I haven't been able to make use of Facebook for years.

Part of this is because I despise the company and their various evil actions over the years; part of it is the deliberately opaque site design; but part of it was my fault because I used to figure since I was avoiding it 99% of the time anyway I might as well have an approach to accepting friend requests that was almost completely haphazard, and I rendered my own feed completely unusable as a result by filling it up with people I didn't particularly want to be following.

The more unwieldy, the more I avoided it and every notification from it for weeks. Eventually I reached a state where a limited pool of people I care about a lot were attempting to use it to communicate with me, and it wasn't working, and I was also spending a lot of time thinking about deleting my account all together.

Yesterday it occurred to me that unfriending a lot of people would make more sense than actually deleting the account, so I set about doing so.

And it was hard.

Why was I following about 15 members of my mother's extended family whom I barely know - people I couldn't even say how I was related to? What about all these classmates I never conversed with beyond smalltalk from my Finnish language classes, not even WHILE in the classes? People I wasn't especially close to even in high school - middle school, in some cases? I unfriended a childhood playmate whom I hadn't spoken to since age 12; my best friend from 5th grade, from whom I'd already drifted apart by 7th grade; a girl whose dad worked with my dad, whom I played with a few times when we were under the age of 10. These were all people I not only didn't interact with outside of Facebook, but people with whom I never interacted on Facebook either, apart from feeling uncomfortable about friending and about unfriending them.

I kept my first cousins, aunts and uncles, my wife's family members with whom we have friendly relationships, and actual friends past and present with whom I have had SOME form of attempted continued keeping-in-touch over the years: only people I would care to follow on Twitter or Tumblr, if they used it. I deleted forty or fifty people, I think.

I'm quite pleased with all of this effort, and it does seem to have worked somewhat, even though the interface is still awful.
I don't usually have anything to say about celebrity death other than "how sad", but this time I have to remind you all of the time Prince (at that time he was Formerly Known As) came to my high school to talk to a confused group of around a hundred kids about Jesus.

The presentation was heartfelt and evangelical, but supremely disorganized. Then-formerly-Prince himself was wearing an amazingly dapper plum purple suit that I WOULD have hardly looked away from, except that he had a modest entourage with him, and one of the members (friend? bodyguard? advisor?) was wearing a jade green suit that was an even more brilliant color. The talk was marked by periods of quiet, where nobody said anything, or people came and went and he and his entourage murmured together in a loose knot on the floor of the gym.

I think he talked about being born again maybe? But TBH you've all heard all there is to hear about Jesus before by that age, and literally everyone there except MAYBE then-formerly-Prince himself was WAY more interested in his celebrity than his thoughts on divinity.

Also: how sad.
I was recently introduced to the Philo Vance detective stories of S.S. Van Dine by an article about how T.S. Eliot (I think?) was a fan of detective fiction. I was surprised to learn that these stories, written pseudonymously by literary critic and NYC cultural avant-garde elite W.H. Wright, were all bestsellers at the time of publication, but have since faded so far from modern cultural awareness that I'd never heard of them in spite of having been close to several big-time golden age detective fiction fans. (If you read them, you'd probably also begin to feel you understand why they haven't stood the test of time as well as ACD, Christie, and Sayers, but I haven't quite applied myself to articulating my speculation yet.)

These novels feature a genius sleuth and a narrator-biographer sidekick, are set when they were written, in the 1920s-30s, and in some ways seem to bridge gaps between the above-mentioned writers, and to exist in conversation with them, in a fandomy, remixy way. (I also detect playful dialogue flourishes reminiscent of PG Wodehouse, although I have to note regretfully that the narrator is never Jeevesy.) But... gayer? I mean, of course, that foundation is unquestionably there in the rest of the genre, but here an overwhelming homosociality of the main cast combines with a definite coded gayness for the sleuth.

