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Monday, January 30, 2012

We Experience Finnish Vets (a 2fer post)

Let me just get it out there: we're fine.  Ted's fine.  No legs were damaged to achieve this blog entry!  (although you might not want to read much further if you have a delicate tummy.)

As some of you know, Ted's tum started acting up again a little over a week ago, so I put him on a pretty disciplined version of the old "tummy cure all": 2-day fast, back to eating with little meals of white rice, and gradually over c. 10-12 days getting him to his usual diet.  Well, by yesterday I was feeding  1/2 normal food, 1/2 rice in the usual amounts, and everything seemed to be going fine; the only possible weirdness was that he didn't poop all day, but when they're living on so much rice, that's not particularly odd.

Then, this morning my complacency was ruined.  Lots of poop this morning and, while not as bad as it had been a little over a week ago, not representative of Ted "Iron Gut" Edwards.  Ugh.  Having to take him out 3 times in 5 hours when it was less than 12 degrees out.  Double ugh.  Having to take him out when the snow is condensing to ice.  Triple ugh.  You get the idea.

I called the vet and was shocked that they could get us in at 1 pm.

Well, about 12:15 I started off.  It wasn't that the vet (HauMau) was that far (it's only in Kamppi, c. 2 tram stops away), but I wasn't sure how long it would take us to walk there.  You see, since Ted's leg was okay, I figured I'd use the walk (maybe 3/4 of a mile each way) as his big walk for that day and a test of the ice grips I had for my snowboots.  So we went chugging down the road between the beach and the tram route to Kamppi.

When we get to the vet's office, it reminded me a lot of the hospitals here: it has everything, but they don't waste money on all the flash and dash Americans seem to expect.  HauMau is supposed to be one of the posh vets in town, and it looked much like my vet in the SC suburbs except that it wasn't as spacious.  If you knew where to look, though, you saw the signs of a place that had it together.  Yet another example of Americans spending WAY too much on the superficial aspects of care.

In any case, the receptionist logged us in quickly, weighed Ted (he's EXACTLY at the weight he was when he left SC even with the exercise and more muscle mass--yippee!), and put us in an exam room.  No wait and all handled in lovely English.  (I continue to remain grateful that the Finns are SO gracious when it comes to speaking English.  I KNOW few people who aren't Finns speak Finnish, but it's their kindness in switching into a foreign language that I really appreciate.)

There we hung out for a while.  Ted, funnily enough, was calmer than he was at home; I say "funnily enough" because the walls in our exam room didn't go up to the ceiling all the way, so we could hear noise from other rooms and the waiting room.  It wasn't loud, the room was perfectly fine, and we didn't have long to wait.

Then I had an aging moment, when my vet walked in and I realized that I could ALMOST be her mother.  Agh.  But she was really pleasant (Dr. Pihlman on the HauMau site, if you're curious; click the HauMau link above, go to "henkilökunta," and you'll see a link with her name.  She got her degree last year and is the youngest member of the practice) and gave Ted a REALLY thorough going-over.  The great news there is that everything, including his leg, checked out normally, and she told me that I was doing just what I should do for his tendinitis.  She went over the medical records my vet had sent over and actually prescribed something I'd heard works better for digestive issues than the amoxicillin that I'd used when he had this 2 years ago at home.  Nicely for me, too, she gave me something that's supposed to help bind him up pretty quickly, so if I'm lucky, tonight should be my last night with potential wake-ups.  (If not, I'm supposed to go back.)  Best of all, she wrote the instructions and record in Finnish AND English, so I'm not sitting there with Google Translate.  She and I both laughed about my experience doing that with the pneumonia medicine!!

Okay, so I now I have a Finnish vet.  While I can't say that I really WANTED one, I'm really happy with the kid I have :-)--and that she's part of a practice with vets who have multiple board certifications and have been practicing for 30 years. :-)

Then the bad news: the visit and medicine was c. 100 Euros.  Ugh.  Well, in that area US and Finnish vets are about comparable, which must explain why everyone here keeps telling me how incredibly expensive Finnish vets are. :-)  It's worth it, though.

In any case, I bundled back up, and Ted & I walked home, 2 hours total with the walk & everything.  He's now woofing at the guys cleaning the snow off the roof while I type this.  Then it will be aspirin for me and an attempt to get some of my OWN work done, especially since I may have to stay here tomorrow if his tum doesn't make it through the night (and, if that's the case, I'll be worried and won't concentrate well on writing anyway).


