Sep 28, 2010

Life decisions and career choices

It’s again that time of my life when I must make a huge decision; a decision that will certainly change my life and take me—hopefully—closer to the place I dream of... literally and figuratively.

I've experienced this moment previously three times in my life. The first one, when I was 16 years old and I had to choose what I wanted to be when I grew up. The second one, when I was 21 years old and I had to choose what I was going to do once I finished my Biology studies. The third one, when I was 26 years old and I had to choose what I was going to do once I finished my PhD. Now I have to decide again, what I’m going to do now that my contract will finish the 4th of February of next year.

It’s such a scary position to be. That uncertainty, the fear that things will suddenly go wrong and I’ll have to suffer the whole weight of the hardships of life. I don’t want to suffer the hardships of life, I want to live my dreams, I want to enjoy them. I know it’s cliché but we live only once: only once I’ll have this body, only once I’ll be 27 years old, only once I’ll have the chance to enjoy this thing called life. So why do we have to live a life of suffering and hardships? I reject suffering and hardships! Is it a shallow way of thinking?

The first time I saw myself in this position back to 1999, I took my final decision based in my strong desire of moving away from my hometown. I had to leave Montería Desert at all cost (a remote place in South America)… the situation became extremely complicated when I failed to pass the entry examination for the national public university in Bogotá (the capital of Colombia, a remote place in South America). Then I thought I was doomed since I didn’t have enough money to pay a private university; I thought I’d have to suffer the scorching heat of Montería Desert for the rest of my life. But things took an unexpected turn and thanks to a series of fortunate events I managed to escape Montería Desert, moved to Bogotá and entered to a private university. The decision of going to Bogotá to study biology was not very difficult; I could’ve studied physics if it wasn’t because my aunt (the woman that would pay my university) told me that if I wanted to study physics I could stay in Montería Desert. That is because there was physics at the public university in my hometown but not biology… I said to my aunt:

“hmmm… I think I like biology much better than physics.”

Welcome to Montería Desert

The second time things also were looking black and hopeless. I was leaving in a tiny apartment with my mother and my aunt and things were going crazy in Bogotá, we didn’t have a penny at all, paying bills was hell, paying my university fee was the greatest ordeal a man has ever experienced since my aunt had already ran out of money! Even before finishing my Biology studies I saw myself forced to take CVs to schools around town to try to get a job as a teacher… but I didn’t want to be a teacher! And besides who’s going to pay attention to the unsolicited CV of an undergraduate student with very little to offer? I ended up throwing the CVs in the trash cans and stayed walking randomly in Bogotá instead of delivering them to the schools. I really couldn’t see at the time how I was going to get out of such precarious situation.

But again, life took an unexpected turn and I got to meet a teacher that would give me perhaps the best advice I’ve ever got in my entire life… he advised me that I should write to laboratories around the world and ask for a postgraduate position. I said to him:

“Just like that? Is that even possible?”

Panoramic view of Bogotá

And lo and behold, sooner than later I was on my way to Sweden. In this case my decision wasn’t to go to Sweden, I decided for a specific career path that resulted into me starting a PhD at Uppsala University in the most non-standard of ways.

The third time wasn’t so long ago, early 2009. I was about to finish my PhD and of course I had to decide on my next step. My decisions then were constrained by another set of situations: on one side, I need to see for my mom and my dad that are pentionless and jobless. I couldn’t afford to take a job where my salary would be less than what I already earned as a last year PhD student. It’s scary to feel that if things go wrong you might be giving a step backward… at least, it’s scary to me. On the other side, the salary of an academic researcher isn’t one of the best out there, it’s actually pretty mediocre (with a few exceptions). I think that for the type of job we do we should definitively earn a way more competitive salary, we deserve better, and with “we” I mean the scientists of the world. In any case, I should not complain because I’m aware that the majority of human kind lives in worst conditions than I do.

Uppsala, Sweden. How much I love you!

Also at the time I was dreaming with living in Japan (I still am). That was my first choice and my first goal. It didn’t happen, most of my job applications to Japan were turned down; I had the chance to join a laboratory in Okayama if I was able to get certain fellowship, but it didn’t happen. Instead I came to Paris which was my second possibility, a safe possibility. I’m yet not sure if coming to Paris was the best decision, it’s still too early to say.

Today I’m again trying to figure out the best course of action and as before, there are certain circumstances and conditions that makes the decision an extremely complicated—and scary—one.

The author, walking the streets of Paris

Nonetheless, if something I've learnt in all these years is that the only way to make the best decision regarding your career path is to have the conviction that your dreams will come true and that you will accomplish your goals; believe in them no matter what because that’s all you’ve got.

And things will happen, they will most definitively happen... and one day when you less expect it, you’ll be there… in the place of your dreams, literally and figuratively.


