Home  Blog  Travel  Party  Free software  Writings  About me  Contact

Arto's Blog

Pages: 1 2 4 5 6

Life in Germany

Posted: 2011-02-04 23:55:31, Categories: Travel, General, Work, Germany, 1028 words (permalink)

Posing for the camera in the bedroom. Since August 2010 I'm living in Germany together with my girlfriend Sandra. I've learned a new language and gotten used to not having to buy food in a supermarket any more. I continue to work part-time, but now from home instead of going to an office.

On a typical day the alarm clock wakes us up at 7:30, early enough for Sandra to get dressed, drive 40 km to her shop and open the doors for customers an hour later. I either get up at the same time or continue sleeping for an hour or two, depending on how tired I'm feeling. Then I do my morning yoga, have a breakfast while reading the daily newspaper and go upstairs in my home office. I'm still working for CSC on cultural data and digital preservation projects, although technically I'm a freelancer instead of a CSC employee now.

Working from home has the advantage of almost complete freedom in choosing the working hours. Nobody will knock on the door when I'm writing a document and I can listen to music without fear of disturbing colleagues. On the other hand it requires self-discipline to actually focus on work projects in a home environment. On some days I don't really get started and end up spending most of the day on personal emails or reading articles online. I'm also missing a bit all the short discussions with colleagues which happen naturally in the office during lunch and shorter breaks.

I have lunch around three in the afternoon, typically a salad and a warm dish consisting of food left from previous days. After that I continue with some more work on the computer, language studies, a walk or a bike ride outside, housework or hobbies before Sandra comes home around 19:30. Then we have dinner which we usually also prepare together, unless I've been a good man and cooked something already in advance.

Food is always around at the house. Every day Sandra brings home a box loaded with vegetables and fruit which have brown spots or other defects causing the customers to avoid them. In between are jars of yoghurt, pieces of tofu and other packaged products whose best before date has just gone by. We stock the boxes on top of each other in the cellar and do our best to cook and eat everything as long as it's still good.

I had never studied German at school and even after meeting Sandra didn't attend a language course in Finland. In Memmingen I started by walking to the library, borrowed a couple of books for self-study and a month later enrolled on a German course in the community college (Volkshochschule). I skipped the beginners level starting on a B1 level course, which ran from September until the end of the year two 90 minute lessons a week. The course was slightly difficult at first but not too hard when spending a bit of extra time on homework. I also took the habit of reading the daily newspaper Memminger Zeitung every morning and trying to make sense of the news stories on the front page, looking up words in a dictionary when necessary.

A few months was enough to reach a reasonable conversational level. Jokes, proverbs and strong dialects are still hard, but otherwise I can mostly follow and participate in discussions as long as rather simple words are used. I continue to make loads of mistakes in grammar, in particular with prepositions, gender (der/die/das) and various conjugations, but can usually make myself understood. Many of Sandra's friends don't speak English even nearly as well as she does, so I have plenty of opportunities to practise my new skill and knowing German makes it also more fun to spend time with them.

Memmingen is a town of about 40 000 inhabitants, situated 100 km west from Munich. It has a beautiful and pleasant old center with many pedestrian streets and is relatively cyclist friendly. I also found a nice yoga studio where I attend classes once or twice a week. It has not been difficult to get used to living here. One thing I miss a bit is the cultural life in Helsinki. There are of course concerts and events in Memmingen and nearby, but for a comparable variety of music and small alternative cultural happenings one would have to go until Munich. That's a bit too far for a spontaneous evening out, seeing a band for an hour or two.

Sandra and I are sharing a half of a two-family house 2 km away from center with her brother Thomas. The bottom floor consists of the kitchen and a common living room, Thomas has the first floor for him and we have two rooms just under the roof. One of them is the bedroom, the other being used as our private living room, home office and guest room. Occasionally we have a dinner at home or go out all three together, but mostly Sandra and I have our own life and Thomas has his. We get along but simply have different thinking and interests.

When Sandra has free days from the shop, I'm usually also taking those days off so that we can do something together. Most often we go for walks in the mountains or visit friends. Occasionally we relax in one of the big public baths with several saunas, where Saunameisters throw water on the stones, twirl a towel in the middle of the sauna and entertain people sitting on the benches. A few times we've traveled to neighbouring countries but not as often as we would like — with one less employee since October Sandra hasn't been able to arrange as much free time as before.

Music is also important for Sandra, probably more than for me. Whenever there is a cool band playing in Kaminwerk, the only regular live concert venue in Memmingen, we're usually there. Often we've also driven 35 km south to Kempten or some other nearby city for concerts. Through Sandra and her friends I've discovered a few artists which I hadn't even heard of before but liked immediately. Three I can recommend and have also seen live are Anyone's Daughter, Jamaram and Unheilig.

