy (in this area I just can’t believe anything better than “Four Weddings And A Funeral” will ever appear) it was pretty good – it was positive, had some tear jerking moments and even more funny ones. It had maybe a little too many stories, too many characters and, in the beginning, we felt overwhelmed and a little lost, and in the end it felt just too long – we were just waiting for the film to end.

But over all, it was a Valentine’s Day well spent :)

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The breakup of Yugoslavia

The breakup of Yugoslavia

Something’s happening to me.

For the major part of my life I was pretty oblivious about what’s happening around me, in the Real World, near of far. Then something happened, and I can’t be quite sure, what – was it the fact that I started working and became a Citizen? Or that I started reading newspapers (both printed and on the Web) and thus learning about what’s going on around? Or is that the influence of my fiancée? Or many people that I met over last two-three years? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the combination of all the above, maybe something else entirely, but my sensitivity is changing. Developing, I dare say.

Milena visited our Toastmasters club two weeks ago, after having left in August for some political course in Venice (she’s Bulgarian and she graduated Political Sciences on Jagiellonian University), and told us about her trip – also as part of her political studies – to Kosovo she’d taken some two months ago. We started talking about the situation there and in all the Balkans and I realized I don’t really know much about it. It all happened when I was seven through eleven – the History was taking place lest than 1000 kilometers away, and the tragedies of Yugoslavian wars lasted for four years – and I didn’t really know anything.

Of course, with TVs and radios blazing in my house all the time the names just had to find some way into my brain, but I never grasped what was really happening, but the talk with Milena fueled my need to learn some modern, European history. She recommended that I watched the six part BBC documentary “The Death of Yugoslavia”, entirely available on YouTube. And I just did…

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Today I finished the first Toastmasters manual!

Luke brought me to the club more than year and a half ago and I became really involved really fast. Some months later I got the role of Sergeant-at-Arms, started on my Competent Communicator path and recently I got another role of Acting VP Membership (because Milenka left us and the whole country to make some political career in Europe). And today I presented my last speech from the Competent Communicator handbook and just after we finally register our club I’m sending my application.

The speech was also on topic, because a Toastmasters Conference in Warsaw ten days ago opened my eyes on what’s wrong with our club and inspired me to make some changes. So I talked about how we grew soft and all too nice, instead of giving each other valuable evaluations with constructive criticism; how I, as a VP Membership, forgot to assign new members their mentors or buddies, and finally, how we all forgot that Toastmasters is much more than just a place to learn how to speak, and we all have a great oportunity to learn many leadership skills.

Which is my next objective – I just discovered the Competent Leadership manual (about a year too late…) and start fulfilling it project by project…

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