Thursday, 28 June 2012

Two plus two equals a bunch of things

What I wore today 26.6.2012

Ok, let's talk about a personal (yet not personal and goodness knows now that it's on then intertubies it's definitely NOT personal anymore) issue. I've always had trouble with my skin. Always. There might have been a few years in between coming out of the womb and having chicken pox and puberty when I didn't have issues, but we're not counting those for obvious reasons. The obvious reasons being that when you're a a wee one before hitting puberty, your hormonal balance and production is going to be radically different  from what it is when you're biologically an adult and capable of having your own wee ones.
I'm not going to say I did the same things everyone else did or did "the sensible" thing. The skin issues have usually been small enough that they can be either covered up so as not to be horribly emotionally scarring, or small enough to be considered negligible, or small enough that everyone including myself has thought that I'll grow out of them.

Welp, here we are, over 30, and we have not grown out of them, have we.

The official medical history is such: everyone of my cousins has had problems with their skin either long term or temporarily due to reactions to food/medication/growing up. So there's that. And when you have a mystery rash on your legs for 10 years that ALL the doctors seemed to think was nothing (turned out it might have been lord knows what in the beginning, but it definitely went away entirely once I stopped living with a cat and stopped using the utterly pointless topical creams doctors prescribed), the stuff on your face is also considered either nothing, or much like "female issues" in general, something I'm exaggerating. Sad to say, but that's often the attitude people get at a doctor's office. And let's face it (oh, pun!) it's not a full blown acne that would be terribly debilitating in wide terms. However, personal opinion here, physical symptoms making your body not function within bare minimum of norms, should always be looked at because they are, as the phrase goes, symptoms of something.
Anyhow, I used the usual over the counter products on The Face as a teen, though one doctor has later on remarked that such products are much too harsh on teenaged skin and shouldn't even be marketed to them while another said that they thought the first doc was full of it. So there ya go. I was on the Pill for many years and it affected the skin only marginally. The problem(s) of course being that it's an extra dose of hormones in your body which I'm not too thrilled about; it didn't actually make that much of a difference AND if I were to ever fancy having those wee ones, I would have to stop taking the stuff. I spot many holes in this "remedy".
I'm not going to go on a longer tangent on how contraceptive pills are generally offered as a treatment for acne/problem skin or many other symptoms women suffer from related to their cycle. That's a whole other kettle of fish because it's a kind of a large-ish topic.
I do pick at my skin which obviously isn't good, but even under conditions which would be normally considered ideal as far as stressing out (which always leads to picking at the skin) and letting the skin heal in peace go, the skin has still not behaved.

Now we get close to our current date. In Mexico, my skin was ok. It wasn't ideal, but it was ok. It's hard to say if it had gotten better with some more time to look into the changes I'm making now (and I'll get back to this later) or if it was something else.
That's the thing: when it's not hideously disfiguring, bursting puss all over bypassers and sidewalks or growing teeth and tails, your guess is as good as mine. Or specifically, my guess is as good as the doctor's. Especially if the doctor is one of those who thinks everyone should have to suffer things. In Mexico, I wouldn't really pick at my skin, but it would still be "not clean" and produce little blemishes or blackheads in certain areas and sometimes go completely wild a week or so before Aunt Flo came to town.
The benefits there were a relatively stress free environment and all the awesome foods everyone tells you to eat to make your skin glow. And yes, my skin did look better there.

So we're now at my current situation where we're back in Finland and my skin has had what would in person-terms be called a Complete Meltdown that's spreading down my neck. Contributing factors here are numerous: none of that awesome healthy food. No fresh avocados, mameys, pomegranates or oily fish. No healthy dairy, just the kind that will give you gas (I've learned today that it's also known as "dead milk" *shudder*). Definitely not a stress free environment. If you know me, you know how I feel about our benefits system right now. There are feels. They're not entirely positive. I also had to switch from a cover stick that I've been using for years to another product that seems to be blocking up my skin something fierce. The previous one was the only one in the market that I could actually use without ending up looking like the Elephant Man in the evening. I'm thinking that that particular switch is the biggest current issue, though obviously the situation wasn't exactly being handled before.
I did take this to the doctor. She suggested it was a mild form of acne (which it might), handed me a piece of paper that basically said whatever it is, it can't be cured and I definitely, definitely can't do anything about it on my own ("changes in diet have been proven not to have any effect") . Then she made out a prescription for a topical cream.

