My favorite compliment

What is your favorite compliment, or which of all your features do you wish people would recognize?

A couple of mornings ago a lab mate spontaneously told me that she’s amazed by my always very positive mood and attitude, despite bad results and setbacks in the lab. I am not sure whether it was intended as a compliment or just an honest reflection (I actually don’t even remember whether thanked her or not), but being viewed as positive is a characteristic I highly value.

I later discussed the idea of favorite personal characteristics with Lorena, and it made me curious to know what other people consider as their own most valued characteristics – characteristics that they want other people to notice, appreciate, and like them for. But also which of their characteristics they are not proud of and would not like people to notice – or even characteristics they would like to change.

It is quite difficult to recognize ones own characteristics, the good as well as the bad. Personally (and a bit related to one of my previous post about being proud) I am only proud of such characteristics that I actually have some control over and can affect. For example, although it is flattering to be complimented for genetic characteristics such as being intelligent or good looking, these are features that I don’t have much reason to be proud of; they are merely features I have inherited from my parents. Surely, someone who has lost 30 kg by regular and hard workout in the cross-fit hall has every reason in the world to be proud of that achievement, and may take a positive comment about his/her physical appearance as a huge compliment. But I don’t consider myself fitting into that category.

Instead, I value (or get turned down by) comments that involve behavioral characteristics. I like being recognized as inspiring, honest, helpful and (@an Animal) an honest douche; and I definitely don’t want to be remembered for being judgmental or boring… and maybe worst of all, to be indifferent and thus not being remembered at all! And even if it is being told as an honest compliment, I also don’t want be remembered solely for being attractive or good looking1, especially if it is a person whom I myself care for more than just superficially.

But most of all I do wish to be recognized as a positive guy with a contagiously good mood that spills over onto my friends. Perhaps because I personally cannot stand people who are negative and constantly complain; I simply don’t want to have such people around me, and therefore I don’t want to be that person myself.

I am not sure how well I succeed with this goal, and how many of my friends that would actually sign up on me being positive, but the times I do hear it, it is definitely my favorite compliment.

1. A completely non-empirical idea, but I reckon this may be a problem for many very attractive people, especially women: they get lots of attention and are recognized for their beauty, but much less often for their personalities.


Yo entiendo porque no entienden

Desde tres meses en Buenos Aires, yo voy a intentar escribir mi primero mensaje en mi blog en español. Por qué en español? Una razón es porque estoy orgulloso y quiero mostrar mis amigos que me he aprendido. Pero (tal vez más importante) también para tener algo a repasar en la futura, y recordar que mal (o bien?) español yo hablé en 2014.
Porque estoy escribiendo todo sin ayuda de Google Traducir (pero uso un diccionario para unas palabras) hay seguro muchos errores. Si me quieres correctar, no hay problema…

Unos días atrás, una amiga de Suiza me preguntó si yo tenía situaciones con mis amigos acá en Argentina cuando yo entiendo nada, pero las otras personas continuaron hablar en español. Este situación es muy común en Suiza y Alemán, por ejemplo, pero Kristina creó no en Argentina, por que la gente son mucho más sociables. Pero no – no es diferente acá.

Para mi hay dos situaciones cuando la gente hablan en un idioma otro de inglés, pero saben yo no entiendo. La primera situación es cuando las otras personas no hablan bien inglés, y es muy difícil para ellos. Mis amigos de Colombia son un buen ejemplo. La mayoría no hablan inglés bien (si están leyendo: lo siento chicos); intentan cuando hablan directo conmigo, pero cuando hablan a colombianos/argentinos cambian a español. En esta situación entiendo es difícil para ellos, y no me espero ellos a hablar en inglés solo por que estoy allá. Y si me siento solo, puedo ir o buscar amigos que hablan inglés.

Pero hay una otra situación que me hace sentir muy irritado – cuando yo sé todas personas hablan inglés muy bien, ellos conocen yo no entiendo, pero continúan hablar en español… una situación muy típica cuando almorzamos en mi trabajo. Y siempre me pregunto: porqué? No se sienten mal hablar en español cuando saben hay una persona que entienden (más o menos) nada?

