Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

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One month, five languages

In General,Personal on 2009-04-04 by Jukka Zitting

The past month was probably the first time in about 20 years when the number of natural languages I used was greater than the number of programming languages I wrote code in. I’ve never thought of myself as much of a language person, but here I am actively using five different languages! Here’s a list of the languages in order of my fluency.

Finnish

FinnishOf course. I was in Finland twice in the past month and every other day or so I spend a lot of time on Skype talking Finnish with Kikka. I read Finnish news every day, and keep in contact with my Finnish friends mostly through various Internet channels.

My main concern with my Finnish is that nowadays I don’t do much serious writing in Finnish. Of course I write letters, postcards and email to friends and family, but that’s about it. I used to be a fairly good writer (grammatically, etc., not so much artistically), but now I think my skills are rapidly eroding.

English

EnglishEnglish is currently the language I use most actively. I speak it daily at work and elsewhere. I read and write piles of email in English every day. All the code and documentation that I read and write is in English, just like the various tech and world affairs sites and blogs I follow.

Even though I understand English well and can get myself understood with little trouble, I still don’t think I’m particularly good with the language. As they say: The universal language of the world is not English; the truly universal language is bad English. The last time I actually studied English was in high school 15 years ago, so I believe I would really benefit from taking some more advanced courses on the finer points of the language.

Swedish

SwedishLearning Swedish is mandatory in Finland, so I spent ten years studying the language at school. Thus I have a reasonably strong theoretical background in the language, but since I very rarely use it anywhere my practical skills aren’t that great. Prodded by Kikka to do something about that, I recently bought and started reading Conn Iggulden‘s book Stäppens Krigare (Wolf of the Plains) in Swedish. The first 20 or so pages were a struggle, but then it all came back to me and now I’m going strong at around page 200 and can barely set the book aside.

The funny thing about the Swedish I’ve learned is that it’s not really what they speak in Sweden, but rather a dialect spoken only by a small Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. I have a feeling that I’m going to end up with something similar, just on a larger scale, also for German…

French

FrenchI’ve never been too enthusiastic about learning languages, so in high school I dropped French (that I had studied for two years earlier) in favor of more math and physics. I did some more French courses at the university to fill up the mandatory language studies, but I’ve never really mastered the language. However, I have relatives in France and Morocco, so I do have a “live” connection to the language that I’ve lately tried to keep up through occasional visits.

My latest visit was a few weeks ago when I took the TGV train from Basel for a quick weekend visit to Paris. During the visit I tried to speak as much French as I could, and was able to keep up reasonably well when people around me were speaking French.

German

GermanLast but not least. I started actively learning German when I moved to to Switzerland about half a year ago. First I used an online course, and after finishing it I’ve now been taking an evening course with a real teacher and a group of seven students. It’s hard work, especially since the Swiss German I hear around me every day is quite different from the Standard German I’m learning at the course.

I can increasingly well manage simple shopping and restaurant interactions in German, and I try to read (or at least browse) the local newspapers every day. I’ve also started using the German Wikipedia as my first source of any non-technical trivia. I go there a few times a week and only switch to the English counterpart when I can’t figure out some specific details.

I guess my studies are starting to take effect, as my first germanism already found it’s way to a tweet I posted yesterday. Earlier this week I also had my first dream in German! In my dream I continued doing the German exercises that I had been doing when I fell asleep…

What’s missing?

All the languages I’m using are (originally) European. I’d really love a chance to brush up my Japanese (I studied it for a while at the university) or learn the basics of Mandarin (and Arabic would be cool too), but I guess that for the next few years I’ll be too busy getting up to speed with German to even consider doing something new.

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Statuses

First flowers of the year

In Personal on 2009-02-14 by Jukka Zitting

After recovering from the flu, I went walking around in Basel and found a nice park about 1.5 kilometers from where I live. It’s been a bit rainy lately in here, but the sun is already pretty warm when it peeks from behind the clouds.

Flowers in a sunny spot

There was this sunny spot beside a tree where all these small yellow flowers were pushing up from the ground. I just had to take a closer look.