Oh, as for the ice cleats ...  useless ... absolutely friggin' useless ....  absolutely, incredibly, amazingly, friggin' useless ... :-)  That translates as ... well, I was about to write "useless" again, but you get the idea.

Seriously, on the way there, I slipped them over my boots and tightened the strap over my arch; when I did that the stitching on one of the straps tore.  Well, that ticked me off since it was my FIRST time wearing them, but the strap was long enough that I could still make it work.  I hooked them back on--a bit of a pain--and we headed off.

On the way there they worked wellish.  I say that because I really did feel much more secure on snow and ice and could walk faster, but I achieved that effect as much by having my steps forcibly changed than by the cleats themselves.  Basically, because of the way they were constructed, they forced me to walk in the flat-footed way that all the Finns recommend for the ice and packed snow.  When I did that, I had good grip, although I was still too much of a chicken to walk too fast or to swing my steps a bit.  Unfortunately, though, whenever I hit a place where the ice was patchy with bare, moist cement or stone, then they weren't any better than my snowboots; in fact, they felt a bit more precarious.  They are cleats, after all.

Verdict by the time I reached HauMau: worth putting up with when the snow packs to ice and during the thaw-frost cycles, but not worth the hassle downtown and when there's 2 cm or more of loosish snow on the ground.

As Ted and I head back from HauMau, I slipped them back on.  I figured this would be my big test since the shopping block right near my tram stop is pack ice, and I have to walk through that to get to the Towers.  Now to appreciate what happens you have to have a sense of how these ice cleats look and fit.  My ice cleats were--note the past tense--thick rubber straps with 1/3" metal spikes embedded on the straps.  The idea is that you put your boot's toe through an opening on the rubber (a 1/4" rubber "strap" goes over the top of your toes if it fits correctly, and mine did), then you stretch the cleat the length of your boot's bottom, and hook another rubber loop up over the heel part of your boot.  Many just stop there, but one of the things I liked about these was they had an additional velcro & metal strap that went over the top of your arch.  This strap hooked onto the rubber with metal clamps; they worked great, but the stitching attaching the velcro strap to the metal clamp is what gave on one of them when I first put them on.  Still, I could fit the strap through the rubber opening, so no harm, no foul.

Now the story can begin again.

Well, about 2 blocks from HauMau the front strap that comes up over the toe on my right boot comes off.  Ugh.  I reach down and pull it back up.  About 30 steps later, it's off again.  Same adjustment, but this time I make sure that thing is well over my toes.  About 30 steps later, here we go again.  Same adjustment, same result.  Now here I am with this rubber thing flopping around on my feet as I'm trying to walk on packed snow/ice.  Like that's useful!  In any case, after SIX attempts to adjust it, I tore the things off in disgust and resumed the foot-binding shuffle back to the Towers.

And, yes, we made it through the icy block by the shops with very, very careful steps.

That was a waste of 11 Euros!!  Next time I'm in town I'm stopping at the sporting goods store near campus and getting ones that REALLY work.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Collegium Video

It turns out that the Collegium has a Facebook and YouTube site.  They've actually got a pretty good introductory video posted here, and guess who makes an appearance about 2:50 into the video?

Enjoy!  I'm off to pick up my Russian visa.


Little addendum here.  I came back from getting my Russia visa to find a note asking me if it was okay to feature this video on the Collegium website (You can only link here, since they haven't gotten everything sorted on YouTube yet.).  Other than my inevitable complaints about my appearance, I actually think it's a pretty good video, especially since I was talking off the top of my head and knew I had only 5 minutes to present ALL of my research.  Another thing that's good about it is that it gives the introduction by one of our Assistant Directors explaining what this craziness is that we're doing.

Now in celebration of making it through the video, I'm off to eat lunch.  Yes, I appreciate the irony.

The Park in the Snow

In keeping with what seems to be a theme of meditations on our community park, I now bring you the park in the snow--in other words, in real winter.  What can I say?  I spend A LOT of time in the park with Ted.  Besides, the park is a great example of some of the tensions in living abroad: ways to approach things that both make perfect sense to a Finn and, in some cases, seem really odd or wonderful to me.

First of all, the snow itself.  From what my Helsinki colleagues, "big" snowfalls (over 6" in 24 hours) are relatively rare in Helsinki.  They describe the pattern as a little bit everyday or every other day.  That's certainly what we've had here once the snow finally started falling, and it means that there's about a foot on the ground with drifts and piles from the plows that are much higher and thicker.

