Photo Set #03

Photo 1:  Dinner at the Cutty Sark again

This is the scientist-of-the-day with whom I had dinner tonight.  Andy is from Birmingham England and is the world’s authority on baseball-sized foraminifera that live on the bottom of the ocean!

Wait a minute: Foraminifera are single-celled organisms.  There are baseball-sized foraminifera at the bottom of the ocean?  I did not know that!

This is the joy of science.  The world is full of really neat things that you don’t know about.  Andy, I am sure, was in turn bewildered some about the mathematics of silicoflagellate cell boundaries … (wait a minute, there is a mathematics of silico cell boundaries?)

It is a wonderful world.

Photo 2: Sign on the building

While on the subject of science, this is the sign on “my” building.  The “Nauk o Ziemi” is Knowledge of the Earth; the “Nauk o Morzu” is Knowledge of the Ocean.  I wear two hats, study the earth and study the oceans.

Photo 3a,b,c: Rocks in front of building

I will generally avoid repeating subject from my Fulbright blog, but here I will make an exception.  This is part of a display of six big rocks in front of the building.  The one rock is a pegmatitic granite, and the other a gneiss, I think.  There is great education in rocks that are just sitting there.  I have been asking for years if we can get some rocks in front of Folsom Hall.

Photo 4: Energy of a Coke

Here is something for my ENERGY students, and on the side of a Polish 250 ml bottle of Coke:  The energy from consuming this drink, is 8400 kJ (kilojoule), or 2000 kcal.

Photo 5: Russian visitor

There is an almost constant come-and-go of international visitors.  Here we are again at the Cutty Sark.  On my left (your right) is Maxim Kulikovsky, a visitor from Russia who is here to work on a paper in the diatom lab.  Max and I co-authored a paper (on Eocene age silicoflagellates from Russia) several years ago.  He and colleague Horst Lange-Bertalot named a diatom species after me a couple of years ago.

Photo 6 More visitors to the museum

I have gone downstairs to make some coffee and find another group of kids visiting the museum.  This happens every school day.


There is absolute proof of the existence of God: how else could we have coffee?  (Humans of course developed from a well understood natural process, but coffee needs additional explanation!).  The coffee pot here grinds the coffee just before brewing, and makes better coffee than our drip pots, unless perhaps you use freshly ground beans.  The machine however takes a fair amount of maintenance.  The faculty take turns each week to decalcify the innards.  But a good cup of coffee is, well, a religious experience.  I come to worship regularly.


Photo 8: Jurassic Park pinball machine

This is a JURASSIC PARK pinball machine.  Took my 2 zlotys very quickly.  A pinball dinosaur hunter I apparently am not.

Photo 9: Groceries again

So, another grocery run.  Ten eggs, ham, cheese, rolls for breakfast sandwiches, two blocks of camembert cheese (very popular in Poland), four 330 g yogurts, a good beer (7.8%, 500 ml), 2 liters of good fruit juice, bananas and some packaging tape.  Total about $14.

Photo Set #02

Photo 1a, 1b:  Polish pottery

Much of my first two weeks are spent on outfitting the apartment and building my daily routine in a foreign country.  My first visit to the downtown area is to the pottery shop.  Polish pottery is beautiful – check it out online – though fairly expensive if bought by the piece in the US.  So, I have been slowly picking up pieces here.  I check the pottery shop every couple of weeks.

The shop is fairly small, run by Monika.  There are many Polish pottery designs, both traditional and modern, made at the pottery factories in Bolesławiec (pronounced “boleswaviets;” the ł is pronounced as a “w”, the w a “v” and the c a “ts” sound), in the southwestern corner of the country.  Monika offers about six of these designs, with many types of dishes in each style.  We have picked a traditional design, known as the mosquito pattern, with the standard traditional blue circles, plus green “mosquitos” and brown “pine cones.”

The pictures here show Monika, the display in our style (the picture does not include the top shelf) and a small platter (I bought two).

Photo 2:  For Eric

During my Fulbright sabbatical two years ago, I bought a bunch of teapots for gifts to those who have helped from afar.  This included a pot for Eric, who helps me with the photo blogs.  Eric’s daughter has much enjoyed the teapot, so we will add a couple of cups and saucer this time around.  His pot is in a traditional style, though different that the one I collect.

