Monday, July 28, 2008

Closed for a week or two ;-))

Walking away from it all...

Hacking is fun

Give this Hacker Puzzle a try...
Sweat it out...
It's worth it...
Have fun!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

WALL-E


Went to see WALL-E with the kids yesterday. It's a must see movie for anyone with children not only because it's beautifully made and has all the ingredients kids like in a movie (it's cute, it has a love story and it's funny) but mainly because of its subtle but very, very powerful message about what the future of mankind could be.

In 700 years time the Earth could indeed be covered with so much rubbish that most forms of life on it will disappear (cockroaches remain...) and surviving humans will go for a long holiday/exile in space hoping that the efficient robots they left behind to clean up the mess will one day allow them to "come back home". These future humans wandering out in space will have tiny, virtually useless legs and arms because they've stopped using them a long time ago: everything they need and want is provided by some form of robot or clever device, they don't have to move at all. Needless to say they're all big blobs of fat. They spend their lives siting/lying on comfortable, complex interactive consoles, having their every need and wish planted into their heads by clever ads and catered for by machines.

Superb animation by Pixar, as always. Even the physical similarities between WALL-E and ET are to be forgiven as they further help drive home the message. Great movie.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer's Eve

Summer Eve

Lanterns

Relativity

What's perceived as a sizzling day around here is considered to be a rather cool day down there... Oh no! Rain is coming again...we might just try singing and dancing in the rain. That will be fun!

I love the first day of school holidays... no pressure to do anything whatsoever except to make my kiddos happy! Today we're having a picnic in the garden.

Nia is back home after a very, very rough week in the hospital so we'll be on standby just in case she calls asking for Clara to visit her.

BTW, after reading your very nice comments on my last post I felt compelled to show you Clara's skipping on Sports Day. Not a very conventional champion but I'm still very proud of her!


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Start of holidays update

School is finally out and we've also had the first decent day of summer since the season began! I just hope it holds for a while so that we can finally enjoy the garden.
In less than a week's time we're flying to Portugal to see family and friends. Last year we drove all the way there! We crossed the English Channel by ferry, from Portsmouth to Bilbao, and I promised myself I would never ever be that stupid again. There were times during the 2 day journey across the Bay of Biscay when all four of us were green with sea sickness. We couldn't stand or walk straight, it was a such a rough crossing. The only good point of the whole car trip to Portugal was staying in Salamanca for two days. The zest of Spain on warm Summer evenings makes you feel good about being alive...
/////////

Latest sports achievements in swimming and athletics:





Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mirage


I have my reservations when it comes to unconditionally backing a lot of what it's supposed to represent (globalization, mergers, acquisitions, ...) but nonetheless I find this image really appealing. It's an add created last year by DDB London for The Financial Times.

Click on the image to access the Financial Times site and, once there, move mouse over each building to get its name, location and height.

You can just picture in your mind the World Trade Center Twin Towers standing at the left, can't you?

The Pain of Emotion

Taken from the BBC News site:

New brain scanning technologies are revealing that the part of the brain that processes physical pain also deals with emotional pain.

And in the same way that in some people injury can cause long-lasting chronic pain, science now reveals why some will never get over such heartbreak.

Emotional pain can take many forms; a relationship break-up or social exclusion, for example.

But it does not get any more extreme than losing a loved one.

"If you listen to people who are damaged emotionally, they will often translate their pain into physical similes: 'My head is bursting, my guts are aching' and so on. The parallel is very strong."

But medical research has tended to concentrate on physical pain.

Neuroscientist Mary Frances O'Connor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is one of the scientists who have propelled emotional pain up the research agenda.

"We're at a very new time when we can use technologies to look at the brain and the heart," she says.

Naomi Eisenberger at UCLA has shown which parts of the brain are active when we feel emotional pain.

She devised an intriguing computer game in which participants were deliberately made to feel left out.

Simultaneous brain scanning revealed that the pain of being socially rejected was processed in much the same way in the brain as physical pain and in the same area, the anterior cingulate cortex.

Why should physical and emotional pain be linked in this way?

Social relationships are crucial to our survival as a species. In dangerous situations, a lone human is in peril whereas a group may survive.

"The social attachment system is piggy-backed onto the physical pain system to make sure we stay connected to close others," says Naomi Eisenberger.

"Being wrenched from another or rejected by a group is painful, so we avoid it."

"Physical pain warns us not to do something, walk on a broken ankle for instance. And emotional pain too can be a warning - "don't go near that sort of man again", "avoid women like her".

But sometimes physical pain can become chronic, long outlasting its original purpose, and emotional pain is the same.

Mary Frances O'Connor calls it "complex grief" and it occurs in about 10% of people after bereavement.

"They experience a lot of bitterness and anger, that their future is senseless. They don't adapt with time as others do."

There is a very strong suspicion that people who are not adapting to bereavement are also those who experience the greatest levels of physical pain.

But can we die from a broken heart?

Martin Cowie is professor of cardiology at the Brompton Hospital. He is very sure of the answer: "Yes, we can.

"There is an increased risk of dying in the six months after bereavement and it's particularly marked amongst men."

