Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Peace - Joulu Rauha

Every year on Christmas Eve, peace is proclaimed in Turku.

The proclamation is read in Finnish and Swedish to the assemble multitudes:

Tomorrow, God willing,
is the graceful celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour;and thus is declared a peaceful Christmas time to all, by advising devotion and to behave otherwise quietly and peacefully,because he who breaks this peace and violates the peace of Christmas by any illegal or improper behaviour shall under aggravating circumstances be guilty and punished according to what the law and statutes prescribe for each and every offence separately.

Finally, a joyous Christmas feast is wished to all inhabitants of the city.

If it sounds is! Turku has been declaring Christmas Peace since the Middle Ages. You can listen to the Christmas Peace here.

We are having a peaceful time at home. Soon we will leave for church. Sophie will ring and sing and speak in the pageant. I will sing in the choir. And tomorrow we will break the Christmas Peace by flying to the antipodes--summer in Argentina with our far-flung family.

Last year we were preparing for our five months in Finland. We arrived in Turku on December 28. We have been home longer than we were there and we still miss it. I hope to hear the Christmas Peace in person one year and, if I am very good, I hope to have a Christmas Sauna one day too.

Rights vs. Duty or A party to celebrate Itsenäisyyspäivä!

Today is Christmas Eve! I am finally sitting still with my computer on my lap. Advent has flown by leaving us all full of butter and little stunned.

Chris and I ushered in the holiday season with our first ever Finnish Independence Day Party. 60 people gathered to help us celebrate the 93rd birthday of Finland. Once the party was underway, I was too busy to take pictures. The pictures above show some of our preparations. Mari sent me candles, napkins, and chocolates. We had plenty of champagne, but the Finlandia vodka went quickly. The Finnish meatballs were a huge hit.

Towards the end of the party we all gathered for a toast to Finland and Chris commented on some of the marked differences between our own Declaration of Independence and the Finnish Declaration.

Felice and I read the US Declaration of Independence every 4th of July while swatting mosquitoes and waiting for the fireworks to start. Once you get beyond the heart stirring talk of self evident truths, the laundry list of complaints against King George begins and goes on and on. It could be considered whiny if you weren't feeling particularly patriotic:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such disolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass [sic] our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us :
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
The Finnish Declaration of Independence is an altogether different document. Rather than stressing their rights, the Finns stressed their duty.

The people of Finland feel deeply that they cannot fulfill their national and international duty without complete sovereignty.

But I have a firm appreciation for the American Declaration of Independence as well. One of my gifts to myself is "And the Pursuit of Happiness" by Maira Kalman. I can't wait to sit down and enjoy this book. The pictures are lovely. You can read her blog here and watch a video about this book below.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hedging our bets!

My daughter's therapist might hear about this in years to come! By the end of the day yesterday, I had her convinced that she had better address this letter to Joulupukki in Rovaniemi. But she is wise. She is carefully hedging her bets.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday--An "only in America" Holiday

Yesterday was Black Friday here in the States. That means that large numbers of people, bellies bulging with turkey, made their way to shopping malls in the small hours of the night hunting for bargains. The term "Black Friday" seems to have some sort of grim overtone, but it refers to the balance sheets for stores. After the huge sales, the stores will be "in the black". Wikipedia explains that the term originally referred to the horrible post-Thanksgiving traffic jams in Philadelphia.

The alternate tradition on Black Friday is to go to a museum. My brother and I headed down to the Currier Museum in Manchester to see the Secret Life of Art exhibit. The exhibit explains the "behind the scenes" aspects of working in an art museum-buying art, deaccessioning art, loaning art, borrowing art, preserving art. You can watch a video about the exhibit at the bottom of this post.

The Santa above seems to be the perfect picture to depict the grim commercial side of Black Friday. Actually, he is in London to advertise the release of the Finnish movie, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. I can't wait to see it! Dark, grim and just in time for the holidays!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Is there a Butterball hotline in Finland?

As I busily prepare my root vegetables for a stress free (ha!) Thanksgiving tomorrow, I reviewed the list of "5 stupidest questions people ask the Butterball hotline" on Please note no. 5:

Can I take my frozen turkey into my sauna to thaw it faster?

And of course--why wouldn't I want my bird to enjoy the sauna with me?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! After reading this list I whipped my turkey out of the sauna and put it in the fridge to thaw in a more conventional manner. Check back later to see if my loved ones survive tomorrow's feast.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A present for the loved one who has everything?

This popped up on the Atlantic web site recently! A portable sauna from the 1960s. With very little googling, the Atlantic editor even found a modern version of the portable sauna available for only $199. Far less expensive than an iPad!

