Saturday, June 30, 2012

Design machines

As I wrote earlier, it was a surprise for me that the ice hockey world championship games were hosted in Helsinki. I was equally surprised when I saw the construction work of European athletics championship at Helsinki Senate Square - are we hosting those as well? Obviously I'm not the primary target group when marketing sports events, since these Helsinki sports events keep coming as a surprise to me.

The Helsinki happening that I haven't missed is the World Design Capital year. I've spotted WDC logos, ads and events everywhere. But that's ok, I feel I belong to the primary target group of WDC fuzz. To be honest, I think the WDC marketing has been even a bit too active, I think they've tried to put word "design" into places where it doesn't belong to.

Anyway, today I visited HI Design exhibition at Kaapelitehdas. The exhibition is part of the WDC and it presented design, industrial art and wonderful Finnish machines. There were automatic forklifts, nice elevators, new tram, building automation system running on solar power, the device history of Nokia phones, etc.

There was also an armored vehicle. I believe for many Finns it is perfectly normal to present a tank as a crown jewel of Finnish design. But I can also imagine that armored vehicles in general may not be 100% politically correct piece of design in some other cultures. Well, in some cultures you don't consider tractors either as top design - but we do.

The exhibition is free, and it's open from Thursday to Sunday, 10 am to 6 pm until September 2nd.

Friday, June 29, 2012


In the beginning of June the Finnish workplaces begin to prepare for another chronology: the time before holidays (BH) and the time after holidays (AH). The BH period is characterized by the things that must be done before the holidays, and the AH period is all about things that can be left for later.

To me the dividing point of the chronology is here: 3 weeks of holiday.

Have a nice and sunny summer!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sauna for beginners

Check out this video made by my friend from US. He has really been able to catch the essential, and he has adopted the sauna state of mind in such a thorough way that you could actually think he was born in sauna.

No additions needed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Juhannus in pictures

In juhannus you can sit on the rock by the water also in the city. A mandatory bare foot picture.

The nature is close by, even in the city.

Not everybody were resting. I guess juhannus is good time to work for one-man-band entrepreneur.

Cars were gone so you could spot some wild strawberries by the parking lots.

Summer idyll meets high tech - only in Espoo.

I went to see the quiet city by kickbike. 

The city was really empty.

I kicked off the new biking lane Baana at the city center. It was nice.

On juhannus the daylight time lasts for 19 hours. Which means vacation for the street lamps. This one was apparently enjoying its vacation. 

Juhannus night was full of magic.

On Saturday morning forest was still under a spell.

Saturday night was so cold that one had to wear woolen socks.

But luckily good food compensated the cold weather.

Summer is state of mind. And menu.

 On Sunday there were mostly tourists in the city. And this funny bottle player.

Ten to twelve people were queuing to Stockmann sale. 

As a grande finale of juhannus we went into the brunch heaven of Kämp Brasserie. Probably the best brunch I've ever eaten. I especially loved the prawns skagen, black currant herring and ceasar salad. And roasted lamb. And sparkling wine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer journalism

Finland has moved into summer journalism mode. This means that the quantity and the quality of the news drops enormously, and they start to recycle the news from previous summers. The first official piece of summer journalism is speculation about Teemu Selänne's career: will he continue playing for one more season? Selänne's career speculations are usually reported around the same time as the speculations about the Juhannus weather: will it rain or is it going to be sunny?

Image: Photo courtesy of S.yume/Creative Commons

The news flow will naturally continue with reports of the traffic peaks in Juhannus - as I mentioned in the previous post, most Finns travel to countryside for Juhannus. I bet on Thursday evening we hear of how the traffic has progressed, and on Sunday noon we'll hear "Juhannuksen paluuliikenne on käynnistynyt", the returning traffic of Juhannus has started.

Later in July we can expect news about funny animals. A shoplifting squirrel is one of my favorites from past years. News about weather like storms and heat waves are also to be expected. But let's hope that the bad news, such as drownings and chain accidents will stay minimal. No news is good news.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Miscellaneous notes about mid summer

Juhannus, mid summer festival is almost here. Friday is national holiday because of Juhannus, and on Saturday all the shops are closed. To compensate that, the summer season sale starts on Sunday in most places.

The day is at its longest around Juhannus. Even in Southern Finland the sun rises before 4 AM and sets around 11 PM. That's 19 hours! Juhannus is all about celebrating the sun.