The bereaved are much more likely to be involved in accidents, which is perhaps understandable, but also to die from heart attacks and stroke. The hormones involved in the stress of bereavement make these events more likely.

This knowledge makes it essential to identify and treat those whose emotional pain is likely to become chronic, causing debilitating depression or even death."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Derailed

Details: 2005, USA, Drama/Thriller, cert 15, 107 mins, Dir: Mikael Hafstrom
With:
Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Vincent Cassel, Vincent Cassell
Summary: A flirtation between two commuters quickly develops into a highly dangerous liaison when an observer tries to blackmail them.


Just saw this film on TV. Came right after the 10 o'clock news (no adverts on BBC), I was too tired to get up and switch off the TV (no standby modes are allowed in the house) and so I just lingered on. This disturbing film noir had me hooked right from the start, though, and I found it gripping, effective and, once again, I found Clive Owen dazzling me.

Had to look up the reviews afterwards. Seems like most critics disliked Derailed, but I don't watch as many films as they do so nor do I have the same high-brow expectations so I didn't find it predictable or a poor relation of some other brilliant film which I haven't seen anyway.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's a drag but it's true...

Click and Play

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Topsy-turvy

Ahhhhh, a British who thinks that the British ARE awful ... at least in Portugal...

Little things to love and share:

The Place de Furstemberg, a very beautiful and secluded square in Paris, near Saint Germain des Prés.

Jacek Yerka's The Apple Cake Recipe

Monday, July 14, 2008

In Memoriam

Avó

Felicidade
b. 6th of May 1912 - d. 14th of July 2008.



My beloved grandmother passed away during the night.
She died in her own bed, at home.



May she rest in peace.



Sunday, July 13, 2008

A grand day out

West Wycombe Park

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Cool concept


by placing colored felt-tip pens in the pockets of the dress its appearance changes over time.
within an hour - to one and a half hours the colored ink bleeds into the fabric and creates a one-off design for each occasion. the owner can then clean the dress and color it in a different way for each time they wear it.

Fernando Brízio
was born in Angola in 1968. He obtained his college degree in equipment design in 1996, at the fine arts faculty of Lisbon where he is based. Since 1999 he has been developing several product design projects, as well as setting design and exhibition works for details, protodesign, m glass, droog design, the choreographer Rui Horta, Modalisboa, CCB, intramuros, fabrica, lux/atalaia, experimenta design, cor unum and gallery kreo, among others. he is professor and head of design at esad.cr (Caldas da Rainha, school of art and design) and visiting lecturer at ecal (Lausanne). in 2005, he was a curator for the s*cool ibérica project. he has participated in several conferences and juries, and his work has been exhibited and published internationally.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Genetics

Genetic testing is revolutionising our sense of identity. Even now it doesn't strikes us as strange to hear someone say "I just can't help being overweight: it's in my genes". In the future, however, the full knowledge of our genetic identity will give us (and potentially insurance companies, employers, the State and who knows who else) an indication of the likely manner and timing of our death. How will society function in light of this powerful knowledge? What new legal and ethical frameworks will be needed to face this challenge?

Recommended reading: Masha Gessen's story and the New Scientist article on genetic testing.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wimbledon Man's Final

It lasted for almost five hours and it wrecked my Sunday evening plans but it was well worth it: yesterday's Wimbledon's man's final was the best tennis match I remember ever seeing, better even than the 1980 formidable dual between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. With superb sportsmanship and spectacular tennis on display, Rafael Nadal finally succeeded in dethroning Roger Federer on grass in a match unfit for cardiacs. I never liked McEnroe whereas I'm a huge fan of both Nadal and Federer. Unforgettable.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fun brain test


The Right Brain vs Left Brain test ... do you see the dancer turning clockwise or anti-clockwise?

If clockwise, then you use more of the right side of the brain and vice versa.

Most of us would see the dancer turning anti-clockwise though you can try to focus and change the direction; see if you can do it.

LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
knowing
acknowledges
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies
practical
safe

RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
uses feeling
"big picture" oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
believes
appreciates
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
impetuous
risk taking

Give it a try for a few seconds. If you can't change the direction of the turns and are just puzzled at the whole thing, take a look here.

Please share your results! Clara sees the movement clockwise, me and Ana see it anti-clockwise.

It's raining again...

It's raining again

Colossus

Colossus
not Goya, Colossus, 1808-1812

"El Coloso" has been in the news recently. Apparently it wasn't painted by Goya at all but by one of his pupils, Asensio Julia. Or so the Prado Museums deliberates...

For me it is still a great painting. Every time I take time to admire it, I end up thinking that wars can take many forms and be of many natures but the enemy is always embodied in perfection by the towering and terrifying "el coloso" (as fear is by Camões's Adamastor. )

Friday, July 04, 2008

The monsters among us

Breaking news: A 16-year-old boy who was stabbed in south London has died of his injuries, police just said, taking the number of teenagers killed by knives in the British capital this year to 18.

