Saturday, May 31, 2008

It is Summer

My work year is officially over. The last courses ended and Friday was the day for the graduation ceremony for my school, Turun iltalukio. We study late in the evening and that is why the ceremony is also in the evening. We teach adults and it is not unusual that our students have children who graduate also. The big day in regular schools was Saturday and this way the children can attend their parent’s ceremony and vice versa.

The ceremony consists of musical performances, speeches and the students receive their diplomas and the white cap which is the symbol for a high school graduate.

The cap is almost the same as in Sweden, except that the Finnish cap has a lyre and the Swedish cap has a cockade of blue and yellow, the colours of the Swedish flag. The lyre of our school is smaller than the one in these pictures. At the time the size of the lyre indicated how Finnish – minded the student was. The Finnish – Swedish students have a 22 mm lyre, Finnish normally the 16 mm neutral one, ours is the 14 mm one indicating originally very extreme Finns. The cap comes with the lyre of the University of Helsinki and it should be changed to the one of the University the student goes to, but I have not changed mine yet to the lyre of the University of Turku. I have thought about it, but every First of May I notice that I did not do it this year either.

Now some of the students have finished a dream they always had, some will go to the University and some to ammattikorkeakoulu, which means "School of Higher Vocational Education". They want to call themselves as Universities of Applied Sciences, but the Universities are not very happy about that. We don’t actually have colleges and even those seem to vary from one country to another.

Here is a picture of one of my students from the long math courses, Nicholas, who kindly gave me permission to publish his picture.

At the same time this is my answer to Rashmi Kathuria’s Meme Passion Quilt, which I received in February. This is the main reason I have continued my job as a teacher even though sometimes I feel that my job is not very much appreciated, at least when my employer, the city of Turku is concerned.

Now I have 3 months off from teaching and I am starting to explore the possibilities of blogging and the wonderful community Passionate Teachers to add new methods in my teaching.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My Conceptis

The wonderful thing I have been waiting for over a year has finally come true; Conceptis puzzles launched the new website. That is the main reason for my blog silence; I have been answering questions on the forums, but more importantly: I have been puzzling on the computer. During the winter I did not have much time to do that and most of the puzzles I did on paper. Conceptis warns on the login page that the puzzles are highly addictive and I can verify that. I am a living proof: once a puzzleholic, always a puzzleholic!

The new site is based on Flash and uses pure CSS and XHTML. All the pages have a light peaceful colouring and beautiful pictures. Here is part of the header:

The pictures are small Flash animations. When you place your cursor over the coffee mugs they start steaming. Conceptis publishes 11 different types of puzzles at the moment. There are 5 types of picture logic puzzles, Pic-A-Pix (nonograms), Link-A-Pix (connecting pixels with a path of certain length), Fill-A-Pix (very much like minesweeper), Maze-A-Pix (solving labyrinths) and Dot-A-Pix (connecting dots). Picture puzzles are my favourite because solving each puzzle gives you a rewarding beautiful picture. LAPs, MAPs and DAPs are mostly very easy but sometimes fun to do when I feel not able to concentrate on demanding challenges. FAPs were very much fun at first but at the moment I am in the crossroads with them. The basic logic puzzles are too easy and the advanced logic puzzles have demanded too much logic for my impatient mind. But now I have the feeling that I am finally starting to get progress. The online puzzles can be saved and I can do a small area at a time. Leaving the puzzle for a while makes miracles. PAPs I love passionately.

The 6 number logic puzzles are Sudoku, Kakuro, Battleships, Hitori, Slitherlink and Hashi. Being a maths teacher has made me a bit reluctant towards them. Working with numbers is not exactly my favourite pastime activity. At the moment Sudokus and Kakuros are playable online and I have solved 4 Kakuro’s this week and that is more than I have ever done before. The game shows me the possible combinations and I don’t have to do the basic arithmetical calculations in my head!

