Monday, 28 December 2020


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.
, 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?


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:

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:


Saturday, 5 December 2020



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!


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 ;-)


Monday, 16 November 2020


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

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

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.


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).


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 ;-)


Saturday, 10 October 2020


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.


Friday, 11 September 2020


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


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


Monday, 17 August 2020


North Empire shoots News.

The rent was higher than their last studio, but the space was fantastic  -  200 square meters divided into two rooms. I imagine the three guys said, ’What the hell, let’s go for it.’ The green screen and their musical instruments are in one room and they built three office cubicles in the other. They’ve rented out two. Eki says something has been going on every week. Around 12 years ago they were in the same building, one room, in the basement. Then moved to a bigger space on Vattuniemenkatu (Raspberry Cape St.) Now they’re back in Lauttasaarentie (Ferry Island Dr.) on the 2nd floor instead of the basement, two doors from the canteen.

Greenscreen with a fresh coat of Rosco Chroma paint.

Love working with Eki on a video at the studio. It’s like invading a ‘guy’ place. A comfortable hangout.  Erkki and I  basically sit in front of a screen for about eight hours. When he needs a break, he bangs on his drums. We’ve worked o projects for about 25  years and he’s taught me a lot. Mostly to shut up when he’s concentrating. And I’ve learned that when something is rendering, nothing happens. Haven’t seen the new studio, but I know the three guys worked hard to get it in shape. I remember that they had a lot of stuff to move, plus they built the cubicles. I’ll be in Helsinki in October. And get my first look. 

The play area.

When we’re working on a project eating is important. When the studio was in the basement, we used to go to a small cafe where the owner made delicious fried strumming. But in the winter it meant going out. Now we can just walk down the hall. It seems a bit crazy to me. But when I first met Eki he was a 25-year-old long-haired hippy. Now he, Era and Teemu are businessmen. Jeezus. Eki thought I was some loony American who wanted to make videos. He was right. Now I’ll get to go to three guys’ upscale new digs and work on another. That’s going to be fun.

Sources: Eki, personal experience

Next week: WAKE UP AMERICA: We've Been Invaded by a MONSTER

Note: I'll keep this brief as I'm in a rush right now (sorry for the delay in publishing this, Maggy!!).

We're really happy with how the new place has turned out. The building is in good shape - the reason we left it 12 years ago was that they renovated it completely, tearing everything down to the concrete and rebuilding the interiors. It still feels like a new(ish) building.

It may look like a business, but it's a non-profit one. Literally. A nonprofit association to be more exact. We're happy just to have this amazing place for us and others to play in (in both senses of the word), we do not need to make money from it.

The place is pretty expensive, but luckily we cooperate with a few companies on an ongoing basis: Liveo, North Empire, and Pinesker all pay a fixed rent for the use of the facility every month, and the three make up for the bulk of our costs. We just need to rent out a few days each month to break even.

I'd have a ton more to say about SW5 studio, but I need to run. Gotta work for my bread you know ;-)



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.

Monday, 17 February 2020

‘NOISE’: from NIGHTWISH, Finland's hottest music group

sent me the link to ‘NOISE’ - the video he worked on. I wasn't prepared. It opens with a man in a hooded robe carrying a baby. What follows is a dark, dystopian eye-popper. The hooded characters are the chorus (at least that’s my take). The action: a dancing frenzy of fantastical social media users, including kids. They’re taking ‘look-at-me’ selfies. ‘Noise'  gives us a surreal,  powerful peek at the black side of SoMe. You know it won't have a happy end, but you can't stop watching. The collaboration between the director, Stobe Harju and the metal symphonic band is seamless and brilliant: the music tells the story, the visuals show us who we are. ’NOISE’ has had over one and a half million views since it was posted in early February 2020. No surprise. It hits a nerve.