He pensado este mucho, y la sola explicación que tiene sentido para mi es que la gente no conocen el sentimiento de entender nada, tal vez porque nunca estaban en esta situación. Por ése, creen que si hablan sobre una tema que no me interesa (por ejemplo política de Argentina), van a hablar en español. Y si, normalmente no me interesa política. Pero ése no significa quiero comer solo, y entender nada. Si quería comer solo, no fui a comer con ellos.

Dale, mi primero envía en español esta terminado. Nos vemos si es tambien la última vez…

Proud to be gaspanico?

With a clear tone of admiration, a friend of mine who is currently studying in Trondheim, Norway, commented on the Norwegians’ national day celebrations with the words

… what a great sense of patriotism, love for your country and absence of destructive Soviet Union’s impact on people’s mentality can create.

It is rather obvious that this person originates from one of the former Soviet Union states, and a wild guess would be that this envy reflects the lack of such patriotism back home.

I find the concept of patriotism rather interesting, and I have recently discussed patriotism both with an Argentinian friend, later with some Colombians, and have heard it mentioned in several situations more. The reason is that the Argentinians are a very proud and patriotic people. I might not have experienced it much myself1, but judging from other people’s opinions, the Argentinians think very highly of themselves – to the point where it becomes annoying. I recognize this type of behavior from other nationalities as well, most notably the Greeks. But also the Portuguese thought it very important to emphasize their (past) cultural and military greatness.

I used to also admire and envy other countries’ (such as USAs) patriotism, perhaps for the same reason as my friend: Sweden is a rather non-patriotic country2. Patriotism, I thought, unifies people and gives them something to be proud of.

As I have become more and more humbled by my traveling, by living in different countries, and by experiencing different cultures, I have come to change my mind about patriotism and pride. In fact, I think that from a global perspective patriotism achieves exactly the opposite to unifying people. It creates a feeling of us and them, and creates cultural borders and boundaries that leads to less acceptance and more hostility. Moreover, patriotism retains and remembers old and past quarrels and conflicts, and prevents the moving on, forgiving, and forgetting.

But there is also something very ridiculous about patriotism and feeling proud of one’s country. I think there are very few people currently alive (in any country in the world) who can say that they have personally made a large impact in their country’s development – regardless of whether it is positive or negative. Therefore, for me to feel proud of being a Swede or Cypriot just doesn’t make any real sense. What did I contribute to Sweden’s history that gives me a reason to be proud to be a Swede? Or how can I attribute anything but pure chance to having been born half-Cypriot, and thereby be entitled to profit off the past glory of the Greek culture?

The only things I can be proud of are the things I have actually achieved myself, or things I have contributed to. I am proud of being gaspanico, nothing more and nothing less. I am also grateful to having been born in Sweden, and I am thankful towards all the opportunities it means to have a double heritage. But I am not proud to be a Swede or Cypriot, nor am I proud of Sweden or Cyprus. I like celebrating Sweden’s national day, but only because I like when people come together and celebrate. I just as much enjoyed celebrating Australia Day in 2006, and I loved joining in on all three of my National Day celebrations in Switzerland. Because I lived there, because I enjoyed it there, and because the countries’ mere existence is something to celebrate. But the celebrations should be for everyone, regardless of where they were born. But for patriotism to make any real sense, a National Day should be open for citizens only. That’s why I think patriotism is alienating, not unifying.

I should mention that Norway’s 17th of May celebrations (Syttende mai) are admired also in Sweden, and I actually think more Swedes (at least used to) know the date of Norway’s national day, than our own. This is because Sweden’s national day has only been a national holiday since about 5-10 years, and the reason for celebrating is much less clear than in the case of Norway.

1 Perhaps because I spend much more time among Colombians than among Argentinians. But perhaps also because the Argentinians at work are more educated than the general public, and I think that extreme patriotism disappears with higher education and lots of traveling.
2 But although Swedes are generally very non-patriotic, they can instead be annoyingly proud of things they think is better in Sweden.

One giant leap for my Facebook independence

With regular intervals I have a go on my Facebook usage habits and do my best to minimize it. It tends to work for a while, but sooner or later I fall back into my same old habits. A few days ago an Animal recently wrote a blog post which reminded that it’s time for another attempt.

