Wednesday, 30 September 2009

It takes passion and patience...

I’ve just found out today some of this blog’s readers might have some reasons to celebrate. 30 September is the International Translation Day (translated into Polish as Dzień Tłumacza…). My best wishes to everyone who translate or interpret for a living and to the ones who just dabble in it doing the job occasionally. I hope you will all take pleasure in what you do and you’ll be going the extra mile to get the job right.

Surprisingly neither landline phone nor the neostrada have been cut off, so I’m enjoying the last moments of holidays staring at the computer screen. Tomorrow Bartek will be turning over a new leaf – Master’s studies. God knows why at such small hour – first class starts at 8:00 a.m. what means I’ll have to get up before six…

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Goodbye Tepsa... :)

What Bartek and his family have been waiting for almost four years will come to a pass tomorrow. We’ll finally part company with the biggest national provider of internet access and landline phone services. Like many Poles we’ll confine to using mobile phones only. Our new internet provider will be… I’ve endorsed that company too many times so the careful readers will surely guess what the choice was. The new connection will be a bit faster, wireless, partly mobile (the coverage is not nationwide, but limited to 500 cities as the operator declares) and much cheaper. The drawback will be transfer limit imposed by the provider – although five gigabytes allows one to surf the web conveniently, downloading more than one or two films a months is up in the air.

A decade ago having a mobile phone in Poland was an extravagance. Since then the call charges have fallen by 85 per cent, handsets have become much more affordable so the penetration (number of mobile phones per citizen) of the market exceeded 100 per cent – everyone has a mobile these days, including pensioners, children from nursery school, drunkards, even the homeless. Meanwhile the landline, still regarded as a basic form of providing telecommunication services tends to be luxurious and maintenance costs are unreasonable. Currently the cheapest monthly plan of Telekompromitacja Polska S.A. costs 50 zł (unless you can submit the slip from local social welfare centre (Ośrodek pomocy społecznej) – then you’ll get the cheaper one, for 18,30 zł) and includes 60 minutes to national landlines. Ludicrous – for sixty minutes of calls to the landlines from my mobile phone I’d pay 3 zł. TP S.A. will charge you round seventeen times more for such doubtful pleasure. Doubtful for sake of the quality of calls, cracking, humming and other noises are what you should expect to hear in your receiver.

Below: the “infrastructure” of TP along my street…

Infrastructure is the official term for those strings tied up together and hanging on the concrete posts. To the left – white box attached to the post – a makeshift device used in 2005 to connect my house to the line, the wires run downwards to the white pipe, also fixed to the post. In the middle, just in front of the lamppost one can notice a beautiful hook-shaped object and one of the wires hanging down – this is the trace of the breakdown caused by Kiryll hurricane in January 2007. To the right – the rusty pipe through which the wire to my neighbours’ house runs. Makeshift all the way, don’t pay too much attention to the stonemason’s plant at the opposite side of the street. They’ll never tidy up there, it’s a matter of mentality, they don’t mind the squalor ('dziadostwo' in the “rightest” context)…

When inquired about the lack of investments in infrastructure in our locality, TP representatives replied according to their calculations it wouldn’t be cost-effective to put the wires underground, so it will stay like this until it falls apart. Such stance means that locals will be deprived of the access to the fast Internet for years – the capacity of such infrastructure is 700 – 800 kbps, what in two or three years will not be classified as broadband connection. In the West 10 to 20 Mbps becomes a standard, in Poland UPC is the provider which develops its infrastructure to provide its clients with such speed of connection, TP does nothing to improve its services. Moreover – its representatives claim their activity is barely profitable, only the price for the end-user is exorbitant. It’s the main reason why so many people turn them away. Assuming that customers’ decisions are based on cool calculation and common sense, the number of TP individual clients should drop drastically within the next five or ten years. French owners milk their cash cow to the limits, but one day the cow will die…

Monday, 28 September 2009

Where I used to live...

