Of Greece, and of People

In a similar line to my earlier post on Scotland, I have now returned (well, a week ago it was) from a good twelve days in Greece (the locations: Korinthia and Thera) which were not only very educative in the traditional higher educational sense (of geology and volcanology), but also of people — including myself.

While the locations I saw were not numerous, the time in Korinthia was well spent. Unfortunately, Akrokorinth is something I missed even though my hotel was only fifteen minutes away. Oh the times!.. Yet, there was one ancient settlement that I did get to visit in the region, and that was Heraion/Iraio (Ηραίο). It is difficult to describe the feelings that take hold when I look upon the work of people from two-and-a-half millenia away — what stays from that moment with me though is the consideration that to have their work survive for this long is representative of the great care and skill with which those stones were laid down once upon a time.


The Thera part of the trip brought to my mind a lot of interesting problems, the majority of them related to history. For example, outside of Fira itself is a small cape and on that cape used to be a settlement-fortress. But as a fortress, the location was not all that useful. So, was the purpose to guard the people or to be guarded from them?

The old city of Akrotiri was quite spectacular (not even to mention that there was a house in that city called The Admiral’s House — what a beauty!) if somewhat lacking in the explanatory side. I dare say the evolution of that side of the island when looked at from a both human and volcanological point of view makes for an interesting story that probably deserves a fair bit of thought. I guess, however, that the one thing that is difficult to figure out is where indeed could there be other old settlements under the meters-thick layer of Minoan eruption sediments.

The Admiral's House
The Admiral’s House

One thought stayed with me the entire time from landing on Thera to leaving the place — it is immensely spectacular to see a place so naturally endowed for being a harbour. If it was in any way more strategically placed, it would be quite easy to lament the Admiral who chooses some other island/town for his flag-station. Looking down at the caldera — there were few fleets that I could think of which would not fit into this amazing enclosure. Sure, by the present day the eruptions have opened nearly a quarter of the bay to marine breezes, but even so one could have hidden and guarded a fleet here for some time. The one impulsive wish I did get was to travel to Truk, to Scapa Flow, to other renown harbours to see what sort of an impact they make. Do they look as good ports as Thera?..

And the people… let’s just say that there was plenty of opportunity for reflection on a variety of topics. The Mediterranean Sea always does seem like a very good place to go to for thinking — the combination of warm air, a sea breeze, the gleaming moon, waves breaking against the coast, the dark skies, and potentially a glass of the local quality drink make for a very beautiful moment. Pensiveness is certainly enhanced by this atmosphere. And it makes one wonder…

DSC_0054Also, over the course of this trip I could see that Dutch music is becoming more and more to my liking. I am not entirely certain why, but De Dijk’s line ‘Swalkend op de oceaan’ is a part of the cause.

Of Scotland, and of People

I’ve just returned from a short visit to Scotland (Oban, Argyll), and I reached a point during the journey back when I thought: “I wonder how this never appeared to me before this moment.”


What this “this” was would have been a thought that thought by landscape and the general look of the land, Estonia and Scotland are so very different, there is a marked similarity in the people (or at least the people I saw there). I think it would be even more so deeper into the Highlands.

How I came upon this thought was by following my pattern that if I lived under those mountains for five years, I would be changed by that. But changed how? And how would then people who have fifty generations live under the mountains change?

These are interesting questions all, but something in them made me think of the people. And I think I managed to draw a point of comparison that told me a Scottish person is not all that different from an Estonian, although it might appear different. But how we have come to that point is different. The Scot has been led there by the Highland landscape which has formulated him to be careful when walking and yet happy in the rain, and the Estonian has been shaped by the course of history which has taught the same lessons.

And I did think that the Finnish landscape offers some points of similarity. And I want to return.

A pointer on happiness…

I have been writing on rather serious topics lately, or at least that is how it seems to me. In a way, I like writing more serious things because I feel there is more reason to that. In any case, there are plenty of topics that I think about quite regularly and a number of them fall into the more serious category. One of these is “happiness” and how to maintain it.

This stems from me thinking that one of the main goals of life in general is for a person to remain happy. Therefore, it is very important to establish how exactly that can happen and what are the limitations we set upon our happiness. Because, in the end, it is only us who allow our happiness to be limited by other factors.

