Monday, November 9, 2015

Eisbrecher board game update

For a long time I've meant to update my Eisbrecher board game to the current line-up of the band. Some time ago I finally managed to do that. So, the new version includes Alex (with one x), Noel, Jürgen, Rupert and Achim.

Eisbrecher board game band members

The board game is downloadable (as this version) from here.

In late September, Eisbrecher finally managed to publish their first live dvd. (Had long time coming...:) There's a lot of material in the box, and we also got our 1 second of fame in the Helsinki part of the documentary about the tour they did early this year. Let me see your hands! (Well, you can't see anything else of me than the hands, but Senni looks happy. :D )

Our 1 second of fame

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Some time ago, I went to see the Everest -movie. It's about the 1996 Rob Hall's Mount Everest expedition, when several climbers were caught in a storm and died - Hall as one of them. I know the story well, since my ex in New Zealand is very interested about mountain climbing and he injected me some of the same spark when I was living there. I was still in New Zealand when Sir Ed Hillary died, and the local tv was filled with documentaries and history about his life and naturally also the first climb on top of Everest. (Or was it first? I still haven't made up my mind if I believe Mallory and Irvine managed it. I wish they'd find Irvine's body and his camera...)

I thought the movie was quite good, but I think it was easier for me to follow, because I already knew the characters (and also knew their fate), for someone who doesn't it might be tricky to follow a dozen stories at the same time. I've seen the IMAX Everest documentary from 1996 before and real footage is of course better, but the story was rather faithful to the facts we know (omitting most of the other people on the mountain that time). Worth watching.

When reading some of the critics I noticed Jon Krakauer's comment that the movie was bad and that people should read his book "Into thin air" to find out what really happened. (It's nowadays somewhat a classic about mountaineering catastrophes.) I'd noticed the local library actually has it here in English, so of course I borrowed it. I've read Anatoli Boukreev's "Climb" already in NZ, but for some weird reason I hadn't read the Krakauer book before. It was great, and in some parts it's still haunting me. I don't have any urge to go mountain climbing myself, but I love to read such stories where the survival is often hanging on a very thin line. (I don't have any ambition whatsoever for anything, so maybe that's the reason why I like to read about people who do.) All in all, I think the Everest catastrophe in 1996 shows once again that the true stories can often be more heart-braking than the fictional ones...

Everest poster
The poster for the movie Everest. (Pic: Universal Pictures)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Heavenly events

Last night there was a lunar eclipse to be seen in Europe. As an amateur astronomer in Finland I've mostly got used to the fact that it's always clouded or raining when something interesting is happening. This was the case there this time, too. Most of Finland was covered under a thick blanket of clouds and there were only a few places where the eclipse was well visible.

For some really weird reason this doesn't seem to be the case in Germany. This year there have been several really exciting events in the sky and so far none of them have been unobservable because of clouds. (For me it feels unfathomable.) So, here are a couple of pics of the astronomical events from the past half a year:

Lunar eclipse on 28.9.2015
Lunar eclipse from 28.9.2015. Very pretty, but I don't like the term "blood moon". Somehow, for me it's not the case.

Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus
In the end of June, Jupiter and Venus (brighter of the two) got very close to each other in the sky. In Finland they appeared low in the horizon in the middle of the light nights, so it was a tricky thing to make photos of. Here it was much easier, especially when a happy blackbird came to see the event, too, and gave a concert on the go.

Partial solar eclipse in March
In March there was a partial solar eclipse and again it was crispy clear sky. We had some fun in the park while taking some photos and observing the eclipse with solar viewing glasses and filters. It was great fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

In the Shadow of the Pines

So, I finally managed to finish my semester project. I did an interactive animation about some creatures one can encounter in the Finnish folklore: väki, haltia and ihtiriekko. It was a long road to get it where I ended up, and the thing still doesn't work perfectly. (I'm not a programmer, but it was fun to explore how it is done. And I'm surprised how much I was able to debug and achieve!) Still, all in all I'm happy how it came out in the end (considering it was only a one semester work). My teachers would hope I'd continue it for my Master's thesis, but I'm not sure yet. First, I'll just relax a bit. :)

Here's the documentation of the project. (Since it's interactive I can only post the documentation.)

In the Shadow of the Pines from West468 on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I love books. And more precisely, non-fiction books. I do read a lot of fiction, too, but I tend to borrow them from the library instead of buying. Some time ago I calculated that 88% from the books I own is non-fiction. When I look at my bookshelf I feel the knowledge squeezed between those covers and feel bad that I don't read more. (As if. I always have around 5-8 books that I read simultaneously, fiction and non-fiction, and sometimes it takes months or years before I finish the first ones I started.)

The biggest part of my non-fiction books are about popular science (mostly physics) and history, but there are other gems there as well. Here are a few examples of the books I've read lately.