Strolling back home from the centre of Piaseczno I took a bit longer route and ventured to pop in to a place where I had spent roughly speaking over seventeen years of my life. I wandered through the typical estate of blocks of flats, constructed in a panel building technology (wielka płyta), similar to hundreds of such clusters of blocks in Poland, saw a few familiar faces, had a chat with my former geography teacher and neighbour and snapped a few pictures, not only for the blog, but for myself. Maybe I will never live in one place for such long time (it’s most likely when I retire), so I thought it would be expedient to capture the place and save the photos as the memoirs of the days which belong now to the past..

Below – a school I had attended for ten years (1993 – 2003) – I had spent there one year in pre-school class (zerówka), six years in primary school (szkoła podstawowa) and then three years in middle school (gimnazjum) – ten years of mostly joyful and carefree days I’ll be bringing back when I grow older.

The school complex was opened in 1988, just two months after I had been born, to meet the needs of new residents of Piaseczno, who had moved in to those newly built blocks. The school has been revamped, now there’s a decent pitch next to it, pupils can use facilities like gym and swimming pool, where sport classes are held. Currently it’s only a middle school, what means teenagers in their “worst” (as teachers call it) age are clustered together in one place – try to imagine eight hundred rowdy girls and boys… The school even has a draft of its English website (refrain from arduous proofreading, please…, mgr E.D. was my English teacher during first year in middle school, she was quite likeable and did her stint really well on the elementary level).

Below – the building where I lived – view to the balconies and entrance to the staircase. The block was insulated and plastered in 2000. Since then the yellow facade has been covered with mouldy-musty green stains of water leaking down the wall from the improperly laid gullets. My family lived on the first floor to the left, the nearest neighbours were rather unenviable.

The man who occupied the flat below mine would beat up his wife every Saturday after coming home under the influence, the next day they would go to the church together like if nothing had happened.
In the family living next door the husband would hit wife occasionally but once he made up his mind, he was determined to do it right. In the mid nineties they moved out to Nowa Iwiczna (my parents strictly stick to the rule “keep at least 200 metres away from the street Mr and Mrs W. live) and the flat was taken over by parents of one of the spouses. They were really affable, but had one irritating habit – they would look for interesting stuff in the rubbish bins and amass them on the balcony. The administration had to crack down on ants and other worms which hatched there. After they departed the flat was sold to a young couple who still live there, now with their children. As far as I know they still believe in an old Polish saying “Jak Bóg dał dzieci, to da i na dzieci” (If God gives children, He will also give [the money to provide] for children).
In the best times of the flat above us there were eight people packed on sixty square meters (Mrs and Mr P., their two sons with wives and children). Now the flat is occupied only by Mrs P., many of former dwellers of the flat enjoy the accommodation in the lodgings of afterlife, in the leisure time they probably swim in a tar.
For a few years my neighbour from the last floor was the current star of “Jaka To Melodia”. Now of course he doesn’t live in such dingy place. BTW – if you’ve never heard of him don’t worry, good for you! His English website is much better than the one of my school, but it could also take some beating…

And below – an alley in front of the building. From the early childhood I remember there was nothing apart from the flat and arid soil. Now there’s a row of trees, the estate is in the greenery, but the overwhelming squalor takes over. Grass has been rooted out by weeds, pavement slabs are so crooked that one could easily trip over them, the area gets more and more dilapidated.

I’m immensely happy I don’t have to live there. I got used to living in a house with a small garden, so I would find it hard in the spring to sit for the whole day between concrete walls. If I decide to move out, I’ll move to Warsaw and buy a flat there (detached or terraced house for years will be out of reach), at least I’ll replace the advantage of fresh air and greenery with another one – of having everything much nearer. There’s also another reason – Piaseczno, although said to be so modern is still very provincial – people know a lot about their neighbours, news and gossips spread quickly, the whole town can speak about one sensational event (accident, fire, etc.) for a week. There’s a sense of community which I cannot experience in the village I’m living now, but on the other hand I have much more anonymity and one good neighbour, amiable and not nosy…

Saturday, 26 September 2009

I think I detest Polish...