It's ok to roll your eyes at this point if you've read about acne. Or sensitive skin that's NOT acne.

And here's why: the cream is basically a bleach that will burn the top most layers of the skin. The tube says that it will bleach fabrics and hair (to be applied 2xday on the problem areas, which include arms and legs with me, so yeah.... ), it will make your skin worse for the first 4 weeks and it wont cure the problem but the treatment has to be renewed about 2-3 weeks after the previous round has ended. So basically, it's not going to help with anything and since acne has been discovered to be a hormonal issue, it's not actually going to address that either. And if my issues isn't precisely acne, why am I taking this again? Wait, why would I be taking this even if it was?!

Soooo.. since my options with this particular doctor have now been exhausted, the next doctor I might see is a dermatologist. And the huge fly in the ointment is that that will cost serious money (both the appointment and the medication/treatment, not to mention if there are possible lab costs) and making an appoinment that I would automatically have to pay for does not guarantee a better treatment/medication than with the previous guy. Obviously this will have to be a plan B.. or C.
What I AM going to do is not listen to a piece of paper that tells me not to try anything because it's not going to work and try to work at this from home. Isn't it better to be healed/helped through placebo than to suffer because there's no scientific proof that any of the things you do are actually working?

I'm giving myself a month. A month should be enough time for the skin to renew itself to see if anything is happening and weather at least 1 monthly poo storm from the Hormone Gods. Skin should not need cover up stick. I'm willing to bet some money that if I could get to a point where the skin would be blemish-free enough that I didn't feel the need to try and hide .. well, most of my facial skin under cover up stick, the skin would get to breathe and tan and it's natural balance would eventually be restored (to what it hasn't ever had the opportunity to be before). So I ordered mineral make up. It's supposed to be The Shizzniss for letting your skin breathe.
It's not actually called the Shizznizz though.
I'm adding chia-seeds (for omegas), mint tea (for proposed benefit for hormones related to acne) and proper green tea (for everything ever) in my diet.
Also keeping a really clean diet in general for the next month. You never know. I've been like a teenager in college with my eating habbits once mum stopped cooking all my breakfasts and lunches. Ok, a healthier teenager, but still. So basically that means following what I ate in Mexico as closely as I can, with the exclusion of drinks containing dairy.
Doing the Oil Cleansing Method and making sure I drink enough water and exercise enough.
I already switched my toothpaste to a non-flouride one because... hey, it's worth a shot.
And finally; getting a new shampoo. Barely related. Ok, it's not really related, but I'm trying something here and the store is kind of sort of in the same general direction as the place that sells the proper green tea and I really shouldn't even have to justify this because I'm a damn sprout-eating hippy and I already wash my hair with an egg once a week.

It's for seeing if it might help with my scalp and tired looking hair. My hair is tired because I am. Maybe the hair will perk up when I pamper it for a month.

So there. That's what I'll be doing here in the background while being busy with all the other stuff. This is all basically just background noise, but it's a big issue for me what with skin being the largest organ and all. Will write about this probably more in case there're movements one way or the other. If I remember. I guess I'm asking people to keep their fingers crossed for me, please.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

On hobbies and burning things


I visited grandma's place for the midsummer holidays this past Friday/Saturday. The trip (figuratively you could say granny lives out in the sticks, literally, she lives right next to the sticks these days since the actual farm is inhabited by my aunt and a companion) was a while in planning and didn't really materialise funding-wise until the very last moment, which meant standing in line for bus tickets with the number 27  when the number being served was 250.
People travel. Especially for Mid Summer. It's a big deal here.

The short history of that is that Summer Solstice is one of the few remaining pagan holidays and we do pagan rites and the wee ones are encouraged to dabble in the dark arts during this holiday. So everyone's all excited about the prospect of getting to dance around the fields at night buck naked because we're stuck up enough not to know we could be doing that whenever.
And the reality of it is that most people just get blind drunk just like during all holidays and all the sacrificing we do is donating our blood to benefit the mosquito population.
Fat mosquitos make for happy birds? Eh, I dunno. I'm all out of silver lining for that one. Even with my 60 denier pantyhose and jeans, the squeeky little bastards managed to bite my legs and butt raw.

