This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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When at home: microgreens

It must be winter soon, because my poor radish microgreens stretch towards the window with all their might. Interestingly, they rotate towards the kitchen light, in the opposite direction, every night. I try to keep their suffering brief.

No travel means lots of opportunities to experiment at home. I tried growing microgreens in a compostable paper wool. It looks hassle-free, but begins to smell before slow-growing sunflower microgreens are ready. I am also not convinced I get good quality nutrition and may just end up making these superfoods less super. So I went back to potting soil. Perhaps coconut husk would be another less messy option?

(Copenhagen, Denmark; October 2020)


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Quiet week

It has been a silent week. Unlike Belgium, France, and Spain, Denmark is not yet in lockdown, but we have been given further restrictions, and my employer issued a stricter recommendation to work from home.

With the clocks turned back, running in a Danish park after dark resembles moving around an African village: little streams of light from lanterns barely light up the path in front of my feet between pools of darkness, while my head is constantly enveloped in the black night. All around me I hear talk and human noises. And as I cannot see around me, walking or jogging after dark is a strange meditation on the importance of light and sight.

Low lighting of parks must be some kind of climate action, but it surprises me that even here in the capital people are not encouraged to stay active after dark. Forget about footpaths and bike paths in Brande or Vejle after dark – they are not lit at all. After-work joggers pound the pavement for four months each year. In Finland this would be unthinkable, both because people are encouraged to go out even in the darkest time of the year, as well as for personal security after dark.

Under the lamp, after dinner, I have been busy bringing order back to the life of my weeping fig bonsai, which I brought over this summer. It looked like a big green wig after growing untouched for the most of 3 years. Lacking sufficiently thick wire for the thickest unruly branches, I tied them to a trunk until I could find the supplies I need. According to the rules of grooming I should probably have cut off the low branch crossing the trunk, but given how bare the tree is now, I left it for the time being. We all need a break in this strange new world order.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; October 2020)


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Shrooms

Who knew? All that is required to grow mushrooms at home is some cooked, wet hay, mushroom mycelium, and alternating dark and light. And if one is even more lazy, a do-it-at-home kit involving a dressed-up milk carton filled with wet hay and mycelium. Cut a little window in it, leave it somewhere not too hot and dark, and out sprout oyster mushrooms, within two weeks.

When these mushrooms ended up in my wok, I simply poured a bit of water into the carton, closed the window with tape, and returned it to the sill. In two weeks’ time I will cut another window and watch the magic unfold, once again.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; October 2020)


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A temporary home

I am used to living in modern spaces. My apartment in Helsinki has elegant gray hardwood floors, a top-notch kitchen, a glass sliding door to the bedroom, and a tiny but top-notch bathroom. I love minimalist, airy, monochromatic, and timeless.

This year I have lived in three old houses in Copenhagen. My current home was built in the 1850s, the kitchen is from the 90s, and the walls could use a layer of paint. But the floors are quite new, the general feel is neat and clean, and I love the soft indirect light.

So here it is: my temporary home until next summer or so. The bedroom hosts a few last boxes of things to be sold. The ceiling lights are the landlady’s, and my wonderful huge design lamp is stored in the attic, along with most of the artwork as new holes in the walls should be minimized. The bathroom is large for Copenhagen standards, and for me it’s it’s the first bathroom ever with a window.

Can you spot the screwdriver in the living room? I used it to screw the glue-enforced door hinges back into the sideboard. I am surprised the door is still sitting there, two weeks later. Good stuff, that glue I got.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; October 2020)


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Books of wisdom, part II

What would be a good topic for a 30-something person to delve into, I wondered, one and a half years ago. I har just finished my 106 Books of Pretention project after 10 years of reading. More classics? Books on naturalism? Meditation? Biographies? Or just some freaking great modern novels? 

I decided to go for books that weigh heavy on wisdom, but are still readable and captivating even on work days, when my head is busy with so many things. I googled. And I found three excellent lists, shared here. Out of those 48 books I have now read 39. The wisdom in a book really only unfolds when the reader resonates with the writer’s language and style – there are shared elements of thinking, visualizing, and speaking. A writer may surprise with uncommon ways of expression, but only if they play a string within us do we truly feel the message.

And so, some of the books from the compiled Books of Wisdom list ended up on my own list. All these lovely things have shaken my world for the better. Some have forced me to add a building block. Others, to tear down what I thought I was going to make, and rebuild it as something else. But most of them have been subversive: a quiet, but relentless and constant whisper that has stayed with me long since I put the book down. As I go on discovering new works of wisdom, I will share them in my (Reading) Lists section of this blog.

Philosophy & meditation

  1. Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
  2. Epictetus – Manual for living
  3. Shunryu Suzuki – Zen mind beginners mind
  4. Ryan Holiday – Ego is the enemy
  5. Jon Kabat-Zinn – Where ever you go, there you are

Mastering the body and mind

  1. Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – Think like a freak
  2. Jordan B. Peterson – 12 rules for life
  3. Ryan Holiday – The obstacle is the way
  4. Malcolm Gladwell – Blink
  5. Pema Chödrön – When things fall apart
  6. Matthew Walker – Why we sleep
  7. Patterson et al. – Crucial confrontations: Tools for resolving broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior 

Business & personal finance

  1. Harvard Business Review – 10 must reads on managing yourself
  2. Ray Dalio – Principles
  3. Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Fooled by randomness
  4. Wallace D. Wattles – The science of getting rich
  5. Yvonne Chouinard – Let my people go surfing
  6. Ramit Sethi – I will teach you to be rich
  7. Michael Watkins – The first 90 days

Happiness psychology & creativity

  1. Sonja Lyubomirsky – The how of happiness
  2. Brene Brown – The gifts of imperfection
  3. Marie Kondo – The life-changing magic of tidying
  4. Elizabeth Gilbert – Big magic

History, science, society

  1. Yuval Noah Harari – Sapiens: A brief history of humankind
  2. Jared Diamond – Guns, germs, and steel
  3. Jared Diamond – Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
  4. Sunstein & Thaler – Nudge
  5. Peter Wohlleben – The hidden life of trees

Novels

  1. Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull
  2. Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
  3. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – The little prince

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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What a 2020 highlight looks like

Throughout history, there were many predictions for the year 2020 and beyond: moves like Blade Runner, steampunk Japanese anime, The Matrix, and of course much of Jules Verne’s imagination. So what happened?

