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By: cmaukonen Monday July 28, 2014 2:44 pm

Smoke Sauna – flickr creative commons

Since there has been a lot of talk and recent questions appearing lately like “How come we can’t _______ more like the Finns” — fill in the blanks with education, economics, social welfare etc. And that I myself am half Finnish on my father’s side of the family and my largest influence being Finnish culture because of this. As well as according to my mother “I’m going to raise my sun like a Finn.”

I thought I would write a little something on Finland and Finns, just so you know what Finland is all about. Which in and of it self is a bit of a challenge, as Finns themselves are unsure about some aspects.

First of all, the question “Where did/do Finns come from” ? Answer: they didn’t “come” from anywhere. They have always been there is one way or another.

The Finns never ‘came’ to Finland, because Finns, Finnish identity or Finnish language in its present sense have never existed anywhere outside Finland. What now counts as ‘Finnish’ has been formed here, during thousands of years, influenced by many peoples, languages and cultures.

Many Finns have learnt at school that our ancestors arrived from the east (where languages related to Finnish are still spoken) some 2.000 years ago. This was a plausible theory in its time, but not any more: contrary to what was believed in the first half of this century, Finland has been continuously populated ever since the latest Ice Age, that is: our first ancestors lived here already some 9.000 years ago. Of these first people of Finland very little is known: we don’t know where they came from (from the south, of course…) or what language they spoke (it could have been Finno-Ugrian or even some language of a completely unknown ancestry). Of course, even after that Finland has received many cultural and language influences from many directions.

Secondly, where did the Finnish language come from ? [An even more controversial question]

A few decades ago the family tree of the Finno-Ugrian languages was interpreted as a map showing how the FU peoples wandered to their present homes. Modern archaeology obviously does not support such wide migrations. Also recent loan word research has shown very old Indo-European loanwords especially in Finnish and the westernmost (Finnic) branch, which means that some pre-form of Finnish must have been spoken relatively close to the Baltic Sea already quite early.

On the other hand, Finnish is certainly related to languages spoken in Middle Russia and West Siberia. This means either that the area of the Finno-Ugrian (Uralic) proto-language has been very wide, reaching perhaps from the Baltic Sea to the Urals, or that we must find alternative explanatory models to account for the spreading of these languages.

Indeed even this is highly disputed by some. What is known is that Finnish has zero roots in any of the Indo-European languages, which makes it so hard for non-Finns to learn. Not only that, it wasn’t until the 16th century that a written language was developed. This has been very difficult since there are so many vocalizations in Finnish that do not translate well to the Latin based alphabet. Some not at all.

It has been shown that Finns lived isolated from the rest of Europe, which would account for the differences in culture and society. For one thing as many, it not most of European societies and culture are male-dominated. Finnish culture is much less so. Equality of the sexes has been there almost from the first with Finnish women being the first to win the right to vote. These days women make up 40% of the business leaders and government representatives.

We are all aware of the social and educational programs in Finland and other Nordic countries, but you need to be aware this attitude is deeply ingrained in the culture. To take care of one another and what benefits one, generally benefits all — a view not held by many of European ancestry.

Finns tend to be quiet and reserved. Bragging on ones self is considered uncouth and even arrogant. They also expect you to be taken at your word and they at theirs.


Pull Up a Chair: Blade Runner: An Examination

By: cmaukonen Friday July 25, 2014 11:06 am

Since there has been confirmation that Ridley Scott is in the first stages of making a sequel, Blade Runner 2, I thought I would do an analysis of the original dystopic science fiction Film Noir. Underrated at the time of its release, it has gained in appreciation since, with various box sets and cuts available now. It’s based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep by Philip K. Dick and set in Los Angeles circa 2019. Science fiction writers, even those of the darkest dystopian futures, tend to be overly optimistic quite often, which is the case here, having by that time assuming technologies that are yet to appear.

