Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    It’s pretty good, but it’s not the Princess Bride… :-)

    “I’m not left-handed either…”

  2. lumipuna says

    Hello, everyone. Let’s complain about the weather!

    Lately, there’s been a persistent mass of very hot air in European Russia, while northwestern Europe has been mostly pleasantly cool. In eastern Ukraine, the hot weather must be almost unbearable for combatants on both sides.

    Right now, the hot humid air mass is briefly extending west into the Baltic Sea region, breaking into heavy rains and thunderstorms over Sweden. In Finland, we almost broke today the national record for highest August temperature. Latvia had the warmest night on record. Estonia had hail like this:

    https://twitter.com/kairokiitsak/status/1688541461426405376

    (photo of a large irregular chunk of ice on someone’s hand, taking up half the palm)

  3. lumipuna says

    Update: the storm front that was in Estonia last evening has now passed southern Finland. It’s been unusually windy for the season, but rain and thunder seem to have missed my location in Helsinki. Thankfully, we had decent rain last week and the vegetation has begun recovering from drought. Meanwhile, parts of eastern Finland have been soaking in rain since the start of July.

    Temperature and humidity have abruptly dropped back to comfortable range. Last night was unusually warm even for early August -- It didn’t go below 21C until 7AM, when the storm front arrived and temperature went down despite the sun coming up. This afternoon might still see unusually high temperatures in northern Finland.

  4. Oggie: Mathom says

    It’s pretty good, but it’s not the Princess Bride… :-)

    NOTHING is The Princess Bride.

  5. says

    @lumipuna, I would not say that the weather was comfortable around here. I had to fire up the stove and heat the house a few times -- outdoors it was just about 10°C and the indoor temperatures dropped to 21°C and that is way too cold for my elderly parents. Twice I also had to heat up the workshop to be able to work.

  6. Jazzlet says

    It’s not been particularly warm in the UK either, we’ve been having a lot of days of intermittent showers, with the occasional day like today -- it was hot enough when the sun actually came out, but most of the time it was cloudy and a lot cooler.

    We are having car problems, it seems that one of the computer’s distributed nodes has gone wonky, it showed up initially by messing up the brake lights (!!!!), and luckily I found out because I got stopped by the police -- rather that than having someone plough into the back of me. The garage tried swapping out that node for another secondhand, one which solved the brake light problem, but locked the diesel tank access flap, the tailgate and less troublesomely switched the reversing sensors off. There are possible solutions, we could maybe buy a completely new Volvo approved node, we could try another secondhand nose, or we could clone the old node -- definitely not approved of by Volvo, which doesn’t in itself bother me, but with only a 60% chance of success. This has been suggested as according to the garage the nodes have an id that links to the chassis number, and if you put a node with a different chassis number in it can do odd things, as the “new” one has indeed done -- this seems extraordinary to me, but what do I know? Further complicating matters is that the car, a V70 estate is over twenty years old, so not worth very much and Volvo has long stopped suppporting (or even making) V70s or any other estate car, so getting a new node may not even be possible. The reason we want an estate car is to be able to fit a German Shepherd in safely, and in reasonable comfort, ie to be able to sit and to lie down. We could get a somewhat newer V70, but not as new as we’d prefer or with much lower mileage, so we’re maybe looking at a Volkswagon?? And because the car is basically worth nothing, do we try and fix it, because it’s mechanically fine, it’s just the effing fancy computing that’s partially shot, or do we cut our losses and buy a “new to us” car? I have absolutely no idea what we should do!

  7. lumipuna says

    The storm center has lingered for days over Sweden and Norway, causing enough damage to make international news. Now, it finally seems to be abating.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/aug/08/storm-hans-causes-havoc-in-norway-with-heaviest-rain-in-25-years-forecast

    In Finland, there were electricity outages caused by wind in some areas, but generally not much rain or wind damage. People are being widely dismissive, because the storm didn’t turn out as bad (in their personal location) as the weather forecast predicted.

  8. lumipuna says

    In other news,

    More than a week ago, I visited my parents in Tampere. We swam at the local small lakeside beach. It’s the nicest swimming place I know. The weather wasn’t very warm by beachgoing standards, but I was just able to enjoy the exposure to nature. The beach wasn’t remotely crowded that day.

    Yesterday, it was reported in the news that someone had drowned at the same beach on Monday evening, during full crowding in the unusually hot weather. A man born in the 1950s. I got nervous enough to call my dad and confirm that he was alive. We didn’t mention the drowning incident, which (according to the news report) had been quite dramatic, with a first response helicopter and many onlookers. We talked about the weather, gardening and the disappointing (thus far) mushroom turnout.

  9. Ice Swimmer says

    Hello, all!

    lumipuna @ 12

    I was swimming in the same lake that night, but not one that beach and I had already left by the time it happened. Still, seeing the news was a bit disconcerting, especially at first, when they didn’t mention the specific beach it happened on (there are three by that lake).

  10. says

    @Jazzlet, tough call, I think I would try to change the PC node for one approved by Volvo if that is the cheaper option. I do tend to try and fix things as long as possible.
    @Ice Swimmer, lumipuna hearing about a drowning at a beach/lake that one frequents must be eerie and disconcerting. I think that in such a case everyone’s first thought is “Was it someone I know?”. I do know that since my nephew has decided to be a lorry (truck) driver whenever I hear/read about a bad accident in the news, my first worry is if it was him. I am glad that you both and your families are OK.
    As far as so far disappointing mushroom turnout, our mycologists have proclaimed that the mushroom will start go grow in about two weeks -- two weeks ago, so they were pretty bang-on. The mycelia need at least two weeks of wet weather followed by some warm-ish weather to really get going. So if you did not have those heavy rains that we did, it is no wonder you ain’t having no shrooms.

  11. dianne says

    Suppose it’s 1983 or so and you decide to write a dystopian novel about the far off year of 2023. To show how bad it is, you mention as a background detail that schools have replaced their libraries with detention centers and AP classes are being banned because they teach facts the right wingers don’t like.