You're supposed to do some magic on Juhannus night:
  • You need to pick 7 different flowers and put them under your pillow - then you can see you future husband/wife in the dream.
  • You can also see the future spouse of yours if you walk around a well and look into it.
  • If you want wealth, you need turn your sock inside out and put a coin into the sock - and wear that when you go to sleep. 
  • And bonfires are of course a must.
Despite the celebration of light, Juhannus is usually very dark in terms of accidents: many people get drowned or injured in the traffic. So let's be careful out there.

People tend to spend Juhannus on country side. So if you happen to be at the city, go and experience the athmosphere at the city center. It's a bit spooky out there. People (even stranger) may even say "hi" to you, because the ones who stayed at the city are bonding somehow in an unexplanable way. One place to go on Juhannus at Helsinki area is Seurasaari on Friday night. That's the official Juhannus gathering for whole family with bonfires and all.

There is also a good chance to see the Finland from tip to toe on Friday night: YLE Teema (channel 7) will broadcast Juhannusjuna, a mid summer train. They are shooting a train trip from Helsinki to Rovaniemi live for 13 hours. Even though the concept sounds weird, I bet it'll be fascinating and addictive. They once broadcasted a Norwegian version, a train trip from Oslo to Bergen, and that was probably the best hangover TV show I've ever seen.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kiss goodbye the low carb diet

The Finnish menu for the next two months: new potatoes, dill, butter and herring. And maybe some salmon and salad.

New potatoes are available already now. They're not yet at their peak in taste, but they surely are good, much better than the Swedish new potatoes. Cooking is the only way to prepare new potatoes. Don't even dream about making mashed potatoes, casseroles or fries out of the new summer potatoes - you'll end up having glue (been there done that). But really, cooking in lightly salted water with dill is the best and the only way.

Lost and found

We Finns like to see ourselves as honest people. I see that way too, at least to some extent, but I'm not saying we are somehow more honest than any other nation. However, I think we are rather honest what comes to lost property: we don't automatically go for finders keepers, but we try to find the original owner of the piece. My friend has for example forgotten her hat in a train in morning, and in the afternoon she found the hat in the train she took back home.

I experienced the lack of finders keepers attitude yesterday: I was in kettlebell class Thursday evening. I had taken off my rings and put them into the pocket of my backpack. Obviously my wedding ring had jumped out from the pocket when I searched my bike keys, because when I got back home I could find only the engagement ring. Yesterday I went back to gym and asked if someone had found and returned a ring into the reception. And there it was, perfectly undamaged with pink post-it note. Looking at the date and time on the note, someone had found the ring from the bike parking area and returned it about five minutes after I had left my kettlebell class.

Thank you stranger who found my ring and returned it to the Esport Center reception.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


In Helsinki city center you should keep your eye on the ground, especially when crossing a road on tram rails.

The other ones rule the hoods of Kamppi, Urho Kekkosen katu.

And the others' territory is at Kluuvi, Aleksanterinkatu.

Now this is the kind of sightseeing I like!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First name last name

Today I participated the second part of cultural training, this time it was about the British culture. As one of the exercises the trainer showed pictures of famous Brits wearing different kind of suits. We were supposed to recognize the dress code and the person. The first celeb was Elton John in white tie - or Sir Elton John, like the trainer corrected us. Second image was easy and hot one, Daniel Craig in black tie. Then he showed a picture very similar to these:

Well, I knew the dress is saketti in Finnish, and I learnt it's called morning dress in English. And of course I knew they were William and Harry in the picture. The trainer kindly corrected me that they are not "William and Harry" but "Duke of Cambridge and Prince Henry of Wales".

I must admit this time I didn't call the princes by their first names because they are my age (or because they are imaginary friends of mine). I called them by their first names because that's part of spoken Finnish language: President Sauli Niinistö is Sauli. Former president Tarja Halonen was Tarja. And the previous presidents were Mara, Manu and Urkki. Ok, quite often we do call the presidents only by their last name - but my point is, it's not unusual to call even the presidents by the first name. Well, as long as we don't speak them in person.

So it is a fact that in Finland we use our first names quite a lot. For example in a mid-size company the CEO and the directors are quite often called by their first names, some of them even by nickname. More formal way of calling someone in business is simply firstname lastname, Matti Virtanen. Very seldom we say or write Mr. Matti Virtanen (Herra Matti Virtanen) or Mr. Virtanen (Herra Virtanen) - it's almost always firstname lastname, until we're familiar enough to use either or. We don't use too much of titles either. Well, maybe in business cards, but we don't usually receive mail as Dr. Virtanen. So don't worry, you're not being impolite even if you forgot someone's title or degree.