___________________
The pic of the dunes is licensed by Bertrand Devouard ou Florence Devouard under the terms of the cc-by-sa-3.0. The panoramic image from Bogotá was originally posted to Flickr by somnoliento at http://flickr.com/photos/87073872@N00/409552274 under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

Sep 24, 2010

Une belle histoire d'amour - Chapter III

This is the last chapter of 'Une belle histoire d'amour', click in the link to go to chapter I or chapter II.

Finale

It is Sunday now, the final day of our romance. We saw each other in the evening, this time we went to the coziest Italian restaurant; we ate something delicious and enjoyed a glass of wine… after that we went to a café to keep celebrating those feelings of love that would soon have to end. And even though this was just the third time we had met, it actually felt as if we had been in a relationship for quite some time, the trust, the tenderness, the whole interaction.

It is amazing the true nature of love… this short romance gave me a complete new perspective about what love really is. I must say that what I felt right there, those feelings we shared, were identical as if we have been very much in love for a long time… we were extremely high in whichever hormone mix that produces the effect of exhilaration and, for a lack of a better word: love.

If someone in the world dare to say that it is not possible to “be in love” after seeing someone just for one or two days; I would tell them:

"Foolish! You do not know anything about love!"

But do not take me wrong, it is not that I had “fallen in love” in such way that I would have asked her to marry me or to move in with me right there… it is the feeling of being in love what I am talking about, what we felt, the way we talked to each other, the way we touched each other, the way we behaved with each other, the way we listened to each other, the way we understood each other. I can tell that what we experienced there, in those three days was as real and authentic and perhaps even better than what people in serious long-term relationships might have ever felt.

With the additional great advantage that there is not a painful break up, just an extremely grateful goodbye.

Une belle histoire d'amour - Chapter II

This is chapter II of Une belle histoire d'amour; if you haven't read he first chapter chick here.

Aria

At the time I was just about to become twenty five and she was six years older than me. I do not remember exactly when she told me her age, it did not really matter at all. Her eyes were full of intensity, and she had an elegant posture, a very enticing demeanor, and the sorts of smiles that warm your soul. At the same time although not apparently when I met her, she was more of the bohemian style, a country side and nature loving woman.

The party was over around one o’clock in the night, and we decided to walk to the nearest fast food place at the city square, just to talk some more and have a snack. In this short love story, I think that could be considered our first date. Then I walked her home, we exchanged numbers and talked about seen each other again, and as a goodnight present she kissed me.

Mademoiselle B had arrived to Uppsala just to spend the weekend and visit her friend. She was studying and working in the south most part of Sweden; which meant that she’d be travelling almost seven hundred kilometers, back home, on Sunday. At the moment I imagined that she would be spending most of her time with her friend rather than me, so I did not expect to see her again. However, I was very wrong; it was on Saturday night that I got to see her again. She was at a friend of a friend’s house party and I and my people were at another of the student societies, Norrlands Nation.

The society’s building is a huge mansion also from the XIX century, spacious and beautiful. When it becomes a nightclub and the full house is open it has a dark mysterious touch, with very large rooms that give place to small corridors here and there. We exchanged a couple of text messages during the evening and planned to meet at the Nation. I assumed she was coming with all her friends after the house party but to my good surprise, she came alone: which meant only one thing… she left the party and had come just to meet me.

I introduced her to my friends and we danced a couple of minutes but our hearts were ablaze so we decided to go and sit down somewhere more intimate where we could talk. However this time the conversation quickly turned into kisses and sweet caresses. The intoxicatingly delicious drug of love started impregnating every atom of our bodies and every particle of whatever the mind is made of.

That night had been destined for us and we fulfilled such destiny as it was written in the book of life. We let ourselves be consumed by the divine fire of passion and our existence for that very brief moment of time became inextricably intertwined.

To go to the final chapter click here.

Une belle histoire d'amour - Chapter I

Overture
A lot of times we think that the most beautiful love stories are those ones where the bond between the lovers is so strong that it endures the unstoppable pass of time and overcomes even the most difficult obstacles. I disagree, I believe there is also immense beauty in very short relationships were love blooms fast and intense like the dandelion early in the spring, just to wither as fleetingly.

It was the beginning of March of the year 2008, Sweden: the copious amounts of snow where already melting away. I met her a Thursday night in one of the nightclubs organized weekly by the student societies (also known as Nations) from Uppsala University. Thursday nights belong to Stockholms Nation, a big house half modern from the 60’s and half from the XIX century. The place is famous (or better, infamous) for attracting the best looking girls in Uppsala and according to my very objective opinion as an artist; I think it is true.

