Monday, 18 January 2021

CHECKMATE!: "Everybody's doin' it, doin' it' NOW" *

Image by Kejamy / Pixabay

Chess is hot. And why not. A game that's been played, more or less for 1500 years has legs.  Blame the latest surge on the the 'Quern's Gambit'  - a Must Watch during Social Isolation.  Or credit Magnus Carlsen, the hunky, young, Hollywood-handsome Norwegian, who is the highest-rated player since ratings began. 


Google must have picked up that I was checking chess sites.  Magnus showed up. I could follow his moves and learn how to WIN.  Gave up after the second move – lost. Checked out Bobby Fischer, who got wiped out by comedian, Bob Hope, who played checkers with the pieces. Chess clubs are all over the place. Finland is into it. A perfect game for Finns – it takes strategy and there's not a lot of blah-blah. Oodi, Helsinki's central library, where you can do almost anything, has a club. Beginners welcomed.  The oldest chess club in the world – Part I (1800  - 1914) – has the longest name:  Schachgesllschaft.

I've learned the rules for beginners: for ex., how to set up the board, the best openings, to castle early -  preferably on the king's side, en passant, move knights before bishops,  control the center, the points for each piece, the queen is the most powerful, but the king is the most important. According to the Washington Post, chess is sexy.  Maybe that's why the majority of players are young. And you don't have to be a genius to be a good player  - it takes hard work. Mangus Carlsen said the first line in his memoir will be: "I am not genius".  Whew. Whatta relief.  CHECKMATE!

*Irving Berlin 1911

Sources: Washington Post, Google, Fred Haeger

Next week: SHOWDOWN 2021

Note:

I've played chess a bit but was never very good at it. And to add insult to the injury, some of my friends are. So, while playing chess at a bar was all fun and games when we were hanging out when young, it was also a somewhat constant stream of losses for me - also financial ones due to the many, many beers I had to buy for the winners ;-)

CU
--
Eki

Monday, 28 December 2020

2020 The Year of LIVING DANGEROUSLY


EKI
works in his home studio. His work-life hasn't changed that much, But he grew up with scientists – so he's careful. Meetings are on the phone, or by message. He avoids people and wears a mask when he goes out. If there's a reason, he goes to Spacewhale – the studio he, Era and Teemu renovated this year.  He still pulls all-nighters when there's a work crush. So it's pretty much business as usual. 

A knitted dinner table, Xmas edition.
RIIKKA
, Eki's wife, has worked through it all. She's on the front line  – taking care of people, who are old, bedridden, and need constant care. For her, the vaccine can't come soon enough. During her free time, she does her art. A beautiful, crochet patchwork. Under glass decorates their dining room table.

The SHARK has worked from home since March. She misses the camaraderie of her friends at the office and the food at the canteen. When I ask her how she is, she says, 'I'm boring'. I  correct her and say 'You mean you're bored'. She says, 'Well both'. We started The Boring Club: you can tell the same story over and over and over and nobody listens. She's president, I'm v.p.

SHARON PETTUS in St. Louis, MO hurt her back and it's hard to walk. Online she found a chic-sleek yellow titanium tricycle without pedals – you walk it. Made in Canada. The Alinker is so in demand that the delivery is six to twelve weeks. She's like a kid who Scrooge left a sack of coal instead of toys. Her husband ROBERT, will be happy when that troika shows up. Sharon will be over-the-moon.

ELIZABETH NELSON,  my sister, is recovering from breast cancer. She's isolating with her husband BOB, in their snug house in  Ft. Collins, CO. They go out to get supplies and take a walk but have no visitors. She's read every book about Trump's terrible four years. And has made a quick recovery. We talk on Saturdays and dish the dirt. We never seem to run out of material.

JONI HERTELL has a house designed by his architect daughter, JULIA HERTELL. It's in Hanko, about two hours from Helsinki. From May till October, he settled in for the long Finnish summer: excursions by boat, dinners with friends, swimming, net-fishing, golf. The town was barely touched by Covid 19. Back in Helsinki, there were more restrictions. He'll spend the holidays with his family in Hanko.

