Thursday, 31 March 2011

World Penis Size Map

I found this somewhere online at some blog and I couldn't stop laughing... Talking about weird science! It would be interested to see how they do collect data...

Click the image to see it bigger(no pun intended)

So, where are you off to on vacation next?
You can find the whole thing here

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

First Glance of the Last One

‘The cause of Sexual Orientation’

That was the title of an article found some days ago in a Greek news website that I usually check. The article was referring to a neurotransmitter, called serotonin, a chemical brain substance that allegedly controls sexual behavior. According to the article, males lacking this substance showed a lack of interests towards females and more interest towards males. When more serotonin was injected, males renewed their interests to females.

This, according to the same article, was the first scientific proof that homosexuality is proven to be caused by a well known neurotransmitter and therefore controlled or affected. The experiment was done by Professor Yi Rao of the University of Beijing in mice and published in ‘Nature’ magazine.

What I didn’t like in the article was that the first couple of paragraphs do not mention that the experiments were done in mice and that sexual behavior in mice differs from the human sexual behavior. It refers vaguely on males, females and test subjects probably to impress. Although it does mention that drugs modifying serotonin levels are in use in humans for years without affecting the sexual orientation of the subjects, it is stated in the last paragraph. The article is quite lengthy and easily misleading. Someone speed reading it can easily miss that bit.

The article referring to the same scientific research in BBC is written quite differently. It states in the title that ‘Sexual preference chemical found in mice‘. Also there is a clear paragraph referring to humans mentioning the differences and how what happens in mice cannot be easily extended to what happens in humans.

It doesn’t of course come as a shock to me how propaganda works, however it never stops to amaze me. It is the same set of news presented in a totally different way. Homophobia in Greece is still very strong, especially in the media, and I wouldn’t easily expect to find an article from a gay friendly point of view or defending gay human rights.
It could be the case however that I am reading too much into this and that I might be wrong.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Being persistent…

When I was younger, I was never the patient one. I remember having ideas of starting or trying stuff out but after a while I would get bored and simply stop them. I have a list of such activities like joining a swimming pool club, a tennis club, a book reading club or starting painting lessons, writing a diary, joining the gym for a month or two at a time etc…

Lately however, I see that I’m getting more persistent and I do keep doing hobbies / activities for a longer period of time. It’s not easy to admit it, but maybe it is an age thing. You get more patient the older you are. For example, I’m a member of the same gym for more than 3 years and I do have the same personal trainer for almost 2. Last summer I’ve started writing down my weight fluctuations in an excel spreadsheet and it is still going, although the numbers are more depressing than before. If I find the nerves I will publish the graph. This blog is a good example as well counting a decent number of months.

Another activity than has evolved into a bug, is running. I can’t remember when I first tried it out with my friend ‘gb’ and whose idea was it at first. I do remember however that we started somewhere close to his house and after only running 0.7 miles I was already out of breath and in the verge of collapsing. He had to drag me along the route to finish a 2 miles run. Since then, things have changed.

Because of other things going in the way like friends or family visiting, the weather, my recent course and its exams or holidays, I haven’t been running as much as I would like. I have managed however in almost two years to finish 3 10k races and a half marathon. I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to raise some funds for some charities I find trustworthy in the process.

Poor ‘JJ’ had to be dragged into this. It wasn’t my idea though and he says he likes it. He is the one who drove me and ‘gb’ to do a half marathon last year in Bath (as described here) and it was simply a matter of time since he joined me around Thames for a short run. After that, we finished together a 10k run for ‘Cancer Research UK’ last October and we registered together for another half marathon coming in two weeks! Yeap, the race is on the 10th of April, in two weeks! Scary…

In order to get ready for this race, we are trying to properly train. There are things in our way but according to plan, last Saturday we did something very close to a full half marathon here, in London. We started at Richmond, ran through Richmond Park to Barnes, then Putney, Wandsworth and finally arrived at Wimbledon. The route was a bit hard since there are some steep hills in Richmond Park, however seeing rabbits, wild deer and falcons even in the heart of the city was worth it. It wasn't a fast race but I am happy we did it.

My legs were a bit sore the next day but nothing too serious that two days rest can’t fix. With that race under our belt though, we are one step closer to Edinburgh in 2 weeks! It will be so much fun…

PS. I am not sure how the Garmin link will look... Let me know if it's not right...

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Geeky Wednesday…

It’s no secret I’m a geek. I love my gadgets, my computer games, my comic books, fantasy novels, sci-fi movies and learning all sorts of technical stuff other (normal) people find boring. I simply have a thing for them. I am also the person my friends and relatives will come when it comes to finding answers to computer problems and issues. I’m not the best one there is and I do believe my knowledge in certain issues is limited, but in most cases I do know where to look for an answer (that’s the engineer in me).

