Usability Issue 5 (No Question)

My first day in Helsinki it took me over 45 minutes to get to my hostel. Not because it was far away, but because of extrodinarily bad signage. So this is less of a question and more of a usability what-not-to-do show and tell. (I had WAY too much stuff with me, poorly packed, and had been awake for about 36 hours. And it was hot. So hot that after eventually finding my hostel, I changed into a short skirt and tank top to go out to dinner. And I was finally comfortable.)

So this is the story of what not to do when creating signage for your youth hostel. Keep in mind that I did have a Google Map and it did not help one ounce. Or gram.


This is the sidewalk I was walking on. I had taken the bus they told me to get on and gotten off at the stop they told me to. The bus driver had given me vague directions and I had my map. So I was walking. The left side of the sidewalk (red) is the bike path. The gray part is for pedestrians.


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When I got to this point., I thought to myself, weird. There is a road going off into the soccer fields. I never once thought to myself, I bet that’s where the hostel is. Note, no signs. I should have turned right instead of going straight.


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If I had turned right I would have gone down the road or ended up in this quasi-parking lot at the top of a staircase. I should have gone down those stairs. (Still no signs.)


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Then after walking along the soccer fields, I would have come to a giant flight of stairs. I should have gone up that.


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At the top of the giant flight of stairs, I would have found my first sign that a hostel actually existed, a small sign that said Hostel Stadion <- 100 yds. At this point I was standing on a paved walk/bikeway next to a parking lot. But I would then have turned left and powered on (as the tiny sign said).

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Journeying on, there may have been one more small sign, as one would walk along this empty path. There would also, undoubtedly be bikers to dodge, with a huge pack on.

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Then, you make an unexpected right, down a man-made path in the grass, to another trail, across some rocks, and through a small break in the fence. It is very official. BUT there is an official Hosteling International Sign here, so it must be legit! Relief!

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As you turn right from the hole in the fence, you will see this. You may or may not be able to see the HOSTEL STADION sign. You are in the right place.

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If you come another way, good luck to you, fine sirs and madams. Hopefully you brought lots of rations and your bag is light. And hope they don’t give your bed away…

Suomenlinna Island

On my first full day in Finland, I took the ferry to Suomenlinna Island. It is about a 15 minute ferry ride from central Helsinki and the ride is covered by a public transit pass.

Suomenlinna Island is an old fort, back from the days when the Swedish controlled Finland. Building was started in 1748. The fort was to protect Helsinki from invasion by sea. When the Russians took control of Finland, they too enjoyed the power of the fort. During the Finnish Civil War, the fort served as a prison camp. Currently the island has about 900 civilian residents. Suomi is the Finnish word for Finland and Linna means lion, so the fort was named Finnish Lion. But in Swedish it is Sveaborg. It is now a popular site for picnics and afternoons out. it is also a UNESCO Heritage Site.

I’ve included my favorite pictures from my afternoon below.

The ferry on the way to the Island.

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As the ferry approaches the Island, the church is easily spotted.

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The churches in Finland (all two that I visited) were much simpler than most other European churches. This is probably because they are Protestant, not Catholic, but it was very interesting to see the simple interiors.

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Outside the church is also relatively simple. Just right for a small island church.

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I’m unsure if Open Prison means that anyone can be imprisoned or if it means something else. I’m rooting for the something else.

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A private home on the Island. Covered with ivy and glorious flowering windowboxes. After I took this, the man came out of the house and started tending the flowers.

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The Island is actually six Islands. Here you can see two of them.

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While the parts of the Island you first walk through are not fort-like, as you get deeper into the island, you see more and more evidence of the fort. It starts about the same place as you cross the first bridge.

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The walls are really impressive. This one is about 6 feet deep and there were lots (comparatively speaking) of windows. I assume they were for shooting.

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The fortress I am in the above picture. I think the walking tunnel was about 30 feet deep.

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A private beach and private boats.

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A public beach. Bathers were running around on the rocks and jumping into the sea.

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Then the cannons appeared. Not to hit the bathers… GIANT CANNON.

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How the cannons are positioned. At tourists.

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There were also all these little berms which I assume were hideouts.

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And then two hangliders appeared. Hanglider 1…

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and his buddy Hanglider 2.

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As I walked back to the ferry, I noticed a rock wall with fireweed growing out of it. Fireweed is my favorite flower and almost impossible to find in the lower 48. It made me smile.

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I enjoyed my couple of hours on Suomenlinna and I would highly recommend the museum and video of the history of the fort. Perhaps next time I’ll even consider staying at the Youth Hostel on the Island.

Juice Cleanse/Fast

Yesterday, I got to cross off one item on my 30 Before 30 list: the 5 day juice cleanse.

I started this because i thought there was a chance it might help my headaches/migraines. It didn’t. But it was an interesting exercise in self-control and patience.

We bought a juicer a few weeks ago in order to make this process a little cheaper. Then we modeled our juices on the juices from Blueprint Cleanse (at first). That meant that we had six 16 ounce juices a day. They were to be drunk in a specific order. They were also supposed to be drunk fresh.  Between the juices we were supposed to drink 12+ oz. of water. I almost just moved into the bathroom to live.

Here’s a rundown with pictures.

Our juicer in the juicing corner. It’s a Hurom Slow Juicer, recommended by Bon Appetit. It was expensive, but it will juice almost anything. Nuts, beans, greens, etc.

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This is the fridge on Saturday morning, day 3 of the fast.

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This is our take from the farmer’s market for juicing. apples, kale, lettuce, parsley, beets, and strawberries.

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Fridge post market. Amazingly almost all of this was gone by this morning (the end of the juice cleanse).

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The first and third juices of the day are green: kale, lettuce, spinach, parsley, celery, cucumber, lemon, and apple. Here are the ingredients for 4 16 oz portions.

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Then we juice all of it. The celery is chopped in a food processor because otherwise it clogs the machine. We also had to alternate greens and apples to ensure the machine wasn’t clogged.

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This is what is leftover…

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The juice!

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Second juice of the day is pineapple-apple-mint. We used peppermint. Unfortunately the pineapple clogs the machine. Half a pineapple and a lot of apples are what we used.

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Juicing the pineapple and apple.

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Here’s the drink. The foam is due to the machine being clogged.

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After the second green, we make spicy lemonade. Below Ben is juicing lemons. Then we mix the juice with water, agave syrup, and cayenne pepper. It can make your brain explode.

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Post spicy lemonade is red juice. Gag. Apples, beets, lemon, ginger, and carrots. Only it was gross so I added strawberries.

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Red juice. So gross. And pulpy. And ick.

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The final drink of the day is nut milk. Ben likes cashews and I like almonds, hence the difference. We juiced dates with them so that we didn’t have to add any agave syrup. One day we added cinnamon and most days we added vanilla. But in order to juice the nuts, we had to soften them. So we soaked them for 4+ hours.

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The final product!

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So that’s what I’ve been up to. Let me know if you have questions.

Usability Question 4

How do you open this hostel door? This is the door.


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This is the “key” which is the only hostel key I had to pay a deposit for.

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This system is so difficult that they have a demo door and key at the check-in desk so that they can demonstrate. Once it took me 2 minutes to open the door. I was a little ashamed.

For my Parents

My  mom sent me an incredibly sappy (and wonderful) email today for my birthday. It made me think of these pictures. These may be repeats, but I like them, so you get to see them again. Thanks mom!


With mom


Bedtime is singing time!

My dad sent me an email with the subject: “happy happy happy” and the body: “BIRTHDAY!!!! Love, Dad” He claims it is a party email. It didn’t make me think of these pictures, but I am an equal opportunity child. So he gets pictures too! Except they are family pictures, because I don’t have any old pictures of just the two of us, which is sad, because there is a great one of the two of us when I was a baby. Apparently most of the time when he was home and I was a baby, I slept. So I was scared of him. I blame it on the beard 🙂 </ramble>


First (and only?) Family Portrait


Family Hiking

And for my awesome little bro, here’s a picture for you.


Chillin’. Alaska Grown.

And some pictures of just me. Because I’m selfish that way.


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Off to go hiking with Teddy, raisins, and a box of tofu or cranberry juice concentrate. Because everyone hikes in their pjs, right?

30 before 30 Challenge

As I approach my 28th birthday, it occurs to me that I’m getting close to my 30th birthday and that now might be a good time to make some goals for myself.

So I’m making a list. I’ve seen this in some other places too. It’s called 30 before 30 and the idea is 30 measurable goals to meet by your 30th birthday.


1. Get a Ph.D.

2. Get a “real job” (one lasting more than 14 weeks)

3. Visit 1 “new to me” continent (not North America or Europe)

4. Go camping

5. Read (and record) 90+ “new to me” books

6. Watch the movies that Ben gave me a few years ago

7. Go to the Walker Art Museum or Minneapolis Institute of Arts

8. Organize and clean out my closet

9. Scan old negatives (involves me going to KY or parents coming to MN)

10. Call a friend or non-parent family member once a month just to chat

Diet & Fitness

11. Run a 5K (no walking)

12. Swim laps for 30 minutes straight

13. Do a one day, 50 mile bike trip

14. Juice fast for 5 days in a row

15. Reach my weight goal

16. Go vegan for a week

17. Go vegetarian for a month

18. Go ice skating 5+ times

19. Do all of the Wii Fit Yoga poses at least once without falling over

20. Master all the DanceCentral songs on Easy


21. Use all my kitchen gadgets at least once more

22. Make at least one recipe from each cookbook I own (or give said cookbook away)

23. Play the piano 90 times

24. Make a scrapbook from an international trip

25. Learn to change a tire (car & bike)

26. Make a piece of clothing with my sewing machine

27. Take a dance course

28. Keep my desk clean for 3 months straight

29. Make Bagels

30. Finish my knitting project



Backup Ideas

31. Write and post 90 blog posts

32. Grow cherry tomatoes every summer (2012, 2013)

33. Do a 4+ day trip with <20 lbs of luggage

34. Sell something on eBay or Craigslist

35. Buy a new iThing

36. Redecorate a room in the condo

37. Buy shoes that don’t make my feet bleed

38. Go to the zoo

39. Frame pictures


My idea is to blog about things as I do them (if they are interesting) or just count them if they are not.

If you have ideas or suggestions to change about the list or add to the list, please let me know. Tomorrow the challenge begins, so you have a few hours to get your ideas submitted.