I’ll be posting about these puzzles more later, but let’s take a tour on the wonderful site. The main page has links to the puzzle pages and each link is a combination of a picture and a small Flash tutorial. When you place your cursor over the link, the small tutorial shows how that type is solved. Great for new puzzlers since it takes time to get used to all the names. Here is a picture of those links to PAPs and LAPs:

Let’s dig deeper. The PAP link reveals a page with links to rules, tutorials, history, stories…

There are also new picture thumbnails which are telling you: Go! All these puzzles are a little bit different from each other, B/W, colour, Mega… let’s choose the 2Colour Octopus.

At this point you are of course waiting for the game to open, but no, there are more surprises. A new page with different 2Colour pictures opens and now the pictures are telling you to play! This site contains altogether 7 puzzles to choose from, with different sizes and different colours. Now when you click on the pictures you are finally able to start solving.

After solving the first you start to wonder where you are going to get more when you have solved these. Well, we passed many pages but they will be finished soon anyway. At the bottom of the page is the solution: a treasure trunk which says "More free Pic-a-Pix". When you take your cursor to the trunk it opens and starts to sparkle. My image in just a snapshot. The original is again a Flash animation. When I first time saw it, I suddenly had no hurry to continue; I was just staring at the beautiful scene on my screen.

At this point you have to register to see what is in the trunk. The registration is free. There you get the warning about the puzzles being addictive. After registration you get this page titled My Conceptis:

These thumbnails lead to the free weekly puzzles. At the moment DAPs and Hashis are still missing from the normal set of puzzles. Also MAPs, Hitori’s , Battleships and Slitherlinks are missing the online game, but you can print them on paper. The online puzzles can be saved on your computer and their thumbnails show the state where you saved them. I am not showing my PAP page, because I have almost finished them all. I don’t want to spoil antibody's fun by revealing the pictures. The games are just wonderful! There are features which will probably be changed for the better later, but at the moment small inconvenience could not bother me. I am enjoying every moment and I have even done something I have not probably done in two years. I am solving also the B/W PAPs online. I have always preferred paper but now the game just drags me to play…

My Conceptis also contains the weekly review puzzle. Sending a review to Conceptis gives you a chance to win a T-shirt. It is also very original this year. You have to solve it first using pens suitable for fabrics.

When you want a break from the puzzles you can go to read articles, news and lots of other things from my Conceptis page. You can also go to the links from the Info link on the header. What ever route you choose, you get a page with one puzzle to play again :) This one is on the Info page.

and these links show up:

I have been a member for 3 years, but I still read the old articles. There are interesting things about the history of the puzzles and of course pictures. I particularly like the articles “The story of Conceptis: how it all began”, which has some cool pictures from the past and “Bringing Nikoli's puzzles from Japan to the west” written by the President of Nikoli telling among other things about Dave’s and Gil’s visit to Japan.

I hope I did not reveal too much. Everyone can explore the site themselves. Just remember to look around also other things than puzzles. I will write more about solving the puzzles. Conceptis has great tutorials and you can start now but I think I am going to start with even more simple examples.

There is an appetizer for you here (link two squares with the same number using a path of the same length as the squares indicate.

You can get one to your own blog too from this link and you can start your journey to the wonderful land of puzzles here.

Happy Puzzling!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Puzzle Alarm Clock

I found a perfect alarm clock. I have usually now problems waking up. On the contrary: I wake up when other members of the family use the snooze option of their clocks. This one would solve the problem for me.

Puzzle Alarm Clock

The product description in Latest Buy (Australia)

What the Puzzle Alarm Clock is all about...

If you're a lover of puzzles, the Puzzle Alarm Clock may be just what you need to solve the ever perplexing issue of getting out of bed.

This "eye opener" of a gadget is an alarm clock come 3-piece jigsaw puzzle in one. When it's time to leave your incredibly cosy bed each morning, not only will your ears be treated to a fantastic ringing melody, a 3-piece jigsaw puzzle randomly shoots out.

So what you ask? Well, in order to turn off a ringing alarm, you must solve the jigsaw puzzle, assembling it back on to the clock.