By the way: what’s the difference between a ‘geek’ and a ‘nerd’? Which is worse?
I mentioned I am a geek and not a nerd because I do have a social life and I know how to behave with other human beings who haven’t watched ‘Star Wars’ a million times or aren’t a fan of ‘The big Bang theory’!

Anyway, this is my geek update.

This Christmas, I’ve purchased a new laptop. I got a Sony VAIO E series that is able to run games I couldn’t play before. So, I’ve recently restarted devoting some time to them again. Playing games is not such a high priority (as it used to be) and I do it only when I want to relax at home. I’m not addicted or anything. I still prefer spending time with friends and ‘JJ’ than sitting at home in front of a 15’’ screen.

Loving Strategy and RPG games, I bought ‘Starcraft II’, ‘Fallout 3’ and ‘Civilisation V’. I wasn’t disappointed by any of them. Starcraft II is amazing and lives up to the expectation of its predecessor. It took Blizzard 12 years to release the sequel to ‘Starcraft’, which is one of my favourite games, but it was worth it. It only has a single campaign, for humans, but there are quite a few battles to keep you happily occupied for a long time. The graphics, physics and tactics of the game are all very appealing. I can’t wait for the release of the rest of the campaigns.

’Fallout 3’ as well is extraordinary. The world it produces is massive and your character can evolve in so many different ways. There are many quests that can be completed in different ways, affecting the rest of the story, making the game very interesting. It looks a lot like ‘Oblivion’ since it uses the same graphic engine but the world is so different. ‘Civilisation V’ was a bit of a disappointment since I believe it’s not that good as the previous one. The graphics are nicer and some aspects have improved but in general I believe it has been simplified to appeal to console gamers. It can still offer some hours of fun but I’d prefer playing version ‘IV’ to ‘V’. I will now invest some time in ‘Dragon Age: Origins’ and maybe ‘Dead Space’.

On the fantasy book front, I’ve recently finished ‘A game of Thrones (A song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)’ by George R. R. Martin. This book was recommended to me by an acquaintance from a gay dating site a couple of years ago. (Yes, this is the topics I have when meeting someone new.) I had bought this book in autumn but I’ve now just managed to sit down and read it and I have to say I loved it. The characters are not single dimensional and the plot has quite a few interesting twists. I like fantasy books with a dark twist in them. I bought and read the book before learning about the US TV adaptation. If anyone has watched it, is it any good? Has it started yet?

I’m now reading the ‘The painted Man (Demon Trilogy)’ by Peter V. Brett aka ‘The Wicked Man’ in the States. I generally take a break between reading a book series not to get tired by the same heroes and stories. I’ll pick up the second book of the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ later. So, I’ve read the first 100 pages of ‘The Painted Man’ and I have to admit I like his way of writing. It’s a bit too soon to say though if the whole book is any good or not but for the moment, I quite enjoy it.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Saturday awesomeness

This Saturday was quite special. If any of you remember (and there is absolutely no reason why you should) I bought for JJ, last December, a trial flight lesson for our first year anniversary. Last Saturday, it was the time to actually take advantage of the voucher and go together for his lesson.

Of course, I was preparing myself (and him) for the worse case scenario. I knew that the voucher said 1 hour flight lesson, but there was absolutely no guarantee how long would be the actual flight time. Also, I didn’t know if there would be other trainees with JJ and for how long he would be able to use the controls and actually fly the plane. Finally, living in the UK taught me to worry about the weather. In case of a foggy, rainy, clouded morning, there would be absolutely no pleasure in a bumpy, blind flight.

Thankfully, I was proven very wrong…

We woke up Saturday morning quite early. We had booked the lesson early in the morning since the trainer suggested that the air currents and visibility are better then. The airdrome close to Gatwick airport would be an hour’s drive anyway so we had to have an early start. The weather looked really promising. There was absolutely no cloud in the sky and the temperature was about 10 degrees. It looked like spring arrived! It was an absolute delight.

We arrived earlier than expected and we were greeted by the flight instructor called John. He seemed very nice, polite (and cute). There was a small confusion with the booking because they had problems with their booking system. At some point we thought that there would be a four seat Cessna available that would allow me in the passenger’s seat as well but alas at the end it was just JJ and John in a two seated Cessna 152.

