Jun 21, 2017

Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out at Heureka



The blog's been kind of quiet in the last few months, sorry. I wish I could say it'll get better, but this pregnancy thing's hitting me hard. Turns out you lose a lot of your productivity when your haemoglobin drops by twenty points. Add to that all the normal aches and pains that pregnancy brings and the need to keep active and pay attention to my diet, there's not much room for anything else in my schedule, especially with the constant napping that borders on the ridiculous. I also want to spend time with my friends and family before the baby comes.  With this in mind, my father and I headed to Heureka science park with my nephew to check out the Body Worlds: Animal Inside Out exhibit.   


As you probably know, the original Body Worlds is an exhibition of dissected human bodies preserved by a process called plastination, which replaces the body's fat and water with liquid plastics to stop decay. Specimen preserved in this way retain most of the properties of the original. The material for Human Body Worlds comes from peopled donating their bodies to science with full consent and knowledge of the project, and the animals in this exhibition have been donated by zoos, university veterinary medicine programmes, and animal welfare associations, so no animals were harmed to create the exhibit. The idea is to educate people about animal anatomy and to promote the efforts to protect endangered species.

I found the exhibition interesting and informative, but if you're squeamish, this might not be the exhibition for you. I was a bit worried about how my nephew would react, but he was fine. As nearby schools visit the exhibition and the science center is meant for children, I felt confident that it wouldn't be too scary. There's no age limit, but maybe take a look at the website first if you're going with smaller children. The exhibition is running until October 29th if you want to go. Heureka is located in Vantaa, so it's not far from the airport or Helsinki city center.


There's other cool stuff too, as you can see.


You can do experiments on your own, and children can take part in a laboratory class with the staff twice a day for the price of the ticket. If you like Mythbusters, you'll love these. There are also activities like driving simulators, educational games, and building your own circuit boards, for example.


And rats playing basketball! (Only positive reinforcement is used in their training.)


You can even make your own coin at the Heureka mint. (It involves taking a photo and green lasers. Very cool.)

When you're done, you can visit the gift shop for all kind of fun gadgets and games. We tried out some astronaut ice cream, which is super weird. (And apparently a myth. Who knew?)

All in all, a fun day out. More info about the science center and upcoming exhibitions here: www.heureka.fi






Jun 5, 2017

Cutest Geeky Onesies



I promise this blog won't turn into all babies all the time, but I couldn't resist showing you guys a few of my favourite baby clothes so far. Being a responsible person, I got most of the baby stuff we need second hand, but I did get a couple of fun onesies in assorted sizes. 

This LOTR one is from Nerd Girl Tees


For the little Star Wars fan. (CutieButtsBoutique)


What would Baby Shepard wear? (Rocket Baby Clothing)


I pretty much want this in every size... (CutieButtsBoutique))


Labyrinth onesie! (CutieButtsBoutique))






May 29, 2017

Loot Crate: Investigate



April's Loot Crate, kind of late, I know. 


A Stranger Things T-shirt. I loved Stranger Things, but this shirt is just too loud for me. (Yes, yes, I know, they're going for that '80s look, but still...) If it were black-and-white, maybe. Too bad. 


This Jessica Jones fig I did like. I wonder when we're getting a second series? 


X Files pencils! 


The Loot Pin.


My favourite item this month: a Batman mug that changes colour when you pour hot liquid into it. Hubby seems to have taken a liking to it too, because I have yet to give it a try :)




May 24, 2017

Mrs Rochester's Attic Out Now!



Here's the text from the back cover:

"What can Father Divine do when a nun confesses a disturbing secret?
Bill has always lived in his parent’s basement. Nothing

odd about that... is there?
How can Eleanor bear watching her old love Paul, hidden as she is at the bottom of his garden?
How can Sarah’s suddenly bottomless bag be full of bees?
What can forgotten gods do? Go clubbing obviously.
The stories in this book explore secrets, doomed relationships, and madness, inspired by the sad fate of the first Mrs Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Deranged and hidden away by her husband, Mrs Rochester haunts the corridors of Thornfield Hall, and eventually destroys it.
The authors were not required to write directly about Mrs Rochester, Jane Eyre or the Brontës, but all the stories had to contain a deep, dark secret, insanity or ill-fated love.
And what a wild mix they came up with. Some of the stories in this book are fantastical and some are realistic. Some are set in the past and others are contemporary. There’s a wide mix of genres. But they all have a hint of the gothic and a tinge of strangeness.