If you want something more permanent, pitch a sauna tent!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Isänpäivä, Finnish Fathers' Day--An Official Flag Day

Today is Father's Day in Finland. From what I can tell, Finland adopted this holiday from the United States in 1949. According to the Helsinki Times, the holiday originally commemorated a mining disaster, but now has its commercial side. However, the U.S. does not recognize a "father of the year" as Finland does. This year Finland named 3 "fathers of the year".

In our corner of the world the father of the year is Chris. He has held this post since 2000. He bears no small resemblance to Moominpapa-a fellow intrepid explorer. Living with Moominpapa has its challenges, but it is rewarding. Take the family fascination with Finnish. If learning a second language delays the effects of Alzheimer's, then studying Finnish is sure to cure the common cold.

Lost in the Night--part of the universal tale of light conquering darkness

When I saw the choir master today, he knew I hadn't been studying the music for church tomorrow. I pulled out the sheet music when I was home and saw that the choir piece for tomorrow is Lost in the Night, a Finnish song translated by Olav Lee.

As I listened to the recording, I thought about how this is the season to celebrate light no matter what your religion. Last night Sophia and Ella went to research Diwali at the law school. The girls will tell you that Diwali symbolizes the triumph of light over darkness and that is why the law students hung lights and pictures of lamps around the Jury Box.

We are heading straight into full holiday mode here in the United States and sometimes the commercial spree can be daunting and depressing. But there is light in the seemingly endless commercial tunnel--the fun of having a cardamom roll and coffee at Bread and Chocolate before rolling down the ramp to browse in Gibson's with Inez has kick started the holidays for me.

I know that Finns will burn candles in their windows on December 6. In my neighborhood, some shine candles at night to light the way for the Christ child. Soon after Thanksgiving a big Christmas tree will be lit in front of the State House on Main Street. All the festive lights make the dark afternoons and early nightfall bearable, even fun.

The Finns can teach us something about living through the dark months to emerge into the beauty of the light. And the lovely hymn I will sing tomorrow will celebrate the spiritual significance of light vanquishing dark.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11/11 Remembrance Day

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States. Originally a celebration of the end of the First World War, November 11 is now a federal holiday in the United States to honor all veterans. The Concord Monitor published an excerpt from the diary of Alice Spaulding Fournier. She writes of the excitement, the cowbells, the effigy burning of "worldwide peace" on November 11, 1918 in Concord, New Hampshire.

Before visiting Finland, my knowledge of WWI was Anglocentric. I know about the horrors of the gas and trenches from reading such books as Regeneration by Pat Barker. But most of all it is the poetry of WWI that resonates with me today. Chris and I went to the Anthem for Doomed Youth exhibit at the Imperial War Museum in 2002 and that exhibit brought home the misery of the war while celebrating the poetry.

When WWI began in 1914, Finland was semi-autonomous part of the Tsar's Russia. By Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918, the Tsar was gone and Finland's new neighbor had recognized Finland as an independent country:

The Soviet of People's Commissars
December 18, 1917
No. 101

As the answer to the appeal of the Finnish Government to recognise the independence of the Republic of Finland, the Soviet of People's Commissars, in full accordance with the principle of nations' right to self-determination, HAS DECIDED:

To propose to the Central Executive Committee that:

a. The independence of the Republic of Finland as a country is recognised, and

b. A special Commission, in agreement with the Finnish Government, comprising members of both parties, should be instituted to elaborate those practical measures that follow from the partition of Finland from Russia.

Chairman of the Soviet of People's Commissars
Vl. Ulianov (Lenin)

People's Commissars:
L. Trotski
G. Petrovski
J. Stalin
I. Steinberg
V. Karelin
A. Schlichter

A civil war ensued in Finland with Mannerheim going from service to the Tsar in Poland during the Great War to leader of the Whites in the Finnish civil war.

And here is the most famous poem of The Great War:


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

By Wilfred Owen

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Correction! Ruotsalaisuuden päivä or Svenska dagen

I was in a hurry yesterday and did not fully grasp the fact that the little flag on my calendar was not next to Pyhäinpäivä, but rather next to Ruotsalaisuuden päivä.
The shops were closed for the religious holiday, but the flags were flying for Swedish Day. Thank you to Astrid and Mari for letting me know.

Finland has two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. About 6 % of Finns speak Swedish as their mother tongue. This multilingualism would send shivers down the necks of some American politicians who find Spanish threatening.

I hope that readers will correct any errors in this post, but here is my unschooled understanding of official bilingualism in Finland:

Swedish speaking Finns and Finnish speaking Finns share a common culture. Sweden controlled Finland for about 600 years and Swedish was the official language with Finnish existing mostly as an oral language. (I have blogged about written Finnish here).