SHARON HELLER and her husband, BILL, have a cabin by a river  in Clark, CO (2,231 meters). Bill hunts and fishes, their freezer is chockablock with delicious raw material. Sharon's meals are like those photos in upscale food magazines. Neighbors, beer in hand, come over for a happy hour. The Hellers are careful and entertain guests outside. They're back in Palisade. Guests sit by a blazing fire pit, drink wine, and chill out.

BETH KOLTAR has an art-deco apartment in Houston, TX. But her husband, STEVEN, longed to be out in the country. They found a place with a pretty stone house, beautiful oak trees, and acres of grass. Steven bought an industrial lawnmower and started mowing. Beth bought a bird feeder and the cardinals flocked in. In the evening, they sit on the back deck and dig nature.

RICHARD BAILY in Oxford, GB is the first person I know to get the Pfizer Covid 19 jab. WOW. They called him one night, the next morning he was at the health center. It was over in a second. Through this whole year, he's been careful but had a matter-of-fact attitude. He said he missed having a beer at the pub with his rowing pals. And dancing every week at the town hall. Now he's waiting for his second jab.

My pals and I know we are lucky to have safe bolt-holes. Now the vaccine is a reality, what comes next?  After the 1918 Spanish flu killed approx. 50 million  people, the twenties celebrated the razzle-dazzle  Jazz Age. Women threw away their corsets, bobbed their hair, wore short, sheer dresses and coupes danced the sexy tango. Wishful thinking?

GOOD RIDDANCE 2020

Next year: 'Life is too serious to be taken seriously.' Oscar Wilde 




Note: Our studio moved to new premises. So it's not just renovated, it's brand new. We call it SW5 Studio, as it's the fifth in a row. The English translation of our site is not yet done, but you can look at pretty pictures here: https://sw5studio.fi/

The first Spacewhale "studio" was just a small concrete closet in a basement, that could barely hold our band instruments. Now we have about 200 m² (about 2150 square feet) on the 2nd floor of a pretty nice office building. The band gear is still there, but most of the space is for video: green screen studio and offices/edits.

Unfortunately, all the music stuff has been more or less on a hiatus due to corona - but I'm sure we'll get the band(s) together when things normalize a bit.

But back to the new studio: the new hotness we're building there is real-time virtual set capability - something that used to be an investment of millions of dollars, far beyond the budgets of mere mortals. Thanks to the advancement of consumer technology, almost the same result can now be done with about a thousandth of the budget, using off-the-shelf gear, some software, and plenty of DIY spirit.

Essentially, the position and rotation of the camera used in the studio is tracked in 3D space and brought to the computer, where a virtual camera with matching properties is placed in a 3D graphics world. Think of it as having your actors in the greenscreen studio, teleported into a video game, in real-time. And this result can be streamed live, to youtube, or to a zoom meeting or whatever. It almost works already - we're very near being production-ready. A simpler version of the concept is already in use, using a stationary camera.

Which reminds me, we really should make some promo videos at our new facility - right now the only demo of the concept i have is from my early tests about a year ago, done at my corona-induced isolation studio at home:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHgQ_Es4csI

CU
--
Eki


Saturday, 5 December 2020

TRUMPTY-DUMPTY had a GREAT FALL

 

Image by bridgesward from Pixabay


@realdonaldtrump: RIGGED ELECTION!!!!! 

DONALD J. TRUMP is what he hates most, a LOSER. Like a tiger in a cage, who's keeper forgot to feed, he howls. Nobody listens except his toadies and his cult.  Rudy Giuliani, T's mouthpiece, fucked up press conferences were the death knell. Reporters packed the parking lot at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping,  near a crematorium and a porn shop. At the second two-hour press conference, Giuliani was sweating like a pig before the ax came down. Black hair dye dripping down his face. He and his sidekicks put on a show. It went viral.

