Category Archives: Travels

Travels

Siamese Dreams

Thai Sunset

Back in Denmark after almost 3 weeks in Thailand. We landed in Copenhagen on Friday, de-stressed and re-charged. Ready to seize everyday life and make it wonderful.

I’ve posted some of our travel pictures on my 23 account. I won’t really bother to go into too many details about our trip. We spend a few days (and Christmas eve) in Bangkok before heading south to Koh Chang, staying there for New Year’s (albeit with a nasty bout of diarrhea that dampened the big night), beforing heading back to Bangkok to buy belated Christmas presents and try out Theravada Buddhist meditation.

But now, I’m back. And I feel like writing. So expect more blogging to come.

Summer 2007 pt. 3: Tuscany

Coming home from Finland, I had 18 hours in Copenhagen to repack and reorganize before setting off for Pisa with my mother, my brother and sister, my stepfather and his whole family. Coming from the erratic and rainy Scandinavian summer weather, it was great to see some stable sunshine, hang out by the pool, read lots of books, see a bit of Renaissance art, and most importantly hanging out with the clan which was lots of fun (except when all 13 of us, spread across 3 generations with widely different interests and agendas had to go do anything touristy together. Luckily, we did well to organize ourselves into smaller groups for most excursions).

Tuscany is a great place, though understandably crowded with tourists at this time of year. It is amazing how perfectly sunny the weather is, how perfectly sun-ripe the vegetables are, how well-tasting even the simplest meal is. Once away from the main body of tourists at the local agri-turismo (we stayed in a small village called Barberino Val d’Elsa halfway between Florence and Siena), you batteries recharge surprisingly quickly, allowing you to come home with the necessary mental and solar surplus to keep you going at home.

Tuscan Night

Summer 2007 pt. 2: Finland, Finland, Finland

The place where I quite want to be. If it wasn’t for the mosquitoes.

With just a short stop at home to repack my gear in the early hours of Saturday morning, I sped off to spend a week in Finland with my father and aunt visiting my uncle Taff who moved up there last year to start an organic farm far out in the Finnish lakeland.

The quiet woods of Finland was probably the sharpest contrast to the loud, drunken festival muddiness I could find. We stayed in Taff’s summer cottage off the Saima lake, 20 kilometres from the nearest town, without running water or electricity. But with plenty of firewood and a lake-side sauna. If it hadn’t been for the extremely active and ferocious mosquitoes, it would have been great (but, I am told mosquito season only lasts 6 weeks in July and August, so it seems that there are plenty of reasons to go back).

It is a wonder how small you feel among these huge trees and lakes in a place where the sun really doesn’t seem to set. Standing by the lake and taking in the quiet is a very fulfilling experience. Most of all because it is not actually quiet. There is an ambient background of distant birdsong, insects buzzing across the water, fish touching the surface from beneath to cause ripples. It is peaceful.

My father took a boatload of pictures, of which I’ve picked a few to sum up the week. He didn’t like having too many landscape photos without people in them, but I like them as they remind me of that magic tranquility.

sun-spotted rock

More trees

lake seen through the trees

The sun not quite setting

View of the lake from the summer cottage

Taff in the lake

This is the summer cottage, as seen from the lake shore:

Summer cottage

And Taff and Nikki’s farm, as seen from the forest around it:

Juvola farm

Oh, and I should mention that Taff is quite keen on letting the cottage to people interested in experiencing the Finnish tranquility for a week or two. The cottage doesn’t have a website yet, but you can comment here, and I’ll get you in touch with him. The cottage is located 40 km from Savonlinna in eastern Finland – about 3-4 hours drive from both Helsinki and Tampere airports.

Seattle

Rainy grey Seattle. Yet always the magical thrill of seeing the hint of mountains in the distance.

Staying with Stefan and Karen Lise:

Stefan og Karen Lise

Disappointment at the Space Needle. They should have kept it orange.

Walking through Pike Place Market. The inevitable curiosa shops, the throwing fish market. The convinced Left Bank Books where fierce hope reigns still (I bought A People’s History of the United States there for Stefan).

Walking in the Discovery Park to find the Daybreak Star Cultural Centre, a haven for Native Americans in the Seattle area and a natural point of attraction for passing anthropologists. The Native Americans are only represented through their artifacts, their totem poles. The city generally giving the impression that they aren’t here anymore and are of no influence or relevance.