The trip was... enlightening. I love being in transit. Being in transit is going on my list of hobbies. It's the way you're doing something, seeing places all the while also being able to meet new people and do something that you enjoy, like reading or writing. Being in transit is all of those things bundled into one handy package. Seeing my cousins and aunts and uncles after a very long time was a sobering experience. Sometimes you forget how time passes. Sometimes, especially when you're locked up inside yourself, you fail to see other people clearly. This was a new experience for me, seeing these people as they were and not through my own distorted expectations.
The little cottage by the lake is still as beautiful as ever. That's where my god is. Even with the damn mosquitoes. You want to be in awe, you go sit on a pier midsummer night, listen to the cuckoo echo over the lake and tuffts of mist roll over the water, then warm your bones next to a bonfire and let the ash fall over you like snow.
I've missed those things from my childhood.


Being away from my little cubicle, meeting people anew, being in transit and reading up on some great ladies in history got me to put some perspective on things again. Learning learning learning, this whole thing is a massive exercise in how to be myself which is becoming a lot less complicated the more I understand. Basically it boils down to just not making excuses for not doing things. I've taken up keeping a diary. Again. Well.. it's been a while since I had one, but now that I've reduced my blogs to just this one that's for wordy things and my Tumblr blog that's for pictury things, I needed a place to talk to myself, honestly, in my own language. Because we're built with a thousand ways to decieve ourselves with pretty words. Talking to yourself without evading is important.

So amma gonna be in transit a whole lot more in the future. There'll be pictures. And there'll be drawings of things and stuff and comics at my Granny Panties blog. Which ever you prefer. And if you see me, come and talk to me, cuz I'm always happy to meet new people.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

On learning and dead people

Best purchaces

This past Monday I finally started my classes. Just one course for now, but oh man does it feel good to be learning with an actual teacher again.
I could mention how Finns are not ones for joining in on class discussions (which sort of makes me the Loud And Obnoxious One.. you know, more than usual) and I could mention that the class so far isn't exactly what it said on the tin.
But all that's secondary.
It's learning. It's not-wasting-your-time. More specifically, it's minimizing-harm-and-maximizing-happiness. Our bodies and minds have this terrible desire to be used and to develop and if those needs (that were a biological necessity) are not met,  we are want to drown out their pleas with immediate gratifications in excess. And I say in excess because learning and moving and being connected and deriving pleasure from things that are not fashionably pleasurable are all things you can learn (narf) to enjoy and hard to do in excess, but things that are fashionably pleasurable, that is sex, food and similar, are very easy to over indulge in.

Yes, I've been reading about Epicurus. And Benjamin Franklin. And Hans Christian Andersen. And a whole bunch of other people. See, I started on this most awesome book called The Book Of The Dead by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. It's basically cliffsnotes on all the people and biographies you ever wanted to read with a huge chunk of people you never knew about thought you should and a great big bucket load of happy for having discovered and learned about all of these people.
I did not know da Vinci was gay. It also never really entered my head that he used to be young and apparently very tall and incredibly handsome. Because you just don't think about famous masters in those terms. And the history books in school have this tendency to not mention when someone is gay or bisexual but just note that they had a "companion", like we're talking about puppets or cubes.

Getting back to Epicurus. There's an interpertation that when you tell someone to enjoy all worldly pleasures that you're telling them to stuff their face with cake (which is undeniably pleasurable when you're doing it) or to boink everything. Rarely if ever do people percieve wordly pleasure to mean ALL pleasures that you can take in this life. Not in western interpertations anyway. So how about reading and talking with friends or sitting by the lake listening to the birds and the breeze? I'd say these are pretty pleasurable things. Why I'm bringing up Epicurus is that he had some pretty good things to say: 1) necessities of life are food, water, warmth (I'll just understand this as clothing since most of us don't live on nudist colonies), shelter, freedom, thought and friendship. And now think honestly how many of those are you willingly giving up every day for the benefit of not doing anything at all because scary scary SCARY! 2) The things that are essential and good for you are surprisingly easy to come by. Looking at that list of necessities, do you think those things will cost you a lot of money? Do you think that having a lot of food/sex/money would increase the quality of these essentials and more so, make you enjoy them more?

