Sunday, 25 June 2017

Conferencing


Just returned from a three-day industry conference held in one of the most known hotels located less than 100 kilometres from Warsaw. I go to such events two to four times a year and each such stay and observations made there prompt some thoughts on what conferences are actually for.

So having been present to more than ten conferences over the recent three years, I have reached a conclusion conferencing is a huge business and a marvellous machine for transferring money from some organisations to others, under the guise of noble ends.

The ones who benefit most in this business are:
- companies which specialise in staging such events,
- companies which deal with hosting and running such events (hotels, catering companies, marketing co-ordinators, etc.).

Nevertheless, the business keeps going since it is fuelled by expending “no-one’s money” which are the easiest to be spent – attendance in such conferences is hardly ever paid from private purses; participation fees are paid from corporate training budgets which, if not spent, will go to waste and would likely be taken away next year.

Based on what I have witnessed, there are main five reasons to attend conferences.

1. To show off / blow one’s own trumpet / make an appearance – this pertains to speakers who, by delivering workshops or speeches or participating in discussion panels can easily keep a high profile, underscore their position in a specific milieu, or boast of their recent achievements. If people see you, you do exist. If someone invites you, your existence is more noticeable.

2. To spend budgets – corporations send employees to conferences to prove they care for their development, staff take part in conferences to show they want to broaden their knowledge.

3. To facilitate exchange of knowledge – I do not want to detract from the main reasons why theoretically people attend conferences, yet if you are familiar with topics broached, you often witness industry experts reinventing the wheel, while what you learn are some uncanny titbits you can use later on to impress your interlocutors.

4. Sponsoring – companies which decide to co-fund conferences seize an excellent opportunity to boost their visibility among potential business partners and given they are clustered in one place, this can be accomplished effectively and quite on the cheap.

5. Networking – is unquestionably the biggest value added brought by conferences. Once you gather several, also notable, people ,in one place you give them opportunity to exchange business cards, engage in small talks and serious conversations and share knowledge, experiences, ideas and views in rather informal atmosphere. Looks like the whole setting is worth it.

All things considered, I am asking myself whether it is worth to attend such events to fish out a few titbits and talk to one or two noteworthy professionals. Mindful or all drawbacks and benefits, I would still say yes. I look at agendas of such events to check out whether lectures and panels touch upon the topics I need to be versed in to perform my job better and because of budget constraints I take heed of expenses related to such events (participation fees + accommodation + travel expenses) to pick out most worthwhile events. Looking forward to more of them.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cycling


Last year’s purchase of the new bike was spurred by the ridiculous theft of the previous one rather than by sheer intention to upgrade. More than a year after first sitting on a saddle of the new bike (I have already replaced the original one with a more comfortable part) I can claim it is a no-frill, but not low-end bike. Despite the price of less than PLN 1,000 the quality is decent and except for self-loosening saddle screw (I need to carry a wrench along), its reliability is beyond reproach.

Having come into possession of the new bike, I have resolved to make use of it more frequently. Last year problems with spine were the main hindrance, yet over the winter I exercised regularly in the evenings and have managed to overcome aches.

Spring came late this year, with cool April bringing weather rather unconducive to enjoyable cycling. Warmer days of May have made up for this, but the true beginning of serious adventure with cycling fell in the second half of that month.

On 21 May I cycled 49 kilometres, from NI to Kabaty than rode a few circles around Las Kabacki, took a stopover in Powsin, pedalled to Konstancin, hung around and ate out there, returned to Kabaty and then on to NI. The terrain was flat, temperature was near +20C and I did not feel much tiredness. Next day I could not tell I had covered a quite fine distance pedalling.

On 11 June, after the holiday break I ventured to Wawer to check out the cycling routes in the district’s forests. I took a train from W-wa Jeziorki to W-wa Śródmieście, than changed it for a Deblin-bound service and hopped off the carriage in W-wa Międzylesie. Mountain bike trails in those forests are relatively easy, yet require more skill, fitness and power than cycling on a flat asphalt. 43 kilometres covered there (I could add 6 kilometres to and from W-wa Jeziorki station on top) could be named a bumpy ride and I felt them much more in my legs and spine than the previous trip, but the next day I felt like a new man.

On Corpus Christi after a short ride to W-wa Jeziorki and train travel to W-wa Stadion my actual trip began next to the National Stadium. From there I rode to Nieporet and then beyond the town to find a quite desolated shelter for a few hours of sunbathing. On the way back I dropped in on local McD restaurant to fill up my stomach and then cycled back to Warszawa Srodmiescie station (the worst part of the ride was the ascent up steep ul. Tamka) to catch the return train. In total I covered 82 kilometres and did not feel much fatigue in the evening, nor on Friday.

