Archive for October, 2010

October 24th, 2010

In Lego event with Aapo

As frequent readers know already, I and Aapo have been preparing for a Lego event throughout the summer and early fall. The concept of the event is that people bring their own built models, specifically houses to a huge Lego city, for everyone to admire.

I found out the event back in May, when I was in Germany and just going to visit Legoland near Münich. I spent quite a lot of time in the shops selling individual blocks… Fortunately I did that, as some of the blocks were invaluable.

At then end, I and Aapo — at least somewhat — built two houses. Red hotel for the old town, and a white department store to the new town. There was also a country side area, but I didn’t have enough time to build anything there — I had plans, though.

Lego Hotel
Lego Department Store

Building these took around a month and a half of calendar time, maybe around 10-20 hours each house. The hotel was more complicated to build, as it has a lot of details on the facade.

The event was held on the last weekend, and on Saturday I packed the Legos along some clothing and other essentials to our car and drove with Aapo to Ilmajoki, some 350 kilometers north from Espoo. The original idea was to go there with Aapo’s cousin and his dad, and then met another five years old from Oulu, also travelling with his dad — but both had to cancel due to illness and last minute schedule conflict. So I ended up being on the road just with Aapo.

While driving to Ilmajoki, we popped over to Ideapark near Tampere and raided about ten stores in an hour. We found something worth buying in every store except one. Aapo and Niilo got some Legos, DVDs, CD, and I got a couple of books. A shopping success in every aspects, as most of the items were on sale. After that spending spree we arrived finally to Ilmajoki, put our buildings on their places in the town plan, chatted for a while, and then drove to Seinäjoki for the hotel. Ilmajoki is such a small place that there are no hotels, so Seinäjoki was the first choice for accommodation.

The hotel, Sokos Hotel Lakeus, had seen its best days like a decade ago, but the room was tolerable and with a recently built sauna. We visited the city centre of Seinäjoki just to found out that everything was already closed. We ended up to a pseudo-TexMex place, Amarillo, and ate surprisingly good food. Maybe we were hungry. After that sauna and then Aapo dozed off. I spent my time reading the second part of Stockholm Noir trilogy by Jens Lapidus.

Sunday morning was frosty and we had summer tires under our car… Fortunately the temperature was above zero after the breakfast and the roads were just wet. The event would open at noon, so we had some time to spent and went to swim — not to a lake, but to the local swimming hall. After that we visited local Prisma to get even more Legos and some food for the afternoon.

We spent around five hours in the event, I took around 150 photos and spent time by chatting with other builders. Aapo checked everything, grew a bit bored, and then spent rest of the afternoon driving radio-controlled cars. The event ended at six, and we packed our buildings in a hurry, and sped off towards Espoo. The temperature was dropping all the time, and I wanted to get as far as possible while it would be above zero. Aapo watched DVDs on the back seat and we stopped only once for a convenience break in Tampere. The roads were dry around Tampere and the temperature never dropped below one centigrade, so we had no hassles with the weather.

I’ve uploaded the photos to Flickr, check out my PiiPoo 2010 set.

Abysmally slow service

Le Cercle des Voyageurs is a nice looking restaurant next to Manneken Pis statue in the epicenter of Brussels. We had a huge amount of people, around 40, having dinner, and experienced really, really, really slow service.

It is understandable that it might take some time to cook and serve food for such a big party, but the whole dinner took more than four hours. First, we waited for the starters for two hours and then only one waitress took care of serving us. It took almost fifteen minutes to get food for everyone, and some were already eaten while others waited for the food. Then we waited for some for the main course, and again for the dessert.

The best parts are yet to come: a) all portions could have been made beforehand, as we had salmon carpaccio, meat pot, and tiramisu; b) the food was not that good — except for the tiramisu (that didn’t taste like a real tiramisu — I don’t like as it contains coffee — but something else that was better suited for my taste).

I left before the bill was given, so I cannot say how much more the people had to wait there.

Good food in relaxed atmosphere

Babeko is a bistro style restaurant in the centre of Brussels, located among other similar kind of restaurants. I visited the place during a conference trip, as the first night dinner was hosted there.

The food was good, and the service was relaxed in a positive way — no fuss, no hassle, just working and kind service. Three course set menu was served in less than three hours for 30+ people, and there were always enough wine and bread on the tables. The price and quality ratio was good.

Babeko, Place Sainte Catherine 26, Brussels, Belgium

Just okay accommodation

Radisson Blu Royal is pretty conveniently located hotel in the centre of Brussels — just a few minutes walk from the central railway station. If you are a first-timer in Brussels, it might be easier to hop in a cab instead of trying to find your way through Brussels maze of streets. Navigating phone or a good map helps, though.

The room was large, but a bit rundown, like the rest of the hotel. The furniture was old and worn, and the bathroom would benefit from renovation. The only modern item in the room was the minibar that was automatic (gosh I hate these things!). Fortunately the bed was big and comfortable.

Wifi connection was free and it worked like a charm for the first day, and then experienced some issues during the next. I could conduct all my business needs, but browsing for fun was not that pleasurable.

www.radissonblu.com, Rue du Fossé-aux-Loups 47 / Wolvengracht 47, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2 219 2828

October 13th, 2010

DrupalCXO in Brussels

I spent the previous weekend in Brussels, mingling with other CEOs, CTOs and other “C-level people” of Drupal shops in DrupalCXO meeting, organised by a few active CEOs. Bulk of the work was carried out by Kristof Van Tomme — thanks for all the hard work, it was really appreciated. The mini-conference was held in Microsoft premises — a surprise host for a LAMP open source project people — and the arrangements were very good.

I flew in with a couple of other Finnish Drupal shop CEOs on Friday, had a good dinner with about half of the participants later in the evening, and then hit the bunk at Radisson Blu. Saturday was spent in the conference and then in probably one of the slowest dinners that I’ve encountered. The diners were active, but it took more than two hours to get the appetisers served, and the total length of the dinner was more than four hours. Insane.

On Sunday we continued with the same topic until mid-afternoon, and the rest of the day was spent at the airport. I managed to crunch a few issues out from a project, shopped some Belgian chocolate, and then had peaceful flight back to Finland.

After working ten days in a row, I’m anxiously waiting for the next weekend and some time off — I and Aapo are going to visit a Lego building fair in Pohjanmaa, some 350 kilometers north of Helsinki.

October 3rd, 2010

In Polvijärvi with the boys

I’m writing this in my old room (in which I grow up) in my parents’ house in Polvijärvi, Northern Carelia.

I’ve arrived here yesterday by train with Aapo and Niilo. The purpose of the trip is twofold; I’m consulting the local polytechnic on Monday, and boys are enjoying the company of their grandparents and vice versa.

The train trip has always been surprisingly easy, despite that it takes almost five hours. The Finnish Railroads have furnished one of the cars with a play area, and the kids spent most of their time there. I coded a couple of hours and spent time on the Internet through my mobile.

Today is a double vacation day for me: no work (except if I choose to work), and someone else is tending the kids.

We’ll fly back on Monday evening, and I’m expecting a no-hassle flight — for some odd reason boys behave way better when there’s only one guardian. Maybe they seek mental support from each others and try to help me instead of fooling around and fighting.