Dec 7, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: The Weapons Edition

Finally finished playing Witcher III  yesterday. A great game, even though there were a few too many side quests for my taste. Loved the ending, but then, I got the good one:) While playing, I came across some really weird names for weapons. Let's check out a few etymologies!

Halberd (you know, the axe thing mounted on a long handle) comes from Middle High German halmbarte "long axe with handle", from halm, handle + barte "hatchet." The alternative etymology is kind of hilarious: the word might come from helm, helmet, so an axe for bashing in helmets. Speaking of hilarious, halberd in Finnish is "hilpari." Cracks me up every time.

Rapier, as you might have guessed, is of French origin. The origin is uncertain, but it's thought to come from raspiere "poker, scraper."

Pike is an easy one, it's from Middle French piquer "to puncture, pierce."

Flail comes from the West German borrowing of the Latin flagellum "winnowing tool, flail," in Latin "whip."

Arrow is interesting, because it ultimately goes back to Latin arcus, arch, which originally referred to the sun's motion in the sky. The PIE root *arku- means "bowed, curved."So the word "arrow" refers to both the bow and arrow, in a way. The word bow is from Proto-Germanic bugon, "bow."


Dec 6, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

Time to watch the Unknown Soldier and the President's Independence Day reception on TV again. It's  hours of people shaking hands. Yes, we are crazy. 

Dec 5, 2016

Book Recommendation: Deadly Skills and Improvised Weapons

Writing a badass character while being, well, not-so-badass yourself? The 100 Deadly Skills books by Clint Emerson, a retired Navy SEAL, might help. The books are very entertaining read just for fun, but they're also fantastic for researching those secret agents/assassins/bounty hunters many of us  genre types love to write. And it's not just the skills themselves that might come in useful, but the whole mindset of the "Violent Nomad," as Emerson puts it, can help you get into your protag's head and create a more realistic character. 

100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangrerous Situation is just than, a well-rounded look into what it means to be a Violent Nomad. The book is split into sections: Mission Prep, Infiltration, Infrastructure Development, Surveillance, Access, Collection, Operational Actions, Sanitisation, and Exflirtation and Escape. Need to know how to trick fingerprint scanning software, turn a newspaper into a weapon,  or to make an improvised infrared light? Emerson's got your back. 

Do you love Jackie Chan movies? Me too. That's why A Guide to Improvised Weaponry by Master Sergeant Terry Schappert, U.S. Army Special Forces, and Adam Slutsky caught my eye. No more boring action scenes, guys! Why not have your protag pick up a plunger or salad tongs instead of a gun? The scene practically writes itself.

In 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative's Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster Emerson not only gives tips on how to survive a natural disaster or survive in the wild but also talks about defending your home, securing public spaces, and signaling for help. Here you'll learn how to escape a flooded vehicle and to survive a shark attack.  

A word of warning: reading these might leave you feeling a bit jittery for a while and seeing danger everywhere. Hopefully you won't have to actually use most of these skills in real life, but hey, some of this stuff might come in handy sometime.

Now go write that action scene with the plunger. I know you want to!

Dec 2, 2016

Coffee and Cake: Pink Vanilla Desserts

Our coffee shop expeditions continued this week with Pink Vanilla Desserts,  a café run by a couple of American expats who make the best cupcakes in Turku. In addition to visiting the cafés in Turku and Uusikaupunki, you can also order American-style cakes for birthdays and other special occasions, and they're on Foodora, so you can get a box of cupcakes right to your door if you live in delivery range. The shop is located at Maariankatu 2 on Puutori, so about a five minute walk from city centre.

Look at all the cupcakes! And brownies! And cinnamon buns!  There's even a vegan option!

The sweets are the main event, but the café also serves bagels, toasted sandwiches, and an American breakfast with pancakes. 

This café is perfect for those times when I feel a bit nostalgic for California (especially in November, when Finland is at its worst) and crave for something to take the edge off. Like my little sister said, these cupcakes taste like America. I'm pretty sure the kiddies would love this place, and the café is child-friendly.  Can't wait to take my niece and nephew!

But hey, Finland in November is not all bad. These Christmas trees had appeared on Teatterisilta last week. The lights make it feel like a fairytale forest. 

Nov 30, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Moon Goddesses

So, I was disappointed with the lack of strong female characters in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, so let's take a look at some moon goddesses this week. I like the Greek ones the best, because those ladies are badass. 

Artemis, name of unknown origin, is the Greek goddess of the hunt, childbirth, wild animals, virginity, and the moon, of course. The Roman equivalent is Diana. Her name comes from the PIE-root *dyeu, "to shine." Artemis is often depicted with the bow and arrow in hand, and the cypress and the deer were sacred to her. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and twin sister to Apollo. She could out-hunt any man and joined the fight in the Trojan war. That's pretty badass, I think. 

Selene, the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, was the personification of the moon. She drove her moon chariot across the sky.  Her name is probably connected from the Greek selas, "light, brightness, bright flame, flash of the eye."

Phoebe was one of the original Titans, daughter of Uranus and Gaia. Her name is from the Greek phoibos, "bright, pure."As well as being associated with the moon, she was probably the goddess of prophesy and oracular intellect.

