10 September, 2013

My 1&1 internet experience

Last week I began getting emails from 1&1 Internet Inc. At first they were just ads, then a thank you for setting up a website. I pretty much ignored those. So someone accidentally put my email address in during signup - oh well, it happens, and they'll figure it out quickly when they don't receive the confirmation email.

Except this company DOESN'T USE THEM. Holy Batmobile, Robin. They then sent me confirmation of having purchased a new domain.

Ok, so money's involved, and this is where I step in - it is not fair to the rightful owner (Jessica M) that she paid for something and can't get into her account. I politely emailed the company to let them know that Jessica had put in the wrong email address and would they please take mine off her account. I shouldn't have access to her private info or her web hosting account. It's not mine and I didn't pay for it.

No reply.

I used the "reset password", had it sent to me, and logged into her account, hoping to find contact info. Unfortunately her name is far too common and a Facebook search turned up dozens with the same name, and none of them in the matching location. I tried, I really did. But I don't think it should be my problem to solve... I figured that since the password had been changed, and she couldn't get the reset email (they come to me), she would call their support people and they'd sort out why she isn't receiving emails. Right? Right? No.

I then received an email addressed to her, apologising for having lost her call, and asking about website colours and setup. I replied that I'm not Jessica, asking them to take my email off the account. No reply from setup support. Jessica has been waiting days and her website is still not working... the host is not listening to me... ok, maybe I can get JESSICA'S attention. I made a free 2-minute website and pointed her domain there. I figured that surely on the website she paid for, she would notice that it says "IT'S NOT YOUR EMAIL JESSICA, CONTACT 1AND1 SUPPORT" and has a huge photo of a coffee cup.

I figured wrong.

Next I received more info about configuring the new domain, and a bill. I made a third request, this time to Billing.

The reply from someone named Quirino was "Dear Jessica" followed by telling ME to contact Jessica to fix the problem. They supplied a login link to her account. Let's get this straight: a total stranger has told this company that they have access to one of their client's personal information. The total stranger should not have this access. The total stranger is luckily not an online creep or thief, but what if I were??? Not only do they not immediately lock me out, but they TELL me to log into SOMEONE ELSE'S ACCOUNT.

If you are considering signing up with them and giving out your credit card information, that should chill you to the bone.

I reply AGAIN saying I'm not Jessica, and asking them clearly to remove my email address from her account.

I get a reply of "Dear Jessica" (wtf!) apologising and telling me to disregard the bill if it's not mine. Um yes. But...

(hits "password reset" and enters ONLY her account number, not my email address)
(receives new password link)
(yes boys and girls they didn't do what I asked, and my email is still in her account.)

I have finally had enough... I came close to just deleting her entire account and domain, to FORCE them to fix the problem. Not just for me but for the poor woman whose private information gets given out to whoever. But I didn't. Instead, I have edited Jessica's personal information and replaced my email address with the main email address for support. Maybe they'll do something when they start getting a bunch of her emails arriving in their support box and Jessica phones to abuse them.

I wrote them a curt reply to tell them what I had done. Probably useless, but there you go. In a rare moment of indecision, I saved the email without sending. And what do you know? Another email from the company.
Dear Jessica M*,

Thank you again for choosing 1&1 web services. We are writing to follow up on your recent contact with Quirino xxxxx. As 1&1 is constantly striving to improve service performance and provide greater value to our customers, we ask that you please take a moment to follow the link below and answer a few survey questions.
Oh really? Why yes. Yes, I will give you feedback. Honest feedback. I don't think you really wanted to hear what I wrote, but you got it.

And then I sent that reply. And I'm posting it on the internet, because really, when this is what you consider "customer service", you deserve the world to see it. And your customers deserve to be warned.
Dear Margaret, Quirino, the CEO of 1and1 Internet Inc., the cleaner, the lady in the lunch room, or anyone really,

Despite me asking four times, you have been incapable of carrying out a simple task, (that is, to not share a total stranger's personal information with me) otherwise known as removing my email address from her account. And you are still addressing me as Jessica despite being told repeatedly that I am not Jessica, you are emailing the wrong person, and you still need to fix Jessica's account. 

