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Archive for the ‘Waking Life’ Category

New Year's Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions

The year 2010 has great in many aspects – all the Toastmasters conferences in many interesting places, all the great people I met on those occasions, the Szlachetna Paczka charity action – a lot to do, and all very satisfying.

Last year was also great culturally – I finally gave a proper listen to Mike Oldfield’s works other than “Tubular Bells” and in last weeks I fell in love with Radiohead (thus becoming “thomosexual“). Also, all those movies and books…

Wait. What movies? What books?
(more…)

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My Little Person

Two weeks ago I became an uncle.

While “uncle” is a very broad term and can mean a lot of thing, from family friend to some distant relative, and in some of those meanings I already am an uncle to some little people in this world, on May 1ts I have become the Uncle in this one, original meaning.

We were just visiting Wrocław, beautiful city in the West of Poland. I was there for the first time, accompanied by my fiancee and friends, Ewa and Patryk. We were enjoying a very pictoresque bridge in the botanical garden, I have just taken this picture:

Ania in botanical garden in Wrocław

when I got the text from my just-born nephew, saying that he’s name is Patryk, he just (5:54 PM) came to this world and is a beautiful (picture below), healthy (10/10) little (2.8 kg) boy.

The first of May, which in Poland is Labour Day (meaning that Patryk will surely be a hard-working man), is also great date to be born at – I know several people born on May 1st and all of them are great.

Of course, we all went celebrating that evening,

Happy birthday, Patryk!

and a week later, when I traveled to Warsaw for a Toastmasters conference, the new parents accomodated me for the weekend and I could see my first nephew with my own eyes.

Hey, big guy!

Congratulations, Maja and Irek! :)

"New mama's got a son in her eyes..."

And as always in such situations, a song comes to mind…

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Late President Kaczynski with his Wife, Maria

Late President Kaczynski with his Wife, Maria

The plot of the video game “Deus eX” starts on the Liberty Island, at feet of the Statue of Liberty with her head and the torch-welding hand severed. Also notable is the lack of World Trade Center towers in the New York skyline. The game designers explained it by memory constraints, but the writers added an explaination – just as the Statue was destroyed by a terrorist attack, so were the Two Towers.

The game was released in 2000, about a year before 9/11. The developers felt really stupid afterwards.

In 2005 we all heard jokes about how Poland is the only country in the world with a spare copy of the President. I was one of them laughing and re-telling this joke. Now I feel really, really stupid. I think – I hope, really – many of us do.

***

Alan Alda said that comedy equals tragedy plus time. After 9/11 – the events all the world took part in, even if just through the TV screens – I heard first jokes about it just three days later. Now, several comments came to my mind very soon after I heard the news, but they weren’t at all humorous, more ironic. And not funny ironic, either – if there was laughter, it was always dull and painful.

Looks like Komorowski became president sooner than he thought.

Looks like our leaders won’t be arguing about a place on a government plane for some time now.

Looks like the forest of Katyn will drink even more of Polish blood, exactly 70 years later.

Looks like some people got their much awaited replacement of elites.

Is it good or bad, all I could think was what Switch said in “The Matrix”, just before Cypher pulled a plug on her: “Not like this.” If there will be some positive outcome of Saturday’s tragedy, I can’t help but think the price was just too high.

***

But it happened. After denial and grief there always comes acceptance. Mine came quite quickly, although it doesn’t cancel the grief at all. I just hope, and hope very strongly, that despite what all cynics say, we as a country, as a nation – hell, as a whole civilization – won’t let all that go to waste. After Pope’s death five years (and five days – another damned irony) before, miracles happened – all nation, despite any differences or antagonisms, was joined in mourning, but what happened now is much, much bigger. After all, then it was one person – great, of course, but still one person, aged and ill, so the whole world was basically waiting for the worst to happen. Saturday’s tragedy came from nowhere and just hit us in the head without warning, without precedence, taking not one, but almost a hundred people we all knew. Some of them we liked, some not much, but it doesn’t matter now – nobody deserves such end.

Five years ago the miracles came and gone. I hope now something any change that comes will stay. I hope Saturday’s tragedy will bring something good to all of us.

I beg of you, people of Poland, let’s not let it go to waste.

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The news about my company sending me to the States were, unfortunalety, only an April Fool’s joke. I regret to inform you that so far I’m not being sent there, as much as I would love the idea.

Surprisingly many people fell for it. More surprisingly – my fiancee wasn’t one of them. As she put it, after last year’s April Fool’s Joke (when I told her I flunked out of my University) she was prepared and saw through that right away.

But what moved me deeply in the whole situation was how many people were genuinely happy about the news, and congratulated me very seriously, and it makes this admittance even more hard – seriously, guys, the flood of warm thoughts from you all makes me want to go to my manager and beg him on my knees to let me go to Texas just to make those fake news real. Thank you all very much! :)

I hope someday (NOT some April 1st) I’ll share such news with you with all seriousness!

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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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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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