I was chilling out with my very good friend, we were at a lounge a little bit apart from the madness of the dance floors; we were just drinking a couple of beers standing up and leaning on a tall pub table, talking some bullshit. To my left I had the most annoying and arrogant individual, and right in front of me at the other side of the table there were a couple of very beautiful ladies talking and chilling out too.

I remember the annoying guy to be from Costa Rica or something like that but living in New York City; he was bragging about the new job he had recently got as a photographer where he was going to earn incredible amounts of money. He was obnoxious, jumping and waving his hands from one side to the other… suddenly with a clumsy move he hit the table, bottle and glasses fell spilling beer and drinks everywhere. The two girls in front of me turned around to check what was going on and exchanged a couple of words with the annoying Costa Rica guy; he felt embarrassed and left to never come back and thus the conversation was automatically transferred to me:

“My name is Dr. T, what’s your name?”

“Mademoiselle B, nice to meet you.”

And the conversation started flowing smooth like the finest silk. And the cold side-by-side conversation slowly turned into a face-to-face, eye-to-eye, intimate and deep conversation… and time started to distort in that way that it is only possible when there is a strong chemistry. Mademoiselle B’s friend went away when she got bored just to reappear later and give her goodbyes, my good friend did equally. And so it started, perhaps one of the sweetest (and shortest) romantic experiences in my life.

Click here to read chapter II

_____________________
If you didn't read the previous love story, check it out here!

Sep 22, 2010

Thank you letter to my dear readers

I never imagined that writing a blog could be so much fun! I had been thinking for a while about creating a blog and I never dared to do it because I was afraid I would leave it unfinished after just a few entries. However, I don’t know what changed within me but I took my chances, and it has become almost addictive… it has been very rewarding because it is the perfect excuse for me to write, perhaps my only true passion. I feel that my spirit has been unleashed, I feel freer.

But what is a blog without people to read it? Writing this blog has also been very rewarding because in such a short time I’ve had more readers than I could have ever imagined, it has totally exceeded my expectations: including friends, relatives, and random people from all over the world. I’ve had readers already from all the continents except Africa!

The dots are the last 100 readers, almost all the corners of the Earth!

I wonder what’s wrong with Africa that they are missing of such wonderful and poetic writings!?

I want to thank you, I feel indebted, because in you I find the motivation. I want to show you a bit of myself, a bit of what I’m doing and of what I’m thinking, I want you to smile, to be entertained, to steal you a laugh. Perhaps to teach you something, perhaps to inspire you a little bit. And you never know, you never know what good will result from it, what seeds of goodness and happiness might sprout out of those letters.

Thank you so much for reading, for giving me those minutes of your time; I hope your visit was worthy and I will see you again… because the next story I want to share with you will be out very soon!

Take care,
Tanai

Sep 18, 2010

The Pelvic Strike

You are just about to learn the most amazing dance move of all time. A dance move that transcends time, cultures, religions, borders, and musical genre. This ancient secret dance move had been passed down generations of great dancers since the dawn of human kind, it helped shape civilizations and has an impressive hypnotic power capable of entrancing huge crowds. All of those who have understood and practiced these moves had undoubtedly achieved greatness.

Without further ado I introduce you: The Pelvic Strike.

1. In order to perform the Pelvic Strike successfully it is necessary to assume a powerful stance, this stance is a declaration of conquest, it tells the masses around that you have conquered the world, that the dance floor and the universe belongs to you. This is accomplished by pointing towards the sky with your right arm, the arm should be lifted at least 20° above the shoulders. It is extremely important that your arm is fully extended, your elbow must NOT bend at any time otherwise it would imply hesitation on your heart.

pelvic thrust2. The knee of your right leg should be slightly bent forward, and your left hand should be around the hip level. This helps to draw attention to the pelvic area.

pelvic thrust3. Move your pelvis backward.

pelvic thrust4. Then STRIKE! The “strike” is accomplished by thrusting your pelvis forward with impetus! Then the pelvis is moved backwards again as in step 3, just to thrust forward once more: a smooth thrusting motion is essential for achieving a powerful entrancing effect. Some people make the mistake to call this move “the pelvic thrust”, this is incorrect.

pelvic thrust5. After a few seconds of pelvic striking with your right arm pointing to the sky, step 1 to 4 should be repeated this time with the left hand to the sky.

6. Use with moderation.

7. Conquer the world.

Sep 16, 2010

The Foreigner by Charles Baudelaire

Two of my all time favorite poems were written by French authors; here I present you The Foreigner by Charles Baudelaire. It’s a poem in prose and I find it awesome. I did actually feel very identified with the foreigner back then when I was a very existentialist teenager. Today it doesn’t have the same meaning as it used to, but I still treasure it very much in my heart.

