ellestra: (tiger)
I recently saw another discussion about the Fahrenheit vs. Celsius. It was of course on American site (since no one else even thinks about Fahrenheit) and was all about the superiority of Fahrenheit over Celsius. The whole discussion was as always inane and went back to the only argument that really matters - I grew up with it so it's more intuitive to use. It's the only one that can reasonably let us "determine comfort when we go outside", you know. It however helped me understand a fundamental difference in thinking that eluded me so far (it's been 5 years already - don't even know how that happened).

Look at pictures below. First is used by people defending Fahrenheit as superior. The hundred degree scale contains the temperatures that most people would encounter in their daily life with very cold and very hot outside of it so you'll know you are in special circumstance level. The liveable temperatures are inside it. Celsius - uselessly goes between mildly cold to dead (not really weather on Earth type of temperature). Logical, isn't it?

The thing is - no one thinks of weather or any everyday temperatures this way in Celsius. This closed between 0-100 system doesn't make any sense to anyone raised in Celsius. Sure we care about boiling water but not in weather sense. Instead Celsius is centred around 0oC - the temperature of freezing water. This has a lot of everyday repercussions as that is a difference between rain and snow and between ice and clear roads (but of course humidity, wind and air vs. ground temperature also plays a role) so you want to know if the temperatures will be in the plus or minus.

This is why most of us think of thermometers like this. I picked the one perfectly symmetrical and ending at 50oC but it can be -40 - +40 or -30 - +60 or -100 - +30 depending where you live on Earth. The point is the 0 is our switch point and then the scale is opened on both plus and minus side to go as far as you need in your corner of the world (despite humans having bias towards plus temp the record low is -94 and record high only 56). It is in a way symmetrical which is why I, raised in it, like to say to people that when I was living Poland to come to US it was -18C and when I arrived it was +18. Big temperature shock! Or that near Chicago you can have both -40 and +40 temperatures in one year because continental climate (cold winters, hot summers) while Europe has milder ones because ocean (warmer winter and colder summers).

Fahrenheit is closed of by 0oF and 100oF so, as I mentioned, it relates to unusual by going outside it's borders (or even how close to them you are). I went from 0oF to upper 60s - that's over half the scale. It was way below 0oF - that's how horribly cold it was! And then we went into triple digits and were dying from heatwave!

It's a completely different way of thinking that's not easily translatable no matter how well you learn the corresponding temperatures.

And, of course, very cold and very hot is often a personal thing. I know people who think +30oC is when it starts being nice while I find it very hot. And +20oC is nice but in Hong Kong that's cold weather while people in Siberia treat -20oC as a nice warm winter day.

I have similar thought about other measurements but maybe some other time - it's getting late.
ellestra: (Default)
My filling is falling out. I mean it's still in place and you wouldn't notice anything by just looking at it but I feel a crack with my tongue and it wobbles. This means something I've been avoiding so far - going to the dentist in US. My first concern was, of course, the price. I was always told it's expensive but nobody said exactly how much is expensive so I tried to find out. However all the beautiful pages of the dentists around here (or anywhere in US for that matter) have no information about the price.

In Poland when you go to a dentist office or a website you will get a comprehensive list of pricing for everything they do. For that matter this is also true for any kind of privet doctors. If you go somewhere you have the right to know how much you will have to pay afterwards (at least approximate - sometimes they have ranges for some of the procedures). Not here. Here you can't find payment information before you pick a dentist or go to a doctor. In fact, my previous experience visiting a laryngologist, taught me you don't even learn how much you pay after the visit. You get an information about what you maybe will need to pay some time in the future when they finish haggling with your insurance provider. Then a month later you get an information that your payment is overdue and you have to contact them and pay immediately.