I love non-fiction
Genome by Matt Ridley
Another love of mine: Genetics (as well as other DNA level biology). I found this book from a bookshop in London and read it in a couple of days. The author has divided the book into 23 chapters and each chapter he's presenting one chromosome and some specific aspect that chromosome carries in its genes. Very well written and the selected features are well picked. Would have read longer about this, though. (It's hard to find good popular science books about genetics. Any references are welcome.)

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield
This one I bought from a bookshop in Hamburg, when I just needed to get something to read. It was better than I thought and I especially liked the autobiography parts of the book. (What is his story and how did he ended up flying high.) Also, as a child of the space shuttle age it was extremely interesting to read about what goes around with astronauts today. In the space shuttle you could fit easily half-dozen people. So you had the people who flew the thing and the people who did the science (so roughly divided) for a couple of weeks. Now you have the same half-dozen for half a year in the ISS and they need to know it all from plumbing to growing salad as well as fixing your house from inside and out.

Serving the Reich by Philip Ball
The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler. Great book about moral dilemmas in science that I grabbed from the bookshop when having a holiday at home in Turku. The book explains what the scientist like Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg and Peter Debye in Germany did and didn't do during the Nazi regime. We've never grown out from these morality questions, have we?

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford
Genghis Khan is normally depicted as a furious war lord who conquered half of the known world on his horse. But he was also extremely cunning and farseeing states man whose idea about gender equality was surprisingly modern. By sending his daughters to marry the neighbouring kingdoms' sons, Genghis Khan made sure he could go on fighting without any disturbing skirmishes behind his back. The daughters had enough of their father's blood to make sure that it also happened that way. It's a pity there is not much information left about their reigns. And even more so that the soul banner of Genghis Khan finally went missing in the mid-1900s.

A Man of Misconceptions by John Glassie
Biography of Athanasius Kircher, an extremely curious monk from 1600s who is also said to be one of the first scientists. Some of his colourful theories might not have been that correct, but that is to be expected from someone who lived that long ago. What really makes him interesting is his personality: obnoxious smartass who thought he knows the answer to everything. (And got many people to believe that, too.) Greatly entertaining book, not just because of science but also its history and why the science is nowadays done like it is.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Today it is 20 years since my name appears first time in the observatory book of our amateur observatory in Iso-Heikkilä. For me, it also marks for how long I've been an active amateur astronomer in Turun Ursa, our association. It's weird how I still can remember how I climbed up that bedrock hill and how nervous I was, because I had promised to write something for the local Turun Ursa paper and they had asked me to come and visit. At that time I wasn't that sure about myself, I had been bullied at school a couple of year earlier and I had a very bad self-esteem. Still, I thank the gods that I went there again... and again... and again. There was just something in those like-minded people that gave me the feeling of belonging. (Plus the crazy nerdy humour. I just found some old article about us where I mentioned that a couple of our members had calculated that their newborn son grows 17 water molecules per second. Who wouldn't love those kind of conversations!?)

I can't really remember when my astronomy hobby has started, but I estimate perhaps around when I was 5 or 6. One of my earliest about the subject is that we borrowed a book for my brother about astronomy from the local library. It had a drawn picture of stellar lifespan and I found that pic extremely mesmerising. When I was 7 I already gave a lesson about astronomy at school (for each class separately). My first telescope I got when I was 8 and my second real one when I was 12. With that RET-50 I spent hours in our balcony in freezing temperatures looking for objects, starhopping and learning to know the constellations. I also read a lot about astronomy and learned the basics as well as entertained myself by reading star catalogues and learning the Messier objects by heart. (My god, I hated the ones that were not supposed to be visible in Finland - even if in the end we've observed them in our countryside observatory.)

So, when I was 15 I was ready to enter the social side of my hobby. I was lucky, since in Turku there's extremely long tradition with amateur astronomy as well as absolutely amazing facilities for this hobby. In these past 20 years Turun Ursa has had its ups and downs, but now with the renovation of Kevola (the countryside observatory) it's going better than ever. I'm very proud that I've been part of the association's history and hope I've been able to give back something to it for all those things it has given me. I wouldn't be the same person without it. Thank you Iso-Heikkilä. Every time I visit you I feel like coming back home.

Iso-Heikkilä observatory

Saturday, August 22, 2015

3D Printing

During the past semester I had a course of 3D printing. It was mostly a disaster, since first there was a train strike and our teacher couldn't get to Weimar and then the school's 3D printer broke up and they couldn't get the repair parts in time and then the lesson-free time already started and I was in Finland for the second weekend. (It was supposed to be a two-weekends course, but the other weekend was cancelled four times.) Talking about the German efficiency.

