duminică, 1 mai 2016

The STACK Game, A Metaphor For Life

One week ago I was sitting in bed searching for a way to mindlessly entertain myself. I was pretty tired and didn't have the strength to play a game on my computer so I decided to find one on my phone. After searching through the app store a little while I came across a game named STACK.

I played stacking games before and found them quite entertaining. The first reason I downloaded the game was because of the color scheme it had, elegant and simple. You start off with one color and as you continued stacking, the colors change. The nuances of the colors were beautiful and somewhat soothing.

As I sat in my bed, tapping on the screen to stack square plate after square plate, the music playing in the background made me feel like a Buddhist monk in some form of meditation. Again it had a very calming effect. I must admit I didn't play the game for hours or any chance I got, unable to stop, but I enjoyed the 15 minutes I had spent on it and it actually got me thinking about how this game resembles life. To explain how I got to this conclusion I must first explain the rules.

You start the game with an already stacked pile of square plates. The point of the game is to evenly place another plate that is floating above your stack, on top. If your margins do not perfectly align then the portion left out will be cut off and you will have a smaller piece on top of your pile. The game is over when your pieces get so small that it's almost impossible to place them one upon another.

The perk is that when you evenly stack eight pieces, the eight piece gets larger and so do the other ones stacked evenly upon that one until you reach the initial square size. Of course if you don't then your piece will be again cut off.  It's also cool than when you neatly drop the pieces, you get the "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Si, Do" notes, one for each piece.

Now that I explained the rules, there is one specific thing that I often stumbled upon that I want to talk about. Of course it's satisfying when you do manage to perfectly put one piece on top of the other but it's not that fun when a part of your plate gets cut off when you were about to place the eight perfectly stacked square and have it grow bigger. But why did I miss when I was about to make a perfect eight? And this kept happening. It was like the eight piece was cursed or hated me and wanted to torment me. We often come so close to success but somehow we fail miserably right at the end. Why is that?

Well psychologists have an explanation for that. To win at this game, or at any other thing in life you need to acquire a certain skill that through repetition becomes better and better. When you use a skill, like hand eye coordination in this case, over analyzing under pressure often leads to the disruption of the certain skill. Your brain is like a supercomputer that learns to do things semi automatically. Let's think about breathing. Breathing can pass from being an automatic reflex to a voluntary action when you concentrate upon it. That's almost the case with learned skills. When you do them enough times they become an automatic sort of reflex. This automatism lets you do the job better than if you would analyzed it.

When you start intensely focusing on something, while under pressure, you sort of overwrite the brains subconscious controls, bringing them to a conscious level. And that's when you screw it up. In this case you subconscious brain is better than you. I know it's not always the case, but this time you should trust it. I know I often come across this problem in my life. Many times I've been almost there but never reached the metaphorical podium.

Another reason for this is how we perceive loosing and winning. People who hate loosing more than they love winning are less likely to choke. And it makes sense. If you focus more on not being the last than on being the first, any win you will have just comes as a pleasant surprise. On the contrary, if you think about winning too much the likelihood of you choking is much greater because of the pressure of being the best.

What other reasons do I have to compare this game to real life? Well you could see each plate as one of the challenges in life. Some of them we overcome well enough, but others give us trouble. If one of your pieces gets cut it doesn't mean you can't build anything upon it. Yes, you failed but it's not the end. It also teaches us that you always have a second chance if you work for it. But second chances don't erase the mistakes we've made. We all have to make peace with our mistakes and accept the construction we've built with its beauty and its faults.

Another thing I found interesting is the change in color of the plates as the game goes on. It made me realize that the way we perceive life always changes from one building block to another. Sometimes we might view things white, grey or black but if you keep building there is a whole specter of colors waiting to be seen. Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you get.

The last thing I wanted to say is that advertising this game isn't the point of my article. I chose to write about it because it made me think. There are many other games out there that teach you a lot about life, you just have to look close enough. And I guess that's the conclusion I'm trying to reach. Open your eyes to what surrounds you. Wisdom can be found in the darkest of places if one only remembers to turn on the light. (Dumbledore would be proud!)

miercuri, 13 august 2014

Who actually knew what Robin Williams went through?