In 2015, Trump blew in like a force 5 tornado. Weird dyed hairdo. Fake orange tan, big suits, long ties, paunch, loudmouth, hair-raising rants at rallies. His tough bully-boy, pseudo-rich guy persona was a hoot. We never dreamed he'd end up the PRESIDENT. Or when he ran for a 2nd term 70+ million, mostly whites would vote for him. But Joe Biden beat him. On Jan.  20, 2021, Biden takes over.  So Mr. President...

HYVÄSTI (President Sauli Niniistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin want you to know FINLAND is NOT part of Russia), ADJÖ, NAKEMIIN, AU REVOIR, ARRIVEDERCI, DO SVIDANJJA (Putin is crying in his vodka), ADIOS,  SO LONG, AUF VIEDERSEHEN (Angela Merkel is laughing up her sleeve),  CHEERIO, GOODBYE!!!!!! 'We're gonna miss you, sort of, DONALD.' PS: GREENLAND is not for sale!

"DON'T  TALK TO ME LIKE THAT, I'M THE PRESIDENT!!!!!"

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC

Note: BBC 2 news made a documentary about P. M. SANNA MARIN ad her GLAMOUR GIRL GOVERNMENT

Next Week:  2020: The YEAR of LIVING DANGEROUSLY 


Note: I guess we're allowed a brief moment of glee after four years of the horror that was the Trump administration. But the problem really has not gone away. 74 million actual breathing humans voted for him. That is terrifying.

Here in Finland, after articles in the press - and taken to the extreme by online echo chambers - claiming that young immigrant gangs of hundreds that roam the streets of Helsinki have caused a spike in violence
(not true: no such gangs, no spike in violence the police tells us.) and that the immigrants spread coronavirus (half-truth: immigrant population indeed has higher rates of COVID-19 - but after adjusting for geography, age and income, the difference diminishes), and that immigrants get more social security benefits (half-truth: same as before, largely due to demographics), the True Finns Party - Finland's version of the MAGA crowd - has taken the top position in polls. 

I can't help but think that the timing of these somewhat dubious articles (and outright misleading click-bait headlines) has something to do with the municipal elections coming up - even though immigration really isn't a municipal issue.

A lot of the yellow press has ties to the right side of the aisle, and touting of immigration issues usually tends to eat away the support for the left. But this time, some of these came from the usually more neutral sources, Helsingin Sanomat and the National Broadcasting Company YLE. And it also looks like the Finns' gains have been largely from the more moderate right, National Coalition Party. Hmmm...

Anyway, right now, even though the war is still on, a big battle has been won, albeit too barely. It's time to celebrate a little. Or a lot. Oh, and each time Trump loses again in courts, extra cheers. It looks like a loser-party that never ends, 30-odd times and counting ;-)

CU
--
Eki

Monday, 16 November 2020

FINLAND for FOREIGNERS: an OUTSIDER'S VIEW

An aerial view from Eagle's Rock towards Juniper Ridge, Ferry Island, Helsinki, Finland


GLAMOUR-GIRL GOVERNMENT: 
Prime Minster, SANNA MARIN has the looks of an A-list movie-star and brains to boot. When she and her four young female ministers came to power, Covid 19  was dumped in their laps. They got it under control better than most other countries. Today life isn't exactly normal, but Finland's caseload is low - at this writing, 22 new cases per 100,00.  Sanna delighted most Finns when she did a sexy glamour shoot for TRENDI magazine. All except the stuffy right-wing wags, who went berserk. 