Blog software upgraded

Posted: 2010-09-24 12:11:58, Categories: General, 54 words (permalink)
My website was moved to a new server this week and at the same time the blog software was upgraded to the latest stable version. After a few initial problems everything should work more or less as before. However, if you notice that something is broken or looks weird, please let me know! Thanks.

Comment spam and reCAPTCHA

Posted: 2010-05-31 21:38:41, Categories: General, 268 words (permalink)

reCAPTCHA screenshot I just installed the reCAPTCHA system to prevent comment spam in this blog. Whenever you want to write a comment to one of the articles, you will need to type two words displayed in an image before clicking the "Send comment" button. For example, in the image on the right (which is just a screenshot, not a working captcha) you'd have to type "blast spawned". I hope it'll not be too much of an annoyance.

Comment spam means "comments" whose main purpose is not to respond to the article, but to advertise another website. A typical spam comment is something like "Very nice article! Maybe you'd like to buy product X from website Z?" At least for half a year I've been receiving several such comments per day, usually posted by automated programs instead of people. I have to approve the comments before they get displayed on the site so readers won't see them, but it's annoying to spend time deleting spam.

The cool thing about reCAPTCHA is that it not only stops spammers but also does something useful. The puzzles presented by reCAPTCHA are actually words which an optical character recognization (OCR) program in a digitization project has not been able to read correctly. However, humans usually can! So every time someone solves one of the reCAPTCHA puzzles it helps in digitizing old books, newspapers or radio shows!

Please tell me if you have any difficulties in using the system and posting a comment. You can always send me a private message without solving any of the reCAPTCHA puzzles.

Season's Greetings

Posted: 2009-12-23 16:04:42, Categories: General, Helsinki, Art, 162 words (permalink)

Christmas and New Year greetings card 2009. Last January, somebody had made a snow cat in the Helsinki central park. There it was sitting quietly on a wooden plank, smiling and looking at people passing by. I'm sure many of them smiled back and became just a bit happier because of the cat.

During these days a large part of the world is celebrating Christmas, either as a religious event, a family gathering, a materialistic festival or all three of them. In Finland where I live it is common to go shopping for gifts and even feel stressed about finding the right gifts for right people. I admit that I did some Christmas shopping too. However, the snow cat reminds me that a gift can be anonymous, it doesn't require buying anything, it can be given at any time of the year and that small surprises in life are often the best gifts.

With the cat, I wish all of you peaceful Christmas and many small surprises for year 2010!

My new travel companion

Posted: 2009-11-30 23:03:37, Categories: Travel, General, Finland, Norway, Hospitality exchange, Germany, 487 words (permalink)

Me and Sandra on the slopes of Mt. Roan, Telemark, Norway. In the picture you can see me and Sandra on the way to Mt. Roan in Norway. She is my new companion on my travels — and in life.

We met in Helsinki in March 2009 at a Hospitality Club sauna party and ended up cooking together in the middle of the night. Quite soon after that Sandra came for a few days visit at my place, then for a week, and I also visited her in Memmingen, Southern Germany. Since then we've tried to spend at least one week per month together.

Sandra has an organic food store which is great for one of our shared hobbies: cooking. Her brother looked at us once in the kitchen and asked how can we eat all that food. Because it's tasty, of course! We also like to go out and do sports so gaining weight hasn't been a problem so far. Actually Sandra has been more worried of me being too thin and suggested that I should eat more chocolate.

Other activities which we share are hiking, cycling, listening to music, going to concerts and traveling. In the summer we traveled together for six weeks, mainly in Southern and Central Norway. It was a road trip by Sandra's car combined with many hikes in national parks. Mountains and fjords were beautiful although Norwegian weather made it quite a wet experience: out of 31 days there were only two when it didn't rain at all. But we survived and enjoyed five days of sunshine in Finland right after leaving Norway and driving quickly through Sweden.

On the road our lifestyles fit together quite well. We're both more into going out walking and wild camping in the nature than booking a plush hotel and lying on the beach. We also contact locals through hospitality exchange sites and stay with them — just as we both did already before when traveling alone. One big difference compared to my earlier trips has been less time spent in Internet cafes and writing blog articles, but perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

Life is funny. I never studied German at school or spent much time in Germany but love isn't restricted by country borders. We have both traveled quite a bit and lived abroad in the past. And although we're communicating mainly in English there's now an extra motivator for both of us to learn a new language.

I'm still living in Helsinki and Sandra in Memmingen near her shop. We don't have any immediate plans of moving together, but in the long term it doesn't make sense to continue flying back and forth. However, that's what we're doing now about once a month and send messages or call in between. Sandra is not a computer person but she has for the first time in her life gotten used to writing long emails. That helps a bit in communicating with a nerd like me. :-)

1 2 4 5 6


Creative Commons License
Copyright Arto Teräs <ajt@iki.fi>, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
(Unless otherwise mentioned in individual photos or other content.)