Thursday, January 27, 2005

The one with the politics

About a year ago, Jose Saramago, Portuguese Nobel prize-winner for literature, published his latest novel 'Ensaio sobre a lucidez' (loosely translated as 'On lucidity'). This fictional account starts on election day, when the disillusioned population of the nation's capital casts a blank vote with 90% majority. Ludicrous situations then ensure when the political parties try to deal with the situation. I have since watched in disbelief as the real political situation in Portugal has got more and more ridiculous, surpassing by far the book.

There are going to be early elections on the 20th February. In the most appropriate gesture and showing a very good sense of humour, here's what's happening:

Lisbon stunt offers comic relief

Clownish red stickers have appeared on the noses of the leaders of Portugal's political parties on large billboards ahead of next month's general election.
The stickers were first spotted last week, and have spread to posters across Lisbon's main avenues. The Socialist Party was particularly crimson over a red nose stuck on an image of its leader outside party headquarters, next to a police station. Police said they would monitor the posters in the run-up to the polls. No political party has been spared.
Jose Socrates, leader of the main opposition Socialist Party, is standing for prime minister and has a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of the 20 February election.
The red nose campaign appears to be coordinated and organised. A ladder would be needed to reach most of the party leaders' noses. Lisbon police said they had no idea who was behind the stunt but were keeping a special watch on the billboards.
Billboards of the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party also display new red stickers.

And as I always like to have real data to back me up, here's what a friend sent me:

The average salary in Portugal is the lowest in the European Union - 645€ (129.000 escudos, approximately 450£) We beat off Greece, our traditional rivals in 'the poorest' or 'worst off' subjects with ease (Greece's average salary is 1167 € and the second lowest in Europe, it still is almost double that of Portugal). Great Britain's the third highest average wage in Europe with about 1850£ a month. In passing I note that what I'm getting is just above the poverty limit, as defined by 60% of the average British wage.

When you consider that although things are cheaper in Portugal than here, they certainly aren't a third of the price (except rent maybe compared to London), and that they definitely aren't cheaper than in Greece, you can see how serious this is... So red noses aren't enough, some more funny ideas needed!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Just got the best incentive so far to start writing my PhD - my housemate said he would vaccum the house if I made a serious effort!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Saturday on the surreal side and a slightly imbalanced Sunday

Nice weekend.
Had a slightly surreal Saturday, starting off on the right foot at 5pm (weekend, ok?) with David Lynch's 'Wild at Heart':

Not half the experience watching it on dvd as on the big screen, but always worth it anyway, and definitely still one of my favourite films of all time!

Then went on to a birthday party that was in a club in the cellar of a church. The party was also in aid of the tsunami appeal and organized by an international group which is composed of young people whose aim is to find ways to unite different cultures, races, etc. At least that's what I understood. To raise money they were holding an auction of unwanted christmas gifts. This doesn't sound that surreal, but the fact was that this whole thing seemed completely out of place in the cynical, modern, consumerist and fast-paced city that's London.

Ended the night by telling my friends how the birthday-girl, who's a friend of mine met another friend of mine in a village in the middle of Ethiopia. I have never been to Ethiopia and have no connection to it whatsoever. But one of my friends was there researching malaria, the other was there on holiday, they both were by chance in this tiny village, started talking, found out they both knew me and that was the only connection they had! This seriously freaked me out when I first heard about it, but I then remembered how often this kind of things happen. Which leads me to a little thought of mine:

- meeting people for the first time is easy, and you'll always meet nice, interesting people for the first time.

-meeting up with people for the second time, now that's the difficult thing - it requires a big effort on your part!

But that's not a reason for not doing it! Chance encounters happen all the time. People making an effort to keep in touch is the rare and valuable thing.