Sanna Marin / TRENDI / Credit: Jonas Lundqvist/A-Lehdet Oy

FINLAND
has two main official  LANGUAGES: FINNISH (SUOMI) and SWEDISH (SVENSKA). SAAMI is spoken in Lapland. When I told my husband I was stuck when I want to take a taxi home because I couldn't say the name of our street, He took a bunch of white copy paper and wrote the word  - one syllable on each page: KA-TA-JA-HAR-JUN-TIE.  And taped them to the wall. I practiced for a couple of days. Got into a taxi and said, "Minna haluaisin KATJAHARIJINTIA" (sic.). The driver looked around and said,  "Oh, you want to go to Juniper Ridge Road". I thought, why the hell am I learning this language.  But ended up in an excellent FINNISH for FOREIGNERS. class. Suomi is a FENNO-UGRIC language spoken by three countries: Finland, Estonia, Karelia (part of Russia). Its roots are 7,000 to 10,000 years old.

SVENSKA: approx. 230,00 natives are Swedish Speaking Finns*.  Finland has  Swedish TV,  radio, and newspapers.

ENGLISH: Finnish kids start learning English when they're seven. Little margie productions for the Finnish Broadcasting Co (YLE) are in English. YLE has English speaking news on the radio. Bookstores have big collections in English, as well as newspapers and magazines. So do newsstands. Most Finns, especially in the cities,  speak English. Tourists love to visit because it's so easy to navigate. TV programs and movies are shown in the original version, with subtitles Finnish and Swedish,

PUBL/PRIVATE:  A man I met in L.A. when he heard I lived in Finland said,
"you've got socialized healthcare".  Finland has Universal HC, but you've got a choice. Go to your local Healthcare center., take a number and wait to see a doctor. You'll get excellent care and it's free. Or call one of the private clinics and make an appointment. They are not over-the-moon expensive. For serious health problems, for example, a body-part transplant you have to go public (e.g. MEILAHTI - the university hospital). AAVA and  EIRA are good private options.

*A large part of FINLAND  was part of Sweden for approx. 750 year. In the early 19th C Sweden ceded it to Russia and it was a Russian Duchy. Finland declared independence in 1917.

Next week: TRUMPTY-DUMPTY had a GREAT FALL


Note:  I really like our current government - especially after the previous one, which attempted to run the country as if it was a company. That is NOT a good idea.

Finnish is spoken in mainly just in Finland - Estonians speak Estonian, which is close to Finnish, but not the same. We share many words, but the differences are large enough that when visiting Estonia, i revert to English rather than try to decipher Estonian.

I was about to correct the claim that Finns start learning English at 7 years old - when i was at school, we didn't strat English until 3rd grade. But starting 2020, on other words this year, the first foreign language indeed starts in the first grade, and for most Finns, it's English (it's an individual choice, other languages are available too).

CU
--
Eki

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

The FIG: better than FUCK, more power than the FINGER

Figs. Image by RitaE from Pixabay

A friend in St. Louis, Mo sent me a message: Fed up. Would like to give everyone the FIG. I shot back: What the hell is the FIG? She filled me in. It's an ancient Roman obscene hand gesture. It got its name, MANO FICO, from the vulva (fica). You put your thumb between your index and middle finger and make a fist. BINGO. You`'re in business. 


I called Eki. Finally caught him - he didn't know what The FIG was. I taught him. Same thing with the Shark. And all the rest of my pals. Sharon sent lots of info. Raphael, in his Sistine chapel Madonna painting, one angel gives the other the Fig.  Can't verify this, but it's fun to speculate that they represent Michelangelo and Raphael.

With so much off-kilter and uncertain these days, we have plenty of reasons to use obscenities. Was surprised to see a German government commercial that shows an old woman wearing a face mask. She looks straight at the camera and gives the finger. The Fig would have had more punch. But obscenities can lose their power. Keep them for when if you don't do something, you'll split your gut.

Sources: Sharon Pettus, Symbol dictionary, net

Next week: FINLAND for FOREIGNERS: an outsider's VIEW 

Note: I have nothing smart to add to this topic, so i won't ;-)

CU
--
Eki



Saturday, 10 October 2020

EKI & his MOM go GEOCACHING

A geocache location in Espoo, in midst of an urban area.

