Ross Castle hospitality

Ross Castle, in the village of Ross, co Meath, a couple hours of drive from Dublin, is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy Irish countryside and hospitality. We spent two nights in this cozy small castle and will certainly return someday.

The building consists of old tower that was originally built in 16th century and rebuilt after destruction in 19th century, and a side wing building that was built in 1960’s on the foundings of older building. One part of the buildings foundations used to be a chapel. The place is filled with antiques, stuffed animals and old books. Definitely worth driving through narrow roads and small villages.

Guestbook is filled with stories from very satisfied visitors and of course, ghost stories.

Many visitors have heard weird noises, knocking on the front door, heavy breathing, footsteps on tower staircase, toilets flushing without anyone being there, seen childrens cradle rocking, glowing orbs and a spirit of a young woman.

I didn’t see or hear anything but a Canadian couple that slept in the tower told us that they could hear lots of ghost noises during the night. This place itself can easily give the creeps to even the most sceptic people; not in a negative way but as an exciting experience in front of fireplace, telling ghost stories to each other.

Food is excellent and the coffee is probably the best in Ireland. The host couple is very nice and we truly enjoyed their hospitality.

I certainly recommend visiting Ross Castle. Spend a night or two and relax.

Audience makes the show

Sometimes when a foreign superstar comes to Finland to perform, they tell in an interview, that Finnish audience is the best in the world.

Of course they are just polite and want to make their audience feel that they really are the best.

My opinion is that Finnish audience usually is very quiet and stiff. No one sings along. Only a few wave their hands. Sometimes you can even see a moshpit. Of course there are exceptions and sometimes even Finnish ultra shy audience will blow the place up.

Today I was again reminded that it really matters how the audience takes part in the show. I saw Roger Waters performing Pink Floyd’s The Wall in the O2 Arena in Dublin, Ireland.

I was really amazed how every freaking man and woman was singing and shouting all the time from the very beginning to the end. The show itself was great enough to get on your top 3 list (it got to second place after Porcupine Tree in Ilosaarirock festival in 2007 on my list), but the audience really made it an experience you will never forget. Thank you Dublin. It was awesome.

Unhappy with Twenty Ten

I have myself been reading blogs and other interesting websites I follow with a feed reader application for many years. Currently I’m using Reeder on iPhone and Mac (beta version available). I rarely see the look and feel of websites, unless the RSS feed only has the excerpt of a post, or if I want to write a comment.

There are some blogs that always seem to have a new fresh layout when I visit them, but most people (including me) are too busy or lazy to create a new layout every month. When you find a layout that works for you, it’s easy to stick with it and never update.

I am a little bit unhappy with the looks of my blog. I’m currently using the default WordPress theme, called Twenty Ten, without any major customizations. I know most of my readers are using a feed reader application, e.g. Google Reader, so the looks really should not matter, because they never see what my blog looks like. They just see the content. But there is some traffic coming from search engines, Twitter and Facebook, and they will see the layout.

This layout is not personal. It’s not mine. I have to create a new one.

The pool of creativity and blogging

Today, I saw a presentation about blogging and gained some new insights about a blog as a tool in leveraging your business and delivering content to your readers and the online world. That presentation reminded me that I still have this blog and I really should write more actively.

When I first started blogging in 2003 (sorry, those posts are not available anymore), a little bit over eight years ago, only a few people new what a blog was and many were thinking why someone would like to present his or her own opinions publicly on the Internet. My first posts were mostly about trying to quit smoking, studying, and other stuff that belonged to the haircut category of non-interesting topics that happen in everyday life.

Since then, I’ve written about music, politics, computers, studying, latest news and many other topics, including the haircut, but my pen keyboard is really not so sharp anymore.

I’ve often wondered where does the energy go that earlier gave me the drive to write and present my thoughts. Sometimes I feel that a human being has a limited capacity of creativity. Consider it as a pool of wonderful thoughts and ideas. Every time we tweet, comment on a Facebook post, chat on IRC for hours, play online games, watch soap operas on TV, even listen to music or just hit continuously the refresh button on an imageboard or a kitten pic site like mindless zombies, this pool is being drained into the void.

When we stop and enjoy the silence, the pool starts to fill again. If you’ve ever tried to solve a complex problem in a noisy office environment, you know, that just going out for a moment, maybe to have a cigarette (I actually quit years ago) or to breath fresh air, or in any other way sealing the disturbing factors away from your mind will help you to fill the pool again and find a solution to your problem.

Blogging is creative work and your pool has to be filled with ideas that help to create the post for your readers. When your pool is drained, you cannot create anything. I’ve been draining my pool with all kinds of useless activities, but also exhausting myself with work, studies and all the hobbies I have. Sometimes you just need to rest and then light the spark again.

One of the insights of todays presentation was that you just cannot fake passion. Blogging is like sex. You have to do it for passion, otherwise it is fake and every reader will know it.

