Thursday, 25 June 2020

LIAR, LIAR, your pants are on FIRE: the FACT CHECKERS have got your NUMBER

Original photo by By Gage Skidmore
Since he took office (Jan 2017) Trump has told 20,000 whoppers. His off the cuff, whatever comes out of his mouth, gets a lot of attention. The boss* of the Washington Post Fact checker team wrote a book that tells all: Donald Trump's Assault on Truth: Misleading Claims, False Statements, and Flat out LIES. 60% of his statements were awarded PINOCCHIOS - around 1000 total. How apt to use the long-nose, lying anti-hero - T and P go together like bread and butter.

Fans and foes are so used to Trump' s lying they often give it a pass - 'Just Trump being Trump'. Not the Washington Post the Fact-checkers. But T's mind-numbing blah-blah sometimes has consequences. When he promoted 'injecting disinfections ' (Clorox for one) as a possible cure Coronavirus, some idiots took him at his word. Now that he's behind in the polls (12% on Fox) his lies and exaggerations have escalated. It ain't pretty. Like watching a whale blimp lose altitude before it crashes.

Some high-ranking Republicans have advised him to claim that he created the strongest US economy ever (not true). Then quit the stage and  'fade away'.** Leave the scene before he cracks under the weight of almost four years as LIAR -in-CHIEF.

* Glen Kessler
** Like his hero, Gen. Douglas McArthur I sent a message asking how may Pinochios Trump  earned. Received a quick reply form Glen Kessler.

Sources: Washington Post, internet, cable news

Next week: HELSINKI SUMMER 2020


Not much to add here, the populist right-wing is still on the rise globally too, and our little birdland here in Finland is no exception. The first victim is the facts. Like Pinocchio would say, "sad".

Remember to vote.


Saturday, 6 June 2020


On 5 May, at 12;46 in the morning, Trump went on a twitter rampage. What set him on fire was the viral video made by Republicans; 'MOURNING in AMERICA*'. A  black-hole mirror-image of Ronald Reagan's famous, sunny 1984, MORNING in AMERICA.  The Never Trump Republicans  LINCOLN PROJECT  hit their target – Trump's shattered ego. The video scooped in 2 million from 25,000 donors.

Another group of Never Trump Republicans launched: REPUBLICAN VOTERS AGAINST TRUMP: a third-generation Republican opens with, 'I'd rather vote for a tuna sandwich' and then gets serious, why he can't vote for Trump in 2020. It packs a punch because it's up close and personal. With 10 million in their war chest there will be more Voters Against Trump videos. True. These Republican attacks are like shooting bee-bees at his huge re-election machine, but if they switch just a few votes in the battleground states** Trump would lose the electoral college vote.

More Rep T-bashing videos are in the works. The Never Trumps dead serious about defeating Trump. It's a shot in the arm to know there are Republicans ready to fight for the Republic. Joe Biden is not a first-rate candidate. But he's a decent guy, who knows the ropes and can attract the best people to work with him.  Members of the Lincoln Project came out and endorsed Biden. They know four more years of TRUMP and there might not be a REPUBLIC.***

*RICH MITCH:  The video shows how the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell got rich as a Senator from Kentucky, While the state he represents is at the bottom end of the US for health care, job opportunities and education.

**Battleground states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, No. Carolina

***When Benjamin Franklin (1705-1790) was asked after a session of the Constitutional Convention, "What kind of a government have you given us?" he replied, "A democracy, if you can keep it."

Sources: Washington Post, internet

Next week: LIAR, LIAR, your pants are on FIRE.  FACT CHECKERS have got your NUMBER


Well, not much to add to this. I just hope the good people of the U.S.A. are wiser in the coming elections than they were in 2016.



Monday, 25 May 2020


Ture Gustafson
When COVID 19 changed the way we live, our psyches took a plunge into the... Mental health is front-page news. But a bunch of my pals came up with terrific ideas to keep the bogeyman at bay.

