THIS ‘N’ THAT

REPORTER, PICTURES: TOMI HINKKANEN

The Finnish Hub

 

Downtown LA

The young(ish) generation has taken matters into its own hands in bringing together the area Finns. We met at the Publix Pub in the lovely Los Feliz section of town on April third. About 20 people attended. I spoke at length with two young men, Jussi Tuomi and Roope Olenius. They are studying acting at the New York Film Academy, which, despite of its name, is located right here in Universal City. Jussi wants to specialize in comedies and Roope has been active in his music in addition to acting. They invited me to their school’s showcase. It was held at the Acme Theatre in Hollywood to a packed house. Jussi had the questionable pleasure of being the first one on stage. He performed a humorous soliloquy with a blow-up doll! That’s right, a blow-up doll. I think Jussi is on the right track with his comedy acting – he definitely has a knack for it. A few scenes later it was Roope’s turn. His outing was also a humorous one. This was a two man scene about one guy kissing the other’s girlfriend. One has to admire the dedication and courage of these young men – it takes a lot to go on stage in front of everybody and put oneself out there. The next meeting of the Finnish Hub will take place at the Consul General Kirsti Westphalen’s residence in Bel Air on May first. For more information: http://www.facebook.com/events/209166585866390/

 

Consul general Kirsti Westphalen will host a Finnish hub at her residence in Bel Air May first.

Dumpster diving

Did you know that about 20% of all food goes to waste in the U.S.? One of the common mistakes people make is to throw away food items because the “best before” or “sell by” dates have expired. That doesn’t mean that the item is inedible or dangerous to your health. The date is merely an arbitrary estimate and varies greatly from manufacturer to another. So, I decided to go and check out, what treasures can be found in local supermarket dumpsters. I teamed up with a group called the Los Angeles Dumpster Diving Meet Up Group.

Dumpster diving in progress.

One dark Saturday night we gathered at the Highland Park light rail station. There were ten people altogether – artists, a film editor, a psychiatrist, an office manager and other professionals, even a tourist couple from Holland. We hit dumpsters of two big supermarket chains. And no, we were not digging for food amidst used coffee grinds, cigarette butts and apple cores. Supermarkets pack all items to be disposed neatly into black garbage bags. Oftentimes they are separated by category – fruits and vegetables in one bag, meat products in another, etc. What I found out was that supermarket garbage containers are very well protected. They are locked behind gates and tall fences, with guards occasionally making their rounds on the parking lot. Fortunately the organizers of our dumpster diving tour had a ladder. You wouldn’t believe what we found: Perfectly good bananas, eggs, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, pastries and much more. At the end of the trip, the members divided the loot amongst each other. We estimated there was at least 200 dollars worth of food there. There are of course lots of poor people in this country who actually go hungry each day and do dumpster diving out of necessity. Our group did not consist of those people. They were there to carry on a lifestyle that opposes wasteful living and throwing away good food. These are the same kind of people who diligently recycle, drive a hybrid car and act mindful of the nature and their surroundings. It was an eye opening trip indeed. As an animal owner, very little in our household goes to waste anyway – there is always a little mouth somewhere ready to eat any leftovers or scraps. But after this trip I promise to be even more aware of what I have in my refrigerator, so that everything is utilized and no food thrown away.

Supermarkets throw away perfectly good food. The dumpster diving expedition was a success.

Are you a cell phone jerk?

It shakes, beeps, rings, blinks and demands attention like a cranky baby. The smart phone has taken a possession of people’s body, mind, soul and every single spare moment. Who would have thought a few years ago that a small gadget like that would enamor people so entirely and thoroughly, that they would forsake anything else just to play with it. And I’m not only talking about children or  teens – even adults are in love with the gadget.

A smart phone has become ubiquitous.