So not only you make decision blindly (if you can make one and not just go to whoever they pick for you) you won't know what you owe them for months and then it's your fault it took so long. I feel like my rights are being violated - only, apparently, I don't have those rights as a patient here. I didn't realise how much simple, straightforward and transparent our healthcare system is. It make take forever to get to a specialist (but it can take a log time here too) but at least you don't feel like someone wants to con you. Thank socialized health system for right to information.
ellestra: (telamon)
In other news it's just been two years since I moved to US. It's hard to believe it's already been two years. I remember how at first time moved so slowly and I kept feeling like I was here longer but it was just few days, week, months. And then, somehow, it become two years almost instantly. I think time started to move faster since I come back from my first trip back home and realised some of the things that helped me to adjust. It's also our lab getting more people and more interesting projects and me getting some friends so I'm more involved in the life here. It's funny how much faster life is passing by when you are really busy and how much easier it is to live somewhere when you bond to people not just place. I know these are both kind of obvious but I only moved once before in my life and that was to a place close enough that I kept all my friend and family ties intact so I've never before realised how true it was.

Also in this move the 6 hour difference is really making keeping in touch with everyone a challenge. I keep saying I don't know how people did this before skype because I can't (don't want to) imagine that. It helps me stay sane when my parents bug me before I they go to sleep with some trivial information (the first real snow in Poland this winter) and unrequited advice. Or when I remind my cousin that he needs to sleep when he sends me links at what's for him 2 or 4 a.m. Or when I can talk with my 86 year old grandmother and she can see me and I see her. However, the truth is that when everyone in Poland would like and can talk to me I'm either asleep or at work ad vice versa. I talk to my parents only if I manage to come home before 6 p.m. as that's midnight in Poland and they go to bed late. No one else is out there (except that cousin). It's not much better on weekends as in my morning they are busy with dinners or out for shopping, walking or other stuff you do in the middle of the day and then when it's early evening for them and they'd like to talk I want to be out doing all that stuff. And when it's my evening and I want to talk they are asleep. Completely out of sync.

So, it helped when I found people to talk to in my own time zone. It was also nice to see people I knew back in Poland and who are here again and share the experience. I did that in October and I have few more invitation (in fact I just got another one yesterday) so my resolution for my third year is to take them up on this.

The only thing that's still bugs me is that I miss having a cat so much. It's just I don't know if I stay long enough to get another two year mobile contract so how can I get a pet?
ellestra: (Default)
I came back home from my Thanksgiving with American family. Well, it was American-Japanese family actually. This means that I did have the turkey and tried pumpkin pie for the first time (vegetable pie - sic!) but I also had some Japanese food. It involved a lot of soy. And I learned I don't like tofu. I liked the soup  we had today but I forgot what it's called. Anyway, going back to Thanksgiving, it's both like on TV and not. Obviously the food was there but it was generally more like more normal dinner except bigger and with taking family photos first. Another surprising thing was that I helped decorate the Christmas tree. I was told this last year but then I was with Poles living here so I didn't really see it. Americans put on the Christmas decorations at the end of November. They said they take them out on New Years. I wonder if it ever will stop feeling weird.
ellestra: (telamon)
Today is first anniversary of my move across the ocean. A year ago I was sitting on the plane, still couple of ours away from landing, wondering how strange my new life is going to be. Now I'm almost used to to all the weird American ways (although I still have to think carefully before writing dates. I sometimes think Americans did it on purpose to make sure that every single type of measurement is incompatible with the rest of the world). I learned how to operate washing machines. I'm resigned to the lack of proper lightning in the apartments. I love the free public transport in my town.

I managed to find all my favourite foods. Even the ones I was afraid will be hard to find. I have tea (Earl Gray, hot), white cheese (farmer's cheese) and sour cucumbers (cucumbers in dill/brine). There is enough places to get proper chocolate that I can find the kind I feel like eating most of the time. And lately I even managed to find edible bread in LionFoods.

I enjoy the fact that there is winter but not the kind of snow and cold one that's there back home (or anywhere north from here) this year. I just wish that the heating system here was better prepared for cold. The outside temperatures are fine but the inside ones make me long for radiators. I hope that when heat comes back it will be easier for me this time. And I think the fact that the building is made of wood just makes it worse.

There are still a lot of things I'm missing from home but it's because they remind me of home and all the people I miss. There are still things that annoy me here but it's in the way that there is always something that irritates one about how things work no matter where one lives.

I've gotten used to my post-doc being mostly computer work and I got used to how most of the things work around here. The rest of the lab is finally moving and in couple of weeks I will no longer be alone in my building so information exchange will get easier. And I think at least one project is close to being finished so it should be ready to be published soon. Of course I still have to write it and what's even worse I'll have to give talks (multiple! ARRGH) about it.