Sleuth Philo Vance, fundamentally a mixture made of largely Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey (maybe a dash of The Murders in the Rue Morgue, not least because of how his narrating biographer is handled), is coded gay in that early-20th-century asexual way. It's introduced with a pointed comment about a green carnation in the first scene with dialogue in the first novel, but never becomes actually relevant to the plot. He would read as asexual otherwise, but it isn't belabored or emphasized in contrast to anyone else, the way ACD did with Holmes, or Christie did with Poirot; it's just that sexuality would have been a complete non-issue if not for the green carnation remark and later, subtler hints. (Although spoiler ))

And though I don't discern any coding in their characters, his entire cast of regulars - or trio of backup singers, you might say - are also bachelors, evidently leading existences free of any assumptions of heterosexuality and heteronormativity. The author-narrator, S.S. Van Dine, referred to casually as "Van" by Vance, is his live-in man of business or secretary or personal assistant, a lawyer by trade whom he picked up when they were together at Princeton, but who is now devoted full-time to his correspondence, financial affairs, and art collections.

Their connection to the world of police is through district attorney Markham and homicide detective Sergeant Heath. Markham is typically present with the narrator and Vance, either at home or dining out, for what seems like one meal in three and a portion of every day, even when they are at leisure, and the readers are treated to the narrator waxing poetic about the dynamics of Markham and Vance's relationship, history, feelings for each other, and the nature of their banter, which he seems to find mysterious or ineffable at times.

Heath is a friendly and respectful subordinate of Markham's and shares with him the role of unimaginative policemen who want to pursue the wrong suspect or clue and have to have everything explained to them by the genius, but they're also both friendly with Vance. Heath doesn't hang around with them in his off-hours, but he's still what one might call a Bachelor's Bachelor.

The upshot is a highly homosocial cast that I think would make a great candidate for an update into a modern queer female foursome. (They wouldn't really need to be solving mysteries: as mysteries go these are not remotely realistic anyway.) (Yes, this was one of those shower thoughts that starts with "Wouldn't I like X better if all the characters were female?" I don't know why I have this conversation with myself so much, because the answer is always yes, but imagining it is always fun anyway I guess.)

Just picture this:

1. The sybaritic gastronome genius classical translator, art historian and collector, unarmed fighter and dog breeder, a sharp-dressing perfectionist diva who makes a point of delivering all her genius statements as if she couldn't care less, when in fact she feels a deep empathy for everyone that she covers up with coolness. A huge vocabulary, excitable tangents about art, history, and cool science stuff that sounds like it comes from an encyclopedia, a tendency to occasionally quote literature in a foreign language and then pretend not to hear when people try to ask her wtf she's talking about.

2. The narrator of the books is so transparent you often forget he's there, so it's hard to tease out a characterization. But that mystique could be played with interestingly, like maybe the character could be a long-distance bff who is in communication via texts and Skype.

3. The genius's older, tolerant friend who is serious to a fault and acts like putting up with the tangents and flights of fancy is a chore, but secretly finds them charming, and also will always melt at any direct request. Responsible, busy, on time, could be conquering the entire world one-handed off-screen. Is getting gray hairs. Always protests that she's busy, but then the genius is like "But this new restaurant has KILLER (esoteric dish) that I want to feed you," and she's like, "Okay." Says things like, "It sounds like you can handle things," and then goes along anyway just because the genius wanted an audience for her brilliance. Obediently provides the appropriate straight-man line whenever needed, and also instantly and commandingly takes charge of any situation and/or group of people with sheer force of charisma.

4. Brash, confident, likable lady who is presentable but insists on dressing comfortably and less formally. Has been doing her job competently a while and knows everybody in the field, and is friendly with them. Great at delegation. Stubborn, never afraid of an exhausting, difficult or tedious task, patient. Has a fairly optimistic outlook and is fond of one-liners and snarky asides. Prone to getting fired with frustrated righteous anger; yells about it until requested to please tone it down because her vigor is exhausting. Literally always falls for (practical) jokes: will fall for anything. Has probably been flicked on the nose after looking down when asked "What's that on your shirt" hundreds, if not thousands of times.
I've made a lot of progress in Keeping It Together enough to plan for what I/we are going to eat in advance and put it on the shopping list: most of the time, I manage to keep on top of it, and it's only once a month or so that I suddenly realize at dinnertime that I'm going to have trouble pulling anything together (or give up and have oatmeal or plain rice).

Usually there is the option to have [personal profile] waxjism buy things at the tiny grocery store on her way home, and this can be repeated almost every day, but not this weekend, so yesterday's shopping trip the entire weekend was UP TO ME. I planned ahead for this trip to the store. At least three dishes, I decided, and added stuff for them to the shopping list accordingly.