More trips to be taken over the next weekends.

Long-distance cycling still is a novelty for me. Except for one trip taken with a friend during holidays in 2005, I would go out to cycle for an hour or two to ride up to 20 kilometres. My first rides this year reached 30 kilometres but the resolution to cover three-digit distance during one day is a goal achievable by the end of July I suppose. If 82 kilometres in flat terrain have not worn me down, 100 kilometres are within reach.

I already have some places in mind that would become destinations of my bike trips this year. The very distance from Warsaw must not be an obstacle. Koleje Mazowieckie allow to carry bicycles free of charge in their carriages (to the right, my bike fastened with a wheelchair belt in a W-wa Wschodnia-bound double-decker), so all spots lying not further away than 100 kilometres from Warsaw can be reached by train and then by bike within one day.

So as long as circumstances, weather, fitness and equipment permit, make the most of summer weekends and indulge in leisure activities that brings out lots of joy!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Berlin calling

Took a nearly spontaneous trip to Berlin in the last days of May. I had had the intension to visit the capital of Germany for many years, yet I must have lacked a proper incentive to get my act to together and venture there. Actually, I was first inspired to travel to Berlin around the age of 15 when I was fascinated by U2 music, where the theme of many songs was the very capital of reunified Germany, besides another inducement came from watching “Wings of desire”, a film by Wim Wenders, shot in 1987 in West Berlin. And it has been the unbidden desire (further on it in some time) that spurred the very decision to book the accommodation in the capital of Germany and try to catch the climate of the city, in the meantime taking a break from everything and everyone.

A resident of Warsaw has basically three options to get to Berlin.
Firstly, by plane. The only airline operating flights between Warsaw and Berlin is Air Berlin (Lufthansa Group). One can choose from around four flights per day, while the price of a return ticket may reach no less than PLN 400, or even lower if you opt for cabin-luggage-only rate. In terms of travel time, the superior option.
Secondly, by passenger train. The services between Warsaw and Berlin are run by Deutsche Bahn and PKP Intercity. The journey lasts nearly six hours station-to-station and costs less than EUR 100, if the former carrier is chosen or I do not know how much if tickets from the Polish train operator are bought, since they are not available online.
The drawback of the options above is that you cannot make any stopovers along the way (something I have planned for my journey) therefore I had chosen to get there by car. On the way to Berlin I popped by my friend in Poznan and spent a few hours with his family, on the way back I took a detour via Wroclove. The benefit of such option might be the cost per person, increased with the number of passenger of board, another drawback is the fact you need to find an accommodation with parking space or pay for a  hotel garage (getting about Berlin by vehicle would be a crass stupidity) – after all a car is a liability as well.

While dropping in on Berlin, it is definitely worth to take an S-Bahn train to Potsdam. The ride last less than an hour and brings the opportunity to stroll around a picturesque, well-preserved palace and garden complex. While I visited the site, the sun was scorching, temperature was reaching +30C and though the weather was taking the gloss off the spirit of the place, the scent of magnificence and history was felt in the air.

The sites on my trail around Berlin were nearly all linked to the history of the city, especially to the period when Berlin was split into two cities separated by the concrete wall, being the symbol of divided Europe. To the right – East Side Gallery, a fragment of the wall on the eastern bank of Spree river which has been redeveloped by graffiti artists, although with far lower degree of freedom than e.g. at the wall of Sluzewiec horse race track in Warsaw.

Such border markings are present in many places in Berlin, however since post-border premises have been quickly developed, had it not been for the markings, you would not have told where the wall stood. To the right, a marking in Gedenkstaette Berliner Mauer, a commemoration site located in northern Berlin in the middle of the housing estate, where the wall used to tear the city apart.

Unlike Warsaw, Berlin has not cracked down on communist symbols as fiercely as Warsaw did in early 1990s and as it senselessly continues to do. To the right, I am standing at the intersection of literally Karl Marx Avenue and Paris Commune Street (unthinkable in Warsaw, even though both the philosopher and the Paris Commune had nothing to do with felonies of communism committed in the twentieth century).