There's a a phrase that gets uttered at all the wrong moments, by people who fail to understand timing or sympathising: "It's a question of attitude".
Once you get to the right state of mind, once you stop thinking in terms of "I fail at life because I'm not earning as much as my peers or have a house as big as they have and I'm ugly to boot and my pain is something that I need to keep to myself because surely it's a private thing that I wont uncosciouly take out on others once I get annoyed enough" and start believing that everyone has their soft spots and we all protect them the best we know how because scary scary SCARY!.. you'll notice that that phrase is dead on. Damn it.

Lil bird

Don't fear God
Don't worry about death;
What is good is easy to get, and
What is terrible is easy to endure.
           Tetrapharmakon according to Epicurus

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Illustration Friday - "Secret"

Illustration Friday - "Secret"

It's the Secret Society Of Hiding Animals On Your Body. They have a secret handshake too. I don't even know...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Illustration Friday - "Shiny"

Illustration Friday - "Shiny"


First a fair warning: this blog post will most surely spoil the movie for anyone and everyone who hasn't seen it and wishes to go in knowing as little as possible in order to form their own opinion. I'll let you know at which point the spoilers start rolling so you can stop reading.

The non-spoilery part of the review is as follows: I have mixed feelings about the movie.
The trailer seemed interesting.

The plot goes thusly: Muscly albino humanoid drinks goop at the edge of a waterfall somewhere while a space ships takes off. Humanoid (henceforth known as Mr White) has convulsions and falls into the water where he promptly desintegrates. Que opening credits. Archeologist couple have been compiling a record of a certain constellation reoccurring in images created by various different cultures throughout Earth history. Heap Big Future Evil Corporation Weyland Industries funds their research trip to said constellation and specifically to a moon there that has vaguely Earth-like conditions. We meet the crew and pic out the red shirts. David The Robot has been artistic and sensitive and taking care of everything on the ship while the humans have been in cryostasis. The ship reaches destination and quickly discovers a bunch of humps in straight lines that might or might not be buildings. Crew goes in, finds a bunch of faces and stuff carved everywhere. Probably buildings then. Crew splits, there's a storm, some people get stranded in the building and some stuff from there is smuggled on the ship. The stranded crew members die, love-interest archeologist is infected with nasties, Noomi gets preggers, Weyland is NOT dead but on the ship and Charlize has sex. Love-interest archeologist dies, one dead crew member turns into a crab-zombie and kills a bunch of others and it turns out that Mr White and his mates are total dicks for no reason whatsoever. Noomi gives herself a caesarian, Charlize is Weyland's daughter and there are no xenomorphs. Mr White kills Weyland dead and rips David The Robot's head off and tries to fly the Space Croissant to Earth to smash puny humans. The good ship Prometheus crashes the Space Croissant, Charlize gets squished, Giant Squid Of Anger hugs Mr White to death, Noomi flies off to have amazing adventures with David's head (and the body.. but we don't talk about that) and there's finally something resembling a xenomorph, though not quite. End credits.

Since this is a mixed bag I'll start with the things I did like: The movie is very well paced. It kept me sitting and wondering and not wanting to skip ahead and at least the first act is quite brilliant in building the movie and the story arc up. There's a distinct lack of unrealistic assholes in the cast. These feel like real people, with real dialogue and real depth. Yes, the ones who lose their shit can be picked out from the get go, but they never act out of character or have unreasonable motivations. The first act is brilliant. There is so much set up that you start to genuinely appreciate how intelligently the movie is made. The look of the film is perfectly in-keeping with the first one and it seems like they might even have used further sketches from Giger to complete the set up of the cultures presented here (the structures they find on this foreing moon look like a take on the designs Giger did for Dune before leaving the project, though the giant faces are more reminiscent of Patrick Tatopoulos's work). The characters are given time enough to grow on you and become human. And there are gentle giggles. You genuinely don't want any one of these people to just die already even though you know that that's what's coming.
It's an Alien-film. If you go in not thinking that everyone or at least most of these people, are going to die, then you probably got tickets to the wrong movie. By the time the first seeds of destruction have been planted, that is by the start of the second act, you start feeling that this might be one of those unpleasantly good movies where you don't have quick bloody deaths, but you're going to have to watch these people that you care about slowly and painfully (literally) come apart.

