Friday, 25 June 2010

Finnish things what I have eaten

It is midsummer in Finland. Or rather today it's midsummer eve. Midsummer or Juhannus is a big thing in Finland. There's a mass exodus to cabins and the traditional way to celebrate is to get so drunk that you fall into any one of Finland's numerous lakes while having a wee and never come out again.

As in most countries, when there's something to celebrate there's generally some kind of traditional food to accompany it, and it's usually weird. Since I'm often the only foreign person present, Finns like to make me taste all the weirdest, most traditional food they can find, food that sometimes not even Finns themselves can stomach. I know that this is fun for them, because they grin while I'm tasting the food and stare intently to see if I'll throw it up or spit it out. It appears to be some kind of initiation ritual - if I can eat the food and keep a relatively straight face then I am accepted as one of the family. I have culinary sisu. I am definitely NOT trying to say that Finnish food is bad. No, I love Finnish food. But as we know from my home country with its jellied eels and Iceland with its fermented shark, the most traditional food is often the oddest. Below is a list of food-related challenges I have had to undertake:

1) Salmiakki

Salmiakki isn't associated with any holiday but like the Kalevala and perkele it is a national symbol. It's NH4Cl, or ammonium chloride. You may know it as salty liquorice and it is brilliant to take home as a souvenir and make people eat it while giving them the impression that it's a national delicacy and that Finland will actually be offended if they don't like it. Most people I've given salmiakki to try have said that at first it tastes foul. There have been many times when, motivated to like ALL things Finnish I've eaten a piece of salmiakki and then had to spit it out mid-chew because it's disgusting. Eventually after much willpower I got used to salmiakki and now quite enjoy it, though I don't usually crave it. Difficult to comprehend as it is, Finnish people on the whole love salmiakki. It's all over the sweet aisle in supermarkets and there's salmiakki flavoured vodka, ice cream, chocolate and even pizza.

2) Easter - mämmi

Yeaaaah it's Easter and that means chocolate eggs and sweeeets! Or so you think. In Finland, chances are that you're going to eat Mämmi. Mämmi is made of rye malt and some other fairly uninteresting stuff, but the tradition is to ignore the generally sweet, yummy pasha eaten by orthodox Finns and go for a bowl of mämmi with cream and sugar:

The first time I tried mämmi my then-boyfriend Ari told me to just "take a spoonful and eat it". This was bad advice. It took me about a month to get the mämmi down. It was probably only the next Easter that I was enlightened as to the practice of adding sugar and milk or cream. Much better =) Personally I think it tastes like weetabix, which I rather like. Just so you know what you're missing out on when you eat mämmi, here's a picture of pasha:
(the picture is from, if you're the owner: hi, if you don't want me to use this pic, let me know :))
3) Christmas - lipeäkala

Lipeäkala is made by taking an otherwise perfectly good piece of cod, immersing it in cold water for days on end, then by adding lye for 2 days. Lye has a pH of 11 or 12, and the fish swells and its protein content decreases by 50%. Yummy! At this point it's currently poisonous, so you'll have to just try to contain yourself and wait while it sits in cold water for another few days becoming marginally less poisonous. the result is something that looks like cod, behaves like jelly and tastes like an eggy fart. What a brilliant way to exact revenge on cod, should you be holding an odd kind of grudge. I would show you a picture, but it's fairly uninteresting. You might as well google cod.

4) Juhannus - hera

This one was new to me and inspired this post. i had sailed through the last 4 years blissfully unaware of hera until two days ago when I arrived at my boyfriend's parents' house and boyfriend's mum asked boyfriend's dad to go and see if there was any cheese soup at the parish. Cheese soup, I thought, that sounds nice. Why does boyfriend's dad look repulsed? I decided to go along with boyfriend's dad to pick up some of this "cheese soup", or hera. It smelt nice, sort of like ambrosia rice pudding. Boyfriend's dad assured me it doesn't look or taste anything like rice pudding. Old ladies were putting huge vats of milk into huge buckets of hot water, and they told us to come back on Juhannus eve to see if there was any left over. Cheese soup was in hot demand.
On the way home, boyfriend's dad explained to me that the cheese soup is made by boiling milk with rennet to curdle milk and make whey. The cheese soup contains big, hard lumps of curd floating in what I think is whey. It's like eating funny tasting tofu in kind-of-rice pudding flavoured water.
I took about two or three lumps of curd and it took me about 15 minutes this morning to eat them. But I did it, I have culinary sisu, and I have been accepted into this Juhannus celebration. Boyfriend and boyfriend's dad did not try the hera, which means that I am a kova jätkä.

