воскресенье, 25 сентября 2016 г.

On wandering in the dark and on envy (Split, 9.08.16)

Our bus arrived at Split main bus station at around 9:45 p.m. The sun has already set, leaving us only the next day for city exploration. However, the first hour in the largest city of Dalmatia managed to find a lodgment in my memory.

Autobusni kolodvor of Split is located near the coast, therefore you can start your acquaintance with the second largest city of Croatia by strolling along the shore, looking at the port and passing by numerous souvenir shops and bakeries which still work despite the lateness of the hour. Although Split is 8 times smaller than Zagreb and has 4.5 times smaller population, you will not believe in it from the very first minute there. Even in the evening you will meet lots of people outdoors. Streets seem to be wider than in the capital, and the traffic looks heavier. We had to walk for around 3 kilometers to reach the hotel, "Rooms dr. Franjo Tuđman".

It took us around half an hour to get to the desired place but when we were almost going to check in and to finally have a rest after a long day, we didn't find the hotel at the place where it was supposed to be. There was some university instead. In contrast to the center of the city, this area was dark and deserted. In addition, it was far from flat. Climbing the stairs with luggage is not a great experience especially when you're not sure what exactly you are searching. After trying several doors and making a full circle around the building with the proper address, we decided that it's time to call the hotel hoping that they can explain how to find them. I was dialing the phone number, and suddenly somebody yelled at us: "Hey, do you need help?" How I love such moments! The same happened to me before several times, namely in Jyväskylä and in Helsinki two years ago. I was staring at the map when people passing by offered their help voluntarily. This time luck was on our side: two young frenchmen were staying at the same place and gently accompanied us to the reception. Unexpectedly, "Rooms dr. Franjo Tuđman" turned out to be a dormitory. However, this was a reason not to turn upset but to envy local students.

To begin with, the reception is a vast hall with a bunch of tables, large TV and a perfect view at the student basketball court located immediately to the window... on the roof. If you don't study the building from outside, you'll be surprised: the reception is next to the entrance, so how the roof may be on the same level as the ground floor? The answer is evident once you learn that the dormitory is located on the slope of a hill, you entered the 1st floor, and some other entrances are at the floor number -2! This Google Street View 360° panoram will help you to understand why it was tricky to find the entrance in the dark. And this is how the rooms look inside. Awesome design which combines elegance and convenience. And if the photo didn't convince you, I will just add that we found more than ten electric outlets in the room of a dormitory. Fairly cheap, located not far away from the city center but in a quiet place, this dormitory was the best accomodation of the entire journey.

среда, 7 сентября 2016 г.

In the realm of lakes and waterfalls (Plitvice Lakes National Park, 9.08.16)

That journey itinerary was perfectly balanced. After the day spent strolling along the streets of a calm Zagreb, on Tuesday we visited the true miracle of nature, Plitvice Lakes National Park. Ancient Diocletian Palace of Split was ahead with its antique ruins and various museums, as well as medieval Dubrovnik.    

Our bus to Plitvice Lakes was departing from Zagreb at 8 a.m. As a replacement for a morning warm-up, we went there on foot. Believe me, after 4.5 kilometers of walking with luggage, you will be ready for a new active day. Besides joking, getting there on foot was our last chance to look at Zagreb. In addition, it is less nervous way to get to Autobusni kolodvor (Main bus station) compared to waiting for local buses which may not run on time.

An hour and a half later, we arrived at the entrance of the park. Before entering, you have to get your ticket and to leave luggage. You can buy tickets either on the spot or online. When I was preparing to the journey, I came across opposite opinions on the question which option to choose. In any case, you'll have to stand in the queue: either to buy a ticket or to exchange your electronic ticket for a normal one. Fortunately, I didn't believe those people, who wrote that in both cases you would have to spend a lot of time waiting, and bought electronic tickets. Instead of wasting half an hour for nothing, we got our entrance tickets almost immediately. The second part of the quest was no harder: take the key at the tourist information office, walk for a couple of minutes to a small wooden building staying aside, open the door, notice dozens of bags left unattended, leave your ones next to them, close the door and return the key. I guess, it was a bit risky to leave my laptop in such a place, but I wasn't happy about the alternative, i.e. about carrying it all the way through the park.

No need to rush straight to the lakes: that splendour waited for you for millenia, it will give you a couple of minutes more. It's time to become attentive: don't overlook that amazing advice.
Once entered the park, you will see the map showing suggested routes. We had around 8 hours before the bus to Split, so we chose the second longest option, route C taking 4-6 hours.

This park is a place where you can close your eyes, take a photo and be sure that it is beautiful. Stunning waterfalls and calm cascade lakes, crystal water and gigantic trees reflected in it are everywhere. Crowds of tourists make passing through the bridges and walking along the narrow paths slow but nobody complains: you will never want to hurry here.
Can't avoid sharing a random thought that crossed my mind at some point: if I was a dinosaur, that'd be a perfect place to live. Immense forests to hide from carnivores, relaxing sounds of falling water to sleep to, spectacular landscapes to admire. Well, I should have said "a dinosaur with highly developed sense of beauty"...
If there is something bad about Plitvice Lakes, this is how the transportation between walking parts of the routes is organized. The ferry line has such low bandwidth that it took us around an hour to get on board. Still, we can say we were lucky because while we were waiting, the queue became two times longer. Although most part of the routes in the park are shadowed by the trees, the pier lies in the hot sun. Even a good portion of ice cream from a souvenir shop nearby will not make standing heat easier for you.
Another kind of transport you can take there is so-called "train". Actually, this is a three-car bus. We didn't have to wait that long for the "train" but there was nothing exciting about the ride as it was going along boring places. We even alighted before the last stop in order to make our route several kilometers longer and to enjoy the views for some more time. On the way back to the entrance we barely met a soul.

Finally, we came back to the place where we arrived in the morning. Having a lot of spare time, we visited Veliki Slap (the Giant Waterfall) for the second time. Nothing had changed: streams of water were still running down, crowds of tourists wishing to be pictured in front of the waterfall were still here.

Three hours and a half of another bus ride, or, better to say, three hours and a half of an engaging conversation, and we arrived in Split. The impressions were not over for that evening but this is a story for another time.

P.S. Unfortunately, I'll have to skip the nearest post (planned for 10.09.16), thus lagging four posts behind the goal. Hence, I promise to publish four mid-week stories in the remaining three months.

воскресенье, 28 августа 2016 г.