Photo 3:  Polish KFC

After about ten days in Poland, I need to get back to my culinary roots, so a visit to a downtown KFC (there are several in Szczecin) is in order.  The Polish restaurants are excellent, but always seem to have few diners, as most Poles eat at home.  The fast-food restaurants, however, are packed.  This picture is the scene in the KFC:  There were about 15 people in line or waiting to order when I arrived, still about 15 people when I made my order, and 15 more after I ate and was leaving.  Gangbuster business.

Photo 4:  Work environment

During my first two weeks, I worked on three manuscripts left over from my Fulbright sabbatical here two years ago.  This is my work environment.  The books contain much of the literature that I work from.  These are volumes from the deep sea drilling programs, which have been coring into the deep ocean since the late 1960s.  These volumes, by the way, are from the UMPI library – I picked these up when the library trimmed their collections, these stayed in my office for some years and then I shipped these to Szczecin, as a 1200-pound pallet of books.  They get much use here by several people, including me.

Photo 5: Geology Museum

The department here has a geology museum, which is also the site of the Polish Planet Head Day.  As any who know me knows, I LOVE (choham) science museums, and have founded one at my home university, though this does not get a lot of visitors of late.  The museum in Szczecin had 4000 school children here over the past year.  A group or more of students most days.  Here is one.  This is something of my vision for northern Maine…

Photo 6:  First Polish cup of Polish coffee in my Polish apartment

This is my first cup (in my “mosquito” design) of coffee in my apartment.  My coffee pot just heats the water, so the coffee is instant.  Not great, but starts the day…

Photo 7a,b,c:  Polish hamburger joint

Since I left here almost two years ago, a hamburger (or do we call this hamberder now?) shop (sklep) has opened in the neighborhood.  Very small – three tables altogether – and packed, mostly by a young crowd.  The burger paddies are huge, and the finished burger measured almost six inches (13 cm) across the bun.

I am something of a connoisseur of hamburgers.  The burgers in this shop are OK (not one of the best twenty I have ever had, but OK), with a sauce, lettuce and tomato; the pickles are sliced lengthwise.  My only criticism is that this is too much in the American style, with cheap cheese and white-bread-buns-that-fall-apart-before-the-burger-is-eaten.

I can honestly say that of the twenty best burgers I have ever had, ALL OF THEM were in Europe.  The better burgers have very good meat, good cheese, and a darker grainy bread that holds together well.  (A good burger is fairly big, delicious, and can be eaten comfortably with one hand while not losing anything to the plate.)

Photo 8: Pevo

I guess we should also say something about Polish beer (pevo).  Here are three bottles that have been residents of my refrigerator.  Just so you know, I drink no more than one per night.  Most so-called “beer” in the US – I will name no names, but all those that will be advertised during the Super Bowl – are to a real beer what a boxed cookie is to a cheesecake.  I guess I am the one asking for mead in the one TV ad.  Polish beer is quite good, and the better beers are outstanding.

Photo Set #01

Photo 1:  Kevin leaves for Poland (again)

I am leaving for Poland (again).  I did a sort of commentary blog during my first Poland sabbatical in 2012, and then a daily photo blog for the Fulbright in 2016-17.  We will make this sort of an occasional photo-commentary this time around: some interesting pictures, with some culture, language, history, and sights.

This first picture was taken the day before I left.  Yes, it is snowing (“śneig” – the accented s is a “sh” sound).  The physical plant had to remove a snowbank so we could get up the base of the sign for this picture.  Poland sees a LOT LESS snow, despite this being some 5 degrees higher latitude; there is presently no snow on the ground in northern Poland, though there is snow in the southern mountains.   I think the warmer conditions in northern Poland is caused in part by the Atlantic Gulf Stream with some influence by the nearby Baltic Sea.

Photo 2:  The Tram

Poland being a European city has a well-established tram system.  In the first couple of days in Poland I quickly got familiar again with the routes around my apartment and office.  By and large, I could probably move about the city easier by tram than by car.