In 1809 Finland became part of Russia. The Finns resisted being part of Russia. The wealthier, better educated Finns of that time spoke Swedish as Swedish had been the language of education. Finnish became the language of independence from both Sweden and Russia. The Swedish speaking Finns had to learn Finnish as part of their movement towards independence and some even changed their names to more Finnish sounding names. Aleksis Kivi and Akseli Gallen-Kallela are examples.

Some of the Finns that we associate with Finnish independence never spoke Finnish flawlessly--Mannerheim for example!

This 2005 article from the New York Times explains how Swedish has been constitutionally protected since independence, but also reports that some Finns today take issue with learning Swedish. I know this from my experience in Turku. My Finnish language teacher explained that her daughter was struggling with her Swedish studies as she prepared for exams and that many Finnish teens resented studying Swedish. They would much rather spend their time on English, French, or German.

I had friends in Turku who were Swedish speaking Finns. One friend explained to Chris that Swedish speaking Finns referred to their community as "the duck pond". You know everyone in it. I watched as the Swedish speaking Finns moved effortlessly between Finnish and Swedish during an Easter brunch. One Finnish speaking professor confessed in a lecture that, while he could speak Swedish, his Swedish speaking friends all reverted to Finnish for his comfort when they were out for a drink.

My daily review of Selkouutiset has kept me up to date on some aspects of bilingualism in Finland. For example, the Prime Minister, Mari Kiviniemi, supports replacing mandatory Swedish language instruction with Russian language instruction in Eastern Finland. Another more recent story explained that some immigrants now wish they hadn't studied Swedish for their citizenship requirements. They may have chosen Swedish as an easier language, but find that Finnish is necessary to really integrate into Finnish society.

So in celebration of Swedish Day in Finland, I post for your enjoyment a flashback to the past,
every American child's first introduction to Swedish-The Swedish Chef!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Saints Day--Flag Day

Halloween this year fell on a Sunday. Halloween in Finland is not the massive candy splurge it is in the United States although I know some Finnish Americans were able to enjoy the holiday (they trick and treated in their own house!). Any kid in this country will tell you the name of the street that has the best trick and treating. At our house the destination of choice is Auburn Street. Sophie and Nate have scampered up the hill to enjoy the decorations and overwhelming generosity of our Auburn Street neighbors for the past six years. Candy canes, ice cream cones, full sized candy bars--it could be a child's idea of the Sampo spilling good things for those precious hours on October 31.

While Halloween is not celebrated in Finland, All Saints' Day is--it is celebrated today, Saturday, in Finland. The flags are flying and the shops are shut. Why is it being celebrated on November 6 rather than November 1? Well, Hesari explains in this paragraph that I copied from the English on line edition of the paper:

Just the usual quick reminder that a public holiday is coming up.
This time it is All Saints' Day, although there may be some of you who wonder why that was not on November 1st, seeing as how Halloween is supposed to be the 31st of October, and today is already (at least for the British non-Roman Catholics) the 5th of November and Guy Fawkes' Day.
It's all connected with the Finnish habit of celebrating some religious festivals on "the closest Saturday", which happens in this case to be tomorrow.

My friend Mari told me that one advertisement on the front page of Hesari wished everyone a "nautinnollista pyhäinpäivää" which wishes everyone an enjoyable Saints' Day. Perhaps an odd sentiment as the day is an opportunity to remember and reflect and visit the graves of your loved ones.

I can understand enjoying All Saints' Day. I love visiting cemeteries. The oddly purple pictures above were taken in the Turku cemetery this past April. We visited the cemetery, famous for the Bryggman chapel and then went across the street to the moving pet cemetery.

And here to enjoy on Finnish All Saints' Day is Oi kallis Suomenmaa, a song that was played frequently at funerals during WWII.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

And now for something completely different

KBRPRODUCTIONS: HOMEWORK -Teaser from tuna baleon on Vimeo.

In case you want to forget all about the midterm elections -- you can watch some Finns snowboard. Why are they snowboarding down stair rails? Well, there aren't many big hills in Finland.

I believe some of this video is shot at Saariselkä. We went to the ski resort Saariselkä in February and climbed to the top of the mountain over and over dragging our sleds. You can see some of our pictures here.

The best part of the video is the music by the Danish singer Emma Acs.

Perhaps you could play her catchy tune while watching this video shot by daring Americans in Saariselkä. I am sure the Duudsons got their start by plowing into their mothers!