EKI built a studio in his apartment. He installed a green screen and is working on a program where he coordinates the action on the screen with the action on his computer. When I catch him on the phone and he's working on this project he sounds totally into it. He's making a video so that us non-nerds can get the picture.

ELIZABETH NELSON (Ft. Collins, Co) My sister is going through chemotherapy. She's an artist and came up with the idea to make a paper-doll journal book: DRUNK on CHEMO.  She wears a different outfit to every session, makes up, and takes selfies. Then copies them in water-colors for the book. When we talk she tells me it's made the sessions (18) go faster. DoC sounds like a best seller.

SHARON  PETTUS (St. Louis, Mo) created an aviary in her garden. She bought 12 different kinds of bird seeds for different species. Layers them in the feeders (12). And installed a solar-powered birdbath. It's a non-stop show as birds fly in and out. For Mother's day she received a special camera that hangs in a tree to photograph the lucky birds who found this luxury spa. Hummingbirds and cardinals are regular guests. A giant woodpecker also stops by.

VANAMO family (Helsinki, Finland) had a virtual family get-together on zoom. It was fun but they wanted to do something. So now they have a one a week cake-a-thon. The first week was a  marble cake. The whole family likes to cook so there were five yummy examples. But the favorite was Larissa Vanamos's tiger cake.

JONI HERTELL (Hanko, Finland) spends most of his time now at his summer house. He misses his family but they stay in touch on zoom. And he read stories to his four grand-daughters – Amanda, Isabella, Miena and Nelly. Their favorites are the MOOMIN stories, written in 1952, but still fresh. The parents get a break. And the kids and Joni have a good time on their own..

SHARON HELLER (Palisade, Co) is a gourmet cook. Her husband, Bill, hunts so they have great raw material. Sharon emails menus and recipes that make me want to lick the screen. Her lentil stew recipe looked do-able and delicious. I used Spanish sausage. Cooked lentils. Fried garlic, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, and added half glass of red wine to the lentil mix Topped  it off with fresh cilantro. Delicious with a glass of red.

TURE GUSTAFSON (Machinpango, VA) and his mother, Airlia*, noticed a large knocked down metal sign on the side of the road to their house. They decided to prop it up and do a daily art exhibition. They have a rolling cart full of spray paint.  Ture designs the work at night and paints it the next day. His mother also takes a turn. The Road Sign art is a shot in the arm during Social Isolation.

The SHARK has been working from home, separated but in touch with the team. They got bored they started talking about their annual Sports Day. Usually, they go orienteering in the forest. But one guy piped up and said what he missed most about Social Isolation was going to the mall. Everyone perked up. They're making a list of stuff in stores to photograph. The first one finished and in the bat wings. Cheers.

*Airlia Pettus was two years old when I met her in 1969. She introduced  me to her parents,  Sharon and Robert Pettus.

Next week: I (red heart) the LINCOLN PROJECT:  never-Trump Republicans who aim to defeat him


First of all, sorry for the long delay with publishing this. Despite these Corona-infused times, i've been extremely busy. I guess a lot of the work that would have been done out there actually shooting is done at the desktop now, and falls into my lap.

In addition to normal work, our studio is moving. The landlord sold the whole house we were located in, and the new owner told us to hit the road. They had other needs for the space. So, we launched in a fervent search mode, and lo and behold, found a great new place - we're going back to the Hedengren building (Lauttasaarentie 50) from which we had to leave almost a decade ago, as it was being renovated from ground up at the time.

The new premises are at the 2nd floor, a little over 200 m² (roughly 2200 square feet), divided in two large rooms or halls or whatever you wanna call them. The building is in a nice condition, and has modern amenities - we're used to residing in rather awful shacks, so this is a definite step up. We even have separate bathrooms for boys and girls.

Moving and building the studio is quite a lot of work. So far, we have moved three glass-walled open office rooms from one hall to the other. Now we have three nice editing rooms in the smaller hall, and room for building the greenscreen and music "stage" in the larger one. It's still very much a work in progress and will be some time into the summer.