The complicated action, shot in front of a green screen, had to be coordinated in the edit. The video had a big-budget and it shows. The frenetic action mirrors our narcissistic addiction to SoMe. And our compulsive need to star in our own movie.  The chic, bizarre costumes for ex. a wire frame from a 19th-century hoop skirt, worn by a woman is a cage for her child, punctuate the story. Some characters pop out, especially the old man scarfing pills. It takes more than one look to take it all in.

Eki will write how the video was made. But 'NOISE' hit me in the gut. SoMe and we humans are joined at the hip. That CPs are designed to be addictive is a given. And we’re hooked. Kids especially - teenage girls average 100 texts a day, boys 60. Professionals* who work in media have written and lectured about the dangers. The Characters in ’NOISE’ are oblivious of the havoc and damage they are doing. The kids are their victims. The video tells a universal** story. It’s a cautionary tale. The end is a shocker. You won't forget ’NOISE’, even if you try.

*Sherry Turkle, media professor at MIT, Cambridge, Mass: ‘Reclaiming Conversation’ (check her talk online: ‘Connected but alone’)

**5.7 billion CP users

PS: Eki and I made an anti-CP rap video: ‘Gotta Get In Touch’

Sources: Eki, internet

Next week:  TRUMP: hil-HAIR-ious & EVIL


Well, glad you liked it. As far as the story and message go, it's, of course, open for everyone to make their own interpretations and discoveries. And in Nighwish's case, the fans dissect these videos to the smallest of detail - they find most of the easter eggs in the video - as well as some that were not even intentional ;-)

There are literally dozens of youtube reaction videos out there now, that shows a fan's reaction to seeing the music video for the first time.

As is usual for Stobe's music video work, the resources were again stretched to the max, even though the budget was decent in Finnish terms. These music videos are a labor of love for him, and it shows. We were still fine-tuning the shots the night before the release - almost three months after the shoot.

Technically, the video was just as ambitious as it is storywise: the whole thing was shot on a greenscreen stage with a computer-controlled camera crane, which allowed us to do complex camera moves repeatedly and with precision, and have the performers isolated so that they can be composited on top of other imagery.

This is how people can show as multiple "clones" in the shot - we were doing the same shot over and over but with the performers in different positions in each take. The crowd of hooded SoMe cultists was actually just four people - we multiplied them using the same technique. For example in the scenes in the Mona Lisa gallery, there weren't dozens of extras, but rather just four, cloned all over.
The backgrounds are 3D animation and matte paintings, created mostly by Janne Pitkänen and Stobe. And that's pretty much the whole post-production team - the three of us spent many sleepless nights working on the project - each at our homes, connected by a chat. A video about social media, made via social media. There's the irony for you.

The real camera movement was tracked to match it with a virtual camera in the 3D space. This made sure the digital sets lined up with the actual footage we shot.  

I was on set as a VFX supervisor, trying to make sure the video was shot in a way that the post-production would be doable, but most of my work was done in front of the computer in the months following the shoot.

I did the backdrop for just one scene, the one with a mountain of boxes. My main responsibility was to composite the shots, bring all the individual elements together to a coherent whole, a single hopefully believable image. The greenscreen mostly took care of isolating the subjects so that they could be dropped on top of the computer-generated backdrops,  but in some cases, they had to be meticulously painted frame by frame, a task called rotoscoping (thanks to Stobe for taking a lot of this burden).

All this complexity was made even more difficult by the rather extreme technical quality specs used in shooting and editing the video. The camera originals were shot at 6K RAW - essentially, every shot consists of frames that are equivalent to 6048 pixel wide high-quality images from a still camera. For each layer, for each second, we shot 50 of those. The footage was shot in 4:3 aspect ratio to allow freedom to move the frame up and down if necessary in post.

The final master was done as a 2:34 widescreen crop, at a lower UHD (4K) resolution with a high bit depth - lower, but still four times more pixels to process than in regular FullHD. And as such, the shots were extremely slow to process - especially as there could be a lot of layers on top of each other, that all needed to be filtered for noise reduction, chroma-keying, spill reduction, color matching etc.

