I figured before I entirely bit the bullet and moved to Helsinki, I should check it out in the summer time. I just got back from a four day trip (which felt more like a week, fortunately) to do just that. My conclusion? I think you already know.

My couch surfing buddy, Anne, was nice enough to let me crash at her place in Helsinki. I showed up on Tuesday night and took the 615 into town. Anne and a friend of hers met me at Rautatientori and we immediately got to drinking in a park. The park was a crackin’ scene, and I was feeling absolutely fantastic to be back in Helsinki. I noticed countless single speeds riding by on the bike path and was caught daydreaming about building one of my own when I get there. I glanced at my phone to discover that it was almost 10pm, even though the light in the sky indicated it was late afternoon at most. Anne and I headed back to her place in Kruununhaka and busted into the Medovača I brought from Serbia. After that we walked around the city until the sky was eventually dark at half after midnight or so.

The next day we walked around Kallio, which is evidently the hipster epicenter of Helsinki. Anne knows quite a bit about the neighborhood as that’s where she used to live, so she took me to this wonderful Thai restaurant, a bike shop, and all in all a veritable guided tour of Kallio. After that I went back to the train station to head out to Turku for the night. My friends Helena and Matt, whom I met at the hostel I first stayed at in Belgrade, live out there now. They picked me up from the train station and we immediately got beer and meat and headed to their friend’s house for some grilling. After that, we headed to a park by the river (where coincidentally some sort of festival was happening) to play some Mölkky, a traditional Finnish game that involves throwing a piece of wood at other numbered pieces of wood in an attempt to knock them down and get points, something like a mix between bowling and bocce ball. All in all quite fun, but I’m certainly not very good at it. We finished off (no pun intended) the night at a bar called Kuka, they had a foosball table. Now, I’ve learned from the many attempts at playing on Garlando-style tables that I should really just avoid it. The design is completely different and I’m essentially unable to do any of my signature pin shots, leaving me with a wobbly pull shot and a ball that slides around on a slippery surface. Somehow I got talked into it this time and totally dominated. I think it was a fluke, but maybe I’m getting better at this whole Garlando thing… However, if I find a Tornado table in Helsinki, shit’s gonna get real.

I said my farewells to Turku, Helena, and Matt, and headed back to Helsinki around noon the next day. I spent the remainder of that day exploring Helsinki a bit more on my own. I visited my beloved Ruoholahti only to discover that they’re expanding the tram system through it (!). I was in full freakout mode and walked along the entirety of the new track length. The overhead lines haven’t been deployed yet, but the tracks lead down to Länsisatama via the new bridge and look like they’ll be joined with another extension from the east in the future. I’m super stoked about those extensions going into use. I also walked around Punavuori a bit, I could certainly get used to living there if I can’t find anything in Ruoholahti. 🙂

That night we headed to this one club to see some Brazilian band. The music was great, and when the band stopped this DJ from Argentina got up on decks and started playing some house/Bachata/Merengue/Cumbia/etc. The dancefloor was completely empty, until, of course, we decided to get things started. We definitely turned it into a dance party with the greatest of ease. After things stopped there we headed over to Kuudes Linja to continue the dance party. We caught the tail end of a live set by Mad Max Mattel (video below), which was followed up by some disco/funk-infused electro, dubstep, and hip hop for the rest of the night. It was complete madness in the best possible way. We relaxed for a bit in a park in the broad daylight-looking hours around 4am where I learned that Helsinki also has a burgeoning moombahton scene. This city is mine. Gimme.

For my final day in town, we got some much-needed Nepalese (read: Indian. They call it Nepalese everywhere, but according to various sources it’s really not) food and hung out at a popular cafe on the water over by Töölö.

I had an amazing time. Mad respek (read: many thanks) to Anne, Helena, Matt, Helsinki at large, etc, etc, for their hospitality and general awesomeness. I’m hyper pumped to make that place my home. Listen to this tune to get a feel for what it will be like:


The 51st State

July 23, 2011

A legitimate response to “I’m American” in Kosovo is a genuine and enthusiastic “Cool!” It’s been a long time since I’ve seen and heard such respect for the US, especially in Europe. I’m not sure how I feel about it, especially since it’s in response to a series of events that were largely perpetrated against my people and the place I’m currently living, but I must admit it was a little nice not feeling like I have to hide the fact that I’m American. In most places in Europe I tend to keep my voice quiet when I’m speaking English so as not to look like an ignorant tourist all the time, but not in Kosovo.