So, I couldn't really print anything with the 3D printer, but it was ok, because I like to do things with a budget. Meaning that people wouldn't always need to buy expensive toys to do stuff. That's why I acted as my own 3D printer and made a small Master West468 from the old BBC scifi series The Tripods. (Yes, that explains a lot about my internet nick, doesn't it?)

First, I made a 3D model in Blender. The teacher asked us to use Rhinoceros as well, so you can see that model in the pic as well, but personally I prefer Blender. After this, I used a freeware programme called 123D Make to create the layers for cardboard. Since it's a free programme it has its failings. I couldn't get it to show the other leg of the master, so I had to reflect each layer manually to make the tripod into a tripod instead of a bipod.

3D models of the master

After the model pdf files were ready it was just tedious cutting for a couple of days. I noticed on the go that it's a good idea to be really exact with the thickness of the sheets, since even 0,2 mm difference will get multiplied when you have 100+ sheets. I left a few of the layers out when the model started to deform. Still, the result was rather neat. George was happy to have a friend for his world conquering plans. That'll be interesting to see...

Building the 3D model of the master

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Noctilucent clouds

Waking up this good old blog again... The summer is here and almost gone, but there are still lots of warm days to come. I just came back from my trip to Finland. I say "trip", because "holiday" would give you a bit false idea about the time. I mean, I have the idea that "holiday" means certain time (at least a week), when you just relax, lay back and enjoy the time when you don't need to do anything. Maybe just read a book or sleep. Well, I had a "holiday" last time in 1997. But it's alright, because I love to plan things to do when I don't have anything else. Still, this trip was a bit of an overkill. I had three family celebrations with dozens of people (one of them was organised by us), one astronomy camp and several astronomy gatherings. But I also spent time with my best friends and my computer (school work).

I was in Finland when the first dark nights started after the summer lightness. It is a great time, since the colours of the sky are so pretty. Even if we can't see stars that well during the summer there are lots of other things to see. Like noctilucent clouds. They are really pretty phenomenon, which still is not understood fully. Noctilucent clouds are clouds which form so high in the atmosphere (ca. 80km) that even if the sun has set on the ground, up there it's still shining. There were a couple of really pretty shows of these. Here are a couple of pictures.

Paint the sky with noctilucent clouds
One night I couldn't sleep so I painted the sky with noctilucent clouds

Turku Cathedral with noctilucent clouds
Turku Cathedral and noctilucent clouds

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jigsaw puzzling - again

As I've raved here before, I love jigsaw puzzles. When I was a kid we always used to do them, and later I've learned to love that meditative state when I need to totally concentrate on the pieces and find their places in the canvas. It's hard to find proper jigsaz puzzles, though, since I really need to like the picture before I buy the puzzle. I don't like animals or drawed / painted / cartoon puzzles. Sceneries need to have big areas of sky or other challenging details and nice colours and I concentrate on the puzzles that are 2000 pieces or more. (If the picture is really nice, I might do a 1000 piece, too, but then it needs to be something really special, like the space shuttle cabin puzzle I found a couple of months ago.)

Some people ask me what I do with the finished puzzles and if I'll hang them on my wall. I would never do that. Nothing is worse than a dusty old puzzle, glued together, with a couple of lower pieces already fallen off. And why would I glue my puzzles together anyway? I only buy puzzles that I really like, so I'm sure there'll be the time when I want to reassemble them. So after finishing, I'll just wait few days, take them apart and put them into their box again. Hmm, sometimes after I've played a bit. :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Harold Lloyd

One of the good things in living in Weimar is that Richard Siedhoff is living there, too. He is a local silent film pianist and organises often film experiences, where he plays the piano for the soundtrack. I especially love the silent comedies of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, but they are very seldom showed in any movie theater.

My first memories of Harold Lloyd are from the mid-80s. My uncle had taped the Time-Life series of Lloyd's comedies on VHSs and we always watched them while visiting him. I still remember well the funny narrator and breath-taking scenes of running, climbing, chasing, etc. etc. I loved those video cassettes, but unfortunately my uncle lost them when he moved to another place. They are not available anywhere, especially not with the Finnish narrator voice. :(

Still, I jumped to the chance to see Harold Lloyd film in a movie theater, so of course I was there, when Siedhoff played "The Kid Brother" last Sunday. It was awesome. Before, I also saw Buster Keaton's short films in the same way played by him. Such a nice experience, especially since the films are not digitalised, meaning that the experience is perfect with the sounds of the analogue projector humming in the background. Absolutely lovely. (I also changed my handy ringtone into the "Hooray for Harold Lloyd" version of the intro from those Time-Life series. Now I always need to smile when it rings.)