The work includes setting up a real-time virtual production environment, which i have been prototyping at home, at my impromptu social distancing mini version of a greenscreen studio. The system is based on the same technology as virtual reality headsets, in fact, i use consumer-grade trackers from Vive's VR setup, which are not nearly as cost-prohibitive as the truly professional stuff is. We're talking about an order of magnitude of difference in price. Or two.

The VR trackers are bolted to video cameras. They tell the computer the exact location and rotation of the real cameras so that a virtual, matching camera can be used in a 3D animated world in Unreal Engine. By combining these two, we can shoot the talent on the greenscreen, and have him/her completely immersed in a virtual world. Essentially, we're putting actors into a video game, in real time.

Exciting times.



Thursday, 30 April 2020

PEOPLE pitch in to make scarce gear for HEALTH CARE WORKERS

Shipment ready.
ROBERT BAILEY, (Oxford, England) bought a 3-D printer. He had no fixed use for until the Covid 19 pandemic. The Czech Republic manufacturer sent a pattern, approved by the Danish government for medical use. After Robert gets home from his day job he goes to work. He makes, on average, 7 visors a night. But then he got the idea to organize other 3D printer users in the Oxfordshire area. Today there are 60 in the COVID 19D OXFORD group. Volunteer cyclists deliver the visors. To date, they've delivered 2000 VISORS. Robert is the leader, but he's got dedicated, motivated volunteers.  News about their project spread like wild-fire. Robert was interviewed on the BBC news about the visor project. That the group, with delivered 2000 visors in less than one month, is an example for us all. They will keep their 3D printers working until the virus-crisis is history. Check out the Covid 19 3D OXFORD site.

SUE OSBORNE (Grand Junction, Colorado) has lost count of how many masks she's made for the Family Health clinic in Fruita, Co, and the Veterans Administration hospital in Grand Junction. Family Health sent her the kits. The masks are a special paper. Elastic is had to find these days, improvised by cutting strips from old tee shirts. Hi Fashion, a fabric store that has got behind a massive effort to supply masks to hospitals and to people, gives Sue the kits. They are looking for more volunteers as there's a huge need. The masks are sterilized in the hospitals with ultraviolet light. People can boil them before use. Masks have become a new fashion statement. Chic and in bright colors. Lots of places won't let you in without a mask...

NORTH DOWN & ARDS SCRUBS group (No. Ireland) makes much in demand SCRUBS for the National Health Service. Not the usual pale green, blue, or white, but in cheerful prints. A friend of mine in Colorado has a cousin who has volunteered. She lives on a farm and has set up a workshop in one of the buildings. People donate money to buy fabrics. These ad hoc help groups quickly to solicit donations volunteers. Amazing how much they produced in a short time during the virus-crisis.

But what we can't  forget is how many others, who don't get so much attention are putting their lives in jeopardy to help us survive: store clerks, pharmacists, trash collectors, firefighters, the police and many more.

Sources: Richard Bailey. Sue Osborne, Sharan Heller

Next week: SOCIAL ISOLATION sucks, it ain't all BAD

Note: What can i say, other than that this is applaudable. The need for protective gear is very real. My wife works in in-home care, and there's a shortage - their employer has not been able to provide masks for the workers. Which is a bit scary, of course.

Here in Finland, there's been discussion about using the 3D printers they have in schools and libraries for producing masks, and i read that at least one pharmacy is using their 3D printers to produce them. But the numbers are still small, i think.

I have a 3D printer too, but unfortunately, it's an old one and the printing area is just 10 by 10 cm - too small for masks.


Saturday, 11 April 2020

SWEDEN: open for business – RISKY or RIGHT?

Coronavirus in a nutshell by Kurtzgesagt

Fed up with SOCIAL DISTANCING, or worse, SOCIAL ISOLATION? Miss your pals and bored with virtual happy hour meet-ups? Tired of cooking, and eating, pasta for the umpteenth time?

You might try getting into Sweden. - some of their borders are still open and the towns are buzzing. The country is not (yet) locked down. The Swedish government thinks its citizens are responsible enough to decide how to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, Although they urge people 70 and over to stay at home.