One way I tend to maintain my own happiness is by ignoring things that make me unhappier. Or, rather, that is an odd way of putting it when I mean is that I try to ensure that everything I do would add to the sum of how contented I am at any given moment. If I deem something to subtract from that, I avoid that action as much as humanly possible.

And, yet, even though that is what I do, I also avoid avoiding things for the sake of not liking them. There is a very important moment that comes by daily which asks how exactly can I make “this” beneficial for myself — how can I make sure that even if I don’t really enjoy this action that it would work for me, and by that how it would contribute to my day.

The second very important method could be summed up as “avoiding bullshit”. By this I mean that I have no wish or patience for things that take up my time and effort while only causing me grievance. Indeed, why should I waste myself on things that don’t give anything noteworthy back?

And I guess that’s the distinction that needs to be made: the border between what helps one be more positive in some way and what doesn’t. And when that distinction is made, let’s stay on that better side of that border!

What do I keep an eye out for these days?

I’ve often lately thought that the newsitems we see daily go very much into the same categories. This category could be summed up as “trouble”, but I would rather call it “life”. The problem with this “life” is that it is nearly always the same.

I’ll expand on this in a bit, but if we assume that a modern person should keep oneself aware of what is going on in the world there is only so much that one can do — for we have established a set of boundary criteria within which we exist. This means there’s a certain amount of news-sites to be visited, and a certain type of blogs to be visited — depending on the exact interests of a person.

The problem with all the information coming out of these news-sites and blogs for me is that it is more or less the same. Take, for example, BBC News: there’s probably some new article around every day which says that we are doing worse, and the Government is doing worse, and people are generally doing worse. How much of this am I supposed to take? Why is there nothing which broadcasts the new heights we can achieve?

Certainly the world is not in a happy spot at present, but I tend to be somewhat more positive about the general state of affairs than “everything is bad”. This needs a certain set of mind though.

This set of mind has brought me to expect a few good essays on people and philosophy and the general state of life (not to be confused with livelihood) every week. The places where I find these are varied, but there are a number of sources that help. For some reason or another, I’ve found that the Australian media is of particular quality here — the Sydney Morning Herald is my favourite publication therein. They have a rather interesting lifestyle section that I try to read every now and then, and I find SMH to be slightly better than the rest of media with regards to politics.

Because when we come down to the basest of levels, a certain awareness of politics must be preserved. I find, however, that the British are going round and round, achieving more or less nothing at present — I could try guessing the news daily, and I would probably get the items half right. There’s more that I am unaware of in Australia which also makes it slightly more interesting, but I get the feeling that there’s more happening there — more happening with a real sense of direction for the place as well. [Not to mention there’s a set of comedians as brilliant as John Clarke and Bryan Dawe who manage to make the politics into a very good performance.]

This is not true at all for Europe as I see it right now, and that probably has made me slightly despondent in looking for reasonable news from the Continent. But that in turn has made me appreciate certain things more: there’s a fair amount of good essays that do relate to people and education and technology, and there’s a certain look into the future with the question “What is coming up for us?”. And this is what I have been looking for — not the downtrodden tune of the news but something that would act as a whetstone for my mind.

I’m afraid though that I haven’t found any good collective place for this type of journalism, so whenever I do find anything it is more due to chance. And, yet, I know that they are out there — and that gives me hope. And that hope gives me the strength to look, and to share, when I can.


It is very rarely that I write of sports but that should not be confused with the fact that I don’t think of them. I do admit to being a lazy person all round; the best I can probably imagine from a week of being sportive would be cycling, walking, and swimming. The highlight there being the last word: swimming.

I had the chance yesterday to go and swim for a bit — not too long, for I haven’t swam in ages; and not too far, for I have probably lost out on the skills I once had; but just enough to get myself into the feeling again that swimming is what people are meant to do.

Can one imagine being at sea, with water around you to the horizon in every direction, and all of it unswimmable? And by unswimmable, I mean that, yes, in theory people can swim in it. But it would be rather cold, and against all rules and regulations (which is, I guess, the point for all these rules and regulations).

So, how does a soul satisfy a wish to swim if it cannot be done at sea? Unfortunately, this had to wait for my return to dry land, and my subsequent healing process from a variety of illnesses caused by my own self. That done, off to the pool. And about time!

Unfortunately, the pool wasn’t as deep as it could have been (a measly meter-and-a-half). It wasn’t as cold as it could have been for that feeling of ‘I’m-actually-doing-more-than-just-hovering-in-water’. But it was there. And I don’t think my body minded the warmer water after all that time. For there’s plenty of time in the future for a colder swim that is more sportive in every way. Yesterday, all that mattered was for my body to feel the water and how it moves around a limb in the water.