But when I got to the store, as I often do, I ended up eliminating things on the spur of the moment with the goal of making everything fit into two shopping bags. And I also had left things off, with the result that ALL THREE of the things I was planning to make are now impossible because I neglected to buy 1-2 of the ingredients.

Broccoli pasta salad? I impulsively didn't buy broccoli! Spaghetti casserole? I impulsively didn't buy spaghetti sauce (and I don't have any spare tomato sauce ingredients)! That new, oven-baked black bean burrito filling recipe I wanted to try? I bought five different ingredients, but neglected to buy the cheese!

I can reshuffle these ingredients into burritos without cheese and chicken and spinach salad, but the worrying thing is the flaw in my system...
Frtnj I was reading an article about a recall of a baby gate known to fall down when repeatedly tugged on by babies. Top comment was some mouthbreather like, “I think this ‘culture of safety’ has gone too far. By this logic they should also recall large bookcases.”

I know you’re not meant to read the comments, but this is practically unbelievable. They’re now applying the concept of pc police to babyproofing?!

The difference, Pekka, is that those bookcases are not specifically FOR BABIES, and unlike the baby gate in question, they all come with a safety warning telling you to anchor them to the wall with screws.

Somebody give this guy a very heavy bookcase before he votes Perussuomalaiset again.

#never read the comments
The only other tv I've rewatched as many times as an adult is Poirot - with Star Trek it's considerably more for a very few episodes but once only for others (much more variable quality for Star Trek than Poirot - though the latter also had quite a collection of different writers, directors, and producers, and even switched owners midway through its 25-year run). It feels to me like even the best episodes of Star Trek are pulpy enough to hover around the worst episodes of Poirot for rewatchability, even though as bad examples of their genre the worst Poirots are definitely worse in absolute terms than the BEST Star Treks - it's just the genre and register and how my brain works I guess.

Actually, I think murder mysteries in written form are also maybe easier to read casually, with more skimming and less engagement, than science fiction adventures? As I think about it, my mom uses both mysteries and paperback romances in this way - as palate cleansers between science fiction and fantasy books, or for when she doesn't have the brainpower/attention span for serious engagement. So maybe I just copied it from her, but it really feels easier.

I suppose that reality tv also allows for that lower level of engagement, but most of the reality tv I've tried to watch has ended up putting me off for one reason or another. I still watch new seasons of RuPaul's Drag Race, although not right away, and I think the reason I've never got fed up with it as with Project Runway for example (aside from the lack of a sudden disastrous drop in quality...) has to do with how it's so camp and upfront about the amount of gimmicks involved. But it's still got a high level of hystrionic interpersonal drama for my taste (obviously, this is a draw rather than a deterrent for many people, so it's not like I censure it for this). And I think that ultimately, the whole contest aspect to a lot of reality tv puts me off: feeling bad for the losers and disliking the things producers do to try to make you like and dislike people.

Instead of that, This Old House is really a documentary and basically only shows skilled craftsmen and experts in their fields at work, doing the various things they do and explaining them as they go. I also am more interested in the care and fixing of old buildings, mechanical systems, woodwork, etc., than I am in most of the subjects of these other reality shows. A lot of house-related shows that I used to see in the US on HGTV and its forebears wasted too much time on human interest (I hate human interest as a genre: it always seems to make me way less interested in humanity in general) and featured some guy yelling in front of a bulldozer about how big things are or how extreme something is, while This Old House shows closeups of people using tools and explains what they're doing well enough that, in many cases, someone could follow their instruction to do it themselves (provided some experience with the tools and general area in question, like carpentry or masonry or plumbing, all areas that my mom, for instance, or my aunts and uncles, have experience with, even if I don't).

Another thing I hate on a lot of house-related shows are the interior design bits - I love interiors but I hate the buzzwords and jargon (a common thing to make [personal profile] waxjism laugh around here is me yelling "RARGH, INTERIOR-DESIGN-SPEAK!!!") and also the over-designed results that a lot of professional interior designers on tv and in magazines seem to produce. This Old House does work with designers (and owners) with taste I don't like, but at least it's not too often, and only occupies a small part of the screentime for each project. (It helps that the host isn't an industry professional and is always there as the audience surrogate, and his attempts to sound polite and excited when I can tell he actually hates something are also a thing of beauty.)