    Your beta readers all tell you that your premise is not realistic, that there is no way the country could go downhill that much.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/jul/29/houston-school-district-libraries-book

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/03/florida-ap-psychology-course-state-law-lgbtq

    Oh, did I mention the subplot in which teaching Shakespeare is banned because it’s “too raunchy”. Nonsense, of course. It’d never happen.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/08/florida-schools-shakespeare-sexual-material

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/08/florida-schools-shakespeare-sexual-material

  12. Oggie: Mathom says

    re: weather

    After a month of very hot and humid weather (we spent part of the month visiting Wife’s family in Florida, where it was also hot and humid), it has turned cooler and damp up here in beautiful northeastern Pennsylvania. So cool, in fact, that I am making Beef Bourguignon (modified). Wife and I do not like mushrooms all that much, so I am using baby corn rather than the shrooms.

  13. Ice Swimmer says

    Charly @ 14

    I agree. What I first thought (before the news stories got more details) was: “Should I have seen someone in distress and helped them.” A kind of survivor guilt.

    I did know about the other beaches at the lake (never visited them, though), but the one I was on was also crowded.

  14. Jazzlet says

    It is disconcerting when death brushes close to you.

    Our weather has returned to what I would have said was normal-ish August weather, warm with a mixture of sunny days and a bit of rain. This should alternate with hot days and thunderstorms.

    The car is fixed! Apparently as well as the correct module (not node) it has to have the correct card to go in the module. The guys at the garage triedmay combinations, and did eventually find one that has everything working again. I’m very happy, but we will need to thnk about what to get when the next thing breaks, and I’m still pissed off that a mechanically sound car may be junked because a computer part fails. It’s built in obsolescence, at the very least it ought to be easy to swap the part out.

  15. Ice Swimmer says

    Jazzlet @ 18

    It’s probably deliberate on the part of the car manufacturer. They seem have made replacing the part more difficult than it should be.

    But the thing may also go up the supply chain, sometimes. Older components may get end-of-life and become unavailable or hideously expensive and the quality may be dubious. From a quick search, at least some automotive microcontroller manufacturers promise 10 to 15 years of availability, which may or may not be enough.

    Of course, car companies are on much more level playing field with the likes of ST, Infineon, NXP and Renesas than regular customers or small tech companies are with car companies and chip manufacturers.

  16. says

    @Jazzlet, built-in obsolescence is unfortunately a real thing, although the EU is -- slowly, very slowly -- starting to do something about it. As someone who worked in the automotive industry, I know for a fact hat the real goal is to make things so that they break not too long after the warranty runs out and if engineers develop something “too sturdy”, they are forced to make it worse. And I have no reason to believe that CEOs in other industries think differently.

  17. lumipuna says

    (tl;dr warning)

    Lately, I’ve been obsessed with sabertoothed cats. Here’s some extensive nerding about the topic, with a personal angle down the line.

    Sabertoothed cats (subfamily Machairodontinae) were a distinct branch of the cat family. Their ancestors diverged from the cats we know today (subfamilies Felinae and Pantherinae) about 20 million years ago. They famously lived until the end of last ice age, about 12,000 years ago, and were some of the weirdest and fiercest predators that ever coexisted with humans. Their eventual extinction was apparently related to the general loss of large animal fauna (ie. the food source of large carnivores) as a result of human overexploitation.

    During the last few million years of their history, sabertoothed cats included two distinct genera of roughly tiger-sized animals: Smilodon and Homotherium. Of these two iconic “sabertoothed tigers”, Smilodon is the better known one, at least to American audiences. Two or three species of this genus lived in North and South America at the time when the first humans arrived in New World. Smilodon is thought to have been an ambush predator, and likely solitary, much like modern tiger, though it seems to have often lived in open grassland habitats unlike tiger. It had a massively built front body, short tail and very long saber teeth (specialized upper canines with sharp front and back edges) that hung exposed on the sides of its chin when the mouth was closed.

    The other genus, Homotherium, lived in North America and the northern parts of Eurasia. It was initially more widespread in Old World, but mostly disappeared there before the evolution of modern humans. For us Europeans, it is our “own” sabertooth cat, in contrast to Smilodon, although the best fossil record of Homotherium is also from North America. It is thought to have been a chase hunter that typically lived in open habitats and formed prides, much like modern lion. However, it looked very unique with a short stocky body, long legs and a short tail. Its saber teeth were moderately long, strongly laterally flattened and sheathed in lower lip on the sides of an elongated chin when the mouth was closed. Homotherium is sometimes referred to as the “scimitar-toothed cat”, although this is a technical term for any machairodontine cat with this type of tooth shape. The other type, as seen in Smilodon, is called “dirk tooth”, after a type of dagger.

    Here’s a comparative illustration of the two:

    https://twitter.com/HodariNundu/status/1687739329077182464/photo/1

    Sabertoothed cats represented a highly specialized hunting strategy, the details of which varied between species and remain somewhat unclear to researchers. The point of such specialized teeth (pardon the pun) was apparently to be able to rip fatal wounds in a large prey animal in a very brief contact, avoiding extended mauling and wrestling that would be dangerous for the predator itself. It is known that Homotherium largely focused on hunting mammoth and mastodon, usually targeting juvenile individuals in the herds, presumably while trying to dodge the angry adults. In more distant past, similar teeth evolved several times in various non-feline groups of carnivorous mammals. Though not in squirrels, as suggested by the Ice Age movie franchise.

    (to be continued)

  18. lumipuna says

    (continued)

    Over the years, I have been able to read certain novels and essay collections written by the late Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a renowned expert on mammalian paleontology, with a special interest in the ice age faunas of Eurasia and North America. In his scientific work on sabertoothed cats, he established the technical terms “scimitar tooth” and “dirk tooth”. His essays were intended to popularize biology and paleontology, while the two novels combine scientific knowledge and speculation about the past with narrative art. He coined the genre name “paleofiction” for novels that feature stone age humans. In 1985, he designed a life-sized museum model of Homotherium to be displayed in Helsinki. (I should try to see it sometime)

    The novels (titled in English translation as Dance of the Tiger and Singletusk) are about speculative interactions between Neandertal humans and modern humans in Europe during the last ice age, about 40,000 years ago. The speculation was intended to be scientifically plausible, though some of it has since become clearly outdated. For example, a major plot point in the books is that the two types of human are portrayed as distinct species, only able to produce sterile hybrid offspring with each other. We now know that Neandertals were more like a subspecies of our own species, easily mixing with the gene pool of fully modern humans.