But you might have second thoughts if you check out what Swedish scientists and doctors have to say. According to the Guardian some 2,000, including the head of the Nobel Foundation and the head of immunology at the Karolinska Institute, think the government is leading the country to disaster. The rising number of people ill with the virus, last count 9,689 and 879 deaths might mean they will begin to listen to the experts. Stoicism is a way of life in Scandinavia, but it's not a miracle vaccine against a new and potentially fatal virus, that has the capability to make any one of us a weapon (except the victims who have recovered and have immunity).

Great Britain tried to go the Swedish route, but prime minister Boris Johnson finally had to stop shaking hands and take the doctors' and scientists' advice. He closed down the country. I'm happy the Finnish border is shut tight. Or there might be a mass exodus of our neighbors from the West. But there are hints the Swedish government night be re-thinking their laissez-faire plan and impose tighter controls. Better late than...

  • Finland: pop. 5.5 million, 2,769 COVID-19 cases, 48 deaths
  • Sweden: pop. 10.2 million 9,689  COVID-19 cases, 879 deaths 
  • Denmark: pop. 5.6 million,  5,819  COVID-19 cases, 241 deaths
  • Norway: pop. 3,7 million, 6314 COVID-19 cases, 113 deaths

* Data: April 10. 2020

** The Shark told me that Finland sends its tests to So. Korea for analysis. Norway has the equipment to test and analyze in the country.

*** Boris Jonson has Coronavirus and is in hospital, was in intensive care for a while, but now back in the regular ward.

Sources: New York Times, Guardian, net

Next week:  PEOPLE pitch in to make scarce protective gear for HEALTH CARE  WORKERS


As far as the Swedish route goes, I do not think it matters much whether they close borders or not at this point - all the neighboring countries are closed anyway. Other than that, I'm afraid they may learn the hard way that giving recommendations (which are similar to the policies we have here) is just not enough - strict, enforced policies are unfortunately needed to keep everyone at a bay.

Meanwhile, the opposition here in Finland is having a field day, because the government bought protective gear from China that turned out to be substandard. They had their suspicions i think, as right away when the shipment landed, it was sent to a government laboratory for testing. The papers were fine, the gear looked correct... but was not. It's still good enough to use outside hospitals, in care homes, etc., but not up to hospital standards. To make things worse, the purchase was made without proper background checks, from what some would call known crooks' companies. So all hell broke loose.

The head of the Security Supply center had to resign. and the opposition calls for the resignation of the minister of labor, Tuula Haatainen. Of course they do.

Personally, I think the people involved probably did the best they could in a difficult situation, and sending the gear to tests suggests that they were aware of the risk - but decided to take it. The alternative would have been a certain supply shortage. A few million went down the toilet, but in the face of the crisis, I really don't care about such small potatoes.

Similar fraudulent protective gear supplies have been sold to other countries too, including Sweden. They were not tested, and the gear was put to use in hospitals. They now have to recall it. The medical personnel working in high-risk jobs has been compromised there. I prefer the Finnish way, even if it caused a political shitstorm.

PS: The tests sent to South Korea are from a private hospital chain, not from government-issued testing, AFAIK. The government tests are analyzed here in Finland. 

PS2: My wife Riikka was tested when she had a sore throat, due to her profession in health care, the result turned out negative. But she told me that they actually took two samples, and the 2nd one was sent abroad for research purposes, to an international collection of test samples.


Saturday, 4 April 2020

SANNA MARIN: the new, glamorous face of FINLAND

Sanna Marin - photo: Wikipedia
A friend from the US called. 'WOW. I just caught your prime minister on cable – she's a  knockout.'

I said: 'Yeah, and she's smart too. So are her four ministers – they're all women – four under 35'.

Not many recently elected governments are called upon to face a crisis like the CORONAVIRUS pandemic. But Sanna and her gang of four took up the task with energy, clarity and a plan. They inform the Finnish people at daily briefings. So far they've done a first-class job. There have been only 20 deaths – the lowest of the four Nordic countries*.