We've all seen posts, as usual "What a great man!", "He had a superb soul, we'll see you in Heaven!". Actually how cool would that be? If I'll meet all my favorite celebrities in Heaven I can't wait to die, I'll go make a pill cocktail, add some booze too and that's it, me on a cloud talking to Ghandi. But I have a question here, how will I find them? I mean there must have been millions and millions of people who have died since the idea of Heaven became popular, will I go from cloud to cloud and from an angel with a harp to another asking "Have you seen -Insert famous celebrity name here-?" and the angels will respond "Yeah, he/she spends eternal life at Beverly Clouds." A bit of humor in honor of a comedian's death.
Robin Williams died, yes, we've all heard that, seen the pictures and had his life unfold before our eyes. "O Captain! My Captain!". I remember when Amy Winehouse died. Nobody even cared what drug or alcohol problems she had but it all became clear when she died. Do you actually know how many people with these issues you pass by on the street? No, and you shouldn't because it's their life, their choices.

Nobody knew what Robin Williams went through because it was none of our business. Nothing that doesn't directly involve us is none of our business. Global warming is none of our business. Most of us haven't even seen more than one coutry, except the one we live in, so why should we care about what is outside our little city? Well we shouldn't, we're not exactly meant to, evolution and history proved that. We protect ourselves and who is around us. "It's only logical" Spock would say.

An exceptional actor died and we're all a little sad, some more that others. He was a big part of our childhood, Aladin, Peter Pan, Andrew the Robot, and many others. We can all assume he was happy doing what he did best at least. The problem is...that was not him, those were the parts he played. We never knew HIM. We were never part of his life as he was never part of ours. We shouldn't project the characters he impersonated upon the real person. We heard his jokes and seen his talent, but we only knew a small, insigificant part of what he was going through. What people who watched his movies, even fans, are doing is similar to being showed picture of a flower and then finding out that flower is dead now. Whould you post a hundred different poses of the flower before it died on facebook with the caption "It was beautiful, smell you in Heaven!"? No. You never watered the flower, never smelt it, never touched it or played it classical music to grow as beautifully as it did.
I don't now if Robin was a great man, I don't know if he was sad. I can only say I regret that he won't play anymore parts that I would have loved to see.
Another subject that I find interesting is the post mortem recognition. As history has shown us, artists are more appreciated after death. Why is that? I think I have come up with an explanation that will bring some light upon this subject. Williams was an actor and a comedian. He did stand up comedy untill he died, was nice and helped, as I have heard, a lot of people but why are we noticing this now? Well for starters people who once knew him, out of grief, are remembering him for what he did best in his life. That was a simple one. But why is his art being appreciated so much now? The reason is simple...death. Death is a great motivator to many. We all try not to think about it, when it comes to mind, the healthy thing to do is to dismiss the thought and think of something else. When we see a famous person die we notice all the things he did in his life and realise that in our lives we didn't accomplish half of what he did. Also he died doing what he loved untill the end. When you see someone (who has his own struggles, some of them leading him to commit suicide) trying to make people a little bit happier and even, proabaily, dying because of it, (check this link to find out why) well.. it kinda makes you think. Death makes people think, but only for a little bit because "ain't nobody got time for that". After that we just go back to forgetting that our life may suck.

Williams was known to be depressed, to have abused drugs and frequented rehabs. They say don't meet your idols, I say au contraire, you definitely shoud, because every child and adult should see that accomplishing your goal doesn't mean that you are mentally stable, surrounded by people or even happy. There are so many alone celebrities. People should know that they are not role models, they are people who were very good at what they did or just got lucky. They ar not always an example to be followed as every idol that you had and wasn't drawn or animated. We should all learn that as each of us makes mistakes, they are entitled to as well and not to be judged by a lonesome farmer who tries to keep his family well fed.
A thing to thank him for is that he wanted to play in those movies you love, he chose those characters you love and he did them well if not great at times. The Robin we knew is not dead, he still smiles on the screen and like with every book you have finished and closed, it doesn't mean that if the story ended, you can't read it again.