PS Chris said that the Finnish stunt snowboarding reminded him of Meathead films (ski the East--lots of ice) so I am attaching a link to Meathead films.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finnish in Middle Earth

Sophia hasn't read any Tolkien yet. She knows the stories from the movies and has a picture of a certain elf hanging in her room. I read all the books, even Silmarillion. When I read the books, I didn't pay much attention to the elvish or dwarvish, but then I never paid attention to Klingon either.

Tolkein wrote his wonderful books as a vehicle for the languages he invented. Arika Okrent, in her book In the Land of Invented Languages, explains that when The Lord of the Rings was published, Tolkein had been working on the languages for fifty years.

According to Okrent, Tolkein fell in love with Welsh as a child. As a student at Oxford, Tolkein discovered Finnish and said, "It was like discovering a wine-cellar filled with bottles of amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me."

So, a tipsy toast to Finnish! Kippis!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sataa lunta, sataa vettä

The rain was not falling this morning. It was flying horizontally, driven by a strong and gusty wind. We braved the walk to the bus stop so that Sheba could have her morning walk. She hasn't left the house since. In New Hampshire, autumn is roaring in and will be followed closely by winter.

In Finland, the flakes are already flying. This hardly seems fair since the Helsinki snow pile finally disappeared only one month ago. At one point the snow pile was taller than the roller coaster in Linnanmäki. (If you are a roller coaster enthusiast, you must go to Helsinki. The roller coaster in Linnanmäki, Vuoristorata, is wooden and has a brakeman in the last car.)

The image above is from the Helsingin Sanomat and shows the snow piles height in comparison to famous statues in Helsinki, Paavo Nurmi and Mannerheim.

The pile's demise may have solved some mysteries. Among the refuse found in the pile were 2 motorcycles. Can you imagine looking for your motorcycle after a big storm?

Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, the bad weather might dampen the scene at the New Hampshire Championship regatta in Pembroke, New Hampshire. The University of Melbourne crew (and many other boats) will be racing down the Merrimack and I hope the rain will stay away.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

With you, Not at you!

Sophie and I went to see the musical Spamalot. We had a wonderful time. Sophie has watched enough Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian to laugh along at the inside jokes. We were sitting in the Gods with the entire IT department of a local community college. They were also in on the inside jokes. They were laughing before the jokes.

The opening scene of Spamalot concerns confusion between the words "Finland" and "England" and there is a silly Finnish dancing scene that caused Sophie to complain loudly "was nothing like Finland". She was personally offended that Finland was being mocked by the Fish Slapping Dance.

I found some of the funniest humor of Spamalot was in the program. The musical numbers listed in the program included "the show-stopping, foot stomping East Finland Moose ballet-45 magnificent creatures in high-stepping harmony." The program also explained that all of the "action takes place entirely in a sauna". I hope that the East Finland Moose ballet will come to Concord one day.

One show that Sophie doesn't know about is South Park. It is way too naughty for a 10 year old. A friend showed me an episode of South Park where Finland is destroyed by the other nations for being way too honest. Like many other South Park episodes, there is a factual basis for the absurd story line. Finland is currently the 6th least corrupt country. In 2003, Finland was at the top of the list for transparent government.

You can watch the South Park episode "Pinewood Derby" from season 13 here. And below are some You Tube clips for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Flag Day! Aleksis Kivi Day

Today is Aleksis Kivi Day in Finland and I am sure the flags are flying in Turku.

Aleksis Kivi is one of the great literary founders of Finland. His gritty novel, Seven Brothers, caused a stir because it was written and published in Finnish. The first Finnish novel! My husband calls it the Ur Novel. He has actually read it!

Aleksis Kivi was born in 1834 as Aleksis Stenvall. He changed his name to the Finnish word kivi - stone - as part of the Finnish nationalist movement. It is an apt name because he is the bedrock of Finnish literature. He is credited with creating written Finnish. Before Seven Brothers, there was very little written Finnish. You can read more about the development of written Finnish here on my blog.

You can read more about Kivi here. It is striking to realize that after creating a literature that would lead to the recognition of Finland as an independent country, he died at the young age of 38. The article also explains that he never made it overseas, but he did make it to Turku!

Turku was a cultural center in Kivi's lifetime and remains a cultural center today. If you want to read more about Turku or plan your next Finnish vacation you can read the New York Times article about Turku as the 2011 European Capital of Culture here.

Turku still has a major role in the literary life of Finland. Writers are seemingly everywhere. I ran into Reijo Mäki in Turku. I would also see Riku Korhonen striding out of the library or through the kauppatori. Riku Korhonen was recently awarded a European Union prize for literature for his novel Lääkäriromani.