Linux creator Linus Torvalds predicted it to me 15 years earlier in an interview. He said that soon people will be carrying mini computers in their pockets. Right he was. I have spent a lot of time on the UCLA campus lately. It is amusing to observe a twenty something student exiting a building. One, two, three. On the third step, the cell phone inevitably comes out the pocket. One guy with large headphones was skillfully skateboarding on campus, doing tricks and talking with his buddy on the phone all at the same time, without missing a beat. Another time, two people, lost in the cyber world, actually stumbled into each other head on. It is funny when they are walking, less so when driving. I can’t believe my eyes in the traffic these days. Just about every fourth driver is checking their smart phone at the traffic lights – some even while actually driving. The fact that it is unlawful doesn’t deter them at all, so strong is the pull of that little gadget. It hooks, captures, mesmerizes, entertains, excites and stimulates. Recently I actually had to change lanes to avoid a collision with an oncoming car, because the driver was engaged with the cell phone. The young woman behind the wheel was texting or perhaps updating her Facebook page. As the road curved, she did not notice but started to veer onto my lane. It was only because of my quick maneuvering, that we avoided a head on collision. The young lady continued her driving with a smile on her face, blissfully ignorant of having come so close to a what no doubt, would have been a serious accident. According to statistics, about 5,000 people a year die as a result of distracted driving in the United States. I suspect those numbers are going to go way up, as the cell phone continues to take a hold of people’s psyche. The emergence of the smart phone has also changed the dynamics of friendships and relationships. If there’s a group of three or more people gathered together, you can be sure that at least one of them is immersed in their phone. The incoming email or text message is more important than the person standing next to them. I recently witnessed four women having lunch at the Westfield Century City Shopping Center. Instead of communicating with each other, everyone was deeply involved with their own gadget. The smart phone has robbed us of people’s undivided attention, of all the fun going to town to observe people. There’s nothing to observe any more these days, nobody’s paying attention to their surroundings, everybody is on the gadget. A romantic dinner or a movie night is hardly the same, when instead of gazing into each other’s eyes, both participants are hypnotized by the glare of their gadget. The check out girl or boy at the supermarket is no longer your casual acquaintance – the customer these days is too busy texting while the transaction is going on. I am not against new technology. It can be helpful and beneficial in many ways. What I oppose is totally abandoning good manners and common sense in favor of the uncontrollable urge to use this technology. For too many people, having a smart phone is like giving a drink to an alcoholic — one wants to drink the whole bottle. There is a time and a place to use your phone – and plenty of times and places when NOT to use it. Google has come up with internet eye glasses that allow you to access your phone and the net with voice commands. Silicon Valley is also working on internet contact lenses. I can hardly wait – as if it is not bad enough already. As for myself, after desperately clinging on to my old dumb phone, I finally got a smart phone as a gift. I am very grateful, but intend to use it responsibly and mostly keep it in my pocket. I want to continue enjoying the real world and the people in it. I don’t want to become a cell phone jerk.

Eki Mikkonen of Tours International America is using the phone to connect with his clients.

A nightmare hotel

Last week I visited the bay area. It is always a pleasure to go there, especially in the spring time, when nature in Northern California is at its most spectacular. This time I was staying in Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco. I had booked a room in advance at the Jack London Inn for two nights.

A view from my hotel room in Oakland

After a six hour drive, I was quite worn out as I arrived at my hotel. The girl at the front desk handed me a key card. I took the elevator up to my room. An unwelcome surprise waited for me beyond the door. There was only a mattress on the bed – no pillows, sheets, blankets, nothing. And no toiletries in the bathroom either. Back downstairs the girl handed me a key card to another room. Again, lugging my luggage upstairs, I went to the appropriate door and swiped the card once, twice, three times – nothing. The door wouldn’t open. Back downstairs a manager came along with me to test the door. It wouldn’t open for him either. Both the girl at the desk and the manager seemed quite resigned to the fact that they did not have a room for me after all. “What about that first room,” I said. “How long would it take for you to fix that?” They looked at each other, as if it was a novel idea. So, I sat and waited, waited and waited. An hour went by. Finally my room was almost ready. As I entered it, a man inside fixing it explained that he doesn’t normally do rooms. I held my tongue. Finally the room was done and I was able to go to sleep. At one o’clock in the morning I was suddenly awoken by a knock on the door. “Hotel security, this room is supposed to be empty.” I peaked through the peep hole. He looked the part with a flashlight and all. I told him that the room is occupied – by me – and to check with the front desk. As I didn’t hear back from him, I assume he finally got that sorted out. That night the only thing that occasionally woke me up was a thunderstorm that the newscasters next day said to have been the biggest to hit the area in 30 years. The following day I was busy doing interviews in the nearby waterfront, where I was covering an around the world clipper race. The boats were docked at that marina. Then helicopters appeared in the sky. They started to hover above my hotel just a hundred yards away. The block was cordoned off with a yellow crime tape. I asked a policeman what was going on. He said that a man wanted by the police had run into the hotel and barricaded himself  in one of the rooms. Fortunately I didn’t need to get in all day, as I was continuing to work at the harbor. When the day was over, the crime tape and the police were gone. The girl at the front desk told me that the man had attempted to get away by dressing as a woman. It did not work and the police arrested him. The front desk girl was kind enough to let me keep my car parked on their lot after my two nights were up, so that I was able to take a ferry to San Francisco on my last day instead of  having to try to find parking in Frisco.

Sea lions sunbathing and frolicking at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf

That ferry ride by the way is the best bargain in town – 13 dollars will buy you a round trip ticket – a half an hour each way. Just the scenery is worth it. Staying in a hotel that doesn’t have its act together is not, no matter how low the price.

San Francisco skyline as captured from the ferry