Coming Back From Helsinki

There will be no more direct flights to/from Helsinki until the end of March, and I forgot what a pain it is to fly with a connection! I made it more difficult for me by reaching Finnair Gold – to maintain it, I need to choose Finnair whenever possible, and Heathrow is not the fastest connection and not the most comfortable airport. I will respond to their request for review and tell them why it is not the best option :).

The connecting flight was delayed one hour and forty minutes, and when we arrived at ORD, there was no gate for us, so we had to wait for another thirty minutes. But when we finally arrived, a miracle happened. First, the gate was the closest to the arrival hall, and then there was no line for passport control at all! They said – go to any officer! Also, although they didn’t restore the automated passport control, you do not need to fill in a paper slip anymore. The officer gives you a paper slip with his marks, and you go to customs and give it to them. Not sure what’s the purpose of this, but it is better than using a pen :).

This trip was my first after I earned Gold status with Finnair, and I have to admit that the ability to use the lounge is essential :). If not for the lounge, waiting at Heathrow would be way more miserable! Although sometimes, the lounges are so crowded that it might be challenging to find a seat!

On the left, there is a list of calories for all food and drinks
And I want to mention that an office worker needs less than that!

The Russian Embassy in Berlin

There was no time to walk around Berlin, at least no daylight time. In part, it was my bad planning – after I changed my flight from Chicago to Friday instead of Sunday, I could easily change the flight to Berlin to come earlier on Tuesday and leave later on Saturday. There was just way too many things going on, and I forgot.
Besides the conference, we could do just one thing – walk to the Brandenburg Gates and then a little bit along Unter Der Linden. We also walked to where we had dinners, but these walks were in complete darkness, and we could hardly see anything around.

This morning, we used the only daylight time we had – less than two hours before going to the airport, so we could not go far from the hotel.

First, we saw the word AEROFLOT on the top of the nearby building, then we saw the barricades around it, and then we saw that the barricades continued along the whole block, And only then we figured out what was a setup – the barricades were guarding the Russian Embassy!

I didn’t see the sign that this is the Russian Embassy, only the flag on the top of the buildign

The memorial is located in the middle of Unter der Linden, so that it is clearly visible from the embassy windows:

And there is an incredibly powerful message on the opposite side of the strre, once again, visible from the Embassy:

During the conference, I talked with many people from different countries about the war. I think, the words of my long-term Republican friend from Texas says it all: we are sending guns to Ukraine, and we will keep sending guns. Ukraine is defending all of us. If not for Ukraine, we won’t be in Berlin today.

We always have political arguments with this old friend of mine whenever we meet, but this time, I didn’t even argue with him about the gun laws when he said: we need guns to send them to Ukraine!

I Am Back To The Same Place…

Berlin was my first “zagranitsa”, I wrote about it here. Today, I was standing at the same place where I stood thirty-eight years ago. Actually, I stood a little bit further, we were not allowed that close to the Brandenburg Gates.

Today, we walked from West to East Berlin, and back, something I could not imagine would ever be possible for me!

Choosing the Wall. souvenirs
I didn’t get this one, but I loved the idea!

PG Conf EU

I am in Berlin – we came here last night, today was the first day of the conference, and my talk was the first talk after the keynote! I never talked at a conference with over 600 participants in a full room (there are four track, but I am pretty sure more than 100 people were listening to my talk!

All the presentations are so interesting, I wish I could be at four places at once! And people stop me and ask questions about my presentation, an I never had such level of interest!

Haven’t seen Berlin in the daylight yet :).

Biking In Helsinki

I will never get tired of saying that I love biking in Helsinki! Even though it is so much colder than in Chicago (it was a peak of Indian summer in Chicago last weekend, with temperatures rising to 74F), it is so much nice! I can’t stop marveling at the fact that there are safe bike paths everywhere! This time, I bought better and warmer biking gear, and I like it so much that I almost want to take it back to Chicago :). We went on two bike rides, Sunday and Monday, and the weather was perfect for biking!

Scroll through my instagam post about our Sunday ride!


Two meetings I planned for Saturday morning before leaving for Chicago got canceled, but I already knew what I was going to do: The Museum of Modern Art was less than a 20-minute walk from my hotel. The last time I was at MoMA was with Igor’s friends’ family, and it turned out that I completely missed some paintings. I can’t say that we didn’t visit these rooms, because I remembered some paintings very well.

As I often do when I have limited time in a huge museum, I decided not to rush and see just a part of the museum but to pay close attention to each painting. The room with WWI and WWII-inspired art immediately caught my attention. It is possible that I saw these paintings last time as well, but they didn’t feel so timely back then. Unfortunately, I just realized that most of my photos from that room are very blourry, so there s almost nothing to show.

Collective suicide
Beckmann- “Hell”
Beckmann – Family picture
Continue reading “MoMA”

And About The Conference

I was mostly saying that I felt horrible about the war situation, but in spite of that, the conference went really well, and the first day was the most productive for me. I was the room chair for three sessions, and I did well. I talked to a lot of people, old and new acquaintances, reestablished many connections, recruited several speakers for my future User Groups, and asked for expert advice for my work problems.

Now, when I talk to people or listen to presentations, I often feel that I know more than a presenter, and if that is something I don’t know, I know exactly what to ask. it’s something new, and it definitely happened during the last several months. I talked to several of my former co-workers, and some told me: if you ever decide to come back, please come back. That was sad to hear for obvious reasons, but at least people are not mad at me.

The overall organization was great. Also, my conference was officially announced, and I can’t even describe how happy I felt each time “Hettie’s conference” was mentioned.

Since Boris was not there, nobody took pictures of me :(.

Pat Wright
Bruce Momjian
Continue reading “And About The Conference”

Chicago The Musical

Yesterday after the conference, I went with my former French co-worker to see “Chicago” – she wanted to see a “real Broadway musical” and asked me to choose, which I happily did. We also had an amazing deal “two tickets for the price of one.

I was a little worried that it might not turn out as good as it could, remembering my disappointment with “Jesus Christ.” But it was brilliant! Probably the best “Chicago” I ever saw!


I am in NYC, attending one of the most important conferences of the year. I have a talk, and I am a room host for several sessions. And everything that happens at the war front is a dark background.
I can’t be fully involved in this spectacular professional celebration, and I feel so weird feeling like I am the only person among these 200 people with this dark background… and I still have to do all the conference-related social media.