Yes, you read plows.  While there have to be some big ones to keep the larger streets going, they're not much in evidence around here.  Instead, what we now have are various versions of miniCats that work on the street in front of the apartment (1 lane), but I'll explain more about that in a later entry on dealing with snow in general in Helsinki.  For now, I'll just say that, as I'm figuring out the system, it's actually pretty easy to deal with, and given Anna's explanations, it all makes a lot of sense.

So how do the plows fit into my description of the park?  Well, you're about to get a story to get that story.  You see, as soon as the snow falls, people basically start making "deer trails" through the snow to walk everywhere, and these hard packed surfaces become the paths for people and animals; trust me, within a few days even my snow-naive dog figured out that walking on these is the way to go.  Sometimes it can really give you a winter wonderland effect (BTW, it's a good 8-10" deeper now);

other times, it's just a groove with slightly more solid footing in the snow.  While obviously I've dealt with this sort of thing before--it's not as if I've never lived with or seen snow--I've never seen this internalized so widely on a cultural scale.  For example, when I was in the Jura we had 2 solid months of snow plus lots of multiday and week-long periods with it, too, but in Dole the sidewalks just weren't big enough for such obvious paths, and in the center of cities they did a lot more scraping, deicing, etc.  Here they really are urban deer trails, and people dutifully tromp down them following the direction of traffic.  The latter really kills me.  Single file, very purposeful.  Sometimes people with dogs will veer off the path, but even the folks who've attempted to make snowmen do them right near the trails.  Wow.

In any case, the best part of the park in winter happens right where the old soccer pitch was in the summer.  About 10-14 days ago, I noticed someone had made a huge circle in the park scraping the snow out of the center into mounds on the edges.  (You can see how high the mounds are by now in the second picture above.)

Then I saw a city employee attach a hose to his truck and start spraying water all over where he scraped.

I mean, come on!  As if the snow isn't slippery enough!

In all seriousness, he was making a little ice rink right there in the park.  For the next few days when it was below freezing, he'd come back, rescrape everything, and coat the rink with more water.

It is INCREDIBLY neat!  I love walking out there watching the kids skate (or try to learn to), play hockey, or just putz around.  When the snow edge wasn't over Ted's head, he couldn't quite figure out how people's heads were just going past him; by now, though, he really doesn't notice.  My only disappointment is that they didn't find a way to incorporate the soccer nets into the rink.  THEN it would be a real ice hockey rink.  Or maybe that was intentional.

In any case, I may have to scoot my way around for the next couple of months, but at least the scenery for part of my walks with Ted (4 times a day) is nice to look at.

More later about me coping with the snow, Finns acting like the snow doesn't exist, little Finnish Michelin men, and some truly impressive heels that Finnish women can wear with snow and ice!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Continuation of the Snowplow Saga

Well, it appears that I really don't know how to handle tone when writing here, because folks seemed to think I was more pissed off than I actually was when I started writing about snowplows last time.  Believe me, walking through downtown I was frustrated, but by the time I was back in the apartment, I decided to channel that frustration into something that, I hoped, would be almost comical in its extremism.  Clearly I should never be a comedy writer.

That being said, it inspired an exchange between Anna Koivusalo, my lovely Finnish renter in SC, and me about snow, snow culture, and lack of snowplows that I thought you guys might be interested in.  So, here with Anna's permission, are our emails!

From: Anna Koivusalo 
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2012 07:20:17 -0500To: Kathryn Edwards
Subject: Re: Travels with the Dude

Ha ha -- your Finnish collagues got it right. Reading your blog, I didn't understand why you were so mad, because the situation seemed completely normal to me. It is just the way it is. People may not 
like it, but they accept it.

If the city wanted to get the sidewalks clear, someone would have to do it by hand since snowplows are too big for that purpose. Do you know how expensive it would be to pay someone to shovel the snow by hand, especially early in the morning? (I am constantly amazed here in SC how there always seem to be at least three times more people doing the same job than in Finland.)

Last year, when we had the snow record, they didn't plow streets at all in the suburbs where I live (they plowed our street TWICE during the whole winter!) Cars just struggled through the piles of snow and there was snow two feet deep on the sidewalks. Compared to that, Töölö and downtown had it much better; at least someone cleared the streets and sidewalks there, if not sanded them..

And Finns don't sue since our legal system really does not support that kind of lawsuits (you don't get compensation other than perhaps the cleaning expenses of your pants or something like that -- too 
much trouble) and because this is, after all, normal..