Karl Marx Strasse was the thoroughfare of East Berlin, designed and built in the spirit of megalomaniac architectural style of 1950s. The place reminds of locality of Marszałkowska Dzielnica Mieszkaniowa in Warsaw. As I have learnt from information boards, in the early 1990s the buildings were dilapidated, yet the city took the effort to restore them to original state (rather not glory), so instead of erasing the bleak history of Berlin, next generations are meant to remember this used to be a capital of communist Germany.

Another such example, a Soviet War memorial in Tiergarten Park, less than half a mile from the Brandenburger Tor. Actually such sites are hidden in many Polish cities, including Warsaw (east side of ul. Żwirki i Wigury) and Wrocław (between Al. Wyścigowa and Al. Karkonoska).

Close to the very centre of Berlin is the Holocaust Memorial (Memorial of Murdered Jews in Europe) erected in 2005 and paid for by the government of Germany. 2,711 stone blocks symbolise the number of pages of Talmud. The very fact such place can be found at the very heart of Berlin proves well Germany is not afraid of speaking of its past sins and apologising for them.

Topography of Terror, an open-air museum in turn reminds of the dark period of 1933-1945 when Germany was under the rule of Nazis. This shameful heritage is presented in full light, with no understatements and no attempts to justify the evil. Germans can be proud of having atoned for its country’s sins and thus have set themselves free of the burden of history.

Not far lies another place which bears testimony to differences in approach to history by Germans and Poles. Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous border crossing in torn apart Berlin. The blood-tainted site is now surrounded by two fast food restaurants and if you turned around you would spot a pink pipeline. It is worthwhile to visit an open-air Soviet bloc museum, bringing close the dramatic history of the eastern side of the Iron Curtain.

The TV broadcasting tower, over 300 metres high is the highest landmark in the capital of Germany. For everyone fond of watching the world from above, this is definitely a recommendable attraction, since a lift, running at average ear-clogging speed of 6 metres per second carries you to an observation deck (price: EUR 14 before discounts).

To the right – one of many shots taken from the viewing platform (I must confess I found the open-air one in Frankfurt superior). My compact Olympus bought five years ago and used currently only during holiday trips has been up to the mark, as for its class. The optical 12.5x zoom gave the satisfying quality of the close-up photo, needless to say the photo contains details not visible by human eyes from such distance. Note the large green area, the Tiergarten park, a place in the centre of Warsaw I would miss.

Berliners can boast of developing the banks of Spree perfectly. The river and the city have been brought into one and river banks are excellent leisure spots, with several restaurants and hang-out areas.

After driving around 300 kilometres around German motorways, I confess newly-built Polish ones lie far ahead the legendary German motorways. On the way there I got stuck for an hours in a traffic jam on a modernised motorway ahead of Berlin; the inner bypass of the capital is plagued by dense traffic (although it is a motorway, three-digit speed in kmph is out of reach) and by traffic jams during rush hours. To the right, somewhere near Dresden, while driving from Berlin to Wroclove. Tip – if you take this route by car, avoid DK18 between Olszyna and A4 motorway in Poland. Wroclove-bound lanes made of concrete slabs of this dual carriageway date back to Hitler and perhaps have never been repaired. Outcome – maximum speed of 80 kmph at times is too much.

Then I spent another day in Wroclove, recharging batteries and roaming around my beloved places. Those, by all accounts, were the best moments of the trip. Here, at the fountain park next to Hala Stulecia, my feet soak in water, my body basks in the early-June sun. Moment taken and made perfect, worries shelved.

Took a tram to Plac Grunwaldzki then and march towards Ostrow Tumski. Passed by Katedra Św. Jana and headed towards Most Tumski, being also called the bridge of lovers who hang there padlocks with their names. School trips seasons was at its height, so the side effect of visiting the place was enduring the gaggle of teenagers.

Further on foot to Wyspa Slodowa, a gorgeous hang-out for students and teenagers, for meet-ups with friends, dating and sipping wine or beer. The place is illuminated by late-afternoon sunlight. Temperature is ideal, just slightly above +20C. For some reason, Wroclove is the only place outside Warsaw that feels like home.

Towards the end of my trip, the market square, lively place, full of tourists and open restaurants. I have been there so many times that this spot beckons less than other beloved sites, but if you drop in on Wroclove, not turning up here is a shame.