And then it all gets silly.
So the things I really disliked about in this movie: let's start with cloak-wearing humanoids from alien planets wearing tighty whiteys. Yeah. That happened. I guess alien peen was too much to be tastefully covered up by random objects on the screen. So humanoids shop Walmart before getting their druidian cloaks on.
The tone of the movie is frustratingly uneven. The first part promises a wonderfully moody and thoughtful piece where the bits with violence are short and shocking and blunt and where the focus would be on keeping you invested psychologically and emotionally, making you think heap big thoughts about life, universe and everything. And then you're given a Guy Pearce with a bald-cap and a Giant Squid Of Anger and you quickly realize that this isn't as smart as it promised to be. It's actually pretty terrible if it wasn't for the wonderful pacing that keeps you from stopping to think about how silly it's getting for too long.
Peter Weyland of the Weylands That Are The Root Of All Evil In The Corporate World is played by Guy Pearce. Guy Pearce in the most unconvincing old age make up since Radu from Subspecies. And that's Peter Weyland as opposed to Charles Weyland who we've seen being played by Lance Henriksen in all the other movies, because.. Lance Henriksen isn't in this one. So we get Peter The Less Handsome Weyland Brother. Who looks like an actor doing a terrible job pretending to be old. And I'm not saying Guy Pearce is a bad actor, it's just that that amount of latex would make anyone look like a muppet. And I doubt it's a huge surprise to anyone that Weyland isn't really dead, but on the ship and that Charlize Theron's Meredith is in fact his daughter. Some spectacularly clunky dialogue follows when exposition is delivered on things that everyone already guessed (but for some reason the writers felt needed to be hammered home) and when plot points that require some huge leaps in logic are pointed out since the movie failed to show rather than tell. The famous croissant-shaped space ship is immediately identified as a space ship underground, even though no motors or control rooms have been located. It's shaped like the croissant from the first movie, so it must be a space ship.. that can fly. In space. Because.. croissants from space! The cylinders and the gunk in them the crew find are recogniced as Weapons Of Mass Destruction and the structure they're in is obviously a weapons manufacturing facility, because.. well, that's just how the universe rolls. We haven't even met the people who made them, but yeah... they're all weapons as opposed to foreing food that might have gone off in the 2000 years it's been sitting around. And the people who made them hate us. Because of The Reason.
In some of these cases (like the fact that there are several buildings found on the moon the crew land on and that this movie doesn't actually answer any of the questions it, or the first movie, poses about the nature of The Space Jockey Guys) the movie is fully aware that it doesn't deliver and has the characters plainly say so. "We don't know why they created us and now want to kill us". "I have to find out why they hate us". Yeah, we the audience were sort of asking the same thing. There's no motivation for being violent and evil and ripping androids' heads off. And the movie agrees. And then gives an ending that would've been better suited for something with a lower budget. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) goes off with the head off Michael Fassbender in one of the other ships the big nasty aliens left, to go find their home planet and presumably ask nicely why they hate us just before getting stomped to death under their giant albino feet.
So if the humanoids who hate us and made these bio-weapons that have oh-so-many-ways of killing us accidently kind of had an accident in one of the weapons' manufacturing facilities and died in that one facility, whatabout the guys in the other facilities? We see a bunch of the factories at the beginning. Were the other facilities already empty when they had their booboo in this one? Did they get bored of their work in 2000 years and think "Well fuck this killing-all-the-earthlings shit. I'm going fishing in my cabin in Alpha-Centauri."? Did they all die at work of old age? Boredom? And then the Space Jockey continuity got completely screwed when he wasn't killed by a xenomorph in his seat but by the Giant Squid Of Anger.
And what's with carving giant faces in your storage lockers and on top of your factories? It's like the biggest fan club of Skeletor was in charge of your weapons industry.
The xenomorphs we know and love turn out to be a bug created specifically as a bio-weapon. It's an interesting concept but the idea is a bit all over the place. Is it a parasitic thing that you put in the ecosystem that then proceeds to adapt to all other species and kill them off? Is it a zombie virus that re-animates dead crewmen and their cameras and makes them into bendy berserkers? Fucking bio-weapons, how do they work?! In 2000 years these highly adaptable little buggers that killed ya'll guys (the humanoids that made them) didn't manage to evolve any further? They had a whole planet to play with, you know. Nope, they're just gonna swim along in their black, unexplained goop and look phallic and vaginal all at once.
Oh yeah, there's a ginger rage-zombie who stalks his victims from a crab-position for no particular reason but because it makes for a neat visual. Ugh.... hate it when that happens. Or when you only know a crew member is alive (or undead) when their personal, helmet-mounted camera works.
There's further stupid when Noomi's love interest Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) heroically commits suicide because he's infected and would burst all over his space suit at any moment. So he forces Charlize Theron to burn him alive. Which would be terrible and effective.. if he wasn't wearing that space suit that can take quite a beating. The end result is a burst scientist in a a hot, but intact, space suit. Clever, that.
And because of his sexytiem with Noomi just before turning to goop, our heroine is now preggers with a squid. Not a xenomorph, but with what will eventually turn into a Giant Squid Of Anger with some serious vagina dentata. Squid-silliness aside, this is an interesting premise, which is immediately and unceremoniously resolved by her performing a caesarian on herself and then proceeding to jump and run all over the place. This bit was probably written by someone who didn't quite grasp what happens when you have a baby and  need to cut it out of a uterus.
Oh and Noomi manages to beat some people up to get to the operating table and no one seems to really mind that. Eh, just another day in space camp.
Speaking of the Giant Squid Of Anger: it should be noted that CGI and squids should only be used together when the intention is to cause hilarity.

