After rehearsing with choir for this advent season, I came back home close to 10pm. Cliff wanted to have a bottle of wine, so I went to liqueur shop.
It was the last minute for the shop, so I just picked up a random cheap bottle of wine and hurried to counter.

There was a big black dude, who was talking to the 2 white clerks;
"What would you feel when 500lb guy selling illegal cigarette and against you! The cop did their job!!"

The TV on the shelf of the counter was showing NYC protests.

"Well, but, ahnm, there was no reason for him to be killed." the white clerk said. And I know he is Republican, from occasional tax small talk.

While I was paying for the bottle, I whispered to the other clerk, "That makes me really sad".
The young clerk said, "That makes me sad too. Way too complicated."
Real life, non-internet fuss. An evening in Columbia, MD, where celebrate diversity.

Organizing materials online

Come to think of it, I have been using online storage almost 10 years, and things are available everywhere, across many website, but not so organized manner.

Recently, I have noticed it have been long time since I visited my online repositories, I thought it might be good time to organize my photos/image.

Still I am debating myself what would be the best way to organize my massive amount of 
 photos and drawings post in various online websites. mixi, pixiv, livejournal, photobucket, google costco etc etc. It is surely getting out of control.

Maybe, life would be easier if my local icons of image file changed to have a little tags "mixi" or "facebook" as soon as uploaded.

Ha. An entry of open ended question.

Kinect For Windows v2(Beginner learning Kinect)

Youtube tried to insert their ads because they detected "3rd party copy rights content".
Since Mozart died looong time ago, and I am the one playing background piano music, I disputed over the claim.

Anyway, this is the last video of this elementary Kinect try-out series.






Kinect for Windows v2 のチュートリアルビデオ



Warsaw the last day

(A Japanese Chopin fan, traveling alone to Warsaw, Poland for the first time)

Summary of the day: "Do Widzenia!"

I got up early in morning and jog to Wisła river.

On the way to the river, I met group of people walking dogs, off leash. Since doggies start to chase me, I stopped, "Go to mommy!" Owners are sorry to me, I gestured not to worry. I noticed owners had beer in their hands before 7am. Yay, Satureday!

I ran along Wisła river, but had to turn into town because of the construction.
Luckly, the road I had to turn was the one to Chopin museum, so I did not have to get lost from the early morning.

There were so many of construction going on the city of Warsaw. Construction for the New metro line was happening almost across the city. I would assume they are preparing for next year, 2015, when they get many international guests, happening every 5 years for Chopin intl' competition.

I ran across the old town, and reached Saski Park. When I saw this park a few days ago, I immediately planed to come back there in early morning time. The statue, fountains and the guards to protect the soul or unknown soldier, under the early morning sunlight was beautiful.

After Saski park, I was to go back hotel, but all I know was westbound. I ended up with morning market, I think it was around aleja Jana Pawla and Plac Mirowski, very lively market. I was tempted to get one sausage, but cancel the thought, since I am probably not allowed to bring to U.S. meat products.

For the last day, I visited Chopin museum one more time, saw a street performance in the weekend old town then visited to the Royal Palace.

While enjoying oil paints of historical events and decorative, gothic style furniture, I started hearing piano music from outside. Yes, it turned out, from 4 o'clock, in front of Sigismunds' Monument, piano concert happened in that Saturday. I literary ran out the castle.

The pianist looked like a young gentleman. He played Waltz, Mazurka, Polonaise, a minute Waltz, fantasie impromptu... most Chopin popular songs for 45 minute, including Ballad #1. Then, after 15-20 min rest, he started again with similar set list, but mixed with other favorites, such as Nocturne 9-1&9-2, Grand Waltz and Scherzo#1. He seemed to be a young student studying piano. He did fairly good job, and nice recovery :)  "Fall love with Warsaw" Facebook have his photos from that concert.

I saw the sign indicating another concert happens next to Pomnik Adama Mickiewicza statue at 6pm, so I moved to the place to have a seat in one of the cafe around. The pianist this time was a lady in a bit more senior school grade than the previous gentleman, and I think the introduction announcement said she was student? of Paris Conservatoire. Her set list was shorter, around 4-6 songs, starting Nocturne #9-1, Ballard#3, a minute waltz...  then ending with Polonaise Fantasies. She also did good job, and nice recovery :)

While I was listening her from a seat of nearby cafe, I saw the pianist gentleman previously played
walking down the Krakowskie Przedmieście street by himself. Ahm... could anyone give him ride?

When I went back to hotel, I told the front desk my check out the next day is 4am, and asked them to reserve the taxi to the airport.

