Sunday, 27 January 2013

Humility is a virtue

Mayday’s episode on Smolensk Air Crash is due to have its world premiere today at 9 p.m. in National Geographic Channel’s Polish channel. Poles will be the first audience to see the purportedly unbiased coverage of the tragic flight and reasons behind the disaster.

The film has been hailed as prejudiced many months ago by PiS-backing Polish media, as its script is based solely on findings of two official reports on the crash, one drawn up by Russian MAK, the other prepared by the Polish parliamentary commission, run by Jerzy Miller (the series’ makers as a matter of principle rely on official reports rather than on conspiracy theories). Producers of the ‘one-sided’ film, who refused to incorporate possible causes such as blast, terrorist attack, were accused of being paid by the Russians to distort the real course of events to the audience in the world. The broader discussion on the controversial documentary is going to spark off after the broadcast (although many journalists have already seen the document during a dedicated show) and I will post my review of it next weekend (today I will not make it, over the busy week it will be impossible as well).

In the meantime I am taking the opportunity to invoke another report, authored by Japanese parliamentary panel investigating causes and aftermaths of Fukushima power plant disaster. If you recall the tragic events from March 2011, you bring to your mind pictures of cruel powers of nature which destroyed the plant. You blame the earthquake and the tsunami, while authors of the report claim this was a “man-made disaster”. If the read the BBC’s summary of the report’s findings, the picture which emerges is a sharp condemnation of Japanese culture, the nation’s shortcomings and stance of people responsible of overseeing maintenance of the plant and handling mitigating effect of the disaster. Actually the nation is pulled into pieces for its “culture of deference and reluctance to question authority”. Once negligence was covered up at the top, nobody at the bottom felt entitled to bring it to the light. The report was a bitter pill to swallow for the Japanese. They had the courage to eat the humble pie…

Same could be said about the Smolensk crash, this also was a typical man-made disaster. Responsibility for it is collective and many Polish national shortcomings, brought together, contributed to the fatal accident. The list can be long: overwhelming disorganisation in prime minister’s and late president’s offices, commonly tolerated laxity in following procedures, acting on reprehensible faith that “we’ll somehow make it” (jakoś to będzie, uda się), determination to carry on, despite dangerous conditions, cutting corners (bylejakość), bravura, focus on end heedless of safety procedures. Several irregularities were found in the disbanded 36th regiment of Polish military aviation (inadequate training resulting e.g. in reading the wrong altitude meter), in prime minister’s office (responsibility for organising such visits rests with them). Media, for sake of customary refraining from speaking badly about the departed, seldom mention total chaos in the president Kaczyński’s office, but this was also the case. Same can be said about Russian airport in Smolensk, run-down, lacking fixed equipment necessary to service takeoffs and touchdowns (such was moved there for prime minister’s Tusk visit 3 days earlier and taken away immediately), but I ultimately would blame the Polish organisers who did not bother to choose a safer, properly equipped airport.

I am looking forward to seeing the film. Little in its content is likely to surprise me – newspapers in Poland have written long reviews and summaries of it. I am more curious of social potential outcry regarding the account of events depicted in the film. The documentary is not going to change anything. Those who believe this was an assassination contrived by enemies of the most outstanding statesman in the history of Poland will not be convinced this was a tragic aftermath of multitude of human errors, those who put credence into official parliamentary report, will find in it nothing new; nevertheless it is worth spending two hours in front of the TV screen.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

EU-funded twaddle - follow-up

Just as I promised on Sunday, I made several attempts to reach a person who heads a department (one of several in Mazovian Unit of Implementing Programmes European) which runs 'Human Capital' projects. To no avail, I was only informed all calls, to ensure my safety and satisfaction, are recorded, and was not in the luck to get through. I was surely calling during a coffee break, a second breakfast break, a lunch break, an afternoon break or during a very important meeting.

So we don't know what the attitude of rubbish-producer is.

Coincidentally, Gazeta Stołeczna ran a very similar story on errors in leaflets for foreign diplomats prepared by Warsaw Town Hall. Neither at work (due to some idiotic restrictions), nor at home (didn't feel like tampering the screen resolution settings) could I enlarge the scans, so I can't assess the correctness of the original leaflets nor the proofreader's remarks. The translator who'd sent in the dreadful piece to Stołeczna's editors, was slated in the comment thread under the article. Well, in this country everyone knows best.

PS. Good news - the exam... passed :) Nice to feel hard work bears fruits.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

EU-funded twaddle in a newspaper

It has been a while (almost three years have passed by) since I last cracked down on ghastly use of English (I read it over today and found myself in stitches). Absence of the topic on PES does not directly imply the problem has disappeared. Probably after I began working for a Poland-based company in which English is used every day I simply got accustomed to Poles mangling the language and ceased to find it so appalling. But yesterday I sat back in my armchair, opened the Friday edition of Gazeta Stołeczna to find this…

I felt under my skin this announcement was noteworthy. I took a glance on it, then another one, then read it carefully, grabbed a pen, a minute later I knew I would not resist the temptation to tear it to pieces on the blog.

The heading… The man, how about replacing it with Human capital, fixed expression popular in English that often goes together with investment?

Entity name… What a peculiar word order... Implementing Programmes European. OK, in Polish you can try putting cart before the horse, in English, it is not advisable…

What the Mazovian Unit of Implementing Programmes European wants to publicly announce is squeezed into 81-word long sentence. Yes, one sentence is made up of 81 words, in line with KISS (keep it short and simple) rule. The same message could have been conveyed in 20 words I guess. But stretching it to quadrupled number for sure was meant to stress importance and erudition of the author, hence my scribble: “może k… dłuższe?”. How pompous, how turgid…

Scheduled for realisation. I have had a go at translating the Polish verb realizować twice, here and here. Third time would not be lucky. Observant readers should also note emphasis the author put on consistency – a few lines down they wrote realized. In British English you can use “s” or “z” (the former is preferred), when words end with “ise/ize”, but a good practice is to stick to one of them.

Now section 1 – Support for people … category, including:, 36 words in total. How about getting it across in merely 19 words: “Outplacement programmes for the redundant, to be made redundant or at risk of redundancy for employer-related reasons, including:”. My editorial skills fail here a bit, the to be made redundant, does not sound OK to me. Any better translation of przewidzianych do zwolnienia?

One of bullets in section 1 goes: A project participants subsidized employment with a new employer. Now finally jaw drops open. Hard to turn it around; my proposal is subsidies for employers hiring project participants – can it be any better?

Next bullet and the jaw refuses to move up. It is winter so at least I am not likely to swallow an insect. to launch economic activity sound exactly like rozpocząć działalność gospodarczą, but to start a business sounds natural… And why through using? Nine words after economic activity could be swapped for in form of.

Minimal salary – I know minimal is more similar to Polish word minimalny, but minimum has the same meaning, which should tip the scales for the former if the hapless compiler was weighing up which of the words they should use.

Within the framework, in the field of – are examples of phrases that are not purely incorrect, but in English which favours simplicity they somehow disturb natural flow of communication. Right?

Section 2 and here we go again, this could do with at least a dozen words more, as complexity or Research and analyses is still insufficient.

Januaryr? Spell-checker on?

Deadline for submission of the applications is determined by the date of submission of the application… Does it hang together at all? The intent of the author, as it later turned out, was not to write what the latest date applications can be submitted was, but… that an application is deemed to be submitted exactly when it is submitted to the Agency’s office. O terminie złożenia wniosku decyduje data złożenia wniosku. Really confused now?

Now it has been last straw, let’s speak it out straightforwardly – this announcement is a linguistic piece of shit.

localized”. Maybe it sounds dissimilar to zlokalizowany, but if there is such word in English as located, there is a likelihood that it fits better.

The next paragraph, starting with All entities may be granted – can somebody tell me what the hell they wanted to say? This is a classic example of bureaucratic drivel!

Next sentence is bolded and underlined to bring another uncanny example of word order. No comment.

Here I am running out of patience. Logos at the bottom inform me the advertisement was co-paid from EU funds. This is what zillions of money that feed EU bloated bureaucratic apparatus are spent for – let’s face it, this is, not to mince words, a load of crap.

Devastated by the content of the advertisement, I flipped the page and found… 

a source document in Polish, my native language. It dawned on me, everything cleared up. As usual, garbage in, garbage out. The announcement in Polish is also written in the same official puffed-up style. Load of crap in the target language is just an aftermath of load of crap in the source language.

The story behind it was also probably same as always – an inferior, mediocre clerk thought the less plain and clear the language they use, the more educated they appear. More civilised people prove their superiority by explaining complicated issues in simple words, so that everyone can grasp them. In the kingdom of Polish officialdom it goes the other way round. And then a person who is said to know English best (yes, best, meaning possibly well) in an office was told to translate it into English. It might have not been done that poorly, but the translation could have been checked by a snotty superior of the translator and “improved”. The outcome leaves an educated native speaker at least dazed.

How long before I see decent Polish to English translations? Do not think I am going to take it lying down. On Tuesday I have a day off to drive my grandfather to a doctor in the morning, but I will have a free afternoon and I will take the trouble to call the Mazovian Unit of Implementing Programmes European and tell them politely their investment in The Man fills me with anger and shame. I bet they will not understand, nor care, but such practices should not be put up with!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Got up and tried

Sometimes to understand the present, you have to go back in time.

9 June 2010, the penultimate day of my penultimate exam period at SGH, also the day when awards in the 15th edition of “Grasz o Staż” contest were handed… Four months earlier, at the beginning of the penultimate semester of my studies, I decided to change the English class group, to attend the class run by the definitely the best teacher I’ve ever had. There I met Natalia (name, as usually, changed). We talked with each other very few times, but it could be felt there was a chemistry between us. As students we last talked on 9 June 2010, just after our final exam in English; we stared at each other’s eyes and yes, I knew what I should have done then… I felt some kind of affection for her, but I didn’t care much. I was a fool at that stupid stage of my life when career was the overriding goal. I was in a hurry for the “Grasz o Staż” banquet when she asked me to tap my phone number into her handset. I keyed in the number, but didn’t bother to press the green button to have her number displayed on my phone, and then dashed off. That’s how and why we wouldn’t see each other ever after.

I began to realise how mean it was many months later, after the internship, the hectic period of combing work and studying and shake-down at the current position. I settled down at work, achieved something and began to see the light, began to recognise different values are more important than building career, finally began to regret. But soon later I met Her and drowned out my regrets, I even thought things went the right way, otherwise I’d have hurt Natalia. Then what I’d put my faith in fell into pieces and when it was crystal clear there were even no pieces to pick up, the wasted chance began to haunt me more and more often.

You can’t turn back time and make up for the wrong you’ve once done, but whenever there’s a least little chance why not try to start over?

I was down in the dumps after my 25th birthday. The sorrow was not brought about by the very moment of passing by the quarter-of-century milestone, but on account of it being accompanied by awakening ghosts of the past months, bringing back pleasant (still, with hindsight) and unpleasant memories. Could it be the time to make an attempt to raise the dead?

I’d been talking about Natalia with my colleague several times. I’d told her Natalia vanished into the air and nobody knew what she was doing (strange, isn’t it?). My colleague suggested I should go an extra mile and harness search engine to go on a more extensive lookout with several combinations of keywords. 10 minutes later I learnt Natalia works in a small accountancy firm in a building 200 metres from away from my office. Truth be told I wasn’t particularly eager to make use of that knowledge, but my colleague insisted I marched there right away and met with her.

Life without spontaneity is… well, hollow. Ten minutes later I was putting the half-baked plan into practice. The search went very smoothly. Assistant at reception desk told me where exactly her office was located and did not make any troubles to let me in. When I entered her room, Natalia was out in a kitchen for a while. She was very positively “shocked” at the sight of me. I asked her out for a coffee, we had a nice chat, she gave me her phone number, my impression was very positive, yet slightly tainted by alertness of shock Natalia was overcoming…

Over the next days her enthusiasm was fading very quickly. She was either very busy at work or, then ill (just like me), then I decided to ease up and let her accustom to my unexpected stepping-in. Her hesitation or reluctance and shyness began to put me off. I ended up spending New Year’s Eve with someone else. With her approach this relationship had to chance to develop.

On 3 January, just like over two weeks earlier, I went to her building, called her and asked to come down. After exchange of pleasantries she began to quiver and look down. I found her behaviour kind of disturbing and realising she was trying to tell me something I encouraged her to stutter it out.

Natalia: You know, I’ve been thinking about you a lot since our meeting before Christmas and… you’ve made an enormous effort to find me, so I suppose you might have some clear expectations towards me and I don’t want you to hold out much hopes…

Bartek: After not seeing you for more than two years, I could have found you being with someone else and did consider this when trying to find you, but when we met, you told me that…

N: I remember, when you asked how I was doing, my reply started with a declaration “I don’t have a boyfriend, I don’t have a fiancé, I’m not married”…

B: So actually you have somebody…?

N: Well, formally we are not together… This is… a cupboard love

B: (the whole situation seemed kind of funny to me) It sounds serious.

N: It’s a very serious feeling towards an older, mature man.

B: (I could barely help my jaw dropping open, but responded in a serious manner) Maybe it would be worthwhile to do something about it?

Natalia just pulled a face and flushed…

During our conversation I found it all hilarious, several minutes later I found it pitiful, at the end of that day – dreadful. Natalia is turning 27 in three weeks. How can a woman of that age live on daydreams and delusions. A woman of that age if she declares she wants to have a family and bring up children should try to build a real relationship. If she doesn’t change, she stands no chance to turn her life around. I could go on about this for several paragraphs, but this is not a place to take apart someone’s broken psyche. I simply feel sorry for her.

But I don’t take pity on myself. Didn’t care, didn’t hurt (nie zależało – nie zabolało). To be frank, it did hurt a bit, as nobody likes being turned away. I could only be better off and had nothing to lose, unlike in the previous case we are fully separated from each other (no hear since the hapless meeting), so this chapter is closed. I’m glad to have seen the end before it began. And I’m particularly happy to have done something which could have been a good material for a script of a romantic film (maybe the one with a happy ending), something spontaneous and memorable. At least I won’t revert to memories of her, won’t ask myself if it could go on a different way, won’t wonder whether there is a chance to revive it.

This illustrates a recipe for living. Make sure you do whatever is possible to seize all opportunities you might have. And don’t let a situation when you regret not doing something happen.

Got up and tried. The bubble burst, I’m not on my knees, but not feel like trying, although I know I probably should (a classmate from primary school) is chasing me up to go out together and I know if I’m not about to miss it, I should get in touch with her soon, but to be honest I totally don’t feel like trying… Unsettling? Should I let some time pass?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

2012 Road construction summary

Last year has gone down in history as a year when the highest number of kilometres of new fast-traffic roads (i.e. expressway and motorway) was opened for use. In terms of road infrastructure Poland use to lag behind most EU countries, but thanks to road construction boom, largely spurred by preparations for 2012 European Football Championship, Poland has caught up. This is unlikely to repeat in my lifetime, therefore it is worthwhile to document what, where and when was opened in 2012. Hope all infrastructure zealot will find this posting useful.

Below, a concise summary, mere facts, comments seldom interspersed throughout. Each entry arranged in the same order: date / road number (A stands for motorway, S denotes expressway) / section details (length, cities connected) / optional comments.

23 May 2012 / A2 / section E of Warszawa – Łódź road, linking A2-S2-S8 junction in Konotopa to Pruszków, 5 kilometres

23 May 2012 / S8 / junction Warszawa Zachód – junction Konotopa, 2 kilometres / completed in early 2011, but closed until then, as running into nowhere.

27 May 2012 / A2 / section D of Warszawa – Łódź road, between Pruszków and Grodzisk Mazowiecki, 18 kilometres

1 June 2012 / A1 / Pyrzowice Zachód – Zabrze in Upper Silesia, 28 kilometres

1 June 2012 / S1 / junction Pyrzowice – junction Pyrzowice Lotnisko, 2 kilometres

3 June 2012 / A2 / section A and B of Warszawa – Łódź road, between Stryków and junction Skierniewice, 33 kilometres, section A had a status of passable road, with speed limit of 70 kmph and temporary closures of one of roads after Euro 2012, until 15 October 2012

