It was a lovely weekend to visit Tampere. Visibility was down to about fifty metres, the temperature was just on the soggy side of freezing, and the rain was sort of hanging motionless in the air. An excellent day to spend indoors, with our dear friends Snacks, Booze, and relative newcomer to the gang, Total Crippling Guitar Hero Humiliation.
Yes, the Tampere Sauna Ilta was finally under way, after months of planning and Emails; laughter and tears; plotting, whispering, alliances and betrayal. How difficult is it to get a dozen Technical Writers from one city to another for a Saturday evening? Forget about it. Just be glad we didn’t have to screw in any lightbulbs while we were there.
Due to a terrible oversight in the planning phase, one fatefully mis-sent Email that ended up going to the entire office instead of just the technical writing department, we ended up getting takers from Outside as well … but I justified my blunder by pointing out how few Technical Writers had signed on, and how, basically, the more the merrier. We have that budget for a reason, you know. And if the boring lame killjoys of the TW department want to complain about it, I think I have a special hotline somewhere around here. Ah yes, 1-800-BLOWME.
Anyway, we ended up with a nice crowd. Festivities, as always, began for some people earlier than others. I will allow those involved, for example, in the Viking Restaurant Jukebox Adventure tell you about it themselves. For the rest of us, it began at 5:00pm at the sauna place. I arrived to find several of the Tampere locals already present, and I was handed a beer as soon as I walked in the door. Now that’s service.
I saw, with mild curiosity, that Mikko had brought a Playstation 2 and a couple of guitar-controllers with him, along with Guitar Heroes I, II and III. I’d never seen a Playstation up-close before, and I’d only read about Guitar Hero on Ctrl+Alt+Del (Guitar Hero III, for example, was nothing like this), so naturally I was curious. Still, in the meantime there was snacking, drinking and mingling to do. And trips down memory lane to be had, courtesy of the locals’ music selection.
Wendy soon arrived with €200 worth of CDs and DVDs that she had just purchased. You know how it is, you go into a music store with the intention of buying a couple of CDs for the purposes of entertainment, and you just go crazy. Obligatory comments about Project Managers being paid too much were duly noted. Wendy took over the serious business of providing music to the group, and insisted that we refer to her by her stage-name of "DJ Wantone".
The rest of the crowd turned up, and boozing and snacking continued with gusto. It’s amazing how many instant pizzas you can get with a €300 food budget. Juhana brought his own beer with him and therefore decided that he would not be needing his company-provided beer ration. This news couldn’t have come at a better time, so I adopted the poor orphaned beers for myself. I gave them a good home with a lot of friends.
The sauna system was agreed upon with a "ladies first" policy, on the basis that after the ladies had been in the sauna, they would take ages to faff around and get ready and things, leaving time for the guys to commando-roll into the sauna, talk about sport, and then commando-roll back out and get back into their jeans and T-shirts. Hey, not my words. I’m just the messenger. Anyway, a few people opted to sauna and the rest opted to sit around and listen to an increasingly terrible degeneration of musical reminiscence.
And if you were thinking that Technical Writers weren’t cool, think again! This is about the point at which Wendy’s beloved NWA hit the stage, to universal acclaim. Strutured FrameMaker, homeboy.
After the girls had their turn, the guys went and did their brief sauna session. Discussion ranged from making a visually-impaired Mikko sit on the sauna rocks, to the cost of vomiting in the sauna (cleanup would cost us €45 per vomit, so we decided that any vomiting to take place would all have to happen in the exact same location on the floor, so we could then pass it off as one single colossal vomit from the Lionbridge Vomiting Champion, Chunderous Pete), to the obligatory sports topics. Mladen was in charge of the löyly, a job he performed splendidly. He also stayed in the sauna at least half an hour, maybe an hour, longer than everybody else, with the possible exception of Juhana. The rest of us simply had to get out of there and back to the musical extravaganza outside.
Somewhere around this point, Mikko plugged in the Playstation 2, and the Guitar Hero Contest began. I was going to call it the Great Guitar Hero Rock-Off, but thought people might get the wrong idea. Anyway, Mikko showed us how it was done (I have to say I was a little drunk at the time so didn’t quite follow, but there seemed to be a lot of coloured blobs sliding across the screen and a couple of CGI musicians dancing around as well), using the wireless guitar to show off his mad fret skills, and then Mladen took over.
Since he’d never played before, he went with the tutorial, which was an interesting experience. Something I probably could have done with myself, actually. Being a Sega Megadrive man myself, I’d never seen a game with a tutorial. I have to say, it was amusing. The voice-over dude was a lot of fun, and probably somthing we should take into use in the writing of our own documentation.
After the tutorial, Mladen felt more than qualified to move directly on to the Expert difficulty, something not even Mikko had tried before. Mladen was subsequently booed off stage, and went crawling back to the Beginner. He did very well, really, and failed to smash the guitar over anyone or anything. Video game violence is once again shown to be a myth.
Everybody went on to have a turn. Undisputed rulers of the game, and official winners of the Queens of the Stone Age Award for the evening, were Eeku and Meeku, with their mad rocking skills. Sure, they never did quite figure out which one of them was Player 1 and which was Player 2 (or at least Meeku got it but Eeku was having real trouble), but they made up for it with sheer enthusiasm. Eeku, for example, was the only contestant to pull the control cable out of its socket, causing the game to pause and display a message saying "You are rocking out a bit too hard." Hell yeah. Close runner-up was Matti, in whose veins flows the blood of a thousand Ancient Gods of Rock, who taught us all that it doesn’t matter if you don’t press the buttons or even hit the fret bar, as long as you have the "phattitude". My term, it just seemed right.
Boozing continued unabated. Anu-Riikka and I attempted to play a duet, and failed miserably, getting booed off stage at a sorry 22%. My strategy of just holding down one note, and strumming the fret-button whenever that note went past, should have guaranteed me 33% at the very least, since there were only three notes in Easy mode. I think I was let down by my costar. Later on, I went back and played song #1 (I Love Rock ‘n Roll), and totally kicked ass.
Many people left around midnight, leaving the Tampere locals to booze it on. Some people, naming no names, left a good deal earlier, heading back to Helsinki by train to watch their DVDs. After six beers and two hip-flasks full of Minttu, I found myself in sudden need of fresh air, sleep, and a new liver. I found my way back to my hotel room and crashed for the night. Oh wait, no I didn’t – I watched the end of Goldfinger on TV, and then crashed. Damn, that Oddjob guy cracks me up.
Breakfast the next morning consisted of eggs, coffee, nakki and absolutely no black sausage.
 There was a jukebox at a Viking Restaurant. I don’t know that an adventure is even necessary to make that a five-star anecdote.
 It’s more stable than Word, yo.