The city not to visit on Monday (Zagreb, 8.08.2016)

If you are staying in Zagreb for one day, make sure it is not Monday because almost all museums are closed in the capital of Croatia. However, if it is not Monday, make sure you're staying in Zagreb for more than one day because in that case one day will be not enough. Unfortunately, I learned all that only after the tickets were purchased and the hotels were booked.

Besides the museums, there are three locations with intriguing names (Medvedgrad Castle, Zrinski Mine and Veternica Cave) on the slopes of Medvednica mountain situated to the west of the city. All of them were also closed on that day. So what did we do?

First of all, Zagreb is a nice place just to stroll along the streets enjoying the calmness. That is probably not what you expect from the capital of the country and its largest city. A week later, I had an impression that the most part of 800k Zagreb citizens moved to Split. The latter one, despite having four times smaller population, was much more noisy and much more crowded.

Secondly, "almost all museums" didn't mean all of them. Well, our choice was pretty limited. I'm curious, what would you choose to visit first: the Museum of Broken Relationships or the Museum of Torture? ;) Wanna more positive plan? So did we, that's why our choice fell on the Museum of Illusions and the Croatian Museum of Naïve Art. The former one features lots of well-known optical illusions supported with "What to do" guides and "What's going on" explanations. The display, which impressed me the most, was 3D "image" which looks like 2D picture rotating around you while you're moving along it. The rotation effect will take you by surprise, and even after some time you'll not get used to it because the "corridors" seem to rotate faster than they could in real life. As for the second museum, the most appropriate words for it are colorful and funny, and you can see why.  
In the absence of wide choice, the most obvious location to visit was Mirogoj - the large cemetery in the north-eastern part of the city. It is not only a cemetery but a masterpiece of architecture and sculpture at the same time, that's why you will meet both tourists, who came there to take pictures, and locals, who have more sorrowful reasons for a visit. Mirogoj is vast, so you'll soon feel alone. It is hypnotizing, and I believe it'll be even more if you go there in snowy winter (one of my favorite movie scenes tells it can't be otherwise. By the way, that mesmerizing graveyard from the movie, unfortunately, doesn't exist in reality) or just at the sunset.

In conclusion, here are some tips for you (or for me in the future if I will ever visit Zagreb again).

  • If you're searching for currency exchange (by the way, Croatia, which recently joined European Union, is outside not only the Schengen Area but also the euro area, thus having their own currency), just stroll along the main street (called Ilica), you'll find plenty of exchange offices offering reasonable rates there. Not sure if you'll come across them elsewhere.
  • If you've found a nice place to have an evening meal on the web, make sure to have alternatives. When we came to Konoba Didov San, it turned out that all tables were booked in advance. 
  • If you're not tired and you don't have a bus early next morning, check out Park Zrinjevac (located opposite to the Archaeological Museum). As I deduced from the timetable, it hosts dancing open airs every evening. If an evening is devoted not to the dance you're familiar with, no need to worry, just look down, the ground is your best tutor ;)

суббота, 30 июля 2016 г.

A glance from above (Helsinki, 9.07.16)

When I was thinking what to do once I come to Helsinki for the next time, I understood that in my three visits to the capital of Finland I had never looked at the city from above. It was time to fix it!

I heard about two places where you can see Helsinki spread out before you. One of them is the Olympic Stadium Tower. I decided not to go there because the Stadium was kinda out of the way. Luckily, I didn't waste my time for that because as I've just learned the arena is closed from the end of 2015 and until 2019 due to the renovation.

The other opportunity is Finnair SkyWheel, the large observation wheel near the Market square, i.e. in 5-10 minutes walk from the only station of the vintage tram.
I always thought that Ferris wheels perform smooth and slow non-stop rotation at a constant speed. However, here the situation was different. The wheel rotated faster and stopped from time to time for a couple of minutes. During these stops, passengers of four capsules (the lowest ones at the moment) left while new ones boarded the wheel. Your ride lasts four laps, neither more nor fewer. Therefore, don't board the wheel if your train departs soon, you'll spend there longer than you expect ;) The weird thing about the wheel was that the same person checked the tickets (which, by the way, have a lovely design),
opened/closed the capsules manually and started/paused the rotating mechanism. Why aren't doors of the capsules automatic? Why don't they hire more people or make it possible to start/stop the wheel distantly? It is hellish work for one person because there is no chance to have a break, even the shortest one.

The views were diverse. Half of the lap I enjoyed calm water sceneries,
the other half I viewed the dock and various buildings nearby. 

Unfortunately, the altitude was not enough to see the distant parts of the city. As a result, "to see Helsinki from above" is still on my long list of travel goals. If I visit the capital of Finland anytime after 2019, I will definitely climb the Olympic Stadium Tower!

суббота, 23 июля 2016 г.

Vintage tram ride (Helsinki, 9.07.16)

Don't think that since I visited board games store, I ran out of the ideas what to see in Helsinki. After leaving Fantasiapelit (which was a kind of achievement. Believe me, this store won't let you go so easy!), I headed to the next destination on my list.

I went to Helsinki on the week-end only because I wanted to take a vintage tram ride. There is one, departing from Kauppatori every Saturday and Sunday. Riding in the 96-year-old tramway car without window panes was an unusual experience. I could lean out of the window or, at least, stick the camera out and watch the camera display. I had to be careful though because from time to time modern trams drove towards us via the oncoming lane.

The car without window panes follows its "elder brother", 97-year-old car. However, nobody except for the driver usually sits there. You would also prefer open-air options to looking at the sights through glass, wouldn't you?
The tram goes along the circular route without stops. Well, actually, it stops from time to time at traffic lights. Unfortunately, that usually happens near the least interesting spots along the route while the most attractive sights are passed at full speed.

Although I know the part of the city where the route goes pretty well, during these 15-20 minutes I discovered for myself great looking House of the Estates.

By the way, if you're hunting for animal signs and are less successful than me so far, the ride may help you to find some of the address plates that you missed.

The most atmospheric part of that ride is the waiting for departure inside the tramway car. Watch the new passengers coming in and listen to them chatting in various languages. They're all excited about the mere idea of that ride, thus they're all smiling and laughing. The conductor shares the same mood, so will you. Thus, wait until the tram arrives, get on immediately, choose the best sit, purchase your vintage ticket and start observing ;)

воскресенье, 17 июля 2016 г.

