27 January 2008

Familiar Faces of Christmas 2007

The reclusive Estonian sun re-appeared Thursday, December 20, dissolving the winter's heavy layer of grey clouds and warming the first two legs of my journey back to the Land of Lincoln. With the sun overhead, the short flight from Tallinn to Helsinki was surprisingly beautiful. While the city looked uncomfortably compact from the sky, the country looked incredibly large and unihabited. It only took me a few steps to get from the arrival gate to the departure gate at Helsinki-Vantaa, which gave me an hour or so to stick my head into The Guardian Weekly before my Finnair flight to London Heathrow. Finland is the home of Santa Claus, and Finnair is his official airline. These are pretty gutsy claims for a country and an airline less than a hundred years old.

We just had to circle once out over southern London before landing at Heathrow on what was a wet, dreay afternoon that didn't come at all close to dulling the grandeur of the 747s and the A340s of Qantas, Varig, Air China, South African, and British Airways standing docilely at the gates. Corridors, escalators, ramps, and moving walkways got me to the security checkpoint for connecting flights. Once I got my coat back on, my shoes back on, my belt back on, my laptop back in its case, and my change and wallet back in my pockets, I checked in again and again answered questions about my luggage for the American Airlines flight to Chicago. I had about 45 minutes to get to Terminal 3, which was just a bus ride away, down the escalator on the left. Well, more corridors, escalators, ramps, and moving walkways in Terminal 3 made my sprint to the gate just as long as the bus ride to the terminal. With 10 minutes to go before the scheduled take-off, I was still in the check-in line, but definitely not the last one in line. I wiped the sweat off my forehead after a woman from American welcomed me with a very warm and sincere Southern accent and allowed me go down the gangway to the plane.

So, say hello to my 93-year-old grandmother in her comfy recliner; to my parents, there in the food court at the mall; my sister and her husband (with a log for the fire) and their daughters/my nieces; my sister's sons/my nephews (next to Santa); my two nieces again, the older one is a huge Hanna Montana fan as well as a fan of her sister; my aunt (my mother's sister) in the coffee cup cardigan; my best friend from high school and his family; and my friend Oleg and his family.

01 January 2008

Is Gas More Expensive in Estonia than the US?

How much is gas in America?
Well, it's a straightforward question but one I could never answer confidently.
Having finally sat down and worked out the conversions of dollars to kroons and gallons to liters, this is... my final answer:

Gas in Estonia is almost twice as expensive as gas in America.

Price of Gas in America
-3.07 USD for 1 gallon
-3.07 USD = 32.51 EEK for 1 gallon
-32.51 EEK for 1 gallon = 3.785 liters
-8.59 EEK for 1 liter.

Price of Gas in Estonia
-15.90 EEK for 1 liter
-15.90 EEK = 1.50 USD for 1 liter
-1.50 USD for 1 liter = 0.26 gallon
-5.78 USD for 1 gallon.

How far is it from Chicago to Springfield, where both the Hogans and the Simpsons, live?
It is another straightforward question that requires, first, the simple conversion of miles to kilometers and, then, some type of conversion of the highways and expressways in Illinois to the two-lane roads in Estonia.

Speed Limits
-65 miles per hour on intercity highways in the USA = 105 kilometers per hour
-90 kilometers per hour on intercity roads in Estonia = 56 miles per hour

The distance from Chicago to Springfield is about 176 miles (283 km), and, without stopping at a rest stop or a McDonald's, it takes about three hours (176/65) on good ole, eight-, six-, and four-lane Interstate 55 (longer, of course, if there is traffic on the Stevenson).

So how far can you get in three hours in Estonia? Well, you can't go as fast, because the roads are not as good or as wide. At 90 km/h, you can drive only 270 kilometers, or 168 miles. That's Chicago to Sherman, but that's on a eight-, six, and four-lane highway.

Let's try Tallinn to Tapa, or maybe, how many kilometers can you drive in three hours in Estonia?

Live from Panera's on Dirksen Prkwy in Spfld, IL

Incredibly convenient. Large selection. Reasonable prices.