Sanna was raised by two women - her mother and her partner. Her film star looks have caught people's attention, but she's had to dig in and work – nothing was handed to her.  She's given Finland a new profile – young, energetic, international. But she is dead-serious about her current mission.  In my informal poll of Eki and other Finnish friends, they were united in their praise for the way the government has managed the virus-crisis.

Sanna is a poster-model for egalitarian Finland. On the weekends she goes to her husband and two-year-old daughter, shops unguarded at the supermarket and gets a dose of reality and escapes the surreal horror-movie pandemic. Her movie-star looks and excellent English have got a lot of attention for Finland. But in a war, competence and SMARTS trump all.

PS: SANNA MARIN hits the international bigtime - she is featured prominently in the March issue of American and British Vogue. A happy coincidence in the midst of all the Coronavirus angst.

 * April 4. 2020: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland.

Sources: Time magazine, the internet, Finnish friends

Next week: SWEDEN: open for business – RISKY of RIGHT?


Maggy is right about the polling of friends - I really like how Sanna Marin has handled the crisis and being the prime minister in general. She is smart, educated, calm, listens to experts, humbly admits mistakes when necessary... yea, i really like her, and the rest of current administration.

They have pretty much nailed the delicate balance and timing between 
the economic and social costs of restrictions* and slowing down the spread of the disease. That's what you get when you actually consistently follow the advice of the experts, instead of falling to the trap of political pressures. While Finland took on some measures later than other countries, the timing actually was pretty early considering the actual epidemic - Finland was late on the onset too.

The measures appear to be working: the number of new cases still grows, but linearly, not exponentially. We get less than 100 new infections per day, and that number has been somewhat steady for two weeks or so now (April 4. 2020), which means we likely have managed to flatten the curve as planned. If the curve was exponential, the new daily cases would be in the thousands already.

Of course, polling friends is just picking fish from your own little pond. There's considerable opposition in Finland - the country is still somewhat divided between the left-leaning government and the right-wing opposition. The opposition uses the crisis to try to advance their political gain, but with not that much success: they really can't oppose the measures without looking irresponsible so they pretty much must support the government - which is not really in their political interests. The only thing they can really do is to claim more should have been done, earlier, which just makes them look like hindsight-whiners.

The good news is, the True Finns party no longer leads the polls. 
The one-agenda wannabe-nazis have declined as they have no real solutions - racism and stopping immigration does not stop viruses. Sanna Marin's Social Democratic Party is now again the largest-polling party in Finland. 

*  The country was declared to be in a state of emergency, schools, and restaurants closed, no gatherings, social distancing, quarantine-like conditions for the elderly, isolating southern Finland from the rest of the country, etc.



Monday, 16 March 2020

A HYPOCHONDRIAC's guide for coping with the CORONAVIRUS

The  CORONAVIRUS is all around us, but we can't see it. - a hypochondriac's nightmare. Some tips that might help.

DISCIPLINE and sticking-with-it are two of your best weapons. Taking care of yourself and your family in a pandemic can be boring and repetitive. It's easy to forget and let up your guard. Don't.

WASH-YOUR-HANDS is a no-brainer but so easy to forget. The rule is,  when you come home, after using the toilet, before you prepare food wash thoroughly on both sides, between your fingers, under fingernails for at least 20 seconds. Or count to 60 (watch how on CDC video).

, another no-brainer. But almost impossible not to do. Keep a tissue handy. I now, say out loud, 'I touched my face', to make me more aware.

Korona: the game is on.
Image from
SOCIAL DISTANCING at least two meters apart - another 'easy to forget'.  When I got some good news I threw my arms around the guy. What a dumb thing to do but totally natural.

SCHEDULE YOUR DAY, if you're hanging out, or working,  at home. It makes the surreal seem more normal. If possible, get outside at least a couple of times a day in the fresh air and sunshine. Vitamin D boosts the immune system.

STOCK UP, if possible, only once a week. The scenes in the US of people with baskets chockablock with toilet paper and other stuff make you lose your faith in civilization.