When I asked Eki if he was getting exercise, he said he'd been GEOCACHING with his Mom, Liisa. They've been playing this game for a long time – Liisa has almost 1000 found its and Eki has a bit over 200.

When he first told me about GC, I was in Colorado. I searched online and found one about a block from my house, in a winery. Last Sunday they found their finds on a bridge rail and in a hard-to-get-to place on a rocky hill. They were out about two and hours and found three canisters, signed their names and the date. Eki said it was a good day.

Hard to pin down exact info about GC. But when I checked on the net found hide and seek game got started around 2000. There are caches in 193 countries, 641 million found. Its and about 950,000 players. 

It was first called Geostashing, but the organizers thought this name had a bad connotation. So they changed it to the French word 'cacher' – to hide. There are variations on the game. For ex, OPENCACHING and WAYMARKING

Liisa and Eki play the original. Helsinki is the perfect place to play. Surrounded by water, there are terrific unspoiled places to walk and to search for the canisters. If you're hot to hike and like games, GEOCACHING might get you hooked. Get out your cell phones. Find the coordinates and get moving. Good hunting. 

 Sources: Eki, the net 

 Next week: The FIG: worse than FUCK and better than the FINGER


Note: We try to go out Geocaching once a week, depending on the weather etc. Actually will go out today, again. It's supposed to be fun, so we do not go out in bad weather, or if tired, or too busy. Today it's beautiful fall weather outside, a great day for geocaching.

I don't really think of it as a game, but rather a great excuse to get out, to places i would never visit otherwise, and of course to spend some quality time with my mom. Finding the caches is a bonus, not a must.

The caches themselves come in many forms - some are simple, just a small container with a pen and some paper placed under a rock or something, in the coordinates described in the cache manifest. In these cases, the location is often the main thing. The caches are usually put in places worth a visit, be it a hidden pocket of nature within a city, or some culturally interesting landmark. 

Some caches are more clever and satisfying as puzzles. Disguising the cache is part of the charm, both for the one creating the cache and the ones trying to uncover it. A vent in the wall that looks different from the others, a sign on an electric box that does not belong there, a tree stump with the top sawn off to make a lid, an extra bolt in the bridge rail (pictured, with a small paper scroll inside)...

After doing this a while, one develops an eye for irregularities. The Geo-eye, as we tend to call it.

CU
--
Eki

Friday, 11 September 2020

WAKE UP AMERICA; We've Been Invaded by MONSTERS




A monster in the wild
dfsym / Pixabay

COVID 19, with Trump at the helm, is cataclysmic and comic. His pandemic briefings are a grotesque reality show. He put infectious disease experts, like Dr. Anthony Faucci, out to pasture, told us to inject household bleach, insert a blue light to kill the virus, take medicines not recommended, blames China... He dumped the World Health Organization wrecked the Us Center for Disease Control, and threw in the towel."It will disappear like magic." "Take off your masks." "It is what it is."




What it is, is Over 190,000 dead, over 6,000,000,000 cases, with 4% of the world's population, 22 % of the world's victims. It's time to lower the lifeboats. Or send for the marines. The LINCOLN PROJECT, a Republican, anti-Trump group, posted WAKE UP.  Watch it. Trump may turn out to be a worse threat than the virus

The election is November 3. Be ready for trouble, The ECONOMIST reported that the Supreme Court might have the final vote – four liberals, five conservatives. Will the collision of Covid 19 / Black Lives Matters protesters/agitators - some killers/Trump/the election from hell make US fall off the cliff. Stay turned.

PS: Just out. Rage, Bob Woodward's new book, has transcripts of Trump saying that he knew in January that COVID19 was dealy.



Sources:  Economist, Washington Post, New YorkTimes, CNN

Next week: ELECTRONIC GADGETS:  Everything Your HEART DESIREs


Note: Well, not much to add here. Carry on and keep calm.

CU
--
Eki