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Gamer’s Paradise

Being a self-confessed nerd I’ve been wanting to visit the Helsinki Computer and Games Console museum for quite some time, but hadn’t got around to it until now. Tucked away above an electronics outlet, this began as a hobbyist’s collection and has grown into the archive that it is now. It feels a bit odd seeing items that I remember buying when they were brand new, now turning up as exhibits in glass cabinets, but here they are. Spread over two floors, the museum is still pretty small… in fact, it contains about as many old games consoles and computers as I have in my garage. However, that probably says more about me and my compulsive tech-hoarding over the years.

As well as old desktop computers, like the Amiga 1200 and the ZX Spectrum, there is an example of just about every major games console that’s been released, including the CDi and Atari Jaguar. Plenty have their controllers and accessories too, though I’m not sure which games machine had a plug-in grenade, or even how it was used – but there is one here. As well as all the exhibits, there are TV screens showing rolling commercials for things like the original NES, Super Mario breakfast cereal and the ‘1984’ Apple Macintosh advert.

I guess it’s odd to see these things on display 1) because they are from my life time, so they don’t seem old enough to be in a museum and 2) we usually throw away old electrical items (in a WEEE compliant manner of disposal, of course). For a geek like me though, it was an enjoyable trip down memory lane. I still wish I could unlock that cabinet and power up the Sega Dreamcast for another run through of Shenmue though…

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Technology

 

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Older Still

“You’re older than you’ve ever been… and now you’re even older…” goes the song by They Might Be Giants. I’ve been celebrating my birthday whilst on holiday for several years now. In fact, I’d probably have to get a calendar out to determine the last time my birthday fell on a day when I was in England. Actually, since I’ve asked myself out loud at least twice today what the date is… maybe keeping track of time just isn’t my thing.

After a breakfast consisting of more cinnamon rolls and very black coffee (like the day before) I reverted to a psychologically 8 year old state for present opening, which has never lost its appeal. Although now I’m older I do clear up the wrapping paper and recycle it, which I never did when I was actually 8 years old. As well as some funky shaving accessories, the Sock Mistress gave me a Kobo Mini eReader, which I’m going to enjoy greatly. Although I have a Kindle already, the Kobo Mini is much smaller and will be travelling with me whilst the Kindle will live on top of my bedside drawers.

Since the weather has been changeable this week, I hadn’t made any particular plans to go too far off the beaten track today – just to shop and eat my way around Helsinki. This turned out to be exactly the right thing to do, from Stockmann’s department store and the Swedish Theatre café to the Virgin Oil Company restaurant, for cocktails and (massive) pizzas! If you can’t be self-indulgent on your birthday, then you just need to learn how to work harder at it. Being on holiday as well just makes things even better, and we’re only halfway through the first week!

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Holidays

 

A Jolly Holiday

Finally, I find myself on holiday! The Sock Mistress and I have been counting down the days, weeks… months… until now and at last we have left England behind – our annual trip to Finland is upon us, and not moment too soon. This should guarantee the British Isles two solid weeks of uninterrupted sunshine, if recent history is to be repeated. Typically the weather perks up as soon as my passport is electronically scanned at Helsinki Vantaa airport. However, it is late May so perhaps it is just a coincidence…

Travelling here was mostly pleasant, aside from some turbulence flying over Stockholm. The pilot seemed to be blaming this on the Swedes themselves, in a joke that perhaps lost a little in the translation. Finnish humour is supposed to be an oxymoron, according to their Nordic and Scandinavian neighbours, so happy Finns should be a rare thing. On the other hand, although the Finnish national ice hockey team may have not won the world championships in Minsk this year, at least they did better than Sweden – and that’s something that every Finnish sports fan can smile about.

Having visited the Finnish capital and its surrounding area several times in the past, there are fewer and fewer new things to see or do each year. However, this doesn’t make the place any less interesting as a holiday destination, it just means that what was a novelty or a discovery before has become an old favourite that I associate with being here. Speaking of which, though they are a little sweet for me, having korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls) and very black coffee for breakfast is a great way to acclimatise my psyche to my Finnish surroundings. With that kind of fuel inside me, I’ll be ready to face the day!Helsthr

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Holidays

 

A Window to Faraway

I’m currently sat out in my garden, skimming through today’s news whilst listening online to the recent EU Commissioner debates (The other big competition that’s brought to us citizens of Europe by Eurovision). The sun is shining as I enjoy my breakfast, in fact if the weather reports are to believed, today will be the hottest day of the year in England. Unaccustomed as we are to sunshine in this country, this makes it very easy for me for me to imagine that I’m actually far away from where I actually am.