Closeup of the flowers

I took some other pictures as well. It was a nice afternoon.

Statuses

Purchasing Lightroom

In Personal on 2009-01-30 by Jukka Zitting

After buying a new camera a while ago I’ve been thinking about upgrading from Picasa to a bit more powerful tool for organizing and editing my photos. I had heard good things about Lightroom so I decided to give it a try. So far I’ve been very happy with the trial version. Even though the price seems a bit high compared to the free alternatives, I today decided that the license is well worth buying.

So I followed the “Buy” button, entered my credit card information in the online form and approved the order expecting to see the serial number of my new license on the next page. It wasn’t there. Instead Adobe tells me that my order is “being processed” and that I should wait for an email with the license details.

OK, I figure, the email will reach my mailbox in a few minutes. I check the latest tweets and feeds before going back to my mailbox only to find nothing from Adobe, not even a confirmation that the order was received. I check my spam filters, but find nothing relevant there. Anyway, it’s time for my dance class so I leave the matter for now. Two hours later there’s still no message from Adobe. Only an hour after that I receive a message that tells me that the order has been “edited”, but there’s still no sign of the serial number I’m waiting.

Finally, almost five hours after placing the order I get an email message containing the serial number of my license. Five hours is actually pretty good for a process with humans involved, but I’m surprised that the online license purchase process hasn’t been fully automated already years ago. That seems like a no-brainer for a company like Adobe.

Anyway, I’m now a happy Lightroom user and you’ll probably start seeing more of my photos also in here as I get my photo workflows back in shape.

Statuses

My home away from home

In Personal on 2008-10-14 by Jukka Zitting

Since July I’ve had two homes, one in Switzerland and one in Finland. I now live in Basel, Switzerland where I have a nice apartment within walking distance from the old city center and the Day office where I work. Since arriving here I’ve spent countless hours walking and biking around Basel and neighbouring areas, so I already feel pretty comfortable with the surroundings. Basel is just the kind of place I like, a beautiful city with lots of history and details to discover. And the rest of Switzerland isn’t too bad either. :-)

My other home is back in Finland where Kikka, my future wife, and our two cats, Juuso and Nöpö, live cozily close to the nature. I fly back to stay with them for roughly a week per month, and meanwhile we call each other frequently. I especially love the skype video feed on our cats. This month I’m not flying to Finland, as a week ago Kikka visited me here in Basel and next week we’re both heading to Turkey for a week of vacation together. 

Kikka is staying in Finland until she finishes her PhD studies at the sleep lab in Helsinki. She’s doing some kick-ass research on the neurobiological mechanisms of sleep, and while at times I find myself understanding little of what she does, it still sounds totally awesome. I’m so proud of her.

I guess it’s still too early to tell how well this living more than a thousand miles apart thing will work out, but so far I think we’re doing great. I feel that the time we spend apart just makes our days together more special.

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In Hong Kong

In Personal on 2007-09-08 by Jukka Zitting

I arrived in Hong Kong for the first time in my life two days ago. So far I’ve only seen the airport, the hotel, and the customer office (yeah, it’s been a busy two days) but the weekend is just starting and I’m planning to do some sightseeing in and around the city.

Today I’ll do some hiking on the Lantau Trail and try to get a glimpse of Hong Kong Central in the afternoon/evening. Pictures to come…

Statuses

Remote office

In Personal,Yukatan on 2006-06-29 by Jukka Zitting

Möllis sleeping by the laptopLast Friday we traveled to the Finnish archipelago to spend the mid-summer holiday with my family at my father’s summer cottage on the Holma island. I decided to stay for this whole week, working remotely over a GPRS connection. The picture on the right shows my desk with our younger cat, Möllis, sleeping cozily on top of the warm laptop power source.

In related news, two weeks ago Yukatan got its first office. Since starting my own company in early 2005 I’ve been working from home, but from day one that was considered a temporary solution. Getting the office took a little bit longer than expected, but once I get back in town next week, I’ll be working from an office room in Olarinluoma, just a 15 minute walk from our home.