Dec 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

. . . and an eldritch New Year!

Happy holidays to everybody, see you next year!

Dec 21, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I saw Rogue One last weekend and pretty much loved it. This is the Star Wars movie I've been waiting for, what I hoped The Force Awakens had been, something that both feels like Star Wars and still feels original. To me, TFA felt like a reboot than a new story, more like Star Wars: The  Greatest Hits. Rogue One fixed all that. There are cameos and plenty of fan-pleasing moments, but it still feels like its own story. I liked the characters and  the cast manages to be quite diverse without it feeling like some characters are shoehorned in only for diversity's sake. I'm trying to keep this spoiler-free, so excuse the vagueness. 

The film has a gritty feel to it, which I liked, and the costumes and sets integrate seamlessly into the aesthetic of the original trilogy, which is great, especially considering the ending. We also get some amazing visuals and plenty of character moments to balance the action. And regarding the ending,  that's some gutsy writing right there. (You'll know what I mean when you've seen the movie.)

For me, this was the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy. Hope to see more of this kind of thing in the future. 

Dec 19, 2016

Coffee and Cake: The MBakery café at Aboa Vetus

MBakery has opened a new café at the Aboa Vetus museum. I've tried their café at Kauppahalli, and I really enjoyed both the sweets and the savouries. They're also known for their artisanal breads,which are amazing. The Aboa Vetus café has served an amazing brunch on the weekends, and MBakery is continuing the tradition. I'll have to try that, too, when I get the chance.

The Kauppahalli café tends to get a bit crowded and the museum café is open an extra hour, until 7 p.m., so we picked that one.

Here's what I had:

Cinnamon hot chocolate and a chocolate meringue, total sugar overload. I have to admit, I couldn't finish the whole thing.

This café might also be a nice place to do some writing, if the early closing time isn't a problem. And you can check out the museum before or after your visit, of course. Here's what's on this month:

And I also checked out the Kirjastosilta (Library Bridge) Christmas makeover. It plays Christmas carols and you can see the light display in the photo.  Very Minas Morgul. The night was very foggy, which heightened the creepy effect. 

Dec 16, 2016

Penguins and Pinecones

Have a Christmas party and want to bring something other than cookies? Here are a few cute things you can try. The penguins are olives stuffed with cream cheese and a slice of carrot on the bottom with a tiny slice cut out for the beak. 

These are cream cheese with almonds layered on top so they look like pine cones. You're supposed to decorate these with fresh rosemary, but I couldn't find any. 

I messed around with the recipes a bit, but you can find instructions here:

Dec 14, 2016

Finnish Speculative Fiction

So, I won a hundred euros in the Portti writing competition and decided to blow the whole thing on Finnish speculative fiction. What could be more fitting? I've been eyeing many of these novels for a while now, so I knew just what I wanted. I bought these from  and Kirjapuoti has great deals to be had (and shipping is included!) and Aavetaajuus also sells used books, so they're worth checking out, because more is more when it comes to books, am I right?

Wanna see what I got? (I'll list the prices so you can see I stuck to my budget.)

I've been enjoying Katri Alatalo's short story collection Älä riko pintaa (in Finnish we don't capitalise all the words in a title, so that's why these might look weird to any non-Finnish readers...) so much that I wanted to check out the  fantasy series she wrote that's based in the same world. All of these are from There's no English transition (yet?), sorry.

Karnin labyrintti 15 e

Laulu kadonneesta saaresta 12 e

Kevääntuoja 12 e

The rest are from Aavetaajuus.

I've been meaning to read Emmi Itäranta's award-winning novels for a long time now, so I got the first and second one both. Pretty sure they're worth it. And hey, there are English translationS of both books! Here's the blurb from for Memory of Water:

"Global warming has changed the world’s geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria’s father tends, which once provided water for her whole village.
But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father’s death the army starts watching their town—and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship."

Teemestarin kirja (Memory of Water) 5 e (used)

Kudottujen kujien kaupunki  (The Weaver) 11 e

Then I got J. S. Meresmaa's newest book. I've read the first Mifonki book and quite liked it, but because the whole series would have pretty much eaten up my budget, I went for this stand-alone.  No English translation, bah.