The shop you would never drag me out of fifteen years ago (Helsinki, 9.07.16)

Certainly, I wasn't searching for animals on street signs for the entire day in Helsinki. I had several more plans for those ten hours. To be precise, I had specific plans for shiny and rainy weather. Saturday morning was sunny. Around noon the weather became sweltering, so I decided to
to hide from that scorching sun for a while resorting to a "rainy-weather" plan.

Luckily, I went beyond writing down the address of a shop I was heading to. I made some valuable notes, and learned how the entrance looks like thanks to a photo found on the Internet. Fantasiapelit is not only hidden inside a city block, it is located in the same building as a Subway restaurant. In order to find the shop entrance, you have to go through that fast food restaurant. Finally, you open the door and... well, I was stupefied by the scale and the assortment.

Fantasiapelit is mainly about fantasy related board games. What do you imagine when you hear the words "a board game"? There are at least three options:

  • a card game (such as "Magic: The Gathering" in case of fantasy settings),
  • an average board game with a map, counters and dice,
  • and finally, more of a floor game rather than a board one, with models of soldiers, fortresses and sometimes even with artillery shooting with plastic missiles (such as a board game version of Warhammer).
I used to be a huge fan of the last type of games. I still have a huge collection of models for Russian "Бронепехота" and "Битвы Fantasy" game systems. At the time, when they were bought, i.e. in the early '00s, you could come across a set or two in many toy shops in Saint Petersburg but I have never seen such long shelves packed with that kind of goods. In Fantasiapelit you can find models of any possible type for various game systems. Wanna play right now? There are tons of boxes with the models which are ready for fight. Do you enjoy the process of designing the view of your troops? There is plenty of sets where all models are waiting to be colored. Maybe, you like constructing the models by yourself from small details? You can find many of them in Fantasiapelit, too. This astonishing shop has no fewer games of the first two types, as well as books and comicses about fantasy universes of every sort and kind, but who will look at them after all that wealth?

They sell not only sets of models, but also tools for coloring and even... terrain! Should your today's battlefield be covered with snow? Has the skirmish occurred in the desert? Is the theater of war covered with green grass? Now you don't even need to imagine that because you can buy everything, including terrain. Actually, such "terrain" pack is just a bag with colored powder or fluff. Surely, you can prepare it on your own (especially if you are patient enough to construct and to color the models) but nowadays, when supermarkets sell grated cheese (as if you can't rasp it), why not to sell pouches with white fluff calling it "snow"?

I ceased to be interested in board (or floor?) battle games around 2005, giving preference to PC RPGs and strategies which had pretty good graphics by that time. However, certain things remain unchanged. For example, I would still like to learn how to draw. Of course, I talk about sketching simple objects, even they can be a problem for me now. I don't really like most drawing books because I have no desire to make a picture of what they suggest. Immediately after entering that awesome Finnish shop, I noticed a book which explains how to draw exactly what I want! I nearly bought it. At the last minute, I remembered that, as I read before, prices in Fantasiapelit are too high compared with other places. Indeed, the same book is about two times cheaper on Amazon, let alone the Kindle version (around three times less expensive). Therefore, I postponed the purchase. Hope that in a couple of months I'll share some of my drawings with you ;)

I didn't buy anything but that tour around the shop was incredible!

вторник, 12 июля 2016 г.

On animalized addresses and random ideas (Helsinki, 9.07.16)

Wanna learn how animals are called in Finnish or Swedish? Then I have a trip idea and a quest for you! But let me start from the very beginning.

Last August when I was returning from Tampere through Helsinki and took a short stroll around the main railway station of Finnish capital I came across two unusual street signs. On one of them I saw a dromedary and on the other one a unicorn. Pictures were accompanied with animal names in Finnish and Swedish, and that's it. You'll find no addresses, no other useful information on them... Well, it was my first impression last summer. Later I found out that these animals are (or, at least, were) addresses on their own! Each quarter in that part of Helsinki has its own animal, and, as the above link tells, there're at least twelve of them. So here is my quest for you: find them all!

Last Saturday, being in Helsinki for the fourth time in my life, I tried to accomplish it, too. This time I found nine animal signs, and I have no idea where the remaining three (or even more?) are (assuming that they're near the below ones).

Even that was not easy. On the weekend, street musicians and jugglers are here and there in Helsinki, so it's easy to get distracted, to stay at some street for a while enjoying the performance, and to forget where you were heading to and where you have already been. After two unsuccessful attempts, I told myself: stop doing that! Concentrate for just twenty minutes and traverse all the streets in that part of Helsinki like a snake... I'm talking about the snake from the world-famous computer game of late '70s. At that moment my mind was picturing how that snake is crawling through the city map. And this is exactly how all more or less valuable ideas come to my mind - at random. Strangely, it looks that nobody has already created map-based snake game. It would be funny to try it out :)

суббота, 2 июля 2016 г.

A flashback into the previous summer vacation, or How I will be more effective this time

Two years ago I had an academic stop-out, hence there was no difference for me between summer months and the other ones. Before that, I just didn't care about my efficiency during July and August: I was doing what I wanted to do at a specific moment, and enjoyed that until last weeks of the summer. Then I realized how many projects I had in my mind and how few of them I completed but it was too late. I spent the previous summer in a much better way in terms of efficiency. My regular activities included:
  • creating new content for CodeFights in full-time mode;
  • playing blindfold chess against my dad (8 games in total);
  • attending an awesome course in French grammar (8-9 lessons in August);
  • training for programming competitions (I chose an unusual strategy by making short (most usually, an hour length ones) but frequent (I trained on 51 days of July/August) sessions of coding and spent the time trying to come up with ideas of solutions while being on public transport).
  • jogging (six attempts totaling 52 kilometers - not as regularly as I would like but still not that bad. It turned out that enormously hot weather is a much bigger problem than exams: during the single month of June 2015, I made the same number of attempts and showed results very close to July-August ones);
Impressive, right? However...
  • Doing very similar things throughout two months is boring. When you are bored, you are not as effective as you could be. Good news is that our platform has improved a lot since then, work shouldn't be monotonous anymore.
  • Blindfold chess is very tiring and time-consuming activity. Our games lasted for two-three hours on average. Moreover, this way you improve only your calculation skills but the strategical thinking is no less important, let alone the knowledge of openings and endgames. To sum up, now I'm going to spend the same twenty hours differently in order to get better in more than one aspect of the game.
  • Yes, the grammar course was amazing but each week I had to go to the language anti-café which is located far from my home, and Vasileostrovskaya metro station was closed at that time, therefore on each such day I spent around 3 hours on the way there and back (in total). It's also worth noting that although French language is not only about grammar, my activities amounted to grammar exercises that summer. I stopped doing even them once the course was over. Now my goal is to revive the acquired knowledge and to put it into practice... without leaving home. Certainly, I could read, write and listen to native speakers before. Now I have an excellent opportunity to speak to my French-speaking friend as well whenever we both have time, so I can work on all four language aspects without leaving the chair I'm sitting on now.
  • I couldn't crush the barrier preventing me from making any substantial progress in competitive programming starting from the first year at the university. I haven't taken part in any contest from the beginning of 2016 and I'm not going to. These 7 years were great, but it is time to go further.
  • Finally, you can't be effective if you don't make short breaks from time to time to distract yourself from daily routine. Last year my "summer break" started in the end of October. It will be fixed this time.