Something to remark is that we indeed use the format firstname lastname - not the opposite. I've learnt that for example Hungarian call themselves as lastname firstname. In Finland only the official institutions call you by lastname firstname (Virtanen Matti) - so that format is used in official papers, transcripts, certificates, taxation, etc.

I already mentioned that presidents are often called by their last name only. It's the same with all politicians. But we may also call someone we know (I mean a peer) by their last name only. In that case the person must be some kind of a personality - he may be the loudmouth of the group, a joker or a guru expert of the company. If you call a person by his last name, there's usually something special in that person, because the norm is to call people by their first name.

Where does this obsession with first names come from? I'd like to say it's the equity in our society. The lack of hierarchies and the lack of classes in society. But let's face it, two generations ago we were all equally poor. There's no tradition of aristocracy or rich or educated upper class - so we have a strong history of being peers, and that makes it more natural to use the first names. Another historical thing to note is the short history of the last names: it's not that long ago since the last name became mandatory.

The first name really has weight in the Finnish culture. Maybe that's why parents take time to think really carefully the name of their baby - after the baby is born. Quite many want to see how does the baby look like before they decide the name. I've understood in many cultures the babies are given the name immediately after they are born, but in Finnish culture the name of the baby may be a secret, unknown or undecided even for three months after the baby is born. And despite the thoroughness in the planning phase, we have a saying: ei nimi miestä pahenna (jos ei mies nimeä) - the name doesn't spoil the man (but the man may spoil his name).

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Let's grill again, like we did last summer

I must admit I've never understood the difference between barbeque and grilling. So forgive me for mixing the terminology.

Grilling, as we call it, is quite popular way to cook in Finland in summer time. I believe the secret behind the popularity of grilling in Finland is the summer cottages: cooking outside on fire is the most convenient way of making food, since majority of summer cottages have traditionally been unelectrified.

Many prefer gas grills. Then there are those pallogrilli, ball grills, which run on coal. My personal favorite is anyway a masonry grill made of bricks, which run on wood. It takes time to burn the wood into suitable degree, but it's worth all the trouble.

My absolute favorite food to grill is grilled mushroom which are stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped into bacon. Yummy! Also sausage will do. I'm not a fan of grilled meat, I think it easily get dry and therefore I prefer the frying pan or parilla. Some are grilling fish too, but I prefer to have my fish smoked. Other good stuff for grilling are onions, peach halves, pineapple, tomatoes - actually any vegetable will do if you wrap it into foil and put some cream cheese into the package.

The grilling season is on. And it lasts until the independence day - December 6th that is.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Come on baby light my fire

Starting a fire in sauna stove is a skill I have taken for granted, but I just realized that it may not be that simple. This is how you make a fire in stove:

Check that the plate above the stove is drawn out from the wall level. It means it's open, so the smoke gets out.

Check that the valve for replacement air is open. Burning is all about stuff joining to oxygen, so you need to make sure there's enough replacement oxygen available.

Open the drawer under the stove. This ensures that the oxygen really reaches the flames.

Put some newspapers or bark on the bottom and lay the wood on top. Wood must be dry and not too big. Leave some space between the woods.

Light the fire.

And then, close the hatch. It burns better when the hatch is closed. You'll hear from the sound if it lit or not.

Add some wood in about 20 minutes.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hydrogen and atom

If you're visiting CERN, hydrogen and atom most certainly refer to particles, maybe in the context of energy production. If you're visiting Lappeenranta, hydrogen (vety) and atom (atomi) are known as much bigger particles, loaded with energy.

Vety and atomi are grill delicacies from Lappeenranta. Vety is a meat pie filled with ham and boiled egg, and atomi is a meat pie equipped with either ham or egg.

This is how to make vety:

Have a newly baked meat pie from Kesämäen Leipomo, Kesämäki bakery. Any other meat pie (e.g. the one in the picture) is fake.

Cut the pie into half and heat it up in steam. Microwave oven won't do it.

Insert ham and egg after warming up the meat pie. The egg should be boiled - fried egg would be a sacrilege!

Wrap into paper (not into a napkin but into rustling paper) and eat while warm. Don't spoil with spices.

The hardest part for home-made hydrogens and atoms is the meat pie: Kesämäki bakery is the only producer for those. I was wandering in Stockmann Tapiola, and I knew I'm not gonna find the real thing, but I kind of expected to find something similarish - but no! There were only full corn meat pies and rye meat pies. I'm kind of happy that consumers are nowadays more health oriented, but come on! Who wants to have a healthy meat pie!?!

You'll get the only real hydrogens and atoms at a grill kiosk at Lappeenranta harbour or market place.