Giant Squid Of Anger by Coahtemoc

And in the end Charlize is squished by the Space Croissant because Flying Space Croissants can only fall on witch-like protagonists and not anywhere else on the planet they're above.

So do the cons outweight the pros? I honestly don't know. The first act is brilliant and then it gets really silly and careless and non-xenomorphic and inconsequential. But it's still not a bad film. It's just scitzophrenic. Like after the beginning someone said "Wait, we're making an Alien-movie. We need to kill everyone right now! The world is a terrible place! We can't have all this pondering philosophical stuff.. it'll make everything lame! More Giant Squids!".
Final thoughts? A lot of people are going to like this and I'll continue on getting more and more angry about all the little things that were wrong with it because it could have been thoroughly brilliant. It could have been genuinely intelligent. But then someone took scissors to the script and glued a whole other script where the last 2 acts were supposed to be.
I'm happy for the Giant Squid Of Anger finally getting a role (s)he could sink their teeth into.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

The days without internet

Töölö library

My monitor died last Sunday.
After years of emiting a low but terrible eeeeee-sound whenever the power was turned OFF, the monitor finally died a true death. I will not miss that sound.
Today, I got a new monitor and am, in a manner of speaking, "back online".

Sidenote: the new monitor apparently has an extra feature which allows you to turn it on its side so you can more easily read documents in your avegare A4 or similar letter size. Which is truly handy seeing as the monitor is almost perfectly square. Oh well, it's the thought that counts. XD

So here's the kicker: I did not miss being online. I miss hanging out with my friends, I miss taking classes and going for a cup of coffee (or a chai latte or anything with milk in it I could drink abundance off outside Finland that alas, is all forbidden here where all milk products, but especially milk of the runny-kind, makes my anus bleed) afterwards, I miss the unbearable heat and the close proximity to everything new and not understanding if people were insulting me or being nice. All of those things I miss daily, but being online? I did not miss being online.

