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Archive for February, 2011

28.02.11 – My sister Kim and friend Dave are visiting. They both arrived (without luggage!) yesterday. Dave’s flight was on schedule but for some reason his bags didn’t make it. Kim’s flight was definitely off schedule due to a Winter storm in Cleveland, Ohio from where she was departing. She got in late last night after too much time spent in Washington Dulles Airport trying to reroute after a missed connection and a 6 hour layover in London. She had the trans-Atlantic, thousand yard stare as she came out of customs but she was in good spirits and already laughing about her ordeal.

Our first full day was a bit painful because we drank a bit too much wine the night before :) We rallied though and met up with Jaana and the kids for a walk through Kaivopuisto Park and beyond. The weather was unbelievably beautiful. The temperatures were just below freezing and the sun was out without a cloud in the sky. We had a great time.

Not the best pictures but I’m sure I’ll have plenty more over the course of the next week so stay tuned ;)

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Sledding Pastry???

27.02.11ShrovetideLaskiaispulla? Ash Wednesday? What?

There was a bit of excitement here in Finland this weekend as a traditional pastry called laskiaispulla was available “for a limited time only”. Jaana told us the word roughly translates to “sledding pastry.” Laskiaispulla is a pastry filled with marzipan or jam and whipped cream and only available for a couple of days this time of year.

As it turns out, the pastry is an old tradition with ties to Christian holidays with a Finnish twist added. The holiday is the period before Lent called Shrovetide. Lent is the period of preparation before Easter which is a time of self-denial and fasting, so I guess before you start fasting you might as well enjoy a treat? In the UK, the period is called Pancake Day. The Finnish twist is to reference something also popular this time of year… sledding.

We were lucky to try a couple of variations of the pastry, some definitely better than others. Personally, I thought the sledding was better ;)

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26.02.11 – I always try to split up my day with an early afternoon walk. It’s a very Finnish thing. No matter how low the temperatures dip, Finns make it a point to get outside for some fresh air and a bit of sunshine as much as possible. I’ve passed women out with baby strollers (pram) in near blizzard conditions. They instill the importance of getting outside daily in their children from day 1.

My favorite walk is still to get out on the frozen ocean whenever possible. I can be on the “water” in 5 minutes from my place. The ice is always smooth but not slippery, as it’s usually covered with a light bit of snow. It’s safe too because there are many paths and lots of footprints as well as several other people out for a walk or some nordic skiing.

I headed out today to see how far I could get out before I ran into a section where the ferries have passed through. The last picture above is where a ship had broken up the ice and all the other footsteps seemed to end. I marked my location with my iPhone map so you can get an idea how far out I was.

My sister Kim and friend Dave are on their way out to visit me in Finland. I can’t wait to take them out there. Kim better not chicken out ;)

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I love seeing photographs from other parts of the world. Who doesn’t? Checkout this post from Malaysia. Killer composition and beautiful colors.

Four Days In Penang – Part 2 Welcome back, this is Part 2 of the pics i took on my trip to Penang. Again, the pictures are random and in no particular order. Enjoy ;) Two more parts coming up! Come on, at least there are less parts compared to Star Wars. … Read More

via Gnostecism Vision

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25.02.11 – Finland, like most other countries, is doing it’s best to move towards greener, more renewable energy sources like wind and water to replace the more popular oil and wood burning options. The country is making news by setting the standards for a “green highway” and creative uses of harnessing heat byproducts from a new data center built in an old bomb shelter below Helsinki.

It’s hard to ignore the more traditional forms because there are a number of power plants along the coastline and the combination of the energy sources they are burning and the cold outside temperatures make for huge trails of steam/smoke in the sky. They’re hard to ignore so I spent some time walking around them and taking pictures.

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24.02.11 – You never know what you’ll find when you head out on a walk. My friend Dave and I headed out to a section of Helsinki to checkout an area he had heard about which had a communal garden and also some cool graffiti. We got off at the Kalasatama metro station because the area we were heading to was just across from the island the Helsinki Zoo is on, Korkeasaari.

The graffiti was interesting and the communal gardens was a small area covered in a meter of snow with a few dead branches sticking out of it but what really caught our eyes was an old wooden boat, propped up on land, which looked like it was being restored. The area we were in is a place where private boats and yachts are obviously stored during the winter.

The boats wooden hull was cracked with age and covered with a combination of ice crystals and what appeared to be frozen barnacles. None of my pictures of the entire boat looked that impressive but it was interesting to get in close and take pictures of the details. It was like nature’s graffiti ;)

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23.02.11 – I love taking the long way home ;) Whenever I have the time and given the option to take a slightly different route to my destination, I always opt for something new and different. I’ve been working on an idea for a business and I met with a graphic designer, Tex, who seems really cool and perfect for the project. I tend to get excited and animated when I’m talking about the project so by the time I left, I needed to “decompress.”