    The novels are set in southern Sweden during an unusually mild phase of the ice age. The local climate is described as being fairly similar to what is now found in Finland or more northern parts of Sweden, though the forest vegetation is more open due to large herbivores. What makes the worldbuilding tantalizing to me is that Kurtén makes a point of incorporating mammoths and other extinct megafauna in a very detailed ecosystem that mostly consists of plants and animals familiar to modern Scandinavians. There’s also great attention to the everyday activities and thoughts of paleolithic humans. It all rams home the point that this is geologically very recent history, and the plants and animals -- including humans – are essentially the same as today. The mammoths and sabertoothed cats and such are really species contemporary to us, that just happen to be extinct due to our influence.

    In the POV of the human characters, Homotherium is dubbed as “tiger”, not because it’s any close analogue to actual tigers (which weren’t present in ice age Europe, unlike lions), but because “tiger” is a concise name for a large, distinctive feline predator, such as the local people would presumably use in their own languages. The “dance” in the English title of the first novel refers to a scene where a human artist witnesses a tiger circling around a group of mammoths, making swift slashing attacks at a calf. In both the novels’ description and the aforementioned museum model, Kurtén imagined the coat color of Homotherium – which is highly speculative -- as being almost entirely black, with a white patch in the chest. Hence, the title of the first novel in Swedish and Finnish is literally “The Black Tiger”.

    (to be continued)

  19. lumipuna says

    (continued)

    Recently, the topic of sabertoothed cats came randomly up in Twitter’s paleo community. I ended up reading the relevant Wikipedia articles and some of recently published source literature. It’s nice to see how science marches on.

    Apparently, there has been much historical controversy on how many species should be recognized in the genus Homotherium. The fossil record, especially from Old World, is scant and fragmentary. The growing consensus for decades now has been that all Old World Homotherium over the last million years or so belongs to a single, somewhat variable species, named since the 19th century as H. latidens. The American species, described in 1893, was originally named with its own genus Dinobastis, then classified in the genus Smilodon, and only in the 1960s (ie. during Kurtén’s active career) moved into the genus Homotherium as H. serum. According to one of his essays, Kurtén designed the museum model in Helsinki as H. serum, rather than H. latidens, because that way it could be based on a whole known skeleton (the skeleton in question is on display at Texas Memorial Museum, Austin).

    In Kurtén’s time, it wasn’t even known for certain that H. latidens actually survived in Eurasia until the last ice age. The youngest properly dated European specimen was about 300,000 years old, though some others were thought to be possibly much younger. There was also one human made figurine from a cave in France, about 30,000 years old, that was thought to depict either a juvenile lion or possibly Homotherium. If the animal coexisted with fully modern humans in Europe, it must have been impressive to them, but too rare to really have a presence in either fossil record or cave art.

    Then, at the turn of millennium, a part of Homotherium jawbone was trawled up from the bottom of North Sea, an area that was dry land during ice ages. Subsequent radiocarbon dating convincingly showed it to be only about 30,000 years old – the same age as the French cave figurine! It’s still hard to say when exactly Homotherium disappeared from Eurasia, though probably it was earlier than 12,000 years ago. Nevertheless, it was clearly contemporary with modern humans who colonized northern Eurasia over 30,000 years ago.

    Another neat thing is that we can now extract and compare DNA from bones dating back to last ice age. One such comparison was done recently between Smilodon and several Homotherium specimens, including the North Sea jaw. One finding was that the two recent genera of sabertoothed cats were estimated to have diverged from each other very early, about 18 million years ago. Meanwhile, the North Sea Homotherium was found to be the same species as H. serum samples from North America. In theory, that could mean H. latidens went extinct earlier and then H. serum colonized Eurasia during the last ice age. However, there’s apparently also a growing view based on anatomical studies that H. latidens and H. serum over the last million years were in fact the same circumpolar species. That’s further validation for Kurtén’s choice to use a North American skeleton as basis for his Homotherium model!

    (end)

  20. says

    @lumipuna that was a very interesting read, thank you.
    Regarding paleofiction, I did not know the term existed but there is one book written by Eduard Štorch that would probably fall into this genre -- Mammoth Hunters. It is a remarkable book, one of the few books that were included in school curricula that was actually really enjoyable. And the illustrations by Zdeněk Burian, about whom I wrote in the past in one of Slavic Saturdays, are remarkable.
    Language barriers are such bother. There is so much out there, and we all have just one finite life to live.

  21. lumipuna says

    Charly -- Ah, I see from Wikipedia that a lot of Štorch’s novels are set in mythical iron age/protohistory/early medieval period. That’s something I’d find interesting, especially when I was a kid.

  22. Jazzlet says

    Thank you for all of that Iumipuna, I find the way our knowledge about past animals developed fascinating. :-)

  23. lumipuna says

    Now, for something slightly different. I just noticed this research project at the University of Helsinki:

    https://www.helsinki.fi/en/researchgroups/acoustics-of-sacred-sites

    The introduction:

    ARCHAEOACOUSTICS IN THE CIRCUMPOLAR NORTH
    In Finland, the Ural Mountains and the Canadian Shield, a number of steep cliffs rise along old water routes. Many of these cliffs have rock paintings and offering sites that indicate past ritual activity, possibly including music making. In 2013, a joint musicological and archaeological research project was started to study the acoustic properties of these sacred sites. The acoustic measurements by 2022 show that the painted and sacrificial cliffs reflect sound forcibly, forming a special acoustic environment distinct from the nearby surroundings. This suggests a link between sound rituals and the sacred sites.

    There’s some further information at the link above. The “Audiovisual material” takes you to the group’s YouTube channel, where you can see a few short demonstration videos.

    In relation to this research topic, there’s an art project where dance artist Arttu Peltoniemi works to recreate ritual dances in the style of stone age, in collaboration with archaeologist Riitta Rainio. I previously wrote here about Rainio’s experimental work to recreate and use stone age style ritual dresses with rattling moose tooth pendants. Here you can see a short clip of Rainio’s experimental dance, and some nice paleo illustrations by artist Tom Björklund:

    https://yle.fi/a/3-11973595

    Now, Peltoniemi has performed a dance in similar attire, while standing on a dugout canoe floating in a lake in front of one of Finland’s prehistoric “echo cliffs”. The rocky hill in question is called Lautmäki, located at Lake Salmijärvi in the municipality of Vihti, not far from Helsinki. Here’s a short video teaser, and many nice photos from the site:

    https://yle.fi/a/74-20045227

    In the photos, you can just barely see some of the faded 5,000 year old rock paintings.