 
Just the thing to read while hidden away in your own attic..."



Interested? You can order the anthology from a bookstore near you or get the kindle or paperback version from amazon, for example. 




May 22, 2017

A Geeky Baby Box for Dad



In Finland, when you're having a baby, the government grants you a baby box full of all kinds of things the baby needs in his or her first year: onesies, a sleeping bag, toys, hygiene products, a snowsuit etc., and the box it comes in can be used as the baby's first bed. You can see the contents of this year's box here. The only problem is, it's still called 'The Maternity Package,' which can make the future daddy feel a bit left out, so I decided to make Hubby a Daddy Box of his very own. 


I repurposed one of the Loot Crate boxes for this project. The note on top (and most of the other baby stuff) was from a webshop called www.mussukat.fi. It says: 'You have been granted a paternity package in the form of a baby box. It has been personally designed for you and executed with love. We hope the box will bring joy to your time with the baby.'


And what did I put inside? A geeky onesie, of course. This one is LOTR themed and has all the meals Hobbits like to enjoy during the day printed on it. 


I also included a polar bear bib scarf, a 'mute button' pacifier, and earplugs, of course!


Some baby toys. I'm partial to owls.


The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting
Tips, and Advice on First Year Maintenance by Louis and Joe Borgenicht. (Hey, they have it in English, too!)


Something to mop up all the stuff that keeps coming out of both ends. 

I wanted to add a chocolate cigar, but unfortunately they don't sell those in Finland. Coffee or an energy drink would have fit in quite well too, but I ran out of room after this stuff.

Have you made a Baby Box for your significant other? What did you put inside?












May 16, 2017

Mrs Rochester's Attic Cover Reveal!


Remember that anthology I was talking about before, Mrs Rochester's Attic from Mantle Lane Press? Here's what the cover will look like:



Pretty cool, right? 

I'll be posting details about availability when I get them, but the anthology will be available soon.  





May 15, 2017

Freedom!




Friday was my last day of work for a while. I knew it was coming, of course, but somehow it hasn't really sunk in yet: I don't have to go to work today, I can get up when I want and do what I want, and I'm not bound to anyone else's schedule; pretty cool, actually. I haven't been feeling too great for the last few months and I had some vacation time coming, so I decided to take my summer vacation a bit early this year. Best decision ever, especially now that I'm feeling better (yay for iron supplements!) and I can actually enjoy it.

This is the first time since childhood that I have a whole summer  all to myself. The baby's not due till August, so I plan to take full advantage of the summer months and get as much writing done as possible, because I have a feeling that writing time will be extremely limited in the baby's first year. I'm planning to write new stuff for a few hours in the mornings and do an hour or two of editing in the afternoon, so nothing too strenuous, because pregnancy does take its toll. And I did sign up for that University of Iowa MOOC that's starting this week.

In addition to writing, there's all kinds of baby-related errands to do from finishing the nursery to getting everything we need to keep the kid warm and fed and reasonably happy when it gets here, not to mention doctor's appointments etc. (Who knew babies come with a mountain of stuff? And where do we put all of our stuff to make room for the baby stuff?) I also have to watch what I eat and take time for regular exercise as long as I can. Hopefully spring will finally prevail and the sleet and snow will stop falling before the indoor swimming pools close at the end of May.

But all that can wait until tomorrow. Now I'm going to have some fruit and yogurt and a huge cup of tea and watch some bad TV, because first day of summer vacation!








May 8, 2017

Coffee and Cake: Tiirikkala



For our monthly coffee and cake meetup last week, we chose Tiirikkala, a café/restaurant on the bank of the river Aura, only a few blocks from the center of Turku. I'd never been there before, but I'll definitely go again. In addition to awesome cakes and pastries, Tiirikkala serves delicious, trendy lunches and dinners, including vegetarian fare, and there's live music of Fridays and Saturdays.



Here's what I had. So pretty, and tasted good, too.


Tiirikkala had a nice, relaxed vibe and it would be a great place to hang out with friends or do some writing. I'd definitely recommend it.