I decided to walk home from where we met in Katajanokka along the coast to my place in Punavuori. Once you get past the harbor, where the ships and tugs are constantly busting up trails in the ice, you get to undisturbed areas where you see more and more footprints and tracks leaving the sidewalks and out onto the ice. It was late in the day, but I had some time so I decided to divert and take the long way home.

The ice along the coast is usually full of people out for walks but at this time of the day, while the sunset was slowly changing shades of red, I was the only one. I walked out and around one of the little islands just off the coast. Once you reach the furthest point out, with the island behind you and blocking the city from view, you really get a feeling of solitude. I was still “high on life” so it was a welcome feeling. It reminded me of times when I have been camping and you stop to look around, feeling there isn’t another soul in the world, and you are content with life and loving the view.

The frozen world I was taking in at the moment could be seen by some as harsh, frozen and barren. When you look South, it really seems you can start walking in any direction because the surface is so flat and there are only a few rolling hills/islands off in the distance. The surface is smooth ice, covered with a fine layer of snow crystals which crunch underfoot. My eye was drawn to the few areas along the edge of the island where the ice had cracked and raised in sections. The red sunset was fighting a loosing battle and the world around me was becoming a beautiful blue.

Life was good in my world and I actually felt recharged from this little slice of solitude.

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22.02.11 – Finland’s schools are closed this week for Winter-Break. The break was originally called hiihtoloma or “skiing holiday” because it was used to help children develop their cross-country skiing skills. Most of Emma’s friends have left with their families to places like Spain or Dubai so I don’t think they will be honing their skiing skills.

We needed to find something to do outside so we decided to head South for a walk on the ice. The ice along the coast is solid and it’s not difficult to find cross-country skiing trails and foot paths to indicate safe travel. When we were out, there were a number of other people as far as the eye could see taking advantage of their free time like we were doing.

We hiked out a couple of kilometers to channel marker frozen solid in the ice. Although there were footprints continuing past the marker, we decided to turn back once we reached it. I’m not familiar with what the channel marker was indicating but there are a number of ferries which depart to St. Petersburg, Stockholm and Tallinn from either side of where we were walking so I knew we would eventually come to a point where there was a path cut in the ice from one of the daily ferries.

Our “trailhead” to the ice was located next to a popular restaurant called Cafe Carusel so on the way back home we warmed up with hot chocolate ;)

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21.02.11 – Max and I were doing some sledding at Kaivopuisto, the big park by the sea. The view is amazing from the top of the hill and Sunday’s weather was amazing… by Finnish standards. The temperatures dropped to almost -20°C over the night but as soon as the sun came up, and the sky was crystal clear, the thermometer climbed to just below freezing. It seemed as if the whole city was out taking advantage of the perfect day. We could see hundreds of people out walking on the Baltic ice. From our vantage point, they appeared to be busy little ants making their way through a small network of paths down below.

When we headed home, we decided to join the people below and take a more direct route to our neighborhood using a short cut over the ice. I noticed a couple of paragliders in the distance. I used to paraglide when I lived in Santa Barbara, CA, so the site of two paragliders in Helsinki, excuse the pun, made me freeze in my tracks. My first thoughts were, where did they launch from? There wasn’t a spot high enough for them to make it out there without power. They’re flight path took them right over us and as they got closer you could make out the “buzz” of their motors. I haven’t seen one of these in quite a while and the older versions were almost too loud, but these engines were pretty quiet and seemed to have enough power to do the job.

They buzzed the crowd below, made a couple of circles and then continued on their way along the coast. It looked like fun. I’ll look into these guys to see if there’s a club. Not that I have time right now, I have bigger fish to fry, but it’s good to see there are some options to paraglide even here in Finland ;)

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20.02.11 – Finns love talking about the weather. Saa is the word for weather in Finnish. I’m still at the point where I can only pick out words in conversations to guess at what people are talking about on the trams. You hear “saa” a lot.

The temperatures have really been diving down. -20°C has been the norm. One day it even dropped to -41°C in Lapland, which is luckily way far in the North. A number of factors make the freezing temperatures bearable. Longer days mean more sunlight, more sunlight means cold temperatures during the night make warmer days. Also, luckily, we haven’t had much wind which makes the wind chill factor exponentially harder to deal with. Lastly, the nights are usually the coldest so you plan on staying in where your apartment is warm and toasty.

One side note, I bought something called a Boxee which allows me to stream movies via the internet and so far it’s pretty cool (Thanks Mikko for the idea). The selection of movies I can download are way better than what I find in the local video rental stores. The qualities of the movies and tv shows on my HDTV and the speed at which they download are very impressive. At least now I don’t have to hustle down to the video store in the cold.

The shots above are from an advertising display on the trams in Helsinki. As you can tell, they’re talking about the current saa.

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