Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Sun. Nov. 13, 2005: A monastery with high speed Internet connections

David finds the Scandinavian surroundings a bit … quiet.

(by David): I’ve stayed at the Radisson SAS Espoo before, on an expense account trip to Finland. In 2003/2004, I stayed in Simo’s extra apartment. (No, it wasn’t for trysts. He was living across town, and it was a convenient place for kids to stay before and after school, for those odd weeks when they weren’t with their mother. A modern solution to a modern challenge). On the last few trips to Finland, it’s been now a habit to stay with Minna, and cook for her family. (Live-in chefs with master’s degrees are in rather short supply, anywhere). It’s too bad that Minna’s house was full up on the trip, but I’ve been running around so much recently that the quiet is a good thing.

The hotel is on the edge of the campus of the Helsinki University of Technology, so it’s only a 20-minute walk (practically east to west across the campus) to the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management. (The Finns refer to the “Tuotantotalouden osasto” as “Tuta”, which is supposedly a playful pun on childhood, Finnish). There’s small plaza with two small grocery stores, pharmacist, bank, etc., so it’s reasonable to live fairly normally here.

The airplane touched down in rain, yesterday, and it’s been steadily gray. With the sea near the front doorstep, I can’t remember days this gloomy in Vancouver. One of the professors asked me why I don’t come to Finland when the weather is better. That’s because the Finns are smart enough to enjoy the short summer when they can. Thus, classes when the weather isn’t great.

The hotel is nice enough, and I actually like the minimalist Scandinavian decor. Since I’m here by myself this time, though, I feel like I’m some sort of monastery. The hallways are quiet. I haven’t opted for pay tv, so it’s Finnish television. I get to watch last season’s O.C., Karate Kid 2 (the one in Okinawa), and other American shows with Finnish subtitles on the screen. I did get to see an episode of Six Feet Under that I hadn’t seen yet, which indicates that Canada is two seasons behind, when the Finns are only one behind.

The isolation is actually tolerable, because I’ve really had a chance to do a more thorough investigation of Internet radio. When I’m in the office in Toronto — even when I’m working in a client’s office — I’ll usually plug headphones into my Thinkpad and listen to JazzFM, which I normally play on the radio at home when I’m working. I hate fund-raising time, though, so in offices, I’ll sometimes switch to KCCK, which is a college radio station in Iowa. It reminds me of days when I used to live in Evanston and listen to WXRT — which use to play progressive rock (e.g. Peter Gabriel, as well as jazz (e.g. Pat Metheny). Subsequent trips to Chicago have disappointed me, because WXRT isn’t the station of old. It’s a sign of old age, I guess, because radio stations have to keep up with times, and as people get older, they seem to stop listening to new music (even by the favourite artists they listened to, between ages 20 and 30).

Despite the “radio” choices on RealPlayer and (shudder) Windows Media Player, I’ve found the selection of stations on Live365 to be quite broad. Unlike the kids, who download MP3 audio onto Winamp, I’ve found Live365 to be an ethical alternative, because they pay royalties to the musicians they play. I’m not yet a VIP member, so I’m still a free rider).

I’ve been listening quite a bit to Attention Span Radio, which has two stations — one that plays primarily jazz fusion, and then another that plays contemporary (post-bop) jazz. The variety is enough that I’ll end up doing searches on AllMusic to figure out who the artists are.

On this trip, though, I’ve been blown away by RvrJazz, which seems to be a radio station just slightly north of New York City. They claim to be modelled after WRVR — a station that I’ve never heard — in the 1980s. They play a lot of CDs that I actually own. There’s something about following Pat Metheny with cuts from Steely Dan. Even WXRT in the 1980s was never this close to my listening tastes.

But, because jazz fusion isn’t everything, I’ve also discovered Into the Mystic”, which is spun by a broadcaster in Columbus, Ohio. I probably ran into this station searching on Kate Bush or Rickie Lee Jones. Diana would like this station.

I listen on the extra Walkman headphones that I carry around in my knapsack, and then the tinny computer speakers when I’m not sitting at the desk. I’m beginning to wonder if I should be like the boys, and have speakers hooked up to my computer at home ….

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