On to Sunday:

This was one of the rare days in which I managed to draw almost a full card on all the little essential things you do to live life:

I went to the hairdresser (girlfriends don't faint, it looks almost exactly the same, don't know waht all the fuss is about anyway), had a brisk one-hour walk home with some food-shopping on the way, vaccumed my bedroom floor, put some clothes in the wash, came in to work for a couple of hours and then saw a bollywood dvd with some friends with a nice dinner added on.

And if you're one of those people who find it easy to balance all these different components of life on a daily basis, get out of here, you don't belong on this planet!

The imbalance was caused by my getting some unusually good results at work during those two hours. Seems a shame almost to spoil what would have been an almost perfect average day..

But hey! At least the imbalance was on the positive side...

Friday, January 21, 2005

Chip Buttie

A proof that there are always new things to discover about the British culture.

A chip buttie is a sandwich of chips. The traditional way is to take two slices of refined, pre-sliced bread with lots of additives, spread with BUTTER and then put some fried chips inside. It's considered one of the best dishes one can have.

I thought I'd share this with you. When I feel brave enough to try it, I'll let you know.

Monday, January 17, 2005

And the award for best use of swearing goes to...

Team America

Went to see it on Sunday and absolutely loved it. To me it justified all the hype that has been going around. Bear in mind that the three people I talked to who also went to see it his weekend were underwhelmed. They all thought it was worth going to, however!

If there are any of you out there who haven't heard what the film is about, I can't describe too much about it as most likely my blog would be censored out of the google directory (and it's still in the process of being accepted..). And of course, secondarily, it might spoil the film for you!

But what's not to love? It's got:

- puppets like the ones from thunderbirds

- puppets having sex

-puppets puking

- americans being stupid

- americans being clever

and one of the best theories about different types of personalities I have ever heard:

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Working day

Have a cold. Can't do any work. Don't think you should be doing any work either. Here are some links to help you not do any work:

Monday, January 10, 2005

First New Year's resolution scuppered

I have already broken one of my New Year's resolutions this weekend by organizing something. As I realized that to say no to social invitations would probably require more will-power than I possess, I decided to just stop organizing things myself, which would probably save me say one hour a week. Hey! One hour is enough to do one more experiment a week (or post one more entry in this website...) And my PhD deadline is looming...

But since my friend Mafalda is visiting, I decided I might as well rope other people in to whatever we would be doing. Hence, some serious organizing was involved and did not increase even more because Mafalda obligingly got the flu thus restricting our activities (somewhat). So coffee at Monmouth's and Borough Food Market Saturday afternoon with Henry and Barry, drink in Leicester Sq with birthday boy Chris, dinner in Busaba Eathai and then on to Brixton to meet more friends at the Hobgoblin (pics coming up soon). All highly recommended!
Sunday had a now obligatory pancake brunch and it is true that adding buttermilk to the batter makes pancakes better. Try it! And then a very good Yoga class (which I will not advertise as I don't want it filling up even more). And then dinner with Barry's apple crumble as dessert. Yum!

Yoga, good food and ginger tea combined have made Mafalda better so the week looks to be even more hectic, with organizing involved for all days until Friday... This New Year's resolution is proving hard to keep!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Back to the lab

I finally went to back to some labwork today. Although I much prefer labwork to computer work it's always a moment of dread to me to go back to the bench after a prolonged absence. What if I have forgotten how to use a pipette? Or how to do simple concentration calculations in my head? And what if I've forgotten how to do experiments properly and my next one goes wrong through a stupid mistake of mine, sending a few hundred pounds (and lots of plasticware and chemicals) down the drain?

But helped by Chrissie Hynde singing " I'll stand by you" on the radio, I managed to get through my first hour. And remembered another possible problem about labwork - it can get mind-numbingly boring with certain tasks, like labelling and diluting primers. Which was what I was doing today.

