Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Amsterdam, Netherlands

After our trip to Helsinki, we went to Amsterdam for a night. We stayed in a hostel that was movie themed. Our room was Star Wars themed, and had a huge picture of Darth Vader on the wall.

We went to the Anne Frank house, and looked at some of the older buildings along the way. One of them was an old church that had a really weird Roman numeral on it.

It looked like cbbc, but for real it was C I backwards C = M, I backwards C = D, C which adds up to 1600. Wikipedia has a close-up image.

At the Anne Frank house we saw a lot of cool stuff. I didn’t really know anything about her before going, so I’m glad I could go.

We went to an Indian restaurant that was really good, and then we returned to our hostel for our last night in Europe. This square was nearby:

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Helsinki, Finland

Our ferry to Helsinki from Tallinn was canceled because of rough seas and they sent us over to another ferry, but we had to wait another two and a half hours so we walked around Tallinn for a while. Finally we got on the ferry and there we met these two Finnish guys who didn’t speak any English at all. They didn’t even understand hello. Dad thought they were speaking Estonian at first and kept trying to communicate with them using our phrase book. Finally one of the people next to us asked us if we wanted them to translate for us. After that little adventure, we went to our hotel. We just stayed in there because it was late.

The next morning was Sunday. We went to church at a building about a quarter mile down the street. A lot of the people there spoke English, and missionaries translated for us.

After church, we walked around in the bay area for a while, then went to a ferry to go to the fortress island Suomenlinna. That was awesome. It was probably a ten or twenty minute ferry trip, and was really cool. It has lots of old cannons, and stuff.

At the south island there were a lot of tunnels running around underneath the walls.

It was totally one of my favorite parts of the trip.

After Suomenlinna we went to a couple of the big churches near the docks. In one of them we heard an organist practicing for his performance that night.

Then we met up with someone Dad knows from Interchange named René Hertell. We went to dinner at a restaurant called Virgin Oil. After that we went back to our hotel.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tallinn, Estonia

Thursday, 18th August 2011 We went for a walk around Riga for one last time before we went to Tallinn. Then we went to the bus station. There we met a guy who went to YAPC::EU. (We could tell by his t-shirt.) His name was Sergey and he lives in Tallinn. He rode the same bus as us there and was nice enough to show us how to get to our hostel. Our hostel is awesome. We are in a six person bedroom with four Germans. After that we walked around town for a while, seeing some of the sights. Here's a building by our hostel:

It’s really a nice place. We went into the Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral, and saw some of the inside.

After that we went back to the hostel and hung out in the lounge. They have guitars and other musical instruments that you can play in there. After a while we went to bed.

Friday, 19th August 2011 So after a good night’s rest, we went to a bookstore in the old town that sold some old magazines, and stuff. We went to a free walking tour that lasted two hours. We went on almost the same route as the one we took on our own the day before. It was still good though. One of my favorite things about Tallinn is that half the city wall still remains and it’s really cool.

One of the towers along the wall was named the Virgin’s Tower, a town joke because it was used as a prison for prostitutes.

There were probably 75 or 100 people on the tour, but the tour guide had a loud voice, so we could all hear.

After the tour we went to the beach at Pirita. We swam and stuff for a while, then we started walking back. We took the bus there and after a while we decided to take the bus the rest of the way back. Dad contacted Sergey, and arranged dinner with him. Then we went back to the hostel. We hung out in the lounge for a while. I played guitar along with some people who were playing bongos. We went to bed a little after 1:00.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

More photos from Rīga

The weekend is over now, and tomorrow morning the YAPC::EU conference (Yet Another Perl Conference, Europe) begins. We'll be busy for the next three days with the conference, so we won't have much time for sightseeing. Here are some more photos from our trip so far, in chronological order.

A balcony of The Powder Tower and Latvian War Museum:

Jacob a short distance from the central market area:

Views of the Riga central train station, Rīgas centrālā dzelzceļa stacija:


A neighborhood of Communist-era Neubau apartments seen from the train en route back from the beach at Jūrmala:

A street in Vecrīga, old town Riga:

This morning Jacob and I went to church at one of the two Latvian Latter-day Saint (aka Mormon) branches in Rīga. There are also two Russian-language branches here. It was conveniently located just a few blocks from our hotel, on the appropriately named Baznīcas iela (Church Street), though of course named not for the LDS church but rather for Vecā Sv. Ģertrūdes Evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca, the Lutheran St. Gertrude Old Church. The local LDS people were very friendly, and English-speaking missionaries translated for us, an unexpected bonus for our comprehension!

Even nearer to our hotel we stopped in the early evening to see the Kristus Piedzimšanas pareizticīgo katedrāle (Riga Nativity of Christ Orthodox Cathedral). It has had a troubled history. It was built between 1876 and 1884 by decree of Russian Tsar Alexander II, then during World War I was turned into a Lutheran church by the occupying German military. It was restored during Latvia's inter-war independence, and then was turned into a planetarium by Soviet authorities in the early 1960s. It has been recently restored. Here is Jacob's photo of the outside:

It is said to be the largest Orthodox cathedral in the Baltic region. The interior makes quite an impression. There are beautiful icons and murals with various Old Church Slavonic texts. No photography was allowed inside (quite understandable for a church in active use), though printed brochures have some interior photos.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Trip to Rīga, Latvia

August 10th–13th, 2011, Rīga, Latvia

We woke up at 5:30 to go to the Jackson Hole Airport. We then proceeded to fly to Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Airport is pretty much a mall. We went to a burger restaurant there that was pretty good. We then flew to Amsterdam. I watched Green Hornet on the plane. In Amsterdam we had a seven hour layover. We didn’t leave the airport for that. Finally we got on our plane to Rīga and arrived about 3 hours later.

Dad bought a SIM card for his phone, but it partly doesn’t work. We then rode a bus from the airport to the old town. There were a lot of street musicians performing on corners. Some people playing accordions, Two girls playing the cello and flute together, some other stuff. We walked about half an hour to the Albert Hotel.

The Albert Hotel is themed on Albert Einstein. I don’t really get how it’s themed after him, but it has quotes from him in our room, which works for me. Our room is really nice, we have special place you have to put your room key or the power goes off. It has a good view, and is on the ninth floor. It has a really good breakfast too. Huge selection, good food, all in all it’s an awesome hotel. We went to dinner with Stefan and Jure, two of Dad’s friends who work on Interchange. The restaurant was an outdoor restaurant with live musicians. After dinner me and Dad got lost on our way back to the hotel for a while, but got back on track.

We woke up at 8:30ish on Friday, and went to meet Stefan and Jure at their hotel. We went to the wrong one, because there are like four of the same one in town. Once we got there they started to work on their presentations for the conference. I got bored and walked around old town alone for a while. I saw some pretty cool stuff, but didn’t do much. Once I got back we went to lunch at an Armenian restaurant. It was really good. At night me and Dad went to an organ concert at the Rīga Cathedral.

The organ was the biggest organ in the world when it was first made. The cathedral had lots of cool stained glass windows, some cool statues, the tombs of a bunch of dead bishops, and some cool paintings. After that we went back to the hotel for the night.

I woke up at 9:00 on Saturday. We went on a free walking tour of the city. We saw some cool churches, the central market, the main train station, and what’s left of a synagogue that was burned down in World War II.

The tour lasted about three hours. After that we went to the train station to go to Jūrmala (means sea-side in Latvian, made up of a bunch of towns all spread along a long beach).

We got to swim and Dad ran four miles on the beach. After we got back, we went to the market and bought some food. We looked for a restaurant we had read about in a magazine but it was closed down or something. We couldn’t read the sign on the door because it was in Latvian. So far our visit has been awesome, and I’ll be posting again in a few days.

(Another church we saw:)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jason Zweig on Wall Street ethics

A funny but sadly true note:

Wall Street may have higher ethical standards than some businesses (smuggling, prostitution, Congressional lobbying, and journalism come to mind) but the investment world nevertheless has enough liars, cheaters, and thieves to keep Satan's check-in clerks frantically busy for decades to come.

--Jason Zweig

That's in a footnote on page 262 of the 2003 revised edition of Benjamin Graham's classic book The Intelligent Investor. Graham first published the book in 1934 and revised it several times, publishing his final edition in 1973. Graham died in 1976.

A new edition was published in 2003, with the original text of Graham's last edition left intact, but surrounded with Talmudic-style treatment by Jason Zweig. Jason's new commentary appears after each chapter and in footnotes. This brings the book up to date and adds some perspective and humor, and notes cases where Graham has been vindicated or (rarely) disproven by history.

This kind of layered text is, as far as I know, unusual among financial writings. I'm finding it an enlightening read because newer writings haven't had time for history to shine light on their assertions, so they may all sound plausible or implausible depending on the reader's mood.