Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mannerheim's tombstone

Went to Hietaniemi graveyard today and took lots of pictures of chairs. Old chairs neglected, worn and rusted. Most of them were in the Orthodox part of the graveyard. No chairs were in the Jewish part and only one in the Islamic part. For a slideshow of all the chairs and benches go to Chairs and benches at Hietaniemi graveyard

There was a Jewish Graveyard which was walled in and the gate was locked. There were no new stones there, only old ones. What conclusions can you draw from that? There are no Jews in Helsinki, or they get buried some place else?

Behind the Jewish part is a large area for Muslims. It is guarded by video cameras. All of the graves in there are new, or at least none of the stones have gathered moss or lichen.

Jews and Muslims lying in peace what a dream. It would appear that muslims fought in the continuation war from 1939-44.

Mannerheim's tomb is enormous and a few steps away from it is a small cross for Gereral Ehrnrooth, who some say was a more inspiring man than Mannerheim.

Sloping away from Mannerheims tomb are the graves of the soldiers who died in the 2nd world war. Each grave has some sort of blood red fushia. The flowers look like drops of blood.

The is a special hill for artists. I saw Alver Aalto's grave and Akseli Gallen-Kalella. There is quite a few weird pagan like stones of Celtic or Norse origin.

I was told by a gardener they were put up around the turn of the century when Finnish people were considering their identity. Breaking free from Sweden and Russia. Taking new Finnish names and discovering their past.

Some of the stones are quite striking, but other monuments have been ravaged by the passage of time.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Falling down... tumbling ground

Wall of the KELA building

Went for an interview this morning at the employment office. They still wanted a final statement from EMBL. Excuse me hang on a second, I have given you copies of my contracts, which shows the times when each contract started and when it finnished. Isn't that enough?

"Yes but even though you show these contracts, you could have left before the time was up"

"But here is my last salary statement and the date on it agrees with the date on my final contract surely that is enough?

"Afraid not we need a proper statement of when you left and the reason for leaving"

Then we got down to the serious business of what my qualifications are and what kind of job I would be looking for.

"I see you have a M. Sc. in microbiology is that what you want to persue?

"Not really. I have not done wet lab work for the past 15 years. I have been involved in Bioinformatics and would like a job in that area.

"Bio what?

"Bioinformatics... it is a field that you use computers to work with DNA and Protein sequence data."

"So you are a Biochemist?"

"No I am not a biochemist"

The lady then scans thought he job opening at and says

"Sorry we don't have anything listed under Bioinformatics"

"So there are no jobs for bioinformaticians?"

"I don't know since I don't know what bioinformatics is"

I take my life in my hands and ask her to open up the EBI website and to go to the SRS system. I explain about databases and DNA sequences and I even get her to display a PORIN molecule from the PDB database. I get her to view it with the MSDAstexViewer. The java window pops up and I get her to rotate the molecule and to view it from different angles.

"That is the kind of stuff that someone involved in bioinformatics would do. Does it make any more sence now?

"Not really... it looks very specialised, and perhaps not many people would be looking for skills like that?"

"So I have skills that nobody can use?"

"Well I will make a note on your records that you are specialised in bio... biowhatdoyoucallit"

"What types of jobs do you have then?"

"We have plenty of jobs in the cleaning sector."

Yep it may just come around to that, that I am over qualified for any job in Finland and I should take up a job as a cleaner. Not very confidence building.

"Can I ask you about E301?"

"We can't help you with that. That is KELA business."

"So what is the relationship between you and KELA?

"We give them a "statement" and then they decide wheather to pay you unemployment benifit or not"

"Well they want a E301 certificate and my previous employer says they can't give one and it is not relevant. I worked in the UK but was paid from EMBL which is based in Heidelburg Germany"

Her eyes glaze over. This is too much information for her. The Bioinformatician was a hard concept to grasp, an internationl organisation that has agreements with the British government, and does not pay tax is something she has never heard of. It sounds unreal. Bioinformatics is unbelievable, but this EMBL/EBI deal is a thousand times more difficult to understand.

Obviously the government offices are not briefed or equiped to handle such complicated cases. All they want is a E301 and they will be happy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


So I go to Kela and fill in the forms trying to get unemployment benifit. Here is the sad news.
  • If you belong to some union you could get 70% of you last wage.
  • but that is if you have made contributions for 10 months.
  • I only worked for 7 months so I would not get anything anyway.
  • The basic daily rate that you could get is 24 euros per day.
  • But you need to have been gainfully employed for the past 24 months.
  • You need evidence that you have paid taxes by getting an E301 declaration.
  • I have until the 10/10/2004 to get one.
  • I worked in the UK for 9 years before coming to Finland.
  • My salary was payed by EMBL in Germany.
  • I worked for EBI in the UK.
  • This is difficult for KELA to understand.
  • I contact EMBL and ask for a E301
  • They say it is not relevant, and I should just show my salary statements.
  • I don' t think KELA will be impressed. They need a E301
  • KELA has no guidlines for someone who has worked for an international organisation.
  • Tomorrow I go to the employment exchange for an interview.
It feels like I have fallen between stools, and nobody knows quite how to handle my situation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Did you ever wonder how an arch like this could be made. Well here is the method. Now get out there and build some arches

For more amazing arches go to Andy Goldsworthy Portfolio

Canada 3 - Finland 2

Drove downtown to get into the Sports Academy to watch the final of the ice hockey world cup. It started at 2:00 AM. I got there at 1:15. The queue to the upstairs section was enormous so I went to the downstairs line since it was shorter. Only as people came out of the door did they let new people in. I got to the front of the queue.