воскресенье, 26 июня 2016 г.

My impressions of Russian fantasy musical. 9.04.16

Being a fan of musicals and a fan of fantasy literature, I couldn't miss such a phenomenon as a Russian musical "The Last Trial" (this is just a literal translation of its original name, "Последнее испытание", which I came across on the English-language fan site) based on the second trilogy set in the famous Dragonlance universe created by American authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Although the stage version of this musical was set in Moscow, they came to Saint Petersburg twice. The date of their autumn performance, unfortunately, didn't suit me, but in April I finally watched the fantasy musical.

Two years ago I listened to audiobooks corresponding to the first trilogy ("Dragonlance Chronicles"), so I was familiar with the setting and most of the main characters of the "Dragonlance Legends". However, I had almost no idea about the plot of the second trilogy because I started to read it only a week before the performance. Now, after watching the musical and reading the entire trilogy, I can tell you that:

  • You don't even have to be familiar with the setting (i.e. reading neither the first nor the second trilogy is not obligatory) to be able to understand what is happening on the stage (tested on my friend ;) ). In other words, it's not like the "Harry Potter" movies.
  • You can watch the musical and read the books in either order. They have so many differences that you will not spoil the pleasure for yourself (well, even if we omit all the small details and minor storylines, it's enough to note that books and musical end in completely different ways). Maybe, you'd better watch the musical in the first place because this way you'll find more surprises. 
One more source to consider is the history of the musical (which originated at the late 90s and featured plenty of dramatic moments since then). Almost twenty years have passed from the idea was born till it materialized on the stage. Stories told by the authors explain why the musical is so different from the books.

Although the stage version of the musical is more than two years old, it's under constant refinement. You can watch parts of the 2014 year version online. This April, multimedia stage sets were much better (I especially liked the way they used two semi-transparent screens, one behind the other, combining the images on them and putting the actors in between, as if they leave the stage and enter the digital background), acrobatics was much more advanced, and the goddess was able to fly above the stage at she should be. Unfortunately, several previously existed scenes (which you can find in 2014 year version) were cut off. However, the show duration was almost 2.5 hours even after that.

Besides the great stage sets, this version showed a minotaur (!) walking on stilts (for the first time ever). Also I enjoyed the aria of Kingpriest very much (the aria itself starts at around 1:05): church-style music of pipe organ with proper visual accompaniment (sadly I failed to find it) and understandable text can be fascinating.  

Adding a fly to the ointment, I should mention that

  • An actor playing Caramon Majere (one of the main characters) was more likely yelling than singing.
  • I was disappointed not to see barely any stage sets in the second half of the performance. It looked as if they didn't manage to complete them in time.
  • During the duet with Crysania, Takhisis's microphone suddenly refused to work. As later the actress, who was playing the dark goddess, confessed, the mic wire (!) was accidentally cut during backstage costume change.   

Got interested? Even though you cannot watch the musical now, why not to listen to the free full audio version? You can find it in the middle part of that page on the left.

суббота, 18 июня 2016 г.

Finding gems in rubbish piles

Part I

Recently I came across a brilliant website for language learners and music lovers. Pick a song, enjoy the music video and fill in the blanks.

If you missed the word, press the UP key and listen to last five seconds of the song again. If you don't keep pace with the singer, don't worry, the video will stop on its own giving you time to type in the missing word. If you still can't catch it, you can skip. If you are afraid of typos, I have good news for you: the site won't let you make one because it ignores wrong letters. Words you have to restore are chosen at random but you can set the frequency of gaps. You're still not on Lyrics Training? Well, then I have two more arguments for you. Ten languages are available, such options as Japanese and Catalan are among them! Finally, to start using Lyrics Training you don't even need to sign up. As a guest, you can take advantage of all its features except for saving your statistics.

Part II

Are you back here? Do you know anything similar? If so, I wait for you in the comments.

Wonder what the title of my post stands for? Then read how I found Lyrics Training.

For more then a year I barely used my desktop for anything but watching TV and movies. More than a year ago I looked into the Downloads folder for the last time. There were hundreds of files there, both viewed but not deleted and just saved to look at in the future. Just accidentally I decided to clean up that folder. Luckily I looked into the MS Word document containing dozens of "useful links for English learners". Somehow I didn't close it immediately after encountering the lists of popular online dictionaries and news websites. Finally, I came across the paragraph devoted to Lyrics Training. But wait... I downloaded that file more than a year ago. Hence I could use that awesome resource for quite a while. But I almost missed it. How to avoid such situations in the future?

What about promising to view each file immediately after downloading, to make valuable notes and to delete the file on the same day? That's too strict. Sometimes you don't have enough time for that, some files are too long for reading them at one go.

What about automatic deletion of those files which reside in the Downloads folder for more than a week? But are you sure that after losing a couple of presumably valuable files you will not create a new folder Downloads2 as a backup for your Downloads? Next you'll feel quite safe to "lose" another hundred of files. The system never works unless you have a good discipline (or unless you stop being curious and saving everything what attracts you).

Your Downloads folder is empty? Good start. And how many articles that you saved using Pocket/Evernote Web Clipper/<put your option here> will you never read?

воскресенье, 12 июня 2016 г.

Learning languages: My approach to pronunciation

How do you learn to pronounce foreign words correctly when you start studying a new language? When I asked myself this question, I found out that for each of the four languages, which I tried to learn, I used a specific approach.

Approach 1. Do nothing, or Trust your subconscious mind, passive version (English). To be honest, I don't remember whether I memorized any pronunciation rules at some point (or, at least, paid special attention to them when I was reading the coursebook) or not. What I can state for sure is that if you ask me to tell you any of such rules now, I will remain silent. However, I rarely make pronunciation mistakes even with the words which I see for the first time. I believe this is because I have absorbed so many words in both written and audial forms that my mind has built its own system of principles. This system is hidden from my conscious. Subconscious mind applies it each time I come across a new word and returns me a result. Thus, I can't explain what makes me think the word is pronounced in that specific way. But I don't need to, because I trust the extremely powerful "tool" inside my head.