Our plane, the Cessna 152 that JJ flew

Anyway, after 15 minutes for refueling the plane, John showing to ‘JJ’ how the flaps work (on the ground) and me taking the necessary pictures, they were getting ready to board! We were both amazed that ‘JJ’ sat on the actual pilot’s seat!

John checking the controls before takeoff

When the plane’s doors closed I went to the aerodrome’s café to wait for the end of the lesson. I had a nice view of the helicopter training school, I had already a magazine with me and I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee under the warming sun. There were quite a few families coming to watch the small planes and helicopters and enjoy the warm weather outside. An hour approximately later I saw them land and park the plane in the designated place.

My view from the coffee shop

‘JJ’ was ecstatic! He loved the whole experience so much and I felt so happy and proud of him. Apart from the actual take-off and landing he was in charge of the plane. John was only pointing out where to go and which meter readings to check. They flew over Tunbridge Wells and they managed to see the Millennium Dome and Canary Wharf of London.

The day was still young and the weather beautiful and since we had the car, we decided to drive to Brighton. Of course I made fun of JJ on how he would now have to drive a simple, stupid, not flying car again. Brighton was packed with people having the same idea as we did. It was very nice to see the sea and enjoy the sun though.

Brighton lovely weather

The Brighton Pier

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Coming Out Meme

I'm taking this interesting meme from 'Patently Queer', who took it from 'The state of Nation UK', who...
You know how it goes:

Name: Nik
Country: UK
Age: 30
How old were you when you first realized you were gay? I had a ‘revelation’ moment at 21 when someone told me ‘you’re gay’. I knew that moment that I could never go back and my world changed. I described that story here.
Do you have more gay friends or straight friends? I believe straight
Biggest turn on? Blue eyes. Humour. Hairy chest
Biggest turn off? Arrogance. Hypocrisy. People with attitude
Ever been harassed due to your orientation? No. Luckily, I wasn’t bullied at school but I was called names in some occasions even before I suspected I was gay.
Have you ever been surprised at the reaction of people who know you are gay? Yes, surprised that they already suspected and simply didn’t care
What is the worst gay stereotype? Drug taking, promiscuous behavior.
Are you a stereotype? Nope
Ever been to a pride rally? Twice in London since I moved here
Do you go to gay bars? Rarely. There isn’t a decent one in the neighborhood and I don’t really see the point of travelling all the way to the city centre for a drink that I could have with friends in my area. I will go to a gay club to dance though sometimes.
How old were you when you first told someone you were gay? 21
Did you plan it? If so, how? I planned it. I needed to put it out of my chest. I took my female best friend of the time for a drink. I made a huge introduction about admitting something really serious and I blurred it out. By the time I admitted it she was scared shitless that I had a very serious health problem that she actually told me off for making the situation so grave.
What made you choose that person to tell? She was my best friend at the time. She still is one of my best friends.
How did you feel? Very relieved that she took it so well. I feared the worse. I made scenarios in my mind about her not talking to me ever again
Have you ever been snubbed by someone after coming out to them? No
Have you come out to your family? Yes. They are not totally OK with it, but we’re getting there. It just needs time
Why did you come out at that point? I was financially and personally stable. I had come to terms with it and I couldn’t hide any more.
Are you out at work? Yes
If not, why not?
If you’ve been outed unwillingly, who did it? It was unwillingly and I was outed by another gay colleague. It's all explained here. It was for the best though.
What does being out mean to you? I believe that every gay person has to go through a process of accepting who they are. For some that process takes longer and is tougher. For others it’s easier. Being out means that at least you’ve accepted the truth and you are willing to share it with the rest of world.
What advice would you give someone wanting to come out? Do not worry so much about it. Most people might already suspect or know. You will feel so much better after coming out that is all worth whatever risk there might be. In due time, it will definitely be for the best. It all gets better
If you could do it all again, would you do it any differently? If so, how? I made my choices and I know the reasons I had for taking them. I don’t think I would have done it differently.

I believe this song is relevant.

Unfortunately in my PC at the moment there is no audio output, so I can't check its quality. If it's bad let me know and I'll change it.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Venice Calling part 2…

I’m back to London, older, wiser and happier (part 2).

Anyway, taking a glimpse of the Carnival was really nice but the rest of our holiday was amazing as well. Each morning we would take the ‘vaporetto’, which is the local water bus, to a different part of the city and we would try to walk back to the hotel, wandering the small streets, visiting places and trying local delicacies.

We visited the Guggenheim museum, a very old Gothic church, the San Marco church and the naval museum. We tried pizza with prosciutto, ravioli with salmon, bistecca, seafood, fresh fish, tiramisu and all sort of other delicacies. Needless to say that I gained 1.5 – 2 kilos while staying there apart from the miles of walking we did everyday.