You just deal with it -- with sisu ;)


kirjoitti 20.1.2012 kello 8.05:
Hi Anna,

That's pretty funny.  Talk about completely different approaches to the situation.  If you ever get snow in SC, you'll see that the world shuts down before and for several days afterwards because  businesses, government agencies, and other folks are so worried about the ramifications if someone's hurt  The interesting part, though, is in areas of the states where they get snow like you do here, they have the wild cleaning and plowing crews and people do shovel and sand their sidewalks.  (It's one of the reasons snow blowers are so popular.)  Employees at shops are expected to do it, or if they've got a good boss, s/he hires someone to do it. Teenagers make a lot of money in winter shoveling snow!

With that in mind, would you mind if I posted your reply to the blog?  My friends at home would get a hoot out of the differences.

Take care,



From: Anna Koivusalo 
Date: Fri, 20 Jan 2012 08:23:55 -0500To: "EDWARDS, KATHRYN" 
Subject: Re: Travels with the Dude
Hi Kay,

Sure, use my reply if you like -- I can understand why it would be funny (now, having spent time in SC).

I guess that as Finns have spent all their life dealing with snow, it just isn't a big deal for anyone. And, remember, we are also accustomed to walk in/on the snow. (Snow, in fact, is not slippery at all so you don't have to sand it; only ice is. That is the second reason (the expenses being the first) for why they haven't sanded so much as you'd expect. And the third reason is that if you sand every day, you'll also have to clean the sand afterwards -- you'll see what it's like in spring with air filled with dust particles.) So it's not about carelessness or lack of "snow-how" (as we say), it's just the realities of winter.

Be careful and take only small steps with putting your whole sole down!



Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012

Ah, but, Anna, it's packed and icy within 2 days. :-)  Actually in all seriousness the main time I mind it is on sidewalks in major streets and in areas where you only have a really narrow area to walk, like the tram platforms.  I get that just dumping sand into fresh snow is ridiculous; it's the hard, packed snow in downtown that has me stunned--and, especially, that ice dam that has built up right outside the Kasienemi (sp?) metro exit.  OMG, it's already bad enough that I think I'm going to walk across the street to avoid it.

All this reminds me that I must trim Ted's paws this weekend.  The hair's gotten long enough again that he's starting to get snowballs between his toes.  That's got to be unpleasant.

Take care,



Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012

I know. Actually, precisely because they do plow in downtown and have the heaters under the streets, the snow keeps melting and re-icing, making it packed and slippery. It's not slippery in the suburbs - but there you have to plunge into deep snow with every footstep. Don't know which is better.. Personally, I hate black ice, because you can't avoid it if you can't see it.

Here it's spring again - the birds are singing, the flowers are starting to make buds, and squirrels are building a new nest in the tree behind the kitchen window. It's just so odd in January!


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Snowplows! We don't need no stinkin' snowplows!

Well, I have finally found something here that annoys me enough that I can only laugh about it--probably--after a few drinks, and this post is an attempt to minimize my alcohol consumption.

Last night we had a nice, moderate snowfall, nothing like what the folks in western Washington dealt with 2 days ago or those in the northeast had in October.  It was about 4 inches, and we probably picked up another 2 or so during the day.  It was very pretty, even with the wind blowing at c. 30 mph, and I loved walking into my office and seeing a few inches of snow built up on the window ledge and some ice crystals outside the windows.

That being said, Finns need to learn about snowplows.

I remember when I was getting ready to come here and was worrying about the possibilities of slipping on the snow, since my doctor warned me that another sprained right ankle would probably equal surgery.  I bought good snowboots, planned to buy special grippers when I got here (and I have but they're a pain if you have to change surfaces a lot), and brought smaller ankle braces that would fit inside my shoes.  I felt especially ridiculous about it all, especially since everyone reassured me that the Finns would be really good about snow removal.  After all, they deal with this every year; they must have it down to a science (like in Buffalo, NY), right?  Besides, they even heat some of the downtown streets like Alexskatu.  The Finns will deal well with snow, right?


Ted got me up at 3 am to go out, so I got to see this little, mini-Cat (nothing like the size of US snowplows) working on one of the parallel streets to us that feeds right into the interstate.  Since it was snowing pretty solidly then, I figured things would be fine, like they'd been with the lighter snows we'd had.


When I walked out with Ted again at 9 am it was gorgeous but a total mess.  None of the streets had been plowed or the sidewalks sanded.  Even getting across the street to the park was a challenge, something that I hadn't anticipated given that lots of people use the same crosswalk I do because it allows them to take a short cut across the park to the tram and bus stops.  What was particularly surprising, though, is that NO ONE had done anything about the sidewalks.  They were pure packed ice and snow.  In the past we'd had a miniCat come by, scrape the sidewalks, and sand them (they don't use any chemical deicers here, and I'm fine with that).  Today nothing.