  24. says

    I would love to witness a performance of dozens or hundreds of people chanting in these locations. If they were a natural equivalent of a church, their special acoustics could make them suitable for having choir singing and sermon equivalents.

  25. lumipuna says

    Charly -- possibly. I gather that most of these places are fairly small, and couldn’t accommodate more than a few small boats in the optimal area. As Rainio notes, a stone age community likely wouldn’t have more boats than that anyway.

  26. lumipuna says

    For many days now, a lone housefly has been buzzing around in my home, often circling close to my person, sometimes coming to lick my skin. It’s slightly annoying at times, but generally harmless. It reminds me of the humorous Finnish saying that translates, very roughly, “In the summer, when there are flies, even a poor man will have friends”.

    Unironically, I almost fear like I’m starting to get emotionally attached to this fly, and will feel sad when it dies, likely very soon now. It reminds me of my late grandma’s house, in a slightly more rural environment, which used to have more flies hanging out and dying indoors during late summer and early autumn. A housefly buzzing indoors is very much the zeitgeist of summer turning to autumn.

  27. says

    I hate houseflies. They’re just so fucking loud. I’m completely able to function in a really noisy environment, as a teacher it would be fatal if I couldn’t, but give me a room that’s meant to be quiet and some persistent noise and I turn berserk. Having really good hearing so I get even very high pitched noise doesn’t help.

    +++
    In other words, today is the very last day of the summer holidays. I’m looking forward to the next school year, even though I’m also a bit nervous. But hey, I managed to get assigned to my favourite class as a co teacher. So, get the party started.

  28. Jazzlet says

    There has been work about the sound properties of some of the ancient monuments in the UK, they often act as amplifiers so single “shamens” could be heard by large crowds.

    And I am being irritated by a lone fly as I type.

  29. lumipuna says

    Update to 22 upthread: I went to visit the Finnish Natural History Museum, since it was one of their freebie days. The normal ticket fares are not too expensive for such a large exhibition, but I’m broke and cheap, and happen to have flexible schedules.

    To be honest, I mostly just went to gawk at the Homotherium model I mentioned. I also wanted to see what else was at display, and there was a lot for a biology/geology geek like me. I spent a couple hours wandering through the exhibits, even though most of the material in informational texts was already familiar to me (much of it was presented in three languages including English; some was apparently only in Finnish and Swedish). This is a full day attraction for those interested enough to buy the tickets.

    I did see the Homotherium, though it was very difficult to find, even after asking for directions. The exhibit spaces are not only extensive (divided between four floors) but also quite labyrinthine. Part of the floor 3 was a semi hidden exhibit on ice age megafauna, that for some reason was also kept semi dark (ironically, there was no warning for guests to “beware of the leopard”). The Homotherium was platformed on top of an artificial cliff, near the ceiling. You could only see it from the front, not very close up, and not the legs at all (esp. if you’re short).

    Despite a small spotlight to its face, it almost blended into the dark background with its shiny black coat. It looked impressively large for a 200 kg animal, unlike the cave lion in a separate diorama. The mouth was posed wide open, as is mandatory with sabertoothed cats. The coat was fully black, without the white chest pattern mentioned in the novel. The info text said this was supposed to be a melanistic individual, which I guess makes sense. Black color variants are often quite common in wild felines, but the “normal” coat color tends to be brownish or yellowish, with or without black spots.

    I appreciated that there were life-sized models of all the most iconic ice age megafauna. Aside from the big cats, there were several woolly mammoths, several steppe bison, several reindeer, a woolly rhino, a giant deer and a skeletal model (?) of cave bear. Other notable life-sized (?) models included a huge great white shark and an orthoceratid over 10 m long. Other skeletal models included two large dinosaurs: a huge theropod weighing many tons and and a “small” elephant-sized sauropod. There were actual fossils, fossil replicas, skeletal models and life models of various ancient animals.

    Actual skeletons of living or recently extinct animals included, among many smaller species, the elephant, giraffe, wisent, and one of the very few remaining Steller’s sea cow skeletons. Taxidermy specimens included the elephant, walrus and moose, plus many others, often posed in life scene dioramas. The walrus is a new addition; it is the famous individual that strayed into the Baltic Sea in 2022, already in poor health, hauled itself ashore in Finland and died while people tried to rescue it. It was a very dramatic and tragic incident by the standards of Finnish news events.

    There is more to report, but this is enough for now.

  30. says

    @lumipuna, I has envy now. I wanted to see such an exhibit of prehistoric fauna ever since I was a kid and I never had the opportunity.

  31. lumipuna says

    Correction: The ice age exhibit was on floor 2.

    Floor 1 was mostly skeletons and related illustrations to educate about anatomy and evolution.

    Floor 2 had exhibits on ice ages, climate history in general, world’s ecoregions and climate change.

    Floor 3 had a large exhibit on the history of life.

    Floor 4 has basically just illustrated information on changing educational themes; current theme was the ecosystem keystone species.

  32. lumipuna says

    European weather has been wild lately, with extreme summerlike temperatures in the south/southeast and colder than average here in the north. I heard a prediction saying that next week might see a very strong storm in France and thereabouts.

    In Helsinki there have been some small flurries of snow, not quite enough to call it first snow. Right now, it’s over 5C and raining heavily, but slightly further north in Tampere there’s apparently heavy snowfall and traffic chaos.

  33. lumipuna says

    Looks like I missed the arrival of Storm Ciaran in western Europe. That must be the one I mentioned -- I mixed up on which week the prediction was about.

    Hoping for the best for anyone in the affected region.

  34. Ice Swimmer says

    lumipuna @ 42

    I concur on the hoping.

    lumipuna @ 41

    Indeed, there was snow chaos on Tuesday. It’s been quite wintery in Tampere since that.

    Today the bus I was riding almost got stuck in Tyttölä (approximately Girls’ Place, it’s an area in Nokia where many factory girls used to live in small houses built by their employer).

  35. says

    I haven’t seen winter weather yet, and autumn weather just barely arrived. It is sloshy, wet, and cold-ish outside, but no frost or snow. And the last week I have harvested the last figs and grapes from the greenhouse. It makes the last work in the garden easier and I do not need to heat the house too much yet, but the weather is abnormally warm so far.