Happy midsummer :)

Sunday, 20 June 2010

The rules of relaxed dieting

I've been on several diets in my life. Some were weird, some were horrible and most just didn't work. The only thing that's ever worked for me is moving around more (I hesitate to call what I do "exercise") and to eat more sensibly. I've lost quite a lot of weight (around 30kg) but although I need to still lose more, I've hit an "meh, my heart's prolly okay now" plateau. These plateaus mean that I'm still conscious of the way that I eat and I'm aware of how much or little I exercise, but I have some additional rules. Here they are:

1) If it's broken, it has no calories, because they fall out.
See? All the calories fall out into a pile and a no-calorie rainbow appears. Joy!

2) Similar to the first rule, but slightly different. If you eat only a piece of the nom, there are no calories because it would be a pain in the arse to work out the amount of calories in a non-descript piece of food.
The science (yeah I'm gonna pretend it's science) behind this is that when you get food, the packaging usually tells you the calories per portion or per unit of food. This is bollocks, by the way, a portion of lasagne according to ready-meal packaging wouldn't keep a gnat alive. But since it's per portion/unit, if you eat a piece of the food (but not half or a quarter, because then you could work it out) then there are no calories. Working the amount out is a mathematical impossibility (read: one that I'm not going to endeavour to solve).

3) If you've achieved something, it's totally okay to treat yourself.
4) Likewise, if you're having a shitty day, it's totally okay to indulge to make yourself feel better. Relaxed dieting is an effective method for football-induced rage, too. The situation:

The solution:
And no, I don't care if you're sitting there pointing at my pictures and declaring this to be comfort eating. It works. Fine, it's calorific, but I'd rather have eaten something naughty than sit there in the dark feeling sorry for myself in a self-righteous way because I didn't eat a muffin. Besides, you can go swimming or something when you feel better.

5) Eating salad for lunch entitles you to dessert.
I don't see what's bad about ice cream anyway. It's far less unhealthy than a lot of things you could be eating. And dessert is important. I find that dieting is less annoying when you let yourself have treats, because otherwise you just feel like you're in food prison or something. And it's probably better to have controlled desserts than go a week without anything and then think fuck it, and then eat a cake. That's probably bad.

6) Any physical exertion whatsoever entitles you to a treat.
As illustrated, the exertion does not have to be intentional or planned. Exercise is hard. What's more, I find it hard to picture myself as "the kind of person who does exercise". I can't fathom people who run when they aren't being chased or don't need to get somewhere faster. I rarely feel like doing exercise voluntarily (especially since all FUN exercise like horse riding or martial arts is expensive and you're just left with shit you can do by yourself like running or walking) so I think you should motivate yourself. And if you've burnt some calories it's better to eat pie then than when you haven't done anything..

And lastly, reaching your target weight is, of course, a cause for celebration. Since you've already lost weight, you have a healthy attitude to food and no longer have to care or watch your weight so strictly.
Congratulations to you! Happy relaxed dieting ;)

Wednesday, 16 June 2010


Relationships end sometimes and that sucks. Since I am apparently incapable of dating people who live in the same municipality as I do, my ex-boyfriend lived pretty far away. As a result, so does a lot of the junk I accumulated whilst dating him.

I live in Helsinki and he lives in Oulu. Here's a map.

You're welcome. But what is this Vihanti? That's where my boyfriend's parents live. I'm going to visit my boyfriend's parents next week and I thought hey, I could go and get all my crap. It would be logistically favourable, I thought, to make Jukka drive to Oulu in a car, pick up my stuff, and carry it home with me on the train in a couple of weeks than it is to get ex-boyfriend to send it in the post or make other arrangements.

This would be fine, but ex-boyfriend's new girlfr... okay we need a presentation.