Seems easy...not! It's a great way to get up though, as by the time you've found all 3 pieces of the jigsaw puzzle and solved it, you'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for the day ahead.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Piitu’s First Official Dog Show

Piitu is now 14 months old and has been taking lessons in agility, obedience and everything they actually arrange for dogs. It may sound like we are too demanding, but she just loves school and loves to perform. Sunday we were showing her officially for the first time.

In a conformation show, judges familiar with specific dog breeds evaluate individual dogs for how well they conform to published breed standards.

She got the judgement “very good” and here is the statement:

Correct head. Good proportions. Well set and carried ears. Good sized, well set apart eyes. Back still not enough strong. Still needs more chest and forechest. Free elbows. Correct rear legs. Tail set little bit too high. Free movement. Steps a bit inwards in rear legs. Nice temperament. Needs more practise for the show.

She also got the title ”Best Junior” among Welsh Corgi Pembroke's, but there was not actually much competition.

We knew very well about the need for practice. Piitu really gave the best act she can. She is so wild that we were sure she could not stay still as long as needed. The picture was taken the next day and it took several attempts before we could get a good pose.

Two Tests

The best test I have ever taken! Besides I agree... I act more like the age of my children than people of my own age.

You Act Like You Are 35 Years Old

You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

You're responsible, wise, and have enough experience to understand a lot of the world.

You're at the point in your life where you understand yourself pretty well.

You are figuring out what you want... and how to get it!

and this was not actually a surprise even though I answered lots of questions against this result:

Your Dominant Intelligence is Logical-Mathematical Intelligence

You are great at finding patterns and relationships between things.

Always curious about how things work, you love to set up experiments.

You need for the world to make sense - and are good at making sense of it.

You have a head for numbers and math ... and you can solve almost any logic puzzle.

You would make a great scientist, engineer, computer programmer, researcher, accountant, or mathematician.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Odd Things Referring to Sauna

According to the English pages of Wikipedia:

A sauna is a small room or house designed as a place to experience dry or wet heat sessions, or an establishment with one or more of these and auxiliary facilities. These facilities derive from the Finnish sauna.

The word sauna is an ancient Finnish word referring to the traditional Finnish bath as well as to the bathhouse itself. The oldest known saunas were pits dug in a slope in the ground and primarily used as dwellings in winter. The sauna featured a fireplace where stones were heated to a high temperature. Water was thrown over the hot stones to produce steam and to give a sensation of increased heat. This would raise the apparent temperature so high that people could take off their clothes.

Eventually the sauna evolved to use a metal woodstove with a chimney. Steam vapor was created by splashing water on the heated rocks.The steam and high heat caused bathers to perspire.

The Finns also used the sauna as a place to cleanse the mind, rejuvenate and refresh the spirit, and prepare the dead for burial. The sauna was (and still is) an important part of daily life, and families bathed together in the home sauna. Indeed, the sauna was originally meant to be a place of mystical nature where gender/sex differences did not exist. Because the sauna was often the cleanest structure and had water readily available, Finnish women also gave birth in the sauna.

The lighting in a sauna is shady, and some Finns prefer to sit in the sauna in silence, relaxing. The temperature is usually between 80°C (176°F) and 110°C (230°F). Sometimes people make a 'vihta'; they tie together small fresh birch branches (with leaves on) and swat themselves and their fellow sauna bathers with it. One can even buy vihtas from a shop and store them into the freezer for later (winter) use. Using a vihta improves blood circulation, and its birch odour is considered pleasing.

Here is a sauna located at a summer cabin, which we Finns often use during all the weekends in the summer and even the holidays are spent there.

Finnish Savusauna by the lake

and this is a typical sauna in an apartment or a house:

Tyypillinen nykyaikainen sauna.

Lately I have seen lots of systems they call saunas. To a Finn these are not saunas but some kind of equipment which has one or two similarities of a real Sauna.