Well, the Earth is not quite yet a scorching fireball, or a post-apocalyptic smoky mess. Cities are huge and growing, but green areas are more important than ever, such as for example in Singaporean city planning. Countries like Denmark are  pushing a climate-fronted agenda, including my current employer. Air travel has become common and cheap, but we are still waiting for the rocket fun ride to the moon and back. And the colonies on Mars.

The most unexpected “new normal highlight” of 2020 is a night out with a small group of friends. Just a handful. Outdoors, socially distanced, tapas picked up with serving spoons instead of individual forks, and with a bottle of hand sanitizer on the table. Because one can never know which friend might be seriously ill with a new virus raging. Indeed, this is a highlight – because not only were all restaurants closed for months on end, meeting people inherently carries a risk in the year 2020. Fortunately, smartphones with video calls and social media are one of those crazy futuristic predictions that became an abundant reality. Most of my 2020 is made up of social isolation, either at home or in Finland, with my family at their home.

By the way, a hundred years ago, this artist below envisioned video calls in the future – spot on! Although fortunately one does not need to smoke anymore to be cool. Now where’s my milkshake and personal aircraft?

20-future(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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Corona walks, volume twenty-eleven

Corona walks, alone or with friends, have become a favorite pastime of mine. This crisp September Saturday I strolled Østre Anlæg and Kastellet, my two favorite central Copenhagen parks, for 4 hours with a friend. We talked about living a creative life, hormonal hair loss and what ovulating feels like, how women’s proper dress is and is not described in the Quran (veils are not mentioned, by the way), and where to get good ice cream. Sometimes I want to run a mile when such topics are being brought forward, but today they felt necessary. Especially the ice cream.

(Kastellet, Copenhagen; September 2020)


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The first 90 days

Lovely ones, my intention has always to keep work away from this blog. But with coronavirus, travel bans, and a highly reduced social life in a city where I have barely built any social life, this is where my focus goes right now. And please allow me to just for once speak up and state that the first 90 days in a company are a mental and physical challenge.

Actually, I am only 30 days in at the moment. The increased need for sleep is obvious. At the same time, I wake up at 5.30 am and am unable to sleep. On Thursdays, my leg muscles are giving up the game as I once again bike 8.5 km uphill to the office in the morning. Bus and train is out of the question because of coronavirus, and because they are a slower option. Last week I checked out an electric bike from the office and took it home, and back the next morning. I hope one like it can fit it into my financial plan by christmas as it will dramatically reduce the amount of sweat, time, and work required to just begin the working day. Although this week everyone in our Danish offices around the country were sent home due to an increasing coronavirus count. For how long? Who knows.

But the work itself is interesting, and my new colleagues are wonderful. And as I find myself right in the middle of internal politics and process improvements, this little book by Michael D. Watkins is very helpful. Because often it is not enough to just sit down at your desk and do the work – instead, it is equally important to be strategic about the first steps and tasks, in order to make a runway for success instead of a path of potholes.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; September 2020)


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Party dresses for life

Lovely ones, still a few weeks of slow living here in Copenhagen, before everything changes once again. Meanwhile, I am unpacking my boxes and discovering things from past lives.

I used to have an academic career, in biomedical research. In Finland, such a career requires several full-length evening gowns. Oh yes, doctoral thesis defenses and other appointments are serious events. When I moved to the business side of things, I recycled most of my gowns – save for two. The soft purple one is the one I wore on my own PhD defense dinner (can you tell my color season is soft summer?).

Instead, I doubled up on cocktail dresses for all the business-related evening events. I packed them all in a box before moving to Denmark. The past two years I have managed more than well with just one dress, bought at Copenhagen airport one morning, in a hurry before a flight to Rome.

Lessons learned? One dress is manageable. Two or three is sufficient. And watching all these hang side by side, I conclude I now have party dresses for life.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)


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About inspired living

Some years ago I made a vision board. For months I hunted for inspiring images and tore them out of magazines. Finally, I tacked them all onto a cork board, added a few handwritten words to define exactly what I was calling forth, and my vision board was done.

Then I discovered that I had systematically left out the most wonderful images of them all: images of strong, creative women in the most amazing places or moments. I had been so focused on selecting those pictures that illustrated the goals I wanted to envision, and these women just… were, themselves. Most often, the image size was too large: a full A4 magazine page. These women did not fit in – rather, they stood out. So I stored them neatly in a plastic folder, in my sideboard. I forgot about them.

Years later, while unpacking my boxes here in Denmark, I encountered the folder again. I spread out the women on the floor. Together, they were still magical: strong, purposeful, creative, doing exactly what they wanted to be doing. Even if in reality most of the photos were staged for a fashion shoot (the center photo is actually an ad for Zalando), the impression they give off makes my heart sing.

There, on the floor, the women just…fit. I made a collage, easily a meter tall, and took a photo. This time I won’t forget. I won’t forget what I aspire for. And I will hunt for another cork board or cardboard, big enough to accommodate these women, because I now have the perfect place for them inside my walk-in closet. This is where I will greet them, first thing every morning.

(Copenhagen, Denmark; August 2020)