So I was saying. Ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend is foreign, but currently staying in Finland. That means I have to go and get my stuff while she's there. I don't feel like enacting bloodthirsty vengeance but I have to go and sort out my personal stuff and I'd rather do it alone. That's okay, because she can go for a walk or a coffee while I'm there. But I also have to bring Jukka because he can drive and I can't. I was talking to ex-boyfriend about the logistics of this and he said he didn't mind if boyfriend came. But I said no, mostly because my boyfriend has the sense to mind his own business and wouldn't involve himself anyway, but mostly because i was afraid what would happen if you get all four of us in one room. I guessed it would be like dividing by zero.

But in Switzerland..
After which it should be called the Stacy-Jukka-ex-newgirl particle. You're welcome, subatomic physics.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

The Finnish language - an introduction

I don't know about you but the first things I want to learn about new languages are numbers, greetings and swearwords. I think this gives me a good base from which to continue. I'm particularly interested in the different ways people swear; in Romance language countries there's more religion-related swearing, whereas in the North of Europe there's more emphasis on excrement and genitalia. Poo :D

I know from experience that it's a bit embarassing to ask a teacher for swearing vocabulary so here you go:

1) Oh shit!

This is a brilliant word, because as you'll soon see, it can be used in a variety of insults. It's not even particularly strong, so you can use it fairly often. Don't go crazy with it though, your insults pack more wallop if you save them.

2) Damn! Fuck!
Helvetti is usually translated as hell. Saatana is Satan, as you can probably guess. Perkele has only recently ("recently") been associated with Satan, before that it was associated with an ancient Finnish god of thunder, Ukko. Perkele is a particularly Finnish word, partly because of the aforementioned traditions, but mostly because Finns like to roll their r's. They think it makes them sound scary, a bit like how cats fluff up to deter perceived threats. It sounds better rolled, anyway.

3) Smell mould!
Finnish people are obviously further evolved in the olfactory department. A common method of insulting someone is to tell them to smell something which is unpleasant. Above is the example mould, but underneath I've written other examples. You can also tell people to smell shit or a vagina. Or anything you can think of. There are no rules. Go wild.

4) Egghead - beware
Egghead does not mean the same thing in Finnish as it does in English. Do not call your brainy friends eggheads. Egg in Finnish is a euphemism for male genitals. Calling someone an egghead is the same as calling someone a dickhead in English. I don't understand where they got the word egg from entirely, but I suppose a testicle could resemble an egg. Don't know why it's in the singular though. Again, you can use the word paska to form the insult "shithead" and the word kusi to make someone a "pisshead", which doesn't mean the same as drunk. No, a Finnish kusipää is an arsehole, and a Finnish pisshead is a juoppo (drunk).

5) Genitalia-related seasons

One of the most descriptive swearphrase in Finnish you can say is

Oh, spring of vaginas and winter-that-came-in-spring of penises! Takatalvi is like a cold spell that happens only when you've sorted out your clothes and put your warm winter thermals away for the year.

I don't really know what else to write about that one. I think it's best just to leave it in all its glory as it is.

There are more Finnish swearwords and insults, but perhaps I'll save them for lesson two :)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Why baldness is dangerous

This post is kind of a disclaimer for any bald people who might meet me in the future. Baldness is dangerous for you, future bald acquaintance, because of the qualities it brings out in innocent bystanders (me). I'd have liked to have filed this under "strange social phenomena" but since no-one confesses to being affected by baldness as I am, I'm not sure how widely spread the phenomenon is. I would very much appreciate knowing I'm not the only person who has been tempted outside of normal social behaviour by a smooth, gleaming noggin.

I've never touched a perfectly bald head. Well, either I haven't ever, or I've touched so few bald heads that I can't remember doing it. (And I must stress here, that a buzz cut or someone who is balding is not the same, unless the balding process is over 75% complete). A bald head is an enigma for someone who hasn't touched one before. I find myself wondering what a shiny bonce feels like, in a similar way to how children wonder what dolphins or snakes or electricity feel like - you just don't know until you've touched it.

As a child I was far too short to be touching people's bald heads, and as an adult it's socially unacceptable, which I find to be particularly unfair. I'm also at a loss as how to go about it; "hello, good sir, I notice you have a particularly fascinating cranium"? Perhaps not. It's not even like bald people feel any remorse about having such fascinatingly enigmatic heads, either, they just wander around with them out, with the sunlight gllinting off their head like a marble. If the person happens to be black, then it resembles a malteser. All the better. In my opinion, they're asking for it.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Strange social phenomenon #362 - The cough trigger

The cough trigger is a welcome social phenomenon, often found in places where it’s unacceptable to be loud and disruptive, such as churches, exam halls and Finnish buses. Finnish buses are QUIET. You don’t talk on the bus. As a friend put it, you are in transit. Talk on your own time, biatches.