1. Infrared Sauna, Burn Calories While Doing Nothing

Healthmate's sauna uses infrared technology to make your sauna-going experience all the more pleasurable. Rather than having to heat the air and have steam do all the work, the infrared heats the body directly. The company claims that within 30 minutes users can lose up to 1,000 calories. Additionally, all that warming warmth has other health benefits, including an increased blood flow that may help with things like arthritis and sprains. (Gizmodo)

This works on lower temperatures, has no steam, no water... It's just a warm box looking like a sauna!

2. Solo Personal, Portable Sauna

This is essentially a tube-like tent that will get all hot and frothy so you can sweat away all of that negative karma you received from a hooker earlier in the day. The Solo personal sauna can operate for up to 12 hours at a time if you need to get rid of a lot of negative karma from a particularly dirty hooker. (Gizmodo)

This has actually only the warmth and that can't be even close to that of a sauna. It's more like a tanning bed without the effect of tanning. I think I would only get more negative karma lying in a tube like that.

3. Energy Cocoon Tub: Room for One More?

Install an entire spa in your bathroom with this Energy Cocoon Tub, giving you an invigorating combination of soothing bubbles, billowing steam and an infrared sauna all in one unit the size of a regular whirlpool tub. It contains three multi-colored lamps for a bit of that soothing chromatherapy, and of course, it has those Jacuzzi-like waterjets, too. Then when you're done, you can rinse off with its hand shower. (Gizmodo)

This has at least water and steam but does not remind and certainly not will feel like a sauna.

4. Shower/Sauna Combo: Don't Forget to Wash


It's actually a sauna and shower combo, complete with luxuries like a digital remote, foot massager, aromatherapy, and music and phone ports. You'll be so busy in there you'll forget to do basic things such as wash your hair. (Gizmodo)

This has the basic elements of a sauna, but this is for one person only. Also saunas are places where you should forget all technigal gadgets and thus the music and phone ports should definitely not be included. The foot massager and aromatherapy can be accepted if we take a liberal approach to sauna culture. I just wonder why it has a remote. It is so small, that everything is within reach.

5.Wonder Sauna Hot Pants


These are from the 70's! You can surely get swetty in them but I can only imagine how uncomfortable one must feel after using these (Boing Boing)

6.Ice Sauna Goes to 10 Below Zero, Causes Shrinkage

The Snow Room was developed by MNK—a company that has made a name for themselves developing saunas. While the idea does seem strange, it appears that hot/cold therapy is common in northern European countries. So the idea of sitting in what is essentially a meat locker for relaxation may not be so far fetched after all. (Gizmodo)

Hot/cold therapy mean that we go from the sauna to roll in the snow or to swim in a frozen lake. This could be an attachment of a real sauna in the summertime when the water in the lake is warm.

7. The Sauna Suit or the Personal Sauna



These are both designed for weight loss. The suit makes you sweat yourself thin. While it does reduce weight by DEHYDRATING you, the effects of the sauna suit are sure to be short lived. Operating under the same principle as the sauna suit, the personal sauna promises to help you shed unwanted weight again by sweating it off. Just set your temperature and timer then voila…a whole new you! Do you even think a 300-pound man can fit inside that contraption? (THE LaparoscopicBand CENTRE)

Like stated above, these make you just sweat and that's all!

8.Wellness Skull Is a Sauna of Death

The Wellness Skull houses a bath in its neck, a sauna in the head, and hot steam spouts at the eye sockets. There's no pretentious receptionist or wind-chime music to help you chill out—stepping into the skull will instantly take away the worries of contemporary society and fill you with thoughts of life, death, and the emptiness of our physical selves. It's like an instant dose of existential meditation. (io9)

The inside of the skull is not shown, but I think that no Finn would build a sauna like this.

9.Sauna on a roll...


A Russian inventor has built this mobile sauna. Converted from a military truck, Igor Chupin offers clients a session in the back of his GAZ-66 truck for 1000 roubles ($42.37) per hour. Chupin said it took him months to build the traveling banya offers the real Russian experience. It has a 400-litre (88-gallon) water tank on top to provide the steam. It is heated with a wood-fired stove.