  36. lumipuna says

    Now it’s milder here again, at least for some days. More rain, because why the hell not.

    Speaking of gardening, I’m still harvesting the last parsley leaves and radishes from the glasshouse balcony. They haven’t really grown in the last few weeks, but they survive since the temperature in the glasshouse doesn’t drop below about 0C until November or later. The annual Tagetes flowers I planted very late in the summer started flowering a month ago, and are still going strong.

    Recently, I’ve been keeping Epipremnum and Monstera as houseplants. They grew nicely on the glasshouse balcony over the long warm summer. I saved some cuttings indoors for the next year, and left the rest to survive on the balcony as long as it can. Now the Epipremnum seems to be somewhat frost damaged, and is probably dying, while the Monstera still looks pretty good.

    When I visited Portugal many years ago, I was surprised to see Monstera growing outdoors on a tree at the Coimbra Botanical Garden. It’s a coastal area, and our guide told the temperature there doesn’t really go below freezing in winter. Or at least on most winters, I’d think. Still, since Monstera originates from the tropics, I wouldn’t have guessed it can tolerate extended periods of chilly temperatures.

  37. says

    @Lumipuna, Epipremnum requires temperatures above 10°C to prosper, in my experience.
    I am surprised you are growing Monstera that far north, it is a plant that needs a lot of sun and a big pot. My auntie once got it to blossom, growing it in a huge pot. I do not remember if she got the fruit from that bloom -- monstera fruit is edible.

  38. lumipuna says

    Charly -- I have noticed that these plants don’t really grow at all when the temperature is below 10 or 15C. They just survive, waiting for the cold spell to end (I’m so sorry for them). They also don’t continue growth indoors during the darkest time of the year, unless given supplementary light.

    Still, my general impression of Monstera and certain other “classic” houseplants is that they can survive on very little, and will thrive in half decent light and soil conditions. I got the original Monstera cutting from my sister, who keeps lots of very haggard-looking plants year round in a very low light indoor environment. The plant had thin stems and about palm-sized leaves without almost any palmation. I thought those were cultivar traits, making the plant fitting for a relatively small space.

    Now, turns out it’s a normal Monstera cultivar that will grow massive stems and leaves potentially bigger than a dinner plate, with strong green color and extensive palmation, when given a half shaded spot outdoors during summer. Still, a plant originating from a cutting won’t grow very big during a single growth season, probably because of the temperature limitations. The cuttings I have indoors next to a window will resume growth in late winter, almost at the first glimpse of daylight, but then in early summer they seem to need a lot of acclimation before they can resume their growth outdoors.

  39. lumipuna says

    Update: In the last couple days, the plants I left outdoors have finally definitely died from freezing. First snow is falling right now.

  40. Ice Swimmer says

    lumipuna @ 48

    I think we’re a few days ahead of Helsinki, here in Tampere, as far as snow is concerned. The snow came back on Monday. Though there isn’t very much of it but it’s stayed on the ground.

  41. says

    Here, we haven’t had a proper late autumn day yet. Last week I was stung in my left foot by a wasp. Probably a queen that was trying to overwinter in the firewood and fell into my shoe when I was working with it. I have always found an occasional wasp queen in the firewood, but this year their amount is off the charts. And I still find an occasional wasp worker in the house (they crawl indoors in the attic from a nest that was somewhere inside the roof). Workers should be all dead by now already. They are not, because we did not have a properly cold day yet. This autumn is insanely warm here.

  42. Jazzlet says

    Its warm enough here, but wet, so much rain for so many days, and even when it isn’t raining we rarely get much sun. All rather depressing honestly.

    On the other hand I have been getting my eyes thoroughly checked out, and a sore place on one breast and have got the all clear for the breast, with the eyes only having the double vision problem that popped up a year or so ago. Without correcting lenses I get a double a little above anything, as if there was a shadow of it on a wall, this gets worse as the day progresses. With the lenses I see normally and only get the doubling towards the end of the day. So three different consultants plus assorted nurses and other support staff, plus my GP in the space of ten days, and all is well. I am so grateful I live in the UK, even with the damage the Tories have done I still got the care I needed in a reasonably timely manner, the breasts were checked within two weeks, the eyes took longer, but that was partly because I needed to get used to the new lenses, and of course it cost me nothing at the point of use.

  43. lumipuna says

    Hello again and Merry Yule, everyone! I very much liked this essay on Australian Christmas:

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/dec/25/christmas-in-australia-has-become-an-expression-of-diverse-personalised-and-secular-joy

    In Finland, Christmas is also overwhelmingly secular, but more focused on family get-togethers and/or calming down and resting in the dark. And of course eating a lot of traditional and/or good food. It’s not very conducive to individualism, or having genuine fun. My personal relationship with Christmas is also strained by association with the darkness and generally unpleasant weather, and the high covid infection risk of this season.

    Instead, the description of Australian Christmas has a certain resemblance (probably not coincidentally) to Nordic Midsummer celebrations -- my favorite holiday. I’ve sometimes thought that, if I somehow ended up living in Australia (like a significant number of Finns did in the 20th century), I’d semi-ironically celebrate midsummer in June according to the “old country” midsummer. Not so much because of tradition, but because in December I’d be probably suffering too much from heat, and because I’d most likely have some family obligations for Christmas, despite all the individualism. In most parts of Australia, winter weather would be likely reasonably reminiscent of Finnish summer.

  44. says

    For me, Christmas is a time of way too much good food, and a once-a-year food, the Christmas dinner. I enjoy the food, but not so much that I could not do without it. I do not like Christmas overall very much. Especially because for several years it was the only time off at my job I could get and it pissed me off, because time off in the middle of the winter is useless, I wanted time off in the spring but my boss would not give it to me, arguing that Christmas is more important.

  45. lumipuna says

    Happy new year.

    I went out at midnight to watch other people’s fireworks in the local park. I don’t bother on most years, but this time the weather was unusually pretty. It was clear, crispy (- 15C) and not too slippery, almost no wind, lots of fresh snow and a gibbous moon rising in the east.

    The fireworks looked great, despite being fired by randos in highly disorganized fashion. I just hate the associated noise (which goes on for longer than the legally allowed four hours) and trash and clouds of gunpowder smoke. I could barely tolerate the loudest bangs with plugs in my ears. There were several of families with young children, presumably without hearing protection. Someone even brought their dog, which was clearly panicking at the loudest bangs.