Spent the second half of fortnight-long holidays at home, catching up with meeting friends I had been hanging back on seeing, ticking off items from a list of overdue stuff to handle and trying to figure out what the future holds. Since situation on the front is quite dynamic, I am holding back from saving this for posterity. Once it clears up whether it falls apart or keeps going, I will keep a record of burning hot spring I have experienced in 2017. Unquestionably, the holidays drawing to a close were my best since 2014. Hope the ultimately best are still ahead.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sadder but wiser



The more you do, the more mistakes you are likely to make. Only those who sit on their hands are not infallible. Even wicked corporations hold such approach dear! The more we experience, the more nasty situations life puts us through, the opportunities to learn we receive. Lucky those who do not need to draw conclusions from their own missteps and wise those who intently observe fellow people’s slip-ups, analyse them and take precautions not to repeat them.

It all commences in childhood. I remember well when my mother warned me not to put a finger into a burning flame on a gas stove. Obviously, I refused to listen to her and burnt my finger. Lesson learnt – keep fingers away from flames. Alternatively, the lesson learnt could be to listen what you parents say. With hindsight, coming back to choices made by me when I was a teenager or a student, I recognise my parents were usually right (I have never admitted it to them, as such statement would have all appearances of asking for continual advice) and often ask myself what they would advise me in a specific situation, how would they react if I told them about my crazy idea or what they would rebuke me over. By the way, I recall now a training delivered by a coach who claimed parents in Poland do not support their children ingenious ideas, but do their utmost to discourage their offspring from pursuing their ambitions, especially the dicey ones.

I also wonder what can prompt humans to give up on silly activities that might severely harm them? Would throwing up all contents of one’s bowels prompt a binge drinker to become more restraint with alcohol, or would they need to commit a crime or lose a job to get the eye-opener? Would causing an accident persuade a fan of fast driving to stick to speed limits? Or would a severe fine be helpful enough? What else, except for unwanted pregnancy or contracting an illness, would convince a person who indulges in occasional sex to hold their horses? How heavy shortage of money would urge a reckless shopper to think twice before spending money on stuff they don’t need?

I strive to look at other people’s and mine mistakes. Watching humans stumble but not necessarily fall fills me with confidence that cool-headed approach to life pays off. Holding back before making hasty decisions, minding the consequences, putting oneself in someone else’s shoes and trying to guess their perception of a situation, these all make up precious guidance how to become wiser and avoiding the side effect of being sadder.

Lastly, I ponder upon circumstances which can throw an individual off their sanity. The one which instantly is brought to mind is falling in love, a state compared to mild intoxication, when sound judgement is said to be turned off or at best impaired. But symptoms of falling in love and impact on a daily life or an infatuated person changes with time. A teenager in love behaves different than a human in their mid-thirties. And I put it down to benefit of learning from mistakes made by many people.

Expect a break from blogging the next weekend. I am heading west for a short, or maybe longer road trip. This will be not just a sightseeing trip, but also an opportunity to be on my own (oddly enough, this is now something I am longing for) and to think things over, to return happier, but wiser.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Out and about


The spring of 2017 will likely go down as chilly and wet. The current weekend is the second one this spring (after the first days of April) when both on Saturday and on Sunday temperature neared +20C and sunshine was not sparse. While the weather was not high, outdoor did not beckon, unlike this weekend.

The first stopover during my short (20 kilometres or so) bike trip yesterday was the site of airplane crash in Las Kabacki. I visit the place each year around the anniversary of the tragedy. This year’s is a round one, it has been already 30 years ago. Oddly enough, most people hanging around, sitting about, praying or contemplating silently the memorial plaque were youngsters, who just like me have not had the chance to remember the day Il-62 crashed into the forest.

On my way towards leisure park in Powsin. I am heading east yet meet quite few fellow cyclists, runners and pedestrians on my way. Though the weather is conducive, lots of people are either too burdened by duties put off until weekend, or simply too lazy to get up from their sofas and take a few breaths of fresh air. Sadly.

The clearing on the southern edge of the forest is one of favourite hangouts for barbecue aficionados. Weather permitting, one can come across scores of people either burning bonfires or making barbecues, indulging in Poles’ favourite sport (grillowanie) and the place is filled with smoked and characteristic smell of grilled meats.

Having turned up at my destination I spot several traces of boars’ activity. Looks like flocks of wild boars ventured here when few humans were around and digged around the grass. Disturbingly, boars in droves are not afraid to approach humans’ dwellings and might attack if incensed. My mother, while walking to her spine rehabilitation classes in Konstancin on Friday, was surrounded by a flock of boars who fortunately only looked around (at her standing still) and ran away.