I have a decently fast computer with 16 cores and 64 GB of memory, but it was strained to the max with these files. The render time alone was likely weeks in this project - and that's not including the time spent rendering the 3D backgrounds. The director, Stobe Harju, did the final color correction for a look - usually, that is simple and fast to calculate, even real-time, but this time just the final beauty pass for this 5 and a half minute video took in the order of a full workday to render. I'd estimate the whole project used something in the order of 5-6 terabytes of data. That is a LOT for a 5 -minute video.

The crunch to make the video happen was somewhat insane, and like many times before, we decided that this is the last time we go through this hell. Ever.

We'll see. The decision hasn't held so far ;-)

Here's some earlier music videos by Stobe that i also worked on:

Nightwish: Islander
Poets of the fall: Locking up the sun

Poets of the fall: Carnival of rust
Poets of the fall: Lift
Lovex: Guardian angel


Thursday, 6 February 2020

EKI & I made a BET*: Who will be the Democratic CANDIDATE?

Eki and I both want Trump dumped. He's put his money (100 €) on Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders.  I'm backing  Mike Bloomberg. Yeah. I know. He's going to buy the election. But it takes BIG money to run a presidential campaign. And he's spending his own. The others will be financed by super-PACs. Small donations from devoted donors won't do the job.  Blame the Supreme Court. When they gave Citizens United the green light, the big-bucks dam broke.  Now huge amounts of money fund campaigns.  Mike is my choice for a lot of reasons.

The Ghost Of Leonid Brezhnev (see notes.)
His three terms as mayor of New York were not 100%, but the 9 million-plus citizens, where minorities are in the majority, liked Mike. After the disaster of 9/11, he made city safer, more liveable, healthier (more people were covered by health insurance) and more fun. Tourists piled in, the economy improved.  Stop and Frisk was, and is, a big black mark. Meant to protect the most vulnerable people, instead the police harassed mostly blacks and Hispanics. Bloomberg apologized. But it was too little, too late. In spite of S & F, a lot of influential blacks, including many mayors across the country, are backing him.

He's got the best data-driven organization in the campaign. His anti-Trump ads have hit their target - the president took the bait. He flipped when he saw them on Fox news. If Bloomberg doesn't win the nomination (he's at 8% in the national polls), he has a Plan B -  support the Democratic nominee, fund Democrats running for the Senate and the House and voter registration. For years his foundation has supported climate change activists, access to better and more affordable health insurance and gun control groups. Mike Bloomberg made his  money the hard way – he worked for it. Now he wants to use it to beat Trump and TAKE BACK AMERICA.

*Eki bet 100 e that Trump would be impeached. I lost that one.

Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, internet

Next week: DAVOS: climate change was the theme and the wold's movers, shakers and multi-rich partied like there was no tomorrow


I predict Bloomberg has no chance. I really do not think people want another billionaire to the white house. Maggy thinks he could win because he can afford to buy the election, i think he will lose because of that. We will see.

Times have changed. I think a solid fan base, enthusiastic crowds and real grassroots support both in real life and in social media are the key. Not the money (though Bernie's small donations do pile up to a considerable war chest).


Also, i think the average Joe and Jane have really, really started to question is socialism such a dirty word after all. Roads, other infrastructure, law enforcement, military etc. are paid collectively after all - they are socialistic in nature. Why can the rest of the western world provide the citizens public health care, education etc., and thrive, but the richest country in the world can't? Is the ghost of Brezhnev really that scary?

And isn't it clear to everyone by now that Reaganomics failed, that cutting taxes for the rich accomplishes nothing but to fill their pockets? That despite trying for decades, no gold trickles down from the rich after all?

And then there's the environmental crisis. The libertarians that have successfully derailed the narrative for decades are finally losing the battle, despite the fortress of science denialism that is the GOP. The citizens are 
finally waking up. A winning candidate must have the environment high on his/her list.

This holds true for the USA as a whole, but even more so for the Democratic Party voters. To me, it looks like they are ready for a change, and a big one at that. I think the time is ripe for a truly progressive President. The only such candidates are Warren and Sanders.