And here is a little video from a movie about Aleksis Kivi. I believe the music is Sibelius and it is shot in what I would say is the UR Finnish landscape!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Angrier and angrier

In a previous post I talked about the Finnish game, Angry Birds. Sophie and I both play it and Sophie is way out ahead. She is so deep into the game that the pigs are now flying a Swedish flag. Finns are doubly happy when they defeat Sweden in, say, hockey. Happy because they won, but most importantly because Sweden lost. It is no wonder the aggravating pigs are flying the Swedish flag in this Finnish game.

The NYT Magazine had an article about Angry Birds in Sunday's paper. You can read it here. The writer captures the anger that the smug pigs inspire when you fail to blow them to smithereens. They grin, grunt, and gloat and you have to try again.

For a different type of angry birds, try the angry birds of prey in the movie "The Legend of the Guardians". The movie is based on the book series by Kathryn Lasky. I read them all to Sophie and loved the movie. The books are full of mythology and creation myths. Kathryn Lasky lives in Cambridge and spent time studying owls at the Harvard Natural History Museum. Go to Harvard to see a dire wolf.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

"Hold My Bicycle While I Kiss Your Girlfriend"

My friend Autumn and I were talking about a recent NYT article on bicycle chic. The article reminded me of a fun blog from Copenhagen named Cycle Chic. The mast head of the blog reads: Hold My Bicycle While I Kiss Your Girlfriend. The blog features photos of all the stylish people pedaling around Copenhagen. I went to the blog to send the link to Autumn and found that the blog is featuring the ultra stylish cyclists of Helsinki! Starting on September 28, Cycle Chic features scenes from Helsinki!

For more street fashion from Helsinki, check out this blog!

You can see from the above photo that I need to work on my cycle chic!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

More Finnish fun for your iPhone

I have a new Finnish game on my iPhone. It is Heroes of the Kalevala. I wish the story was told in Finnish rather than English. The narrator's pronunciation of Väinämöinen made me think that my guide was named Wayne something or other.

Even without a Suomeksi option, you can enjoy arranging your berries and helping your village win the Sampo. The game is the product of a small company based in Tampere. It is hard to imagine what Elias Lönnrot would have made of this game.

Watch the video below for something that Elias Lönnrot would have found more familiar:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Languages: silent and spoken

In New York this week, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs organized and hosted a conference on the rights of people with disabilities. One event was a concert by the Finnish rap star, Signmark.

Signmark was born deaf and is the first deaf recording artist to sign with a major music label. His concerts are bilingual--American Sign Language and English.

He also raps in Finnish Sign Language. You can watch a Finnish music video here:

The fact that Signmark rapped in New York in English spoken lyrics and American sign language made me realize that sign language differs between countries. I hadn't thought about diversity of sign language around the world. It is easy to hear the differences in spoken language, but different sign languages can go unrecognized--at least by me.

I am reading a fascinating book that Chris' mother, Marilyn, recommended: In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent. Okrent sheds light on the natural development of language as she explains the many failed attempts to invent a perfect language. Just as I listen to Selkouutiset (clear Finnish news) on, efforts have been made to invent a "Basic English".

Okrent writes that Churchill was a proponent of Basic English and urged Roosevelt to take up the Basic English banner. Roosevelt teased Churchill that his speech exhorting, "blood, toil, tears, and sweat", would have been much less inspiring in Basic English: blood, work, eye water and face water".

As Okrent writes about the limited success of Esperanto and the many shortcomings of other "man made" languages, she explains that sign languages are not "a sort of universal pantomime". Sign languages differ from country to country because they evolve naturally--like spoken language.

What a linguistic wonder Signmark must be. He rhymes in Finnish and English, sign and spoken language, all without hearing his own voice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's in a name? A rose is a rose until you trademark it.

Today is the last day of Fashion Week in New York. According to the schedule IVANAhelsinki will be showing their line today at 9:00 p.m. (that's right now!)

This is big, big news! Even the Finnish Consulate in New York is excited! The runway show is a first for a Finnish design house and that surprises me because Finland is known for design.

But, this being New York, there has to be some Trump action. Ivana Trump is suing the Finns for what she claims is a violation of her trademark on the name Ivana, even though the designer's name is Paola Ivana Suhonen.

Ivana Trump could be a Gold Bug!

What is a Gold Bug? Good question! I am sure that there are no gold bugs in Finland.

My first run in with a gold bug was in the law library in Savannah. He was a small man who did nothing but poke into law books (the older, the better) and file countless motions. I ran into another gold bug in the federal courthouse in Atlanta. He claimed that the court had no jurisdiction over him because the American flag in the courtroom had a gold fringe and was therefore a "flag in admiralty". Just a friendly word of warning: If you find yourself in court and your best argument concerns the fringe on the should have your toothbrush with you.

If I ran into 2 gold bugs in Georgia, avid newspaper readers in NH will not be surprised to know that there are gold bugs aplenty here in the Granite State.