This, however, can be forgiven as they tread a thin line having to make the future seem advanced enough and yet still enable the reader or viewer to relate in the current time. Blade Runner is no exception, assuming that by this time we are colonizing space. But only for those who qualify physically, and one assumes mentally and financially as well.

The plot — which I will not repeat here in its entirety, but still spoiler alert — revolves around Decker, a Blade Runner, a member of the police unit to track down and execute replicants, bio-engineered slaves developed and produced by the Tyrell Corporation, which are illegal on Earth. Decker is persuaded by Bryant — head of the unit — to come out of retirement to hunt down and eliminate 4 replicants that have come back to Earth from the “Off World Colonies.”

What you are immediately hit with is this view of an urban environment that is only slightly better than completely run down. With floating blimp-like objects that contentiously blare out audio and beam video to entice you to move off Earth to the colonies. Indeed, only those “lesser humans” remain on Earth. Some by choice, but most by necessity due to not being able to qualify. It takes place in an Asian area of the city, with Asian eateries nearly everywhere. You are left to wonder if this is the norm for the whole city or planet, that one of the qualities one needs to posses to move “Off World” is to be White.

The movie gives many messages, direct and a number indirect. That the “Beautiful People” have given up on Earth and have left for the colonies. That those who are still on Earth are left to make it as best they can. That Dr. Tyrell himself is both a victim and benefactor of this, having built an industrial empire through his genus in genetic engineering by supplying replicant slaves to the colonies. That the technology needed to maintain the status quo of the little people on the streets, makes it down to the streets. That those on the street and still on Earth mostly get along, since with the immigration of the “Beautiful People” to the colonies, there is no longer any reason not to get along. Indeed the “street language” is described as “a mishmash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what have you. ” That the police are there primarily to make sure nothing and no one upsets this relationship. That the biggest corporation, both physically and financially, is the Tyrell Corporation, reaching high enough to actually get sun at the top, when in the street it’s always foggy and rainy and polluted. It’s a city left to slowly fall apart.

The view one gets of the city is not unlike that of the old Hudson your rich uncle left you when he moved to Manhattan. With rust and problems you yourself cannot fix, but it still runs well enough to get you to the store and back. Even with fading paint and the bumper tied on with bailing wire, broken radio antenna and a radio that makes buzzing sounds when played. Parked out in front of an old farm house that leans a bit more each year, it hasn’t seen paint itself for many years.

Scott does leave a number of questions unanswered. Like why use an obviously primitive method of identifying replicants? Why not use genetic identification? Unless perhaps the genetics between humans and replicants are so similar, that it has proven unreliable. Was the reason given by Tyrell for implanting memories into replicants the real reason, or is it something else? Does Tyrell have some other use for replicants where memories would be necessary? Why would he give Rachael an extended lifespan, when all others were limited to 4 years. Why did he even try to extend this in other replicants? And lastly, why just a female with these additional qualities?

Blade Runner gives a peek at a capitalist society that has left its former home to be slowly abandoned and fall into ruin; where capitalists have finally found the ideal slaves and ideal peasants.

A great movie, but not a pretty picture.

Looking forward to Blade Runner 2?

Farming … growing the food.

By: cmaukonen Sunday July 20, 2014 1:54 pm

Old Barn

Took a trip out to Burton Ohio, where I spent the first 14 years of my life, to do some photography. Raining off and on so did not get too much done. On the way just outside the village I stopped at Sunrise Farm. They sell mostly flowers but also have local fruit and produce from the farm. It’s still kind of earl in the growing season so they did not have much yet, though they did have some sweet corn and I got a few ears.

As I cruised around it was sad to see so many small family farms had been either subdivided , left to fall into ruin or where the fields were still being planted but the farms themselves were no longer there. The fields having been rented out to some others to plant.  Usually in corn. I had a short talk with the lady at the register at Sunrise Farms and told her that members of my family were coming up to the Geauga County Fair at the end of August. She said it has changed a lot. I said I know. I remember when the first thing you saw after entering the fair was the 4H and FFA exhibits and now they are off on to the side.