...oh, progressive in the US terms. Here in Finland, and a lot the rest of the world, both would be considered centrists, perhaps center-right even.



"The Ghost of Leonid Brezhnev" is a composite image created from multiple source images from Pixabay and Wikipedia. Thanks to the authors.

Monday, 20 January 2020


Julia Hertell thinks climate change is the most hot-button issue of our time. So does her husband. When they got married they started right off by asking their wedding guests to bring presents that were old. They decided to only have two children. Thought about adopting, but decided they were too old. The couple doesn’t own a car, instead, they use electric bikes with big boxes to transport their kids, take public transport and car-share. Julia gave up flying for one year, except for two business trips.

Their apartment is furnished with lots of old and used things. The family's diet is mostly vegan. For the girl's birthday parties, they ask the parents to chip in 3 to 5 euros each and buy only one present. Their friends love the idea and have copied it. Gifts to family and friends are concert tickets, vouchers for spas, organic food. They use old-school cleaning products: soda, black or linseed soap, bio-detergent for the dishwasher and the washing machine. They buy clothes made of natural fiber. Avoid plastics. They don't have a dryer (emits more carbon dioxide than air conditioning). Their frig is small, with a top freezer.

Julia and Samuli are architects. They try to include energy efficiency in their work. When Julia designed her father’s house* in Hanko, her goals were to make it beautiful, functional and eco-friendly. The house is built on a rocky site. It's heated and cooled thermally – two drill holes, 230 m into the rock, do the trick. The wine cellar isn't heated or cooled. It takes energy from the surrounding rock and is the same temperature year around. Julia says the energy efficiency regulations for insulation are geared to keep the heat in. The 450 mm insulation in the walls and roof is too thick. The house is warm in winter, but it can get hot in the summer. Open windows and a sea breeze make it comfortable.  Julia and Samuli are not alone in their efforts to lower their imprint on the climate. Millennials, especially, are on board. They know that for their future and their children's future, it's imperative to cut their CARBON FOOTPRINT. But we better all pitch in to avert ‘a climate apocalypse’**.

* Joni Hertell’s house was featured in a Danish TV program.

**Greta Thunberg. (Time magazine Person of the Year). She and Donald Trump get star billing at the World Economic Forum in Davos the week of January 20. The theme is climate change:  Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World.

Source: Julia Hertell

Next week: Eki & I have a BET: who will the DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE?


When it comes to climate change, individual choices matter. Even tiny changes create a huge impact when we multiply the individual choices by the eight billion or so humans on the planet. Larger changes, like reducing meat consumption, limiting unnecessary travel, and most importantly, having fewer kids make much bigger an impact. Doing all this is applaudable.

Yet it's not enough. Not by a long shot.

The thing is, we really need to get to zero emissions in the long run, sooner the better. That means structural changes in the society and the near-complete elimination of fossil fuel use. And this cannot be done on the level of individual humans, not even on the level of individual countries.

The prisoner's dilemma from game theory
** forbids this. Making choices that would be best for everyone can be disadvantageous to an individual unless everyone cooperates. And in this case, this means everyone on the scale of our planet.

So, international treaties are the way to go - cooperation on a global scale.

The mere idea of this world-scale regulation, as well as the lost profits, are poison to some. They are powerful, well funded and prepared to do anything to stop global regulations from happening. And i think it's a crime.

I would not be surprised to see something like the tobacco trials waged against the most powerful climate denialists in the future. Or, even Nüremberg-like trials. They are committing their crimes against humanity after all.




Saturday, 4 January 2020


"Showdown" © Little Margie Productions 2019.

The  2020 US presidential election will make Cage Fighters look like toddlers in a playpen - Trump digs Down & Dirty.  The dirtier the better. And he might win*.  The Dem lineup looks limp. We need a Captain America to beat the pants off this Joker.  Or four more years of a wannabe dictator. Trend-trackers say the liberal democratic system has taken a hit: Trump's rule is a text-book example.