Approach 2. Memorize large set of rules (French). My first attempt to learn French which had lasted for one year (during the 7th grade) began with those thirty-some rules. That worked but had so many disadvantages... You know, all artificial rules have exceptions. This way you may even start to believe that languages have exceptions. Moreover, committing tons of imposed rules to your memory is just boring (and is far from effective if you're no longer a child). That's why when I returned to French four years later, I preferred to use Approach 1.

Approach 3. Learn the language which doesn't have pronunciation rules (Finnish). Well, certainly Finnish pronunciation does follow some rules but almost all of them are obvious, so if you have never learned Finnish and try to pronounce some word relying only on its spelling, you'll most likely be correct. However, don't become too enthusiastic: the language, which was a major source of inspiration for Tolkien when he was creating Quenya (one of the fictional Elvish languages), contains 14 noun cases. Enough compensation for the absence of difficulties with phonetics, don't you think?

Approach 4. Trust your subconscious mind, active version (German). When I was listening to Coffee Break German audio podcast, I wrote down each new word I heard. I started doing that from the first episode, when I knew nothing about German. After each episode I googled the correct spelling and compared it with my guesses. Eventually, I managed to avoid mistakes in most cases. That was the fastest way to grasp pronunciation principles. I believe, figuring that out was the main profit of my short attempt to learn German.

I'm curious, does the last approach work for the languages which use a non-Latin alphabet?

воскресенье, 5 июня 2016 г.

On origins of words

One of the things I like so much about languages is learning etymology. I don't mean that I enjoy reading etymological dictionaries page by page (believe me, I've never done this!). Instead, I accidentally pick random facts about certain words. These facts serve two goals: they revitalize my passion for foreign languages and help me memorize new vocabulary better.

How can learning a random fact encourage to study a language? It works as a time machine because etymology is about history. Diving into history can be amazing!

What is the link between etymology and memorizing? Etymology of a single word is often an interesting story. You can visualize stories in your mind. Sometimes these stories are weird. I heard many times: the more weird the association is, the better the mnemotechnic works.

Where to find awesome facts about etymology? Well, if you want them right now, just google and find tons of examples. However, I became an etymology fan in the other way. I didn't search for random facts, they found me instead. The first source of such knowledge was the audiocourse which I used four years ago to recollect my knowledge of French (just a note: the basic language of that course is Russian, so it may not work for you). During the fantastic course in French grammar last August which took place in the unique Saint Petersburg language anti-café, I heard many more stories about origins of words. Etymology opens the door not only to learning history of a single nation or a single language, it leads you to cross-language connections. Eventually you start noticing them on your own. You feel the joy of victory when your guess about the origin of some word is correct, you're slightly disappointed but still proud of your logic when your assumption turns out to be wrong. I'd like to share several real-life examples from my last two journeys abroad.

In Portugal, you often hear the word "obrigado" (or "obrigada" which sounds in pretty much the same way). There's no surprise in it because "obrigado" means "thank you" (by the way, the word in brackets is a feminime form of the same word because Portuguese thank each other using a past participle which means "obliged"). Now tell me, do you know any Japanese word? I guess, you do, and that word is "arigato". Feel the similarity? You're neither the first one nor the last one. Do Portuguese and Japanese "thank you" have any connection? I won't tell you for sure. Russian sci-fi and fantasy author Sergei Lukyanenko states that Japanese loaned that word. But read the comments to his post and you'll see that there's no single point of view. Here is an English-language thread presenting various opinions on that matter and referencing a book in linguistics, the first source worth paying attention to. Japanese has many loans from Portuguese, which is another argument for the western origin of "arigato". However, this explanation which mentions early Japanese literary works containing the word with very similar spelling and notes that they were written long before first contacts of Portuguese and Japanese. Thus, the question remains open for me.

When you talk to me for a long time, you won't be able to avoid language-related topics ;) Such a conversation (probably, inspired by the above-mentioned assumption about "obrigado" and "arigato") took place on the first Monday of November, 2015, in Lisbon. Step by step, language by language, my friend and I were telling each other various facts, posing riddles or just interesting questions. At some point, I was asked what the Belarusian word "кофр" means. You know what? I knew the answer even though there's nothing similar to that word in Russian. Well, to be honest, I just made a guess immediately after I saw how "кофр" is spelled but this guess was correct. How did I know this? Several years ago I played "The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion" in French. I remember "coffres" here and there in Tamriel. "Une coffre" stands for "a chest" (not the body part but the box), so does "кофр". Wiki approves that this is not a coincidence, Belarusian language borrowed a lot of words from French including this one.

I told you I know one Japanese word. In the end of April I learned my first Armenian word as well. Guess what? Certainly, the one with the same meaning as "arigato". Well, not this one, but the colloqial form - "mersi". Right, French is everywhere! I was very surprised by hearing this word many times during my first few hours in Yerevan. Only later I remembered that Russians sometimes also say "мерси" (even a literary example exists!) for the expression of gratitude. However, for us this is a rare case (and it implies an ironic situation) while Armenians use the colloqial word derived from French "merci" everywhere just because it's short.

The world around us is full of such wonderful examples. Just be curious and be attentive, you'll find many more of them.

воскресенье, 29 мая 2016 г.

Can't stop complaining about online photo services

A week ago, I explained why I can't use ThisLife for sharing my photo albums. It was not just an expression of indignation because I sent them the link to my post as feedback. Within next 24 hours, Shutterfly staff replied, apologizing for inconvenience, affirming their understanding and promising to resolve the issue as soon as possible. I hope so, and until then I have moved to Google Photos. This week I uploaded the album from my journey to Armenia to that service and noticed how much it has changed since I used it last time.

After a week in Paris in autumn 2014, I organized photos in the same way as now, by renumbering them in the desired order locally. Then I uploaded the pictures to Google Photos, chose sorting by name and everything was done. This time the order of photos after putting them online was completely random: they were arranged neither by name nor by date. Moreover, there was no sorting options to choose from.

I managed to find a weird workaround on the forums. According to them, to achieve the desired order you have to open the same album on Picasa Web (another Google product serving for the same purpose but having worse appearance) and to select sorting by name there. After that, you're done because orders of photos on these two services depend on each other. Very strange workaround, isn't it? Did it help me? No!