One thing that is amusing and somewhat annoying is that the way reality tv works to create narratives that mimic fiction causes my brain to read it like fiction and start shipping people and sometimes lie awake sternly trying to talk my brain into investing its shipping energy in something with an actual fandom so I'll have something to read.
Even though Agatha Christie's Poirot is perhaps my favorite tv show (in terms of rewatches, screencaps, etc), I am not actually a tremendous Christie fan. I've read quite a few Marples and Poirots after having seen them: sometimes well worth it (Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, Five Little Pigs, Hickory Dickory Death, The Clocks, The Body in the Library, A Caribbean Mystery, At Bertram's Hotel), sometimes a letdown (I can't remember which these were offhand because I got bored and quit). However, after hearing they were going to make a movie of And Then There Were None (original title and second title both horrifically racist), I went and read it, and since then I've read two other non-Marple-Poirot (Maroit? Poirple?) books.

First I tried The Man in the Brown Suit (1924), a Colonel Race novel set mainly in South Africa and dealing extensively with diamond trade, so I was cringing to a greater or lesser degree most of the way through. Aside from this aspect, it's a spy novel instead of a mystery, with a distinctly lighter-hearted air and a strong humorous note. The heroine is a pretty great character, aside from being tainted with some of Agatha Christie's patented Old and Also Just Plain Gross Gender Issues.

Then last week I stumbled on The Secret of Chimneys (1925), a Superintendent Battle novel, which starts in South Africa but takes place mainly in Britain, but manages to be offensively monarchist and racist against four or five ethnic groups I could name in spite of all the characters being white, and particularly offensive about the Balkans. A really special flavor of offensive, all in all, and manages to also have a delightful rollicking air, a couple of great characters and a stellar heroine who actually explicitly debunks some sexism from dudes WHILE ALSO reinforcing more of Christie's Awkward, Weird Gender Issues.

I suppose perhaps whenever there's a Christie whose title I HAVEN'T heard a lot of, it's probably for one of these embarrassing sorts of reasons.
Hating to make phonecalls makes it extra awkward, of course, but eventually I called the card cancelling service, the regional lost and found (they didn't have it), and the social security agency for a replacement card. Then I registered my ID and SS card lost with the police's online form in case of identity theft.

That left:

  • Grocery store membership card. This took me and [personal profile] waxjism BOTH over an hour last week attempting to figure out how to request a new one.

  • Other bonus cards, infrequently used: you don't actually need them; you can just give your name at the register. Less plastic to carry around and hunt for in the wallet: sounds good to me.

  • Replacement ID card: Unlike in the past, when you had to print or pick up the paper forms, fill them out, and bring them with exact change in cash and physical copies of approved ID photos to the police in person, you can do most of this online now. You fill out the forms electronically and pay with a direct bank transfer, and the photographer emails the photos directly to the police, but you still have to go to the photographer in person (to take the pictures) and the police in person (to give your signature), so I haven't actually got around to this yet. (I also am trying to get [personal profile] waxjism to replace her 20-year-old oversized driver's licence which doesn't fit in her wallet without stretching the zipper out of shape in the same trip but this requires dragging her around on her day off). On the plus side though, you can also make an electronic reservation for a timeslot at the police station to do your paperwork, so you don't have to go there and sit in the waiting room for several hours (it's happened before).

  • (Because of this dawdling, though, I had to take my passport to the post office to sign for a registered package the other day, haha.)

  • The raw food handling certification: I don't have an immediate plan to apply for work in a kitchen so this isn't exactly URGENT, which is good because it requires me to cold-text a total stranger. I'm working up to it by putting it in my calendar with an alarm repeatedly, so that when the alarm sounds and I cancel it and re-set it for a later date ("I don't have the mental integrity for this today") I feel a little prick of guilt.

I also finally have permanent residency status in Finland!

The physical permit expires in 5 years, but the right to reside does not require new applications any longer.