I'm still not sure if I'm going to stay (it depends on how I'll feel this spring - I hope it'll be better this time) but I found new friends here that I will miss if I leave.

I think it's starting to feel like home...

Here are some anniversary gifts for you:

Flying Cats - I think that they do better then humans (they are after all surprised as they didn't know what will happen). Just like any human they try to grab the first thing they come in contact with and they didn't puke:

I think that blackberry doesn't work because it's red. (To non-Europeans - Orange is one of Europe's biggest mobile network operator and Internet service provider and it's French)

All this fruit talk made me hungry. Luckily I have apples. And eggs' box.


Dec. 17th, 2010 10:40 pm
ellestra: (aeryn)
I woke up and felt there was something wrong with my lower lip. It turned out I have a cold sore. It hasn't happened to me for a while but since I'm one of the 90% who has it I knew what to do. Or at least I thought I knew. Once again it turns out living in another country means some things you take for granted are not.

In Poland I would just go to nearest pharmacy and buy any ointment containing acyclovir (Antivir or Zovirax). Here however they are all prescription drugs and you cannot get them without visit to a doctor (otherwise known as a giant waste of time). There is one (ONE!) drug that actually heals herpes and is not for prescription. And unlike acyclovir it's still under patent so it's very expensive. It's probably allowed because it's not actually antiviral. I suppose they have something against uncontrolled antivirals here but at the same time there are shelves full of ointments with antibiotics.

On the other hand Claritin that I use for allergy symptoms is a prescription medicine back in Poland and here one can buy it anywhere including grocery stores. And the pain relievers like acetaminophen (American version of paracetamol) are in sizes that would destroy your liver if you choose to swallow them all at one time.

Sometimes I think these things depend on the mood of whoever makes the decision.

And one more thing. Here there are commercials for prescription drugs. It still feels a little weird to me. In Poland, as in most countries, it's illegal. Only over the counter medicines can be advertised. It's because therapeutic effect is not related to success at convincing consumers they need it.  Advertisements are suppose to make people think they can't live without things they don't really need. This combined with the fact that most people are unable to understand what the drugs actually do can be a dangerous combination and lawmakers usually prefer to let doctors decide.

On the other hand it just means pharmaceutic companies will do anything to seduce doctors to chose their products but at least doctors understand what the drug actually does and the implications of that (or at least they should and they should care).
ellestra: (Default)
Europe has been freezing and been covered in snow in past few days. It's the coldest November on record in England and temperature is suppose to drop dow to -20C in Poland tomorrow. There have been some airports closed and generally everyone is a little unprepared as it's not suppose to be so wintery so soon. However, looking at pictures of snow covered landscapes I finally started to feel that Christmas are just around the corner. It's good as people here are already bringing Christmas trees and putting lights on. It surprised me at first as in Poland it's just for the malls. We put ornaments on Christmas just before the holiday. My family usually does it on the weekend before but some do it on Christmas Eve but then we keep the tree for weeks after, sometimes even till the beginning of Carnival (and sometimes that's February). Here in US it's the opposite. They put it on now and then throw the tree out right after Christmas, sometimes, I'm told, even before New Year. My Polish friends who live here for a while said they just combine it. They have to buy the tree early because later there are non and then keep it for at least two weeks of January.

Here weather got worse on Thanksgiving (last Thursday). First it rained and then it got cold during weekend (it was still +10C but the air was chilly and it felt colder) so almost all the leaves are down and trees are bare. It finally looks like November ( which in Polish is called listopad - leavesfall). Just in time for the last day.
ellestra: (Default)
I feel almost like a TV show. With the way they do all the holidays. I think 3rd Rock especially comes to mind - the customs seen live for the first time by an alien. Today was my first Thanksgiving. I had no idea what to do but I got invited for a dinner. I'm afraid however that it was nothing like what they show on TV and probably not very representative of how Americans spend the day. I spent it with my Polish friends who lived here long enough to celebrate but still are not assimilated enough to really care about the spirit of the holiday. There was a turkey involved but that was it as they don't like any other traditional food. Mostly it was just a nice dinner and we just talk about different stuff after that. Noone thanked for anything. We all agreed it'd feel a little bit weird and awkward.