Photo 3: Kevin’s work environment

This is my office (biuro).  My fancier microscope from the Fulbright is now in Warsawa.  There is a nearby table that will be generally full of volumes of Deep Sea Drilling literature.  I have some three or four projects from the past sabbatical, at least one big new project to do and another to start.  These papers can often take a long time.  I recently assisted some Polish colleagues down the hall with a very nice igneous paper that took three years to do (I helped with the English, not the igneous geology).


Photo 4:  Nearby grocery store.

This is the nearby grocery.  Polish salaries are not very high by our standards, and so most Polish cook their own food to save money.  People buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, and the variety of meats is quite extensive.  Also good cheese (ser).  I stop here most mornings on my way to the office to buy yogurt and some fruit.  Also at the grocery store, shovels are 18,99 ($5), next to this is antifreeze for 12,99 ($3.50).

Photo 5:  Groceries

Here are my groceries the day.  The food prices here are very inexpensive by our standards, but keep in mind salaries are low by about the same margins.  What you see here – two 2-liter containers of very good fruit juice, two mid-sized containers of yogurt, a 1,4 liter bottle of “bitter-lemon” soda (very good), some high-quality cooking oil and a four-pack of beer (piwo), plus the bag (you pay for that) – cost me 31,22 złoty [yes, Poles use commas instead of decimal points].  That amounts to $8.34 American (the 4-pack of beer is $2, and this is better than most-any beer in Caribou that you can buy in a can).

Photo 6a:  the Rotary Club

My first week in Poland is a lot about renewing acquaintances.  On Wednesday I had dinner with the UniversityChinese Club – I was not yet in the habit of taking pictures.  On Thursday, dinner at a local small (and locally historic) music hall with the Szczecin International Rotary Club.  Some good conversation.  The past president tells me about the Planet Head Day plans for the Interact Club…

Photo 6b: Rotary meal

My dinner at the Rotary meeting is a salad with some fried chicken (kurczak), some good bread … and very good Polish dark beer (served in a Guinness glass).

Photo 7: Dinner at Cutty Sark Pub

This is dinner on Friday at the Cutty Sark Pub with Cüneyt, a colleague from Turkey.  We talk a lot about the international activities at our Oceanography program at Szczecin.  (I have recently published a paper with another Turkish colleague).  Cüneyt is leaving in two days for a stay at another program in southeastern Poland – the total opposite end of the country from Szczecin.  He works to talk me into doing a talk at a phytoplankton conference there in May.

Photo 8a,b:  Farmers Market

This is my first Saturday morning in Szczecin, so I revert to my old habit of buying eggs (jajka, in cartons of ten) from a guy who comes from a nearby village to sell at the farmers market.  I also buy pears (gruszki) and a coat, as I only came with a light jacket.

Photo 9:  Dinner with friends

On Saturday (sabota) evening I have dinner with old neighbors and good friends Angieszka Babska and Krystoff Babski (the end of the last name changes with gender) and their twin children Maja (left) and Jeremy (next to the right).  They are 15 years old, and getting ready for high school, which in Poland is three years.  Maya plans to study law and Jeremy chemical engineering; he has already had three years of chemistry (in middle school!).  Krystoff does not come for dinner, but we all get together with another neighbor after dinner.



The conferences brings together, including three people who have between them jointly published more than 20 silicoflagellates articles.  From left to right are Ric Jordan (U. of Yamagata), myself (U. Maine at Presque Isle) and Jakub Witkowski (University Szczecin).

Children’s Cancer Hospital

Amidst the conference, I am asked to visit a local children’s cancer hospital.  This is in my apparent role as a “face” for the developing Planet Head Day in Poland.  I am no particular fan of hospitals but this one is very nice, with lots of children-painted or themed artwork.  I had the opportunity here to interact with Polish leukemia patients, who appreciate pictures of me with a shaved head.

Friends at Cutty Sark

Part of this visit is to go to the International Phycological Congress.  This brings together about 500 scientists and sci-students from around the world, including a fair number that have been students of mine at the siliceousl organism short course that I teach here every two years.  So we have all come together for some pevo at the Cutty Sark – a favorite watering hole near the department.  There must be friends from nearly ten countries sitting around the tables here.