Naakkamestari 20 e

My last choice was the young-adult werewolf story from Elina Pitkäkangas.  No translation of this one, either. This has one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen.

Kuura 20 e.

The last few euros went to shipping, but seven books is a pretty good, I think.

What about you guys? Who are your favourite Finnish spec fic authors? Have you tried the English translations? What did you think?

Dec 12, 2016

The Flying Dutchman and In Infinity

I've made quite a few trips to Helsinki in the last few weeks, and I finally had the opportunity to check out the Yayoi Kusama exhibit "In Infinity" at the Helsinki Art Museum. Kusama is famous for her installations, and there were quite a few to be seen here. She has also collaborated with major fashion houses with some truly memorable results. There's the lady herself surrounded by candy-cane tentacles above. (I think it was a wax doll?)

Kusama has suffered from mental heath problems, and her art draws from hallucinations, fears, and obsessions. Infinity, like the title of the exhibition, is a major theme, as well as repetition and the desire to become one with the world. 

Here you can see some of the pumpkin sculptures Kusama is famous for. She also had a thing for phalluses made from different material. The boat in the background is covered with them. 

This was my favourite installation. You walk into a dark room with mirrors on the walls and water on the floor and the coloured orbs seem to go on forever. They also shifted colour once in a while.

The exhibition is running until January 22nd, if you want to see it.  

We also saw the National Opera's new production of Wagner's Der Fliegende Hollander. The singing was fine, but the  production was just weird. The idea was that the storm is only in the head of the artist, and there wasn't even a glimpse of the ship in the show. The translation of the libretto had had a lot of the nautical terms and things referring to the sea removed, and the end result didn't make any sense. I felt sorry for anyone who saw the opera for the first time, they were probably totally lost. And I'm sorry, but most of the bits that need to be on a ship just didn't work as metaphors. And the ending, oh, boy. I won't spoil it, but they changed the ending so that the whole of the opera was undermined by the decision. There were some beautiful visuals, though. It was like seeing two different stories that just didn't have anything to do with each other. Square peg, round hole, people! I wish they'd stop doing these modern versions of operas. Mostly, they ruin the experience and come across as trying too hard. 

Dec 11, 2016

Good News Comes in Threes?

More good news: my story "Kun nokkoset kukkivat" (When Nettles Bloom) was accepted to the Finnish anthology of Gothic stories! Yay!

Dec 10, 2016

Portti News!

The results of the Portti writing competition are out, and my story "Kylmempi kuin jää" (literally "Colder than ice," trust me, it's much catchier in Finnish) rated an honourable mention, yay!

The story is the one I originally wrote for the Lumen ja jään antologia, but it didn't fit the criteria for the anthology by the time I was done. It got workshopped twice, once at the writing workshop in Tampere and once through my Finnish online writing group. The feedback I got was invaluable, and the story is quite different from the first draft. Just goes to show, workshops and beta-readers are key. I'm pretty sure the first draft wouldn't have made the grade.

Dec 9, 2016

Loot Crate: Magic

The Magic crate is finally here! 

We got this Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them T-shirt, which is fun because I just saw the movie and quite liked it, except for the deus ex machina ending. Still the best Potterverse film, in my opinion. The Potter movies never really captured the magic of the books for me, but this one really worked, and I loved that it wasn't just more of the same but something new. 

Doctor Strange fig!


         This was definitely my favourite item this month: A Game of Thrones Melisandre journal. Look forward to writing some dark tales in this soon.

We also got a comic book.

And the loot pin, of course, an Elder Scrolls inspired one. It unlocked some extra stuff in the game, I think. 

If you like Loot Crate but don't want to commit without knowing what you're getting, they sell past crates and individual items at the Loot Vault. There are some bargains to be had if you're still looking for Christmas prezzies for geeky friends. 

Dec 7, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: The Weapons Edition

Finally finished playing Witcher III  yesterday. A great game, even though there were a few too many side quests for my taste. Loved the ending, but then, I got the good one:) While playing, I came across some really weird names for weapons. Let's check out a few etymologies!