The reality is though that unless a farmer can afford the new fancy gadgetry, farming is still hard ass back breaking work. Most cannot and you will not get rich farming. Break even and feed you family maybe. Unless the elements and varmints  work against you heavily. As oft times happens. From before sunrise to after sunset. And in the early days before steam and the rail roads, even more so as this essay outlines. A lot of people lost their farms during the summer of 1816.

Most of these family farms had been handed down through the generations and the kids had no aspiration to become farmers. Like our milk man whose son wanted to be an engineer and not run the dairy. His father was inconsolable and my father – a guidance counsellor – had to go over and a calm him down and tell him that children do not always want to follow in their parent’s foot steps.

A family friend lived on and worked his mother’s farm to help keep food costs down and often we would receive baskets of excess produce from them. He also had a few cows and chickens and sold the milk to the local dairy in milk cans. Many dairy farmers did this at that time.

It was common for people then to either have their own kitchen garden or purchase their fruits and vegetables from road side stands in front of the farms. Conversation often was where and who had the best corn or beans or tomatoes or apples …

Then there were those who bought small farms because of the housing shortage after WWII, did not necessarily want to farm them but found the added benefit of being able to grow their food a plus. Then sold the farm and moved on.

With the renewed interest in locally grown food, non GNO and Organic a new approach and interest in small family farms has sprung up. CSA or Community Supported Agriculture where a consumer buys a share in the farm(s) seasonal produce and receives deliveries each week of fresh produce that is in season. There can be as many as ten farms involved or as few as one. Like Geauga Family Farms in North East Ohio, which is mostly Amish farms. Or the Central Roots Farm in Ohio City,    Most also have a farm produce stand as well. Some even include meats and poultry.

However if you are new to this be advised. The produce you get is not picture perfect looking produce. It may have dirt on it or even small bugs. Like  one would get picking it out of the ground. Since that is where it came from. Generally though it won’t have pesticides or herbicides.

As a baby boomer I find the renewed interest mildly amusing as my family got nearly all of our fruits, vegetables and meats locally.  Either from our own garden or from a stand some place. We got our meats from a local packing house. Even pork. Bought it in bulk and froze it up.

And it really does taste much better than trucked in supermarket stuff.


God Save the Queen … Why America Has Always Been A Disaster

By: cmaukonen Monday July 14, 2014 5:59 pm

THE PRINCESS in 1947…flickr creative commons license

First of all, the reasons given for the American Revolution that most people have been fed all these years — with King George baring much of the blame – are pretty much a load of whooey. Either our founding fathers were ignorant or naive or both, or there were other reasons that were rarely — if ever told. By the 1700s King George had no power at all to govern. The English Civil War put an end to that.

Secondly, having a government based exclusively on a two party system was just asking for trouble. So the situation described by Henry A. Giroux in his current Truthout essay,is no real surprise. There is little or nothing that will change it since there is no institution, group or individual that can claim to be unbiased objectivity. This country is all about politics and finance, especially now. With one side claiming the high ground over the other or vice versa.

So when I read about something like melting roads in Yellowstone, I do get a bit concerned. Not about any volcanic eruption per se, but how this country reacts to any disaster, or rather overreacts. To examples. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the president had a hard time getting congress to approve money for fire hoses to send to England during the blitz. That was how isolationist we had become.

Afterwards … he got everything he wanted or nearly so. And getting men to sign up for the war was a piece of cake. Before 9/11 Bush would have likely been impeached for what he did. After ….

We have no institution to help maintain social or political stability or help hold the country together. It’s always “you are either for us or against us.”

So why did Parliament retain the monarchy after the civil wars, when they could have easily removed it entirely? Here is one good explanation as to what the sovereign does [from the Royal Family's web page]

The Queen is able to recognise success and achievement in a personal way. These include honours, awards, visits, patronage and sponsorship. At Investitures, for example, The Queen honours individuals for public service or outstanding achievement.