People on forums don't lie. They are just more lucky, they don't accidentally create obstacles for themselves. Before going to Picasa Web, I turned the album into a shared one. It blocked the possibility of reordering (certainly, without notifying me about that). I was quick-witted enough to guess that sharing the album on Google Photos may influence the functionality of Picasa Web. After temporarily disabling access to my photos, I managed to apply the workaround from forums. If I didn't find this solution, I'd be telling you how bad Google Photos is. Now I just have to say that it is counterintuitive.

When you will be developing your own service for online photo storage and sharing, please, make it better! Don't hide basic features, don't make the sharing mode different from how a person views their own photos on the homepage. Be simple, be user-friendly!

воскресенье, 22 мая 2016 г.

A guide for making your awesome online photo service unusable

I finished my story about the autumn journey to Portugal five weeks ago but there's still one related memory to share.

Each time I travel abroad, I make tons of photos. Around two-thirds of them usually don't survive my own review (either due to their low quality or because they're too similar to the other ones) but the remaining one-third still consists of several hundreds of photos. I need some place to store them and to be able to show my friends where I've been. Of course, I prefer online options to hard drives. This way, it's easier to share your collection of photos. Furthermore, you don't have to worry that your photos are stored on the PC which can get broken / be left at the old place during the relocation.

I tried many online services before but each of them had some disadvantages. A couple of months before the autumn journey I stumbled across a new candidate. ThisLife claiming that it doesn't compress the files you uploaded and that it provides free unlimited storage for photos (even though storing videos is a paid option) seemed to be a perfect fit for me. I gave it a try after coming back from Lisbon. It was a disappointing experience. The funny fact is that if I tried it after one of my previous journeys, I'd claim that it is awesome.

The thing is that this time I had a mixture of photos from two cameras and these cameras were desynchronized. Would you expect that the difference between the time zones your friend and you live in may affect your travel photos album? I think, you wouldn't. Neither did I. Before uploading the selected photos, I changed their names to three-digit numbers to make them go in the order I want. That approach had always worked on the other services. When you view your album on ThisLife, you can sort the files either by date or by name. But when you share your album with the others, the only alternative is a timeline view, i.e. ordering by the time when the photo was taken. Filenames are ignored. Just imagine the chaos caused by that keeping in mind that for each day there was around a hundred of photos taken with the cameras which had two-hour difference (let alone the fact that sometimes I took the pictures in the same place on two different days). Thus I had to change the dates to fictious ones to make the ordering by time match the desired one. I was so angry that instead of googling how to do that programmatically I made all the renaming stuff manually in the Windows Explorer...

The story would be incomplete without mentioning that ThisLife has a lot of cool features. For example, you can order calendars, metal wallarts, puzzles, iPhone cases, pillows and many other things auto-designed by the service using your photos (you don't even need to pick the photos for that, ThisLife does it on its own). Facial recognition feature is also cool. Instead of simply detecting faces on your photos, it finds similar faces and asks "Who is this person?" about a bunch of pictures at a time. This feature would be cooler if it managed to recognize me :), but at least it detected my friend's face on 24 photos and found the similarity. 50% success rate is not that bad for such a challenging task.

You see, overall ThisLife is great. However, one awkward solution (like having timeline as the only sharing option) is always enough to make your users turn from you. I hope someday they will fix that. Until then I'd better search for alternatives. What online services do you use to store your photos? 

воскресенье, 15 мая 2016 г.


Soon the examinations time will come. It is a good occasion to talk about mnemotechnics. I often take an advantage of using them when I'm trying to memorize a number of things logical connection between which I fail to grasp. Instead, I create my own links and my own logic. That's effective, that's not time-consuming (at least, after some practice), and, finally, that transforms boring things into funny ones. I'd like to show you a couple of examples. I hope they're not too mathy.

Last summer I took an exam in mathematical logic. One of the last questions became a sticking point for many of my coursemates. The goal was to enumerate nine axioms of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory. Yup, just to reproduce nine obvious statements. However, that turned out to be a challenging task. Even though wiki states that "there are many equivalent formulations of the ZFC [Zermelo–Fraenkel choice] axioms", we had to remember the formulations which our lecturer presented to us. Otherwise, it'd be too easy to make a mistake by providing a redundant axiom or by missing out one. On the other hand, the lecturer didn't explain us why those nine statements consitute the full set of axioms, or how do they relate to each other (I'm even not sure that a good explanation exists). Thus, we had no logical links and no alternative but to cram the statements. But how? They don't even rhyme! Luckily, a few days before, I attended a meeting at Psychological volunteer club "Insight" where my friend was teaching us how to embed various technics in the exam preparation process. Although I had already been familiar with most of the technics, just theory is never enough. Thanks to the exercises we made together in a friendly atmosphere, I gained an insight into how mnemotechnics can help me. By the time of the exam, the exercises hadn't yet slipped my mind. On the last evening, I "built" a memory palace based on my room and managed to memorize ZFC axioms immediately after the first perusal. Moreover, I remembered them even several weeks after the exam without rehearsal. Here is how my links looked:

  • On the shelf on the western wall of my room I have two identical books received on some programming competitions. To make sure that they are the same, I leaf through them and see that the corresponding pages look similar. Axiom of extensionality. Two sets are equal (are the same set) if they have the same elements.
  • I turn to my escritoire. Pens and pencils are in the same box. Axiom of pairing. If x and y are sets, then there exists a set which contains x and y as elements. Here x stands for pens, y substitutes pencils, and the box is the enclosing set.
  • Now I'm near the eastern wall looking at the other shelf. For every set of books (in particular, for the set formed by the third volume of Knuth's monograph and by Tanenbaum's "Modern Operating Systems" standing on the right), imagine that you tear them all into pages (please, don't repeat that anywhere but in your mind). Axiom of union states that "For any set F there is a set A containing every element that is a member of some member of F". F is the set of books, thus a member of some member of F is a page, and A is exactly all those pages torn out and put together.  
  • ... and so on.

My second example relates to December 2015. One definition from computational methods course contained the formula presented below:

In other words, I had to keep in mind the following sequence of numbers: 1, 1/2, 5/12, 3/8, 251/720. This time a rational explanation existed but I started my preparations too late to dig into every detail like that. Hence I had to memorize a sequence of random numbers. First four of them look easy to keep in mind. As for the fifth one...