joi, 7 august 2014

Bucharest, a "mosaic" of architecture

Bucharest, or the Little Paris as it was once called, deserved its name but now it doesn't look like the smaller replica of the French capital, but more like a bazar. When you come from the airport, the first massive building you see is the Liberal Press House, or the Scanteii House standing tall in a square that has its name.
This building's architecture has many elements combined, inspired not only from Sovietic architecture (realist-socialist style), but from the romanian traditional architecture. Its construction took place during the communist regim Romania had in the second half of the XXth century. It was built in 5 years (1952-1957) and designed by Horia Maicu. The grandoire of the building is not accidental for it was the tallest building in Bucharest at that time. Romania and other satelite countries of the URSS wanted to please the higher power so trying to replicate buildings from Moscow and other major cities in Russia. You can see many communist symbols on the building, but also some of gothic origin such as rosettas. 
The problem isn't each building taken individually but putting them all together. The puzzle doesn't seem to mach because when realist-soialist buildings began to arise, the city had many french influences so far. It already had its own style, called the Neoromanian or the Neobrancovenesc style, a very pleasing combination of the French Art Nuveau, Bizantine elements, Italian and etnografic, with influences from the medieval times. 
                                                        (National College I.L. Caragiale)

Ion Mincu is the architect that promoted the Neobrancovenesc style at the end of the XIX century, alogside with others of his king, all of whom were trained in France at the time. These men had the purpose of changing the face of Bucharest, and it was a remarcable effort. Their vision was almost ireparabily damaged firstly by the construction of communist buildings, secondly by the construction of tall office buildings next to Neoromanian houses and thirdly by blocks of flats that look like they will fall down at the first earthquake. The combination is disgraceful to say the least. An example of such constructions shadowing landmarks is the Millenium Business Center near the Armenian church in the Center of Bucharest. 

A Romanian diplomat and politician, Theodor Paleologu stated when the building caught fire:
 "I wished that the building would dissapear and I think so did every person living in this neighborhood. I wanted it to be brought down. Even if this will not come to happen, we should not build such a construction in the Cultural Center ever again."

 It's comforting to know that not all Romanians turn a blind eye when it comes to their city. He further stated that there is a law wich doesn't allow these types of buildings to sprout in the Center of the Capital. 
"If you look closely at the 422 law, you can't possibly understand how such buildings came to appear near iconic places like the Armenean Monastery. Seeing the fact that they still stand there, one cannot abstain from posing the problem of corruption. There is a proportional connection between the height of the monstrosity and the level of corruption. Otherwise there is no explanation why the law isn't being followed".

The Armenean Church was built between 1911-1915. The style, of course, is Armenean, inspired from the architecture of the Echimiadzin Cathedral in the spiritual center of Armenia.

Another example of carelessness is a crossway made by the Queen Elisabeth Boulevard and The Calea Victoriei Boulevard, where you can see the Famous Hotel Capsa, The Military Building and some other beautiful constructions ruined by what surrounds them. 
(Source: Reptilianul)

Four years ago I had never been outside Bucharest. It is the city I was born in, raised in and currently live in. When I first made contact with Vienna I couldn't believe that the pictures I have seen on the internet were actually accurate. Everything there is where it is suppose to be, nothing is out of place. Many would argue that our old and beautiful buildings stand out between "I cannot believe they haven't fallen yet" ones. I am more of a perfectionist and these views give me the psychological torment of nails scratching on a blackboard. I have always believed Ceausescu ruined our architecture, but then again nobody is doing anything about it so it wouldn't be fair to only blame him. 

(Source: Reptilianul)

The Military Palace is an outstanding building. It came into being at the beginning of the XXth century. The Military club bought the land it is standing on and turned it into and edifice for the cultural activities of the club. It was designed by Dimitrie Maimarolu, who also designed the Palace on the Mitrolopoly Hill. He needed the help of Anghel Saligny and Elie Radu because the land was very fargile, a little river once flowed there. 
It went dry but the soil was still tricky due to the groundwater being to near to the surface. They adopted a very ingenious method: The building was raised on oak pillors (known fact being that oak hardens when it is wet).
The building has 10 ballrooms with stunning decorations. Military clubs still have parties here and highschool graduates their prom nights. The terrase is currently being used as a bar.

The military palace had the unfortunate faith of being in an ansamble I have modified to show you again what ruins the imposing stature of these buildings
(Source: Reptilianul-I translated the names and made the Cyrcles that depict what is wrong with the view)

Last but not least I will talk about the Parliament Building and it doesn't bring me pleasure because I am not very fond of it. The building is a combination of styles: Eclectic, Traditional Romanian architecture with recurent elements of the Brancovenesc style. It can be found in the Book Of Records, being the second largest building in occupied surface and third largest in volume. It is not mentioned but I think it has a substantial realist-socialist influence too and that is part of the reason I do not like it. Ceausescu wanted to see this bulding finished with all his heart. It has a network of underground tunnels and escape routs, but it seems that no matter how many escape plans you have, carelessness can still get you shot in the head.  