The unfortunate thing though, is that our information society is built on the fact that everyone is online all the time. So when I went to look for a place that would sell cheap monitors I was told to look up the address and the public transports there online. Or to order online because it would be quicker for me to order things from the online version of the store I was standing in, than to have them make the order for me right then and there.
How this makes sense, I have yet to figure out.
Also, all job applications must be filled out/sent online as do all my drawing and photographing projects.

What did I do with my time? I slept better. I got to actually take my clothes off and get between the sheets and not just pass out in my jeans and wake up when some part of my body started hurting from being in the wrong position for too long or when the clock would chime 4am signaling a good time to go wash my face. I ate less and wasted less time doing so while still managing to eat well.
I read 2 books (Looking For Alaska by John Green which was very awesome and you should all read it and Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner which was.... probably best viewed within it's cultural and publishing era context. The glowing personal profile articles in the added material were extremely annoying.) and checked out 2 other books that were on my reading list for this year and started on one of them (Kill All The Brutes by Sven Lindqvist). I wrote letters. I hatched a project to mess with this damn country and its fear of intimacy. And I got to terms to actually wanting to be a research scientist. How's that for 2,5 days? Yeah, I'm pretty much going to study, and probably practice to some extent, to be a research scientist. Which is nice.
And I hung out with a friend and had a small amount of alcohol and it was the best damn drink I've had in a long long while. Sitting at the terrace on a lovely pre-Summer day was nice too.
AND I might have been caught redhanded oggling at a cute guy. And my head might have exploded.
Yes, this happens to girls.

Today, there were sparrows in the sky.

I don't quite know how I feel about the internet. It obviously has it's place (though I have to say I was a little dismayed that the numberservice I called to find I number I'd stupidly forgotten to write down from an email, used Google to try and locate first the office of the organization, then the number of their front desk from their website, as opposed to using their own database with all the listed, non-secret phone numbers in this country), but most people I know are terribly illequiped to use the internet "wisely".
I'd go even so far as to suggest if quitting the internet and switching to using only phones might help a lot of people who currently suffer from various forms of dissociation.

Spreading information serves a purpose. Being in touch with people far away serves a purpose. But there's a very fundamental difference between shouting into the void like I'm doing now and sitting with a group of friends and talking about all of these things above. Like Smell-O-Vision, that's just something you can't artificially replace.


Friday, 1 June 2012

The apocalyptic 2012.. no wait, 2011!

Mayan hieroglyphs

I went on a public (that is: free) lecture last Tuesday called The End Of The World 2012? A Journey In Time Into The Mayan Culture. Why? Because it was free and hey, it was a lecture by an actual professor (Harri Kettunen) on this very popular 2012 jive.
A couple of things: The information said the lecture was to be held at lecture hall 1001 which turned out to be a classroom. Nothing against classrooms, but they're very small in comparison. A classroom =/= a lecture hall.
The second thing: when you name your lecture like the above, you run a very high probabilty that a certain percentage of the attendees are... well... governing a different sort of a world view.

I went because I wanted to start to get a feel of how it is to be a university student. Apart from being stuck in a classroom with near 100 other people, it was quite nice actually. It's not exatly my field of interest/study. Not exactly, though it sort of is. But never mind. The best part is to come (and I did learn good things on this lecture).

What with the populistic name and the fringy type of personalities the lecture had attracted (which you could point out on their eagerness to take notes on such an Earth shattering (narf) mythological/premonitional concept, I wasn't really expecting this to be anything I hadn't already heard.
I was wrong.
Within the first 45 minutes (the lecture was about an hour and a half) it became apparent that this wasn't a populistic lecture on the omens and foretellings and general mythological awesomeness of the mayans, but instead a lecture on their awesomeness as astronomers, their linguistical principles and mathematics. And by the 45 minute mark, the people who came there to hear all that pop gubbins that's been polluting the media with visions of the apocalypse, had stopped taking notes.
I did giggle, because I'm an evil person.