I know you have not corrected this after four requests because the "forgot password" link still sends login access to me.

I have taken care of it by logging into her account (yuck - it feels horrible to invade someone's paid account) and putting YOUR email address in as her contact info. You will now receive all her emails. Perhaps you will be interested in fixing the issue now. Oh and do something about your terrible security policy which allowed this to happen in the first place. People should be able to expect that a reputable company does not send their private information to strangers. It's called "requiring an email confirmation link to be clicked before granting that address access rights to personal information".

Elisa in Finland (not Jessica - no really - I'm not Jessica. Really. Please don't reply to this with "Dear Jessica".)
PS. Her domain is still showing my pic of a coffee cup. I even put some ads on the page. I might earn a couple of cents.

Another staff member from billing has replied to the above email explaining that they can't really delete email addresses based on a request via email. (So they intend to intentionally continue spamming me. Ain't there laws against refusing to remove someone from a mailing list they didn't sign up to?) But anyway, why do you suppose they have this policy? Maybe they think... that email is insecure. (!?)

She added this awesome line: "If this account isn't yours, please disregard"

IF? IF? Seriously, IF? Perhaps she's still unsure. All I can do is laugh.

After contacting them six times, I have received another email addressed to Dear Jessica. I've politely asked them to remove me. From everywhere. No reply.

Unrelated: someone from 1&1 has found this page and left a comment asking me to send him everything. I'm a bit hesitant... his profile has a grand total of 1 post to Google+ and no indication of who he is and whether he can do more than anyone else who has seen my previous requests. And really, after six failed requests, can anyone really fix this? And will anything actually happen to fix the cause (ie. I think they need a security policy)? Shouldn't my honest & scathing feedback through their questionnaire have gone somewhere and fixed the problem? It didn't - what's the point of asking for feedback and not doing anything with it?

Googling has led me to discover who it is, and it was the Director of Customer Relations. I have communicated with him via email and passed on the information on Jessica's account. He kindly offered to take ownership of the issue and sort it out, and he was good enough to hear my thoughts on the issue. The management team has now reviewed this case and acknowledged that errors were made, and they will continue to use such cases to improve. They are continuing to focus on making sure employees take ownership of issues through to resolution.

+10 for customer relations done right. Thank you, Aaron.

I expect that this is probably the last update I will have on this, but I welcome comments from people who have opened accounts with 1&1. I would especially like to hear from people whose problems were successfully resolved. You can leave comments anonymously (if you wish).

14 August, 2013


I had a dream that I was some kind of superhero trying to defeat some other kind of superhero group, in a crowded multi-storey building. The group included a guy I went to school with, Rich. Suddenly I realised Will Riker was missing and I asked where he was. "He's up the top floor, near the statue. He's not looking good." I was terribly, terribly upset at his death. Then of course I had to battle my way up to the top through all the people, because I was determined to see his body and cry over it. As I was fighting my way back up I started to become aware that it was a dream, and somehow I knew that at the end of my dream he wouldn't be quite dead and I'd be the one to discover that. I woke up thinking that the scene had to go in my book somehow (obviously, not Commander Riker). So I tell my husband and what does he say?

"Did Riker have a beard, or not?"


This is going to haunt me, I just know it.

11 August, 2013

Learning online

So I signed up for a free course named Foundations of Teaching for Learning 1: Introduction. I also paid for the official certificate showing that I really sat the course. It was intended for anyone teaching, thinking of teaching or planning to teach, and made it quite clear you don't need to be a teacher to do the course. It also noted that it's about teaching students of any age. The course is supposed to be an introduction to what's in the following 7 parts. I still have no idea about anything in the following parts. It simply isn't what was claimed.
"...this course provides an overview of what you will go on to study in greater depth"
"Being a teacher: an ambassador to the kingdom of the child"
Do either of those look like they're diverse? Or accurate? No. My score: 4/10.

The course material was dreary videos with a professor just rambling about learning, without actually saying much. He constantly made reference to my classroom and my children (remember when I noted that the description said it was suitable for those who are not actually qualified teachers? And people who teach adults? Yeah). The assessment involved four quizzes and two assessments (graded by your peers - many of whom can barely write English).

