Monday, May 15, 2006

1st day of ISAS finished

We finished our first day of the ISAS conference today. This is my first semi-academic conference (and my first contribution to a conference paper). It is a really interesting experience because of the mix of people focusing on problems that seem entirely academic (not to mention really mathematical... I'm pretty sure every presentation today used Markov Chains) and people focusing on more practical problems like what happens to storage availability when you do things like plug in new spares or hot-swap controllers. Our presentation is the last one tomorrow (2-day conference) so I'm not sure if anybody is going to be there or if the people who are there will be antsy for beer.

Speaking of beer, there is lots of good beer here. Much of it comes from Czech or Belgium, but it's all good. I went to a Czech restaurant for dinner last night down by the train station. I ordered the house special, which is a 1 kg pork knuckle. If you want to see how much that is in pounds, click here. If you want to see it in ounces, click here. Yes, it was freaking huge. Some of that was the bone of course, but it was a gigantic amount of pork, all of which was super tender and juicy. Served with sauteed onions and potatoes, as well a very hoppy Czech beer.

This dinner was after I had gone down to the huge Helsinki Cathedral, Tuomiokirkko to watch the Cantores Minores boys choir perform a Mother's day concert. They had about 8 different ensembles ranging from little little kids to junior high and high school age. At the end they did a combined set, which was a lot of people. I was able to snag a last minute single-seat in the 2nd row, but it looked pretty sold out otherwise. The sound of the hall was fantastic... I would love to hear a classical music concert in there.

Tonight the conference organizers planned a dinner cruise on the M/aux Kathrina. This is a huge 3-masted schooner 31.75 meters in length. The food was great, and it was nice to talk to new people from the conference and see the view of the city from the water.

Check out my Helsinki Photo set.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Americans are obnoxious?

Americans who travel to Europe hear it all the time. "Americans are loud and obnoxious". It has caused overseas Americans to don clothes bearing the Canadian maple leaf to make people think they are of a more genteel culture.

While there may be some element of truth to this (you'll often hear Europeans saying "Well, none of the people I personally know are like that...."), I just realized Europeans are even worse. I spent some time in the Frankfurt airport this morning waiting for my connection to Helsinki, and there were people smoking in the terminal gate! Now come on. Smoking in public is INFINITELY more obnoxious than being loud. When are Europeans going to learn that smoking is disgusting? If I had to choose one or the other I'd rather see a druggie shooting heroin in the corner of the room. It may be unsightly, but at least it doesn't give me a headache!

I made it safely to Helsinki. The weather here is awesome! If you want to see what the weather is like, click here. If you want to know what time it is, click here.

I am going to head out and walk around Central Helsinki this afternoon/evening. Need to find some things to do. Perhaps I can do one of those dinner cruises around the city or something. Helsinki is on the water... check out the map. My hotel is in the south west, near than big Number 51. It is about a 20 minute walk to the city center. I'm borrowing an HP R725 camera to see if I want to buy one, so we'll see how well the pictures come out.