Here's the link to their website: http://www.tiirikkala.fi/eng

May 1, 2017

Reading the Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Title page for The Scarlet Letter.jpg
Image from wikipedia.org
                                                         
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne's 1850 novel about sin, guilt, and judgement in a 17th century Puritan colony, is not an easy read. Hawthorne's attempt at imitating how people (presumably) spoke in the 1600s combined with a very 1800s tendency for long and complicated sentences makes this novel heavy going, not to mention unintentionally humorous at times, especially when little Pearl is speaking, and the plodding plot and heavy-handed imagery don't help things.

The novel tells the story of Hester Prynne, who has an affair and gives birth to an illegitimate daughter, Pearl. Living in Puritan Massachusetts, this doesn't go over well with the society at large, especially as she refuses to divulge the name of the child's father. As punishment, Hester is forced to wear the letter A on her breast as a sign of her crime.

Personally, I didn't find much to like about this novel, but Hester as a character was an exception. I admired her strength and how she got on with things despite being ostracised by society, and the rebellious way she embroidered the scarlet letter so it was almost more an adornment than a symbol of shame. Because of Hester's skill as a seamstress, she was offered work despite being in disgrace, which made it possible for her to support herself and her daughter, just one example of Puritan hypocrisy.

The daughter, Pearl, is continuously referred to as a fairy child and unnatural in some way, and even Hester seems afraid of her a times. A lot of the time Hawthorne uses her to spell out uncomfortable truths, which at times reduces her to more of a symbol than a character. (Not that this happens only with Pearl.)

Of the other characters, the villain of the piece, if you can even call him that, is Hester's long-lost husband who takes the name Roger Chillingworth and swears to discover the father of the child while working as the town physician. The father, the town minister Arthur Dimmesdale, is a weakling who lets Hester suffer alone while his guilt eats at him from the inside.

The novel examines the nature of sin and the injustice of Hester's punishment and questions the rules of the intensely religious Puritan society that wreck the lives of everyone involved. Hester does find a sort of redemption in the end, even if she never quite shrugs off the weight of the scarlet letter, while Dimmesdale's guilt destroys him. In Dimmesdale's case, I doubt even the Puritan legal system would have been harder on him than he was on himself.

Concerning writer tricks, Hawthorne is famous for his use of metaphor in the novel, but I found him quite heavy-handed. Every time he does something particularly clever, he seems to have a need to point it out to the reader in a very unsubtle hey-look-what-I-did-there way. For examples of this, see the bit where he compares Pearl to the roses on the prison wall to the scarlet letter and the scene where the scarlet letter appears in the sky. I did like the use of colour and light and darkness in the novel. For me, this novel also served as a reminder of what not to do: even if you're writing a historical novel, it doesn't mean you need to make the prose so archaic that it takes away from the reader's experience.

So all in all, not exactly the book for me. But hey, I did learn you can use the word "pillory" as a verb!

Classics read: 30/100



 


Apr 24, 2017

5 Very Science Fiction-y Things About Pregnancy

You might have noticed the blog's been a bit quieter than usual lately. There's a reason for that: I'm busy with the next generation. Being pregnant is supremely weird, especially when it's your first time. Sometimes I feel like I woke up in a science fiction (or horror) movie, so here's a list of weird stuff about pregnancy. I'm only about halfway through, so any veteran mommies out there, feel free to add to the list in the comments.

So, here's my list:

1. Cool new superpowers, like a heightened sense of smell and taste. At about six weeks or so I developed Witcher senses. Just like Geralt's, except I doubt he has to step into the bushes to throw up every time he smells coffee. Or maybe Sapkowski just left that part out. As a bonus, most healthy foods start to taste like poison. Well, I guess it's good to expand your palate. (This, thankfully, went away in the second trimester. I doubt you can grow a baby on ice-cream and folic acid supplements alone.)

2. Playing host to a strange little alien that moves around in your tummy. It's weird. The first kicks leave you feeling both elated and supremely creeped out at the same time. And that first ultrasound; It's like something out of Alien.

3. The vivid dreams. Virtual reality has nothing on these. Even though I've mostly been too sick to write, I've got enough material to last me a couple of years.