So what did I learn? Well, besides the fact that yes, Mayans were incredibly skilled in astronomy, they appear to have been kind of dicks. I'm not even talking about human sacrifices. To each their own. I'm talking about them being about as straight forward about the use of language as cockneys. Or ze internerdz who communicate xklusivly via LOLcat-speak. If it sounds vaguely like a word that means something entirely different, they're going to make a play on words. And they're going to use different "fonts", as in the same numeral can be written in at least 3 different ways, not counting all the decorations they might throw in. The Mayan figure in that thar drawing is a full body version of the number 0 (zero). Yes, a version, not the version, because there are several and there might be more than we know.
Sidenote: I actually have a book on Mayan numerals on my desktop, just haven't read it, so I'm not equiped to say if the variation is down to individual artist interpertations or if there are similar figures used and the variation is more georaphical.
Which brings us neatly to the next point of why Mayans were dicks: unlike our numerical system which is base 10, they used a base 20 system. This bit is something I didn't grasp and you'll have to google how it works. It's not hard, it just takes concetration. But wait, there's more to it than that! Not only did the Mayans use a base 20 system, but they used several different kinds depending on the area they were living in.
Can you see why I'm calling them dicks now?
Yes, they didn't use a simple, straightforward base 20 counting system, but varied that between 18 and 16.
For the record, 18 seemed to be the more popular.
You think this is all a bit arbitrary? It's really only a little. Most things Mayans cared to count would in some way or another be derived from the movement of the planets, so while the counting methods are infuriating, they usually all line up to the cycles of a planet or another in our solar system.
Which is pretty darn neat.

Ok, so what about this end of the world 2012 business then?
Besides being based on something an american professor (who is coming to Finland at the end of this year for a seminar on the Mayas and I could image will then and has already been getting a lot of flack for setting forward these sorts of ideas) once wrote in his book on the Mayan culture. He made a very general and vague reference that someone, at somepoint, might have suggested that the world would end in 2012. Apparently there's a piece of stone monument, the kind that were very popular with the Mayan rulers, that states something the ruler of that period of that area of the mayan kingdom did at the time, will happen again in 2012 because it has happened before in ancient times before said ruler was even a twinkle in their great grandparents' eyes.
This isn't special.
Mayans had a notion of things that have happened sometime in prehistoric, mythical times, happening over and over again. Which you can say is kind of true. Things do have a tendency to repeat themselves, if only because there are only so many things people and animals can do. So let's say that I eat porrige today at 6am, it is likely that someone, at some point of history has also eaten porrige at 6am and someone, somewhere, will eventually eat porrige at 6am after me.
It's also true on larger scale that similar patterns do repeat themselves with slight variation.
And I have to mention at this point that even this bit about the Mayas isn't as simple as it looks as apparently their cyclical thinking isn't exactly the same as ours in that their cycles aren't quite what we're used to.

Why 2012? Why not? There are Mayan writings that reference things happening in 4000-something in our calendar. And there probably have been references to a great many other dates, but either the jungle or time or whatever circumstances have destroyed those writings. In 2012 a baktun cycle in the Mayan calendar does come to an end, however, as a baktun is 144 000 days, that has happened quite a few times before with little effect.

And you know what else I learned besides all this about base 20 maths being hard and our westerncentric-thinking making it harder for us to understand another culture and Mayans being so awesome at maths that they counted the lunar cycle with 26second accuracy with just their maths?
That apparently us westerners don't even know how to do calendars.
You remember that bit where a bunch of people at the eve of 2000 were all like "Well, the new millenia doesn't even start until 2001!" and the general populace was all like "Wut? U crazy bro" and went on celebrating like it was 1999?
I was in the latter camp because frankly, that made sense. If you're turning 5, the week before you turn 5, you have been alive 4 years and 51 weeks. The day after you turn 5, you have been alive for 5 years and a day. Right? It doesn't get any easier than this!
Unles you're the gregorian calendar and you don't know what a zero is.
Yes, the fault in our current global calendar is that it doesn't have a year zero. We go from year 1 Before Current Era (or Before Christ) straight to year 1 Current Era (or Anno Domini... whatever words you want to use). What that means in practical terms is that if you really wanted to count how long we've been in our current era, we'd still hadn't gotten to year 2012. We'd be at 2011 and 5 months and a handful of hours.
See what I did there? That's because we're also lacking a month 0 (zero) and a day 0 (zero).

And if you find all of this confusing, don't worry, there are people with academic degrees who make mistakes in counting our calendar years. :)

The missing number