On my birthday we visited ‘Murano’ which is another island in the same lagoon, famous for its glass making industry. They have a tradition of producing very good quality air blown glass ornaments. We didn’t really buy anything but the journey, watching a demonstration of how they create their goods and walking around the island was really nice. We spent the evening in Venice in a really nice jazz bar after visiting yet another wonderful restaurant.

The last evening of our trip we heard some arias as well. We booked tickets and we visited a Palazzo where the event would take place. There was a pianist and two opera singers. Taking turns, they played classical music and sang beautifully well known Italian arias. It was all very nice. We were surprised to see at the end of the performances that the piano used was a Bechstein donated by A. Hitler!

The only grey thing of the whole journey was the call I received from my father for my birthday. When he called to wish me happy birthday his tone was very serious and after telling me the typical wishes, he quickly ended the discussion by telling me to ‘put some brain in my head’ (βάλε λίγο μυαλό στο κεφάλι σου)! That’s a very Greek expression about wishing someone to start thinking straight (excuse the pun) or more maturely.

He was clearly unhappy that I was openly away with a boyfriend on vacation. That fact put an extra gravity to an issue he would like to forget. He couldn’t openly quarrel with me on the phone but wanted to make his point. I don’t think he will easily open another discussion about my homosexuality. He wouldn’t even like to acknowledge it and mention words like ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’. I can see in my head the discussion between my parents. My father would ask my mother ‘who is Nik going on vacation with?’ and she would simply disapprovingly nod her head and reply ‘can’t you guess?’.

Of course I didn’t let this incident mess with my mood and holidays. It did annoy me a bit though. I had such a nice time and that is what I am concentrating on.
I did miss StevieB’s FIVE DEGREE meme though. When I got back everybody was finishing with it… boo… :-(

the view of the Grand Canal.

View from above from Campanile

The jazz bar had a very cute bartender and series of bras on the ceiling donated by customers.

Me, goofing around

delicious food in every corner

The Grand Canal during sunset

The gondolas of San Marco waiting for passengers

Monday, 14 March 2011

Venice Calling…

I’m back to London, older, wiser and happier.

I had a blast in Venice. The place is amazing. It has a unique character I haven’t seen anywhere else during my few trips. The streets, if you can call them that since they are so tiny, create a maze of small alleys, bridges, churches and small restaurants. I wasn’t that impressed with the city centre, the San Marco’s square, as I was by the rest of Venice. We loved walking around, taking pictures (I only took around 300 of them), watching the boats/gondolas passing by and enjoying the weather and food.

Luckily for us, without even knowing about it or planning it, we arrived in Venice the last day of the carnival. We followed the big crowds to the city centre and we saw the amazing costumes they were wearing. I’m attaching to you some of the pictures I took just the first day. I’ll create a second post for the rest of the days. These people really enjoy and live for the Carnival.

Unfortunately, the place for its uniqueness and small size is amazingly expensive. You have to really be careful what to order and from where. Just an espresso coffee in San Marco’s square is about €8.4 (11.5$)! We tried to find smaller restaurants outside the city centre that looked like places locals would go. We also tried to speak Italian and act the part. The places we found were amazing, the food delicious, in quantity and fresh ingredients. I simply love Italian food…

These people dress up magnificently and simply stand on San Marco's square for the tourists to take picture of them. They are street artists without asking for money:

These students were dressed like 'Tetris' blocks taking various forms. They were laughing so much and us with them...

There were many shops selling extravagant masks like these... There were so colourfull!

Friday, 4 March 2011

The countdown…

In less than a week’s time it’s my birthday. What’s a bit special about that is the fact that I’m turning 30, the big three and Oh! It’s quite a nice number and it’s the change of a decade, so everybody’s been telling me to do something extravagant / different that I will remember for the decade to come.

I have been fortunate enough to have memorable celebrations of my birthdays, good or bad. I remember children parties with friends from school, I remember dressing up parties and dancing till the morning in university, I remember serving in the army guarding a post at 4:00 in the morning in freezing cold and I remember being in Las Vegas the year after.

What’s a bit special about turning thirty is my past and how I viewed back then this milestone. When I was a young 14 – 19 year old lad, during my teenage years, I was so closeted, I couldn’t even see any light outside the closet. I remember having these depression crises wondering why this ‘thing’ had happened to me and why I was having these different feelings. I remember asking this unanswered ‘why?’ and ‘why did it have to happen to me?’ over and over again without of course getting any answers.