Klubokawiarnia is the focal point of the leisure park and a spot where visitors coming here for more than an hour can sit back, have a drink or a snack. I must plea I don’t know whether lunches are served to whet appetites of hungrier guests. Comparing to how it looked in 2009, little has changed. The place has its spirit and a whiff of modernity is absolutely redundant if the spirit to be nurtured.

The amphitheatre where concerts are played on Sunday afternoons, also a popular dating hangout for teenagers from Ursynow, Wilanow and northern parts of Piaseczno. In the foreground, my bike, I have had it nearly for a year, replaced a saddle to add comfort to my backside, had it overhauled (or rather serviced) before the high season and after overcoming ailing spine (though I stay cautious not to overstrain it), I can enjoy longer and longer trips (this year I intend to take at least a 50-kilometre day tour).


The further from densely inhabited district of Ursynow, the fewer individuals one can run across. Here, on the south-eastern corner of the forest one would sooner have an encounter with wild deer (heaven forfend!) than with a fellow human. While cycling there I felt a bit guilty, as if I trespassed someone’s home.

As I grow older, I learn to cherish more the days in spring, summer and early autumn when I do not have to toil away in the office. Clement weather is something one should make the most of, so on such days, I attempt to confine staying indoors to absolutely essential time dedicated for house-related duties which I could not handle over the working week. Some people enjoy themselves on parties on Friday or Saturdays and then spend a large part of a weekend fighting a hangover. What a waste of life! Given a choice between night-time revelry and day-time leisure outdoor, I would opt for the latter for most of weekends (some partying is essential, since a human cannot be bodily fit but socially dead). Actually while working long hours Monday to Friday, a decent dose of physical exercise over the weekend is essential to keep an office worker and let them recharge batteries.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Back to bedlam*


While I don’t feel like stringing together a worthwhile and readable posting, forgive me harnessing someone else’s words (or lyrics, not the first and not the second time I recourse to them) to mark the (this time) definite ending of one chapter in my life and doubts whether it has not coincided with a new beginning. Doubts, since the chemistry is a missing piece and mere desire rarely burns long.








* While all quotes are taken from U2 songs, the very title of the post comes from a different artist.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Nieogarnięcie


Struggling to come up with accurate English equivalents of family of words related to the concept of ogarniać, a Polish verb describing getting around something, keeping grip of things, being well-organised or well-versed in something. Whatever the most suitable translation is, my impatience with people who do not exhibit the set of qualities which have the common denominator of ogarnięcie is rising.

The confession is inspired by a recent moving. As part of relocations within the office building, my team had to move to an area on a lower floor which involved packing all the stuff into cardboard boxes last Friday (and subsequent unpacking due on Tuesday). Everyone who changed dwellings at least once in a lifetime knows moving belongs to rather stressful processes and it takes some effort and a lot of composure to bring it over smoothly. Usually moving is more traumatic and tiresome if you possess lots of clutter – the more you accumulate and the less you dispose of, the bigger load you have to carry with you.

I managed to pack all my stuff (a pair of shoes, two bottles of wine, a briefcase, some documents, some stationery, etc.) into one cardboard box and was assigned to pack stuff of my female colleague (one year younger than me) currently in the middle of two-week holidays. Instructed by my team leader, I threw away several binders of her papers that had been scanned and kept in electronic directories (the New Factory has gone digital some time ago, meaning use (also printing) of storage of paper has been whittled down to a bare minimum), but had to pack all her personal belongings which all fit into nine (yes, nine) cardboard boxes (after disposing of lots of clutter). Everyone around was so dazed at the sight of me filling yet another box in a row that they even put up with and laughed every time I shouted out a bunch of expletives.

I actually like my colleague, though she is kind of nieogarnięta, sluggish, disorganised, lacks dynamics a young person should beam with (before you ask, yes, she is married, has no children).

I am the only male in the team and I do feel like a misfit, not just on account of being the only one of the opposite sex or having no-one to engage in locker-room conversations with. We differ in every aspect of style of work. When I turn up to the office I can start working effectively within one minute from reaching my desk. I simply unlock my computer and open the mailbox and while going through e-mail that arrived overnight, I change my shoes and unpack my stuff (wallet, phones, packed lunch) to a desk. For them, it usually takes around 15 minutes before they reach their working capacity, which involves combing hair, changing not only shoes but also socks or stockings, yawning, choosing which tea to drink, chatting, complaining, etc.

The lethargic mode means a worker falls behind with her (not their, I observe men tend to be better-organised and more efficient at work) assignments and then hurries and stays overtime to meet deadlines. If you work overtime, the reason might be that you have too much on your plate, but this can also indicate work is badly organised by managers or that you fail to organise your assignments. I have noticed as long as external factors do not turn my work upside down, even if I am burdened with plenty of urgent tasks, I usually can handle them with eight working hours, just because I plan my work ahead with the horizon of up to three months and do lots of things in advance, circumstances permit. Needless to say, though this is appreciated by managers, I pay the price of being allocated with more stuff, because I am most likely to complete them duly and timely.

While having exorbitant expectations towards myself in terms of ogarnięcie, my tolerance for people who:
- fall back on their promises,
- fail to meet deadlines,
- deliver work of poor quality,
- are indecisive,
- do not control things happening around them,
- are poor in planning,
- fool about well ahead of deadline and then rush to make it in time,
is on constant decline.

The same, horrifyingly, applies to daily life. I have been sick of my listening to my currently-holidaying workmate wondering one day before setting off to a trip around south-eastern Europe whether the third-party liability car insurance is valid outside EU and whether to take her husband’s car for inspection before starting a five-thousand-kilometre trip. Another co-worker was moaning on Friday since she had decided to have her car checked in a garage on the day of leaving for the long weekend, some defect was found and did not know what to do.

An ogarnięty individual has their car inspected some two or three weeks before a longer trip, since in case mechanics detect something which needs to be fixed there is headroom for ordering a spare part and booking a repair slot in a garage…

I could carry on with several such examples, but I see little point in flogging a dead horse. Life is too short to do things slowly, to get stuck in analysis to reach paralysis, to dither ten times before taking a decision. I am growing fond if idea of lean life. There are people who are older than me and today live in one country, while in a month they might move into another country. Their all belongings could fit into a few suitcases, they do not own a flat nor a car, because both assets are burdens. Compare them to owners of terraced houses in the suburbs – contents of their garages would not fit into suitcases of their peers who have not settled down yet.

I have learnt to think twice before buying something which I would use once or twice and now I try to borrow it or have it shared. Actually if you rent a well-equipped flat, you do not need to possess other stuff than a portable computer, clothes, footwear, cosmetics, documents and a mobile phone. Thanks to technological progress documents books and photos can be stored in an electronic form and the only concern is to have them properly stored and backed up. This also mean you do not get attached to stuff such as mugs, cutlery, etc. To live like this you need to learn to treat objects which facilitate your life instrumentally and decrease your expectations towards them. If you use an iron, a washing machine, a TV, a shared car, this will not be the one with all functions you would choose but in turn one which is not a burden for you.

The first step towards lean life? Rationalise the content of your dwelling, basement, attic, garage and find out which stuff you can get rid of! Analyse how much clutter you store in case they come in handy. Most people, as long as they do not move frequently, tend to accumulate things they bought on the spur of the moment, made use of them a few times and then put them away for a future use. Some of them have made a step forward and put up some of their stuff on Allegro or OLX, alternatively, they exchange stuff with similar folks who also do not need various stuff. But the step towards a deeper changes must be taken at the stage of buying and thinking twice whether an item would indeed be used repeatedly; the step which people who take pleasure in shopping might find difficult.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The new laptop - first impressions

I am writing this post from the third (counting out company one) computer I have had in my life. Given the fact my parents bought me my first one in 1999 (and I was one of the last children at school to have come into possession of a PC) that the most recent one is a brand-new one, jaw might drop open.

My first PC was the one I would tamper with, could take it apart and put together again, swapped components with my classmates etc. After seven years of service it gave way to a belated 18th birthday gift, a brand-new HP notebook bought in summer of 2006, prior to the outset of my studies. It broke down once, in 2010, then in 2014 I had it thoroughly cleaned of dust, the operation which cost under less than a hundred zloty that gave the notebook a second life and a speed boost. It served me really well, despite running on obsolete Windows XP and crying out for more RAM and faster processor at times. It has not given up a ghost typically; instead, its cover’s wear and tear reached its limits and the right hinge cracked. The estimated cost of repair was at least PLN 200 which prompted me to look for a new notebook, rather than sinking money in a device which on account of its age could pack up any time soon.

Since I have had good experience with HP devices (the one many not share) and having heard several times of badly defective Acer notebooks plus being fed up with my company Lenovo laptop, I decided to focus on HP portable computers only, knowing I would not repeat such good purchase as the previous computer had been. After all, more than a decade has elapsed and in terms of IT hardware, this is an era. For the sake of good order, I have not bought a state-of-the-art computer, since as I use it as Internet browser, a mailbox, a typing or calculating machine, a simple photo editor or a media player, the most advanced components would bring little marginal benefit and measurable marginal cost. I spent two thousand zloty on the new machine and after three weeks of using it, I do not regret not expending more money.

Though the technology has moved forward, in terms of ergonomics a step backwards has been made. I confess not to be fond of 16:9 screen proportions (I have got used to it) and I found 4:3 much more practical. Also all today’s notebooks have much less ergonomic mousepads. While choosing a laptop I paid much attention towards the pad (I have learnt not to use a separate mouse), bearing in mind how impractically it is designed in my company Lenovo and how it winds me up every time I use it outside the office. The pad in my new laptop has two separate buttons (not being a part of the pad as in lousy Lenovo), however lacks the scrolling surface to the right the previous one had. Well, one can get used to everything.

Using Windows 7 at work and Windows XP at home I did not observe much difference between the two operating systems. Upgrading to Windows 10 was thus a shock, yet I wanted to buy the most recent version of Microsoft’s operating system to avoid seeing it being rendered obsolete before long. Functionalities of Windows 10 best illustrate what stride has been made in terms of IT and what is the direction of changes. I would best call it a shift from owning to sharing and a shift from offline to online. Needless to say, my first steps with the new computer were dealings with privacy settings and turning off several spies built into the system and turned on in default mode.

Configuring and personalising the system is far more intuitive than in its previous versions. It seems the contemporary devices and operating systems are designed to be fool-proof. If you need a device to run, after a few clicks it is in the operational mode, while if you desire it to run the way you want it to, it takes a longer moment to tweak with all the settings and to disactivate the redundant functions. Though I appreciate how the modern devices take care of themselves, I actually lean towards being an aware technology user who gives up on convenience and prefers to retain control over his machinery rather than lets them look after themselves.

Hope the new device will serve me well for years to come, however I realise no matter how much I care about this device with limited durability, another decade in service looms out of reach.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

No man is an island


While the whole world pretends to be an endless ocean, through which humans sail, lacking direction.

First such Easter. I spent over twenty previous ones either at my grandparents’ until my grandma was fit enough to prepare Easter breakfast for around ten guests, or, then, at my aunt and uncle’s. Over the last year bonds within the family have further loosened, fuelled by argument between my father and his brother over the duty of looking after my grandpa. Without going into details, everyone spends this day at home alone; a circumstance which spares all parties stress, insincere smiling, inevitable disputes, mutual taunting and other nasty stuff. Instead I get a modest breakfast with my parents only and plenty of free time to take a precious break from work. Unfortunately, the weather is not conducive to outdoor activities which I long to enjoy; had Easter fallen two weeks ago, over+20C temperature and sunshine would have lifted my spirits in the festive season rather on an usual weekend.

This makes me ponder upon the pain threshold linked to days when families traditionally meet up. Some prefer to spend such days on their own, others strain to endure family gatherings even if they do not belong to pleasant events. The choice depends on the extent to which you feel good in your own company. For some loneliness means sadness, for others freedom. For the former being hurt by fellow men is the price to pay to avoid loneliness. If somebody asked me about my preference, I would answer I opt for loneliness. This is the theory, while actual events prove my answer could be my wish rather than preference.

Remember the story of one toxic relationship I had just given up? Do you realise how many times I was breaking it up “forever” after that post? Not that many, but the upshot is that I have gotten even more involved in it, though I seem to be keeping my distance, aware how emotionally draining it is. I have lost some self-respect for keeping this going, but I realise the dead-end delusion I am stuck in is the price to pay for having somebody who at times shows care and interest.

Oddly enough, while being stuck in the toxic mire, I have not stopped looking for opportunities to get involved in a normal relationship for a single moment. The endeavours have however, led me to the conviction that getting married and having children one day is just an option, not a certainty coming into life in unknown future. Don’t get me wrong, I am now just talking about taking things for granted, just like many happy spouses do not take for granted they will grow old with their partners just because fate brings accidents and illnesses to pull people apart. If finding self-fulfilment in being a husband and father might be out of reach for reasons beyond my control (more about in next paragraphs) then I should strive to seek other stuff (other than work-related, though job should give at least satisfaction, but being too committed to it, or even addicted is a trap) that would bring me happiness achievable on my own only. The bar is raised high, since except for my parents, I practically have no family and because my all long-lasting and newly-made friendships are with people who either have families or are in long-lasting relationships, therefore I cannot reckon on anybody to be a greater part of any plan.

Why the odds to get my life arranged happily have statistically decreased? If you were to answer the questions, most likely you would claim that…

1. With time I have grown more demanding and few women can meet my requirements. I would argue with time I have grown aware of what I definitely do not want and unlike one friend of mine thought, I do not have a picture of what the ideal girl would be like, but I know which traits I would not put up with. I want a normal girl, who would not be selfish, greedy, materialistic, insincere, not straightforward, judge book by the cover, think end justifies the means, etc. Maybe that’s still too much to ask.

2. Statistically, most women of my age are already in relationships and it is not a coincidence usually those deserving the most attention are already taken. This is called a natural selection – males are not stupid and once they have grabbed a sensible female they take the effort not to let her go. There is also the secondary market, yet as I observe the divorced women around if I were their husband, I would hurry to divorce them too ;-)

3. Opportunities to meet somebody are less frequent than before finishing studies. In fact workplace (and events associated therewith such as business travels, conferences, workshops and parties) is the main place where I meet new people and stay in their company long enough to get to know them good enough to lay foundations to build a closer relationship. Sometimes after one or two chats with a woman I realise she is worth getting to know her better, but realise the paths we tread have very little chance to cross again. The only chance to keep up getting to know each other is then simply to ask a woman out (otherwise I lose it), which means showing at least of a bit of interest in her. Many times this has turned out to be a step too far, yet worth taking, since otherwise I would have been kicking myself for wasting an opportunity.

At the certain age, as one develops habits and gets accustomed to independence offered by living on one’s own, making concessions being in a relationships involves looms as stepping out of the comfort one. Also tolerance for other people’s habits declines. Some time ago I though women reach that stage of life after they turn around 35. My observations from recent months fill me with (some degree of) confidence such perception of relationships with men develops with many girls around the age of 25 (horrifying).

The very belief there are many single women and nearly as many single men therefore they should pair up and the problem of sad singles will be gone is a fallacy, since it fails to take into account the structural mismatch between highly demanding and independent single women and single men simply afraid of them. Anyone who advises me to stop bleating and look around since there are plenty of single women in the world may read the below…

1. The stereotypical exorbitant requirements women allegedly set towards men (should be tall, handsome, well-built, well-travelled, have a good job, earn a lot, have his own flat and a car, dress stylishly, read books, be caring and resourceful and so on and so forth) are as I notice, not far cry from reality and oddly enough deter those men who meet majority of requirements, but are simply afraid women would not accept their imperfections and hold back. Frankly speaking I am also wary when I meet a woman who apparently waits for a knight on a white horse.

2. A woman who has been single for a few years is usually too habituated to freedom being single offers to her that she is unwilling to give up on it. Building a relationship is a matter of give and take, a person who wonders whether to benefits of being with somebody outweigh the costs should make a mature decision. I theoretically respect such decisions, although when some two months ago I heard from a girl with who I had broken the ice that the relationship would take away from her the freedom she cherished and actually she was not yet ready for a relationship, my instant reply was that being in a relationship does not deprive one of freedom and with each next day she would be even less ready for a relationship.

3. Coming to that point, readiness to let another person into one’s orderly little world declines with age. After years of being single, starting a relationship means a huge and abrupt exit from the comfort zone. I realise this sounds absurdly, as this is definitely not a description of the utterly pleasant state of falling in love. I would point out the fear of being pushed out of the comfort zone, the fear of losing control (falling in love is about getting carried away by emotions, isn’t it) keeps a tight rein on some single women’s emotions and does not let them reach the point when they have a crush with a man.

The theme of comfort zone brings to my mind two other observations. Firstly, I know women younger than me desperately hold on to their partners, no matter how imperfect they are and now little they care, out of pure fear of loneliness and not finding anyone better. Secondly, I heard many women aged over thirty telling me if their husbands died, they would remain widows until the end of their days, since they have grown so intolerant of men’s drawback that they would be reluctant to learn to live with someone new and all his habits and shortcomings.

If you have reached the very end, so probably think now I am totally downtrodden, grumpy and acrimonious, lacking hope and faith. Maybe, but today I am exercising my right to feel down and by sharing my sorrows with you I help them get them off my chest, I set myself free of them and distance myself from them. Besides, it saves my today’s mood for posterity, so it does what blogging is all about, just like a year ago, when a similar plea was posted in the eve of a breaking point…

Keep on hoping a for a brighter tomorrow! :-)))))