If you want to argue it’s a blasphemy or I shouldn’t speak like that about my mother tongue it’s your right. It took me quite long to get to such conclusion and what happened today was only the proverbial last straw – my friend asked my to translate quickly (and possible correctly) an excerpt of the report on the biomass in the UK. I glimpsed at the six pages long document, noticed there were no words I wouldn’t understand and tempted by the promise of generous pay I took up the offer.

Just after I set out to dealing with the text I realised or rather recalled one of the basic truths of linguistics: comprehension doesn’t have to translate into ability to translate. The main reason behind this very case is the structure of the language. English has a strict syntax, tends to be plain, uses few words to convey a certain message. In Polish, in turn, use of syntax is at user’s discretion (although putting the words together in the correct and comprehensible order requires some effort), but the worse feature is that my native language is too descriptive – it uses more words than English. To give you the idea of what the problem consists in, I’ll provide you with an example: “low-carbon economy” – could you fit the whole meaning of the term into two Polish words?

The second reason of my disinclination towards Polish is the ongoing distortion of the language, mangled by its native speaker (including those educated ones, like journalists – dreadful!). Sentences are built in such way that it’s hard to catch on what the author intended to say, many words are misused or overused. My mother, a graduate of Polish philology tells me it’s caused by a “linguistic paucity” (ubóstwo językowe) – people know too few words, so they face difficulties with expressing their feelings or giving information. That’s only one side of the coin, still probably the brighter one – in every nation there are scores of people who find it hard to express themselves, by dint of insufficient education. The darker side is misuse or excessive use of some words (may realizować serve as the best example – I hear it a few times a day and every time it pisses me off. As the Polish wiktionary informs, Pinolona was right to claim it’s derived from French and… what’s the most important the definition sets out the contexts it should be used in. They cover broadly the same situations as in English “realise” (1. put into practise, 2. turn into cash, 3. realise one’s plans, ambitions, dreams, 4. become a reality). So why do Poles have to use in hundreds of different contexts – realizować inwestycję (what means to build a house or a road, possibly also carry out another project, like construction of a sewage treatment plant or a windmill, don’t you be taken aback when you see pompous phrases like realizować drogę), realizować świadczenia (I felt like hitting my head against the wall – it means to pay (out) benefits), realizować zyski (to take profits), realizować usługi (to provide or render services), realizować zlecenie (to fulfil or execute an order), realizować płatności (to make payments), realizować materiał (to go over the curriculum).

Improperly used words often confuse translators – the task for a translator is much easier if the text in the source language is written in a plain way – then the work runs smoothly. Whenever they come across an improperly formulated phrase or sentence this perfect mechanism jams. A translator has to figure out the author’s intention, sometimes it’s imperative to change something in the structure of the text. As in the example of realizować – each case of misused Polish word has to be dealt with separately – in some cases realizować can be translated with another English verb, in others you just need to convert a sentence, just like in the receipt I got today by e-mail, after purchasing a top-up for my mobile phone. Doładowanie telefonu zostało zrealizowane will be translated as “your mobile phone has been topped up”. Simple, isn’t it?

After a longer, holiday break, my translation and linguistic fixation has been awakened. More freakish posts with questions I’m pondering upon will appear soon…

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Car-free day...

I’d love to call it a carefree day… Daydream… This noteworthy initiative was first launched in 2001, now almost all countries in Europe participate in it, for at least forth time it has been staged in Warsaw. The upshot of the praiseworthy event turned out to be a complete letdown – as TVN Warszawa and report, the traffic jams in Warsaw today were much worse than on an ordinary Tuesday. According to the journalists and their interlocutors, the reasons why Warsaw was stuck in the morning can be traced back to our mentality. The drivers stopped by the reporters claimed in unison they had thought all the drivers would have left their cars in car parks and garages and had commuted to work by public transport. Because (almost) everybody thought so, even more drivers chose to go to town by their own vehicles, causing the subsequent traffic jams.