My friend said it's because our culture is so different. We don't usually list the good things that happened, we list bad. Poles are really good at complaining. If you ask as how we are doing you'll hear the list of illnesses and disasters. We are always diminishing our successes and distrust people who are to happy and satisfied. This also means we usually means we don't think what we do or have is good enough. This is so prevalent that, even though I think we are way to extreme in this attitude, I feel weird when people are praising Poland's economy or landscape. I can't quite believe they are serious and not just being polite.

On the other hand the American over optimistic way gets on my nerves too. When everything is fine and perfect all the time it also seems fake and artificial. I suppose I'd like something in the middle but it's hard to find. After all, as with all such things, what is the middle depends on who is measuring it.

So in the end I sit here drinking tea, earl grey, hot and thinking that I'm grateful someone finally realised what the touch screens were made for but I'm also disappointed that this is not shareable:
ellestra: (Default)
Americans have been voting today (I know, in the middle of the week, how strange) and this is how the intersection near where I live looks like:

Those funny signs are everywhere and not just about voting.

Enough democracy; now something where judges decide:

The World Fantasy Awards winners for works published in 2009 were announced on Sunday and it's another one for China. Good he wrote a book that can't be easily classified so he gets all the awards both fantasy and science fiction. Here are all the winners.

Novel: "The City & The City" China Miéville

Novella: "Sea-Hearts"  Margo Lanagan

Short Story: "The Pelican Bar”, Karen Joy Fowler (Eclipse Three)

Anthology: "American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny: From Poe to the Pulps/From the 1940s to Now" Peter Straub, ed. (Library of America)

Collection (tie): "There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales" Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (Penguin)
                            "The Very Best of Gene Wolfe/The Best of Gene Wolfe" Gene Wolfe (PS /Tor)

Artist: Charles Vess

Special Award – Professional: Jonathan Strahan for editing anthologies

Special Award – Non-Professional: Susan Marie Groppi for Strange Horizons
ellestra: (sunrise)
I was told almost as soon as I arrived here that one of the most important event here is The Halloween street party. They told me thousands of people come and walk the streets in costumes so I just had to go and see. After all I've only seen such things in movies. In Poland this is the time of visiting graves and although the partying did come as all other traditions that can up the sales and give excuse to drink it's mostly confined to pubs and kindergartens. After all most people don't feel like doing much after whole day spent on cementaries. And the weather doesn't encourage dressing up either. It's usually cold and it rains (although this year it was 15C or even 20C in the sun) and getting out in skimpy costumes doesn't really sound appealing. Frankly it wasn't all that warm here either. I was kind of impressed with how little some people wore. It was only about 10C. and was getting colder. In fact the forecast for this week says soon it will be 10C during the day and below 0 at night. But for now just enjoy the photos:

More under cut )
ellestra: (Default)
I've been to the NC State Fair. It lasts 10 days and this was the first weekend so there were a lot of people. I went with friends because I was curious how it looks like. It was basically like Święto Kwiatów - expositions of different varieties of fruit, vegetables, flowers and animals and also farm machinery - just with much more visitors. There was less people selling stuff, almost no plants for example but there was more fairground rides.

Photo evidence )

The food was much worse then the one sold in Poland on such occasions and it means it actually made fast foods seem appealing.
And then there was this )
Although I really liked the ice-cream made the old fashioned way. And I managed to get cotton candy. I don't think it's a proper fair without cotton candy.

PS. I have a bug in my screen. Real, live, very small thing walking under the screen of my laptop. Very bizarre.
ellestra: (Default)
It's still raining outside and it reminded me I forgot to write down some important things I noticed during my trip home. It may prove important later. Even if just for comparison later.

This was the first time I was in another country for so long (just over 7 months). And I was so tired and stressed. The weather hot and humid weather was making me feel depressed. And even though I liked North Carolina when I arrived I was becoming more and more dissatisfied with the place. People from home kept asking me if I liked it here and I started saying no. I started saying I think it's ugly even though I knew it wasn't quite true. After all I wrote about liking nature here and posted pictures of the plants and views. I just couldn't find the right words to explain what I was feeling. And then I went home.