Gold Bugs are people who believe that (among other things) since the dollar is not tied to the gold standard they do not need to pay taxes. Don't ask me to explain any further. I just can't. But like Ivana Trump, gold bugs understand the power of the trademark.

Take for example Ivana Trump's role model, Ghislain Breton. Mr. Breton claimed to have copyrighted his name and sent court personnel claims for $500,000 every time his name was used. He even filed liens on their homes.

This was soft IP turned hard core and no laughing matter for the clerks with the liens clouding their titles. Gold bugs and tax protesters can issue frightening threats and cause life-endangering situations.

I don't know where Ivana Trump stands on the gold standard or fluoridated water, but she is raining on the Finnish fashion parade. If La Trump were absolutely fabulous, she would plop herself down in front of the runway and enjoy the show.

PS: Does anyone know how to TM Megan?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Tsar's empire

A friend from high school, Mike Cantrell, is living in Russia. He and his wife, Olga, are missionaries. I enjoy following their lives and work on Mikes' blog. Mike's recent post was about a collection in the Library of Congress: the photographs of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944)

The Boston Globe also has an extensive gallery of pictures from the collection. They are truly amazing. The Boston Globe explains the process for taking the glorious color prints in the collection. Prokudin-Gorskii used a special camera to take 3 photographs in rapid succession. He used color filters to show the nearly true colors of the subjects. As the Boston Globe emphasizes, the pictures document life before the Russian revolution and WWI.

I have chosen a picture for my blog, "Finn digging potatoes". You can see the picture at the Library of Congress web site. The LOC web site says this picture was taken between 1905 and 1915.

After the initial, small Swedish colonial wave of settlement, the Finns began to arrive the United States in the 1880s. I imagine that this potato farmer could have easily picked up and left that barren field in Russian-controlled Finland to head for the more lucrative mills and pastures of Fitchburg or Newport.

Finnish immigration increased in the early 19th Century with towns like Newport and Fitchburg having sizable Finnish populations. Newport once supported 3 Finnish Halls: Socialist, Communist, and Temperance.

To learn more about Finnish Halls you can watch the trailer for the forthcoming production of Big Finn Hall about the Finnish Hall in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Angry Birds?

It is cathartic to slingshot angry birds through the air in the hopes of destroying grunting pigs. I am a little addicted to the game, but not as advanced as my daughter. The back story is that the pigs are stealing the birds' eggs and you manipulate the trajectory of the birds to destroy the outlandish castles that house the pigs.

When I read that Angry Birds, the most popular game in the iTunes app store, is Finnish, I knew I had to test if for my blog. Kaksi thumbs up!

Angry Birds is a product of the Rovio Company, based in Espoo. The web site explains that Rovio descends from a company started by Helsinki University of Technology students in 2003.

The Helsinki area is hot (literally) with IT and computer technology. By hot, I mean that the computers roaring away in Helsinki generate vast amounts of heat. In order to cool the computers, innovators in Finland are pumping in Baltic sea water and using the transferred heat as part of the city's energy needs. You can read about it here.

If you haven't yet heard about Angry Birds, you will soon. Variety reports that a movie and toys are in production.

Remember, no matter what Hitch would have you believe, the original angry birds sprung from the pen of Daphne Du Maurier.

Listen below to the music from Angry Birds. Get used to it. As sure as eggs are eggs, you will hear it a lot.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Jatka, jatkuu, jatkua... (But really this is a post about soccer!)

Oy! I am still studying Finnish. On many (not all) nights, I listen to Selkouutiset on my computer My vocabulary changes with world events. After one week I might be familiar with all the words dealing with flooding in Pakistan. (tulva/flood)+(apu/aid)=tulva-apua. Another week, I am heavily into EU economic discussions. I am following the rise in membership of the True Finns party and the fall of Finnish interest rates. I am woefully ignorant of the grammar, but the good, slow-talking folks at try to use all forms of a word.

Some nights I skip Selkouutiset and jump into Finnish with my daughter. We either watch one of our Muumilaakso dvds or do a YouTube search for Pokemon dubbed in Finnish. Nothing makes my daughter happier than Finnish Pokemon.

As my vocabulary grows, my respect for anyone who can actually speak Finnish increases. Take, for example, my new linguist hero Medo!

Who on earth is Medo, you may ask. I don't blame you. I had no idea who he was until my husband came home at lunch to watch Medo's last game for his Helsinki team. There was even a Medo-cam following Medo's every move on the field.

Medo is a foreign-born Finnish citizen and a Finnish footballer. This means he is eligible to play for Finland and that he has passed a Finnish language test. Somehow, it seems easier to play international football than to pass a Finnish language exam.