WORK-AT-HOME has turned out not to be not all that much fun. Eki is used to it. But the Shark says she misses her friends, lunches together and the camaraderie. It's worse when so many public places are closed.

STERILIZE YOUR HOUSE with sterile wipes or alcohol. Clean your phones, doorknobs, light switches, and anything you touch all the time. The Convid-19 virus lasts on surfaces for a long time. And if you're like me, you've never done this before.

SLEEP is one of the most important tools for fighting off illnesses. Go to bed at the same time  (before midnight) and wake up at the same time. Get six to eight hours of solid sleep. Note to EKI: stop pulling those all-days and all-nighters.

EXERCISE and fresh air are medicinal. Get out for a walk or a bike ride at least twice a day. Love my collapsable, titanium Nordic walking sticks. Give up the gym. Lift weights at home.

TALKING (and texting) to family and friends and having some laugh is therapy. Eki knows, if it's Monday it must be Maggy.

BOREDOM is a big, bugaboo of social isolation. A good time to play board games, if the kids are home, read that 875-page book you got for Christmas, throw out junk, take a 10-20 min. nap after lunch, write a real letter and shock someone when they get the mail. Anything to keep the bid, bad B at bay.

PENICILLIUM SOUP, a recipe from Marianne Hovi, ENT doctor at AAVA in Helsinki: three sweet potatoes, lots of garlic, one onion, a couple of stalks of celery, three TBLs olive oil, red hot pepper to taste (be careful, it's easy to put in too much), half tsp turmeric, grated fresh ginger, salt, and pepper.

GARGLE a couple of times a day with boiled water and salt. HONEY is healing.

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, internet, personal experience

Next week: SANNA MARIN: the new, glamorous face of FINLAND 


I rarely say this, but Maggy is right. This is the real deal and should be encountered with the appropriate seriousness. And no, that does not mean hoarding the stores. True food shortages are unlikely. Shopping for a few days or a week at one go may be smart, it reduces the number of social contacts, shopping for months is not. And what's up with the toilet paper? I tried to find the origin of that lunacy, couldn't really find it - there's apparently no reason whatsoever for this global craze.

Anyway, the above instructions seem to be pretty wise overall, i'd say perhaps the most important of those are the wash-your-hands thing, and social distancing.

In my case, social distancing is pretty easy - i already work mostly from home. The future gigs may be on hold indefinitely - after the currently open jobs are done, i have no idea whether there will be work or not. Which is a bit scary for a freelancer with no permanent employer. My guess is, there won't be many shoots in the coming weeks or months. Hopefully, some of the desktop gigs will still flow in.

My wife works as a practical nurse, in-home care. She still needs to get to work and back using the subway. This is not optimal, as the commute increases the risk both for her (she's in a higher risk group due to diabetes), as well as her patient. During the day, they have been instructed to practice social distancing, for example avoiding malls and other public venues. Yet, the elderly need to eat too, so they need to do the groceries, and staying indoors indefinitely is not healthy either.

My mom is 80, and has a suppressed immune system due to her arthritis medication, so she's in a voluntary, indefinite quarantine for now. We'll do the necessary shopping etc. between myself and my brother, so she doesn't have to. Luckily, she lives in a place where she can take walks in the nearby woods without risking social contacts, so she's not completely tied to indoor life.

Hobby wise, we've put our band on hiatus for now. Perhaps i'll have more time to concentrate on learning new techniques, stuff like 3D virtual reality and coding. I've wanted to dive into that for quite some while but never had the time. I'll try to make the best of this new situation, and the possible involuntary vacation that looms in the horizon.


PS: Korona (pictured) is a desktop game that's like the poor man's billiard. Dunno whether it's a thing anywhere outside Finland. When i was a kid, we used to play it. A lot.

PS2: Right after writing the above, pretty drastic measures were put in place here in Finland. The country is now shut down - people over 70 are in mandatory quarantine at their homes, schools and borders will be closed, gatherings of over 10 people are forbidden, people are encouraged to avoid public places. And so on.