All photos from this day is here: 

Do Widzenia, Warsaw. I enjoyed and learned a lot in that 7 days. Hard working, modest and polite people with embedded national pride. Deep history and arts based on it. The country loves music. I felt Poland is a lot like Japan. 

I would like to come back again next year, hopefully with better language skill :)
(A Little souvenirfor myself, now wearing everyday)

Warsaw the 6th day

(A Japanese Chopin fan, traveling alone to Warsaw, Poland for the first time)

Summary of the day: "Rest, lazy and less Chopin day"

I was so tired from the Krakow trip in the previous day, so I stayed hotel till 11am.
Since I was in short of clothing at that point, I decided to get a tank top and fit pants in T.J.Maxx.

... the below is girly out cry.

I am relatively big for Japanese. I am size M in U.S., and size L in Japan.
Now, M pants, L shirts in Poland! Shoulderrghrrr!

After changing to the new clothes in hotel, I looked at the map. There seem to be another castle sign above new town.The area on the map says "Citadelle", and enclosed with the castle wall sign, just like old town. Out of curiosity, I decided to go there.
Well, it turned out to be military facility? surrounded by historical looking wall. I could see 1830 on the gate.  It seemed like I cannot just walk in. So I decided to walk toward the new town.
It turned out it was the fort related to November uprising in 1830, and currently owned by military.

From the closest Tram stop to Citadelle, I walked through residential area, non-touristy places where people live. Those housings really reminded me the town I grew up in Japan. Here is the comparison from Google's street view.
See, aren't they looks similar?

From Citadelle to new town, I saw many yummy looking fruits tree casually planted aside of driving road. If I were that hungry, I could have reach to those free fruits for sure.

At the old town, I had Grzane Piwo (hot beer), with lunch+dinner sandwich.
Hot beer tasted like gingery sweet drink. I will try making it!

That's it for this day. It was short. I went to bed early, but prepared for jogging in the next day in early morning :)

A sign stopped my step in the day.
All Photos from this day is here

Side note:
I brought my Nokia 520 from U.S. This phone is not supposed to have SIM lock.
I got Play ( prepaid SIM card in the shopping mall for 5zł (no-phone number deal, just internet). However, I had to ask my husband to contact AT&T to give unlock key code to use any prepaid SIM card. It could have taken 3 days.

So, if you have AT&T's "SIM free" type of phone, be aware. You probably need to contact support before the trip to get the unlock key.

Krakowiak! (Wasaw the 5th day)

(A Japanese Chopin fan, traveling alone to Warsaw, Poland for the first time)

Summary of the day: " Nocturne is not about complete darkness."

I reserved train to Krakow, leaving Warsaw 6:20am, and leaving Krakow 6:45pm to come back in the same day.

PKP train had snack service of drink and that wafer chocolate.
Also, PKP train had a family car, with play ground. I think Japanese bullet train should do this, instead of accusing mothers for making their babies cry in the train.

Farming area in Poland under morning sunlight: Concerto #2 2nd mov in vision.

As soon as I got off train Krakow sta on the side of old town, I noticed the city was very weighed on tourism. Some tour salesmen on street talked to me "Konnichiwa!!" in Japanese. How did you notice my nationality!? Wow, they were professionals.

There were many, many tour groups walking around. It was Thursday. I can imagine how this place would be in weekends. Maybe Krakow is equivalent to Kyoto in Japan.

I stopped by St. Mary, but the place was not open for non-prayers until 11am, so I walked to Wawel castle. The Wawel castle have pretty tricky ticket system. I can get just a part of the castle tour, and there was  number limitation to sell ticket in given days. Also, purchasing ticket on the castle give a ticket for tour starting 4 hours later. I got "Royal Apartment" ticket, for 25zł before 11am, but the tour start from 14:15, I cannot get in before that predefined time. I learned I should reserve ticket beforehand.

After getting ticket, I went back to the old town taking a glance on souvenir shops... thinking things are more expensive than in Warsaw... and decided to have lunch.

Look! Look! Egg yorks are orange! AND they serve raw yorks! Just like in Japan!

The Royal Apartment tour in English was great, but I was not allowed to take photos.
Some of those old tapestries from Renaissance time had gory, bloody description of animals killing each other. Interesting. I like how we did not have PGs in art in old time.

I got this post card at the shop, liking a leopard with peacock feather and human face gotten eaten by a dragon. ->

From the train to go back to Warsaw, I noticed it is not so dark for a couple of hours after sundown. The dusk time is long and sky color slowly changes in Poland, especially in farming area where there is less artificial light. Now I see how Nocturne is not about complete darkness.