The quiz for the first week contained questions not answered in the course material. The quiz also claimed you'd get immediate feedback on where you went wrong (but it didn't, because they set the quiz up wrong). People began to complain in the forums and wonder aloud what to do. Many of them noted that the material was centred on elementary-school age; several people admitted they weren't teachers and felt that this wasn't aimed at them; more felt that it used terminology way beyond a layperson and assumed professional knowledge and qualifications. One lady said she taught handicapped adults and felt that the material wasn't useful for her needs.

Cue the self-righteous and pretentious twats blabbing on about how you're supposed to do your own research. Um, how can you know what to research if the question has nothing to do with what's in the lectures and reading material? Then someone else haughtily suggests you keep the quiz open while googling for information to answer each question.

That's not an assessment, sunshine, that's a learning exercise. You don't put that into the EXAM. Exams are supposed to check whether you did the groundwork to understand the learning material supplied. If you study, then a multiple-choice quiz should be easy.

Oh and by the way, there was also a bonus YouTube video in the first week. It was ok, but nobody can actually figure out how it had anything to do with the course at all. AT ALL. It showed us the relative poverty of major nations in the last 200 years.

I've studied online before - I was enrolled in university and took four of the courses online (brilliant, well-organised and all the material was supplied). But on this one, I've demanded a refund. I consider this course to be a piece of shit. Other courses from the same provider might be excellent, but this is your warning on this course in particular. Beware of shit.

16 July, 2013

Because you wanted to know...

...I got the grill out tonight and we had kebabs. First time this year.

That'd be embarrassing if I were actually a Finn. As only a pretend one, I think I get away with it. It wasn't even my idea - husband came home with the kebabs, expecting me to cook them (do I look like a master chef to you?) - at least they were already marinated. They were delicious :)

14 July, 2013

Lazy Saturday

So my sister-in-law came over to visit, and we had a picnic in the park then played Ticket to Ride and drank long drinks.

  • Having a picnic in the park is nice.
  • Calling it "my famous bean salad" does not make me famous, even if it's good.
  • I'm not as good at the game as I thought (came 4th out of 5... boo)
  • Salmiakki & Lemon long drink is apparently foul, even worse than chilli vodka.
  • The buses are still running at 2am.
Now you know.

Elisa's Famous Bean Salad

6 sticks of celery, diced
1 can of kidney beans plus 1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
(or you can just use two cans of "bean mix")
1 spring onion, finely chopped (or green onion, or ½ red onion)
1 can of corn kernels, drained
1 punnet chopped cherry tomatoes
1 diced orange or red capsicum (some people call these bell peppers)

freshly-ground black pepper
sprinkle of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1 lime (or more, to taste)
optional: finely chopped coriander

01 July, 2013

The "AND THEN" Argument of stupid debts and student loans

WHAT IF the biggest "hell no" argument was just removed from a discussion? It'd start like this: Hey, did you know, you could study overseas and get your degree much cheaper. Normally, they'd interject with all the things that they didn't like about that, all the things they saw as negative. But what if, what if those things are (gasp) potential positives after all? It's a whole new discussion:

I COULD go overseas and get my education.

BUT THEN, I'd have to stretch my brain and learn a foreign language.

AND THEN, I'd have to learn to live in a modest apartment while I studied.

AND THEN, I'd have to eat home-cooked food and avoid spending money on useless junk.

AND THEN, I'd have a world-class education.

AND THEN, I'd have no student debts.

AND THEN, I'd have a broader perspective on life than just the town I grew up in.

But why stop there? We could do it with work, too.

I COULD move overseas and work in another country.

BUT THEN, I'd have to adapt to a totally new culture.

AND THEN, then I'd have to pay more tax.

AND THEN, I'd have a lower salary.

AND THEN, I'd have to live in a modest home.

AND THEN, I'd have fewer things.

AND THEN, I'd have free health care, excellent public services, reliable public transport, and good, free education for my children.

AND THEN, I'd be happier.

Unfortunately most people just derail the entire conversation when the tax and salary thing starts. As if tax and salaries are the only things that matter in life.

Sure, you can't pay the bills with shiny-happy-thoughts, but you're still missing the point. I'm absolutely tired of people who have a LOT of money but still think that they don't. They still want more. They still think they pay too much tax compared with Joe Average. They still think things suck more for them than they suck for everyone else.