Medo is the affectionate fan nickname for Mohamed Kamara. Born in Sierra Leone, Medo came to Finland to play for Sierra Leone in the U-17 FIFA world championships in 2003. You have only to look at Sierra Leone on a map to know there are hurdles to overcome in life harder than learning Finnish.

Long years of civil war in the west African nation left Medo an orphan. When his U-17 team, the Sierra Stars, arrived in Finland from their war torn country, they were probably overwhelmed by the contrasts. From chaos and violence to the orderly life that Finns enjoy.

I would like to learn more about how Medo and his teammates escaped after the tournament. Finland has very strict asylum laws and they were young teens fleeing their handlers for an uncertain future.

Medo has just signed a 3 year contract with FK Partizan, a Serbian team. I wonder if he will add Serbian to his language repertoire. And, just yesterday, Finland lost to Moldova, 2-0. Medo wasn't on the team, but if Finland doesn't make it into the European Championships we might have to hunt for news of the Serbian league in order to follow his career.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Finns in New Hampshire--Lehtinen Woods

I am researching the Finns in New Hampshire as I procrastinate on housework and class prep. Here is a lovely picture from the Lehtinen Woods Trail in Penacook, NH. Gustav Lehtinen was Concord's first planning director. And here is a link so that you can explore Lehtinen Woods. If you go this summer, bring your swim suit! Wait a while and bring your skis.

Need I say more?

Newsweek just reported what we knew all along: Finland is no. 1! You can read about it on line here. The Newsweek website has some fun interactive graphics that you can manipulate as you read about Finland's 100% literacy rate as opposed to a literacy rate in the United States of 89%.

The Newsweek article has not gone unnoticed in Suomi. Hesari had the Newsweek article as a lead article both on line and in print. You can read the English language version of Helsingin Sanomat here. I always enjoy the tongue-in-cheek quality of the Hesari English language edition: "this doughty pine & lakes republic of 5.3 million souls came out on top of the heap, in spite of the long winter, high taxes, and widespread worries over public services."

I find that I miss Finland every day. Happily, my friend, Päivi, is bringing me some rye bread when she returns from Finland. Newsweek left out the food, but Andrei Codrescu touches on the food in his essay on the Newsweek web site. Codrescu's summation is that, "The world’s “best countries” seem to have this in common: they avoid war, they live in the dark, and they maintain a steady state of depressive and productive activity."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trying to live like a Finn or Bikes are not clutter!

On Tuesday, I met some good friends for dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, the Granite. It is a pleasant pedal to the Granite, so I hopped on my bike. As soon as I arrived at the restaurant, I realized the great drawback to the Granite is the lack of a bike rack. I scrabbled through the bushes to chain my bike to a light pole. When I mentioned this shortcoming to the concierge, she told me that management refused to have a bike rack because they don't like clutter! Now, them's fighting words. I want to round up a bunch of cyclists and we could all clutter up the Granite with our bikes while drinking fine wine.

In Finland, bikes are not clutter. Instead, they are the prime means of transportation for many people. You stay healthy. You don't have to worry about parking. Your carbon footprint shrinks every time you leave the house. Bikes are safer in Finland. The bike paths are often separate from the roads and Finnish cyclists don't have to shrink away as giant pickup trucks go screaming past (try cycling on Little Pond Rd. if you live in Concord).

Despite the Granite and the narrow roads that bicycles share with cars, I am hopeful that the United States and Concord, New Hampshire are both becoming more bicycle friendly. The Secretary of the Department of Transportation is Ray LaHood, a former member of the Congressional Bike Caucus. He understands the importance of bicycles in the national transportation scheme.

Concord is planning some safer bike routes and one local organization, PATH, is facilitating bicycle commuting in the region.

In the meantime, my husband and I are planning our annual bike trip where we will spend lots of tourist bucks on bike friendly Cape Cod. And, next time I pedal to the Granite I will be playing Miss Gulch's soundtrack from speakers located in my wicker bike basket. (I'll get you my pretty!)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mad Men celebrates Finnish design

We all know that Finland is the design center of the world! The clever writers and set designers at Mad Men know it too. This season opens at the close of 1964 with the new firm of SCDP in the Time Life building.

Everyone's favorite character, Roger Sterling, has the best lines and the best office furniture. Check out the tulip table in his gleaming, white office. The Tulip Table was designed by Eero Saarinen. He also designed the arch in St. Louis and Dulles airport.

If you can't watch Mad Men on television, you can listen to the Mad Men radio station on Pandora. Enjoy!

P.S. You can see Eero Saarinen's Tulip chairs on the deck of the Starship Enterprise!