"Can't you let me in?"

"Sorry no space you will have to wait"

A group of "professional" hockey players barged to the front of the queue, their spokesman wanted a word with the doorman. I peered through the glass and the spokesman was shaking the hand of the doorman and pressing some Euro notes into his hand. In a second about 14 "professionals" were let in.

"How come they got in before me? I have been waiting here for nearly an hour"


I finally got inside and started a conversation with a Finn who had studied in Hull. He knew all about Kingston Communications. A short stocky bloke about a foot shorter than the both of us comes up and offers us a Gin drink each. We accept.

"Do you know each other?"

"No we only came here for the match"

"Are you sure you don't know each other. You are talking english, and seem to be very familiar with each other"

"No we have never met before"

"Are you hetro?"

"Excuse me?"

"Are you homo then?"

He was edging closer so the toes of his shoes were touching mine, and his beer belly was rubbing against the knuckles of the hand I was holding the bottle in. Involuntarily I pulled my hand from my pocket, and showed him my wedding rings and told him I was married. I think that upset him. There was a nasty curl to his lip and a piggy squint in his eyes.

I expect he was intent on some gay bashing and was looking to pick a fight, but the display of the wedding rings sort of screwed with his plan. From the look in his eye it was apparent that he did not like to be thwarted, not by a hetro or a homo. As soon as he turned his back and moved away to put his bottle down on the counter. I was gone. I disappeared. I'm a lover not a fighter. I'm built for speed.

I managed to persude the bouncer to let me go upstairs, and there I took some pictures and reactions to the match. There was great excitement and also great disappointment. Finland were always coming from behind. Killer goals from Canada at the beginning of the 1st and 3rd rounds brought gasps of dismay from the crowd. The second Finnish goal was magnificent and brought the crowd to their feet and gave them hope, but in the end it was not enough. More photos can be found in my Photolog

I crawled into bed at 5:00 in the morning, and decided I am not a night person.

It is too dangerous and too expensive. Some people took it hard and some people were more relaxed about the defeat.

What match???

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Photo of market man

There was an autumn market on Saturday. I took a picture of "marketman" I took it as he was leaving. He noticed me doing it and was rather angry. I walked away quickly.

Why was he angry, becasue I captured his fatness, becasue he had not shaved, because his T-shirt was dirty, because he was collecting benifits from the government and was not supposed to be working on the side.

I think he was angry about the invasion of his privacy. If he had been Brad Pitt he would have jumped out of the lorry and trashed my head in, but since he was fat and had to move around with a walking stick I could make my get-away with ease.

Taking pictures of buildings, or ducks or blowup giraffes is OK. They do not complain about invasion of privacy. Ferns bask in the sunlight, onions piruette on their braid, reflections and shadows invite themselves to be captured on film. But people are offended. People demand privacy.

On going though the shoping centre I saw a mentally disturbed man eating a do-nut in a demented fashion. I passed on an did not take his picture.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Job's sad song

The Sire Of Sorrow by Joni Mitchell

Let me speak let me spit out my bitterness-
Born of grief and nights without sleep and festering flesh
Do you have eyes?
Can you see like mankind sees?
Why have you soured and curdled me?
Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you?
That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?
Once I was blessed; I was awaited like the rain
Like eyes for the blind, like feet for the lame
Kings heard my words, and they sought out my company
But now the janitors of Shadowland flick their brooms at me
Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you?
that you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?

(Antagonists: Man is the sire of sorrow)
I've lost all taste for life
I'm all complaints
Tell me why do you starve the faithful?
Why do you crucify the saints?
And you let the wicked prosper
You let their children frisk like deer
And my loves are dead or dying, or they don't come near

(Antagonists: We don't despise your chastening
God is correcting you)
Oh and look who comes to counsel my deep distress
Oh, these pompous physicians
What carelessness!

(Antagonists: Oh all this ranting all this windFilling our ears with trash)
Breathtaking ignorance adding insult to injury!
they come blaming and shaming
(Antagonists: Evil doer)
And shattering me

(Antagonists: This vain man wishes to seem wise
A man born of asses)
Oh you tireless watcher! What have I done to you?
That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?
(Antagonists: We don't despise your chastening)
Already on a bed of sighs and screams
And still you torture me with visions
You give me terrifying dreams!
Better I was carried from the womb straight to the grave
I see the diggers waiting, they're leaning on their spades

(Antagonists: Man is the sire of sorrow
Sure as the sparks ascend)
Where is hope while you're wondering what went wrong?
Why give me light and then this dark without a dawn?
(Antagonists: Evil is sweet in your mouth
Hiding under your tongue)
Show your face!
(Antagonists: What a long fall from grace)
Help me understand!
What is the reason for your heavy hand?
(Antagonists: You're stumbling in shadows
You have no name now)
Was it the sins of my youth?
What have I done to you?
That you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true?

(Antagonists: Oh your guilt must weigh so greatly)
Everything I dread and everything I fear come true
(Antagonists: Man is the sire of sorrow)
Oh you make everything I dread and everything I fear come true

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

My love is like...

This moring I picked a rose for my wife, and I recited Burns' Poem to her from the heart. I got stuck at the line as fair art thou my bonie lass and could not go on. Bonie lass is so scottish, and so full of terms of endearment. I nearly got a kiss for trying though.

O, my luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June
O, my luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune
As fair art thou, my bonie lass
So deep in luve am I
And I will luve thee still, my Dear
Till a' the seas gang dry
Till a' the seas gang dry, my Dear
And the rocks melt wi' the sun!
O I will luve thee still, my Dear
While the sands o' life shall run