I was afraid of everything. I was afraid that the ‘awful’ truth would come out. I was afraid that I would disappoint my parents and friends. I was afraid that people would think I’m a freak and I would end up eternally alone not having the courage or the chance to fall in love and have a ‘normal’ life (as they believe it to be). According to the media back then (and sometimes still now), gay people do not get a chance to create a happy family. They all end up badly either being brutally murdered, dying from overdose or becoming prostitutes.

During these times I was foolishly thinking like that since I didn’t know any better. There was no internet to find likeminded people, no gay friendly places to go in my small town, or even a family or friend acquaintance to ask for advice. I was having some dark thoughts. My desperation and loneliness made me think that this kind of life is not worth living and I had thought of suicide. I had decided though that I would give my life a chance until I was thirty (thankfully)! I was sure that if by that time, I was still alone to that degree, still closeted and depressed, I was just put a stop to it.

That is why turning 30 is now so important. I started thinking again about how I was feeling then and my journey to this point. I’d really like to think that if my teenage self could see where I am now, he would be happy or at least content. Life can be a real pain in the butt sometimes, that’s no big secret, but generally she can be so good sometimes. What I believe I lacked back then was hope. That is why I loved initiatives like ‘It gets better’. I am so grateful for so many things in life now, many more than I was back then.

Generally, I’m not worried about growing older (yet). OK, I have recently noticed a dark hair or two on my chest giving me a fright (but at least my round face remains unwrinkled). I feel like I have so many things to see and do. I have so many unfulfilled dreams and goals that will take at least another 35 years to accomplish so I will be busy till I reach 70.

So, the bottom line is that it’s time to celebrate! I’ve already been to the Opera this week; I was taken to a magnificent restaurant called ‘Babylon’ (with a bill matching my vacation budget) and to the theatre to watch ‘The children’s hour’ yesterday. The latter was really amazing. The cast and the direction were simply exquisite. I didn’t think that Keira Knightley could act so well. I feared she would be cold, distant and boring but she wasn’t. I also loved the rest of the cast which included big names like the Golden Globe nominated Elisabeth Moss, the award winning Ellen Burstyn and the award nominated Carol Kane. I don't watch Mad Men so I didn't really know Moss but I loved movies with Burstyn and Kane and I was looking forward to seeing them too.

The final act of my birthday celebration is that JJ is taking me away for the week. We’re flying Tuesday morning for a few days to Venice. I’ve never been there before and I hope I’ll love it. Everybody’s been saying that it’s simply amazing. I promise to take lots and lots of pictures to show you. I simply can’t wait.

(I hope this post doesn't seem like I'm bragging about myself. I just want to say how grateful and happy I am)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Yesterday, I went with JJ to the ‘Royal Albert Hall’ to watch Puccini’s ‘Mme Butterfly’. I had watched the same production again a couple of years ago but JJ said that he’s never been to the Opera and he’d like to watch one. There is something with gay people and ‘Opera’. I believe they love the drama, the tragic endings and the costumes. Or should I blame Tom Hanks in ‘Philadelphia’ and that amazing Maria Callas scene?

Anyway, I couldn’t really say no and I always enjoy going to the Royal Albert Hall. I was lucky enough when I was younger in Greece to go to the Opera House often since my brother’s best friend was the production manager and could give us very good tickets for free. So, I have seen a few good productions there.

Mme Butterfly’s story is not that original. It’s about a young Japanese girl getting married to a handsome American Lieutenant and her tragic fate. What happens at the end is what you’d expect would happen but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Opera is mostly about the sentiments generated from the music, the passion and the singing. Generally the production is very good and I would recommend to people thinking of watching it. There are lots of people on stage at any given time, extras performing everyday stuff like fishing or knitting giving a really nice Japanese touch to the experience.

Unfortunately for me, it was in English and I couldn’t really understand most of the dialogs. Opera singing in English is incomprehensible. Of course I could understand what was generally going on but not the details. That fact made ‘Mme Butterfly’ slightly tiring and at times boring. I might be wrong but the productions I had seen previously in Greece were all in Italian, their original language, and subtitles where presented over the stage for the viewers. That way, it was much easier to understand the plot. Fortunately, we had really good sits, first row, and we enjoyed what was going on the stage. Is this something they generally do in the UK? I’ve only seen this one production, so I can’t really tell…

That's my picture from our sits.

Anyway, today I have my 15th month anniversary with JJ. No, the number 15 doesn’t mean anything and we won’t do anything special to celebrate. We just text each other every month in the morning wishing a happy anniversary. It's no big deal, I just remembered it.