That sensation, the feeling of a stream of water in water, of a body slithering through water: that is what I’ve been after. And I’m very pleased to have found it again yesterday. I definitely know that the next time is not as far off as this one was from the previous…

‘Captain Vancouver’, E.C. Coleman

I quite enjoyed this short overview on Captain George Vancouver. My main problem with this might be that it is a very short book, although then again it does seem to cover the important parts of Mr Vancouver’s career.

So, who was George Vancouver?

Apparently, he was one of the explorers of the North West Pacific, following in the trails of James Cook and the Spanish who had been there before him and with him. I found a passage detailing the differences of the Spanish and English explorers especially revealing — that say a notable Spaniard would not make it a problem to name an island after himself but a British chap might not think it the most prudent course to follow.

The back-story to places such as Vancouver Island might be the best that is to be taken out of this book. I won’t remember all of it nor even the majority, but the few pieces that I will may be both interesting and useful. I can almost see myself wandering around the NW Pacific at one point and seeing an island, and my mind can realise: “I know the story of the naming of this island…”

To share one of those stories with any of the readers I have here, think of a moment in those straits. Huge trees swinging in the wind. A few ships off the coast. A Spanish explorer and commander by the name of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra insists that his English guest, explorer and naval officer, George Vancouver, name something after himself. Mr Vancouver does not feel entirely comfortable with this but acquiesces and names the island ‘Quadra and Vancouver Island’. And less than a century after that, “Quadra” has disappeared from the name and we’re left with Vancouver Island. But how often do we remember that Vancouver did not mean the name to glorify just himself?..

So, that’s the type of book this is — there is a fair bit of what our explorer did in the Northwest, and there is also a fair bit of what his trusted lieutenants did. The stories of fighting and evading fighting with the natives while exploring every hole that could be seen was a daunting task, and I think that Mr Coleman has tried to do his best in portraying that.

It is a sad part of this story that the dues that came to many of the people on Vancouver’s expeditions were probably less than what they deserved, but unfortunately that has often been the case with great men who accumulated political enemies during their trips — and these rivalries do come into this book with the author taking some time to explain the intricacies of late 18th century London.

However, the question that had been foremost in my mind, “Why is one of the prominent cities of B.C. named ‘Vancouver’?” was answered. I now know who Vancouver was, and I wonder what he would think of the city that goes by his name.


I haven’t been able or willing or un-lazy enough to post much of late, and I am somewhat sorry about that. I have had a fair few thoughts that probably deserved their time here, but I am sure they’ll visit me again. Until they do, I’d like to say a few words on swimming.

I really like it. I can’t even tell why any more, I always have as far as I can remember and I do hope I always will. It’s not that I am willing to swim anywhere, quite the opposite. But whenever I do decide it is time to go for a swim, there is purpose behind it.

I was remembering the good days back ages ago when I used to go swimming with a friend of mine. That didn’t last very long, probably because we took it up far too late, and there just wasn’t any time left but it was good while it lasted. And I’ve been back to that pool once after, which was before a rather important event and it allowed me to relax and rest.

Because I think that is what swimming does. In a way it allows me to rest. I might go so far as to say that the rest I get is of a better type than the rest I get from sleeping. But maybe I’m trying to delude myself there.

In any case, I want to swim. And I think that at the present, that means I will swim when I see the opportunity to do so. And I might post something again then. But hopefully, also before that time.


To follow up on my recent thoughts on the word ‘Chiaroscuro’, I thought to bring up a word that English seems to lack. Namely, the French ‘descente’: the original word can be used in the way that I am familiar with it, and Finno-Ugric (Estonian certainly and probably Finnish as well), Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian), and Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Serbian to name a few) languages use a localised version of this ‘descente’ to signify what is known in English as a ‘landing operation’/’invasion’.

My problem with this? It’s not really the level of a problem, but more the question of elegance and conveyed meaning: namely, I find the ‘descente’-tree words far more elegant and stylish to describe a complex military operation than the constructed ‘landing operation’ or ‘invasion’ which is highly unspecific in what it looks like and what it does.