3 June 2012 / S11 / Poznań Skórzewo – Poznań Zachód, 6 kilometres

4 June 2012 / S5 / Gniezno – junction Poznań Wschód, 35 kilometres

6 June 2012 / A2 / section C and part of section B of Warszawa – Łódź road, between Grodzisk Mazowiecki and junction Skierniewice, 37 kilometres / opened just two days before the Euro 2012 opening ceremony, gave the roughest ride to road builders, who worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make a deadline. The whole Poland kept track of their endeavours. Section C in June lacked the top layer of tarmac and had speed limit of 100 kmph set, the road was fully completed in October 2012. The section is also infamous for bankruptcies of COVEC, Chinese general contractor of sections A and C which went bust is 2011, having undercharged for the contract, trying to get foothold on the European market. The next general contractor, inexperienced in road building Dolnośląskie Surowce Skalne filed for bankruptcy in March 2012. The fact the road was completed in time is still considered one of biggest miracle of 2012.

9 June 2012 / S7 / southern bypass of Gdańsk, 18 kilometres / salvation for anyone who wants to pass by Gdańsk on the way to the seaside

13 July 2012 / S14 / Szynkielew III – Dobroń (near Łódź), 10 kilometres

1 August 2012 / S7 / Pasłęk – Miłomłyn, 37 kilometres

29 August 2012 / A2 / bypass of Mińsk Mazowiecki east of Warsaw, 21 kilometres

10 September 2012 / A4 / Rzeszów Centralny – Rzeszów Wschód, 7 kilometres

10 September 2012 / S19 / Rzeszów – Stobierna, 15 kilometres

12 September 2012 / S8 / Białystok – Stare Jeżewo / 25 kilometres

29 September 2012 / S51 / bypass of Olsztynek, 3 kilometres

2 October 2012 / S8 / bypass of Zambrów / 11 kilometres

6 October 2012 / S8 / junction Wrocław Psie Pole – Oleśnica Zachód, 22 kilometres

17 October 2012 / A1 / junction Bytom, merely a junction, not any section

17 October 2012 / S8 / Rawa Mazowiecka – Adamowice, 23 kilometres

28 October 2012 / S8 / Piotrków Trybunalski – Rawa Mazowiecka, 61 kilometres / nightmare on Gierkówka draws to a close… Only a short section (some dozen kilometres between Adamowice and Mszczonów) awaits completion

30 October 2012 / S11 / Poznań Suchy Las – Poznań Rokietnica, length unknown

8 November 2012 / S7 / Olsztynek – Nidzica, 28 kilometres / could have been opened 3 months earlier if it had not been for total lack of roadworks…

13 November 2012 / A1/ Stryków – Kowal in central Poland, 84 kilometres / opened with delay, the longest section of the motorway linking Gdańsk, Toruń, Łódź and Silesian conurbation opened in 2012, with 5 months delay.

29 November 2012 / A4 / Szarów – Tarnów Północ, 57 kilometres / some section are fully completed, on other traffic runs on one road, while the other is being finished, full completion scheduled for spring 2013.

30 November 2012 / A1 / Mszana Dolna – Czech border, 11 kilometres

30 November 2012 / S8 / Oleśnica Wschód – Syców, 25 kilometres / this time prime minister Donald Tusk and infrastructure minister Sławomir Nowak turned up to cut the ribbon and boast about impressive achievement of recent road construction programme. According to government’s plans, Piotrków Trybunalski and Syców should be linked by S8 expressway by the end of 2012.

This adds up to 624 kilometres, slightly less than 700 kilometres GDAKA blows through its own trumpet (put it down to rounding the figures up), yet still a lot. When making this summary, do not forget about the dark side of construction boom, which contributed to bankruptcies of many companies, their subcontractors and suppliers and sent many into serious financial distress.

Key roads awaiting completion are: A4 motorway, all sections from Tarnów to Ukrainian border, missing section of A1 between Toruń and Kowal, forsaken by bankrupt PBG-run consortium and southern bypass of Warsaw which is bound to be opened with more than 1-year delay.

Source: Polish pages on each road in Wikipedia. If you happen to spot any factual error, do not hesitate to let me know promptly.