And the people who think money is more important than everything. That the only way to happiness is enormous debts. That these things are necessary, because there is no other way to eventual financial freedom. That they will need to do all these things because the big salary at the end is the only way to be happy in life. The ones who think they would never give up expensive luxuries in exchange for living without masses of debt.

Take a lesson from a culture which values simple things. You don't need that new (whatever) and you don't need a 300 square metre apartment for just you and your frickin' cat. Lower your expectations and you could magically find that you have everything that matters.

Imagine you thought that 30 square metres for yourself was plenty. Imagine that you were perfectly content with having your bed at the other end of the living room. Now imagine that you could work part time and have no mortgage as long as you were happy with that. Or imagine that you could retire earlier, and do whatever the heck you please, as long as you're content with your two-year-old phone and your three-year-old computer and no cable tv. Or you could give up your yearly holiday to the Bahamas and just spend a month in the countryside without indoor plumbing. You could read a book by day, go fishing, then cook your dinner over an open fire.

Imagine that was enough. Imagine you had already achieved it all. Imagine the satisfaction of knowing: I did it! We made it!


It's not like that in the whole world, you know. This might mean you have to challenge what you thought you knew. Maybe you thought that the way your homeland does it is the best. Maybe you just assumed that because nobody told you any differently.

There are many of us who don't think education should be about profit. Look into it. Find out where we are. Learn something.

27 June, 2013

So I went for a walk

...and according to some random calorie counter page thingy I burned four hundred calories. In other words, a drop in the ocean. They should just get rid of the calculator code altogether and replace it with this text:
Don't bother counting calories. One 75-minute walk isn't going to do jack for your fitness, weight or life expectancy. Start eating less and start moving more often. Sincerely, calorie counter thingy.
It was nice to begin with. But then I started thinking that the stupid path signs were screwed up and I might be going the wrong way. So I was grrr-ing in my head. And I didn't want to stop and look at Google Maps because that defeats the whole purpose of getting my heart rate up. And then it was getting too hot and sweaty to enjoy (24° Celsius at 5.40am, wtf Finland) and I finally gave in and looked, and I was going the right way, but had already taken a pretty big detour. So I walked back on a more direct route, feeling all dizzy and annoyed.

Good: Found enough cans to cash in and buy an orange juice and a banana. Resisted the chocolate aisle.

05 June, 2013

Ticket to Ride Android App Review - Days of Wonder

Yeah, it had to be done - SOMEONE needs to write a review for this new Android app, because when I went searching to find a review for the new Android App for Days of Wonder's Ticket To Ride game, I couldn't find one! Since I'm conceited, I am assuming there aren't many reviews online yet (we could never claim my Googling skills were to blame...)

I must admit up front that I own the classic Ticket To Ride board game, but I'm still quite new to it. Having said that, the board game is a total blast (and you should buy it for yourself). It is a fabulous mix of strategy and simplicity. If you've only ever played board games with a dice, you're in for a treat. This is a game that even young kids can learn to play and yet it can give real enjoyment to adults, and somehow it still satisfies that one person at every gathering who simply must figure out the best way to win (you know who I mean - every family has an Uncle Steve who gets so serious about a game you have to wonder if they're even having any fun). You don't need to adore trains, either, although, if you do, you'll like Ticket to Ride.

The first time I played it I went looking for an Android app afterwards. You can imagine my disappointment to learn it wasn't yet available on Android at the time. You can imagine my fury to learn that iPhone users had one. (Sniff.) Fortunately our prayers have been answered and Days of Wonder have released the Ticket to Ride app for Android. Yay! Winnar!

Board Game
If you've never seen the original classic board game, it's a map filled with destinations all over mainland North America. Your task is to complete routes between certain cities, by collecting the right kinds of cards to fill them (matching by colour). You collect, say, three matching orange cards, then place your little plastic train widgets onto an orange section of track to show that you've claimed the tracks between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, and nobody else can get that same track. You're holding several long distance route cards, and this little section is a part of your long-distance route. Once you fill up all the sections on the long-distance route, you score the points listed on your card (perhaps your route card goes all the way to Los Angeles, so you need to get the next section as well). No dice are involved - apart from which cards you draw, nothing more is really down to chance, but to brains. It's a little complicated to explain the scoring, so an awesome aspect of it being in an Android app is that the app does the scoring for you. More awesomeness! More win! Lots more winnaring!