The train was stuck for 30 min, at the point just 15km before Warsaw Station, so my arrival was delayed.

... out of boredom,  me scribbling
my dog and cat in the train

I had to walk to my hotel at night close to 11pm for 5 min. Honestly, I would not do the same thing in Baltimore, the nearest city from where I live. But in Warsaw, I did not feel danger to do so. There were homeless people just like any other city for sure, but they didn't look like threatening. Instead there were many securities in each exits of subterranean path, preventing homeless people coming into the path.

The pictures from that day is here:

 I was exhausted from that day! I should have plan well. Next time, I will take a night of two staying in Krakow, so that I could have been to Salt Mine (Weiliczka), or Auschwits.  I would keep those plan for next year.

Warsaw the 4th day

(A Japanese Chopin fan, traveling alone to Warsaw, Poland for the first time)

Summary of the day: "No bus, No English"

"The easiest way to get to Żelazowa Wola is by train to Sochaczew, then MZK bus from (bus stop at Sochaczew PKP train station). Bus number 6 – alight at the last stop. 
Bus tickets: normal 3 zlotys, concessionary 2 zlotys."

Like I posted previously, the tourist information center recommended to use tourist service. I was stubborn to choose public transportation. I learned the reason for her recommendation.
So I went to the Central Sta. showed the ticket counter a memo with Sochaczew, got ticket for 19zł. There was 11:00am train.

Now, I would like an attention from all train-spoiled Japanese or car-life Americans, or anyone who do not know MANUAL operating door of trains.

When I got Sochaczew sta. I could not open this. Luckily, I saw a lady coming in in the next train, so I asked her to show how to open it. Dzięnkuję!!

Now that I got out of the station, there was a bus stop, but the timetable was something like this:
8:00| 9:00 | 10:30| 11:00|14:00|15:00 ... ( Disclaimer: Not accurate copy. Please do not rely on this information for your trip! )   

It was close to 11:45am. I decided to approach one of the taxi cab and showing the memo of "Żelazawa Wola, Chopin Museum": "Dzien Dobre, Ile to Kosztuje? (How much?)  He said 40zł, in English, while showing his four finger. Ok. Good. I asked him to take there.

As soon as I got off the taxi, I went to the bus station and took a note of the timetable. Next bus bound for Sochaczew station was 14:25pm. The 2 timetables on the board had no English, so I look for just "Sochaczew", and wrote down both of the time table on my notepaper.

The Chopin's birth place has the little house, and also museum with display of folk instrument that plays Mazurka, Krakowiak etc. There were bugpipes, and flute, and a instrument of some convination of violin and keyboard. I took a note "SieSienki" and "Mazanki".
The birthplace house is pretty small but cozy. There is old piano for displaying Chopin's friends piano (likely Chopin played sometime), and working piano with outdoor seating. I think that piano was for the weekend concert.

The garden was well-maintained, and has plenty of water current, bridge and flower. I could not help thinking when infant Chopin spent his 8 months of life here, the place should not have been this tidy and organized, and thought about more organic/natural version of the garden.
After lunch in the cafe inside of the garden, I went back to the bus station. There were a couple of lady and gentleman sitting there, I talked to them,  "Dzien Dobre, Czy jest autobus do Schacew?" They replyed "What?" in Enlglish. Yay, I met English speaking tourist folks!
We started talking about how to go back to Warsaw, and itinerary. They were from Rome, and they apparently had the same kind of itinerary as mine.They went to Chopin Museum the day before, and also they planned to go to Krakow in the next day. Also the gentleman was a pianist.
We talked about the trip, living country and piano playing, then exchanged facebook info.

In the bus, I gave my seat to an elder lady. She showed me her appreciation, palm together, started to talk to me. However, I could not understand what she was saying at all. I heard a bit of "Gdzie jest... " (Where) So, I said "Sochaczew" But she showed unsure expression. Maybe she asked me where I came from, or where I am staying etc. I wish I could understand Polish more. I really would like to be able to have simple conversation at least by the time I come back next year.

 Yes, unlike Warsaw, people do not speak English in Żelazawa Wola area,  just the same comparison Tokyo vs my hometown in Japan. Żelazawa Wola is located in suburb, and granted things are different from the city.

I had dinner of rabbit dish in Specjały Regionaine in Krakowskie Przedmieście street

I think this was the first time eating rabbit for me. Rabbit teasted like a white meat fish, with chicken texture. Yes, that was really yummy. Polish meal is not too salty, dishes are not too big, and chicken taste like chicken and vegetables taste like real vegetable! (comparing to  U.S.)