Harold Lloyd in 'The Kid Brother'

Friday, March 27, 2015

Principia Textilica skirt

As mentioned a few blog entries back, one of the smaller projects I did this past semester was a skirt out of old jeans. That was part of the course Principia Textilica, where we needed to create some handicraft with the help of code. I coded flower patterns in Processing and transferred them onto the jeans skirt. Here's how the skirt came out in the end. Nice. Now just waiting for the warmer weather to arrive. :) (If you want to see more detailed information about how I did the flowers, take a look at my course documentation.)

The jeans skirt with the coded flowers

Monday, March 23, 2015

Northern lights wall rug

This semester starts to be at the end and my projects are ready. The biggest work I did during the winter was the project with the northern lights wall rug: a rug (traditional Finnish ryijy) with fiber optics in it, that show the activity level of the northern lights. I wanted to do something crafty but with a wine that means something to me. I still need to add some fiber optics for the thing and play with the code, but at this stage the prototype is already working. Here is a documentation video I made in the end of the course.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Media archaeology of interactive exhibitions

One of the courses I had during this semester was in the area of media philosophy, more exactly about media archaeology. (We have to take at least one scientific module during our studies, this was mine.) Now, I don't have _any_ background in philosophy or different media theories. My programme is a very practical one, and all the other students in the course were from media sciences and media culture - they literally breath texts and theories. The course was also in German, which I don't have anything against, but academic philosophical texts do tend to escape me. Luckily we also had some texts in English. Still, most of the time I didn't have much clue what we were talking about. It was great! :D (I'm used to courses where I get bored, since I get the idea behind the lectures already in the beginning and then I just waste my time thinking of something else the rest of the lesson. It's a bad habit of mine.)

So it was nice and challenging, the course, and I got lots of new ideas and ways of thinking. Our semester contribution was to write 15 pages about media archeology about some specific subject we could select ourselves. I took naturally the science centres as my theme, even if I must confess I still don't exactly know what media archeology really is about. (Yes, yes, I have an idea, but I'm not sure if that's it all or if I missed some pretty important part.) I post my essay here, since I found some links and references that might help others who are interested in the same area. (Our teacher was nice enough to let me write in English - thank god!

Media archeology in interactive exhibitions

Hopefully it'll be of help for someone. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Skirt out of old jeans

Even if we don't have the lessons anymore it doesn't mean that there would be less work. I'm slowly working with the projects that need to be finished by the end of semester (31.3.). As mentioned before, I have some handcrafting to do for the Textilica course. Today, I finished a skirt I made out of old jeans. I mean to decorate it with some stuff that's relevant for the course (I'll update later), so it's not the skirt itself that's important. But I'm rather happy I managed to make it, since I've never done a skirt like that before. (I won't post the instructions here, the net is full of them, just google if interested.) It came out better than my normal things, maybe because I did everything really well, like ripped the seams instead of just cutting them. (It was a great idea, I wouldn't have hade enough fabric left if I cut them!)

Weimar is the heaven for any handicraft freak, since there are so many good shops for this kind of stuff. I even bought some thicker needles for my sewing machine for this (I've broken too many needles sewing jeans). Let's see if the rest of my plans work as well. :)

Skirt I made out of old jeans

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Coding handicrafts

This semester in Bauhaus-Uni starts to be in the end, next week the lectures will finish and the lecture-free time will start. There are still things to do, but at least I can concentrate to what I need to do. It's been a busy semester. The biggest task for me has been to learn the basics of a new programming language, Processing. Before the semester started I didn't even know it was a programming language, but now I've grown to be a decent newbie with it. :) It actually is quite a lot of fun!

I've needed to use Processing with both of my main creative courses, so I've got a good start of learning it. My bigger project is still a bit in the middle, but another course I took is about coding handicrafts. That means, investigating the process of planning handicrafts through the eyes of computing. (Yeah, pretty cool, eh?) If you want to see what are some of the things we've gone through, or especially if you interested in a plethora of great links, take a look at the Github page for our course. Our teacher is pretty thorough and keen about this thing, so if you check the Tools-folder you will find lots of inspirational links about this subject.

Here are a couple of things I've done so far for the course. The first one came to my mind when I was in Berlin for Kraftwerk's "Katalog" shows. After listening to Radioactivity for 8 times in 8 days I couldn't shake the morse code they are playing in the beginning of the song. (I don't mind, it's my favourite from them anyway.) So, I quickly designed and realised this bookmark / necklace / whatever.

Radioactivity morsecode bookmark

We also needed to play with Pa++ern, which our teacher had coded into a Processing programme. We needed to code our initials into the programme and use it to create some real work. I kinda left it into something really simple, since I just liked how it looked like with the initials, and then I made this small pouch for myself. It just lacks a suitable chain, but when I get one I can use it as a party bag. How nice. :)

Eka pouch