Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It was a basement restaurant and I walked the white steps down from the street. It had been raining the whole day and I was happy to get inside from the wet darkness. I was a bit early as you can imagine but there were already some people bustling about and I slowly chose a table from the far end of the room. They had coffee and pastries. The room was small and softly lit and the walls were decorated appropriately in the spirit of Kalevala.

Once it started the meeting did feel like a community. I am using the word very consciously. We are living in history. I know that a member can be discharged from the cooperative by a simple decision of the administrative board. And that this in effect means that you lose your property. No quarreling about.

I observed the discourse from my sofa. Most of the members present had beards and everyone who spoke did so with steady confidence. I was surprised to be able to follow everything that was being said without effort. I rather think that I knew quite a lot of it already. Of the construction details that is, not of their history. My vocabulary has already changed and I felt homey and affirmed by the discussion.

On the way home I remembered an evening at my grandparents'. Mikko had to leave for the cooperative meeting. I was bummed that he had to go, but I couldn't say anything as I somehow saw in his face the importance, the necessity and the dignity of his mission. I don't know if he ever spoke there with the steady confidence but I know that he must have sat in the same room with some of the same people I'd hear speaking today. I also don't know if he liked going to the meeting, probably he would have rather stayed home with his granddaugher. But I know that he did go and that he did everything right, just like grandfathers and grandmothers do. And I know that he would have shaken his head in worry and his brows would have furrowed in his ever-present anxiety over me but that he would have known what to do now, too. Just like grandfathers and grandmothers do.

As I walked home to the home that is almost not home anymore as the move date is getting closer and closer I was crying and for the first time I really felt the weight of legacy on my shoulders. Enough so that I am now able to realize that however clichéd it sounds, it really is a thing that feels in your shoulders. And it feels quite lonely. With this house it is just me now. I have to be the one who knows what to do, just like I do. And just tonight I miss my grandfather.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Mums are pretty cool. Mine came to pick me up me for a bird watching expedition this Wednesday night. We drove to Viikki, a nature area in Helsinki, just a bit east from Kumpula, and walked to a birdwatching tower on the waterside.

There were already two guys there, you know the kind: brown greenish jackets with 25 pockets, rough beards and alert friendly eyes, huge cameras standing on tall tripods, relaxed poses looking silently out to the bay. We were silent too. My mum was happy with her binoculars, I was happy with my camera.

The wait was worth it. After an hour or more of standing there, seeing and breathing and watching the sky get darker and darker there was a sound. Cackling from north-east, from the direction of the fields. There were maybe 20 of them. Barnacle geese. They flew just over us and towards west and landed on the bay.

A few seconds and then there was a louder sound, more cackling, from a wider area now, then building up, getting closer, thundering towards us, turning into a machine or a train or an airplane, all around us, and then 3000 geese are flying right above us, over us, everywhere around us. We can see them quite clearly. Their shapes, their wings, their formations, their strength, they are everywhere, they fly fast and in a minute it is over. The last are descending on the bay nearby. The cackling continues more distant on the calm of the bay and when we walk back to the car after some tea from the thermos it is already dark.

Here's some audio:

And pictures, as usual, here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Women and Math

Check out the new layout of the department wep page. The person making the page asked me politely if they might use my picture. Let us recall the standard answer. Yes, of course, anything for the department! However, I did first check that there was nothing obscene written on the blackboard. Which makes me quite angry now that I get asked: "So what did you write on the board that they had to censor it?" Yes, for the nth time: the box on the right hand side is not a censor box but in fact the logo of the university. For reference check out any department, physics for example, or the University's main page.

When I'd started as a grad student, or perhaps even earlier during my undergrad there were a lot of studies of "math and women" floating around and I got asked all the time: "How does being a woman affect your studies and your career?" I always answered that if anything it has had a positive effect. Which is obviously true, whether for the good of women in math in general or not let us leave for some other discussion. Now, however, I would like to add one point that seems insignificant after one incident and still quite insignificant after twenty but starts slowly getting on your nerves after a few years of such treatment.

What on earth am I talking about? Let us recall. Why is my picture on the web page again? Well, a few years ago there was a need to take pictures for some departmental leaflet. Naturally all the females were asked to pose as fake lecturers in order to get socially influential pictures. No big deal, I said, anything for the department!

But any time there is a need for a representative, a teacher, a panelist, a comittee member, a person to be interviewed, they will want a woman. And as there are not expectionally many women, the same people are asked all the time. And god help you if you once do a good job, they will never ever ever ask anybody else again. And so your precious work time trickles slowly away as you will never ever ever learn how to say no.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


The room was full of light. Maybe there was a slight greenness in the furniture. We stood on a soft carpet almost at once. There were two candles on the table and I put the small white box down beside one of them. He looked at us in the eyes and spoke with conviction and I agreed with everything he said. We wanted to kiss long before he was done. Then he came around the table and shook my hand and said: "Congratulations, Mrs –". And yes, before you ask, I did keep my name.

Afterwards we were standing by the sea. There was a wind blowing almost like in Iceland. I was slightly afraid of being blown away. The trees were still yellow and orange and the sun was bright and sparkling on the waves. There was a sailing boat or two. We walked on the cliffs for a while and then sat down in the white gazebo. We were both speaking on the phone for a long long while.

There are no pictures. I wore my green highschool graduation dress, a necklace from Iceland and a hair pin from Alexandria. Tommi had a dark suit and a grey tie but his pin with Kevätpörriäinen was unfortunately in Vaasa. My camera was in my purse.

But don't be angry if you didn't know. Nobody knew. We got married just the two of us.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Window Shopping

We took a ride to Pinjainen today, that's Billnäs in Swedish and close to Pohja, which means literally "the bottom" and is close to Karjaa which is about an hour drive west from Helsinki. The day was beautiful: sunny and in all the colours of the Finnish fall.

And I bought a window. There is something sea in it and something cat too.

And I took some pictures. Just a couple so they were easy to go through. Check them out though.

Oh, and ten points if you catched the quote and were able deduce the name of the window. We'll see if it holds... the name I mean.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Walking Back

You know what is sad? That there is a colourful warm sunny fall outside and I've become estranged from my camera. This morning I walked early to the house. You know about the house? Well, for now I guess it's enough to know that there is a house, well a half of a house really. It's in Käpylä, the place where the fall of my imagination has always lived.

The blanket of rustling yellow at your feet, the smell of moist ground after last night's rain, the freash air and the sense of possibilities, the red and the green and the brown and the yellow in all the leaves in all the colours of all the houses all round. And a feeling of walking back from school.