This building is at the end of an ansamble of buildings alongside a boulevard. The younger generations see them as 'The Communist Buildings' because they have a certain air around them-when you breathe it in you see all your parents saying "Tovarase Profesor". 
I do not think the Parliament House and the ansamble that is its frame fit the kinda, sort of predominant architecture Bucharest has, and it shouldn't be here. As you can see I am an adept of Ion Mincu's architectural type, him being the pioneer of  the Neobrancovenesc style. 
I think most youngsters like this style the most because it has that certain bohemian quality to it that we all seek in our "free to dream" period of life. Also our Capital has many other elements introduced to its primary style and that makes it a mosaic in the negative sense of the word....
.... but I bet it looks nice on Google Satelite. 

Would you make 300 sandwiches to marry a man?

I don't know if you've heard of Stephanie Smith, the woman who made 300 sandwiches to get her boyfriend to propose. It all began like this:
 "My boyfriend Eric is obsessed with two things: Star Wars and sandwiches. During a Sunday lunchtime viewing of "Return of the Jedi" he told me: "you are 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring!" ... And so, I got cooking ..."

The story got public when she started a blog entitled simply Three hundred Sandwiches where she kept track of every sandwich she made for him, counting down from 300 to the Last Sandwich Day, when all her dreams would come true. Naturally, their love started many controversies. Feminists went wild, of course, because of a statement that Stephanie made:
"Each morning, he would ask, 
-Honey, how long you have been awake?
-About 15 minutes, I’d reply.
-You’ve been up for 15 minutes and you haven’t made me a sandwich?"
You can imagine how the public responded to that, us women finding ourselves in a time when emancipation from the "woman in kitchen" stereotype is a very important part of the 21 century. Nevertheless Stephanie went on with her quest "One ring to rule them all"- the sandwiches I mean (Pitty Eric wasn't obsessed with Lord of The Rings, it would have made much more sense).
I will not discuss the implications of their little arrangement because it actually didn't bother me. I am not good at cooking, I have many failed attempts and if she likes it, that's what she should do. What I will discuss is why did this bother so many women. Well the obvious answer would be that we are so used to being victims of society but it went much further than that and I think it was designed to.
I am not one to judge relationships, especially when there was a clear joke at the beginning, not a very good one even "Woman, go mke me a sandwich", but what exactly has to go wrong in your head to take it seriously? Nothing of course, and if you haven't guessed yet, Stephanie is a reporter, and she came up with the perfect plan. It actually has everything: love, misoginism (a woman trying to impress a man with the single arrow she has left in her quiver, cooking), the man is totally disinterested and she seems desperate, and an awesome blog/website that depicts her culinary art. The girl knew what she was doing, having desperately in love women and Martha Steward fans to support her endevour and feminists giving her the publicity she needed, the story was gold. I actually appreciate the idea and am sorry it didn't come to me first.

Also my post's name is "Would you make 300 sandwiches to marry a man?". I want to give you all a response to that. Stephanie said:
"Maybe I need to show him I could cook to prove that I am wife material. If he wanted 300 sandwiches, I would give him 300 sandwiches-and I'd blog about it."

"Wife material" din actually bother me and not because it's the woman who has to prove something, "Husband material" would have bothered me aswell. I do not think of marriage as something I have to prove worthy for. Marriage is a promise two people make to eachother because they would like eachother's company for the rest of their life, you don't have to make yourself in a certain way to become wife of husband material and of course I would not make 300 sandwiches to prove that. It was not their joke that I didn't like and the feminist in me didn't scream out because of her giving in to the stereotype. I just didn't like how the press approached it, but then again you shouldn't believe all you hear.
Well leaving the publicity stunt aside, girls, there is no better way to a man's heart than his stomach. The girl got what she wanted. She was 300 sandwiches away from marriage and now she's there. Give her a clap for the commitment. Maybe I am just a hater and I don't understand love. I am not a feminist, it is true that men are better at some things and women at others because that is how our society developed.