The music fits well with the app, even if you're not a big fan of background music. One thing that bothered me was the constant jumping and pausing - I felt a bit like I was streaming video on a 28K modem. I'm running the game on a Samsung Galaxy S3 with Jellybean and a ton of free space (hardly an old or lame phone just yet), and the game constantly lags, so it won't be long before I just turn the music off to keep my sanity. Yes, it's the entire app lagging and not just the music, but as long as I can't hear it I'll cope :)

As expected, absolutely beautiful artwork. Days of Wonder do not disappoint in the aesthetics department. Those of you familiar with the board game will know it's on the large size, which makes things interesting to fit into a smartphone screen, and yeah, if you're old and ancient like me (in your 30s) you will be squinting to read the text, especially the destinations on the map. Fortunately, with continued play you'll get to know what is where. And kindly, they've included a handy zoom function, which will get a ton of use by Yours Truly. If you're good at geography or grew up in the USA, you probably know where... um, some place named Duluth... is anyway. For the rest of us, lots of squinting, zooming and practice, hey?

I really, really, like, REALLY love the board game. Having said that, it is so disappointing to me just how confusing the hand-holding tutorial part is at the very start - and I'm someone who knows how to play. Just as you're learning how to control your own cards, they point at something different. So - if you don't know the Ticket To Ride board game works, definitely go to YouTube first and watch a bunch of videos on how the gameplay progresses. Then you'll have a fighting chance of following the "how to work this baby" part at the beginning of the Android App. It definitely improves as it progresses. It feels good once you understand where everything is, and is relatively simple to control. Thumbs up for the interface itself.

What can I say - it's the Ticket to Ride board game, put into an app, so it's awesome. I might even like it better than the board game because it doesn't involve actually trying to corral my family into one room at the same time. The game itself gets this as a recommendation: two surly teenagers who were torn away from their computers and forced to try out Mum's new board game actually wanted to stay and play it a second time. What better testimonial is there than that?

Days of Wonder - Ticket to Ride app for Android

5.43€ / $6.99

Post Script: the game doesn't always turn off when you forcefully "sleep" your phone. I pressed the side button to turn off the display, and the music keeps jumping back on for a second or two then disappearing. Possibly related to it lagging on my phone... possibly.

20 May, 2013

SO I did a thing at the library.

It's going well. More wrapping tomorrow, this time with the pages of a Gauguin art book (ouch). Can't help it, the boss said I had to!

29 April, 2013

Every now and then

...I find an article that has me nodding, and nodding, and o-my-godding. This is one I shared on Google+ a while back, but it deserves revisiting.

The article is here: http://ogodsendhelp.blogspot.fi/2012/05/kielipaa-on-finnish-language.html (you can go read it now. Don't worry, I'll wait until you come back.)

In particular, this is one of the first real parts that resonates with me:
"At the moment, I've taken a year's worth of Finnish, and I'm at the awkward transitional stage where I can ask questions, but I never understand the answers."
You betcha. I'm still at that point after three and a half years. I (usually) have time to rehearse what I'm going to say, for example at the newsagent's. I announce what I need, silently congratulating myself on asking correctly, and then all my poise is undone in an instant as the sales assistant asks me a question in return. I haven't a clue what they asked; even if it's a six-word question, not a single word sounds like anything familiar. Were it written down, it's possible I'd have identified four words of the six, but in another slap to my pride, they will always be words which are unhelpful at deciphering the sentence (of course, however something or something).

I discovered early in my residence here that it's no use telling people that I don't understand Finnish. I am blessed (cursed?) with not having any discernible accent, so they hear my announcement in fluent Finnish and don't believe it, ignoring me as if I'd begun to small-talk about the weather. I resolved to be more specific and switched to, "I don't speak Finnish well," but since it's an opening line, it's having a similar effect, and is sometimes treated as an invitation to speak freely at top speed. To their credit, most people at least forgive me being slow or not understanding. They can't say they weren't warned, after all.