I was planning on heading down on there Tuesday night to visit a friend of mine, Danielle, whom I recently met in Georgia (via Misha). I went to the bus station 30 or so minutes before scheduled departure only to discover that the bus was full! The ticket counter couldn’t sell me a ticket, but suggested I go out to the terminal and see if I could weasel my way on board. Most of the people on the bus, including the operating staff, were Albanian, but I spoke with the head guy (who also speaks Serbian) for a few minutes about availability on board. It was, in fact, full, and there was no way I could get all the way to Priština that night. I called Dani and we discussed options. We planned on rescheduling to a different weekend some time in August. I went home feeling defeated. Dani and I talked a bit more online, and some constraints came up that would have made visiting in August considerably more difficult, so I decided to head down to the bus station the next day and try to get on the noon one. I was able to, and I arrived in Priština late that afternoon. I was greeted by American flags hanging everywhere and streets named after American presidents. Dani and her friend Haris met me in town and took me to a few cafes and showed me around town a bit.

Early (much to my chagrin) the next day, Dani and I went to Kosovska Mitrovica, a weirdly-divided multi-ethnic city a bit north of Priština. The Ibar river goes right through town and divides the northern Serbian half from the southern Albanian half. Apparently it’s a big deal to cross from one side to the other, and doing so as one of the ethnic groups can get you killed. There is a fairly permanent military garrison posted at the bridge to keep things under control. After exploring some of the surrounding area we headed back to Priština for some traditional food. The food was fantastic, but our conversation at the restaurant took a turn for the not-so-restaurant-friendly, so we decided to take things elsewhere and bought a bottle of gin, vermouth, and a jar of olives: keeping things decidedly classy. Later, however, we realized the vermouth was sweet vermouth, i.e., our dreams of martinis were suddenly shattered. We resorted to drinking straight gin, which is surprisingly tolerable (when the gin is Bombay Sapphire, I suppose).

Suffering from hang overs and extreme pain from unknown causes of epic proportions, Haris and I headed to the center for some cafe action while Dani did something (I’m not quite sure, actually) at the office for a bit. Dani and I headed toward the main mosque to check out midday Friday prayer, we sat and enjoyed each others’ company, tea, and coffee at an uncannily Middle Eastern-looking cafe while listening to the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. We explored the bits of the city I hadn’t seen yet by foot and generally had a relaxing time going from cafe to cafe. After that, we met up with Haris and another American, Max, to head down to Gračanica (another Serbian village a bit south of Priština) to check out the monastery and get some legendary Roštilj (Serbian grilled meat, pretty standard fare). I hopped on the bus back to Belgrade that night for what may have been the most uncomfortable bus ride ever. Needless to say I didn’t sleep much and am looking forward to getting some much-needed slumber tonight.

It’s a little strange, getting used to things in Priština. Everything looks a lot like Albania, or Southern Serbia, but the styles are considerably different. The youth these days generally wear American clothes, a smattering of New Era caps (New York Yankees, of course… I’m pretty sure that’s the only team they know), Levi’s jeans, assorted name brand tees, etc. This is in stark contrast to the more traditional Albanian garb of the older generation: slacks, vests, sandals, and Qeleshe (traditional Albanian sheep skin hat), and even the considerably more European Serbian styles seen in the villages.

All in all, I had a fantastic few days down there. I wish I could have stayed longer, but alas. It was definitely good to check out what all the hype was about.

Stay tuned for my upcoming Helsinki trip!

Hummus Wars

July 19, 2011

Those of you who pay close enough attention to my Facebook will certainly have noticed the addition of a few key eateries in Belgrade recently. Belgrade, being as decidedly lacking in ethnic foods as it is, can’t, and indeed, isn’t, remiss to recognize these auspicious establishments. Fortunately, both of them have been quite popular since their respective openings, which makes me think they’re here to stay.

What, you might ask, have these two facilities in common? Hummus, of course, the name of the game.

The first of these, chronologically, is the Tel Aviv Hummus House, located at Carice Milice 3, right near Zeleni Venac. The vanguard of their offerings is their little falafel sandwiches. They offer other things, like various grilled meat dishes and things like that, but a vast majority of their clientele order the falafel sandwiches, and they’re right in doing so. The place also slangs hummus by the kilo, purchasable in tubs along with some bread. The joint is owned by an Israeli guy who’s a bit mysterious, I know he doesn’t speak much Serbian, so he usually chats up the customers in English. I also hear a fair bit of Hebrew spoken there.