To recall what the fifth number is, I looked at the third fraction. I formed the numerator of the fifth fraction from the digits of the third one in the order shown by the arrows on the picture above, and then divided it by the factorial of 6. Weird? Sure. Easier to remember and to keep in mind for long? Absolutely!

Honestly, neither of these methods actually helped me during the exams because I got other questions. However, thanks to mnemotechnics I was more confident than usual. At least, there were some questions I couldn't forget answers to.

I wish you to come up with right associations at the proper moments. Exams are coming!

суббота, 7 мая 2016 г.

Thoughts regarding Eurovision Song Contest

ESC 2016 will take place in Stockholm next Saturday. I used to watch ESC every year but once I became an active Internet user, live broadcast lost its attraction for me. If you've already seen a mixture of all songs, if you know who'll be the winner, what's the intrigue?

Why do I pretend to know the name of the winner? Well, just take a look at the betting odds (especially, at the average difference between the first place and the pursuers). Don't tell me that stakes show nothing, ESC is not FA Premier League. Thus, I'm pretty sure that Russia will win Eurovision for the second time in history this year (and thus will become a bit closer to Luxembourg which has 5 victories :) ). Surprisingly, I completely agree that Sergey Lazarev is the best contestant. In contrast, my impressions usually have not much to do with the final results (in other words, with the public opinion). For example, last year my favorites were

  1. Il Volo
  2. Polina Gagarina
  3. Somebody else. Probably, still not Måns Zelmerlöw, the actual winner of ESC 2015
Another example concerns this year's national qualifications. Even though qualification rounds in Russia have been canceled several years ago, many countries still elect their representatives publicly. I couldn't miss Germany national contest in the end of February. On the average, I know almost no ESC participants. In this case, however, two participants out of ten broke that rule. Just a couple of hours prior to the contest, I learned that "Gregorian", performers of Gregorian chant-inspired versions of popular songs, whose concert in Saint Petersburg I attended three years earlier, and famous metal band "Avantasia" would compete. German qualification round has an unusual structure: first, all participants perform, then the audience votes, and seven worst singers/bands are eliminated. Three best participants sing once again immediately after that. Second voting round determines who'll perform an encore. 

On the evening of February 25, I was watching a live stream of Germany national song contest, listening to commentary in German (without understanding anything :) ) and was supporting "Avantasia". "Gregorian" dropped out of competition after the first stage, "Avantasia" finished in Top 3. If they had passed to the ESC, they would have been my favorite. Awesome song, one of the most beautiful music videos I've ever seen, advertising campaign for the target audience, artistry of Tobias Sammet, wasn't that enough? Actually, that was insufficient due to two reasons. First, their live performance was not that great. To achieve a great result in ESC, a contestant should have an impressive visual accompaniment. Like Sergey Lazarev or Måns Zelmerlöw have (even though Lazarev's music video is even cooler). Seconly, the same audience which elected Lena Meyer-Landrut two times in a row (for ESCs 2010 and 2011) just can't vote for the metal song. That's why Jamie-Lee Kriewitz victory wasn't that unexpected. 

In the absense of "Avantasia" in the final round, my sympathies (disregarding Russia) are with Italy and Austria, represented by Francesca Michielin and Zoë Straub, respectively. To me, the latter one is among the most remarkable participants of that ESC. In her 19, she recorded one album consisting of twelve songs (!) in French. Born in Austrian family, having sung in her native language in child contest 9 years ago, now she appears in music videos shot in Paris and one of her French-language songs is nominated for 2016 Amadeus Austrian Music Award. Apparently, nine years at Lycée français de Vienne weren't in vain :) Here is another reason (for me) not to watch Eurovision: according to bookmakers' opinion, Zoë will not even finish in Top 10 in the first semifinal on Tuesday of the upcoming week. 

However, there is always a part worth watching. It is an introduction. Remeber "Building Bridges" flashmob from the last year? That's what the Eurovision is all about. Not about determining of the best artist, but about establishing trustworthy connections between nations when insane things are happening around us. That's why it is not weird but cool when Australia takes part in European song contest and is represented by the singer having South Korean origins. 

четверг, 28 апреля 2016 г.

Watch how your convictions change over time

Seven years ago I told everyone with confidence that I would never sign up for VKontakte. Moreover, I firmly believed in that. From what I heard from my friends, I had an impression that this is an evil time-waster which I should avoid at any price. In June 2010, I even created a one-thread "forum" and tried to design a chat not only to practice in web-development but to stay in touch with my classmate. However, the chat was laggy, we were not satisfied with the "forum", and finally I gave in to my friend's persuasion and violated my own strong conviction. Six years later I can't imagine what would I do without that "evil time-waster" which makes the communication easier, helps to keep in touch with those who are far from me and contains tons of useful or just interesting stuff. It still remains a time-waster if you don't know when to stop but eventually you learn how to do that and the social network becomes an integral part of your life. At least, that's what I believe now.

I had another prejudice for several years more. This is a translation of an extract from a message to my friend sent (on VKontakte :) ) in October 2013: "I become more and more convinced of my solitude in not only ignoring TV series but incapability of watching them. I tried to do that but became tired of TV series so fast...". And what do you think? The following summer I started watching "Da Vinci's Demons". Later the time had come for "Galavant", "Black Mirror", "The Shannara Chronicles"... Well, I watch TV series only in English. But I don't delude myself with an erroneous faith that I do it for improving my comprehension skills. As for the latter, I do it in many other ways which are far more efficient. As regards watching TV series, I just get pleasure from that. Well, at least I still can't bear the laugh track. But for how long will it last?

Do you have a blog or a personal diary? Or just a notebook into which you put your ideas and thoughts sometimes? Put your views there!

I have no doubt that you will remember your today's beliefs tomorrow. I'm sure that you'll keep the most principal of them in mind ten years later. Then why do I think you need to write them down? Not because you will lose memories of your today's self but because you'll forget to compare your future self with who you are and what you think today. But if you do not forget to do it (your notes will be of help), you will make a profit on that. You can use the comparison not only for self-amusement concerning neutral things (as I did with the examples above) but for detecting and analyzing changes that happen to you, both positive and alarming ones. 

суббота, 23 апреля 2016 г.

Reading in public transport and associated difficulties

Long ago I used to read a lot at home. Starting from the eighth grade I was almost always short of time for that, yet I began spending around 40 minutes in public transport six days a week. That compensated me for those hours of reading at home. Four years after I entered the university and began spending even more time in the public transport (it takes me around two hours to get to the university from home) but not so regularly. Moreover, nearly a half of that time I spend in minibuses and usually I can't read there because it makes me sick. Audiobooks could be a workaround for that kind of transport, but what to do on the subway, where it's too noisy to listen to an audiobook, in that case? Read about two solutions, that I came up with, below and feel free to share your own experience in the comments.