Yesterday's news: Exchange students Laurent Bonomo and Gabriel Ferez, both 23, were stabbed 243 times, tied up, gagged and burnt in one of the most "frenzied, brutal and horrific" murders ever investigated by Scotland Yard.
The pair, described as "two of the brightest students of their generation", were tortured in an attack that may have lasted for several hours at the flat in New Cross, south-east London.
They were then doused in an accelerant and the bedsit was firebombed in an attempt to hide the evidence.


Last week's news: Police in Camden have vowed to protect communities from knife crime after the fatal stabbing of a teenage boy at the weekend.Ben Kinsella, from Islington, died from stab wounds in York Way, near King's Cross, in the early hours of Sunday.

Last month's news: Leila Shire stood outside her central London apartment block, where a 15-year-old girl was stabbed to death this week."A lot of people are carrying" knives, said Shire, 24, a family friend of Arsema Dawit, who police say was the unarmed victim of a 21-year-old man charged with stabbing her repeatedly in an elevator.

Practically every single day this year there has been a new report of yet another brutal death by stabbing. Knife crime, especially among teenagers, is rising exponentially. Yesterday I heard a very posh mother say on breakfast TV that nowadays all rich kids carry mobiles and all poor kids carry knives...

How has Life come to be worth so little?

How has taking a Life come to be so easy?

What gruesome creatures walk among us, nurtured and developed into monsters by our own collective doing?

What kind of world is this where I'm bringing up my kids?

The Perfect Life

Les Valeurs Personnelles
René Magritte, Les Valeurs Personnelles, 1952

I have a perfect life. It isn't much,
But it's enough for me. It keeps me alive
And happy in a vague way: no disappointments
On the near horizon, no pangs of doubt;
Looking forward in anticipation, looking back
In satisfaction at the conclusion of each day.
I heed the promptings of my inner voice,
And what I hear is comforting, full of reassurance
For my own powers and innate superiority—the fake
Security of someone in the grip of a delusion,
In denial, climbing ever taller towers
Like a tiny tyrant looking on his little kingdom
With a secret smile, while all the while

Time lies in wait. And what feels ample now
Turns colorless and cold, and what seems beautiful
And strong becomes an object of indifference
Reaching out to no one, as later middle age
Turns old, and the strength is gone.
Right now the moments yield to me sweet
Feelings of contentment, but the human
Dies, and what I take for granted bears a name
To be forgotten soon, as the things I know
Turn into unfamiliar faces
In a strange room, leaving merely
A blank space, like a hole left in the wake
Of a perfect life, which closes over.

John Koethe

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Look at the sky!

Icarus
Henri Matisse, Icarus, 1947

What's up?

After a couple of hectic weeks, things are finally getting back to normal.

Last week's star was undoubtedly Finn, whose arrival was celebrated by everybody but in particular awe by Nia's friends, who invariably asked their own mothers if they could also have a little brother, Clara being no exception. NO WAY!

Ana finished year 8 with two fun activity days out of town: Alton Towers on one day and bowling, quasar and ice-skating on the other. This week she began year 9. It's great smoothing the school year transition like this instead of doing it only after the summer holidays: the kids don't loose momentum and they also get enough homework to complete before school restarts in the beginning of September.

For the past three days Clara has been shinning throughout her school play about the Beatles, into which the kids, teachers and volunteer parents obviously put a lot of effort, dedication and love. It was an amazing production and a worthy tribute!

Yesterday after school, Ana received her first prize award from the very congenial City Mayor, who we got to meet in a very pleasant ceremony at the city library. There were readings from several local young authors, a very inspiring speech from a well known published author, the distribution of prizes (Ana got a £25 voucher to buy books in any major bookstore) and finally cake, biscuits and drinks while mingling and sharing views with other participants. The local newspaper was there to report the occasion and take pictures (much to my young teenage daughter's dread because she fears her friends might find it is terribly uncool to have won a poetry contest...).

Meanwhile, Nia is back in hospital for some very intensive chemo. During the weekend we're planning to visit her (and Finn, who is staying with his mother in special accommodation for the families of inpatients).

As for the weather, well, so far we've had ONE single day of hot weather since summer began and consequently haven't been doing much lounging in the garden. This year when we arrive in Portugal in four weeks' time we'll be as white as true Brits!

Yellow

Yellow

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sweetness

Automat
Edward Hopper, Automat, 1927

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear
one more friend
waking with a tumor, one more maniac

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness
has come
and changed nothing in the world

except the way I stumbled through it,
for a while lost
in the ignorance of loving

someone or something, the world shrunk
to mouth-size,
hand-size, and never seeming small.

I acknowledge there is no sweetness
that doesn’t leave a stain,
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....

Tonight a friend called to say his lover
was killed in a car
he was driving. His voice was low

and guttural, he repeated what he needed
to repeat, and I repeated
the one or two words we have for such grief

until we were speaking only in tones.
Often a sweetness comes
as if on loan, stays just long enough

to make sense of what it means to be alive,
then returns to its dark
source. As for me, I don’t care

where it’s been, or what bitter road
it’s traveled
to come so far, to taste so good.

Stephen Dunn

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Trees

The Great Pine
Paul Cézanne, The Great Pine, 1892-96


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Joyce Kilmer


Good morning! Summer has finally arrived!