As we're on a scientific note, I've written a text for a website on Portuguese science. In portuguese, as requested, I'm afraid, so only some of you can read it. In:

Thursday, January 06, 2005

New Year pics

And others added to my photoalbum:

The Hairy Biker's Cookbook

This should be worth watching. I'll be in a Capoeira lesson at the time hopefully, so let me know how it was!
On BBC2 at 8pm:

Two unlikely Northern lads hit the road in search of culinary experience and cultural adventure. On this trip the boys mount their bikes and ride the length of Portugal, the birthplace of fusion food.With the same spirit of exploration as the Portuguese adventurers who enriched the world's cuisine by bringing chilies back from South America, taking Tempura to Japan, and Vindaloo to India, Si and Dave set out to bring home the best of Portuguese cookery and culture to the eager crowd at their local boat club on Roa Island.Their voyage of discovery will find them tickling trout in a flooding river, cooking on the deck of a hundred-year-old port boat, bobbing in rubber rings on the Algarve, and feasting on traditional Portuguese fare as they overlook the sandy shores of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The weather

You can just imagine the conversation:

TV program editor - We need something to fill in 1/2 hour before the footie. We want to be more in touch with the public. What do the public like to talk about?
TV creative - Football
- We've already got 2 hrs of football, we can't put more on!
- Why not?
- It's too expensive. What else do the English public like to talk about?
- The weather
- We can't make 1/2 hour program about the weather!
- Yes we can. Let me tell you how...

And that was it. One of the weirdest programs I ever watched. (And I believe one can never have too many weird things in life). The title was '50 years of British weather'.
It did talk a bit about the main weather events in Britain in the last 50 years. But mostly it was clips from tv and films showing characters and showpeople talking about the weather, singing about the weather, reading poems about the weather and generally living in different kinds of weather.
Maybe the point was that there is a lot of talking about the weather, even in English fiction. I prefer the notion that there wasn't any point to it at all. Isn't it great? How many of you watched it? I want to know if the TV creative was right!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Car insurance for women?

So what does everyone think?
The UK government has just allowed insurance companies to charge less car insurance to female drivers as objectively and statistically they have less accidents than male drivers. I used to think this was obvious; however a (female) friend pointed out that this would allow for any group to be discriminated for or against as long as statistics backed it up.
I still like the idea, specially since it's the only objective back-up we have against men's subjective claim that women don't drive properly.
Opinions requested!

update bits and bobs

I have now changed my blog so that anyone can leave comments without having to open an account. This was ridiculous - sorry, I just realized today that people had to do this! Thanks, Ana! But please leave some kind of name that allows me to know who's leaving the comment. And I promise I won't tell anyone...

New Year's was wonderful with loads of good dancing and interesting chats and what with the costumes getting better and better with which themed party. I was severely annoyed with myself for being too tired to enjoy it properly and having to leave at an indecently early hour. I still think that getting up at 6.30 after 5 hours sleep, one plane flight, one commute from airport with heavy luggage and a 1hour tube trip to the party is not enough to excuse my body for NOT KEEPING UP! On the plus side I did manage to get up early enough on New Year's day to take up my housemate's Struan offer of his football ticket, as he was too sick to go. So started 2005 on a true football note with my first English football game. Might comment a bit more on that later on! Of course after the game it was a cosy pub - The Goldhawk -and the dinner. And that was the 1st day of the year done and dusted. Hmmm... On the 2nd managed to come in to work for a bit and then met up with my lovely friend Edwina, her equally lovely friend Marie (sorry guys, no pics) and Andy Wong at the Queen's Head. Still think one of the best pubs in London and the waiters are only snobbish at certain times (and if thet're male only with men) so not too bad. On the 3rd was feeling very virtuous about coming into work only to find that half of my workmates had also come in.. So no brownie points for me there. But at least I eased myself into my first day of work.

New photos on
but still need more so send them to me!

And for of those of you in Great Britain, may you survive this first day back at the grind. Don't actually try and do any work - surviving is already a big accomplishment!

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year!

You can look my online photo-album now:

It's very small at the moment but new pictures will be added all the time.
If you have pictures you think would be relevant there, e-mail them to me at my work address.