Much to my surprise, it didn't get better once I'd slogged through the park.  Even a few days ago, when the first picture was taken, I was amazed at how little the city put into keeping the tram stops ice and snow free.  I had this image of someone slipping and going right in front of a tram; that's why I took this picture.  Well, that and the woman in the distance, but more about that in another blog.  (I love having figured out how to use my Nokia's camera.)

Well, the picture below was this morning around 10 am, and as you can see, 2 days ago the platform was shiny and clear compared to today.  The challenge is that underneath that light powder is packed snow and ice.

Well, thanking God for great snowboots, I headed into the Collegium, figuring that downtown HAD to be better that Töölö.  I mean, lots of people walk downtown, all the big businesses are there, the main transportation hubs are there ...


Yes, I took this from my tram stop, which is catty-corner from the main train station.  As you can see, there has been absolutely no attempt to do anything for the sidewalks, although they had at least run a snowplow once down the main street (by the stoplight).  You could tell because they'd piled the snow in such a way that it blocked at least half the sidewalk down there!  (On the way home I noticed lots of streets where basically one side had been blocked because the plows just left a pile of snow on the corner.)

The thing is this wasn't the worst by far.  Heading up the side street to the university no one had plowed, shoveled, or sanded in front of any of the buildings.  (By now it's 10:30 am, so earliness doesn't explain it.)  It was particularly ugly this afternoon in front of the subway station right next to campus.  The streets slope awkwardly there and there are several types of roadway surface; it was pure packed ice and slush ... as were the other sidewalks, the tram stops, and the walk home.

Well, once I got into the Collegium I just had to ask WHAT WAS UP!  William, my French archaeologist colleague, was telling me that it's actually gotten much worse here in the last few years; they used to be right on top of snow removal and sanding.  He thinks it has to do with the economy and cut backs.  Then at lunch, I asked the table full of lovely Finnish postdocs what might be the reason, and they thought that William's idea had merit but they also just figure that this is the way life is; I mean, for Helsinki, this was a perfectly acceptable moderate snowstorm.  Not negligible, but not huge (They rarely get the multiple feet in a day thing here, more a couple of inches every other day, according to these guys).  And while they thought that the snow should be removed faster and that the paths should be sanded, they also didn't expect them to be done.  When I asked what elderly and handicapped people do in this, they just shrugged and thought it might be a problem.

That confirmed it.  It's sisu, that d----d sisu! :-)

In other words, as I kind of figured, the attitude was it snows, it's slippery, we can't do much, we'll just deal.  If it means slipping and spraining and breaking things, so be it.  It's our job to muddle on.


I want snowplows, not sisu.

Anyone want to import deicer? A snowblower?  I mean, I was worried about living in a house because I couldn't imagine how often I might have to shovel snow.  It turns out that, at least according to my lunch companions and the staff here at the Towers, I would never have to do it.  The city is responsible for the sidewalks, too.  I guess, if the building owners don't have to worry about getting sued, suddenly snow shoveling ends.

In fact, I hear that Espoo, one of the suburb cities, was really nicely sanded and plowed this morning.  It's just the city of Helsinki that has problems.

Okay, now that I've got that out of my system, I'm off to have dinner!  Of course, the crabbiness will start again when I have to Ted out for his evening walk if they haven't managed to sand the paths.  I suppose it would be evil of me to bring my box of salt outside and dump it on the walkway into the Towers? :-)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Winter Wear, Kay style

Since you're about to be deluged with photos of the wonders of Helsinki in winter--this is what happens when I finally figure out how to use the camera on my Nokia cellphone--I figured I'd start these entries with something a little more basic:

Introducing the Burgundy duvet
that you've already read so much about!

Yes, here I am in the giant Burgundy monster doing my best to look like a grape linebacker.  To fully appreciate the extent to which an ex-pat California has prepared for the snow, I even have it captioned!  Let me start from the top.

A.  One of the best things about this coat is the hood: lovely, quilted down and big enough that it both fits on my big head (have a ball, my friends!) and I can wear another hat under it.  The latter I'm sure I'll do if it hits the -20C that it did here last year.  It's also handy because I don't have to worry about bringing an umbrella or even a hat when I go out; if it starts to rain or snow, I just flip it up.  It's also good because, with the collar, it forms a nice windbreak on the neck even when I don't have it over my head.  Given that I live between two bays, we can get quite a wind whipping through here.