Noise is unwelcome. And you need to cough. Since it’s spring, you probably have hayfever or flu, but this cough is probably just the result of what I think of as noise Tourette’s. You’re in a situation where you shouldn’t make a noise. So you have to. Anyway, coughing would pierce the deathly silence that has ascended on the church or bus number 43. But there’s no choice, because your throat itches and if you don’t cough yourself you’re going to end up spluttering involuntarily and possibly choking on your own spit which invariably makes you look and feel like an idiot.

So you start trying to do throat yoga, a series of small, inconceivable throat-clearing ahems when- hallelujah!

Random woman 4 rows back coughs first! Her weak and puny lungs gave in waaaay before yours, and before your can get your own cough out, 3 other people cough like they’ve been holding it in for at least as long as you have. It is now okay to cough! Thank you, puny-lunged stranger!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

How (not) to write your master's thesis. Or anything of any importance whatsoever

At the moment I'm writing a master's, but in general this goes for everything that needs to be done.

A guide:

1) Have brilliant idea, possibly in your sleep. The idea is of nobel prize quality, proving you to be no less than a genius, but also modest and pretty.
2) Go back to sleep. Forget your idea.

3) Get up. Arrange your stuff somewhere so that everything is in easy reach when you start. Stuff looks suspicious. Don't trust it.
4) Decide you need food.

5) Decide that you now need dessert.

6) You can't do anything without coffee.

7) Notice that you should probably change your plant's water. It's only fair, right?
You just ate.

8) Hey look, someone posted something on facebook.

9) Clean apartment.

10) Make a comprehensive list of everything you need to do in small, doable steps.

11) Feel like you've accomplished something.
12) Watch Frasier.

13) Play snake. Be good at snake.

14) Start thinking about how cool it will actually be when you GET the degree.

15) Motivation sets in. Read a page. Underline something. Add a comma.

16) Wonder what comma is in Sámi.

17) Ceahkis, rihkku, kom'má.

18) Well done. Have a biscuit.

19) LOL, a puppy.

20) Omg a bee
19) Write a blog post about your struggle.

20) Feel productive.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Wouldn't choose it as an alarm clock

Dear muslim neighbour,

I respect the cultural diversity you bring to my apartment block. I also have no doubt that you are a devout muslim, since I often hear you praying and singing. Did you know that you are LOUD? I must stress that I am not anti-muslim because I have two whole muslim friends and one muslim acquaintance. That’s pretty good when you live in Finland. But I am a heretic agnost who doesn’t need to wake up at dawn. On that note, perhaps you could follow dawn in Mecca or something? Dawn here is something ridiculous like 4 or 5am and you wouldn’t want to follow a Lutheran dawn, would you?

Thanks in advance for your cooperation,

(your downstairs neighbour)

(Not the one who raps or practises kendo)

To sum up, my morning started like this:
So I got up. I wandered aimlessly around simultaneously wanting to go back to bed but knowing sleep as I knew it would be unattainable. I decided breakfast would be good, but got distracted by the newspaper on the way to my cupboard. When I saw the newspaper I thought "Heh, the postman must have been in a bad mood, he's ravaged my paper", but then I SAW it. I think this is one of those "When you see it, you'll shit bricks" moments.
You're welcome for the advertising, vepsäläinen.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

May I have a word?

Hi. So did you like the reindeer yesterday? I hope so. I think how I randomly posted it there with no explanation was quirky. I am keeping you on your toes. It was in fact a present for someone on a forum but you don’t have to know that.

I now have over 500 hits on my blog, which is good, because the stat counter doesn’t count reloads, it counts different viewers (kinda). And 500 is pretty good. You see, I want

As I previously stated I am fairly boring. I go to sleep at overly sensible times and am a champion at procrastinating. This means were I ever to become properly famous it would be a lot of hard work for me. I am chronically lazy. Today I didn’t want to open a link because it felt like hard work. Yesterday my mum asked why I couldn’t go out in the afternoon and then to an event in the evening. I told her I get tired and can’t be bothered. I mean, come on, one or the other.