Halberd (you know, the axe thing mounted on a long handle) comes from Middle High German halmbarte "long axe with handle", from halm, handle + barte "hatchet." The alternative etymology is kind of hilarious: the word might come from helm, helmet, so an axe for bashing in helmets. Speaking of hilarious, halberd in Finnish is "hilpari." Cracks me up every time.

Rapier, as you might have guessed, is of French origin. The origin is uncertain, but it's thought to come from raspiere "poker, scraper."

Pike is an easy one, it's from Middle French piquer "to puncture, pierce."

Flail comes from the West German borrowing of the Latin flagellum "winnowing tool, flail," in Latin "whip."

Arrow is interesting, because it ultimately goes back to Latin arcus, arch, which originally referred to the sun's motion in the sky. The PIE root *arku- means "bowed, curved."So the word "arrow" refers to both the bow and arrow, in a way. The word bow is from Proto-Germanic bugon, "bow."


Dec 6, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

Time to watch the Unknown Soldier and the President's Independence Day reception on TV again. It's  hours of people shaking hands. Yes, we are crazy. 

Dec 5, 2016

Book Recommendation: Deadly Skills and Improvised Weapons

Writing a badass character while being, well, not-so-badass yourself? The 100 Deadly Skills books by Clint Emerson, a retired Navy SEAL, might help. The books are very entertaining read just for fun, but they're also fantastic for researching those secret agents/assassins/bounty hunters many of us  genre types love to write. And it's not just the skills themselves that might come in useful, but the whole mindset of the "Violent Nomad," as Emerson puts it, can help you get into your protag's head and create a more realistic character. 

100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangrerous Situation is just than, a well-rounded look into what it means to be a Violent Nomad. The book is split into sections: Mission Prep, Infiltration, Infrastructure Development, Surveillance, Access, Collection, Operational Actions, Sanitisation, and Exflirtation and Escape. Need to know how to trick fingerprint scanning software, turn a newspaper into a weapon,  or to make an improvised infrared light? Emerson's got your back. 

Do you love Jackie Chan movies? Me too. That's why A Guide to Improvised Weaponry by Master Sergeant Terry Schappert, U.S. Army Special Forces, and Adam Slutsky caught my eye. No more boring action scenes, guys! Why not have your protag pick up a plunger or salad tongs instead of a gun? The scene practically writes itself.

In 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster Emerson not only gives tips on how to survive a natural disaster or survive in the wild but also talks about defending your home, securing public spaces, and signaling for help. Here you'll learn how to escape a flooded vehicle and to survive a shark attack.  

A word of warning: reading these might leave you feeling a bit jittery for a while and seeing danger everywhere. Hopefully you won't have to actually use most of these skills in real life, but hey, some of this stuff might come in handy sometime.

Now go write that action scene with the plunger. I know you want to!

Dec 2, 2016

Coffee and Cake: Pink Vanilla Desserts

Our coffee shop expeditions continued this week with Pink Vanilla Desserts,  a café run by a couple of American expats who make the best cupcakes in Turku. In addition to visiting the cafés in Turku and Uusikaupunki, you can also order American-style cakes for birthdays and other special occasions, and they're on Foodora, so you can get a box of cupcakes right to your door if you live in delivery range. The shop is located at Maariankatu 2 on Puutori, so about a five minute walk from city centre.

Look at all the cupcakes! And brownies! And cinnamon buns!  There's even a vegan option!

The sweets are the main event, but the café also serves bagels, toasted sandwiches, and an American breakfast with pancakes. 

This café is perfect for those times when I feel a bit nostalgic for California (especially in November, when Finland is at its worst) and crave for something to take the edge off. Like my little sister said, these cupcakes taste like America. I'm pretty sure the kiddies would love this place, and the café is child-friendly.  Can't wait to take my niece and nephew!

But hey, Finland in November is not all bad. These Christmas trees had appeared on Teatterisilta last week. The lights make it feel like a fairytale forest.