Indeed, what I find is that ‘landing operation’ is not entirely accurate because an actual landing operation would be far more than the landing — the logistics and naval/aerial forces involved play a huge part. This word-pair seems to suggest that we’re talking of a simple arrival at some undetermined location.

‘Invasion’ is nondescript in whether we’re using the sea or land: land invasion could hardly be considered a ‘landing’. Likewise, there is little to no chance of someone trying to say ‘an aerial invasion’. ‘Naval invasion’ works rather well but I would shy away from using invasion unless we had a proportionally relevant number of soldiers included. There is also the difference in goals: invasion is meant to occupy territory while it would sound a bit odd in some other contexts.

‘Descente’, on the other hand, also contains the auxiliary forces concerned in making the landing happen — be they planes or ships. It is specific to planes and ships — in other words objects one could ‘descend’ from, and there’s no information conveyed about the objective of the event. In other words, the French word sums up the complex situation in a simpler way.

What’s not to be liked?

Where to Go?

I lamented not a long time ago that the majority of what I wrote here was of something else, of qualities and ideas, and of thoughts. What I have avoided writing about for a long time is this world, and I am now here to rectify this.

Today, I will just post a short list of places I would like to go to, but since I like these places so very much I think it makes sense to mention them.

As a list, here are the six locations:

  • The Cape
  • Australia: New South Wales/Victoria
  • Japan: Chūbu/Kansai
  • Canada: Alberta/BC
  • Sri Lanka
  • Kenya/Tanzania

Now, to figure out the why (insofar as I ‘want’ to figure that out), I can say the following about the places above:

  • Scenery which should be amazing along with two oceans to explore. I love the seas, and I think the seas there will be different to the ones I am familiar with. And there is also a sense of history different to Europe’s: different to what I am used to.
  • I have always had a difficult explaining this particular one. The best I’ve usually done is said: “I really like the idea of it!” I think I might enjoy it because of what it looks like in my mind — which indeed is the worst way to visit any place at all (I mean, expecting something definite), but in a sense I do not have any expectations. What I do have is a thought that I’ll have a brilliant time there. Also, there is the Lord Howe Island which sounds like an amazing place simply for being named after the Lord Howe.
  • I would like to visit the majority of Japan, including Hokkaidō (though that I would like to see in the winter). These central regions though were the source of a lot of the historic events that Japan has seen in earlier history, and I would like to see what remains of those times. And I would like to see some of the natural monuments in the area (Fuji-san!), but that is maybe more for the sake of saying I’ve done that than for the actual wish to do so.
  • I know people there. I have an idea of what the nature is like. I know I could ski. What else would I need? I don’t think that the question of “Do I want to return?” would ever be a problem in a wintery BC… =)
  • With this wonderful island, my thoughts say: “You have to come here. There is no other way.” My mind responds with an agreement: “On a beach there, you can relax in the evening wind and solve whatever problems you want to solve. You can rest as you haven’t in a long time, and you can read under the setting sun.”
  • I think that what makes me want to see these lands is the same instinct that would take me to Western Russia and the steppes. But there are no steppes any more — we have a large farmland and that is all. Where is the hope to wander the lands and see no one but the birds on the rivers? The savannas are still there though. For now.

I do not know if this is very explanatory, but even in the best of cases I like to explain by way of riddles. At the very least, these places feel right to me. So I can continue thinking of the question: what comes first? Even the first is a good year-and-a-half away in the best of circumstances, but that just makes me want to think of those times even more. This in itself is probably a fault of being human — I cannot just concentrate on the day at hand.

It will remain to be seen if this problem makes for a loss… So, my mind will continue to smile at images from thousands of kilometers away until that time.


From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art
b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique
: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface
: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

For some reason, I really like the sound of this word. Why? I can’t really put my hand to it, but the sound of it when one says the word — it is ethereal. Otherworldly.

Now, I have to admit that I have not heard it used once in everyday conversations, and I have seen it in literature for only a handful of times with the majority of these being in one novel (that I have reread). However, every time I read/listen as it goes by, I feel that the word has a personality. Mind you, if it was a person, it would probably be a bit too pretentious — but as a word I would really like to know it better. I would like to use it… but not too much.

For the etymologically inclined, it would seem that the root of the word is Italian — the words chiaro and oscuro, light and dark. Maybe that Romance heritage is what gives the word some charm in an English sentence, although it could be something else.

It could also be that if I knew what made me like this word so much, I would not like it any more. So I shall let this mystery be, at least for today…

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