The poem was published in 1869, after Baudelaire’s death: a collection of poems in prose, the book was called Le Spleen de Paris. Who knew more than ten years later I’d be walking down the streets of the City of Light. There you go:

The Foreigner

"Who do you love the most, enigmatic man? Your father,
your mother, your sister or your brother?"
"I have neither father, nor mother, nor sister, nor brother."
"Your friends?"
"There you’re using a word that to this day I’ve never understood."
"Your country?"
"I don’t know at what latitude it’s situated."
"Beauty?"
"I would willingly love it, goddess and immortal."
"Gold?"
"I hate it as you hate God."
"Well, what do you love then, extraordinary stranger?"
"I love the clouds... the clouds passing... up there... up there... the marvelous clouds!"

Charles Baudelaire, translation by Raymond N. Mackenzie, 2008.

Charles Baudelaire I love the passing clouds foreignerThe passing clouds...

Sep 15, 2010

Upgrade your brain for $9.99 - Part IV

Note: this is part IV of the ‘Upgrade your brain for $9.99’ saga; click here for part I, part II, and part III if you haven’t read them yet.
_____________________


There are times when our ideals and convictions compel us to sacrifice everything we have and everything we are to protect that what is most cherished. There are times when a life more precious than our own must be protected at the cost of unbearable pain, at the cost of our very lives, we get no choice. It is at those moments in time when we think death is upon us, when we know the thread of our lives is about to break, when we are about to inhale our last breath with our reason-to-be still unfulfilled, with the missions of our souls incomplete; it is at those moments that we can summon unbelievable strength, the strength necessary to protect what is most valuable, the strength to protect that which otherwise would cease to exist.

This is the tale of Tetsuzaemon, champion of champions, the indestructible tower.

This is the tale of Tetsuszaemon, undefeated Yokozuna, protector of Celest.

This is the tale of the death of Tetsuzaemon.

They had finally arrived at the core of Science City; the Gates of Exact Truth rose mighty, way above their heads. At each side of the door a guard robot stood like a war elephant, one ton, two-and-a-half meter tall, solid metal, shining silver. Dwarfed right in front, the voluminous Tetsuzaemon stood challenging, sweating and breathing heavily, a step behind stood Celest wearing a dark blue dress that contrasted with her extremely pale albino skin and in her right hand she held a black worn out stuffed bear.

How Tetsuzaemon, the greatest sumo wrestler, became Celest protector is another tale that shall be told later.

Then, she commanded:

“Open the gate.”

The eyes of the robots lit up synchronously and a second later the metallic beasts charged towards them with brutal speed aiming at killing with one punch. However, as if he had predicted their attack Tetsuzaemon with fast reflexes stopped each of the robot’s fists with his bare palms. The impact felt like being stroke by a lightning of iron because the metallic surface of the robot was protected with an electric field. How Tetsuzaemon managed to stand still and not be thrown into the air is a mystery that can not be solved. Perhaps a secret stance passed down generations of sumo wrestler since immemorial centuries? Or just luck? In any case, his hands were burned, and the bones of his arms might have been fractured at several places.

“Out of the way vermin!” Said one robot.

And with the swing of an arm the machine slapped Tetsuzaemon in the face so hard that his body spun a couple of times in the air and tumbled down several meters after landing on the floor. Blood poured out of his face, and surely his jaw and face bones were broken in a thousand pieces; Tetsuzaemon lay unconscious.

One of the robots picked up Celest and lifted her above the ground; he could almost embrace her completely with one hand. With the other one he was ready to strike a blow. She screamed in pain as she was being electrocuted by the grasp of the behemoth, tears flowed uncontrollably, and fear of universal dimensions overtook her.

Perhaps it was the sound of her voice that resonated within Tetsuzaemon’s mind; perhaps it was the will to protect what he loved that still burned within his heart. But right before the robot stroke the finishing blow Tetsuzaemon had jumped onto the robot’s shoulder and with the force of titans tore off its arm releasing Celest. With the same force he swung the metallic arm to the robot’s head which broke and ended up landing on the other robot’s hands. The machines had not calculated that a mere human made of flesh and fluids could defeat its kind.

When the remaining robot tried to react it was already too late. Tetsuzaemon had charged with such impetus that the metallic beast lifted off the ground and crashed against the gate. Then jumping on the machine’s torso and using both hands the human was able to pull off its head while supporting the intense electric discharges.

Tetsuzaemon mission was complete now, his reason-to-be fulfilled. The blow that the robot had landed on Tetsuzaemon’s face had left him unconscious and at the edge between life and death, he had fought unconscious, he had protected Celest moved solely by the flaming will of his heart.

Tetsuzaemon kneeled and exhaled his last breath and the thread of his life finally broke.

It was now the time for Celest to complete her mission, but that is another tale that shall be told later.

____________
Clich here to go to part V of 'Upgrade your brain for $9.99'!

Sep 12, 2010

A tragic love story in Bogota

This is perhaps the weirdest romantic experience I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s as funny as it’s sad. I’ll remember this story until the day that I die because it affected me deeply.

All started during the second half of the year 2000, I was at the time seventeen years old and it was the second semester of my Biology studies in Bogotá. I was taking the Invertebrates class, and because of a new change in the Biology program the students from the second semester were taking the same class with the students from the third semester. She was my senior and probably she was a bit older than me, I will never know; she was a beautiful girl, I remember her with a long, wavy, and voluminous dirty blond hair with some highlights, maybe a couple of centimeters taller than me, her style was not really the “biologist” type but she was quite cool, and she kind of had already earned a reputation of not being the brightest; which I honestly thought it was very unfair and kind of stimulated my sympathy for her. Let’s call her, Miss X.

Our eye may have met a few times, that subtle body language, that imperceptible signals, I don’t know exactly what it was, but I started to get the feeling that she liked me. Today I know I was right, that natural instinct to detect attraction never fails! And despite that I knew and that I kind of liked her too, I never tried to talk to her; the opportunity never came during class… yet it came later in the most unexpected way.

Louvre Moseum glass pyramid parisWe were having a field trip down to the Atlantic cost of Colombia deep in the wilderness of the jungles at the Tayrona Park, what a paradise! The trip was exciting and very intense, and one of those days after a long session of forced labor chasing insects, we were on the bus back to the cabins we were staying at. There were more people than the bus could take so all the seats were taken and some people were standing; I was lucky to catch a place sitting at the window and next to me a girl in the class I’ve never met before, but somehow friend of Miss X. I’m sitting there happily ever after, when suddenly Miss X decided there was enough space for her too, between her friend and me… come on, it’s a bus! And there she went, she was wearing nothing more than a tiny bikini, she squeezed herself there and finally she ended up with one leg on top of me (to my inner satisfaction and torment). I honestly didn’t know what to do, shy as I was… and then as a perfect example of my sophisticated seduction techniques I decided to do what no man would dare to do...

I faked that I fell asleep.

Three years later we had class together again, I don’t remember which class it was anymore. It had been a long time since I saw her and to my surprise I still kept on getting those vibes of mutual attraction. And three years later I was still unable to talk to her… so when I had no doubts in my mind that there was something going on, I came up with the brilliant idea to write her love letters. Not only I wrote her love letters, but I wasn’t anonymous, so she knew it was me the one writing her… so I started sending her emails using the university accounts, I told her a million things, I told her that I was just paralyzed when she was close to me, I told her that I knew she felt something for me too, I told her about the moon and the sun, the oceans and the flowers, I told her many things because I wrote her many times. Miss X didn’t answer a single time, but she was not completely unaffected; she gave me obvious chances every time in class and I never took the risk to talk to her. I could feel in her behavior that she would welcome my approach and I never approached her… Today I’m not sure how much I could have touched her heart but once in the middle of the class, she was sitting close to me and all of a sudden she burst into tears and ran out of the classroom. Was it because of me? Again, I will never know.

And like that it came the last day I saw her, classes were over and I went to pick up the results of some exams right before holidays. The university was empty, and after I got my results I was going back home when I saw Miss X with the corner of my eye, she was walking in my direction; however, I kept on going as if I didn’t see her. I gave a few more steps when suddenly she called me:

“Tanai!”

I stopped and waited for her to come close. Then she asked me a completely random question:
“Do you know when the results of the exam are published?”

She knew that the results were already published, that was the only reason we were there at the university to begin with! But I didn’t get it, I didn’t get it at all. So I said:

“Yeah, they’re already there at the teacher’s office.”

Then I said goodbye, I turned myself, and I walked away from her!

That exact moment is the very same reason why I will never forget Miss X, because there, when I was turning I saw her expression of disconcert and confusion; it was a fraction of a second but it was so so so very clear: it definitively added to the transformation of my soul that at the time had recently started to happen.

The end.

Moral of the story:
take your chances; take your chances at everything you do in life if you don’t want to live with regrets.

Sep 10, 2010

A Thursday night in Paris with illustrations in color

Even the simplest of things like having a beer with your buddies can become a very rich “cultural” experience when you’re in Paris.

It’s Thursday, the weekend is so close, but you just can’t wait.

Yeah, that’s how I feel most Thursdays. So being true to my feelings I texted my friend Mikael (a half French half Swedish guy) to go for a couple of beers that night. We planned to meet at the Opéra metro station, 20.30, and go to a place called Footsie. When you get out of the metro station you're welcomed by the beautiful and impressive sight of the Opéra de Paris, the Palais Garnier. It’s a magnificent sight; two majestic golden angels at each side of the palace foretell that the beer’s going to be expensive… but worthy!

Palais Garnier, a rainy Thursday evening in Paris

Have you heard about the Palais Garnier? I’m sure you’ve heard about The Phantom of the Opera… well, that’s where the story occurs.

Just around the corner, at Rue Daunou we find Footsie. This is a little bar; at a first glance, just like any other but it’s actually very peculiar… you notice that the drinks menu is displayed in two flat screens up in the wall behind the bar. The screen shows you the list of drinks and at the left of some of them there’s either a green arrow pointing downwards or a red arrow pointing upwards; at the upper right corner of the screens you see a countdown. It just happens to be that the price of the drinks is not stable, it changes every five minutes! It varies depending on the behavior of the stock market (or so they say)… five minutes and half-a-pint could be €5 and then five minutes later it’s €3.5! The green arrow means the price has gone down and the red one means that’s more expensive than before. So you must time it in such a way that you buy the beer when the price is low! I think it can vary about two Euro or more… it’s kind of entertaining waiting to see which beer we’ll be lower next time.

Another particularly cultural aspect of Footsie is that very beautiful and young women go there to chill out and let go, right afterwork; but rising above all the beauties you find the waitress! She’s Cleopatra mixed with Megan Fox, a super stunning brunette running around in her high heels picking up glasses and doing waitress stuff… so so very sweet.

Why to go home when you can chill out at Rue Daunou?

Also in the same street you find Harry’s New York Bar! Which (according to Wikipedia) may be the most famous bar in the world… maybe… it seems that this bar was frequented by famous people like Hemingway and Coco Chanel, among others. Now visited by such an illustrious citizen like Dr. Tanai Cardona! I had a mojito there one week ago or so, and I thought it was funny that the bartenders where wearing white coats, just like the lab coats of a scientist: I felt an immediate connection.

Harry's New York Bar

Night is still young, so we visit a couple other bars. The first one with the quality that the beer is cheaper than Footsie even when the prices are at the lowest (yet, still far from the price you would get in the Check Republic or Hungary: where you find the only fair and true price of a beer!!!). This bar is called Duck, for a younger audience, mostly students and many internationals. The second one is cozy and cool, a trio started playing around half past eleven… country road, take me home, to the place I belong… ♪♫

I’m back at home at 00.15.

6.30, my mobile’s alarm rings. That awful sound announcing the start of a new day after barely five hours of sleep. But now’s Friday, the time has come to celebrate, once again!

________________________
The pic of the flatscreen at Footsie was taken by Giulia, click here to visit her photos at flickr. The pic of Harry's New York Bar was taken by Abstract-Thinking, visit his flickr here.

Sep 7, 2010

Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman review, a must-see movie!

Waltz with Bashir Chopin Waltz 64 no 2A few weeks ago I made a post about the best movie of all times according to Empire online magazine: Seven Samurai, click here if you didn’t read it yet. At the time while I was browsing the list of the best 100 movies, I saw one called Waltz with Bashir written and directed by Ari Folman (2008), placing as the number 34 best movie ever. What called my attention was that the movie is an animated Israeli movie; I was very curious since I’ve never heard of any animated movies from Israel, so I downloaded it (shhh… don’t tell anyone), watched it, and wow, what a great movie, such a good surprise!

The movie is classified as an animated documentary, and it’s about Ari Folman himself searching for his memories when he was in the Lebanon war in 1982 and the Sabra and Shatila massacre; both historical events of which I’ve never heard before in my life; regarding the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian people. His experience was so traumatizing that many of his memories suddenly vanished from his brain. The movie is of course a masterpiece, from the very first image you are hooked; a bunch of angry, almost demonic dogs running around the streets. The animation style is outstanding, the colors so beautiful, and it has certain three dimensional sensation that is pretty cool too… and the soundtrack fits the animation perfectly.

One of the most spectacular scenes that’s so thrilling I almost cry of excitement, is when one soldier in desperation takes his gun and start shooting everywhere like crazy in the middle of an ambush right in the city… bullets are flying in every direction and the man starts dancing madly at the rhythm of Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor, Op. 64, No. 2.

waltz of madnessWaltz of madness

The ending is also shocking and morbid, but I won’t spoil you the movie anymore. So you better watch it now! Definitively the 34th best movie of all times… maybe the 34th best animated movie of all times would be more accurate.

Facebook mobile identity verification problem

So yeah, my facebook account is pretty much blocked and I can’t login again. Today after sending a few emails facebook asked me to confirm my identity using my mobile phone and getting a confirmation code by sms. My country (France) is not listed on the drop-down menu so I clicked on ’My mobile service provider isn’t listed’, then it appears a new link saying ’view popup to add number’, I input my number and it asked for the confirmation code, but the sms with the code never arrived!!

