Sunday, November 08, 2009

Places I've been

This is a really silly idea I got from here. Funny how it is too large for twitter, doesn't go into facebook, but feels too trivial for the blog.

I would love to expand this map slightly as well, I'm not nearly traveled enough.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Muhu Fish Café (Kala Kohvik) - adorably simple and good

What is a fish café? Why create a fish café? How does a fish café work?

Regardless, as we're travelling through Noarootsi, to Haapsalu and then Saaremaa across Muhu by car, we decided to make a quick stop at the Muhu fish café.

The small old man behind the counter is apologizing for not being an experienced waiter. He has spent his life as a long-distance freight sailor but now he's retired to fishing for the café, fresh fish which his wife cooks. And of course being a slightly clumsy but very pleasant waiter.

At 250 EEK we filled our bellies with fish pie, fish soup, fish patties and pan-fried flat-fish with potatoes, a cup of herbal tea, black tea and finally some homey pancakes and make-do takeaway coffee cup. It was simple, and delicious.

The Muhu fish café is located just on the south side along road 10 across Muhu. It's well worth a stop.

(PS. Being in Estonia, of course they have free WiFi here as well)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Connecting networks across borders

Today I decided to mix the InterNations network with twitter, let's see if the seed sprouts:

The purpose of this is as obvious and simple as it is limited - to enable InterNations people to find each other on twitter, and to make InterNations a little bit more visible on twitter. Can't be all bad, can it?

InterNations is a pretty amazing network with local chapters in lots of cities around the globe, but it is facing an ongoing discussion on how to relate to existing and possibly competing networks. My spirit, coming from the Gnosjö area, is simple - be great at what you do, and be open and friendly to everyone else. Isolationism doesn't work.

Sometimes people as for my email, or my blog, or my flickr page, and I am a little confused everytime. What do you mean? Google me? Use "unclecj" as my nickname if you're lazy. I do keep some sort of list of where I have my profiles on different networks, but it is poorly updated so finding one service through the other or google are more reliable.

I am not kidding when I say that I am almost everywhere. It's great when the networks lower the threshold for people to get hooked by turning the signup the right way around for example by using cookies, allowing you to claim the account later, or using either of Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, Yahoo! OpenID, Windows Live ID or just OpenID. Asking someone to sign up is a huge threshold, if you manage a network you have to deal with that. Knowing this, I disregard the threshold and allow myself to create accounts everywhere, but I am not an average user...

So, to not make this a lenghty post - see you on the internets, anywhere!

(PS. If you're interested in seeing more of InterNations, it's an invite only network, but I can get you in, just drop me a line with your email address)

Monday, July 06, 2009

Laulupidu - if you really like shoving (a brief study of human herd behaviour)

This weekend I attended the traditional Estonian Song Festival. As other times when I have been at the song- or dance-festivals, it's an amazing experience, partly because of the truly adorable and beautiful traditional costumes, songs etc., but of course also because it's not every day you get to be one of 80 000 people in a crowd watching another 26 000 people in a "choir" (this has to be considered something like a "meta-choir" by then I think).

Actually, Estonians sometimes say it is the world's largest choir, which is pretty far from true. The record is roughly 100 000 in the Indian city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, and before that there was a 72-year-standing record of 60 000 in Wroclaw, Poland.

For a nerd who don't know much Estonian and who is easily distracted though, it easily turns into an improvised exploration of herd behaviour. Like when I figured I would go exploring for some precious šašlõkk (it took roughly an hour, I dropped half of it but at least I had fun) and it started raining. Obviously I was not the only one to get an uncomfortable panopticon feeling of "where could I escape?" when everyone else pulled on their rain-ponchos. It was even a bit funny how the american girl remarked something about "getting separated in cattle wagons like in the holocaust". Anyway, it all ended when found what seemed like a very determined person to follow in the slipstream of.

As anyone who has played OpenTTD will know, congestion avoidance is more complicated than just enabling huge throughput. The new Lauluväljak bathrooms may according to this have been a clever example of engineering, or a somewhat functional mistake, depending on how you view it - visitors in need were squeezed both in and out through a tiny door just where all sinks were, into a huge space of urinals of which more than 50% were unoccupied.

Similarly, essentially all of the lawn in the slope of the song-festival grounds was full, but still large amounts of people were squeezing themselves into the corridors between sectors, usually to end up standing along the sides (the corridors of course fit only a fraction of the people already sitting on the lawn) or slowly shoving themselves through to the other side - and it's a pretty large area to cross! Some... even had baby-strollers with them.

I can't imagine why not more is done to make this magnificent event into something more comfortable, safe and child-friendly. It's nothing a bunch of MOJO, some admittance estimates and some good guidelines couldn't fix. It pains my nerd heart. The ever-present irony of congestion is of course how throughput radically decreases when a link is overloaded.

Check out my pictures tagged laulupidu, or this excellent slideshow below of interesting public pictures tagged with laulupidu (my friend Steve also has cool pictures on Facebook - here's of the parade too):

(PS. So that patriotic Estonians won't locate and beat me up - I do not actually think crowd control is more fascinating than the Laulupidu, it just makes more sense for me to write about)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sad and alcoholic Estonia - pictures linked to thousands of words

More sad stuff here and here

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

1st of May - let's make it our Estonia!

Just a minor notice to curb the emptiness gripping this blog. I simply don't have the time to blog nearly as much as I would want, and so be it. But this Friday anyway, the "Let's do it!" group "My Estonia" project is coming up - forming thousands of one-day think tanks to brainstorm great ideas in various areas for the civic development of Estonia. You don't have to believe that it will change the world, but I am anyway immensely impressed with the scale of it, wish them all the luck (because I can't participate myself) and would love to see more things like this in the world. Civic involvement really could use big jump back up in the statistics.

Also, do check out the other "Let's do it!"-projects, and their plans to take the "cleanup day" global: my bookmarks tagged "teemeära"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Technology in Soviet Estonia


It always feels a bit corny when media brings it up, but now the "cyber war" again for some reason has been mentioned both by SVT Dokument Utifrån (translated here) and PRI's The World Technology Podcast. Comments on the cyber war are usually distinctively low on substance for anyone with any significant knowledge in computer security, which is interesting - I have heard it rumored that there were significant tougher-than-scriptkiddie-activity during the attacks, others stress the lack of any proof of organized crime or Russian-funded involvement. Regardless of whether anyone knew the facts, any old-media reporting about hacking activity and cyber-crime is still stuck somewhere in the 90's, and no-one seems to have read Daemon.

Anyway, regarding SVT I just wish that Hasse Svens (baltic correspondent) would quit his blatant twisting of the situation in the baltics - most recently he thought it relevent when reporting from the financial crisis in Riga to mention that there was a bum outside the Swedbank office and that the ATM was out of order (?!). Seriously Hasse, can we try to sustain some height in the reporting please?

photo by Mark McLaughlin, CC-licensed from flickr The WTP also had BBC's Frank Gardner (I would love to get in touch with him by the way!... or wait, he's not exactly an Estonia correspondent) speak a bit about great Estonian technology such as Skype, and how we use our cellphones to pay for parking. I should probably be happy that I'm getting blasé about such reports, but here in Eastern Europe former Soviet countries we've really had all of that for years. Maybe it's because I'm in the startup business, but you swedes should try to imagine your office letting you be efficient and save money by using Skype (including group chat, SkypeOut and conference calls), Google Apps, Dropbox, digital signatures and S/MIME encryption as well as various open source technologies. Geesh...

Final curious thing WTP mentioned was privacy concerns related to the recently released Google Latitude. Here they were so clearly representing the old thinking (the one which includes trying to hide your email address from being found on the web), whereas what I see more and more is that regular people (I.e. not the nerds) mostly want to have fun and use services without any hassle. When was the last time you heard a normal person being concerned about GMail filtering your emails for suitable adwords, Facebook 3rd party application developers data mining your contacts data or even making sure their email passwords aren't picked up by WiFi sniffers? Pretty much never.

My suggestion for a fresh attitude towards privacy issues is one of awareness, but also realizing what the general public can willingly accept. Take some care to protect your very private things, but unless you have very serious reasons, you are probably better off participating in the world where all the others go and if that turns out to be a privacy problem, just cross that creek when we get there. Anything else is simply futile and alienating yourself from the general public you are so concerned for. Also, stop worrying so much about "big brother" and open your eyes to what corporations and people around you can do with the information they have about you. Data mining and direct marketing (preferably of the type which you don't even notice and certainly isn't annoyed by) is becoming great business, mark my words.

(Update: Now that I have seen the SVT Dokument Utifrån "Nätkriget" documentary, I must say as much as I'm not surprised about the oldfashioned hacker romanticizing and complete lack of redeeming qualities in the first half of the program, I'm somewhat surprised that the second half was somewhat accurate and interesting, including an interview with an actual russian hacker-for-hire.

Still, it was obviously a reactive and post-the-fact documentary, including the inaccurate animations dumbing-down ("snuttifiera") the topic to a childish and inaccurate level. It tries to give the impression that it is a proactive and warning-about-the-future documentary, while it is actually repeating the same things said since mid 90's and barely begins to grasp the state of computer security today.

If professionals really have not learnt the lesson since Mitnick that hackers do not primarily hack where it is the hardest - finding security holes in the programs, but where it is easiest, around the people and protocols in which the programs exist, we really are done for, and they can play their silly catch-the-flag wargames best they want. Instead of spending our tax money on constructing truly agile and robust systems... )

(Update 2: Regarding Swedish media and to dumb-down ("snuttifiera") I read an excellent post by Josefin Deiving (translated here). She is a social democrat quoting a simplifying and generalizing Chomsky, but despite that I don't agree with either, this was pretty interesting )

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Swedes in Estonia

This Friday evening I finally managed to catch up with the Swedes meeting every week in Hell Hunt! It's telling that I have been in Estonia for more than two years, I have heard that swedes go to Hell Hunt on some day every week, but I have just been too busy and content with my social life to bother to figure out more about them.

Actually, I tried googling and reading on the Swedish COC to figure out where and when I could find the swedes, with little luck. It amazes me how hard people make it to find some of their things! I hope the Swedes will allow me to at least somewhat enable the connections between people, a little bit like the OpenCoffee Club.

Meeting the people at Hell Hunt this Friday was so nice! It was so peculiar to hear Swedish guys ranting about soccer and just being guys with their snus and all, but it was also so good to meet genuine Swedes in Estonia. There is something about your nationality after all...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Walking helmets to become mandatory by law in Sweden?

I recently borrowed a pretty hilarious book - "I trygghetsnarkomanernas land - Sverige och det nationella paniksyndromet" ("In the land of the safetyaddicts - Sweden and the national panic disorder") by David Eberhard. You probably can tell where this is heading, but I want to make a small quote below:

"... There is also a significant tendency, as with psychiatric traditional agoraphobia, that the behaviour accellerates over time. When you have prohibited the residents to ride without seatbelt or motorcycle helmet then automatically comes the requirement for bicycle helmet and seatbelt in the back seat. Every prohibition leads to another prohibition which in turn makes the nation's citizens wonder how earlier generations could survive at all. Will there in the future be raised requirements for mandatory walking helmets? It may sound improbable, but it's sufficient that one researcher can show that you can save the lives of five or six babies per year if they use walking helmets and the law will arrive like a letter in the mail!"

Do check out the rest of my books (and our bookshelf) and another review of this book.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Valaste turned to ice again

It seems, according to EPL, that the area of the Valaste waterfall (that's in northeast Estonia) has frozen over again. The terrain there is just brilliantly engineered - "I know, let's make a creek which runs out to a couple-meter-waterfall, but by the seaside, so that there will be winds to blow the water back on land! Then it should efficiently cover the surroundings in a couple of centimeters of ice-cold wet sludge which will eventually freeze into a cool natural phenomenon a couple of days per year"

I have my pictures which got published last year here:

Also, do note that since I use CC-licensing, you can download huge (near-original) versions of most my pictures, to use for background pictures or whatever you want. CC (and the freesouls project for people) is a great way to find pictures whenever you need them:

Thursday, January 08, 2009

My first time at OpenCoffee Club Tallinn


Not sure if this belong in this blog or the nerd blog, since it's about techie stuff in Estonia - but I visited the Open Coffee Club Tallinn today.

In Ülemiste City Mercado it's a bit out of the way, but it was so worth it. I was a bit shy before, thinking that maybe everyone would be speaking Estonian and all too serious for my sort of... freely associative thinking.

Turned out I recognized the first guy I walked into, and essentially the second one as well, we took a table for ourselves and the event took off! It was very nice, somewhat professionally rewarding and great for ideas. Actually, one guy into SEO essentially repeated one of my favorite ideas out to me, word by word :-) . Proves one of my principles of that you're not usually alone about great ideas, you must dare to check out the competition.

Some of you readers may still think Estonia is a backwards Eastern European country, but the Tallinn OpenCoffee Club, and something I saw the other day reminded me that's not the case. In Sweden I've always been reminded not to bring gadgets out in public, and you're a bit of a freak to work on the laptop in a café - in the Viru Keskus mall the other day, there were three different people sitting on the benches by the escalators with their laptops, one of which was a MacBook Pro. That's so non-Swedish.

By the way, you cool people I met there, maybe you want to follow my twitter, jaiku or other stuff online.

If you couldn't come this time, next time if you feel that some networking and cool discussions would do you better than spending that hour in the office, just come show up! Come and go whenever it suits you, and if you don't know anyone, squeeze into some conversation. Also I noticed at least two groups with English as primary language, so that was no problem either.