  46. Ice Swimmer says

    Happy new year!

    I didn’t see all that many fireworks, me and my friend went to a rock club in Helsinki to see two bands, which were good. I’m also happy we were able to get a taxi without having to wait for it outdoors for a long time.

    Now it’s -25 ℃ here in Tampere. I’ve dug out my fleece undergarments from the time I delivered newspapers. I’ve had no problems with cold when commuting to work today.

    This end/beginning of the year was much better than the last one. Now I was healthy instead of having a flu and I was able to go to sauna, swim, play board games with my friends, attend a gig and get all of it done without too many logistical hassles. Also, last new year was dangerously slippery, now the coefficient of friction was much better.

  47. says

    A belated Happy New Gear too.

    Here in the small town/village, the amateur fireworks were a bit of a nuisance, but not too much. I think there were official fireworks a day later, on the 2-th January, because those seemed too big and long for someone just to set off in their garden. But I did not care enough to find out whether that assumption is correct.

    I make no resolutions this year but I do hope to get some work done.

  48. Jazzlet says

    A very belated Happy New Year to everyone!

    I am chuffed to bits, I got hearing aids today! They are neat little things, and although they do have buttons on them to alter the sound level, they also talk to an app on my phone so I can control them from there, and if someone calls the sound will be directed straight to my hearing aids. It is a bit odd at the moment as I can hear all sorts of things that I wouldn’t have really noticed even when my hearing was perfect, like my hair when I tuck it behind my ear(!), but that will fade as my brain re-adjusts to hearing those sounds. The whole process, hearing check, fitting/set up/ how to use, the aids themselves, batteries, regular follow-ups, the lot is all free courtesy of the NHS.

    . . . and I’ve taken my first phone call with them, so much better getting it straight in my ears, because that’s what happens with the app. Just a bit of technology that really works :-D

  49. Ice Swimmer says

    Jazzlet @ 60

    Congratulations on your new tech! I’m hoping you’ll be hearing a lot of good things and few bad things!

    It’s still been cold here, 25 ℃.

    Yesterday, electricity was more expensive in Finland than it’s ever been nominally, the Nord Pool spot price was at one point 2,35 €&kWh, so I decided to spend as little time as possible at home. I went to the city centre straight from work and got a dinner at a restaurant (I’m not really saving any money, but it’s relatively less expensive).

    Then went swimming in the lake and sauna. The lake was the same as it is in the winter always, though the hole in the ice has shrunk a bit, the pumps cannot keep as big an area open as on less severe frost. However, the walk between sauna and lake was harsh, cold air, some wind and a lot of loose bits of ice on the heated mats*, but luckily, it still wasn’t slippery, just bits of ice freezing onto my soles.

    The sauna was hot and full of people, even though one of the local ice hockey teams (Tappara, the name means battleaxe) had a match a the same time. Maybe the people in sauna were Ilves (lynx, the European relative of Mr Robert Cat) fans or hockey indifferent people like me.

    I enjoyed the cold water and hot sauna until 10 pm and then went home, ate some mashed potatoes i bought on my way home. And so to bed. I slept well.

    __
    * = The mats are long rubber mats with heating coils in them. They and the heated stairs to water are used so that the water dripping from people doesn’t make them slippery when it freezes The stairs and mats don’t feel warm to the touch, they’re just a bit above the freezing point..

  50. says

    Heya
    A very belated happy new year to y’all.
    Did I say “happy new year?” I’d like a refund, please. I started with a viral infection (not Covid, but something else) with a very dry cough and just as I thought that it was clearing up, a bacterial infection spotted that my immune system was down on its knees and used the opportunity to give me a nice case of pneumonia. If you thought that this was very bad luck and more than enough to handle: With all of this I coughed to much that I fractured three ribs. 0/10, cannot recommend.

  51. says

    @Giliell, that sounds extremely unpleasant, I do hope you are better now and on the mend. I did not know it was possible to break ribs through excessive coughing, although I did have viral infections and pneumonia combo in the past too.

  52. says

    It’s not super common, but it happens. I remember rq talking about it as well. It is getting better and hopefully I can go back to work on Monday, I’m so bored.

  53. Ice Swimmer says

    Giliell

    I’m wishing you all the best.

    I did know that it is possible. One of the Finnish politicians (the Speaker of the Finnish parliament at the time, a former Prime Minister) broke his rib just like that about two decades ago.

  54. says

    If you want an update: My ribs healed nicely, but basically sitting on my ass for 4 weeks fucked up my spine again and I ended up taking myself to hospital with another prolapse. No, 2024 is NOT my year.

  55. says

    @Giliell, I am sorry to hear that. Spine problems are a major pain, both figuratively and literally. I do hope you get better again soon. Fingers crossed.

  56. says

    Thanks. It’s much better now. Actually, it’s a lot better than I felt in months, except that I lost the feeling in 2 toes. I’m still at home this week, weaning myself off opioids. That shit is no joke, I tell you, and the worst is that it probably wouldn’t have been necessary if they’d taken me serious at the start.

  57. Jazzlet says

    Giliell I am glad to hear you are feeling so much better, but sorry about having to wean yourself off the opioids. Is the loss of feeling in your toes likely to be permanent now, a result of the prolapse doing enough damage? I’ve banged on about this before, but nerves can regrow but it takes time -- time as in years, and I’m not sure how well they’d do so from caudal rather than more peripheral damage. I guess not so well. I hope you are becoming adjusted to the loss of feeling and aren’t hurting your toes because of it’s lack.

    Do you have the problem in Germany that doctors (even female ones) do not take the pain of women as seriously as they take the pain of men? I know it’s been shown to be so in the USA and here. It’s very frustrating because it does delay treatment sometimes fatally so, but more often at the cost of women suffering more than they should. Down with the patriarchy in medicine!

  58. says

    Jazzlet

    Is the loss of feeling in your toes likely to be permanent now, a result of the prolapse doing enough damage?

    I hope not. It also changes quite a lot during the day and during activities, so I hope there’s a blockage that will unblock in time. I’ve taken up some mild exercise again and training for the belly and back muscles.

    Do you have the problem in Germany that doctors (even female ones) do not take the pain of women as seriously as they take the pain of men?