There’s a link that says ’Never got your confirmation code? Let us know!’, if I click it, it asks me to login, but I can’t login if I can’t confirm my identity with the code that never arrived!!

I’ve been looking at forums and I realized I’m not alone, many people is having exactly the same problem with no solutions! For example, click here.

If anyone reads this blog post and has an idea of what to do, please post a comment.

I’ve tried everything I could think of, but in vain. I’ve reported it to facebook but you know that it's always an automated response what you get as a reply, and there’s no one you can call personally.

Is it my facebook account doomed? Can it be? I heard that someone managed to solve it but inputing a telephone land line, but that was in the USA. I've not seen anything like that so far...

____________________

Solution:
to solve this problem what I did was to contact a friend in Colombia; since Colombia actually is in the drop-down many where you find the mobile operators. I asked him to get a code for me, and using his code I confirmed my identity.

I recommend you to contact facebook and report the problem using the help forms, every day. A few days after I did get answers from people in facebook that were going to help solve the problem.

I hope this is helpful for you.


Sep 6, 2010

Street art in Paris

One of the things that I love about Paris is that there is art, art everywhere. Paris is art… from the magnificent and mind blowing, like the tower, the beautiful parks, palaces, and fountains; to the small and heart-warming, like the mural in the picture below. The mural is located at the end of the Rue Mouffetard, where the street becomes Rue Descartes… it’s a very lively small street with market, bars, restaurants, some people doing massages for free, and you can also get roasted chicken for a not inexpensive price. It’s actually very close to where I live.

Rue Mouffetard Rue Descartes muralStreet Tree

The mural consist of a painting and a poem; the painting is by Pierre Alechinsky, a Belgium artist born in 1927 and still alive, he lived in Paris sometime. The poem was written by Yves Bonnefoy, a French poet born in 1923, also alive today. I don’t know what’s the story of the mural, why it was made and what’s the relation between these two old men… but they do know each other since they published a book together called: Alechinsky, les traversées.

Both the painting and the poem are about the street tree. The poem says loosely: passer-by, check out this great tree, and through it, it may be enough. And although torn apart, dirty, the street tree is all nature and all the sky. The bird lays on it, the wind sways it, the sun sings it hope despite death. Philosopher, are you lucky enough to have the tree in your street? Your thoughts will be less arduous, your eyes freer, your hands more willing of less night…

It’s a beautiful poem, I like it very much; although the last sentence doesn’t really make much sense, not even in French, I would say. But well… who cares, that’s one of the privileges of being a poet, you can write non-sense and make it seem like something very deep, seriously.

If you can provide me with a better translation into English or Spanish, please send it to me. I’ll be glad to improve mine!

Here’s the actual poem:

Passant,
regarde ce grand arbre,
et à travers lui
il peut suffire.

Car même déchiré, souillé,
l'arbre des rues,
c'est toute la nature,
tout le ciel,
l'oiseau s'y pose,
le vent y bouge, le soleil
y dit le même espoir malgré
la mort.

Philosophe,
as-tu chance d'avoir l'arbre
dans ta rue,
tes pensées seront moins ardues,
tes yeux plus libres,
tes mains plus désireuses
de moins de nuit.

Sep 5, 2010

How to write a love letter

I wonder how many of you, my dear readers, have ever written a love letter. You might think that the art of writing a love letter might be ancient and obsolete, but make no mistake; the tremendous power that well written words can have… to stir someone’s feelings, to feed the flames of desire, to steal someone’s heart and hijack that someone’s brain, goes beyond human understanding. And that tremendous power is timeless.

But why should someone write a love letter? A love letter can be an extremely useful tool in a great diversity of situations, the most obvious one and perhaps the one that requires the highest levels of mastery of the love letter writing art, is the ‘declaration of love’: that is when a man or a woman declares his or her feelings for someone else for the first time in written form and the target person is completely unaware of how the sender feels. The high degree of difficulty is because the love letter in order to complete its ultimate function should not be just a declaration, but it has to plant the seed of love on the heart of the reader. A love letter might be also useful when the loved one is far away, perhaps overseas, perhaps destiny has separated both of you, and spoken words are not good enough to express yourself above those stormy feelings, above that confusion that distance may cause: a love letter could solidify those bonds that suddenly feel so brittle. A love letter can also be used to turn on your partner and use anticipation to ignite the fire within. It can be used for reconciliation when disagreement and resentment may have clouded your partner’s heart. You can also give a love letter as a present or to accompany a present, in order to reinforce the feelings that already exist between both of you… And these are just some examples, the true power of a love letter resides in the capacity to create, modify, or influence, the feelings of the person who the letter is written for. A love letter could also be used for evil purposes, but let’s not talk about that here…


So, how do I write a love letter? There are two important principles that you must have into account in order to write a successful love letter. These two principles are the backbone and heart of your letter, if you ignore them your letter will be ineffective and might cost you or damage your relationship… the more you understand these aspects the more powerful and effective your letter will be.