I believe I will find my passion for writing again, because I really like writing.

Salmiac? Yes, please

Salmiac is black, salty candy that Finns love and it’s the first thing besides rye bread, that they really miss, when living abroad.

Non-Finns usually hate it and can’t stand its taste. If you’ve ever wondered what kind of experience it is for non-Finn to taste salmiac, you should read the Salmiyuck blog.

Finland after “Jytky”

The True Finns came, saw and won. Their chairman Timo Soini named the victory as “jytky”, which means a huge, unexpected happening, a big bang, or something similar.

Many people have been extremely worried about the election results. True Finns are seen as an ultra-conservative movement that are gaining support with populist theses. They are known to be anti-immigrant and anti-EU and they support nationalistic views with strong army and police force, traditional family values and Christianity. They are often compared to nazis in Germany of 1930’s, but in reality they are not an extreme right wing party, but rather in a political center. However they are not liberal. Not at all.

I disagree with them in almost everything. Hence I voted for someone else in some other party.

However, I’m not worried about their victory. Of course I’m willing to pack my things and go to some other country to live, but the main reasons for that are miserable cold weather, darkness in winter and the cost of living in Finland.

There can be seen a trend in Facebook and other social media, where everyone is considering immigrating to somewhere else and people are publicly announcing that they are not happy with the election result and did not vote for True Finns.

But what will happen next? That is to be seen. The negotiations for the next government are certainly not easy and we may end up having another election if no coalition can gain a majority in 200 member parliament.

In the long run, I don’t think there will be any major changes in Finnish society and politics. People will go to work as usual, discuss about what kind of weather fortune tellers have predicted for summer and complain about what Johanna Tukiainen has said and done, just like before elections.

Nova Trotters and the Streisand effect

Streisand effect is an online phenomenon, where an attempt to hide information on the web causes it to spread even more.

Nova Trotters is a company hosting some sort of “Best Websites in Finland” competition and they have been receiving lots of criticism around the Finnish blogosphere. The attempt to hide this criticism by cease and desist has lead of course to Streisand effect.

The information is spreading in blogs, forums and Twitter like a wildfire.

More details (sorry, only in Finnish) on the following blogs and forums:

Year plus plus

Today is the last working day in this year, so it’s time to say goodbye to year 2010. Ride has been bumpy and tough. Really tough. Year 2010 has been the most difficult in my life. It’s also been one of the best. Not the first half, but the second.

During the first six months I was constantly thinking what I want to do with my life. Family and work were both something I wasn’t happy with. This of course lead to crisis, where every wall was falling at the same time. Then the roof came and collapsed, leaving me to struggle my way through the rubble. Rise up. Breath again. Be free.

I quit my job. I started in new one. Divorced and moved on my own after almost ten years. Buried my dearest grandparents. All this happened too soon, too quick. But I survived and got stronger.

Life goes on and smiles again. Thanks to great friends, who have given me their strong support and hope. You know who you are. With your help it was a lot easier to travel through sorrow and pain. I’ve been happier and everything looks better now. I believe next year will be good. Really good.

What else happened?

I got my bachelor’s degree finished. There is still lots of work to do until my studies are complete. Maybe in 2012 I’ll have two master’s degrees. That’s insane.

I have seen numerous good gigs from great bands. Played couple of good ones myself and really started playing drums again regularly.

I have the best workmates ever. I feel we have a good spirit. Let’s keep it that way.

I started saving money. I want to travel. Next trip will be to Ireland and Northern Ireland in May. Renting a car. Driving around. Scary, if you know what Irish traffic is like. And they drive on the wrong side of the road! Some day I want to see New York. Not maybe next year, but it’ll be there waiting for me.

And sports? I have really enjoyed sports again. Yesterday I played some ice hockey. I haven’t been skating much in years, but it went pretty well. I’m considering buying a pair of skates and a hockey stick. Indoor cycling while watching TV series is a regular activity now. At least once a week. In January I will continue practicing my martial arts skills in wushu kung fu. I’ve lost about 13 kg of weight in 8 months, which is nice. I still have lots of extra to lose, but I try not to stress about it.

Let’s see what next year brings. I’m ready and happy with my life.

Farewell to Bristol

Bristol screen

Finnish movie theater company Finnkino is closing down the legendary Bristol in Aikatalo. To celebrate the long history, classic movies are played during the weekend. Yesterday evening I went to see The Good, The Bad & The Ugly with Niklas and Pekka. This again reminded me how I really should see classic movies more often.

The National Audiovisual Archive plays many classics in Cinema Orion, from Totoro to Stalker. Prices are affordable, so it’s not a big deal to see great movies on screen. I’ve only seen one movie there, Peeping Tom, but I certainly recommend going there. Big screen will always beat your laptop screen.