    Definitely. And I really don’t know what it was this time. I went to that hospital because I’d been very happy with their treatment the first time. This time I arrived and told them what my GP had already prescribed, that I was taking too much of that already, and that my pain was getting worse. For the next two days they kept giving me the exact same medication and kept telling me that it was helping me.
    In the end I had to insist on seeing the doctor on the night shift, and look and behold, magically strong painkillers appeared.
    The worst was a nurse who kept telling me that I had to get up and walk. No shit, I know that you need to get back on your feet asap, only this was the day when I was in so much pain that i was blacking out from pain every time I had to get up and go to the loo. Of course, I was stubborn and confrontational…

  59. Jazzlet says

    That the numbness changes sounds very positive to me, as you say a blockage or something pressing on the nerve -- the later would go with increased pain too. Anyway I hope you are feeling better now.

    Also Fuck medical staff who do not take others pain seriously.

  60. says

    My mother had a completely numb knee after her hip joint surgery due to a constricted nerve. It got better after a year or so. Nerves can heal to a degree, so fingers crossed.

  61. lumipuna says

    Hello. Sorry for long absence. I’ve been distracted by other social media, my fun writing hobby and occasionally also work.

    Speaking of nerve regeneration,

    Long after my hernia surgery, I noticed a smallish numb area on my inner thigh. It wasn’t really a problem (that’s why it took me so long to even notice it), but it made me feel like any surgery, even minor one, is risky business with regard to nerve damage. Years later (as in quite recently), I noticed the feeling had returned in that area.

    The problem is, my hernia has also regenerated. I need to get another operation, on which I’ve procrastinated for years. In the meantime, I happened to learn that these surgeries actually have a significant risk of causing persistent pain and numbness, something the doctors didn’t tell me at the time of the original operation.

  62. lumipuna says

    One of my least favorite weather related things is when a mild, rainy winter gradually turns into a cold, snowy spring.

  63. says

    @lumipuna, this has me fuming right now. Cherries are in bloom and the days are cold and snowy and at night there is a threat of frost. I had to rig up impromptu heating in the greenhouses to shield the wine and figs from late frost damage. And I had to put some bonsai into the workshop too. There is no way to shield the walnut trees so I probably won’t have any this year. I would not mind this weather at all, if the previous weeks were not so unseasonably warm that everything started to grow.

  64. says

    @lumipuna
    That’s why I will put off surgery for as long as possible. Funny enough, my fitness coach is a miracle worker. I usually go to a fitness class once a week that is meant to increase general mobility and strengthen your muscles to prevent health issues. If you don’t want to go to a gym and pay for it, you can even have it as a prescription paid for by health insurance on the sensible rationale that such a class is cheap, hospital and surgery is expensive. I’ve been going there for almost two years on Tuesday evenings, only that with all my health bullshit I couldn’t go for three months. Well, three weeks ago I went there for the first time again, with all my numbness, my increasing numb feeling up to my bum if I stood and all my pain.
    On Wednesday after class, I wanted to die. I was in a lot of pain and almost took one of the remaining opioid pills. On Thursday morning I was like: OK, the pain is better. On Thursday afternoon I was like: Wait a minute, the painkiller you took this morning must have worn off long ago, you’re still fine and also the numbness in your leg is gone! I’ve been almost back to normal ever since. One of the exercises must have unblocked something and it’s amazing.

    @ Charly: It’s snowing as I type. My peas and corn are already in the ground. Let’s see if they make it. Thankfully I was late in preplanting my squash and courgettes.

  65. lumipuna says

    @Charly and Giliell,

    The spring started early here, too, but in recent weeks it’s been mostly rainy and overcast with relatively cool days, so the plants haven’t really started growing yet. However, I’m feeling kinda crappy and dead inside because I seriously need sunlight at this time of year.

    I planted various early season leafy veggies at my glass house balcony, after waiting a little longer than I’d have liked to. It’s always risky business, since I want start as early as possible. These are relatively cold-tolerant species that wouldn’t do well in summer heat. The balcony provides some protection from night frost, and heats up quickly in the sunlight. There were some sunny days, and the seedlings started growing. However, now that the days are cold and overcast, there’s no growth, and I worry that the seedlings might suffer damage from extended temperatures of barely above freezing. I can’t really take the containers indoors either because there’s not enough space and not enough light (again, because of the extensive overcast weather).

    I think the last mostly sunny days were the Monday and Tuesday nearly two weeks ago. That’s when the frogs started spawning in the nearby park ponds, a little earlier than usual since all the winter’s snow and ice was already gone. Just a few days earlier, there was a brief cold snap with 10 cm of new snow, which then melted quickly. This week, the cold returned and brought a little more snow and frost. The park ponds froze thinly over and at least some of the frogspawn must have died. Now, the temperature is barely above freezing and more rain and possibly some snow is expected.

  66. lumipuna says

    Update: a new 10 cm of snow during last night and this morning. This is definitely the latest date I’ve ever seen substantial snowfall. It’s starting to melt already, though.

    Mean daily temperature has been slightly below freezing for the last few days, with day highs at or barely above 0 C. However, when the sun rises high at this time of year (unlike during late autumn and winter), it has some ability to thaw snow and frozen ground surface even through cloud cover. Tomorrow should be somewhat warmer.

  67. lumipuna says

    In other news, it seems I need to get a new washing machine. The old is breaking down. It was a pretty cheap one, and has cost me less than 100 € per year of regular service, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

    Still, it feels stupid to thrash such a large machine after five and half years (I hope at least some of the materials will be recycled?). When I talk about this with people, I get the impression 5.5 years is a very normal lifespan for modern washing machines. There is not any suggestion that a more expensive pair of boots … sorry I mean washing machine would last much longer, so it doesn’t seem like a worthwhile investment. Instead, everyone just harks back to the good old days before planned obsolescence, when washing machines supposedly lasted a lifetime. My parents have a 30 year old machine (that may be also breaking down). It sounds very odd to me, because why on earth wouldn’t home appliance manufacturers in the late 20th century have applied planned obsolescence, if it’s so profitable now? AFAIK, the concept of product lifespan optimization has been known at least since the days of Henry Ford.

    I’m pretty sure the problem with the old machine is that some suspenders of the drum are broken. I made some calls and found that (a) they could be very likely repaired and (b) it’d cost about as much as getting a new machine (as always is the case). Personally, I suspect that replacing the suspenders wouldn’t add much to the machine’s lifespan, because some other parts are likely also worn out already.