It's been in evidence many times since I started my volunteer work at the library. They approach me and begin to ask something complicated, and if I can manage to interject and apologise before they finish their request, my declaration cuts them off dead. I'm not even 100% sure how to correctly tell them they should ask someone at the front desk, but they get the idea when I mumble "ask, table" and motion in that direction.

But the older people in particular are not intimidated by a dirty furriner. Maybe it's because I'm female; maybe it's because I smile as I apologise; maybe it's because I don't "look foreign". I'm keeping score. So far I've successfully helped two people find books in the library while not understanding a dang thing they babbled at me about the books they wanted. They both had their titles written down. The second one, today, had a long list of classics - Moliere, Voltaire, T.S. Eliot. We found about half of them, and I managed to explain that the others weren't at this branch, which she had apparently expected. She was evidently very pleased with me, although I haven't a clue what she said beyond "good help" and "I can't work the computer, myself".

Now as for words and vocabularies, I was reminded of this today. I am conducting inventory of the entire collection's reference books, pulling out anything that is marked "lost" in the database, or hasn't been borrowed since 2009, or has had less than 10 uses in the past 10 years. Today I pulled unwanted enormous Finnish translation dictionaries from the shelf one by one.
"...dictionaries are just an inside joke played on foreigners by Finnish publishers."
Oh yes. In so many ways. Finns even know how ridiculous the language is - wait, that's unfair, let's call it "unique" instead. They are unanimously impressed when someone tries to learn, no matter how stupid I know I must sound. They are also unanimously incredulous that anyone would want to come from Australia to live in Finland. Most of them (being Finns) have nothing more to say on the matter beyond a vague wow-type gesture, but the friendlier ones will then describe Australia as being warm, sunny and filled with wonderful beach-going. Australia is, I am assured, a dream destination for many Finns. Left unsaid is that I must be an idiot. It is an ironic thing, because Finns consider their culture and nature infinitely valuable and precious, yet can't understand how any of it could appeal to anyone else. Perhaps this is why Finland has never had a tourism industry. Those in the game will be upset (hey! We've got the Northern Lights and Helsinki's got beautiful architecture, and there's Santa's post office and there's reindeer and fantastic fashion and design) but it's part of an all-pervading idea that nobody else will ever be interested in what Finns have. Especially the language. Why bother, when everyone under 50 can get by in English?

Why bother indeed. I guess it's hard for anyone to understand if they haven't been there. But it gets old, really fast, to always be perceived as stupid because you have to constantly explain to the checkout operator (or the bank, or the doctor) that you don't understand the language. The thing is, being Finnish and all, they don't always switch to English. They think their excellent English isn't perfect enough, so they don't want to use it. They just fall into silence and don't bother, leaving me feeling abandoned.

And it really sucks to get home and discover what they had tried to tell me - that my yoghurt has been opened, or the cheese is expired, or the coffee was full price because only the other type was on special. That's why I want to learn the language...

27 April, 2013

Work Placement

As part of my course, I am spending 6 weeks in a voluntary work placement. I say voluntary because it's not paid, but it's not actually voluntary. Or, you could say, I'm being paid by way of the unemployment benefit.

The reasons... I'm not entirely sure. I bet if you ask the politicians it's because I need experience in being part of the workplace. Fair enough; except, this course contains only people with educations - there are no illiterates in the class and it is primarily people with work histories and tertiary qualifications. We know that you need to dress appropriately, turn up on time, and be respectful. In that regard, the work placement scheme would be more appropriate for the "slow" class (primarily refugees and other immigrants who arrived in Finland unable to read or write in their native languages). I had these kinds of clients in my previous life, people who honestly didn't know that you should dress nicely for a job interview. Well, how could they know, if nobody in their social circles had ever been to one? Sometimes, what appears to be stupidity is merely a lack of life experience. Without having seen a formal dinner table, you'd never know that the knives go on the right, and so on.

However, the teachers have all talked about this work placement as being a time to practice speaking Finnish. Sadly most of us, at around level B1, are not at the level required to understand ordinary conversation from a Finn.

