How to compliment an engineer….

Showing someone a design I came up with today I got the best of all compliments for an engineer:

I am paraphrasing but conversation went something like this:

“Thats weird!”

“So you don’t think it will work?”

“No, it will work, and we should definitely do it, but its just weird!”

And ladies and gentlemen, thats how you compliment an engineer.


A thorough retaliation, served up 25 years later….

I woke up this morning to the following email from my dad.

You said, ‘if you are going to drink whiskey, drink the best you can afford.” So, thank you. I am drinking the best you can afford.

Love Dad

And that is what happens when your dad gets access to your liquor cabinet and you are on the other side of the planet and can not stop the inevitable. It took him 25 years, but his revenge for my teenage raids on his alcohol supply was both thorough and proportionate. Well-played dad.

Swearing when English is not your first language

Working on a particularly nasty engineering problem with a co-worker – I slipped up and swore at the office. I immediately apologized, which brought about a round of confusion followed by a really interesting conversation.

I am working over seas and so although he is fluent, the co-workers in question has english as his second or third language. He made an interesting observation, that for non native speakers swearing gets used in english language popular media so much that it just seems part of the language. There are no levels or apparent filters. So while he understands that we don’t all walk around dropping f-bombs like in the movies or on TV, its totally unclear what the cultural contexts around swearing is. So as a result swearing is just seen as any other part of the language. Which is kind of fascinating given the range of feelings and social constructs that exist around swearing back home.

Laundry Day!

My apartment came with this clever drying rack that unfolds to a hold a surprising amount of clothes to dry over night, then folds back up into almost no space for storage.


Seattle is so damp that hanging your clothes outside to dry is sort of a gamble at the best of times. So I have not hang dried my clothes in years. I might have to get one of these drying racks for home though – they do a really good job and it leaves the fabric feeling starched.

And yes, I only brought packed black tee shirts and jeans on this trip. It was an accident.

Tom of Finland

I don’t care what advances gay rights or gay culture may have made in the states – we just can’t touch the Finns. I was doing some shopping, puzzling over labels on coffee – when I looked up and saw this bag of coffee.


I found out later that Tom of Finland was apparently a really important gay rights activist in Finland, and an artist. So as part of the 100 year celebration of the founding of Finland (in 1917), some of his art was being displayed on products here.

I was disappointed when I went back to get a few bags of this coffee to send home to a friends. They had sold out of that cover, and the new art was not anywhere near as good.

Barnacle Building

You can tell Helsinki is a port city. Like I said in earlier posts, they have a lot of beautiful detail in their older buildings. The oldest have a lot of tiny nautical themed details. For fairly typical example there are what appear to be a pair of salmon on the moldings of the windows at the office.


My favorite so far though is this building that has barnacles under the eves. Its so subtle that from a distance it just looks like a turbulent pattern of bumps.


Then when you look closer you can see it is incredibly detailed. Someone had a lot of fun with this, and it was done long enough ago to have been a hell of a lot of work.


Nazi tanks in Finland?

Here is a riddle, what is the last thing a jew in a foreign city thousands of miles from home wants to see? Well if Nazi tanks are not the first thing on your list, that’s understandable, but they should be.

I was walking the streets around my apartment on a quiet Sunday afternoon to get to know the city. Out of the corner of my eye I spy what I think is a Nazi tank. So for like three or four meters I kept walking, figuring I must just be jet-lagged. I’m sure what I saw though – and it got my whole attention fast – so I backtracked.


Turns out – yup. It was two tanks. I found out a few days later – in what was an embarrassing cultural faux-pas that they are not in fact Nazi tanks. Luckily I made the mistake with a close friend, so he set me straight rather that get more than a little offended. This type of swastika was apparently in use in Finland before the Nazi’s came to power. It also seems complicated historically since the Fins allied with the Germans in world war two to fight off the Russians, then fought them when they were fleeing back out of Russia.

Anyway – I think this building is some sort of museum. Or possibly a barracks for a reserve unit. There was some artillery on what looked like display, but none of it looked functional. So I am going with museum.


There were some plaques on the side of the building. I’ll need to them translated, but I am waiting until I have a firmer grasp on what might offend people to ask.




The fins fought a bunch of battles that you tend not to hear about in western history books. They cut close and hard into the country. On some of the older buildings, even right in the center of the city, you see signs of damage from the war. The statue of the three blacksmiths I posted about has bomb damage on the anvil. Or the building with the tanks has this scarring on one wall which I think is from a bomb blast.


Easy to forget just how big the scope of world war II was, and what it cost everyone. I grew up in a place where our survival time in the event of world war III was measured in microseconds. The nuclear blasts from taking our the Nikey missile bases would roll across Seattle until they hit the mountains, then roll back as a shockwave leveling everything that was not vaporized in the initial blast. While horrifying, there was nothing we could do about it – so it didn’t impact our daily lives. Certainly not like this. It was a totally different type of war. Humans can do some tremendous things, but we also suck.

Kaivopuisto Airshow – June 9th, 2017

A friend here let me tag along when he took his family out to the airshow. We walked down to the harbor, and watched planes of all vintages and models tear up the sky for 3 hours. There were tens of thousands of people there, and it was awesome.

There was a lot of amazing planes to see – but for my money the biggest showoff of the night was the pilot of the Airbus A350. He came in so slow and low his entire instrument panel must have been lit up red and screaming at him. Then after taking what could only be called leisurely laps, he slowly wiggled his wings and flew off. It was like watching a bear doing ballet, but good ballet. Your brain just didn’t know what to make of it.

My mouth was hanging open during his lower fly-bys but here is the airbuss. The seagulls were thoroughly unimpressed by all the planes.


Later when the Euro-fighter or the Saab 35 Draken were flying they were definitely faster, more agile, and in every way the owners of the sky still – hard to forget someone flying an airbus in a way I want to describe as languid. The Draken did make good use of that afterburner though, that sucker was loud!


The red arrows came screaming in with 9 planes and spent like 20 minutes making alternating between making you think they were going to crash into each other, or literally telling stories in the sky with smoke trails. At one point – two of them drew a giant heart, while a third turned his smoke trail on and off to put an arrow through it. Totally bad ass flying.


All in all this was a lovely Friday night. Unfortunately the drugs I was taking for my jet lag and for my cold both wore off on the way back from the show. My friends wife is a delightful woman, and I recall having an interesting conversation with her, but the last 10 minutes of it are a total blank. I was just shot. I needed to run some tests while I had the office to myself though – so I went out for Rammen before hitting work again. Thats when I discovered another Gin and tonic mystery garnish – basil leaf served mulled like in a Mohito. Have people been drinking their Gin and tonics like this all along? Maybe it is just living in Australia for so long – but I have always been a lime wedge and good jin and quality tonic or nothing guy. Finland’s doing its best to convert me though.