B.  Me pointing out where I should have a cap on.  Brought 4 of them and have worn two 6 times total.  The Finns would be appalled--winter caps seem to be a requirement!

C.  Scarves are essential.  Generally I have one on, like most Finns, and have since early November.  While the coat buttons nicely against my neck and can even button up over my mouth, I like the adjustability of scarves, and heaven knows, with the stash I still have from my Ireland days, I have enough of them!  On really cold days, I wrap a light one inside and put one of my longer ones outside like I have here.

D.  Yummy gloves.  While some of my Finnish friends wear mittens for the warmth, things haven't bothered me that much yet, and I have several pairs of yummy gloves.  These are my dog walking ones: Polarfleece--easy to get on and off and I can just throw them in the wash.  My favorite are these long, green, suede ones with buttons up the wrist and cashmere lining.  Yum.  Ted doesn't get anywhere near those.

E.  Okay, the first of the letters about the giant, Burgundy duvet that is my winter coat!  (This'll be the one that says nice things.)  It's this high-fill down and super toasty; in fact, a lot of the time I wear just long sleeve T-shirts under it and am fine when it's -11 or -12C.  Because it's so long, too, it keeps me warm all the way to the top of my boots, so here's hoping I won't need to wear those "pant liners" (I think in less delicate days they were called long Johns) that I brought with me.  The coat's also fleece lined on the inside--yum.  What they did was make a quilted coat, then put a smooth, sueded, waterproof lining over it supposedly to minimize the Michelin Man effect.  Doesn't mean that other, equally unflattering effects can't be achieved: when I wear it I feel like one of the players on the sidelines during a snowy day at Lambeau Field!  I also like that the pockets are deep and there are lots of them, some with zips and others with snaps.  The front is that way, too; snaps and a big zip.  Most of the time I just use the snaps because it's too warm with the zipper up.

F.  Here you can see one of the problems: even though the coat is quite large on me (I can wear a blazer under it), the pockets pull when I bring the things I need to for a Ted walk: plastic baggies and my keys.  It means that, because the snaps are unbelievably cheap and spaced too far apart (a good 8"), they pop when I bend over, move too fast, etc.  Not lovely on a windy winter's night when picking up after the beast.  It's why I had to laugh when my dad recommended getting those ski/walking poles for balance on the slippery surfaces.  It's a great suggestion, but given the complications I already have holding Ted, a loose glove, and a bag of dog poop while resnapping this stupid coat in -10C weather, I don't need two more things to juggle!

G.  My best cheap purchase on Zappos: snowboots.  Yes, I made it through 4 years in Dublin and the worst Jura winter in years and never have had snow boots before.  It's amazing how much easier it is to function when you're not sliding around on Adidas cross-trainers. :-)  I love, love, love these--fake sheepskin on the side, good tread on the bottom, easy metal zipper, lots of support, well waterproof, and even comfortable for long walks.  The only thing I hate is having to tuck in my pants so that they don't get wet.  I keep wanting to sing the pirate song from "Pirates of the Caribbean." (The REAL pirates, that is, the Disney ride, not the movie.)

H.  Ted here is wondering when he gets his evening walkie, kind of like he is now.  Can't let the Golden wait!

More to come on Helsinki life with snow, including Kay falls through the ice, Kay marvels at the park, and Kay is astonished at what Finns can walk in the snow wearing.  I'm now off to watch the kids skating in the park!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Ghostly Database

This is an outline of the general database structure that Sveta, my research assistant, and I are working on for the big ghost project.  I figured now that I'm at the drafting stage I actually know enough to put it together!

With that in mind, I've posted this outline here--albeit it with some minor formatting changes courtesy of get input from folks about things that you might want to know or think are worth knowing that I've left out.  In some cases, I made conscious decisions not to itemize things, but I'm sure there are areas I've left out here just because I've spaced out.  The highlighted areas are comments or questions I have that are specifically geared to me and Sveta, but any input you have there would be great, too.  Really, any help would be much appreciated.
Of course, I'd also love to hear from those of you who have experience in database design.  My last experience was years upon years ago, and the main thing I took from that is to try my best to have ALL my duck in a row BEFORE I started entering.  In other words, that it's much harder to change things mid-stream, and it's very likely to invalidate any of your conclusions.  Sveta is the database guru, and she assures me that we can do all of this will FileMaker 11 for the Mac.
Please send any comments to or post them in the comments section here.
Thanks in advance for any time you spend and help you give!!



Since I'm trying to find patterns in the stories more than I'm trying to find patterns within an author or genre, I want to do a separate entry for each story.  With that in mind, here's the information I would ideally like to obtain for each one.  The writings in black are the fields I imagine for the database; the writings in blue are the possible entries I can imagine for each field.  (I've done it this way because I want to be certain that I'm consistent in what I enter from the very beginning of the database.) 
A "haunting" in this case can be a single story, albeit one found in a collection of stories, such as the stories found in Glanvill.  It can also be a series of stories that can amount to 100s of individuals appearing to one person, such as Sister Francisca.  What makes them a discreet haunting is that they are perceive as having one discreet event or characteristic that unites them; for example, in the case of Sister Francisca it is her ability to perceive purgatorial spirits on earth.
A "percipient" is someone who perceives the ghost by his/herself.  In other words, a woman who sees a ghost is a percipient, as is another person who just feels the ghost, but someone who relies on their reports for perceptions about the ghost is not a percipient.
By "other individuals specifically involved with haunting" I mean those people who are distinguished in the story from the general crowd, community, or region that also knows about the haunting.  These individuals may be given a specific name or they may just be identified by profession or relationship to the percipient or ghost.

Characteristics of haunting
·      When it occurs (need to be able to give a date range here)
·      Location of haunting
o   church
§  by place of sermon
§  high altar
§  in pew
§  near eucharist
§  other altar
§  other location
§  over familal tomb
§  over personal tomb
o   churchyard
o   graveyard
o   home
§  bedroom
§  kitchen
§  living room
§  other areas
§  yard
o   other locations
o   woods
·      Number of entities who appear
·      Methods used to assess spirit's intentions
o   curse
o   magic
o   no attempt to assess intentions
o   other methods
o   prayer
o   questioning
o   sacramental
·      Resolution of haunting (overall) 
·      Demonic causation
o   exorcized
o   expelled through prayer
o   remains
o   removed in other way
·      Human ghost appeared
o   goes to ambiguous place
o   goes to Heaven
o   goes to Hell
o   goes to Purgatory
o   remains on earth
o   returns to Purgatory
·      Other Supernatural Entity involved
o   leaves
o   remains
o   transforms
·      No resolution
o   author stops recording
o   no resolution is recorded
o   people lose interest
o   spirit just disappears

Individual entities within a haunting
I will need areas here for at least 5 entities with the ability to add more.  The same fields will hold for each entity.
Entity #1
·      Time since entity #1's death
o   days
o   months
o   years
·      Cause of death
o   violent
o   natural
§  illness
§  old age
o   self-inflicted
·      Sensible characteristics
Since I have not yet run into a ghost who was universally sensible, I'm going to assume that these categories are for those who can perceive the spirit, not just those who rely on the percipient(s)' descriptions.
o   visible
§  as animal
·      amphibian
·      bear
·      cat
·      dog
·      reptile
·      wolf
§  as form of fire
§  as human
·      as self when alive
·      clergy
·      female
·      laity
·      male
·      old
·      young
§  as shadow
§  folkloric
·      dwarf
·      elf
·      Mesuline-type
·      wild hunt
§  other
o   invisible, perceived through
§  disturbance of animals
§  disturbance of objects
§  disturbance of "special" people
·      children
·      disabled
·      elderly
·      mentally disturbed
§  marks
§  noise
o   touch
§  spirit can be felt
§  spirit can touch others
§  spirit can touch others or objects hard enough to leave a mark
o   smell
§  "heavenly" odor
§  no odor
§  odor of excrement
§  odor of living person
§  other "hellish" odor
§  sulfurous odor
o   hearing
§  converses normally
§  makes "unnatural" sounds
§  screams and/or moans
§  silent
·      Gender
o   male
o   female
o   indeterminant
·      Previous knowledge of percipient(s)
o   descendant
o   family
o   friend
o   no knowledge
o   professional
o   same homeland (village, city, etc.)
o   same religious order
o   same residence
·      Location of remains
o   body of water
o   tomb
o   unburied
o   unknown
·      Current primary location of spirit
o   "heavens"
o   amorphous "ether"
o   Heaven
o   Hell
o   on earth
o   Purgatory
o   underground
o   variable
·      Spirit acting alone?
o   with aide of living person
o   with other spirits present  I will either need space here to list the other spirits or a way to link this field to fields involving those spirits.
o   with other spirits that aren't present
·      Activities of ghost
o   Main activities
·      Need about 3 fields here.  Is there a way of linking these fields with the fields of those who perceived these activities?  (I have an extensive list of ghostly activities and I'm sure I'll come up with more.  I just don't want to list them here.  I'm also not sure if I'll be able to sort them until I have the database mainly complete.)
o   Secondary activities
·      Need about 10 fields here
·      Demands of Ghost
o   intercession: fulfill a vow
·      pilgrimage
·      bequest
·      restitution for crime
·      other
o   intercession: make heirs act appopriately
o   intercession: prayers
o   no demand
o   proper burial
o   revenge
o   restitution

Living People Involved with Haunting
I'm still debating here the extent to which I need the database to reflect each individual and his/her characteristics or if I can just generalize.

Percipient #1
For now I need about 4 percipient areas, but I will need to be able to add percipients.
·      Age
·      Confessional Affiliation
§  Anglican
§  Calvinist
§  Dissenter
§  Generic "Protestant" (not defined more specifically)
§  Lutheran
§  None given
§  Not practicing (my phrase for basically religiously neutral--not giving a damn)
§  Other
§  Roman Catholic
§  Unclassifiable
·      Distinguishing Characteristics
Here I'm just going to need a space to write in the things that the author felt or believed that the community felt made this person distinct, if there are any such things.  Give me 5 distinct spaces.
·      Education
o   no formal education
o   apprenticeship
o   basic university training
o   literate in vernacular (apparently)
o   doctorate in law
o   doctorate in canon law
o   medical doctor
o   other
·      Gender
o   male
o   female
·      Profession
Is there a way to minimize the gender bias here?
o   member of "clergy"
Will need to be able to list what function within the clergy they have, but I'm not entirely sure how to do that.
§  Generic "Protestant" (not defined more specifically)
§  Lutheran
§  Calvinist
§  Dissenter
§  Anglican
§  Roman Catholic
o   priest
o   higher clergy (bishop, abbot, other office holder)
o   member of religious order (name of order)
§  Other
o   lay administrator
o   landowner
o   craftsman/artisan
o   day laborer
o   farmer
o   pieceworker
o   no profession stated
·      Reaction to spirit
o   fear
o   curiosity
o   anger
o   change over time
o   frustration
·      Relationship to ghost
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
·      Relationship to percipient #2
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
·      Relationship to percipient #3
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
·      Relationship to percipient #4
o   family
o   friend
o   colleague
o   same religion
o   same town/village/city
o   none
Percipient #2
Same categories as "percipient #1".

Other Individuals Specifically (OISIH) Involved with Haunting #1
For now I need 10 OISIH fields, but as with percipients, I will need to add more.  Use the same fields as for percipients.

Indeterminant percipients ("the crowd")
§  Activities in the haunting
Need about 10 spaces here for general activities: gossip, pilgrimage, prayers, curses, silent watching, heard sermons, etc.
§  Reactions to spirit
§  fear
§  curiosity
§  anger
§  change over time
§  disinterest
§  mocking
§  shock
§  frustration

Publication information
·      Author
o   Name
§  anonymous
§  initials
§  last name, first name
§  pseudonym
o   Dates
§  birth
§  death
§  other significant dates
o   Profession
§  primary profession
§  secondary profession
§  secondary profession
o   Stated Confessional Affiliation
If the author changes confessions, I will put the date of the change to the confession after a comma in the entry field if that date is available.
§  Generic "Protestant" (not defined more specifically)
§  Lutheran
§  Calvinist
§  Dissenter
§  Anglican
§  Roman Catholic
§  Other
o   Other information  Please leave 3 blank fields for me to enter information that might be important but that I didn't originally anticipate.
·      Genre 
o   I know there are lots of others I need to think of.
o   autobiography
o   biography
o   broadsheet "true history"
o   exempla
o   play
o   poetry
o   political pamphlet
o   sermon
o   song
o   treatise (will list type after a comma)
o   vita
·      Place of publication
·      Date of Publication
·      Publisher
·      Edition
o   of this source
o   total number of editions
·      Translation
o   yes/no
o   from what language
§  Dutch
§  English
§  French
§  German
§  Italian
§  Latin
§  Spanish
o   by whom
§  anonymous
§  initials
§  last name, first name
§  pseudonym

Key religious debates mentioned
Here I'll need space so that I can note where information about these topics can be found.  I note using author's last name, abbreviated title (1-4 words), and page or folio number; sometimes I use date between the title and page number if there are multiple editions of a work.
·      Purgatory
·      Confession
·      Physical state/body after death
·      Good works
·      Good death
·      Saints
·      Role of papacy
·      Quality of pastoral clergy
·      Tensions between religious orders.
·      Lay spirituality
·      Mysticism/spiritism