The news from Finland is more upbeat. The Shark tells me that the young (34), smart, glamor-girl Prime Minister, SANNA MARIN, has the whole country tuned in to politics. Eki said he's happy with the fresh wind that blew into parliament. The fake-named 'True Finns' party is the biggest, but other parties, all headed by women, out-gun the TFs.  Sanna Marin got worldwide attention when she was elected. A terrific image for the country.  Now we'll get to find out how this matriarchal government preforms.

The media, legit and fake, especially in the US, are giddy with glee about 2020. They see a banner year for scandal and skullduggery. The New York Times and the Washington Post have had big subscription jumps. Reporters, commentators, bloggers, media-rats have had a blast bashing Trump, or pumping him up. Littlemargieproductions got into the act. Eki and I made three VOTE 2020 videos***. 'SHOWDOWN' stars Trump. The reaction has been love it or hate it. Anti-Trumpers send fanmails. Pro-Trumpers aren't talking to me. Eki has set me off in a new direction.  Our next VOTE video has the working title: 'HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN'. Let's hope.

* Battleground states Trump won in 2016 that clinched his election. Even though Hillary Clinton got almost 3 million more votes. The Electoral College ain't fair, but it's the US system until Americans go to bat to change it, so that every vote counts.

Must win states: Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, No. Carolina

** FOX  News, Tump's right-wing propaganda outlet has the most viewers (apprx. 2.3 million in Dec 2019). One bright Fox-spot: commentator, Chris Wallace, who has the nerve  and intelligence to ask tough non-partisan questions.

*** VOTE videos: ABE LINCOLN Tweets, WE NEED YOU 2020, SHOWDOWN 2020

Sources: New York Times. Washington Post, internet, the Shark, Eki

Next week: JULIA HERTELLL & SAMULI WOOLSTON: how a Finnish family cuts their CARBON FOOTPRINT

Note: When it comes to US elections and Dems, both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are good candidates - old, sure, but not senile, like the front runner candidate seems to be. They would also beat Trump quite easily, i think. Despite being touted to be too far left, their policies are actually supported by the majority of Americans. And of course, from the North-European point of view, they are more centrists than leftists - the US perceived center is our right-wing ;-)

Well, not really. 

We unfortunately do have alt-right wackos too, and right now they do well in polls. Sanna Marin's party, the Social Democrats, is the largest party in the parliament.
But the True Finns do lead the polls right now. Which is horrible.

Oh, I think i explained the situation badly to Maggy, so to re-iterate: currently True Finns are *NOT* the biggest in parliament, the Social Democratic Party is.

But as said, the "wannabe-nazis" raise their ugly heads in current politics, and their 
favorite party has a large support in polls.

Luckily, there's over 3 years to the next election, and their bubble will likely burst before that. I do not believe that almost a quarter of Finns would really support their racistic, xenophobic, misogynic and anti-science policies. I'd say the success in polls largely stems from people falling for the easy populist rhetoric, without actually understanding who the party they say they root for actually stands for.

That's going to change, the information will get out. So far, the True-Finns have gotten off easily, as they have been perceived as a fringe movement. With this kind of poll success, that will not fly anymore. They will be challenged, they will be exposed for what they are.

One interesting side note - as the alt-right-wing's noise has become frequent, loud and annoying enough, it seems that the population at large has gotten enough of it, and is now finally standing up against them, or at least contemplating it. 

Even the current Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö highlighted the issue on his New Year's address to the nation. And he's as conservative and bland as a Finn can get, no strong opinions about anything really.

Also, there's a brand new Baltic Herring Movement, which is an anti-racist, pro-science non-partisan movement to fight against the alt-right fringe's nonsense. The members try to keep gates on the flood of trash talk from the right fringe that has poisoned the online discussions, and also do peaceful demonstrations etc. In just two days, the Herrings Facebook group grew to over 20 000 people. That is a lot in a small country like ours.

I said to Maggy that this time i will not have the time to write an essay for a comment... well, i wonder how long my comments will be on the day that i do ;-)

- Eki