I'm doing mine at the local library. I quite like it - the people are pleasant enough and the work is not stressful. In the first few days I spent most of the time on my feet. I swear, I have not known such foot-agony in my life. Even back in the days of a checkout operator when I was standing up for 8 hours. But the biggest frustration is the language. I have now lost my chance to practice each day at the lunch table with my friends (the library staff carefully stagger their lunchtimes to be alone, so I just sit and read as I eat). The main supervisor is very nice, but I understand almost nothing that she says. She will repeat it when I'm confused, but it still isn't any easier for my beginner ears. Then, she'll just pantomime it or switch to English.

The big boss is very patient with me and dumbs it down so I understand, but she's got other libraries to run as well, and I'm lucky if I see her for ten minutes a day. The other staff mostly just switch to English, or begin in English. I also spend long hours of the day doing tasks by myself.

None of it is the fault of the library staff. Really, they have been very kind and appreciative of me. They've even offered me things for free - like, food - why there's so much in the library kitchen I don't understand, but there always is - and any of the books for sale, I can take home for free. It's not their job to improve my Finnish. I'm just really frustrated and worried that I'm going backwards. Worse, even if I don't go backwards, I will be sliding down the class as all the others improve.

I had coffee with my classmates on Thursday (it was WONDERFUL!) and two of them have noticeably more fluent Finnish already, after just 6 days in the placement. One has hit the jackpot, with two co-workers whose entire working lives now seem to revolve around their new helper. A second one's boss has thoughtfully forbidden anyone from using English or Russian with her, ensuring that she gets plenty of practice in nothing but Finnish for at least half her work day.

But I'm not alone. One guy is chopping vegetables all day. His Finnish knowledge is excellent, but he says he's completely unable to talk as he works. Another student (also excellent Finnish) has unwittingly discovered that her boss cherishes her other language skills, and she has found herself speaking Russian all day with tourists.

I suppose on the balance of things I have it ok. It is merely marking time; we all know that in about 6 weeks' time we will be forcibly ejected back into the world of unemployment, equal to Finns in the eyes of the law, but with a myriad comparative disadvantages, meaning we'll never get selected from a pool of applicants, unless we somehow find the position which only a foreigner can fill. We (mostly) haven't got enough Finnish to even function in a conversation with the local shopkeeper. The Finns, meanwhile, pretty much all have the English skills that some jobs require. And yet we can't study to improve our Finnish. Those magical skill numbers declare that we're finished. If we want that, we're kicked off unemployment and told to go apply for student benefit - which will be rejected (there is no provision for an adult wanting to study at anything less than degree level). No, we can't even go to a course that's ONE night per week, ONE hour per week.

Where's the logic? They say they need immigrants - particularly skilled ones - but let's imagine I were a trained nurse. How many of us would still bother to stay, after being here almost four years and still can't get work thanks to the language? Even the ones who WANT to stay, aren't allowed to study Finnish in order to get there. Net result: we nurses take our (educated, skilled, Finnish) partners and children and we leave Finland. Net result, Finland just lost four potential taxpayers.

The only recourse for me is to choose between three difficult roads. Illegal study using a false name (I am not very fond of this route). Or sitting at home unemployed, looking for work and being slapped down non-stop (not fond of this one either; even the main employer of cleaners requires fluent Finnish, and supposing I got work from somewhere else, I would still be... a cleaner, not a life's ambition of mine). Or, thirdly, somehow using my own skills to become self-employed. Except I don't know what I can do. English is not a selling point for me and no advantage whatsoever, despite being not only native and fluent but able to use it to a business level. I don't have relevant qualifications (my computer skills are excellent but so are half the country's). I have, variously, made money by blogging, writing articles, selling jewellery, and completing surveys, but none of these really suit me as a full-time career.

My career is just... it's an endless cycle of wondering. It's an exercise bike. It's not goin' anywhere. I don't know what I am. Husband just tells me to continue being "awesome" but it's just more spinning wheels, in my head. I don't know...