All photo from this day is here

Warsaw the 3rd day

(A Japanese Chopin fan, traveling alone to Warsaw, Poland for the first time)

Summary of the day: "Apparently, ladies with straight cut front hair is in fashion here now."

Walking miles under sun in previous day, and staying in the middle of city, I had a slight headache and not feeling well. But I ran anyway, wanted to see the old town under the morning sunlight.

Going to the Chopin Museum is the one of the biggest objective of this trip, so I hopped on Tram on a bit after 10:00am

The place is .... about Chopin, of cause.

However, living in U.S., I have had experienced seeing people's blank face to the name "Chopin", it was so unreal he is actually treated as a hero, just like in my mind.
There was many manuscripts, letter and sketches from 19th century; Some of the sketch seem to be too handsome and made me giggle. Looking at those manuscripts of the scores are priceless! He scratched out many lines, some annoyed lines... meanwhile, some super-organized lines, as if the manuscript itself is a prepared for a gift;
All of songs I know, I have been feeling those songs in my heart for long time.

There is a little cafe next to the Chopin Museum, so I took a lunch there.
Next destination is Łazienki Park. I started to walk to the bus station. I saw something interesting there;

Łazienki Park has many, many beautiful palaces and the outdoor theater. There are tickets to go inside of the Palace, and I believe one of them is operating as a restaurant, but because of physical fatigue, I did not go in there.

On the way to go back hotel, I stopped by tourist information center at the Science and Technology museum right next to the central railway station. I asked if any trains from the central station take me to Chopin's birthplace tomorrow. The guide said, "Ahm... you can. but train is not direct. You should use tourist bus better"  and wrote down "MortorBuss" and its station very close to the central station.

I went to the stop, and it turned out MortorBuss is private touring bus.
I have strange, personal preference to use local transportation whenever I go to unfamiliar place.
I know it is risky, but I like it because I can feel how local people lives in that way.

So, I ignored the advice, decided to use local commuter train. Also, reserved round trip to Krakow for Thursday.

At dinner time, I was defeated by my nationality thus crave for rice. So I went into sushi restaurant. The sushi rice was too tight, and fish was not so yummy. Maryland, U.S. won for the non-Japanese sushi making. :P

Warsaw the 2nd day

(A Japanese Chopin fan, traveling alone to Warsaw, Poland for the first time)

Summary of the day: "Old town: People here greet each other in Mazurka rhythm, then talk in Polonaise!"

Since Chopin Museums are closed on Monday, I decided to visit the spots related to Chopin, in old town.
Arriving old town in Warsaw using Tram (at this day, I got a day pass for 15złoty, I walked toward the first destination; Honoratka, which is a cafe in fashion at the time of Chopin's day, still in business. The Cafe did not seem to be open yet, so I just walked around  between charming traditional style housings.

By the way;
Went around the old town, sewing between tiny organic pathways, I ended up with coming back to the the open area close to Tram station. I found a gentleman with white wig, almost like a Bach cosplay...  is passing flyer. He passed me the flyer, saying "English side", indicating flyers flip side is English ... its a flyer for his pipe organ concert in 20min in St. Anne. Why not. I decided go in. The ticket was 10złoty.

Wow, I have never seen such a .... concentration of wealth.

After the concert, I went back to Honoratoka. I ordered Zurek, and ... ah,
"Domowe Pierogiz miesem lub Kapustai grzybami" --- mushroom and cabbage dumpling
( just jot down in my note from the menu, likely being misspelled)

Listening Chopin music in a place with low ceiling, I really wanted to spend there hours. Soooo cosy.
When I check out, I found myself not knowing the tip system. With awkwardness, I asked the waitress about it, and it is Only Cash.
Also, I could ask "Gdzie jest toaleta?"(= Where is bathroom?)  to her.  I love when my terrible foregin language somewhat communicate with the local people!

Walked down the street to south, I reached Saski park, where has an eternal fire with the "Tomb of unknown soldiers" is protected by two guard. I am impressed people pay respect to the people who dedicated to big cause, rather than big names.

On the other hand, I really would like to know the name of this bird; They look like avarage out of crow + dove + seagull.

Why ? because THEY POOPED ON ME.

Other things I noticed:
  • Dogs are off-leash, though they are royal to owner, walking close.
  • The check out register do not have auto-drawer like Japan or U.S. Shops have money box to keep changes.
  • Smoking & walking :/
Video from the 2nd day: