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Wire work felt like it could be damn fun - and good exercise for your back.

2011 – Welcome To The Roller Coaster

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It’s the last day of 2011, a few hours left ’till the New Year’s party, and it’s maybe a time for a little recap of this weird, weird year. I’d like to say that this year totally sucked, but it’s not really true. What I can say is that I’ve probably never had a year where the amplitude between the high and low points has been this huge.

The human brain is a patter recognition machine, very much prone to sampling errors. Nevertheless, 2011 seems to have been especially hard year for many people I know. There have been divorces and break-ups, people and pets have died, people have gotten sacked and/or worked half to death, finances have gone haywire and both mental and physical health have taken hits left and right. Off the top of my head I can think of only two people in my circles who’ve had an exceptionally good year. I’ve had my series of pretty hard bitchslaps also, but let’s start with the good.

The Creative Year Of 2011

My New Year’s manifesto was to make this year creative and to finish some of the projects I’ve had lying around for an eternity. My specific decisions was to finish my novel, write two short stories and to publish to interactive fiction games. I couldn’t quite keep that, but meh – close enough for jazz.

Right after I got back from Australia in February I switched to a four day work week, and took the Friday’s off. They got dubbed Creative Fridays, and I spend most of them writing or learning how to code. I had some extra motivation to write the novel, since a Finnish publishing house arranged a sci-fi and fantasy novel competition where the deadline was in the end of March. I had been writing the novel haltingly from since 2005, and I had a very rough draft of the first half ready. So, that’s what ate most of my nights, Fridays and weekends, and in the end of March, right before the deadline, I wrote the finishing words of the project.

In these days when everybody and their grandmother crank out NaNoWriMo novels, finishing the first draft of the book doesn’t feel that special a feat anymore, but it was a major milestone for me. That damn project has been hanging over me like ten tons of bricks with “fail” stamped on each one of them, but now I got the motherfucker down. In the end I didn’t win the competition (they had just first and a second place), but as I’ve understood it, out of the 300+ novels submitted I was shortlisted by most of the judges.

Cover of the anthology Out of Place, Out of Time. Available soon.

During the spring things started going to shit in several fronts, which left little time and especially mental energy for creativity. The interactive fiction project didn’t fare that well, and I actually made the situation a bit worse by starting several projects that grew up to be too complicated, and I had to leave unfinished. There was the additional pressure of having to do it to this year’s IFcomp, which I ended up skipping. This, then, is something that will slip to the next year.

On the short story front I almost met my quota, and at the same time sort of exceeded it. I got one and a half short stories written, but one of them will be published in an anthology called Out of Place, Out of Time, which will be out in a paper book and e-book in the near future. The anthology is edited by Steven Ormosi, one of the magnificent matriphiles of Whitechapel.

In addition to writing I’ve been dabbling on this and that, including drawing and guerrilla gardening. It’s great to feel that the only things that have been limiting my creative antics have been external.

The Adventures of 2011

Fiscal problems have been one of the major millstones around my neck this year, but they haven’t prevented me from having a few pretty awesome adventures on the way. Of course the year started with the Australian shoot of Iron Sky, and the assorted antics like diving, paragliding and other touristy stuff we did in Australia. There are several quite awesome memories from that trip, including getting to try kung-fu stunt wires instructed by a guy who did Neo’s stunts in Matrix and who’s been working with Jackie Chan, witnessing floods and being threatened by cyclones, and generally filling the month with all kinds of interesting activity.

Wire work felt like it could be damn fun - and good exercise for your back.

On the urban exploration front I went to see one of the more interesting UE locations I’ve found in Finland, a rest stop that has been closed for 21 years with all of the stuff still in there and surprisingly intact. In addition to that me and a colleague went to explore an abandoned school right before it was torn down. In the autumn Susi and I checked probably the best known UE location in Helsinki, a rocky spit of land with a bunch of abandoned villas from the beginning of the 20th century. There were plans for a more extreme UE trip, but I had to chicken out and think the thing through, since getting caught there might I’ll get black listed for restricted areas, which means not getting to dive in many of the more interesting wrecks…

Oh, look at that cute monkey toy in an abandoned building! There's no chance it will like the taste of human flesh!

I haven’t had enough chances to dive this year, not by a long shot, but the couple of trips I did made up for the scarcity. First of all we went to Estonia to the island of Saarenmaa, where we were blessed with awesome weather, interesting bio-dives and some really nice wrecks. Didn’t see any seals, though, but can’t have it all. On the way back we stopped in what must be the weirdest place I’ve ever dived, a sunken Estonian prison complex in a quarry. Then, of course, we went to Åland for the third time, and in spite of a slightly wonky weather we made it to some really interesting wrecks – like one that’s practically standing on its nose.

Diving inside a sunken prison. A view out to some submerged trees.

In midsummer we spent a week and a change idling around in Greece with our pal Constantis. It’s not as much an adventure as it was a very pleasant slackfest with good food, good company, board gaming and yes, some diving. A super welcome holiday during a very stressing time.

Liquefying in Greece.

Oh, and of course I visited the Cannes Film Festival again this year, which wasn’t also as much an adventure as a work trip. Because I’m weird that way, I skipped most of the evening parties and programs, and spent the time exploring the city of Cannes and geocaching.

Cannes at night.

Events and Activities

One of the fun things Susi and I did in the beginning of the year was to attend a wreck diving lectures by  Rauno Koivusaari, this rather well known wreck finder who for example discovered Vrouw Maria. The lectures were about wooden wrecks, and as a stroke of luck something like a week after them we had the chance to go dive on a wreck that was either totally new, or just very rarely visited. It’s incredible how much more you got out of seeing a wreck like that when you knew more about the construction, pieces and parts of old wooden ships.

The "fish" of a side scanning sonar used in finding wrecks.

In the autumn we went to a quick Lindy Hop course, which is something I’ve wanted to do quite a some time. Saying that I have two left feet would be courteous, and the course was a bit too intensive for me, since it was for those who already know how to dance, but just want to learn that exact style. There would’ve been a beginner’s course a bit later, but Susi and I lacked both the filthy lucre and the energy to go there – but in the future, definitely!

'Shrooming.

Some of the bright spots of the rather exhausting second half of the year were a nice mushroom trip with Jere, and a talkoo event in Antti’s and Mirka’s farmstead, where we could relax chopping wood and doing yard work for a couple of days. I also met a rather interesting person there, this woman who lives in the countryside, and amongst other things puts down old horses and sells their meat (which is delicious). I’ve been annoyed for a long time that I lack the basic skills of turning small mammals into food, which I rectified by visiting her farmstead and helping her turn some ten fluffy rabbits into cookable pieces. I’ve been thinking about blogging about it properly, but I’m not sure if I want to deal with the outrage of militant vegans.

Few things alleviate frustration better than chopping wood for two days in brisk autumn air!

In my opinion if you want to eat meat, you should be willing to do the work or turning living animals into bite sized chunks.

I’ve been interested in the hackerspace phenomenon for some time, and this year I finally joined the local Hacklab. I’ve dipped my toe in their business by visiting an electronics course, and using my painting skills to age a control panel they have in their Chernobyl control room simulation. This is something I’ll delve into properly in the next year.

Painting wood to look like a metal control panel from 80's Soviet Union.

Oh, also, our old pal Eemeli got married, and there was a weeklong celebration of eating and hanging around in a villa in the countryside. I made it there for the final weekend, which was just as relaxing as one could expect.

This single photo encapsulates the mood of the weekend perfectly.

The Bad Shit

As I’ve mentioned, this hasn’t been the best of years. I’m not going to go into the details, but let’s just say that there have been rather grave financial problems, some health issues and some social issues, which have been exacerbated by the first two. My coffers haven’t been this dry in over ten years, and at that time I was unemployed.

I almost managed to salvage the monetary situation earlier this autumn by getting a… well, you could say it’s a fourth job in this small tech startup. I let go a rather interesting chance to go to that company, and as a show of totally spineless personnel management I was let go without any warning, essentially with a SMS message. This left me selling my belongings to cover the rent and some medical bills, and not a very happy camper. Currently there are several rather interesting work options open to me, but the projects have been pushed forward, so they are in an annoying limbo. Well, I’ll have some work interviews right in the beginning of the year, so the situation is not bad in that sense.

Tentacle pot pies, coquettes and garlic baguette. My resolution for the autumn is that whenever I'm pissed off, I'll do some cooking therapy. Gained 5kg so far.

I guess what I’ve managed to carry away from this year’s crap is that maybe, just maybe I don’t need to manage alone. When it comes to arranging my life, I’ve been pretty damn self contained unit for most of my life, and mostly tried to arrange other peoples’ stuff in addition to mine. I’m pretty open about my stuff and frankly I could have a few more filters when talking about things, but nevertheless actually confiding about serious shit hasn’t come easy. This year reminded me that I have good friends and that sooner or later everybody just has to lean on somebody a little bit to get by. You know who you are – thank you.

As a final insult the world gave me a surprise atopic reaction that blew up my face and made my eyes feel like there's breadcrumbs under my eyelids. Right when I had to stare at a video edit computer throughout my waking hours. Gee, thanks.

Upwards and Onwards!

My manifesto for the next year is to do a second draft of the novel based on the comments I’ve got from it, and to start whoring it around to the publishers. In addition to that I’ll have to finish at least one damn interactive fiction game, and to continue on my training regiment which the lack of funds and mental energy hobbled in the end of this year. I think that’s pretty realistic, even if things don’t take a sharp turn upwards.

All in all, in the end, life is still pretty good, even if on some days you have to dig around a bit to see it. I’m facing my last couple of weeks working in the movie biz, and then it will be again something completely different. The chances dangling in front of me are interesting, some of them are a bit crazy, and most of them promise that the next year won’t be boring on the work front. And well, if it is, at least I’ll have some money to do the interesting stuff, of which the world won’t run out any time soon.

Summer night at the cabin.

 

2 Comments

  1. Janos,

    Happy new year & good luck.

    - Will

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