The very first principle (and perhaps the most important one) is that you must know exactly how you want your loved one to feel. So, before you start writing you must take a moment and clearly imagine how your loved one will feel while reading and after reading the love letter. Do you want him or her to feel happy or excited? Do you want the reader to feel admiration, to feel the kindness in your heart, the manliness or delicacy of your soul? Drunk in love? Infatuated? Or do you want him or her to feel a deep connection? Reassured, bathed in a strong feeling of security and confidence?

It might be counter intuitive, but when writing a love letter your feelings do not take predominance, what matters are the feelings of the person that will read the letter. You words must be targeted at causing the desired effect with the reader’s feelings in mind; if you just aimlessly write about your feelings, and your feelings are the only thing that is in focus, if you use the writing as an outlet to release your repressed emotions, then the love letter will be utterly useless and it will cause the opposite effect, it will be creepy and it will chase your loved away.

eiffel tower summer night parisIf before you start writing, you can have a clear idea of how you want the reader to feel, then when you start composing your letter, the words and the sentences will align with your purpose, they will naturally flow so that the letter will move the reader’s heart towards those emotions you want him or her to feel.

The second principle of writing a love letter is that you must have a good and healthy state of mind at the moment you will start writing. You need to be rested; you need to be in a good mood, feeling fresh and positive… do not write if you’re tired or if you’re stressed. Do not write if you’re feeling confused, do not write if you’re feeling sad or melancholic… the letter will reflect also the state of your mind. You want your letter to show that you’re in control of your feelings, that you know what you want, it should read confident it should read strong. Otherwise, your letter will leave an uneasy feeling on your loved one, he or she wouldn’t know what it is, but they will feel uncomfortable… at best, confused.

So when you write a love letter you should feel good about yourself, you should feel happy, and you should believe that your words are powerful; at the same time keep in mind at all times what exactly do you want your loved one to feel. Then you can begin writing the letter, say the things you want to say, you can use metaphor or not, you can make it poetic or you can make it funny, use whatever style you want to use… don’t really worry about it because it doesn’t really matter, anything else is superfluous. If you fulfill both principles the love letter will be truly charged with the full power of your love, and it will truly touch the recipient’s heart genuinely and deeply.

Do it sometime, you will be amazed by the almost mystical power of a love letter.

To read an example of a love letter I wrote, click here!


Sep 3, 2010

Tanai meets the Colombian ambassador in France

Last Wednesday I went to the house of the Colombian Ambassador in France. It was all part of a reunion of alumni from University of the Andes (Uniandes) in Bogotá where I studied Biology. The idea is to create and formalize a network of alumni, current students, and members of Uniandes. To my surprise it just happen to be that the Colombian Ambassador, Fernando Cepeda Ulloa, was the rector, vice-rector, and a professor of my university; so he was hosting the reunion of alumni at his place; which is the official ambassador’s house in France. The house it’s located at the Splanade de Invalides, right in front of a very beautiful park, and some historical buildings where you can find Napoleon’s tomb, and it’s very close to the Grand Palais; such a luxurious house boasting a collection of sculptures and paintings from Colombian most well known artists, like a Botero painting.

The reunion was quite a nice experience, the Ambassador received us, the man is really funny and friendly… with an extremely accentuated Bogotá accent, and despite his informality you could clearly feel that he’s a very wise man. We were about 20 persons, most of them were the typical Colombian upper class, with the exception of an architect whose bohemian life-style was evident, and a first year middle class PhD student engineer who was trying to look upper class… and I, the man who trascends class! All of them extremely successful and cool people, I was impressed in a very positive way. The majordomo gave us plenty of wine, and cooked for us a very tasty chicken rice, just as it’s traditional in Colombia.

Uniandes logo

The funny thing is that about two months ago I wrote to the ambassador asking for an economical support to buy my flight tickets to the Conference in China; and late in the afternoon when I was doing the groceries at Carrefour, he called me to tell me personally that they didn’t have money for those purposes and to give me contact information of someone from a science foundation in Colombia… who of course, didn’t have money for those purposes either. In any case, you can imagine my surprise when I realized it was the ambassador on the phone. Who knew I would get to meet him personally a couple of months later.

The paradox is that in Colombia it was OK to give more than 100 Euros to soldiers for killing guerrilla, but to give 100 Euros to a good man for representing the country at an international scientific conference is impossible.

In conclusion, the experience at the Ambassador’s house was pretty cool and enjoyable and I look forward for the next alumni meeting from Uniandes here in Paris. With so much potential and good people I think we could do great things!