The sandwiches actualy do look awesome and Stephanie deserves credit for that. Here's a little sample 

                         Pulled Pork Gyros with Red Cabbage, Roasted Tomatoes and Cilantro

vineri, 20 septembrie 2013

CANCER BUSTED Macrophages finally find Cancerous Cells hiding in plain sight

People pictured the future a lot different than it is today. We would have had flying cars and a room that could wash, dress, and do your hair in under 5 minutes by just pressing a few buttons. Well we might have to wait a little longer for that because scientists are still a little busy trying offer us cures to every disease that can potentially kill us rather than having fun being Willy Wonka. But why are there so many cures and which of them are actually not a mith? Of course we are talking about cancer here, the umpredictable disease that can kill you in one month, torture you 10 years or just leave you alone. You just might say it has a mind of its own.
I was reading earlier today an article on the Daily Mail about how raw garlic reduces the risk of pulmonary cancer to half, or so the Chinese say in a clinical study they conducted. Then I remebered reading another similar article about some chemicals in grapefruit that could help you fight breast cancer. Of course tese aren't the only ones I've read about how things in our day by day lives can lower the risk of certain diseases.What they are not telling you in all these studies is that the majority of them are based on closely monitoring a group of individuals and not on actual lab testing. I am not against eating garlic and grapefruit of course, they are very nutritious and actually quite tasty but not as tasty as a dose of antibodies that are actually trying to stop cancer AFTER it occured. 

I say occured because nobody knows exactly why cancer apperas. It just kinda shows up starts growing all over the place. To stop it from appearing out of the blue they tell us to eat garlic, grapefruit, lillies and the blossoms of a rare plant that only grows in the North of Switzerland but it only helps you if you boil its petals in sheep blood. Even if I do all these things and even if they supposedly work on me, what about the other thousands of people that happen to have it anyway? Will garlic help them? No. 

Medicinal Marijuana could help you prevent lung cancer and even treat it by giving you will power and by eliminating the nausea that comes with chimotherapy. Chimotherapy is the bag of chemicals that makes you regret you didn't eat all that garlic when you had the chance but nevertheless it can help you kill cancer. Or maybe THESE awesome people that didn't treat cancer like a vampire and actually did something about it can help you. If you are thinking "this can't be, cancer can't be so easily treatable, why didn't they think of this before", I might be abe to give you an answer:

Researchers have tried to find antigens on cancerous cells. These antigens should allow your immune system to distinguish them from your normal cells. Your immune cells are programmed to fight off some types of antigens and some not. In the case it can't fight some antigens it should, reasearchers can add a gene to those cells that helps them detect the antigen you want them to, develop a culture from the modified cells and then shove them back into your bloodstream. Yes, your body can have updates now. BUT cancer cells overproduce certain antigens your immune system shouldn't respond to because those certain antigens are produced by lower levels of healthy cells too. So that was the biggest problem at first. 

Now let's discuss the CD-47 protein. CD-47 is found on the surface of many cells in your body. It tells circulating immune cells caled macrophages not to eat these cells. Unfortunately cells that should be destroyed are not, and these are of course the cancerous cells that have large amounts of the CD-47 protein on the cell surface. The researchers wanted to find out if the CD-47 protein could be a therapeuic antibody target. They used anti CD-47 antibodies that cling to the CD-47 not letting it bind to its receptor on macrophages, therefore it cannot send its "do not eat me" signal. Of course there is a tiny little problem with this idea. You can inject the anti CD-47 antibody and it will attack the cancerous cells but how do you keep it from affecting the other healthy cells that contain CD-47? Well you don't. The canerous cells have so much CD-47 so they ca remain hidden that the antibodies don't notice that much other cells. You might say it's just like love at first sight. There are of course some decreases in cell counts but nothing the body can't manage. The potential for toxicity is slightly higher comparing them with controlled antibodies but the results are way better!

To sum up, we can recognise the effectiveness of the anti CD-47 antybody because it busts the cover of the villain and the cops-macrophages can bust them unlike controlled antibodies that are more chaotic because they are the lymphocytes (another type of immune cells) that attack the cacerous cells and they cannot be so specific because they have to find flags that are not easily detectable.

Well, these being said, if garlic and holy water don't do the trick you can just thank these guys for giving you an alternative: