This site contains the archives of my travel blogs from 2010-2016.

I'm now blogging via Medium. For other life updates, including opportunities or requests to collaborate, visit my personal website.




Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Losing Daylight"

I just got a marketing email from this artist who's releasing his newest EP: "Losing Daylight".

Story of my life.
How appropriate, I thought....this pretty much sums up what's going on up here in the now-frigid north.  I looked out the window yesterday afternoon and was afraid my lecture had run way overtime.  It was dusk - almost dark already. But nope, I looked at the clock and it was.... 3.45 pm.  My nighttime Finnish course ended at 8.30 and it seemed like the middle of the night!!

So, here's to promoting a young artist &
                    appreciating the wonder of hemispheric differences :)

And all you who are closer to the equator - enjoy that daylight!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Articles of Note


I seem to be finding all sorts of fascinating articles this weekend.
Maybe you'll find something here that piques your interest...

1. Innovator of the Year Awards 2012 
Would you have guessed that Mary-Kate & Ashley Olson are among the winners? These are some hard-working gals.
To sum up their current fashion design philosophy:
"We like the mentality of the way men dress—a few investment pieces that you can wear all the time and build upon."
Read the full story about their company, The Row, in this interesting article in WSJ.

2. Already -24 Celsius in Lapland! (Northern Finland)

A fascinating review of Bob Dietrick & Lew Goldfarb's book Bulls, Bears, and the Ballot Box. The review is written by a reporter who espouses to be a big fan of Milton Friedman's economic theory.

As Dwight Eisenhower said in a New Yorker interview
“I despise people who go to the gutter on either the right or the left and hurl rocks at those in the center.”

I have to copy/paste the closing remarks of this article, as I know they're going to stir up some opinions:

The book covers only Presidents Hoover through W. Bush.  But as we near this election I asked Mr. Goldfarb his view on the incumbent Democrat’s first 4 years.  His response:
  • “Obama at this time would rank on par with Reagan
  • Corporate profits have risen under Obama more than any other president
  • The stock market has soared 14.72%/year under Obama, second only to Clinton — which should be a big deal since 2/3 of people (not just the upper class) have a 401K or similar investment vehicle dependent upon corporate profits and stock market performance”
As to the challenging Republican party’s platform, Mr. Goldfarb commented:
  • “The platform is the inverse of what has actually worked to stimulate economic growth
  • The recommended platform tax policy is bad for velocity, and will stagnate the economy
  • Repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will have a negative economic impact because it will force non-wealthy individuals to spend a higher percentage of income on health care rather than expansionary products and services
  • Economic disaster happens in America when wealth is concentrated at the top, and we are at an all time high for wealth concentration.  There is nothing in the platform which addresses this issue.”
There are a lot of reasons to select the party for which you wish to vote.  There is more to America than the economy.  But, if you think like the Democrats did in 1992 and “it’s about the economy” then you owe it to yourself to read this book.  It may challenge your conventional wisdom as it presents – like Joe Friday said – “just the facts.” 

Weirdest Dream Ever

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, working on my laptop.  I click a link that takes me to my own blog, at which point I cringe. "The pan got too hot and the cheese has started to sweat!" I yell. Then I reach into my computer screen, peel the webpage off (which has apparently become a 3D object), and start to dab the cheese grease with a paper towel.  After a few minutes I plaster the webpage back onto the screen. Throughout the rest of the day I visit the page a few more times and stare in disappointment as I observe the permanent grease stains marring the "paper".

analysis: I have an obsession with cheese, and I'm feeling guilty about it. Maybe I've been working in my kitchen too much - food & technology have merged in mind. All the time I'm spending on this product development project for a touchscreen disinfectant also played a role...3D webpages??

Now I'm thinking about the cheesy open-faced cheddar/mozzarella-tuna-n-tomato melts my mom used to make on french bread when I was a kid, and I want one sooooooo bad!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shirah Learns Finnish - Episode 2


Shirah Learns Finnish - Episode 2 from shirah-eden on Vimeo.
See what I learned on my first day of class & hear about my first-day-of-snow catastrophe.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What makes an experience FORMATIVE?

Why do I think about my time in some countries almost every day, but completely forget others I've visited when summarizing my travels for a new acquaintance?

Why can I recall whole paragraphs of text from a design book, but have no recollection of even the topic of my 3-hour lecture on Friday?

What makes some experiences so formative, while others - even what could be rather major life events - just pass by us, seemingly unnoticed? 

I've pondered this from time to time throughout the past few years.  The conclusion I've come to is that it's about taking ownership of the situation, the moment, the material, or the skill. It's about being active instead of passive. It seems self-centered, but if you really want to learn, relate new information back to yourself. Draw connections from the outside world to your own thoughts, feelings, well-being, or interests. 

I know these aren't new concepts. They are theories that are presented each year to thousands of students around the globe. I sat in classrooms and learned them myself at one point not so long ago. But it always behooves me to reflect on this from time to time. 

My most recent reminder was just last night. It was the third day of my intense study session leading up to today's Advanced Strategic Management exam. My brain was becoming a bit fatigued, but I wanted to learn more.  I wanted to rekindle that spark that puts my mind into full gear and gets me really excited about learning everything possible about a topic.  Then it hit me.  Even after days of drawing tons of pretty little diagrams and charts and mind maps, why should I expect to be able to memorize a labyrinth of impersonal lists and bullet points?  "Why am I learning this, again?" I asked myself.
Oh yeah, because I'm going to be the best entrepreneurial strategist in Helsinki. How could I forget?  

I knew that the key to internalizing my notes would be to make the information relevant. If I want to be able to use these frameworks later, I have to be able to use them now.  In two seconds I'd thought up my solution and fully committed. For the rest of the duration of my studies, I'm going to work through each course as if it's a consulting project for a specific company. The companies I choose will be those owned and run by my friends and family, in industries that I'm familiar with or want to learn more about. Each course will yield a strategy and implementation plan for the chosen company.  I'll send the resulting materials to my contacts at each company and solicit feedback. I'll encourage them to use and build on my work if they like the direction I took. Not only will this method dramatically increase my learning curve and retention rate, but I'll graduate with 
- proof that I can apply frameworks & theories, 
- a professional portfolio, 
- and experience working with potential clients. 

If you're interested in seeing me do a project on your company, I'm open to suggestions.
Get in touch!

Thursday, October 25, 2012


An acquaintance just posted this on Facebook. It's the funniest thing I've read in a while - had to share!

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English". In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away. By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

Don't worry, it's a joke. Read the original post online at The Brussels Journal.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shirah Learns Finnish - Episode 1


Shirah Learns Finnish - episode 1 from shirah-eden on Vimeo.
So, I moved to Finland for grad school almost 2 months ago. I don't speak any Finnish. But that's going to change.
Tomorrow marks my first day of Finnish class, and I'm planning to make a weekly video on my progress.

**There are some mistakes in the spelling of the Finnish words in the subtitles:
"läävän" should be "läävään"
"moika" should be "moikka"

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Redefining Wealth

Pema Chholing Monastery, 500 years old
Today marks two months since I laced up my boots and walked out of the monastery for the last time.  As the older monks tied kata prayer scarves around my neck and backpack, the tears were already threatening to slide down my cheeks. Even now, my heart overflows with emotion at the mere mention of Nepal.

Never has it been so difficult for me to leave a home, landscape and community. And, since my first trip overseas to Belgium, I've never been so drastically changed by an experience. It was only last night that I realized this, while standing over the stove, cooking what has become my standard dinner and also a comfort food: boiled white rice with steamed vegetables.  With my busy and unpredictable student lifestyle I find it handy to keep various frozen veggies on hand for those nights when I get home after the grocery stores have closed. Last night was one of those nights.

After putting on the rice, I grabbed the veggies I'd left out to thaw and poured them into the wok pan. I realized I didn't have quite enough to feed my roommate and the guest I'd spontaneously invited as well, so I went back to the freezer to grab another bag of mixed vegetables. I started to pour those into the wok when suddenly I was overcome with emotion -- thankfulness, reminiscence, nostalgia, but mostly thankfulness washed over me.  The sight of all those brightly colored vegetables filling my pot to the brim evoked an inner cry of, "Look how rich I am!  I can afford to eat as many vegetables as I want!!  I can pull them out of my freezer any time I want!"  It wasn't my roommates' protein shake, nor the croissants or chocolates. It was vegetables. 

Have you ever longed for vegetables? Coveted a few leaves of boiled spinach? Hoped for a few slices of carrot? Wished that a tomato might magically materialize in the kitchen, or that there was enough cabbage for everyone to have a salad instead of a hint of cabbage flavor in its boiled broth? My three months at Pema Chholing changed something fundamental in the way I see the world. My idea of wealth and luxury will never be the same. My sense of enough and needs will forever be on a slightly different scale.  Vegetables will always remind me how blessed I am.

Ani, a nun who lives up the hill, proudly shows off her kitchen. One of the oldest and toughest women I've ever met.

During a festival week someone brought us a basket of giant vegetables.
We were all excited, especially little Pemba.

Homemade yak butter - a real luxury!

My little boys: Pasang, Tashi, Nima

Monday, October 08, 2012

Nepal Trip Reflection

Here's a PDF of the document I submitted as my final reflection on the time I spent volunteering at Pema Chholing Monastery in Nepal's Solukhumbu region in the Himalayas this summer.

This week I met four Nepali students in a Product Development Project course I'm taking at the Aalto Design Factory in our school of technology.  After talking with them I was thinking in Nepali the rest of the day and all the memories of my home there were again so fresh in my mind. It's hard to believe that it's been just over a month already since I left Nepal.  How my life has changed!

FOY.shirah Lumos Trip Final Report - Nepal 2012

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Motivate Yourself 10 Times a Day

I was in a super-happy mood when my mom & dad presented me with a new laptop (I mean, really, who wouldn't be?). So the first time I turned it on and created my user account, I chose a new password that I knew I would easily remember:


What I didn't realize was
(a) how many times a day I'd have to retype my password to access my laptop,
(b) how exclamation marks inherently create urgency and excitement,
(c) how much I internalize the words that I think or type,
(d) how much this internalization can affect my mood and subconscious, and
(e) how motivating it would be to internally repeat an encouraging, motivating phrase throughout my day.

Try it!! Change your password(s) to some phrase that compliments or inspires you. Make sure to include your own name so that you & your subconscious remember that those words are for you! I'll give some examples for my brothers and sister:


You'll find that it's not only good for your mood & motivation, but it'll be easier to remember your passwords, and by using more symbols and such you're actually making your password more secure. Give it a try!

*P.S. I'm obviously changing my password, now that I've spilled it to the world. So don't even try to hack me.
Man, the things I sacrifice for this blog. ;)
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