4. The hormones make you act very strangely, from getting overly emotional over pictures of kittens to eating peculiar things like sun-dried tomatoes with soygurt. (Yummy!) Suddenly your body has a mind of its own and you're no longer in control. I also turned into a morning person overnight. Seriously, I never thought I'd be getting up at 6 a.m. voluntarily. Very Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

5. The rampant paranoia. Your house is suddenly a deathtrap, and you worry about the baby getting eaten by squirrels while sleeping in the stroller and similar totally rational and likely scenarios.

P.S. Don't let these freak you out if you're planning on having kids. There's good stuff too. Mass Effect onesies and Death Star pregnancy shirts, for example.


Apr 17, 2017

Easter Break


Easter was supposed to be a four-day mini-vacation for me, but I actually ended up working most of it. Due to the winter vomiting bug going around, I had to do an extra shift on Saturday, which of course I found out about fifteen minutes before leaving work on Thursday. Thanks a lot, norovirus. I also missed out on board game night on Friday because I was so tired that I needed to rest up to make it through Saturday's shift. Not exactly what I had in mind.

The rest of this weekend's work was a lot more fun: edits for Mrs Rochester's Attic and the Finnish Gothic anthology! You learn so much from working with an editor, and I enjoy the challenge of coming up with solutions to the issues that emerge. Sometimes it feels like a story is unfixable and editing is like wading through molasses, but then something clicks or you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, and off you go again. When you finish and the next draft is miles better than what you started with, it's a great feeling.

 I also decided to finally finish reading The Scarlet Letter, which I've been reading for a ridiculously long time considering its length. The archaic language and the subject matter is just not doing it for me, but there's only about fifty pages left, so time to power through. I can't believe they make kids (teens?) read this for school in the US. Post coming up soon, though. This won't go on my list of favourites, I can tell you that right now.

Well, time to salvage what's left of the holiday. I'm thinking bubble bath, honeydew melon slices, and an Anne McCaffrey novel, possibly something in the Talent saga. (Not very Eastery, I know . . . Maybe if I add a few chocolate eggs?)

Oh, and did you see the first episode of Doctor Who's new season? I liked the new companion, Bill, but for me something's been missing since the Tennant days. It feels like the show is just steadily okay now instead of every episode being awesome. (Wham-episodes we used to call them back in the day.) I never really warmed up to Capaldi's Doctor. Apparently Kris Marshall is taking over. I was kind of hoping for a female Doctor this time around, but you can't have everything. Moffat is also leaving after season 10, so the show will be very different after that. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens?

Hope you had a nice holiday if you celebrate Easter where you live. There is something very satisfying about not having to go to work on Monday, anyway.  


Apr 10, 2017

Mass Effect: In Full Colour!



Have I mentioned I love Mass Effect? And how much? THIS MUCH!!! (Note that it's an ADULT colouring book. Totally valid excuse to buy one.)  


The illustrations are pretty cool too. Check out Wrex here, for example. And you get a fun quote for every image.


Thane!

But Garrus is my favourite, so I had to start with him. The thing is, it's really hard to remember which bit of the armour is which colour. Luckily, I came up with a solution.  


Work it, baby! Blue Steel! 


Totally worth the money. 

(I got mine on Amazon, but it looks like these are pretty widely available. Oh, and Dragon Age has one too! Looks like they're going for about ten bucks right now.)


Apr 5, 2017

2017 Hugo Awards Finalists Announced!

Hey, did you see the list of Hugo and Campbell award finalists yet? Lots of fun stuff to read. Check out the list here.

Apr 3, 2017

Science Fiction Classics: Lest Darkness Fall by L Sprague de Camp


Lest darkness fall holt.jpg
Image from Wikipedia.org

Lest Darkness Fall, a 1939 alternative history novel by L. Sprague de Camp, tells the story of American archaeologist Martin Padway's accidental journey to 535 AD Rome. The idea feels very familiar to anyone who's read more than one or two science fiction books, but this was one of the first alternative history novels and has helped to shape the whole subgenre, something that needs to be taken into account when reading the classics. Spoilers ahead, beware!