8 -- 9 -- 10!

Today in US history!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Sad Post

I feel this is a very sad news story, but one that I needed to post on my blog of all things Finnish. From the BBC via Gawker:

The annual World Sauna Championships in Finland have ended in tragedy with the death of one of the finalists, the organisers said.

Russian finalist Vladimir Ladyzhensky and Finnish rival Timo Kaukonen were both taken to hospital after collapsing and Mr Ladyzhensky later died.

The event, which has been running since 1999, requires participants to withstand 110C for as long as possible.

Its chief organiser said all the rules of the event had been followed.

The competition was held in Heinola, 138km (86 miles) north of Helsinki.

Organiser Ossi Arvela said in a statement that the organisers were grief stricken at the events.

Mr Arvela said the police were already at the venue and were undertaking an investigation.

He said: "All the rules were followed and there was enough first aid personnel. All the competitors needed to sign in to the competition with a doctor's certificate."

Mr Kaukonen, who was last year's champion, is being treated in hospital at the city of Lahti.

Still pictures from the event released by news wires showed the pair being treated after having collapsed, apparently suffering burns.

Lau Nau: unravel her melodies

This musician is Finnish. I love listening to her. Also, my knitting looks like this!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Summer's lease

I have blogged about the Finnish affinity for the kesä mökki or summer house. Seemingly everyone has one. A kesä mökki is usually a small home lacking plumbing or other amenities so the family can enjoy the togetherness of survival without television.

We have a kesä mökki of sorts. It is on a lake...however, it is has many mod cons. You do have that feeling of being away from it all especially as there is no cell phone coverage or high speed internet access!

Above are some pictures of the kesä mökki in Canada. The water level of the lake changes drastically on our shore in the winter so that any lake side sauna would need to be on wheels.

The lack of high speed internet access in rural parts of New Hampshire or New Brunswick contrasts sharply with the Finnish guarantee of high speed internet access to all. The Finnish government realizes that people living in more rural parts of the country are excluded from modern civic engagement if they are unable to meaningfully use a computer.

Without my wireless internet server I would be unable to fritter away my time on the computer or on my iphone. My iphone is full of fennophile gadgets: Radio Finland, Word Power, Hei Finland. I can listen to Turun Radio while I make dinner.

My daughter leaves tomorrow for what must be a peculiarly American institution: sleep away camp. Two weeks in the equivalent of kesä mökki on a beautiful lake in northern New Hampshire. Ipods are contraband at the camp.

Her departure for camp heralds the close of summer...Summer's lease hath all too short a date. This has been a particularly Shakespearean summer, especially in Finland where the highest temperature on single day was set near Joensuu--37.2. Hesari keeps using the word "helle" meaning heat or hot weather. It makes me smile because it is so similar to our word, hell.

I will close with Sonnet 18--a love poem but the nature imagery seems apt when I think of the July that Finland experienced and the hot weather scorching the southern states.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date,
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand'rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Where can you find a greener IT? In Finland of course!

I heard this story about Helsinki Energy recycling heat from computer server rooms. The server rooms are cooled by piping water from the Baltic. By recycling the heat the data center will save $240,000 in heating costs. You can listen to the story on PRI here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

What to do when paper mills are no longer profitable--Make rayon!

My father found this article in the Globe and Mail yesterday: A town in Quebec is transforming their pulp wood plant over from paper to rayon using equipment purchased in Finland.

The strategy is the result of a forward thinking entrepreneur reports the Globe and Mail:

The man behind the strategy is Fortress chairman and chief executive officer Chadwick Wasilenkoff, a 38-year-old contrarian investor who seeks out opportunities in overlooked or depressed sectors, like the forest products industry.

“There isn’t enough dissolving pulp to feed the market demand for rayon,” Mr. Wasilenkoff said in an interview.

Maybe Berlin, New Hampshire, should consider rayon. I volunteer to shop for used machinery in Finland.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Summer Book

I am devouring books while watching the lake. It is very restful. I am reading The Summer Book by Tove Jansson now and it is strangely fitting. The Summer Book is a series of vignettes involving a six year old girl, Sophia, and her grandmother as they spend the summer on a small island in the Gulf of Finland.

We are not on an island, but there is the island mentality here. We are alone in our sea of grass and by the shore of our lake. The wind whistles around us. My daughter's name is Sophia and she is spending quality time with her grandparents. While she is older than the Sophia in the book, there is still a timeless quality to her activities on our shore. She moves rocks around, explores secret rooms in the undergrowth, skips rocks into the lake.

I recommend this quiet book for a summer read. Nothing much happens, but you enjoy the rhythm of their lives on the island and envy their self-contained solitude.