Archive for March, 2011

March 25th, 2011

First time in a hotel in Joensuu

I’ve been lecturing in North Carelia University of Applied Sciences in Joensuu during the past two years. My typical trip includes me visiting my parents in Polvij√§rvi, about 40 kilometers from Joensuu, and spending a night there. If the course is near a weekend, I might extend my stay and bring the boys with me.

I was once again visiting Joensuu yesterday, but the trip was different. My parents are on the Canary Islands with my younger sister and her family, so the house is empty and nobody could pick me up from the railway station. I decided not to travel to Polvijärvi with a bus, as the timetables were not that optimal (very typical situation, by the way), but stay in a hotel in Joensuu.

I’ve lived in the neighbouring town for more than half of my life and visited Joensuu several times a year after moving to Helsinki region, and I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Joensuu. Needless to say, the experience was weird. I was in a familiar place, but the setting was different. For example, I’ve rarely walked across the bridges from the railway station to the city centre, and I rarely eat in a restaurant in Joensuu. Now I felt partially like a tourist and also somewhat like a local. It was wonderfully refreshing.

Huge science museum

The Field Museum is a must destination for families with children and for people interested in science and nature in general. The vast museum is located a few kilometers south from the Chicago downtown, and taxi is the easiest way to get there. Also public transportation works, at least according to the museum site.

There is a lot to explore for several hours, so chances are that you are not going to see everything. I skipped some of the exhibitions just to be able to enjoy the most interesting ones instead of walking my feet sore. The major perk, at least for me, were the fossils — a lot of different dinosaurs and early mammals, including (but not limited to) Tyrannosaurus rex and mammoths. You can spend a couple of hours marvelling the evolution of life. If you bring kids, be prepared to explain a lot of stuff and give answers to at least a million questions.

There was also interesting exhibitions about precious stones and metals, Tibet, ancient Egypt, and plants — to name a few. Besides exhibitions, there is a well-stocked shop and McDonald’s (yes, in a museum)., 1400 S Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois, USA, +1 312 922 9410

Impeccable luxury in Chicago

Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago is a monster of a name, but it happens to be also one of the best hotels I’ve ever experienced so far. There is no single thing that makes the hotel so awesome — instead, everything is just as it should be. The check-in was swift and really courteous, the bellboys were genuinely friendly and interested in my wellbeing, the concierge desk could provide all answers I needed, and so forth.

I had the smallest room on my floor, probably also in the hotel. It was still huge and had a good kitchenette with a microwave, a fridge, and a dishwasher. There were also enough glasses, plates, and utensils. The bathroom is also big and there is a proper shower — something that is missing from most US hotels. The bed was also huge, but maybe a bit too soft for my taste. Internet connection was excellent and complimentary. There is a spa with a big swimming pool, Finnish and Turkish saunas, and a gym that I didn’t visit.

The hotel is expensive and the minibar doubly so. I got a decent deal from a local travel bureau, and the hotel was the cheapest among five star hotels in Chicago., 401 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA, +1 312 644 0900

March 9th, 2011

DrupalCon in Chicago

I’m writing this in DrupalCon Chicago, while waiting the next presentation to start. Today is the first day of the conference, yesterday I participated in a CXO event that was, bluntly put, pretty worthless for me. Most of the stuff discussed were either rehashing my current knowledge or not relevant to me as an European.

During these two days, I’ve made the following observations:

  • I always forgot how many Americans have too big clothes, typically two sizes larger they should be. On the other hand, there has been some really nicely fitting clothes on more people than earlier — I find the development strangely comforting.
  • The amount of shirts with collars (I mean real collars, not polo shirts) has been surprisingly high for a tech conference. Some people have even ties — and no, they are not waiters.
  • Whenever I’m in a Drupal event outside Finland, someone — a lady — tells me that I look like Mark Wahlberg. This time I had to check what the guy looks like, and I found out that he’s more handsome, taller, and has better abs than me. Still, I’m grateful about those comments.

While not in the conference, I’ve been strolling around the city or hanging around the hotel — Trump International. I’ve found the city pretty pleasant and windy, quite industrial in its style. The hotel has been really nice, except for the bed that is way too soft — I feel that I’ve slept in a ‘V’ shape.

March 3rd, 2011

Pushing through ice

I’m writing this on board Tallink m/s Superstar on my way to Tallinn. Most of the Finnish gulf is covered with ice, the ship has sailed on free waters only for a few kilometers so far.

The ice field extends to the horizon, and it is fascinating to look from the ship’s cafeteria. The ships have crushed the ice several times day and then the sea has frozen again, making the ice look like a giant mosaic made of shades of whites, greys, and light greens.

One can feel the ship struggling while maneuvering through the ice, everything is vibrating and shaking, and we are moving half the normal speed.

The winds have not yet started to push the ice into packs — I’ve so far seen only small ones, about one meter high. It might be interesting, if this amount of ice gets packed in front of Helsinki or Tallinn. Fortunately, Finland has good feel of icebreakers…