My problem with Facebook is really the exposure to sources of procrastination. Whereas traditional chat clients like MSN Messenger, ICQ, or Skype are standalone softwares that only provide the essential feature that I am interested in – keeping in touch with my friends – Facebook Chat inevitably comes with a news feed that I honestly don’t want. I have previously tried redirecting myself directly to the Facebook Messages page, but since I switched browser (to Safari, not to Chrome) I haven’t figured out a way to do this.

Today, however, I found the solution that might be what I have been looking for. Or more specifically, I found out that Facebook have finally fixed a feature that they have been offered for a long time, but which previously didn’t work very well – namely connecting Facebook Chat to any standalone chat client which supports Jabber. So now I can chat with my friends without ever entering the Facebook, and thereby not having to be exposed to all the distractions posted by people on the news feed.

The very simple instructions to do this can be found here.

Quick, Spanish baby steps

My Spanish learning is improving very fast, and a week ago I finally finished the BBC course I wrote about some months ago. In fact, the last couple of episodes I realized that my Spanish has improved faster than the pace of the course, and I barely learned anything new towards the end. A good receipt of my fast improvement!

I already have some other online sources for self-studies, but finishing the course also helped me decide it was time for my next challenge. And two days ago, after visiting Feria del libro de Buenos Aires with Lorena and her friend, Lorena gave me my very first book in Spanish – El principito.


By the way, on the 14th of May I’m “celebrating” three months in BsAs. Time goes fast, and this weekend I’m running off on a daytrip to Colonia in Uruguay, with the main purpose of renewing my 3-month tourist visa. But Colonia is also supposed to be very pretty, and is only an hour and a half away from BsAs by boat, so it will be a good combination of necessity and pleasure.

There and then

Not a ten-day Roundup®

Ten more days have passed without blog updates, but since I don’t like making my blog posts potpourris, I will keep this rather focused, and instead follow up this post with the long-promised photo gallery.

From a work productivity perspective, my time down here has been close to a disaster. The reasons are many, but at least three are outside of my control.

First of all, since my arrival in BsAs (almost three months ago!) I have barely had any full working weeks, that is, five consecutive days of work. A huge number of public holidays have been accompanied by general bus strikes (why does this remind me of Lisbon?), and this week my lab group had its yearly lab retreat from Sunday-Wednesday. This absence from the lab obviously makes the experimental work in the lab suffer. I usually need a couple of days only to set up my experiments, and a mid-week break is enough to make any experiments impossible for the entire week.

Secondly, things in the lab are just not working as well as hoped. But this is nothing new; t is simply biology, and there is no reason to discuss this further.

Thirdly, after two months of modeling my system I have finally been able to convince my boss that the original working model for my project will simply not work for our purpose. Therefore, everything I have done so far (= nearly nothing, see above) has been for nothing, and I am basically back on square one.

Then there are of course other reasons well within my control; some of which some self control could solve, but also one which I wouldn’t like to compromise. In Spanish we could call this uncompromisable reason una chica.

Nevertheless, although my thesis project might be suffering, I am absolutely not unhappy with my situation at work. I may have no results “on paper”, but that does absolutely not reflect my learning curve, which is steeply and steadily pointing upwards. And since I couldn’t really care less about how well my project will be graded (as long as I manage to pass), I am much rather working on this project, which is intellectually challenging, and where I feel that I’m making a clear contribution; than having a safe project where I am doing nothing more than what I am told by my supervisor. In fact, during the lab retreat I was privately and spontaneously told by boss that he thinks I’m very good and intelligent, which is of course a very nice confidence boost.

I will end this post by mentioning a subject that now and then comes back to my mind, namely Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). As a molecular biologist and/or biotechnologist I am more or less expected to praise this as one of the most important technologies for the future. I am also expected to rather sarcastically mock people who express fear against GMOs and the potentially dangerous effects introduction of such organisms in the nature may have. “After all, biotechnologically produced GMOs are no different to what humans have been doing for thousands of years through cultivation and breeding”. I will not dig deeper into this subject now, and I may or may not return to this subject some other time; but reading a paper like this by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (who also wrote the excellent book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable) does make me cautious.