Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Finnish efficiency

I am thoroughly impressed by Finnish efficiency!

On the first day I had signed my contract, got my badge, a laptop, a phone, the keys to my personal office, setup my university account, and my license to operate the coffee machine. 🙂

On the second day I had registered at the police, got my foreigner ID, registered as a resident, applied for social security, got my tax card, applied for a transportation card, and opened a bank account.

Couldn’t be any faster!

On the other hand, some things don’t seem very welcoming for foreigners. For example:

  • I had to pay 50€ to register at the police, which boils down to a hefty “immigration tax” which should not be there.
  • All my social benefits (social security, health insurance, transport discount, etc..) expire the moment my contract terminates
  • I need to wait 3 payslips before the bank gives me access to web banking (and I can change the PIN of my card).

Some friends even told me about circular dependencies in the set of documents you need to register (though I didn’t have any problem). Definitely an interesting mix!

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  • The number of homeless people living in San Francisco is astounding. And they stay right there in the heart of the city, a few meters away from the chic luxury stores. One second you are looking at a Gucci shop window and the next thing you see is people playing dices for money on the street in front of an erotic club.
  • Only in California you can pay at a farmer’s market with a credit card.
  • You can find soft drinks and junk food in a sports equipment shop (and in many other places they don’t really belong to).
  • Having a walk in the bay area (any place beside San Francisco) feels weird. You are the only one walking and there is absolutely nothing but houses and fast foods for miles.
  • The weather is amazingly good.
  • Product features include a list of “No X”, where X can be just about anything. Does not matter whether “X” is provenly bad or not. I guess it’s very easy to start a collective psychosis: just put “No potatoes” on a product and everybody will start worrying about potatoes.
  • People are tall.
  • Cisco has offices in Cisco Way.
  • Traffic is awful. However when there is not traffic driving is great.
  • There are 2 kinds of people: those with an iPhone and those with some other smartphone. The latter are a minority.
  • Halloween is a serious thing. People don’t mind waiting hour-long queues to get into bars.
  • Everything come in XL size. 8 lanes highways, seriously?
  • Most beers taste like hop juice, let alone IPAs.
  • iPhone covers are used to express your personality.
  • Nobody drinks water. Only soft drinks, power drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks. At least it needs to contain added vitamins, colorants, and come in a grillion flavors.
  • When you go out for dinner you don’t choose the restaurant, you choose the nationality.
  • In San Francisco people stop you to tell you how much they appreciate your look.

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California Dreamin’

The american dream awaits.

Silicon Valley, here I come!

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American style breakfast

Latte from the original Starbucks shop (1971), peanut butter cookie from Cinnamon Works, in Pike Place Market, Seattle, 2012.

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…if only I could forget how Italian coffee tastes!

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I will be traveling to USA for the WSDM’12 conference to present our work on news recommendation: “From Chatter to Headlines: Harnessing the Real-Time Web for Personalized News Recommendation”. T.Rex (Twitter based RECommendation System) blends signals from social circles, personal interests and popularity to learn a personalized ranking function for online news articles. A more detailed explanation will follow as an invited post on another blog.
At WSDM I will be giving a 4 minutes spotlight presentation and then I will explain the details in a long poster session.

Then, I will fly to California to present T.Rex at the annual Yahoo! Labs meeting: Science Week. There I will have a 10 minutes slot in a workshop about news experiments and a 1 minute presentation in a fun competition called “60 seconds of science”.

It’s going to be challenging to present the same topic in so many different formats!


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USA Style

Just drove 200 miles along Interstate 5 on a Ford Mustang 4000cc to go hiking on a volcano.

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