The second is Šauarma Bar (something like a Serbian approximation of shawarma), located at Svetozara Markovića 37, right down the street from me, in fact, on the very same street. As can be determined by their name, their primary benefaction to Belgrade at large is shawarma, but they also have falafel and a few other dishes. They also slang hummus by the kilo, but the only bread they have is homemade lavash (quite good, but doesn’t last long). This place is owned and operated by– wait for it… PALESTINIANS! *THUNDERCLAP* Most of these guys speak Serbian quite well though (I haven’t sorted out how/why yet), and they’re constantly chattering away with their customers about where they’re from and things like that.

To the question at hand: which is superior? The stakes are actually quite high in this game being that we’re dealing with Israelis and Palestinians, but the answer, unfortunately, isn’t all that clear. My primary interest in both places from the get-go has been hummus. The quality of the hummus between the two places is pretty comparable, both go heavy on the tahini and light on the olive oil so it ends up with a strong sesame flavor. Not the best hummus I’ve ever had (the Gyrocery in Seattle still takes the cake), but it’s certainly far from the worst. I like the bread that the Israeli place serves with their hummus more than the lavash, but the lavash is better as a wrap for their falafel sandwiches and shawarma. I like the idea of the Israeli place focusing on one thing and doing it well (their falafel sandwiches), but I like the diversity of choices at the Palestinian place. In terms of location, the Palestinian place definitely trumps, but that’s entirely subjective being that they’re located no more than five minutes from me.

Conclusion? I’m going to continue to frequent both of them. At the very least, maybe I can do the diplomatic community a favor.

When I first saw the lineup for Exit 2011 I wasn’t particularly impressed by any of the big names. The one that caught my attention the most was Jamiroquai, and that was right after going up to Vienna to see them, so I wasn’t particularly thrilled. Indeed, the crowd-pulling lineup was a bit weak, but where it really delivered for me was with some of the smaller artists. As you could guess, I spent a grand majority of my time by a stage that focused on bass-heavy sounds.

Being that Novi Sad (where Exit is) is only an hour or so north, I opted to simply come home every day rather than finding somewhere to stay within Novi Sad. It wasn’t a genius call, being that riding a hot and crowded train home at 0800 every morning for a few hours after going nuts the whole night kinda sucks. At any rate, I survived to tell the story.

Day 1: The first group to be seen was Beirut. I hadn’t listened to much of their stuff, but Vanja and Petar (folks I went with) are big fans. Their music was certainly good, but not the sort of thing I wanted to listen to standing up in a crowd. I eventually lost interest and headed to the Main Stage where Magnetic Man and Digital Mystikz were starting a bit later, Vanja caught up awhile later. Magnetic Man was a good 30 minutes late due to technicals and their performance was a bit lackluster in my opinion, it was also decidedly lacking in a third member, Skream, who is apparently becoming/has become a father. Sgt. Pokes was doing a good job of getting the crowd going, as usual, but the act that really stuck with me that night was Digital Mystikz a bit later on. They stayed on the decks until about 0600 which was pretty awesome. Most of their set was comprised of typical DMZ sounds, lots of slow, minimal bass.

After Digital Mystikz we headed back for the train station. We were able to find seats, which was sort of nice, but the train was really hot and I was irritated and uncomfortable, so I didn’t sleep much. Needless to say, getting home around 10am I crashed hard and stayed that way until 1800 or so.

Day 2: I woke up and relaxed at home a bit before we headed to the train station for round two. MIA was the headliner for that night and Vanja was really excited to see her. After a good bit of crowd navigation we made it up to the front where some other friends were. MIA wasn’t particularly interesting, but the bass was loud at the very least. Her vocals were muffled and distorted, and I’m pretty sure they were running through some sort of effects box so you really couldn’t hear what she was saying at all. The beats weren’t bad though, and there were a few dancers so the performance itself was pretty fun. At one point she also brought up a good 50 girls from the audience to dance on stage.

After MIA I headed straight to the Happynovisad Stage (who came up with these names?) for Oneman, Loefah, and Boddika. This, in addition to local badbwoy Rasheed proved to be a solid six hour session of pure SWAMP81 menace. Oneman can only be described as a magician behind the decks, the guy has the authority and style to mix all sorts of musical genres while keeping the crowd moving, case in point him finishing his bass-heavy/glitch hop/dubstep/future bass set with The Police’s Roxanne, and it went off (unfortunately I accidentally deleted the video), also notice his inclusion of Tes La Rok’s remix of Uncle Sam’s Round the World Girls. After that, dubstep veteran and owner of SWAMP81 records, Loefah, got on. Loefah has been one of my favorite dubstep producers for a long time and I’m loving the new sound SWAMP81 is pushing too. It’s a super minimal, super bass-heavy, super techy, all-around deep and pulsing future bass that’s reaching back to its roots of various subgenres of techno and house; as DOTS describes it: “Chicago-style-but-not-strictly-house-post-dubstep-aaargh-i-hate-that-term-kinda-low-slung-hip-hop-sped-up-+-808+slightly-Jukey. It’s actually really difficult to pin-point although there’s definitely a distinctive SWAMP sound.” The crowd was absolutely loving it too, which made the vibe that much better. Loefah’s entire set was fantastic and made a smooth transition into Boddika’s equally bad ass set a bit later on. DJ Rasheed, a well-known dubstep DJ out of Belgrade finished off the night with a similar SWAMP81 vibe until 0700.