The moment we left the Okęcie airport I suddenly felt it all go away. I just felt my mind resting, slowing down. Everything had the right shape, right proportions, the whole geometry of the world became right. Everything was so normal: streets, buildings, traffic lights. Even the road works. World suddenly became so very familiar, normal and soothing. It was as if all this time my mind was running on extra level of attention and when I came back home it powered down. 

I wondered why and I think that my mind has through all the decades of my life got used to how the the world should look like. As if some pathways in the brain were set to recognise the environment I lived in all my life. So then my brain could ignore it. The way all the normal things become unnoticeable background. You don't need to think about this because it's so normal your brain anticipates the looks and behaviours of the world around you. You can go on autopilot and concentrate all your brain power on the more important stuff.

When I went to live in another continent it was fine at the beginning. Like being on vacation when everything is new and exiting. But in a long term it becomes tiring. Generally life here is pretty similar to life back home but all those tiny differences sum up. I think it's like my brain subconsciously had to correct its expectations every time I walked on the street, entered a building or even opened my eyes. And it made me more and more tired. It made me dislike the place more and more. Somehow the trip home helped. Maybe it's easier because I'm now consciously realizing this.

This is not scientific explanation. I don't know how it is for other people. I don't know if it's like this for anyone else. That is just how it felt for me.


Sep. 19th, 2010 09:12 pm
ellestra: (sunrise)
I just came back from the coast. This was the first time I swam in Atlantic. I wanted to write saw but, of course, I saw Atlantic a lot of times as i flew over it. I just never got close enough to touch it. Until now. It was awesome.

I'm used to thinking about Atlantic as cold because that's how it is at Europe's coasts. That's why everyone goes to the Mediterranean. Here however the ocean was warm. And the waves were so big. Yesterday  I spent 3 hours straight in the water. I got sunburn. I should get out of the water to put the new layer of sunscreen on but it seemed as such a waste of time. I used to spent whole days in water as a kid. This was so much fun.

Here is something fun for you too:
ellestra: (Default)
I wrote before about my problems with air condition in my apartament. It's been failing in regular intervals due to freon leaking out. This means that I'm not only overheating but also feeling guilty for destroying ozone layer (yes all my fault, sorry). They finally decided the leak cannot be repaired and the whole outside unit is to be replaced this week. Finally.

But it got empty once again and it's 34 in the shade during day. It got really bad and I had to ask for it to be refilled again. I had almost no sleep that night and I haven't eaten much besides two sandwiches for two days - heat does that to me. So when AC finally started working again I made myself some food. And then I noticed it. The water streaming down my wall.

There is something wrong with the unit inside, too. The water, that naturally condenses when the air is cooled, is not going where it supposed to. I've seen some water stains on the wall before - I reported it and was told it was repaired. Then the AC failed again and I couldn't tell. And now it's a regular waterfall. Really, it's wetting the carpet.

I reported it again today but it's still leaking. On the other hand it's neither my wall nor my carpet. I can move out in half a year.

So to get back to seeing my place in the whole scheme of things - the radial tree of life with 'you are here' helpfully pointing out homo sapiens:

And on the site they also have it as tattoos.
ellestra: (Default)
I've just realised it has been half a year since I've moved to US. Time flies. Seasons change. The unusually cold winter turned into unusually hot and humid summer.

I slowly get used to living here. I still think that the Polish towns are prettier (all those who complain about bauma bricks in on Polish pavements should see the ones here) but I love the public transport here. All the neurotic habits I had from using Polish public transport are almost gone. Here the driver will wait for you even if you are not at the stop. He will wait for you to disembark. Sometimes even let you in if you manage to catch it at the traffic lights (OK, that's illegal in Warsaw but still).

I got used to the things that kept on surprising me at the beginning. I got into the routine of going to work and then wondering about.  And taking pictures. Just like at home.

This calls for picspam:

Plants )

Animals I've mentioned before )

And Larry was right squirrels are evil:

And I'm watching Batman Begins for the first time. I've never seen it before. I however saw Dark Knight and unfortunately that was much better movie. I just couldn't help noticing how most of the cast of this very American story is not American. Just came to work in US. Like me.

