This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Flying in 2021

Flying in 2021 requires both a passport and a negative coronavirus test. Obtaining a certificate with a negative result with sampling no more than 24 hours before boarding turned out to be a challenge. Finland does not test asymptomatic people through its public healthcare system, and has not scaled up the antigen test alternative. And because the results are not entirely reliable, most private clinics who do offer antigen tests for a fee refuse to write a travel certificate.

Thus, my only bet was an expensive, express overnight PCR test in Helsinki, requiring me to leave Loviisa the day before departure and staying with my sister. With resistance, I forked out for yet another test, in addition to the 72 h post-entry test I paid for in another private clinic before christmas, after being turned away from the public clinics because I lacked symptoms,

Oh well, my holiday visit could have been worse: a family of four would have paid 2,000 EUR just for the tests (and then some for the flights). In the end, I was fortunate enough to find the choice between the money and investing in quality time with dear ones an easy one.

(Helsinki, Finland; January 2021)


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Cold snap in Helsinki

In the middle of all the snow and cold I left quarantine for just 24 hours in Helsinki. Some potentially useful tips for getting through -20C or lower temperatures:

  1. Don’t buy fresh herbs or lettuce if you have to walk home. They freeze (and then wilt) within minutes.
  2. Don’t take your face mask off between shops, as the humidity condensed on your mask and face will freeze.
  3. Do put your smartphone and any other electronic device close to your skin. A handbag is out of the question, and even a jacket pocket most likely won’t do – the device will freeze and die very quickly.
  4. Four more words: technical wear, and long underwear (including long-johns and glove liners). Function before fashion, otherwise freezing is inevitable.

(Helsinki, Finland; January 2021)


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Snowed in

Apologies for the crappy image quality, but this was taken late at night, with a smartphone, in heavy wet snowfall. After about an hour’s worth of shoveling. That thing there is not a spade but a sizable sleigh shovel, and the heaps I pushed through reached my waist.

Unfortunately, after all my hard labor, the wind filled everything up during the night. Even more unfortunate was that they forgot to clear the road passing the cottage and my parents’ house, in both directions, thus we were snowed in for two days. Makes me long for climate change to come sooner.

(Loviisa, Finland; January 2021)


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First snow

In Finnish, the opposite to a white christmas is a “black christmas”. This year, we barely had a snow cover thus perhaps it was a “gray christmas”? And after the holidays, it began to snow.

And it did not stop.

It snowed for days, which meant we had to shovel snow every morning. Leaving the house before the snow plow was difficult, both on foot and on wheels. We did not get a white christmas, but we sure did get a white winter.

(Loviisa, Finland; January 2021)


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Three favorite podcasts

For at least a year I have thought about writing, or rather not writing, this post. I am so far behind many of you when it comes to podcasts. Because, not only do I stick to my habits, but I have an obsession for completion and lists. I go through much pain and boredom before I give up on a book or a movie mid-way. I love finishing off to-do lists. And to me, podcasts episodes look like… well, to-do lists. And they are a significant time investment. When I choose to get deeper into a podcast series, listening a couple episodes per week, it takes me months to decide whether I should keep listening or delete it from my list.

It hurts my head to think of the universe of amazing podcasts all around the world, available with just a few taps. Smart shows like Dear Sugar, Serial, and Stuff You Should Know are famous – and I shyly confess that they are not in my podcast list at all. Why? Because I can only keep track of about three podcasts at once, and once I get into them I need to go through the list, often several years and hundreds of episodes worth, to complete the series. Only when I get up to date with a podcast I like, do I have bandwidth to tackle another…. neurotic? Perhaps. Focused? For sure.

Here are the three ones that keep me busy (in no particular order of priority):

  1. The Ground Up Show, by Matt D’Avella
    These days, Matt D’Avella is equally well known for directing the documentary Minimalism, as well as his Youtube channel amassing millions of subscribers. The podcast is inactive since quite a while, but he managed to record 100+ interviews about starting from the ground up as a creative entrepreneur. In later episodes he moved towards topics like minimalism and health, and his experience as a stand-up comedian and conversational skills makes the episodes seem shorter than they are. This is my go-to for cleaning and other random household chores.
  2. The Goop Podcast
    Yes, I am a scientist by training and I love the Goop Podcast. I listen to it every night as I get ready for bed, and most nights even in bed, if I cannot sleep right away. The breadth of topics, from psychology and longevity to social issues and business, means I always learn and am never bored.
  3. Pörssipäivä
    The long-standing Finnish radio show on investing and money markets. I have several investing and personal finance podcasts on my list, but I am still stuck on this one, also because I still have some stock market investments in Finland. I usually pull up an episode in the evenings while making dinner or ironing clothes.

Soon I will be up-to-date with both Goop and Pörssipäivä. Can you recommed me a new favorite?

(Copenhagen, Denmark; March 2021)


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Two dusty suitcases

In mid-December, I dug out my suitcases. A dusty one from the walk-in closet, stuffed behind the clothes rack, and the other from the attic, where rust-water from the leaking roof had dripped all over it, leaving a red puddle mark on its side.

I had intended to replace my trusty old Rimowa with its twice-repaired zipper and torn interior lining before my first business trip in my new job, but such an occasion has not yet arisen. I guess luggage companies are struggling through these COVID-times as well.

As I dragged both bags behind me on my way to the metro which would take me to Copenhagen airport, I felt the long looks of passers-by. They were certainly no looks of envy, longing, and a shared passion of exploring new places. Most likely they were intentionally cast, so I would feel ashamed for intending to contribute to the spread of the virus. 2020, please be gone soon.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; December 2020)


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In Frederiksberg Gardens

The beauty of Frederiksberg Gardens was once curated to the extent that no one poorly dressed was allowed in. And like a proper English landscape garden, the curves of the waterways are just a little too neat to be natural, and the tall waterfall looks gorgeous and natural – but out of place in flat Denmark. English garden styling is like the ideal image of natural beauty.

Scattered here and there between the trees, dozens of great gray herons hunker down for winter, standing like statuettes, necks warmly folded under the neck feathers. In windy Denmark, Frederiksberg Gardens is probably a nice resting place for birds. And on a cold Saturday in November, the park is a perfect place for a leisurely walk, some headspace, and good conversation.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; November 2020)


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Like an oil painting

I stopped by the little lake on my daily route around the park. With the yellow, falling leaves and deeply overcast sky it looked like from an old, English countryside oil painting. Except that it was so much more rich and detailed.

I sometimes forget I am not in a central European country but in the Nordics – because the Nordic, impenetrable spruce thickets and lofty halls of pine trees are all missing. Even on Jylland, the coniferous forests consist of trees planted in rows. But that is okay, because the parklands in Denmark are beautiful, especially now.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; November 2020)