The weekend has arrived and I’m only four working days away from going on holiday – when I really will be far away from here. Thankfully the list of things ‘to-do’ that stand in my way between now and mentally clocking off are relatively few. The Blackberry will be switched off and its nagging red light will not be pestering me for attention – the LED equivalent of Japanese water torture. Whilst some of my colleagues are happy to check their emails whilst on leave, I find nothing admirable about it. It’s a mistake to think that you’ve been productive or effect just because you skim read a message from the accounts department whilst sunbathing with your wife/husband/2.4 children etc.

When I am on holiday, the mental energy that I normally expend on work-related matters is far better spent on reading menus, booking tickets for excursions and finally finishing books that I downloaded during the Kindle sale last Xmas. Instead of sprinting between Tube stations to make connections I want to be reclining in coffee shops watching the rest of the world pass by me. Weekends that bookend busy weeks don’t always present enough opportunities to do these things, but trying to making the time stretch so that it fits is always desirable. On this, the sunniest day of the year, making the time fit feels a little bit easier for me.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Holidays, Inspiration

 

Escape Velocity

With Spring time comes sunny days, longer days and best of all – holidays! By some horrendous cruelty of The Fates, I’ve not managed to take any holiday from work yet this year. That’s not a complete tragedy, I have taken long weekends here and there, but not what you’d call a proper break. As such, with two weeks of holiday just around the corner, I’m getting rather excited. Spreading the fortnight across Finland, Sweden and Estonia will make for a fabulous Nordic/Scandinavian style adventure, with plenty of opportunities for fun, frolicking and generally leaving all work related baggage far behind. The tickets are booked, the apartment is reserved and the GBPs are soon to become EURs (with a few SEKs thrown in for good measure). I’ll be getting myself into the right frame of mind by listening to Finnish/Swedish chart music on my Nokia MixRadio app, watching Finnish movies (Iron Sky is on Netflix in its director’s cut form) and getting outside as much as the English weather will allow me. Whilst I only have a skewed, tourist’s eye view of the places I visit, there are just certain things that I associate with my (almost) annual jaunts to Helsinki, Stockholm and anywhere else that is a reasonable excursion away. Long walks and very long days are certainly a couple of them, as well as adjusting to those light nights followed by early dawns.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Holidays

 

Buffeting

I’ve eaten a lot of hotel buffet food this year, not by choice – well, not directly. Hotel buffets are a tricky thing for me to navigate, since I find it hard to fight the temptation to fill my plate until it starts to sag with the weight of the food. In particular, at breakfast time this is an oddity. Normally I can manage two slices of toast and a coffee, then I’ll be full for the morning.  Put me in a hotel though and suddenly I want a full English breakfast, with extra pain-au-chocolate on the side and a pile of salami.

I have gradually got better over the years, usually I compromise and have one or two cooked items with my toast and then tear myself away from the communal trough.  Usually a sausage on the side of my scrambled egg will feed my cravings whilst not overfilling me too much.  I guess there’s a human instinct to eat whenever food is plentiful, in case it’s going to be taken away.  In a land of plenty, that’s not so much of an issue – but the hunger pangs remain.

…and another thing… grapefruit juice! I never have it at home, but I must have it at the breakfast buffet. Why on earth is that???

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Socks

 

On Rails Shooter

I like trains, be they old and steam driven or new and bullet shaped.  One of the nice things about my job is that I do get to travel on trains a lot… unfortunately one of the bad things is that I have to travel on trains a lot… It’s funny how something that you normally like can be spoiled when you’re not doing it for leisure purposes.

Having recently tried out the Heathrow Express I can (gladly) report that this bucks the trend.  It’s faster than any of the alternative routes from London to the airport, though more expensive, but since I have had to use it for work purposes – I would normally expect this to sour the experience.  Not so! It’s so much faster that I don’t mind using it, plus the on board WiFi is a godsend.

If all trains in the UK were like this, I think more people would use them – as opposed to begrudgingly use them.  However, that’s just not practical or likely to happen so we end up with the mish-mash of services that we currently have. Even the staff on the HEX are exceptionally helpful, I supposed they must have black belts in customer service to prepare them for all the confused and jet lagged tourists they must encounter on a daily basis.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Socks