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Archive for March, 2010

Toastmasters

Toastmasters

It finally happened. It took us over year and a half, but we did it – we gathered the magic number of 20 people and Toastmasters Kraków Public Speaking Club is now officially registered! We have club number, member numbers, access to the website and everything! We also already requested the certificates for our two Competent Communicators (Milena and Yours Truly), so we can achieve some awards as a club, and we can proceed with our development as members.

We celebrated the double occasion last week, in CK Browar – the other reason being St Paddy’s day, and since our current President is named Patryk, the beer was on him :)

But that’s not all good news. There is also another Toastmasters club that just opened in Kraków – thanks to Bożena’s determination and the help of some of Kraków’s club team (including myself) in organizing the demo meetings in November, my company gathered over 20 people and on Friday had the inaugural meeting of the first corporate Toastmasters club in Poland! We had many guests not only from our local, Cracovian club, but also the Area Governor Joanna Tkaczyk-Nowakowska and the President of Toastmasters Polska SA club Franciszek Szych came from Warsaw, and even from outside Poland – District Governor Monika Królak and Hadrian Lutogniewski, guy so high in the Toastmasters hierarchy that he doesn’t even need the title ;)

The meeting was a huge success – conducted professionally by Hadrian, with great Table Topic questions prepared by Franek, but the best of all were the participants from Sabre – frankly, I didn’t expect the fresh members to be so open, so active, so creative and funny when giving Table Topic speeches for the first time in their lives. I can seriously see the future of my company’s club in bright colors!

But the fun didn’t end with the meeting – later we all had the opportunity to get to know each other even better and continue interesting conversations in the Lodziarnia club, and some of us even dragged them late into the night, and then the next morning (however it may sound ;)

All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with how the inauguration of my company’s club went, and even more happy with all the people I met on that occasion.

And today, instead of going to my club’s regular meeting, I’m going to visit the “competition” – polish speaking Toastmasters club in Kraków. I’ve never seen their meeting, never even participated in a meeting held in Polish, let’s see how they’re doing and how I’m able to speak in front of the audience with the struggle with language taken out of the equation. Will it be easier, or harder? We’ll see.

Plus, I have some hidden agenda with that visit, but hush! More on that later. ;)

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"Up in the Air"

"Up in the Air"

Last Friday we went to see the new Jason Reitman (of “Juno” fame, son of Ivan of “Ghostbusters” fame) movie, “Up In The Air”, starring George Clooney as a renowned specialist in the area of firing people, who spends only about 40 days a year in his apartment – a blank space, lacking any indications of a real person living there – and the rest travelling around the States, doing his most hated (by others – he himself loves it) job, or, as the title indicates – up in the air, collecting miles travelled on board of various planes.

My Better Half hated the movie, while I quite liked it – it showed exactly the side of corporate America that will definitely come to Poland in some 10-20 years (as everything else did), but which I already have a chance to taste in the company I work in. Several hours before the movie I had a chance to read Javier’s blog post about corporate language (we work in the same company), and how, for example, they don’t ever use the word “problem”. They even avoid using the word “issue”, when something unexpected happens. No. In corporate language something like this is called “opportunity for improvement”.

And that’s exactly what “Up In The Air” is about – George Clooney’s character travels around the US and tells people, who worked ten-twenty-thirty years for a company, have spouses and children to feed and mortgages to pay off, that they’re not losing the job, they’re not fired, no – they are given the fantastic opportunity to chase their long-forsaken dreams! How great is that?

Watching movies like this makes me glad that Poland is still quite far away from Fabulous America. And maybe that’s the reason why we argued so much about it – me with my fiancee, that is – because while I work in a real, american corporation, Ania is working very deep in typical, Polish school teaching environment, and for her it’s very hard to believe she can give negative grades to their students and tell them with a wide smile that it’s a “great opportunity for improvement” for them. “Hey! You failed the test! Look how much there is for you to learn! Isn’t that just wonderful?”

Of course, american middle class movies and shows (like “Desperate Housewives”, for example) show that american education system uses the same corporate approach to show every failure in bright colors and never ever let the students feel bad about their lack of knowledge, skills or just plain laziness. It’s all a great field to improve for them, isn’t it?

In my opinion, the world would be a better place if people were more able to just face the facts. But if they’re not taught to do that as children, they won’t be able to do that as adults. They are just hanging up in the air, with false views on their abilities or knowledge, and when the reality hits, it hits with the force of the ground when you fall from ten thousand feet…

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Republican Slip

Republika "82-85"

Republika "82-85"

I bought a CD today.