Good bits

May. 30th, 2010 10:33 pm
ellestra: (sunrise)
There are many things that I got used to, many other that still bother me but there are some that I love here. One of those things is the nature here. The sheer number of animals that are just around. Many of them I'd only have seen in zoos or on TV.

Yesterday I found a tortoise near the road. It was about to go on the asphalt. I took it and put it back in the grass, facing the woods. There is only one species of tortoise in Poland. It's very rare. I've never before seen a tortoise in the wild.

Today I saw a humming bird for the first time. I don't know what species it was - it was dark green. I first noticed it sitting on a tree. Tiny bird with that long, thin beak I was sure it must be a hummingbird and then it flew away and I was sure.

Then this evening I saw fireflies. At first I thought I imagined the specs of light over the grass. It wasn't fully dark yet and I though it was just light reflecting from something in the air but then I came close and they where there. There are fireflies in Poland but they need warm and humid nights to fly and shine. That kind of weather in June doesn't happen every year. And even then they are not as big as here.

Moments like this make me glad I'm here.
ellestra: (Default)
There is always something new for me to discover. The little differences that are sometimes funny, sometimes weird and sometimes startling. For example I recently went to buy myself a notebook. Simple thing but it turned out to be quite a challenge. I'm used to using sheet with squares which I learned is called quad-ruled paper. This is quite hard to find as almost all notebooks are in lines. The most popular format is called college ruled which I suppose explains it's popularity. This looks like Polish single-line notebooks. And I haven't used them since I finished high school. And that was very long ago. I was done with Polish and the lined books. Even then I used the quad ruled for everything else. And I prefer them as one can write much more densely on the page and making tables and graphs is easier. Anyway I managed to finally find some squared paper but the squares were wrong. It's a weird feeling when something looks so familiar but at the same time you know it's wrong. This is were local measurement system stroked again. It turns out here there are two types of quad ruled notebooks here. Normal - 5x5 - and  4x4 which is in English system and the squares are just a little bit bigger. You can guess which one I chose (it's for the lab - we work in metric anyway and 5 squares = 1 cm). It surprised me that I could see they were the wrong size.

Another funny thing is finding familiar food on the shelves or even shops with foreign, specialty food. Especially when it's something like Hit cookies. For you American it's like for you would be finding Oreos in such section which I suppose happens somewhere. I also found here Maltesers, Wawel Dark Chocolate and Leibnitz cookies.  Luckily for me I also found sour cucumbers - also called cucumbers in brine - from Poland. This is good as they are one of my favourite foods since kindergarden.

This is however nothing compared to finding familiar stuff that just doesn't taste right. American chocolate - Hershey - is not very good. It tastes more like the chocolate-like stuff from the 80s during the bad cocoa deficiency after Martial Law. It's like there is less cocoa and more sugar (but I'm not sure as they don't state the % of cocoa on the bars - suspicious in it's own way). Unfortunately local versions of Nestle and Milka chocolates seem to have the same problem. They just don't taste right. And the chips and other salty snacks are more salty and and ice creams are sweeter. I'm not able to swallow the non-carbonated drinks. They are so sweet they make me feel sick, they could be used for glucose tolerance test. At least carbon gives drink a slight bitter taste to offset the sweetness. This means that when I'm not able to make myself tea I drink Coca-Cola (Zero - I'm with John Scalzi - it tastes best). I never thought I'd say this but I'm starting to have enough of Cola.This led me to conclusion that the unhealthy food is even more unhealthy in US.

BTW KFC way, way superior in Poland. This was one fastfood I kind of liked in Poland. I decided to try it here - awful. Dry and tasteless. My Polish friends here blame the chickens.
ellestra: (Default)
I got the US census questions in the mail today. I checked and it seems foreigners are to do it too if we live here. So I read the questions and they are rather boring. All questionaries I had to fill in the past two months asked more detailed questions. They read like just and preface to the actual cencus so I kept looking for more but it turned out the other pages are for other people. I remember taking part in 2002 Polish census and the questions were pretty general but took few pages. This kind of data the US asks for could be probably pulled from the local government offices.