The Queen’s role is to:

Perform the ceremonial and official duties of Head of State, including
representing Britain to the rest of the world;

Provide a focus for national identity and unity;

Provide stability and continuity in times of change;

Recognise achievement and excellence;

Encourage public and voluntary service.

The Queen also hosts garden parties to which guests from all backgrounds are invited, most of whom are nominated by charities and public sector organisations for their service to their communities.

In the thousands of messages sent by The Queen each year to people celebrating their 100th birthdays or diamond weddings, Her Majesty is able to give special and personal recognition of remarkable individuals.

The Queen also supports service to others, through close relationships with the voluntary and charitable sector. About 3,000 organisations list a member of the Royal Family as patron or president. The Queen has over 600 patronages and The Duke of Edinburgh over 700.

In all these roles, The Queen is supported by members of the Royal Family, who carry out many of the engagements which Her Majesty cannot undertake in person.

In other words the Queen [or King] and royal family provides a non-political institution that is far above the fray that presents the kind of behavior that all can appreciate and aspire to regardless of ideology or standing. Nearly all other constitutional monarchies operate in a similar manner.

Yet here in this country, we are so enamoured of royalty that there are those here  that celebrate the queen as well. Even to refer to the presidency of JFK as “Camelot.” But to try and hold any elected official up to those kinds of ideals is foolish at best.

Combined with a Parliamentary form of government that allows multiple party representation, it seems to work very well for them. It got the British through the blitz.

So God Save the Queen.

Conscription or Greetings from The President of the United States

By: cmaukonen Saturday July 12, 2014 5:55 pm

1942 — WWII draftees at Bus Station on West Huron, Ann Arbor, Michigan. – flickr creative commons

Conscription AKA The Draft has been around in one form or another almost since time immortal.  China had conscription as early as 221BC. Primarily to keep an army big enough to be used in times or war, some countries have used it for civilian activities as well. A number of countries still have conscription for those 18 to even 64 years of age and lasting anywhere from 1 to 8 years.

The first major use of conscription in the US was during the civil war, which sparked off New York City draft riots.  Then for WWI and for WWII. After WWII ended, in 1948 congress passed the Selective Service Act of 1948, from which combatants for the Korean War came. Then the Universal Military Training and Service Act in 1951 and Reserve Forces Act of 1955 with the aim of improving National Guard and federal Reserve Component readiness.

After Korea ended and before the Vietnam escalation, most people who were drafted would end up on US military bases in Japan and Europe, often in Germany. I have been told by many that German duty could be the best. There were of course deferments for college or if you had a high ranking job at a defence plant.  Of course, there were also political deferments and for those very well to do.

The closest I ever came to the military was being part of the CAP or Civil Air Patrol.   As an auxiliary of the Air Force, you got pretty much the same training as you would entering the Air Force using the same  materials and covering the same subjects. If you completed the CAP/USAF training you could enlist in the USAF with a much higher rank and a less strenuous boot camp. I never did this having become disenchanted with it.  Wound up with a 1Y deferment due to a scooter accident I had.

Resistance to the draft increased dramatically as LBJ and then Nixon committed more and more to the Vietnam war. By the late 1960s the Anti War movement was made up almost entirely of middle and and upper middle class students and kids who simply did not want their tails shot up, heads blown off and be on the receiving end of some surprise the Vietcong had dreamed up. Being sent to Vietnam was considered a death sentence and everyone who was drafted was sent there, unless you had “connections”.

By 1980, after the end of the Vietnam War, the draft officially ended. Though Jimmy Carter issued Presidential Proclamation 4771 and re-instated the requirement that young men register, nobody has ever been cited for not registering.

Say what you will about the military now, but during the era of the draft  you got something. Your civilian status meant little in the military. Only your performance and your rank. Lousy attitudes and lousy behavior  were not tolerated.  Not by your commanding officers or your fellows. You learned self reliance and to rely on others. To be responsible. In short you were forced to become a mensch.  We seem to have very few of them these days.