  68. says

    @lumipuna
    I can tell from experience, no, more expensive stuff doesn’t last much longer. Mr and I have been living together for 17 years now and we’re on washing machine #4
    #1, the electronics broke down. we had a 7 years warranty, but the company had gone bankrupt in between. A replacement of the faulty part would have cost 80% of the original price
    #2 Well, I don’t blame anybody but the kid who put a box of pencils inside and hid them under the laundry…
    #3 A pretty expensive Siemens. 10 years warranty on the engine, but the bearing broke and since it was smartly welded to the drum, repairs were technically possible but economically unwise.
    Let’s see how #4 will last
    Oh, and our dishwasher is a fucking expensive Miele, the Mercedes Benz of appliances. Last summer, still during warranty time, it broke down. It took two separate appointments to repair it, and afterward it didn’t work well, so we called the service again, They first tried to gaslight me that there wasn’t anything wrong, but when the guy finally found what was wrong he forbid me to use it until it was repaired because it was dangerous. Their guy had forgotten one special screw and it took them two further appointments to fix it…

  69. lumipuna says

    Thanks for the data point, Giliell.

    The weather is now getting much warmer. My balcony plants seem to have survived, but many of them look sickly and seem reluctant to start growing again. Some look healthy, though, and have even grown a little despite the cold.

  70. chigau (違う) says

    We have snow predicted: “…10 to 25 centimetres are possible by Thursday morning …”
    sigh

  71. lumipuna says

    Hello again. This is a slightly late reminder to everyone that magnificent auroras can be seen in the middle latitudes this weekend. You’ve probably already seen it on the news and/or social media already. If you missed last night, there’s still a chance or perhaps two.

    Here in Helsinki, the sky was clear last night but it barely gets dark at this time of the year. I went out to the nearby park at about 11 PM, when the peak aurora occurrence was predicted. It was still only half dark, and the night was setting in very slowly, as it does in this magical time of year. I’ve seen auroras a couple times over the recent years, in winter, like smudgy pale green clouds dancing near the northern horizon, barely visible through the suburban light pollution. I expected to be peering towards north again.

    I forgot to consider that the sun would be in the northwest-north and not much below horizon. It still practically lit up the sky in that direction. It’s that lingering eerie glow of the northern sky near midnight that I normally love so much about northern summer. Now, I feared I had little chance of seeing any auroras. At least the moon was pretty, a very thin crescent new moon slowly brightening up in the western sky.

    The sky was much darker in the south and southeast, though not nearly fully dark. Soon after arriving in the park, I noticed something like a very faint reddish cloud high up in southern sky. Could it be? Yes, within minutes it expanded into an amazing red rosette of flames that seemed to radiate from near the zenith. Then it slowly faded away by 12 PM. All the time, it was only faintly visible because the sky wasn’t fully dark. I can scarcely imagine how it’d have looked in properly dark conditions (incl. little or no light pollution). Now, it was still quite impressive, and even moreso simply beautiful.

  72. says

    chigau, I don’t think there is a reason to feel bad for this person’s death. There are a number of persons whose passing away I wouldn’t regret and even some whose I would celebrate. Prominent in that list are predominantly people who deliberately and with intent cause pain and suffering to others.

  73. says

    Wooohoooo!
    After 6 years, I now finally got offered an unlimited contract instead of yearly contracts. This comes 7 months after I passed the deadline for tenure*, make of this what you want.

    * Difficult to explain because public service terminology doesn’t translate well. Tenured teachers and other civil servants have quite some privileges. They don’t need to contribute to their pensions and generally get a higher pension, they can only be fired for extreme violations and some more. Simple employees generally do have job security, but not the financial privileges and can be fired if they are permanently unable to work.

  74. says

    Yeah, an unlimited contract is all I ever wanted.Last year I first got a 6 months contract that was then altered to a full year while all my other colleagues on limited contracts only got 6 months. Back then I already said: This means that in summer I’ll finally get the unlimited contract because then I’ll be too old for tenure and look what happened…

  75. lumipuna says

    Happy (approximate) solstice, everyone!

    It’s been an intense start of summer here. A couple months ago, I complained because the weather was being relatively cold and rainy/snowy/muddy at a time when a reasonably warm and sunny weather would be nice for outdoor life, balcony gardening etc. Mind you, there hadn’t been proper winter weather since at least early February, but as long as there was no sunshine, the winter (which had started unusually early) felt never-ending.

    The weather turned warm and sunny in early May. By late May, there was full heatwave blast, and the beginnings of yet another summer drought. Everything was growing and blooming super fast. My favorite season of the year was rushing past in like five minutes.

    For the last couple weeks, the weather has been reasonably cool, considering the season. There was even a little rain around June 10 -- but that was only about 15-20 mm for the entire May and possibly June. Now, the drought resumes. There have been lots of thunderstorms, but they meticulously skirt around my area. A whole-ass rain front passed over southern Finland on Monday and brought a significant amount of rain in many places. Here, it rained about 1 mm. Nowadays, we only seem to get rain (lots of it) outside of the growth season, year after year.

    (As for all the moisture that evaporated here in the hot sun and dry wind during May, I heard it rained down in western Europe. After these past few years, I can scarcely imagine such thing as copious rain in early summer.)

    What little rain we had earlier this month, was at least perfectly timed to salvage some of the wild strawberry crop. Usually, wild strawberries begin to ripen around this time -- except if there’s no rain, they tend to dry up and shrivel. This year, I found the first strawberries early last week, and now the season is already nearing its end as the drought tightens its grip. There seems to be lots of developing bilberries and raspberries, too, but they all need rain.

  76. says

    @lumipuna, we got some of the water that you are missing here. It would be a good thing if the weather were warm, but it was not. Despite heavy rains, nothing grew properly around here for the last month or so, except things inside the greenhouses. My garden is nearly one month behind schedule -- corn is about 10 cm high, pumpkins as well, tomatoes are barely angle-high, and garlic and onions just about manage to survive. After a tepid and warm winter, we got extremely warm beginning of spring and extremely cold at the end of spring.
    Slugs enjoy it. I don’t. I’m pissed, when I’m not depressed and I’m depressed when I’m not pissed.

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