Still some questions seem pretty weir. In question 8 they ask if one is Hispanic, Latino or Spanish. The Hispanic and Latino bit seems a little redundant. As far as I understand Hispanic is a subset of Latino as Latino means not only Spanish speaking people of the Americas but also Brazilians and the French speaking South Americans too. And why are Saniards different to other Europeans? And if Spaniards then why not Portuguese? They had as much hand in the creation of Latin America as Spaniards. There are many foreigners as students or researchers from Europe here. It's a bit weird to treat every other European as being one group and Spaniards as separate ethnicity. And what exactly one means by Spanish origin? Does Spanish mother counts like e.g. Helena Bonham Carter's? Are her and hers and Tim Burton's children Hispanic in US? Good they don't live in Hollywood and don't have to answer such questions. And on othe hand why is noone interested in my ethnicity?

I also find it funny that they insist on mailing it back today in an attached letter dated March 15 but the census asks about the state of household on April 1. They want me to predict the future. Who knows maybe in 2 weeks there will be ten other people living here.
ellestra: (sunrise)
I've been here for almost 2 months now and I get why Americans are so attached to their cars. I'm in a town that has public transport and the bikes are very popular (first thing I was warned about was that there are two things that get stolen here - laptops and bikes) but still when you want to go somewhere on weekends, go shopping or come  back home late having a car is very, very helpful. I will get a car eventually (i have a bike already). Still what I just saw flabbergasted me. I thought I was getting used to all the local customs and was done with shock/surprise feeling but a drive-thru bank? Is getting off the car is really such a horrible work? Wikipeadia tells me about all the other things that can be drive-thru like marriages and funerals. OK, now banks seem kind of normal.

On the other news the switch to Summer Time (called Daylight Saving Time) has already happened here in USA. And, since the Europe resets clocks on the last Sunday of March, for the next two weeks there is only five hours time difference between here and Poland. It will make calling home much easier :)
ellestra: (Default)
I've been doing some cleaning up and it turned this is one more thing that I didn't think to think about and it turned out one has to be careful about to.  I wrote already about the vacuum cleanser but I kind of expected that it had to be the upright one. But there were also things I kind of knew but didn't realise. Like the fact that windows open by sliding up the bottom part as they show in movies. This means that only part of it really opens as it needs place to slide to. It also means that you never can reach the outside surface. I tried to ask about cleaning windows but that only made people give me a strange look. In Europe windows mostly open to the inside. This means you can easily clean inner and outer surface standing inside the room. I don't know how and if Americans do it at all. But mine are pretty dirty especially one since men who came to repaired it left finger prints on the outside surface.

Then there are the cleaning substances. For some reason Americans have antibacterial obsession. Everything is antibacterial. Kitchen cleaner, windows cleaner - I can wear gloves for that. But it also includes most of liquid hand soaps. This creeps me out as a biologist and as a woman - my poor skin - what about all the bacteria that needs to live there. I didn't spent years using pH5.5 soaps that are good for the species that live on and protect my skin to just kill them now. It was especially bad when I needed to work for a while in a different lab that is located by the hospital and all the soaps were disinfectant ones and smelled so badly I felt sick and the smell didn't wash off for a long time. I always wash my hands carefully but there I tried to remember to use just water. The hospital made me do the exact opposite of what they wanted. I spent a lot of time in store to make sure to buy soap that is non-antibacterial. I'm still not sure if I got it. Sometimes I feel labels are not properly described. It kind of makes me miss all those EU directives everyone is always making fun off. I never realise how much easier they make the life. The same goes for recycling and other things like that. I miss the signs.

Another thing that one has to be careful of are laundry detergents because many of them contain bleach. I can vaguely remember the time that there was chlorine bleach in laundry detergents but I haven't seen it in years or probably more then decade. It went away when the new generation of more effective detergents and mild oxygen based stain removers came. Here bleach is abundant. Maybe it's because the top-loader washing machines are less effective. Or just out of habit.

And toothpaste is not mint by default. I forgot it can have different taste. It felt strange at first but of all of those easiest to get used to.

May 2016

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