After spending a lot of money on new circuits to my stationary computer (to finally play some games from last five years) I told myself I’ll make it somewhat even by refraining from buying any CD for six months. And today I snapped.

But come on, the album of Republika’s early songs from the years 1982-85 for 15 PLN? Passing on it would be a serious crime, since it contains their best and most famous songs:

  1. “Kombinat” (“Combine”)
  2. “Gadające głowy” (“Talking Heads”)
  3. “Układ sił” (“Balance of Power”)
  4. “Sexy doll”
  5. “Telefony” (“Phones”)
  6. “Biała Flaga” (“White Flag”)
  7. “Zawsze ty (Klatka)” (“Always You (The Cage)”)
  8. “Tak długo czekam (Ciało)” (“I’m Waiting For So Long (The Body)”)
  9. “Sam na linie” (“Alone on the Tightrope”)
  10. “Moja Krew” (“My Blood”)

I love early Republika for their raw, garage, new-wavish style (comparable to Joy Division, Bauhaus or the first three U2 albums) and for lyrics reflecting the specific atmosphere of first half of the eighties in Poland – the Martial Law, deep communism, and the birth of punk underground.

Wonderful travel in time to the days just before I was born.

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Mosaic of Love

"Love Actually"

"Love Actually"

A Mosaic Plot is a type of a multi-threaded plot with many separate stories, but where the stories are somehow intertwined – sometimes the characters from different threads know each other or are related to each other (“Playing By Heart”, “Magnolia”), sometimes not even that – they might just pass each other on the street or in some doorway (“Traffic”, “Syriana”).

In recent years there were quite a few such constructed movies, but with romantic comedy plots – “Valentine’s Day” being one of them. After seeing that I was recommended some older movies in similar style, and this week I decided to do some catching up.

“Love Actually” is pretty good. Seriously, “Valentine’s Day” is just a poor copy of that classic British romantic comedy from 2003. The stories are more real, more down-to-Earth and less tasting like diabetes. Aside from many happy endings, there is also death, adultery and painful prioritizing disturbed family over (potential) love life. Much like one of the best Philip K. Dick’s novels, “Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said”, this movie deals with many different kinds of love, not just the romantic one.

"He's Just Not That Into You"

"He's Just Not That Into You"

“He’s Just Not That Into You”, American movie from 2009, is more romantic, but less a comedy – the relationships here are further away from “Valentine’s Day”, and closer to, well, “Closer”: some are happy, but some are quite painful. What I loved here, though, was that even though stories are pretty straightforward and rarely surprising, the actors just made them real. Also, Jennifer Annistor for the third time plays in a movie that seems like a rom-com from afar, but in reality isn’t one (the previous two were “The Break-Up” and “Object Of My Affection” from 1998 – boy, did we argue about that movie with my fiancee…).

I like well-constructed mosaic movies, I’m not so keen on rom-coms, but I still enjoy a good movie, and those two were really good. Not only were they fun to watch, but both of them got me really involved with the characters and left me with something to think about – and that’s what I love in movies the most, whichever genre they are.

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Here comes the sun!

Spring finally arrived in Poland. After four months spent in the dark and cold, the sun came, melt most of the snow away, uncovered the green and brought beautiful, warm wheather. It was so beautiful yesterday that for the first time in a long, long period I left house voluntarily and went for a walk with my fiancee and my camera. We sat on a bench and charged our solar batteries for a while, we opened our windows wide when we got back home, and we basked in the smell of fresh earth. It was amazing.

So amazing that I just couldn’t sit inside for too long – in the afternoon I grabbed my camera again and just got out. My plan was to shoot some photos of the early spring, see my friend Lucy, buy a printer/scanner/copier and go see the new Polanski movie.

The plan was realized in 50% plus – Lucy was not in town and it was already too dark for taking photos, but I bought the machine, visited my parents briefly and did see the movie.

“The Ghost Writer” is not, as some people said, his greatest achievement and the most important movie in his career, but it was good – it’s less a thriller or action movie, and more psychological, very much in the usual Planski’s style. Additionally, it’s great to realize that there are still movies that can surprise me.

And today, since my Multisport card arrived on Friday, I’m oficially launching the swimming season! The biking season is getting closer too – I can’t wait to switch from bus and car (no matter how I love my little Panda) to my two-wheeler…

PS. More photos on how winter caved before inevitable spring – here.

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