I should have received this after four uninterrupted years' residence as a family member (I only acquired family member status after living here on a student visa 3 years, because that's what same-sex couples had to do - cohabit 3 years - in order to acquire the right to Finnish registered partnership and the common law partnership status. Gender-neutral marriage passed here recently, but to my knowledge the laws haven't been implemented, so this may still be the case.) So that meant 4(spouse)+3(student)=7 years after I moved here, but I hadn't adopted electronic calendars yet at the previous permit renewal, which was THREE YEARS before the final Permanent Resident Status would have kicked in... and my application was a month late, which meant I was no longer eligible, and got sent back for four more years of waiting (and another hefty processing fee). That penalty period ended last November, and I got a fancy new Resident Card yesterday!

The police have been downsized, though, and effective at the new year, foreign national permits are no longer processed in Turku. All of them for the southwest region of Finland have been concentrated in our suburb, Raisio, the one that's 20 minutes by car and where our Ikea is located (that means that a bunch of offices were closed besides the Turku one). Meanwhile, Raisio's permit-processing offices (they used to do IDs and many types of licences) have also been closed, and Raisio residents who are natural Finns have to come to Turku for their permit needs. That all happened over the new year, and I'd never been to downtown Raisio before. It took two bus rides and then wading through four parking lots in calf-high snow. I discovered they only have one service window open there, next to about six shuttered ones in their lobby (Alien Affairs in Turku usually had 2 or 3). Luckily the lines were not long yet, so I didn't have to wait long before making another two bus trips and a lot of frantic snow-wading to get back home with my toes numb (it was -15°).

In relation to the downsizing, I asked the desk worker, "So before the 5 years are up I have to come back?" and she laughed,

"Well, who knows what the permit will look like or who will be processing it in five years! We might not even have a police office!" Touché, desk worker, touché.
When casual chatting about livestock leads to google leads to random forums where some people are like:

"OH if you're so in favor of responsible livestock breeding practices and 'not risking animals' lives with high probability of deadly pregnancies and stillbirths', then how would YOU feel if someone FORCE STERILIZED you and maybe YOUUUUU should post some pictures of YOUUUUUR family health history for us to mock, Ms. High-and-Mighty 'I Know What Genetics Is'!"

We've encountered this kind of anger twice today, once in the context of horses with genetic skeletal faults and once in the context of Dexter cattle, a heritage breed with a dangerous dwarfism trait.

It gives a whole new context to the phrase "some people shouldn't be allowed to breed", which I never thought I'd have a response to other than "kill it with fire"; but it turns out all you have to do is add "livestock, if they can't be bothered with Punnett squares*".

I honestly never thought I'd be getting enthusiastic about cattle breeds and sheeps' hooves, but I guess that's what happens when you marry into hearty farmworker stock.

*Full disclosure: as a teen (mumble 16 years ago) I loved Punnett squares. Our AP Bio teacher happened to have a teachers' edition of the text with a misprint that omitted the answers to a big section of the genetics problems, and our teacher kept getting lost trying to work them out, and several of us spent several class periods arguing with her... which I still look back on with fondness.
I tried out a recipe for coffee cake ("breakfast cake", which is... what?) that looked interesting, and I think I accidentally discovered the perfect blueberry muffin. I'm not saying the recipe for the perfect blueberry muffin was a big secret or anything, I just didn't happen to know it: there are a lot of cookies in my baking repertoire and quite a few muffins, but my mom always made crumble and pie out of our blueberries.

And blueberry muffins are so popular in the US that the bad ones vastly outnumber the good, which has made me wary. It means that usually when I've had them it's the bad kind, and that doesn't exactly engender enthusiasm. But anyway, I was comparing lemon cake recipes online and had bought lemon extract for the planned Lemon Cake Try-Outs, and I substituted it for lemon zest in this coffee cake out of convenience, but WOW.

(I also used almond milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar instead of buttermilk and omitted the vanilla.) The only flaw in this recipe was the batter, which was really so thick it was almost dough. It uses whipped butter instead of oil, which of course is famous for tasting better, but I had a hard enough time wrestling it flat in a square cake pan - I shudder to think what it'd be like in individual muffin cups.

So probably what remains is to replace the butter with canola oil (it might need some more milk or water too) and scale the whole thing up for a bigger batch, which I'll definitely have to do in the near future.


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