Solution 1. Use acoustic earmuffs on the subway.

Explanation: buy acoustic earmuffs and in-ear headphones without details protruding outwards. Now plug your ears with the headphones and then cover them by the earmuffs.

Note that many standard options like the below one will not work because the outwards details will hurt you when being squeezed by the earmuffs.

My formula consists of 3M Peltor Optime 1 and AKG K323 XS (both are present on the first photo).

It works well on the subway in Saint Petersburg. Without earmuffs even the maximum sound level (obviously, harmful for your ears) doesn't help when it comes to listening to an audiobook or a podcast. But when your ears are covered, even less than a half of the maximum level may be enough. You will still hear driver's announcements but you'll almost get rid of the irritating subway noise.

However, I encountered one troublesome detail regarding that workaround for listening audiobooks. The earmuffs still squeese your head and after some time it leads not to pain (as it was in the case with protruding details) but to discomfort. That's why each 2-3 minutes I adjust them on my head. I don't believe it can lead to some health issues because in that case 3M Peltor Optime wouldn't be widely used in industry. Moreover, I never wear them outside the subway, thus limiting continuous usage of the earmuffs by 40 minutes at most. However, due to that small disadvantage I can't call my solution perfect.

Solution 2. Think on your own for a while and say what is the most trivial solution for the problem described in the first paragraph?

If I can only read on the subway and only listen to audiobooks in a minibus then why not to do exactly that with the same book? It took me another half of a year to realize that after I came up with the first solution, not so banal one.

Even that approach has its pitfalls. Certainly, you can't read with such pace that you'll always reach the end of the chapter once you'll have to get off a train. A minibus can't cover the desired distance within the time which a narrator spends to read the integral number of the audiobook chapters either. Hence each time you switch from reading to listening and back you have to search for the lines you stopped at. If you've just listened to the audiobook you can remember some outstanding phrase close to the end of the part you've heard and search for it (of course, only if you use e-reader or some other device). That workaround is one-way because you can't look for a specific phrase in an audiobook. Thus, when switching from reading to listening you'll almost always have to listen to some part which you've just seen once again. It isn't convenient, is it?

I believe that better approach exists. By the way, have you ever tried text synchronized audiobooks?

суббота, 16 апреля 2016 г.

At the edge of the Old World (2.11.15)

Long ago, the Romans called that spot Promontorium Magnum ("the Great Promontory"). Many centuries after, the greatest Portugal's poet Luís de Camões referred to it as to the place, "where the land ends and the sea begins" in his epic work "The Lusiads". Just 80 years before the most famous work of Luís de Camões was published, nobody in that part of Europe knew that the land to the west of Cape Roca exists. 523 years after Christopher Columbus had discovered the New World, we stood in a few meters from the waters of Atlantic Ocean, at the westernmost point of continental Europe, and enjoyed the breathtaking views.
Even though the weather was terrible, lots of tourists crowded the cape. Just imagine, how popular that place would be before the Age of Discovery, if tourist industry existed at that time. I mean, you will more likely come to the edge of the world rather than just to the extreme point of Europe :)

We observed a curious fact regarding tourists. In contrast to most of the sights we had visited, where West European (especially, French-speaking) visitors predominated, here Russians and Chinese prevailed. I guess my nation and our south-eastern neighbors just appreciate achievements (such as visiting the particular spot) more. If not, why would people stand in a queue to have their photos beside the monument noteworthy only for a plaque proving that you are at the westernmost corner of Europe.
We also recorded our "achievement".
Most of the tourists just capture themselves on film and come back to the bus. Some of them buy a certificate of their presence at the Cape (is it for their incredulous friends who don't believe in photos and claim that "it is photoshop"? :) ). As usual, almost nobody turns out to be inquisitive, almost nobody notices the splendor of the surroundings.

If you don't want to be that kind of tourist, first thing to do everywhere is to look around.
After you have got to know how the land lies, start exploring it down to the smallest detail. Follow us and stroll along the shore.
In the place most tourists content themselves with, the stone wall separates us from coming closer to the ocean. Then it changes into a wooden fence which doesn't look solid enough to lean against. If you continue going along the fence, soon it will be over as well. No safety barriers, no supervisors. It looked really strange. Believe me, we haven't crossed any "do not go further, it is dangerous" lines. Still, if you are not careful, it can be. If you are wary enough, you'll be rewarded with the most picturesque sceneries Cape Roca provides immediately below your feet.
Look above, five minutes ago we were where those tiny creatures stand.

Even though we haven't seen other people daring to descend from that cliff, we definitely were not pioneers. Here is the proof.
If you don't know, it's an imitation of the Saint Petersburg football club emblem

It's funny to remark that I noticed that inscription only when I was reviewing the photos after coming back to Saint Petersburg. I'm still curious whether my poor eyesight or the greatness of the ocean distracting me from spotting the details was the reason.

You can reach Cabo da Roca from Lisbon in two ways: through Sintra or through Cascais. Since we'd visited Sintra two days earlier, we chose the latter option. My first memory of that morning is the bus from Cascais approaching the Cape via a serpentine road. This road is so long that you start thinking that the ocean doesn't want you to come.

On the way back to Lisbon we decided to spent some time exploring Cascais. You won't find any striking places of interest there but overall the town is a pleasant place.

Even the shopping center is worth looking at.
But the weather is getting a bit better, let's go outside. To understand how small is the town, look at its center:
In summer Cascais attracts the visitors by its sandy beaches and a large yacht harbor. Although we came there on a rainy day in November, we headed to the water. Obviously, most local landmarks should be where crowds of tourists usually are.  
Look to the left: the "fleet" is approaching! :)
And this one resides on the shore.
Have you ever seen giant binoculars?
And how about red trees?
The below photo wasn't noteworthy until my parents joked telling me that they see... hedgehogs amidst pineapples on it. 
Street art in Cascais is no less amazing than it is in Lisbon.
Need some action? Just imagine that this speedy bird on the photo below is running back and forth, escaping from the waves and presumably looking for the seafood brought by water at the moment when the waves receded.
As a conclusion of a story about Cascais, a minute of local humor:

The final pieces of the travel diary came up into place. Thank you for staying tuned for the last 11 posts! New stories on miscellaneous topics will come soon ;)