Warsaw Public Transport Authority decided that the best incentive for the car owners to change their cars into buses and trams would be free rides. Here came an overt discrimination – the right to ride without paying a fare was granted only to the ones who could show a registration certificate of their own car. Thus my father went to Warsaw by bus for free and came home quite satisfied with the journey – the 709 bus was almost empty, he had a seat, but the ride took quite long as the bus got stuck with other vehicles on clogged up ul. Puławska. I had to buy a ticket and felt discriminated ;)

The situation looked differently on Trasa Łazienkowska, where the bus lane was opened today. There traffic was snarled up for two thousand drivers, meanwhile the journey from Ochota to Praga Południe by bus is fifteen minutes shorter. The basic problem with bus lanes is that what allows the bus drivers to overtake smoothly other vehicles makes the drivers sitting comfortably behind their wheels stick in the even worse jams. Surprisingly, or predictably bus lanes only slightly put the drivers off commuting by car. Poles are reluctant to travel to work by buses or trams and are blind to (scarce) advantages of public transport. I see two reasons for such stance.

Firstly, Poland is still a society on the make – as a consequence having a car meaning showing (off with) social status. Someone who uses public transport is still in many circles perceived as less resourceful, poorer, in a word inferior. You could argue it changes for the better – where the people are open-minded thing are heading in a good direction. As I commute to Warsaw I can see a clear distinction between those two tiers of people who travel to town. One consists of businessmen, managers, elegant ladies, children of rich parents and all sorts of white collars, another is made up of students, pupils, whose parents don’t drop them off or pick up from school, pensioners, middle-aged women and representatives of blue-collar professions.

Secondly, it’s quality of the public transport. Inside the buses it’s too hot both in summer and in winter, air-con is never on, drivers are impolite, timetables are the approximate source of information on when the buses run. The links are often inconvenient, passengers are packed like sardines, it often stinks.

But the first, status reason still prevails. I’m waiting for the moment I change bus to car, but not to look down on commuters but to increase my comfort of travelling. I’m just tired of breaking sweat in a bus or walking one kilometres to the bus stop in the rain, boiling heat or freeze. But I wouldn’t hesitate to do away with a car, if there was a fast train from where I live at least to the nearest underground station. That’s why I can’t see the reason why many inhabitants of Ursynów, living few steps away from the underground station still use their cars. It mostly gets on my nerves whenever I see a fellow student parking a car with WN, WE or WI number plate (often better than my father’s one) on a tiny car park in front of SGH. It’s much cheaper to go by underground, tram, etc and much more convenient, taking into account difficulties with finding parking space. So the main reason is to show off and emphasise the social status…

I’ve made a New (academic) Year Resolution – I won’t be writing about all the absurdities I experience at school – grief-sodden posts won’t bear any fruit. Today I’ll confine to only one remark – may it render the chaos of allegedly the best academy of economics.
“The students who passed their bachelor’s exam until 3rd July can receive their diplomas” – such announcement was put up by administrative staff today. The case is that bachelor’s exams were held since 6th July…

Oh… And I’ll pass over my adventures with national health service, number transfers, lack of running water in the tap every evening…

Friday, 18 September 2009

To Powsin – by bike and on foot

It was nice to experience one of the last moment of permitting weather and visit the Entertainment and Culture Park in the sunny afternoon, when most of people sit in their offices. I set off at 13:30 to Julianów, where my friend lives, left the bike at his garage and on foot we strolled (or rather marched) six kilometres to Powsin. The route is so short only when covered on foot or cycled – the path runs along the coal line, (below – the level crossing in Kierszek, to my surprise this section of the track has been modernised – old wooden sleepers have been replaced with the concrete ones).

Then in the village Kierszek one has to turn left and walk, ride along the east verge of Las Kabacki. (below – east to the path there are lots of fences of big plots bought by the new-rich. Many of them are dilapidated, here the example of the compatriots’ artistic activity).

Entertainment and Culture Park itself brings to mind the holiday resort. For a moment I feel like in a typical resort. People sunbathing, cycling, pensioner playing chess, some drunkards sipping “sparkling wine”. The quiet was interrupted only by the integration party held by one of the construction companies. Below – a snack bar where we took a rest.

Heading back home I noticed the new landmark of Piaseczno in the distance. The photo below was taken somewhere around Kierszek and shows the “flagship building” of the town – “Sand City Tower” – sixteen storey high building put up just next to Piaseczno’s bypass. Its main asset was meant to be picturesque view splaying out from Landscape Park to the south up to the Warsaw’s skyline to the north. Indeed, it is visible from the distance of seven kilometres, but the view won’t beat the Warsaw skyscrapers’ panorama seen from Lesznowola.

The last snap, from bike in Józefosław – this is a new bus service which links the new estates built south of Las Kabacki with Warsaw. It runs each twenty minutes in the rush hour, to ride it one needs a ticket valid in a suburban zone. Locals already complain about high prices of tickets, bad route and frequency of shuttling…

Late afternoon at home I find – two Polish absurdities.

First from my university – the whole description (in Polish – here). Phone conversation between a student and a lady from the dean’s office.

Student: Kiedy dostaniemy dyplomy? (When will we get our diplomas?)
Lady from the dean’s office: Żle pan trafił bo dziś mamy rekrutację na uzupełniające i nikt panu nie pomoże. (You’re out of luck, today we’re dealing with the enrolment on post-grad studies and no one’s going to help you.)
Student: Chodzi mi tylko o dzień (I would only like to ask which day will it happen?)
Lady from the dean’s office: Proszę pana nie chce mi się przestawiać myślenia na to pytanie bo mam zajęcia związane z rekrutacją które wymagają skupienia (Dear sir, I don’t feel like shifting my thinking into your question, cause I’m busy with the enrolment and this requires a lot of concentration.)

The second one – the news that Play Mobile’s shareholders might wish to shove up its capital brought about a swift reaction the competitors. Jeśli Play znowu dostanie pieniądze, będzie mógł dalej psuć rynek – komentowała anonimowo osoba zbliżona do jednej z sieci stacjonarnych. (If Play gets money once again, it will be able to keep on spoiling the market – commented a person affiliated with one of landline operators). I don’t know whether that landline operator has close capital tie-ups with one of mobile operators and I have absolutely no idea if companies like Telekompromitacja Polska S.A. and Orżnąć have something in common with that statement, but I can come up with one conclusion. It shows what is the attitude towards customer among the old operator. Within last two and a half year the prices dropped by sixty percent (figures for pre-paid plans). The market from oligopoly evolved into customer’s market. All changes which took place were to the benefit of ordinary people who could pay less and use their phone more often. But maybe I should understand the anger of the company which took lower revenues, lost some clients, but one the other hand they deserved it. Serves them right, I suppose the cash injection will be earmarked for investments in infrastructure, but I hope Play will continue to spoil the market, to the benefit of customers and to the detriment of other operators.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Between the anniversaries...

Hang on, I managed to print the photos from holidays. In Piaseczno, where I finally bought the colour cartridges, I spoke to the Epson technical service manager. He frankly admitted printer-blocking system is an element of company’s policy, the firm’s justification are safety reasons (ink could leak into the printer and soak up some parts…). I installed the new cartridges, the printer failed to recognise them (first such occurrence in six and a half years time), so this time I called Epson support desk. The consultant supposed there was something from with contact points, but at the end advised me to hit and turn the device on simultaneously. I followed his orders, the printers indeed kicked in immediately, but the front panel cracked, there’s a big rupture on it. I protected it with a stick tape, but in spite of my attachment to the printer, its days are numbered. It’s getting too hard to get the cartridges, to boot it’s getting unreliable and tussling with its whimsies or shooting troubles in a very peculiar way is too time-consuming.

Yesterday – first and thus round anniversary of the outbreak of financial crisis – the day Lehman Brother Banks went bankrupt – for some that was a shock, for some the aftermath of wobbly financial system based on derivatives, dicey undertaking and misestimating risk. Today LB is a thing of the past and I wonder if the human will learn from their mistakes. When will the speculators blow up the next bubble? When will the banks take excessive risk? When will the monetary authorities run the sensible monetary policy? How will the markets be supervised? Will the prevent the next crisis, just like the government didn’t let the downfall of LB trigger an avalanche of bankruptcies? Will we remember what the knock-on effect means and how dangerous it is for the economy?

Tomorrow – also round but already seventieth anniversary of Soviet invasion of Poland. Marked by the politicians who, trying to capitalise on the remembrance of Katyń Massacre, argue whether it was a war crime or a genocide… Study those definitions (if necessary, switch to Polish) and shape your own opinions. The resolution to commemorate the victims of Soviet regime will probably be passed almost a week after the raid’s anniversary…

Monday, 14 September 2009

What winds me up...

A tinge of absurdity makes our lives more interesting, a dose of absurdity lets us mock at the imperfect reality, but when they make up an ample chunk of our daily routine they paralyse our lives. From time to time I do have such bouts of being overwhelmed by absurdity. That happens usually when I tackle a series of events which go according to the same simple scenario: an activity which should run smoothly causes extortionate problems. To illustrate it with an example: I want to buy a loaf of bread. I go to the first shop – it is closed, in the second they ran out of bread, in the third they didn’t get it from the bakery, in the fourth one the till has broken down and the shop assistant can sell it to me, in the fifth one they have only stale loaves, in the seventh… I could make up such problems endlessly…

I have to order a transfers to my school’s accounts and bring them the proof of payment. How will I know if such hidebound institution like my school accepts printouts from online-banking system. I don’t feel like going to the bank’s outlet and paying ten zlotys for ordering transfers, the proofs will look almost the same, there won’t be those red slips with funny blanks, they’re no longer in use. Hopefully they won’t pick on what I’m going to deliver. You may argue that I think up problems which do not exist. Mates, I know my school, I’ve been studying there for three years and saw much more ridiculous situations… BTW: enrolment fee – 85 zlotys, diploma fee – 100 zlotys, student card fee – 17 zlotys, credit book fee – 4 zlotys. Altogether over 200 zlotys, times over 1000 students and Warsaw School of Economics made over two hundred zlotys on dividing course of studies into first and second degree.

On Friday evening there was an attempt of break-in to my house. Probably the thieves have been observing the empty house for a while and planned the action for the day before owners should have come. The neighbours dog was vigilant started to bark as it saw the strangers in our garden. Neighbours alarmed by barking of usually quiet dog popped out to check what was going on, stared at the burglars and scared them away. They didn’t get in what if they did? I’ve been asking myself if I had a right to overpower them, hit them without warning, break a limb? Should they attack me earlier? Is encroaching upon someone else’s property already an attack? I’m not keen to praise US system where the owner can kill any intruder, I wouldn’t kill anybody. But a burglar is a scoundrel, a dreg of a society, for trespassing my property he deserves punishment, but am I the right person to mete it out? Should I be afraid of defending myself at home because of the possibility of being sentenced for beating up a thief?

Yesterday I wanted to print the photos from holiday trip. Together with my parents we chose 64 pictures to be printed, I decided they would be done on 4x6 inch format and put onto the new album. I have the ink, have my photo paper, I turn on the printer. It hasn’t been used for two weeks so I do a nozzle check (in plain English I check if the device prints in all four colours), the result is not satisfying to I load up head cleaning program, as it ends the gauges on the printer flash interchangeably. “An unknown error has occurred” is the first window which pops up, the next one communicates planned obsolescence of some parts of the printer has just expired… The device has jammed, I copy the content of pop-up window and paste it into Google. To my surprise I don’t need to contact the service facility. I download a service application and unlock the printer. What was the cause? Malicious or rather greedy designer. It turned out that Epson Stylus C62 after printing 14.370 pages – fourteen thousand three hundred seventy pages – if you think it is a round number just let me know – is set to display such hilarious piece of information and block itself.

Dear user, come to us and pay us for unlocking it, if you’re sharp witted do it on your own (like I did), there’s another alternative – don’t bother to wrangle with it – just buy a new printer and let us earn. Who the hell came up with such ridiculous idea that this specific model can print such number of pages and not even one more? Because of tussling with the infuriating device I missed out on a final volleyball game and haven’t seen Polish team winning a gold medal. You’d ask why wouldn’t I just replace it with a new one. I’ve cared for this printer for six and a half years and I’m somehow attached to it. Until now it served me well, but it couldn’t repay me with a good performance cause an accursed engineer set the limit of its capacity…

Unfortunately I wasn’t too proficient with operating service application so I used too much ink for intensive head cleaning (they had jammed themselves, according to the designer’s lousy but carefully contrived plan) and had to go to town to buy new cartridges. I drop in the first one where I stock up regularly (Papiernik, ul. Nugat 7, Ursynów). I buy two black ones, but they don’t have a colour one. Alright, I’ll go to the other shop I patronised earlier – Belgradzka 22, they also don’t have the colour one but the shop assistant tries to foist on me the black one and doesn’t seem to understand that I’ve just bought two and don’t need any more. I head for another shop, I don’t remember the exact address, somewhere on north Ursynów. For no apparent reason they also have only the black cartridges but this time the saleswoman suggests I should buy another colour cartridge which they have on the stock, it takes a minute to drum it down to her head that a different one doesn’t fit my printer… I got back home by newly opened 739 bus line. I got out on the new bus stop, next to Auchan so I decided to pop in there and check if they have the cartridge I’m yearning for. I already hold a foil bag with cartridges I bought so I ask if there’s a storage box to leave for the duration of my shopping. There isn’t any, but three security guards together seal my bag and with such closed bag I can enter the shop. I find only the black ones so I get out of the supermarket. Security guards control my sealed bag and reluctantly let me go…

I’d better have these photos developed before I blow a fuse…

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Holidays 2009 – coverage

Back home. Below a short description of rather short holidays – just five days, into which we managed to pack meeting the family and lots of sightseeing. We got on well with newly met family. Friendly, kind but not importunate people showed us round the surroundings of Jelenia Góra.

Day 1 – Cieplice – currently a part of Jelenia Góra, sanatorium resort incorporated into the city in the mid 70’s under the administration reform plan (new capitals of voivodeship had to be big enough to fulfil such function). Below: a market square in Cieplice, revamped and modernised within the last decade. I took there only two photos, as the batteries went dead after only two snaps, without warning. Of course I couldn't get any in the local shops, the rechargeable ones I left in the lodgings.

Day 2 – Karpacz – quite nice town suffused with tourists all year round. In the early September there weren’t plenty of visitors or they were strewn across the town, stretching along the winding road. Below: A Wang Stave Church beyond town.

Residents of the resort make living by the tourism. Below: a piece of evidence that a silly tourist will buy everything. Some of those “souvenirs”, gadgets or however you call it can make quite nice gifts.

Day 3 – Świeradów Zdrój – elegant city located in the midst of Izera Mountains, geared mostly at tourist from behind the west border. The same applies to all of the mentioned towns – boards in front of the shops, menus in the restaurants etc. are bilingual. Shopkeepers, staff and service of hotels, restaurants have to be able to communicate in German. And our western neighbours have relatively cheap holidays in what for centuries had been their land.
Below: a panorama of the town’s high street and a view from Stok Izerski.

Day 4 – Szklarska Poręba – town is beautiful but spoiled by national road no. 3 running through its centre towards the border with Czech Republic. Nobody plans a bypass, as in the mountains it’s just too expensive, not to mention the tunnels which would be the best solution for transit traffic problems. Three kilometres before SP, less than half a kilometre away from national road there’s a picturesque Szklarka Waterfall (below).

Strongly recommended visit, if you can, walk up what my aunt called “a desolated trail” – empty route along the stream, hardly ever can one meet people on one’s way. Here I found the only bilingual information board written in (British) English. Translated rather properly (I’ll leave to natives), I only puzzled over last two paragraphs, why is the penultimate longer in Polish and the last longer in English?

Day 5 – Mysłakowice where we stayed. The village has once been famous for its linen plant (photo below), now derelict, closed down in the 90’s. Unemployment is rather high, squalor and people’s habits don’t differ much from the ones on the other end of Poland. Here it’s a Post-German squalor, perceptible mostly by the architecture.

Comeback – Polish roads are ghastly and full of traffic enforcement cameras (PL: fotoradar) (I’ve seen one in action – if they take a photo of you speeding you’ll see a flash), tractors on national roads, not to mention rows of four or five trucks, impossible to overtake and lunatic drivers. I let my father drive through Wrocław, short of road signs and with dismal streets. Between Wieluń and Bełchatów, after a bit risky overtaking I noticed a police car in the wing mirror. To my surprise I wasn’t stopped by them, and just let them overtake me – they drove on, probably chasing another(?) foul driver… Even the dual carriageway between Warszawa and Piotrków Trybunalski, the first fast-traffic road built in Poland, over thirty years ago, linking Warsaw and Silesia, where comrade Gierek came from, is not up to the standard. The key advantage are the two lanes in each direction, but bumpy tarmac on some sections, tens of intersections and pedestrian crossings make driving fast, but not quite comfortable…

I looked up the plans of modernisations of Polish roads. The pace according to them should be impressing – Poland is in critical need of a decent network of dual carriageways – their standard is absolutely sufficient and make an alternative to toll motorways. Mostly I’d be looking forward to seeing motorway A2 reaching Warsaw from the West and dual carriageways linking Warsaw with Gdańsk, Kraków, Wrocław and… Suwałki.

The next episode soon, hopefully…

Friday, 4 September 2009

Holidays are over?

It’s noticeable on every step – street are much more busy and full of rowdy teenagers. Days are getting significantly shorter. For no apparent reason people tend to fall into autumnal depression as their organisms receive less and less daylight. In my case this year it goes the other way round. I feel much better when it’s either dark or when the day is one of those foggy, overcast, damp, chilly. Maybe it squares with my dark nature?

All in all Mother Nature isn’t stupid and I’m sure she has carefully thought out the arrangement of changing seasons of the year. I’ve noticed that the year (in our latitude and climate) consists of seasons which naturally go by to give way to the next ones. We’re fed up with winter and then comes the spring when the nature is brought back to life, we’re waiting for the warmer and longer days, but after a while we’re missing some cool air and greyness. A Or am I an exception longing for it?

For me holidays aren’t over yet. Tomorrow I’m heading for Jelenia Góra to visit, or actually meet my family found after years through nasza-klasa. Hopefully this time I won’t be pulled back to Warsaw earlier (than on Friday when the return is due) and next Saturday there will be decent photo coverage of early autumn, always beautiful in the Polish mountains.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Wait it out and join the game!

I’m temporarily sick of politics so I’m making do with reading the opinions on the outbreak of WW2 on other EN-language blogs, I’d rather focus on what I’ve been awaiting since April. It seems it has just began and is going to grow apace. The abrupt rally of stock indices since late February has been put on hold for a while. Having risen by around eighty per cent within just six months, share prices need to do a U-turn to return to the levels set out by macroeconomic conditions.

It doesn’t really matter now, whether the recession is over or if we are going to be hit by a second wave (hopefully not). It’s time for a typical correction – the market’s reaction to the unreasonable surge we witnessed. A month ago polls conducted among investors from the States showed the predominance of bulls, today moods are getting downbeat and soon bears might even outnumber bulls. History would prove drop-offs are much more likely in the autumnal months. I’m not in favour of trying to predict future on the basis of past figures, but all I see implies the comeback of pessimism to the markets.

If the correction is inevitable, the open question is only its scale. The readers of are as always into those euphoric, claiming “two or three days of sale and we’ll be heading northwards” or the ones asserting the new trough will be reached. This time the truth might lie somewhere in between – the correction will wipe out about a half of the current bull market (thus I assume the last upsurge was a beginning of a new trend, not a long correction of a downward wave), so my investment recommendation* is to wait until WIG 20 index drops to around 1700 – 1800 points and enter the game. The tide will turn at around this level and venture should fetch a decent profit

* DISCLAIMER – don’t take anything for granted, you should rely on your common sense (don’t forget about intuition) – there are as many opinions as analysts…