The GI Bill got you an education and helped you get a home. And at that time VA health care was one of the best.

Obama initially wanted a civilian mandatory service for education, community service, and renewal. Not surprisingly both the left and the right shot it down. Pity, one of the few good ideas he had.  Forcing spoiled brat rich kids into the slums and actually see and help people was a great idea. No wonder congress hated it.

Kids today …

By: cmaukonen Wednesday July 9, 2014 5:49 pm

If You Go Down To The Woods Today
A bloke called Jerm – flickr creative commons

I have a very difficult time relating to kids. My childhood was so vastly different from theirs in just about every way imaginable, it isn’t funny. No high tech toys, just TV, telephone and radio. I grew up in northeastern Ohio in a very small town, or rather township of Burton Ohio, in Geauga County.

Initially, in the first house my father built, a small two bedroom affair on State Road 87, Kingsman Road. Lived there until I was six years old and we had two brothers younger than me. I was the oldest, first born. My father then bought land on Butternut Road not far from there and built a much larger place on three acres of land. Nearly all of it wooded, most heavily so.  The road was a dirt road at the time and had very little traffic. The parcel was but a small part of a larger wooded area that went back for another 5 to 10 acres. On one side was a field that later became a dirt parking lot to a small golf coarse the son of the original owner of all the land there put in.

The original lands was part of one or two farms and an old coal mine, the entry to and ventilation hole for which you still find today. As we got older, my siblings and I had pretty much free rein of the woods, and except in the winter, it was the area of choice for whatever fun we chose to have – with small springs, run-off gullies, trees, fields…you name it. My rural education came from there, along with having friends that lived on farms – some worked regularly, some not. Barns and silos and farm animals of all sorts. Pigs and goats and chickens and cows and ..  We even had loan of two goats from some friends for awhile, which I loved.

My city education came from visiting my cousins who lived on the west side of Cleveland at West 84 street and Denison, in a very blue collar neighborhood, all the houses built in the 1920s, two-story type. My cousin Matt and I would travel on bikes all around the west side, sometimes driving my grandmother to distraction – she lived there as well.

Conversely, they would come out to our place in the summer for a few weeks, and also on the weekends when my aunt and uncle would work on a house in Burton they owned and rented out. Once when I was around 10, my father bought a Chevy Microbus and we began camping across Pennsylvania in the state parks on our way to visit my grandparents who lived outside of Philadelphia. One year my cousin Matt came with us as well.

All this came to an end in the fall of 1963 when my father decided to move the family down to Florida, eventually choosing Coral Gables. While waiting for the real estate agent to sign on a house, my father had a brain hemorrhage and died. After getting the estate settled and living with my grandparents outside Philly, my mother moved us to Naples, Florida, which at that time was not much bigger than Burton Ohio.

Now where is this all leading? And how does it all relate to today’s kids?

I often go the the various Cleveland Metro Parks reservation to hike a bit and take pictures, like I did today. I often see parents with kids by the hand and strollers and – like today – some on a field trip, today’s group from a summer camp up in Mentor, Ohio.

Most here know me as a geek from previous diaries, but when I was young, and even now, the geeky radio and electronics was primarily a winter thing. Summer was outside in the woods. There were no parents or grownups around. Nobody to make sure we did not fall into the pond and drown; f we got bit or fell out of a tree; if we survived [and I know of no one who did not] we got talked to [chewed out] for being such a dumb ass. It was a learning experience. So when I see kids being hand-held through their exposure to nature, I feel sorry for them and afraid for them. They likely will not experience nature in the raw, like I did.

As a child I was very very fortunate in this. I appreciate nature and respect nature and am very comfortable with nature. Most of those like me and of my generation were not protected from the world, but encouraged to explore it; not to see the world only as something to satiate out insatiable appetites.

I feel sad about kids today.