They’re still there.

Walking through the greatest rainfall of any November in the history of the city. Walking back from the pub through the university campus one night when the raining finally had ceased. Only to find that the university grass sprinkling system had been activated, sprinkling even more water onto the soaked lawns!

The amazing story of the Underground beneath Seattle.

The Columbia Centre Skyscraper:

Skyscraper

And the views from its 73rd floor:

Seattleite Sunset

Stefan in Seattle

The joy of hanging out with a photogenic couple:

Karen Lise and Stefan's reflection

Getting a well-cooked Thai meal at the tiniest, busiest restaurant in the University district, Thai Tom’s – all while listening to grooving reggae. Who would have thought that reggae and Thai food go so well together?

The idea that you can use the premise of installing Linux on somebody’s computer as a way to get a date. Well, at least a “maybe-date”.

Vancouver

More notes from my trip abroad:

Rainy grey Vancouver. Yet always the magical thrill of seeing the hint of mountains in the distance.

Meeting up with James, Stefan and Karen Lise – sharing our secrets in Danish to be drowned out by the multi-cultural roar of the city.

The “strip” of Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. Intensely grimy urban, dirty wet streets reflecting the neon-lighted facades in a very Blade Runner like way. Constant down-pour.

Visiting Stanley Park. The husky atmosphere of the forest, dripping wet and heavy with life:

Stanley Park

San Francisco

I’ve just arrived back in Copenhagen after two weeks on the west coast of North America: San Francisco, Vancouver and Seattle. I barely managed to blog while I was there, simply because I was so busy taking it all in.

Luckily, taking it in for me also means taking down some notes once in a while, and along the way I invested in what Simon calls a “hipster PDA” to contain my random scribblings. So my recollections from my trip will not be very coherent, more random notes and points.

Arriving in the US and being told over the loudspeakers that “We are currently at Homeland Security Threat Level Orange” before having to submit to x-ray scanning of my shoes and fingerprint and photo registration to gain entry into the land of the free.

The Ubuntu Developer Summit, meeting people and again being surprised at how different they are from the mental images you build while interacting with them on-line.

Hanging out with Leslie and friends at her house. Immersing myself in the geek ghettos of Silicon Valley.

Seeing all the lovely Ubuntu hackers again after having visited so many of them individually. Seeing the community shaping and re-shaping itself intensely.

Sneaking off from the Summit hotel on Wednesday evening with Simon to the Dorkbot session in San Francisco, seeing a wondrous sound visualization program and hearing of how the Aphex Twin song commonly referred to as “Complex Mathematical Equation” is in fact an image as sound. So that when played and visualized, the intended image is shown.

Meeting Simon’s friends Meredith and Jake and going out for excellent sushi – including the amazing Wasabi Tobiko roll which is a taste powerhouse concealed in Flying Fish roe:

Wasabi Tobiko Roll

Going to Jake’s apartment afterwards for late night coffee. Meeting his housemate Alex and ending up crashing on their couch which allowed me easy access to downtown San Francisco for sight seeing the following day.

Not bringing my camera to San Francisco.

Walking up and down the hilly streets of the city, breathing the sea air, getting lost and getting my bearings in yet another iconic location.

Taking the Caltrain back to Sunnyvale in the evening. Getting lost and walking for miles along 4-lane streets with no sidewalks in a suburban Silicon Valley landscape designed for cars. With huge parking lots, blocks and drive-in stores. Navigating home safely all the same.

A Dane in Norway

I just came back from 4 days in Norway late last night, having only two days to prepare for my trip to California.

Going to Norway is like entering a big Danish thesaurus. All the words are recognizable and usable in Danish, they’re just not that common. Here’s a list of some of the Norwegian words I noted:

‘Vakker’ rather than ‘smuk’
‘Kjeltring’ rather than ‘forbryder’
‘løvskåret skinke’ rather than ‘fintskåret skinke’
‘Minnepinne’ rather than ‘memory stick’ (good Danish that)

Further, the Norwegian language is like Danish just littered with spelling mistakes – which makes it even more interesting and can create some curious misconceptions. For instance the way that Danish ‘kneb’ (Danish for ‘trick’) is subtly changed to ‘knep’ (Danish for ‘fuck’).

Or my personal favourite, one of the biggest Danish gossip magazines is called ‘Her og nu’ has a Norwegian pendant called ‘Her & Nå’

Which in Danish is like turning ‘here and now’ into ‘here and so’ – the question mark almost pronounced with it. I find this hilarious since it pretty much sums up my attitude to gossip magazines in that Danish word: “Nå?”

Travelling in pins

Badges: KDE, Foyle's, Leonardo di Vinci

I’ve bought or were given several pins during my tour of the British Isles.

I got the KDE pin at the aKademy, and it sums up the atmosphere at the conference quite well: Even the man sitting at the counter in the hostel got free Kubuntu CDs to showcase KDE, that passion and outgoing interest in spreading that passion is infectious.

I left Dublin and the aKademy conference at the end of September to go to London where I stayed with my friend Bryan who I met during my semester in Manchester last year. He has since finished his Ph.D in Mathematics, moved to London and got a job as an investment banker. He still hasn’t gotten used to being elevated to the higher echelons of the capitalist system, and it was very interesting to hear stories from a world of which I know almost nothing.

One of the smaller benefits of that kind of job is all the extra free stuff the bankers get. They can just go down to the reception and get free tickets to most of the major art exhibitions in town, and when I came by, Bryan had gotten tickets for the exhibition of Leonardo di Vinci’s notebooks at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The exhibition was tiny, with no more than around 15 pages on display. All of them written in Leonardo’s trademark mirror handwriting which when you saw it on the page looked so tiny. He must have had really good eyesight. I got the “Genius” pin there, though I don’t feel brilliant enough to wear it. Maybe I can pass it off to one of my informants.

Later, after a two-day excursion to Cambridge in the middle of last week, I went to Foyle’s bookshop on Charing Cross Road and lured myself into buying several books which I am now obliged to lug around for the rest of my trip. The friendly shopkeeper gave me a little “Independent Thinker” pin to go with it. And who wouldn’t like to mark themselves as such?

KDE signatures

One of the frustrations with being on the road doing my fieldwork is that I can’t be on-line often enough to keep a solid presence in the Ubuntu community or even on my blog.

The birthday consumption of my bottle of Danish herb snaps on my last night at the aKademy
resulted in seven KDE contributors signing a pound coin with hopes of creating a cult item to be auctioned on e-bay:

Signed pound coin detail

Since there wasn’t a whole lot of room for signatures on such a pound coin, we added a Certificate of Authenticity to go with it:

Certificate of Authenticity

For those not in the know, the wantonness is a KDE in-joke, and the signatures belong to

Adriaan de Groot, KDE Quality Czar
Allen Sandfeld Jensen, KHTML Wiz
Ellen Reitmayr, affectionately known as ‘Usability-Ellen’.
Dirk Müller, one of the old Konquerors.
Florian Grässle, Master of usability and snaps-swigging both.. 😉
Robert Knight, young champion of the Konsole.
Tobias Klein, KDE PIMpster extraordinaire.

Now, I don’t actually like e-bay very much, nor do I have a usable account there, so there’s no auction yet before I get back to Denmark and have better time for arranging it. But I can say as much as that all the proceeds will go directly to furthering the cause of KDE. 🙂

B-Day!

So today I turn 26. With the bare minimum of fanfare, being in the field in Dublin. But even with little fanfare, it is always nice to get the digital birthday greetings from home on a day like this. Thank you for the thoughts. I hope you’re all taking good care of yourselves wherever you may be.

Though I haven’t told a lot of people about my birthday, I still got a cake:

B-day cake! Yay!

Courtesy of the ever-thoughtful KDE usability expert, Ellen.


Tonight a whole bunch of the remaining people here will go to a Japanese noodle restaurant and treat ourselves to a proper meal – something surprisingly rare in Dublin where most meals involve crips, chips and deepfrying.
Being prepared, I have brought some quality original Danish spirit to combine the meal with Danish birthday celebrations in a proper fusion cooking event:

It's porse! it's snaps! It goes well with sushi! (maybe!)

So, if you’re excited about this and want part of the action. Just fly to Dublin! We’ll be meeting at 8 PM sharp on the campus of the glorious Trinity College in central Dublin and walk to the restaurant. More specifically, we’ll be meeting just outside of the fantastic edifice housing the hack-labs for this year’s aKademy conference, the appropriately monikered PC-huts:

Imposing!

Yes, they are basically containers full of computers. But they are nice containers! Okay, they’re not. But at least we won’t be eating our noodles there. 🙂