Archive for August, 2004

August 27th, 2004

I’m standing at the corner of Don’t Walk and Don’t Walk

Greetings from Boston. This is a city full of bad drivers with short temper. I’m included to this category, at least accoding to my wife. And she is usually right in these things… I really don’t catch the idea behing keeping all pedestrian street lights in Don’t Walk mode, until all of them are released in Walk mode for extremely short while. There you dash in between of cars, trying to get cross the road and not get smashed while doing so.

Anyhow and despite the traffic, we managed to get back from short trip to Cape Cod. We saw the beaches and the gay mecca, Provincetown. Of course, a bowl of clam chowder was also part of the regime.

During the trip, we found out that Amazon.com had screwed up our order for some stuff to be delivered in New York. We are going there tomorrow, so time is running out… After trying a few times with their system and calling to Finland to check that our credit cards are still valid and have enough balance, Amazon.com wouldn’t still co-operate. I’m sitting now in Kinko’s, inputting credit card numbers once again to Amazon. After writing this article, I’ll check the status and maybe even call them — I found their customer service number from the Internet, but not from their site…

Otherwise, the holiday has been good for so far. We visited today a huge outlet complex some dozens of miles away from Boston downtown. Spend some bucks in Burberry and GAP outlets. What finds! Tomorrow, we’ll take train to NYC for more shopping and museums.

August 23rd, 2004

Iceland!

We have been now almost two days in Iceland; mostly in the Reykjavik region. The must see sights have been seen: Geysir (got a couple of photos of erupting geysir), Gulfoss waterfall, Thingvellir national park, Blue Lagoon and so on. Hope to be able to write longer stories in the future. Stay tuned.

August 20th, 2004

To Iceland and beyond!

Tomorrow we’ll start two weeks trip to Iceland and the United States. We’re going to visit in Reykjavik and the neighbourhoods for three days, then fly to Boston for another three days. There we’ll going to check Cape Cod and then take a train to NYC, and spend five days there. We’re going to visit Long Island, too. After NYC, we’ll board train to Washington D.C., spend three days there and then come back to Finland via Copenhagen.

I’m very excited about the trip. I haven’t been before in Iceland or Washington D.C., so there’ll be new things for me. I haven’t even flown with Icelandair before, so that’ll be new experience, too. In Iceland, we’ll going to spend some time in the golden circle, in Reykjavik centre and also in thermal springs.

Boston will be more laidback time, revitalising after Iceland and preparing for NYC. We’ve rented a car for visiting Cape Cod; hopefully the weather will be nice.

NYC is, of course, an endless source of things to do and see; and we’ll try to mix and match something new and old. At least, we should visit Guggenheim and MOMA, maybe also other museums and then shop till we drop. I’ve been saving money to be spent in the Fifth Avenue, and I’m waiting for visits to Prada and DKNY stores. This time, we’ll try some outlets, too.

Washington program seems to revolve around Smithsonian museums, and we’ll go to see the state monuments.

After two weeks, we’ll be most probably exhausted, but still strangely energised of everything that we saw and experienced.

I won’t have any laptop with me; I’m planning to buy one during the trip — but the details are still hazy. So don’t expect too frequent updates during the trip. Once we are back in Finland, I’ll spam the journal with all experiences and start to write reviews.

August 18th, 2004

Blogging with success

Keith Robinson had a recent article in his blog www.dkeithrobinson.com/asterisk/ an article about a successful blog. After reading the entry I pondered the message for a few days and today I read an article about service in Finnish leadership magazine Fakta and decided to form my own thoughts.

I have categorised the required items into two categories: crucial and good to have. If you fail with the crucial ones, you are doomed to be unsuccessful. If you fail with the good to have ones, your visitors do not get fully excited about your blog and you may loose them easier.

There is no good measurement for these things; it is more about how does it feel — about “the warm fuzzy feeling” or teddybear effect. People want to hug your blog.