04 April, 2013


Today with school we went back to Musiikkitalo (Music House) to see the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. It was really great :) The price was right - free for school groups booked in advance, and only €3 to get in otherwise. It was the final rehearsal for their concert which begins tonight. They played Schumann, Prokofiev and Beethoven, and the solo violinist was Viviane Hagner from Germany - very talented. I took my 17yo daughter with me. She even said that she had enjoyed it, and wished she played the violin herself :)

Pro tip: if you live in Helsinki, these shows happen regularly. You can check out the website to see the dates, www.musiikkitalo.fi (it's also in English). They have a lovely sunny cafe indoors, and fresh pastries for sale. Unfortunately there's quite a rush at intermission, so if you want to buy something, sit close to the door and make a dash for it the moment intermission starts. They won't let you into the doors if you're late, so arrive in time to use the cloaking service.


The rehearsals are informal - leave your furs at home and wear jeans (the whole orchestra will be in jeans too). The musicians ignore the audience, so this is a little different to "going to the symphony". The conductor often asks them to play small sections of the pieces again, asking them to play louder in the horn part, or tell the violinists they're a bit slow to begin the fast section, and so on. It's kinda interesting :) Even the building is spectacular.

20 March, 2013

Let me tell you of an interview with an Old Man Emu
He's got a beak and feathers and things but the poor old fella ain't got no wings

Aren't you jealous of the wedge-tailed eagle - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
While the eagle's flyin' round and round I keep my two feet firmly on the ground
Now I can't fly but I'm tellin' you, I can run the pants off a kangaroo
...Ba-da-doo-doo... He can't fly but I'm tellin' you, he can run the pants off a kangaroo

Well he was the model for the fifty cents - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
The designer should have had more sense - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
If you take a look it'll prove to you (ha-ha-ha-ha), I ran the pants off that kangaroo
...Ba-da-doo-doo... Take a look, it'll prove to you, he ran the pants off the kangaroo

You can't loop the loop like a cockatoo - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
Swoop and toss like an albatross - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
You silly galah, I'm better by far, than a white cockatoo or a budgerigar
They squeak and squawk and try to talk, why me and them's like cheese and chalk
...Ba-da-doo-doo... He can't fly but I'm tellin' you, he can run the pants off a kangaroo

Well the last time I saw Old Man Emu - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
He was chasing a female he knew- Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
As he shot past I heard him say, Hoo-choo-ah-hoo-choo-ah-hoo-choo-ah-hoo-choo
She can't fly but I'm tellin' you, she can run the pants off a kangaroo
...Ba-da-doo-doo... She can't fly but I'm tellin' you, she can run the pants off a kangaroo

Well there is a moral to this ditty - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
Thrush can sing, but he ain't pretty - Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
Duck can swim but he can't sing, nor can the eagle on the wing
Emu can't fly but I'm tellin' you he can run the pants off the kangaroo

Well the kookaburra laughed and he said it's true, Um-ba-da-litch-a-da-da-da
(ha-ha-ha-ha, ha-ha-hoo) he can run the pants off the kangaroo

13 March, 2013

What's new

...in my world?

Well... still studying. It's still difficult, unfortunately. But I started getting itchy for a hobby, so I have a table at the flea market now, permanently. It doesn't really make me a great deal of money (actually I think the table cost comes close to eating every cent of my profit) but it keeps me busy and it's kind of interesting to see what people will buy and what they won't.

Lately I've been making jewellery. I also make a few other bits and pieces, like denim handbags. Yay sewing machine! Stuff for mobile phones works - cases and styluses and so on. Cool and funky clothing items sell pretty well too, but ready-made ones are hard to find for a good price. So I was thinking about personalised t-shirts, making them myself instead of ordering them in. I had a look around and got a few places for printing t-shirts - holy wow there are a lot of websites for t-shirt printing out there. Every second place lets you design your own t-shirt nowadays and duh, I thought there were only about five sites haha.

The other option is kid's toys... but I always stress about them getting opened. Some parents are pretty rough with the merchandise. I think clothing works a lot better.

Oh well, time to go do homework (we got into trouble today because only 3 people in the class actually did theirs).

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19 January, 2013

Web Hosting

True story: I used to host Legend of the Green Dragon, a text-based RPG based on the BBS classic of the similar name. This was my web host, LunarPages, who suited the site brilliantly.

If you need hosting for your website, at the moment you can use the coupon code "aff15off" for 15% off hosting plans.