Cleveland Gets a Chance [To Be Screwed] By the RNC

By: cmaukonen Wednesday July 9, 2014 6:17 am

Clint Eastwood talks to an empty chair – DonkeyHotey

Well it seems that the RNC has chosen Cleveland for the Pointless Political Schmooze-Fest.

As they look to the Republican National Convention arriving in 2016, Cleveland business leaders are envisioning themselves as storytellers.

They see an opportunity to present a new, more accurate image of Cleveland to a curious world.

A fresh perspective, they expect, will spark a new era of business interest and investment.

Oh really? Well, guess who foots the bill which can cost up to $100 million bucks to the tax payer?

Federal taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $136 million to cover the cost of the major political parties’ presidential nominating conventions.

That’s the estimated total taxpayer tab of this week’s Republican Party National Convention in Florida, and next week’s Democratic Party National Convention in North Carolina.

And that does not include how much the city will wind up paying in the end to clean up their mess. As I commented to the article above. “Does Cleveland really want to play host to a bunch of sociopathic,narcissistic megalomaniac Tea Party creeps masquerading as a political party?” They and the Democrats have proven themselves to be cheapskates and deadbeats more than willing to give the host city and the taxpayers the shaft. It only marginally benefits the slimy business interests and gives everyone else the shaft.

Cleveland needs to Just Say NO to the GOP and the Democrats as well.

America: A Fantasy Game

By: cmaukonen Tuesday July 8, 2014 8:09 am

Robot Scrabble – flickr creative commons

I posted a link to my FB page from Alternet about the gun nuts and their power trip. An FB friend commented that it reminds her husband of the OK Coral and the Clantons. Maybe so, but I seriously doubt these clowns would engage in a shoot out with anybody. And in the “Old West” carrying a gun into town was generally not allowed.

Had a discussion with a friend the other day on this country’s infrastructure and how old and dilapidated it is.  That upgrading it would be pricey but would improve life immensely. This is done only for high price, new communities as a selling point. Places like Cleveland or Pittsburgh or even Chicago will still have the old wires on the verge of coming down. Like the ones out back of my humble abode.

Now, how do these two subjects tie together? Easy. If someone or some group really wanted to cause trouble, wanted to disrupt the status quo they could easily do it and without much effort or expense.

Another electric substation was attacked but the homemade device failed to detonate. Luck I guess.

I often go hiking to take nature pictures and very often the trails lead through areas where high tension cables are strung. Or near railroad tracks and sometimes both. Unguarded and unprotected. There are numerous sites — even with maps — that list and show where major communications cables and switching networks are located.

Bridges and overpasses and what not.

Now with such vulnerability that even a minor natural occurrence such as a hurricane or earthquake can be very disruptive, how come even the most extreme groups on either side of the isle have not launched even a small attempt to cause chaos? With all the big talk and open carry and all.

Because it would be very disruptive on a personal level. Living in Florida and going through many hurricanes the one thing I notice was peoples biggest concern was for things to “get back to normal.” In other wards for the status quo to return. The cable and electricity back on and the burger joint open.

As much as everyone bitches, moans, complains and even threatens mayhem concerning the status quo, nobody really wants it to change. Everyone wants a major change it the situation but with one main and overwhelming proviso: that it won’t prevent them from going to the local quicky stop store to get a carton of milk, a couple of six packs of beer and a carton of cigarettes.

They just do not want the inconvenience. In fact, the very thought scares the hell out of them because without the status quo, they do not know what to do.

As a culture America has become completely dependent of the very things we now despise. And the elites know it. That as much as people rail about capitalism, it’s injustices and environmental destruction there is no way anyone is willing to put it in jeopardy. And the elites know it.

In the late 1960s a group called The Jefferson Airplane put out an album called Volunteers. The theme of witch was tearing down a system that was unjust, unfair and despised. The very system that enabled this same group to charge thousands of dollars for a concert and collect even more in record sale. Obviously a fantasy album. Would make a great computer game, don’t you think ?