This is the only one I would accept as a real sauna. Wood-fired stove, the steam,... You could just drive this to the nearest shore and cool yourself in the lake or the sea between the steam sessions.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


I am posting this from ScribeFire. According to their home site ScribeFire is an extension for the Mozilla Firefox Web Browser that integrates with your browser to let you easily post to your blog: you can drag and drop formatted text from pages you are browsing, take notes, and post to your blog.
Current design of ScribeFire editor

I was able to add this Blogger blog and the school WordPress blog to the list. If this really works, it will be a great tool writing posts.

Technorati Tags: ,

Friday, May 2, 2008

My Mind Is Blue

Once again I found a test. Just a few multiple choice questions and here is the answer. What can I say? Maybe meditative is not the right word. I am a multitasker and I do the meditation part all the time in the background. Otherwise everything is totally accurate.

Your Mind is Blue

Of all the mind types, yours is the most mellow.

You tend to be in a meditative state most of the time. You don't try to think away your troubles.

Your thoughts are realistic, fresh, and honest. You truly see things as how they are.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about your friends, your surroundings, and your life.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

First of May in Finland

Walpurgis Night is a traditional Pagan holiday and a Roman Catholic Saint's day celebrated on April 30 or May 1 in large parts of Central and Northern Europe.

Walpurga was honored in the same way that Vikings had celebrated spring and as they spread throughout Europe, the two dates became mixed together and created the Walpurgis Night celebration. Early Christianity had a policy of 'Christianising' pagan festivals so it is perhaps no accident that St. Walpurga's day was set to May 1st.

Historically Walpurgisnacht is derived from various Pagan spring customs. In the Norse tradition, Walpurgisnacht is considered the "Enclosure of the Fallen". It commemorates the time when Odin died to retrieve the knowledge of the runes, and the night is said to be a time of weakness in the boundary between the living and the dead. Bonfires were built to keep away the dead and chaotic spirits that were said to walk among the living then. This is followed by the return of light and the sun as celebrated during May Day.

Today in Finland, Walpurgis Night (Vapunaatto, Valborgsmässoafton) is, along with New Year's Eve and Juhannus, the biggest carnival-style festivity that takes place in the streets of Finland's towns and cities. The celebration is typically centered on plentiful use of sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages. The student traditions are also one of the main characteristics of "Vappu". From the end of the 19th century, "Fin de Siècle", and onwards, this traditional upper class feast has been co-opted by students attending university, already having received their student cap.

This is me yesterday:

Many people who have graduated from lukio wear the cap. The university students wear overalls which are vary depending on the school and the faculty. One tradition is drinking sima, whose alcohol content varies. Fixtures in Turku include the capping of the Lilja, a nude female statue by Wäinö Aaltonen.

The Finnish tradition is also a shadowing of the Socialist May Day parade. Expanding from the parties of the left, the whole of the Finnish political scene has adopted Vappu as the day to go out on stumps and agitate. This does not only include center and right-wing parties, but also other institutions like the church have followed suit, marching and making speeches.

The First of May is also a day for everything fun and crazy: children and families gather in market places to celebrate the first day of the spring and the coming summer. There are balloons and joy, people drink their first beers outside, there are clowns and masks and a lot of fun. The first of May includes colourful streamers, funny and silly things and sun. The first of May means the beginning of the spring for many people in Finland. There is also an erotic frisson involved with Vappu's ribald side. The only semi-humorous adage is that one who doesn't have a romantic partner on Vappu will have to make do without one also on midsummer night.

Traditionally May 1st is celebrated by a picnic in a park (Vartiovuorenmäki in Turku). For most, the picnic is enjoyed with friends on a blanket with good food and sparkling wine. Some people, however, arrange extremely lavish picnics with pavilions, white table cloths, silver candelabras, classical music and lavish food. The picnic usually starts early in the morning, and some hardcore party goers continue the celebrations of the previous evening without sleeping in between. Some Student organisations have traditional areas where they camp every year and they usually send someone to reserve the spot early on. As with other Vappu traditions, the picnic includes student caps, sima, streamers and balloons.