But I’d really like it if a couple of people found me funny and if another couple of people like my drawings or some other people like pictures of marine mammals. That would be nice. I guess I’m aiming for like C-list celebrity or something. So you think ”hey that’s a cool blog” but not ”great, now I have her street address”.

So if there’s anything you want me to write about, draw, or answer, please comment on my blog OR you can email me at stacy dot blyth at gmail dot com. In your FACE, spambots.

UPDATE: You can now comment on my blog without registering with blogger. Yay for you!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Wildlife random

These things are all over the place.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Career options

I am currently spending my summer working at a translation company in Helsinki. It’s great because there’s free coffee and I always start work on cake day or something and the people there are REALLY nice and clever and they can translate anything in the whole history of the world (you guys can pay me more for the free advertising if you want).
But I can’t help thinking if I want to translate for the rest of my life.

Being a translator is a pretty okay profession, I think. I mean, sometimes I’m plagued with the idea that what I’m doing isn’t helping anyone. If I really wanted, I could probably try to justify that I do help people because if you’re foreign and you almost die (or actually die) here you might need medical documents translated from Finnish to English and then if I translate it I might hav
e helped you. But I don’t get to run around in a lab coat myself or inject stuff or shout stat.

Admittedly I could never be a doctor. Although I can face countless amounts of gore and blood with nothing but blind enthusiasm I am deathly afraid of the production of vomit. Vomit itself laying on the pavement or something is perfectly okay and I’m mostly like to react to it by inspecting it for interesting food remnants, but when it’s coming out of someone, holy shit, I have to escape. It’s a phobia of vomiting and it’s called emetophobia for those of you who feel I wasn’t using enough long words before. You’re welcome. Anyway, that pretty much cripples my chances of going into medicine.

So what else is cool? Space. No, not just space but spaceTIME. And the universe. No, seriously. I mean, think about it. Black holes and wormholes and also quantum fucking mechanics. That shit is weird. I know that you’re probably preparing to be really bored here but it’s actually impossible (actually, just extremely unlikely) because you see, black holes especially are fucking amazing. Even the very idea of one forming is a mindfuck. What kind of crap implodes in on itself? It’s like an epic win star. It’s so damn awesome that everything is attracted to it. Imagine what black holes could do for Yo Mama jokes. Yo Mama so fat she formed her own event horizon. What the hell do you say to that? NOTHING. If people who tell Yo mama jokes shared an interest in large-structure cosmology they would own other people more. And if you don’t like the standard model then you could always root for string theory which is all ”I herd u liek tiny vibrating strings so we filled all everything with tiny vibrating strings so you can oscillate while you vibrate”. String theory is the shit. Sometimes people call it M-theory which makes it sound really cool and no-one knows exactly what the M stands for. It's like how swine flu got really scary when they started calling it H1N1. Except that we know that H1N1 means swine flu. Man, I would love a job in science. A job with a lab coat.

It’s a shame I can’t count, really.

I’m not even exaggerating. Counting from 1-30 is troublesome because I think what happens is I get BORED after like 15 and start thinking how fun it would be if I was on 26 already and then I can’t remember if I actually got to 26 or not and I lose count. Otherwise I can’t be bothered to follow through with arithmetic so my brain says ”meh” and then goes for a random sum that is probably kind of near to what I think the answer is. It seems that my superpowers rest with being able to type really fast and notice errors in texts. Occasionally I change stuff from one language to another. So here is my last ditch attempt to encourage people to employ me as a translator:

Okay future employers. Picture this. You’ve written a long contract regarding a million euro contract with Important Government Ministry. You can’t mess with those guys, they are from the government. You have to be serious. Imagine, then, that your document has typos in it. Not just typos like contarct or invioce but that your employees work prat-time. Or that you want your company’s staff to be the new faeces of the Important Government Ministry project. Imagine the burning embarassment, the unyielding desire for a chasm to conveniently open up nearby and swallow you. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

Hire me!

I do that shit all day long! And you’ll never get an innuendo-based typo because they amuse me and I find them straight away. I am a valuable asset to your company! In fact, you can get rid of your workforce healthcare because without me you would just look for chasms all day and no-one would care.

E-mail me if you want a copy of my CV.