The opening of the book is a bit strange, almost a science lecture on how people could get transported through time, and then that exact thing happens. Poor Padway is trying to take shelter from a thunderstorm in the Pantheon. Lightning cracks, and suddenly he finds himself in ancient Rome. I guess de Camp's foreshadowing works, because instead of contemplating the plausibility of a lightning strike being able to do something like that, I concentrated on Padway's fate instead. I actually think this is something many science fiction fans do: we're willing to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the story, but only up to a point. Most of the facts need to be right, or we get antsy. Fortunately, even if the science part of science fiction isn't that evident in the fantastical way Padway ends up in Rome, the rest of the novel feels meticulously researched and historically accurate; from Padway's struggle to get a craftsman to make copper piping for distilling alcohol (he wants to sell brandy to the Romans) to building a working telegraph system, every undertaking is described in detail and the issues well thought out. The only thing that bothered me a bit was the way the Romans and Goths talked in colloquial English, supposedly translated from the Latin Padway quickly masters. 

Padway as a character is quite likeable: he's resourceful and doesn't wallow in his unfortunate circumstances, but gets straight to work instead. The novel is very entertaining and de Camp's clear and plain writing style helps to sell the story. My attention wandered a bit at the end with all the fighting, but all in all, I enjoyed the book. One thing that I especially liked was that de Camp didn't take the easy way out and return Padway to modern Italy at the end of the novel, as is customary in many alternative history stories. Padway's adventure continues far beyond the last page. 

The name of the novel of course alludes to the fall of the Roman empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Imagine where we'd be if we had skipped those? An interesting idea. The morality of changing the future doesn't figure into Padway's thinking that much, but as he isn't going back to the future, does it really matter? The original future will remain as an alternate timeline, according to the opening lecture bit.

Writing-wise, there aren't too many writer tricks to find here, but the advantages of clear prose and doing your research if you want to write alternative history are some obvious take-home points here. 

A fascinating book. If you like alternative history, do give it a go.   





Mar 30, 2017

Coffee and Cake: The Book Cafe



Turun kirjakahvila, or the Book Café, located in the Brinkkala courtyard on the historical Suurtori market square, is something completely different: a volunteer-run vegan café that hosts author visits, book circles, and all kinds of cool events for the alternative crowd. As the name suggests, they also offer a lending library of interesting books on social justice issues, distribute small press zines and books, and there's also the opportunity to swap used books or buy them for a reasonable fee. You can also donate books to the café. 



Here's the chocolate mousse cake I had. Delicious. The tea was fair trade, and you could choose soy or oat milk with your coffee. I've tried the seitan sandwich on a previous visit, and it was also very tasty.  


If you enjoy interesting events and a relaxed college coffee bar atmosphere, give the Book Café a chance. And don't let the vegan part stop you; honestly, if I hadn't known that cake was vegan, I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. 





Mar 27, 2017

Loot Crate: Primal


Here's March's Loot Crate. You can see the Logan fig there on the very top. That's my favourite item this month.


The T-shirt's a bit too aggressive for me. It's from Overwatch, I think. 


And hey, why open your microbrew with a normal, boring bottle opener when you can use this Predator one? 


This is fun, but I have no place to hang it. (It's not really wrinkly, that's just the protective film I didn't take off yet.)


This month's pin.







Mar 25, 2017

It's Here!



. . . I hope it doesn't suck. (Shouldn't have read the reviews before playing.)


Mar 23, 2017

A Surprising Side of Wäinö Aaltonen



Finland is celebrating its 100th year of independence this year, and the Wäinö Aaltonen Museum in Turku is joining in with an exhibition of Wäinö Aaltonen's work. When I think of Aaltonen, what comes to mind are his sculptures, like these gilded figures that once stood in the Finnish Parliament. Apparently they were deemed too ostentatious and replaced with bronze casts at some point, but the originals are returning to the parliament house this year as part of the celebration. But that's not all there is to Aaltonen, and this exhibition is a great opportunity to see some of his more experimental work. 


This one is titled Beholder from the Depth. Pretty Lovecraftian, no?


Atlantis II. I love that dreamy, fairy-tale blue. 


This piece was hard to photograph, but that dark bit is actually missing. The piece is titled Shadow on the Face.  It's super creepy in person, because if you approach from the left, it looks like a perfectly normal sculpture, and then you suddenly see that gash on her face. Unsettling. 

The exhibition is running until May 7th if you want to check it out.