Hecate, associated with witchcraft, poisonous plants, the crossroads, entrance-ways, ghosts and necromancy, gets her name from the Greek hekatos, "far-shooting." She was seen as an aspect of Artemis, so that probably explains the name.  She is often depicted as a triplicate goddess holding a torch, key, serpent, and dagger. Sometimes she has three heads, a horse, dog, and serpent. And she fought the Titans. In the tale of Jason and the Argonauts, Medea was a priestess of Hecate, but you can't hold that against the goddess. Oh, and did you know one name for aconite is hecateis?

There are many others. For a longer list, check out the Wikipedia article here


Nov 28, 2016

Science Fiction Classics: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress cover
Image from

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It's one of his most famous works and got a Nebula nomination in 1966 and won the Hugo award in 1967. The book tells the story of the Lunar colonies breaking away from Earth. It's written in first person, narrated by the main character, Manuel "Man/Mannie"Garcia O'Kelly-Davies, a computer technician who becomes a key person in the revolt.

The idea is that Luna was first a penal colony where Earth shipped their criminals and rejects who worked and lived under the supervision of a warden who stood in for the Earth Authority. At the start of the book most "loonies" have either completed their sentence or are the descendants of prisoners. They grow grain, which they have to ship to Earth and sell to the Authority at a pittance. One reason the revolt starts because the loonies can't support their families on what the Authority pays them.

Another key figure in the book is Professor Bernardo de la Paz, through whom Heinlein explores the concept of "rational anarchy," a belief that the state and government are useless, and that responsible individuals make the law. On Luna, wrongdoers get spaced and people take care of themselves and their families. They pay for what they use and operate on a peculiar kind of morality grown from the harsh conditions on the Moon. The main principle is TANSTAAFL, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."

In the book, the gender ratio is skewed with there being many more men than women, which has led to a system of "line marriages," a kind of polyamory. Women have power to choose their mates and sexual violence is almost unheard of; anyone who tries it gets spaced. Supposedly women are equal in society, too, but the main female character, Wyoh Knott, was a letdown for me. For someone who has lived on Luna almost her whole life she sure needs a lot of things explained to her. I believe the phrase "oh, honey, that's not how it works" was used on one occasion. Of course she's beautiful, a fact that gets hammered in any time anyone meets her. And guess what she does for a living? She's a surrogate mother. Also, for a badass revolutionary she's kind of a wimp, like she's afraid to stay in a hotel room without a man to keep her company. After she marries Mannie, she pretty much dedicates herself to wifely duties.

My favourite character was actually the computer, Mike/Michelle. I liked the humour and that it didn't feel stereotypical but a character in its own right. And a sentient computer that isn't homicidal? That's a change.

One thing that bothered me while reading was the Lunar dialect Mannie uses, especially the way he drops the word "the." It's explained that this is because a lot of the people on Luna are Russian, but to me it felt like someone doing an impression of a Russian, not organic and original like the Nadsat slang in A Clockwork Orange, for example. It took me almost half the book to get used to it. While I liked many elements of the book, to me it felt quite slow until about halfway through.While a lot of the world-building is interesting and realistic, the idea that growing grain hydroponically on the Moon would be cheaper than on Earth is quite a stretch.

My final verdict? This novel is definitely worth reading, but once is probably enough for me.

Science Fiction Classics read 45/193.

Nov 25, 2016

A Day of Writing

Tuesday, November 15th: I am a woman on a mission: write a hard science fiction story for the Finnish Lumen ja jään antologia, deadline November 30th, only 15 days. I'm usually not this late at getting started, but I didn't think I'd submit anything after my first attempt mutated into something completely different. But I have an idea I want to try out and a day off from work, so let's begin. *cracks knuckles*

7:30 Got up, breakfast, two eps of How I Met Your Mother

8:30 Finished synopsis for Cosmos Pen articles, sent it.

8:51 Blank document.
Words: 0
Cups of tea: 1
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 2

9:22 Have a title, character names, and a short outline.
Words: 91
Cups of tea: 1,5
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 2

9:25 Time for a break, one episode of HIMYM

10:02 Back at the computer
Words: 91
Cups of tea: 2
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 3

11:41 Lunch break
Words: 537
Cups of tea: 3
Music: Mass Effect trilogy soundtracks
HIMYM episodes: 3

3:09 p.m. Back at the computer. Ended up reading some Sandman Slim (10 %, 'cause it's an e-book), checking my email, doing stupid stuff on the internet. Then took a "short" nap. Two hours.Yeah. Seemed like a good idea at the time . . .
Words: 537
Cups of tea: 3
Music: Loaded by The Velvet Underground
HIMYM episodes: 5

5:14 p.m. Dinner time
Words: 988
Cups of tea: 4
Music: The Velvet Underground by The Velvet Underground
HIMYM episodes: 5

7:30 p.m. Back at the computer
Words: 988
Cups of tea: 5
Music: Labyrinth soundtrack
HIMYM episodes: 7

10:16 p.m. Done!
Words: 2,161 and 14 pages (The word count is not directly comparable to English works, because the languages are so different. In English this would probably be about 3 - 4 k words.)
Cups of tea: 5
Music: None
HIMYM episodes: 7

Ha, did it!
Oh, crap. Haven't done my French homework yet. Or worked out. Where did the time go?
Maybe I should have watched a little less TV. . .