The train on the way back was packed, so I wasn’t able to find a place to sit. I ended up sticking my head out the window for most of the time in an attempt to stay awake, but I think I slumped against the aisle a few times and dozed off. It was a good 30 degrees by the time I made it home at 10am, and it was only getting warmer. I had a feverishly bad sleep that day due to the heat, so I woke up a few hours earlier than the day before and tried to keep cool.

Day 3: We got to Novi Sad a bit earlier with the intention of meeting up with our friend Doris, but that didn’t pan out. Instead we sat at a cafe overlooking the Danube and Petrovaradin Fortress (where Exit is) and got a few beers to start off the night. The main attraction for the third day was Jamiroquai. Musically, it was a great concert, but the crowd was quite annoying. There was lots of general drunkenness, spilling of beers, and pushing. Jamiroquai, however, still didn’t play Virtual Insanity or Runaway… so I guess I’ll need to see them in concert again!

After Jamiroquai it was off to the Happynovisad Stage again for some more bass. Up next we had Girl Unit, whose dancefloor hits include popular Wut and Showstoppa. I generally knew what I was getting into, being that I’ve heard his mixes on a number of occasions, but what came next was simply the best DJ set I’ve heard in a long time, and easily the best that Exit 2011 had to offer. He frequently switched between the crunchy and bass-heavy sounds of various subgenres of future bass or post dubstep (if you want to call it that) to the grimy and crunked-out glitch hop remixes of mainstream rap tunes. The crowd, me included, was going absolutely wild also. Bok Bok took up the decks after Girl Unit, his set was solid also, but by this time I was just worn out from going nuts over Girl Unit and didn’t have a ton more energy in me. Vanja was feeling similar, so we decided to take off at the end of Bok Bok’s set.

We weren’t used to leaving this early, so we didn’t know if the train or the bus would leave first. We got to the bus station and asked, it turns out we just barely missed the bus, so we headed to the train station to check things out. Vanja asked when the train was leaving and the guy indicated that it should be leaving right then. We went running up the stairs only to hear the whistle blowing. I gave up, but saw the train on the first platform as I was nearing the end of the stairs so I sprinted for it. It was already moving at this point, but the door was still open and the conductor waved me on. We ran up and hopped on while it was still moving, safe. This ride wasn’t much better, still hot, still crowded. Fortunately it was an express train, so that in addition to the fact that we left considerably earlier meant we got back to Belgrade by 0700 or so, before it got absurdly hot (like it is now).

Conclusion: I had an amazing time. It’s a tough call to identify what the all-around best part of the festival was, though. As I mentioned earlier, Girl Unit’s set was my definite favorite, but the rest of that night doesn’t really compare to the six hour SWAMP81 marathon of the night before. With that being said, the best single set, in my opinion, was Girl Unit, but the best night all-around was the second night. Also big shouts to the MCs Sgt. Pokes, P Money, and MC Chunky, all of them did a phenomenal job of keeping the crowd moving and tastefully included their own lyricism when it was called for, boh!

Bass music, to me, is directly proportional to quality of life. It’s been a bit since I’ve been that stimulated by cutting edge, new sounds and I’m stoked to be experiencing this wave while it’s happening. Dubstep, as it were, is giving way to some really exciting new genres of electronic music. If Exit showed me one thing, it’s that Outlook Festival in September is going to be even more bad ass (peep the lineup if you don’t believe me).

On a completely unrelated note, dresses and high tops (preferably Dunks) are pretty much unequivocally the best outfit ever for girls.

Catch you all on the flip.

My non-computery followers need not read on.

I had a hell of a time discovering the command to disconnect (and subsequently deauthenticate and disassociate) a user from a Cisco Aironet access point. Props to dude_ at networking-forum.com for posting how. This post is just so that other people in the same boat might stumble upon it on Google.

clear dot11 client <mac_address>

Words for Google to catch: disconnect deauthenticate disassociate kick cisco aironet dot11 user client