First, let’s go with the crucial ones:

  • Good content. You simply live or die with this one. If you cannot write anything interesting, why somebody would be interested in your writing? Be consistent, write to the point. Be witty. If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it. Don’t allow your blog to degenerate into a link list or a collection of other people’s thoughts. Don’t get stuck to one or two subjects. Remember that to gather big amount of people to read your writing, you need to something that is universally interesting or has special appeal for certain niche.
  • Update frequently. Have something to say at least once a week. If you update less frequently, people tend to slow down the pace for checking updates on your site.
  • Know your audience and allow them to know you. Blogging is bi-directional activity. You write, they write. Provide thought provoking content and then get responded, argued and bashed by your audience. Interact with them! Show that you care that they care.
  • Allow people to leave on better mood. People should be happier or wiser after leaving your blog. Serve them well, make the blog your labour of love. Be funny, be witty (once again), make people laugh (with you, not at you).
  • Personality. You have to be a personal experience for your audience, not part of the masses. If you can’t spot the difference between your blog and randomly selected blogs, do something for it. Be proudly yourself and make friends through blogging.
  • Get incoming links. Superb content doesn’t help, if nobody can find your blog. Post your links to several places, interact with people, get your blog to blogrolls, have proper Google rating and spread the word. Be so interesting that your audience spreads the word for you.
  • Patience is virtue. No man is born as an angler. Learn while you go and publish your learnings, it makes your blog more interesting and can be really helpful for somebody in your audience. Don’t dream on success, act for it. But steadily, rushing will just repel your audience.

And then the good to have ones:

  • Vocabulary and grammar. If you cannot write proper English or you have limited set of words in your arsenal, you are seen unintelligent. How’s that for a label? Study and practice. Being native in English doesn’t usually help, as you may still be bad with the language. I’m not native (and it sometimes shows), but I try my best and I’m going to improve over the time. Oh, one more thing: avoid profanity.
  • Openness. Write about those things that you feel strongly. Remember that you don’t have to be open for every detail of your life — you act as in role; you are a blogger that may not be completely the same person as you are. If some topic is a sore spot for you, don’t touch it. Remember, onsistency and honesty are the keys here. You are not just writing a story, you are the story.
  • Usable and well designed site. Your site has to provide means for visitors to go around and reach all the corners and dark alleys, the buried content. With ease. It doesn’t hurt, if your site is visually pleasing. These all add credibility for the site. Don’t get too excited with visuality, as world is already full of good looking blogs with not much content. Images add eye candy to your posts; use them wisely.

As the last advice: don’t overdo anything. Find the balance in content, design and attitude towards your audience.

August 17th, 2004

Cooking sushi rice

I strangely found cooking sushi rice charmingly relaxing pastime. You have only to concentrate in certain small steps at a time: measure the rice, rinse the rice, cook the rice and spice the rice.

As you may guess, the rice is currently cooking and I’m waiting with the vinegar, salt and sugar for the last step. After that I’ll start to prepare the fish and vegetables. It’ll be fiesta tonight!

August 16th, 2004

Reviews open!

I’ve been active populating the reviews category in the blog. I finalised the reviews section for the travel tips on Sunday, and it required some data. In the future, these reviews will appear in more relaxed pace.

Check the reviews out on the reviews main page.

As technical note, the implementation of the reviews page was not very easy or comfortable project. The metadata handling in WordPress is mediocre as its best; I had to use most of my SQL skills to create speedy queries that would return the required data in one bunch, in correct order and without duplicates. Sometimes this caused to make query that takes data twice from the same table and then joins this with third table. Fortunately, these queries are far and between.

I can explain more about the system, if somebody is willing to hear.

The next task is most probably either porting/reimplementing an Amazon storefront from another site, or making some more changes to Shortstat — I have a big list of these in my head. Any preferences?

World’s biggest wooden church

Kerimäki church is the world’s biggest church made of wood. It is capable of sitting 5,000 people, and as one can guess, the interiors are huge.

The church is open every day during summer and you may go inside without fees. There is also a bell tower with a small cafe and postcard stand. You can climb to the bell tower to see nice view around Kerimäki and admire the church from bird perspective. Entrance fee one euro.

The world's largest church in Kerimäki

Drive to Kerimäki centre and you can spot the church easily on the hill.

August 15th, 2004

Style executed badly

Sherlock Holmes hotel interiors and location are wonderful, rooms are big and clean (with hardwood flooring), but the staff weren’t really up to their tasks. We had to wait for ten minutes or so to get coffee in the breakfast table and we were promptly ignored a couple of times. Check-out took also almost fifteen minutes.

Unlike most London hotels, Sherlock Holmes hotel has fitted sheets — loved by us Scandinavians. Our room was big and clean, luxury in London.

Price for double room: €160-300.

www.sherlockholmeshotel.com, 108 Baker Street, London W1U 6LJ, +44 20 7034 4830, info@sherlockholmeshotel.com.