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.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hanging out at the family kesa mokki!

I am in "Oh Canada" resting on the shores of the beautiful Washademoak. All we really need here is a sauna! I have learned that someone in the village makes saunas for export to Massachusetts, but I don't know that I can talk the powers that be into constructing a sauna on the point.

I learned from a friend in Turku that all guests who visit President Halonen are served a non-alcoholic rhubarb drink. That I can try to provide here in NB. Maybe Crampagne from Motts Landing Vineyard will suffice!

My Canadian-Finnish connection is the fact that Sami Salo, a native of Turku who plays hockey for the Canucks, is out of commission due to a training injury..although sources say he was playing "floor hockey".

What he was actually playing is, I suspect, salibandy. Chris played salibandy every Thursday while we were in Finland. He was never injured. I will add some salibandy pictures to this post when I am home in the Granite State.

Check back for some kesa mokki pictures after our makkara and olut dinner tonight.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Red, fizzy, served in a Champagne glass?

Medvedev is in Finland discussing, I would guess, the ban on Finnish food exports to Russia. But the most important issue is what is that pink beverage that is causing the president of Russia to grin so broadly. Any guesses?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sticks, stones and symbols

The news in Concord when we returned from Finland was a horrible tale of older teens tattooing a younger high school student. You can read the coverage in the Concord Monitor here. As the community reeled in shock, details about the suspects emerged including the not surprising fact that one suspect has a swastika tattoo.

The swastika remains part of the lexicon of hate and I wonder if people who adorn themselves with swastikas know anything about the history of the swastika or the resonance it carries today. Maybe the proud wearers of swastikas only regret it when they are about to go to prison.

Before Hitler, the swastika was a decorative symbol with ancient roots in many cultures. It even adorns the granite of the Concord Public Library.

The swastika was the personal symbol of the Swedish pioneer pilot, Eric von Rosen. Eric von Rosen adopted the swastika because he knew of it as an old Viking symbol. Von Rosen flew bombing raids in aid of Finland during the Winter War and gave Finland its first airplane. The budding Finnish Air Force adopted the swastika in homage to von Rosen. Von Rosen was also related by marriage to Hermann Göring, but it is believed that the Nazis were using the swastika before Göring met Hitler.

The swastika was also the symbol of the Lotta Svärd, a woman's aid organization in Finland. The Lottas were outlawed under the terms of the peace treaty with the Soviets, but you can see memorials to the Lottas in Finland and recall their important role in Finnish history.

The swastika has emerged as the symbol of white supremacists in this country and has been resurrected in Europe in a confusing mishmash of history and hatred. I read on my friend, Mike Cantrell's, blog about products from Lithuania being labeled with swastikas in Russian grocery stores.

The resurgence of the swastika in Lithuania has apparently been sanctioned in part by a local court in a proceeding against protestors who were carrying swastikas. Mari researched this and concluded that the swastika stickers are being applied in Russia apparently in an attempt to facilitate a boycott of Lithuanian food due to the court ruling.

The Lithuanian apologists for the swastika claim that it is a part of Lithuanian heritage and nothing to do with Nazism. This specious claim reminds me of the apologists for slavery who claimed that the Confederate battle flag on the Georgia flag had absolutely nothing to do with the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education. At least the Georgia flag has finally shed the symbol of apartheid that flies still over South Carolina. (The image above is from the Onion during the time Georgia was arguing about the flag).

It is sad to see that neo-Nazi hatred has a foothold in the Balkans. You can read Sofi Oksanen's take on the Balkans here (in Finnish!). The harsh histories of Estonia, Lithuania and Lativia during and after WWII should have shaped more tolerant societies, but one of the after-effects of socialism appears to be homophobia. Neo-Nazis recently protested the first Balkan pride parade in Lithuania using the same imagery that the Westboro Baptist Church brought to the UNH ice hockey arena when Bishop Robinson was installed. The picture of the black booted thugs was taken at the Pride Parade in Lithuania.

When you see the imagery of hatred recycled around the globe you realize why some symbols have been outlawed as has happened with the swastika in Germany. This will never happen in the United States due to our First Amendment protection of free speech, but Loudon, New Hampshire could balance their budget with ease if a fine was imposed for every Confederate battle flag flying at a NASCAR race. Think about it!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Karelian Fever--Did it spread to New Hampshire?

Now that I am home in New Hampshire I want to explore the stories of the Finnish immigrants to the Granite State.

One part of the story of the Finnish immigration to the United States and Canada is linked to the history of the quest for a workers' utopia.

A European struggle for workers' rights was born in the early twentieth century. You only need to read about World War I and its aftermath to realize that the excesses of the aristocracy and the brutality of the senseless "war to end all wars" led to labor unrest in many countries. Only England, with its comparatively weak royal family, retained a monarch. King George's cousins, Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas were not so fortunate. Kaiser Wilhelm ended his life in exile in the Netherlands and Tsar Nicholas, along with his family, was brutally murdered by the new Soviet state. (If, like me, you are fascinated with the fact that Georgie, Nicky, and Willy were cousins you should read: George, Nicholas and Wilhelm by Miranda Carter.

Tsar Nicholas was hated in Finland. His policy in Finland was in stark contrast to that of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II. Tsar Nicholas' representative in Finland was Governor General Nikolay Bobrikov. Bobrikov was assassinated in Helsinki on Bloom's Day, no less. Perhaps because of the harsh regime of Bobrikov, Finland harbored Lenin as he plotted the Russian revolution. Indeed, it was Lenin who gave Finland freedom once the imperial regime fell.

The Soviet state was the long awaited workers' paradise. After the bitter Finnish revolution many "red Finns" came to North America. They established both communist and socialist parties in the United States and Canada. When the call came to settle in the newly autonomous, Finnish speaking Karelian Workers Commune many North American Finns eagerly departed for Karelia. The 48 minute documentary embedded below tells the fascinating and sad story of one Canadian's move to Karelia. It is an interesting window into Karelia fever. Letters from Karelia by Kelly Saxberg.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

This news just in...Carry your wife "Estonian style"!

Just when I thought the Paraguay/Spain game yesterday was the most exciting sporting event around....this:

Finland takes first place at wife-carrying championship
(AFP) – 20 hours ago
HELSINKI — Finland for the second year in a row took first place at the annual Wife-Carrying World Championships held in the central Finnish town of Sonkajaervi, organisers said Saturday.
Taisto Miettinen, who was defending his champion title, raced through a 250-metre (273-yard) course with two hurdles and a pool in just over one minute four seconds, carrying Kristiina Haapanen on his back.
The winners beat Estonia's Alar Voogla and Kristi Viltrop, who also took silver last year, by 0.4 seconds.
The 45-year-old Miettinen, a commercial lawyer by day, attended the competition for 10 years before grabbing gold -- and putting an end to Estonia's 11-year reign -- last year.
He told AFP by phone he did not beat his 2009 score of 62 seconds because of a bigger pool.
"I love competing and I love winning. We practiced a lot, but the race was not as easy as last year because the pool was bigger," said the winner, who excels at a number of other sports.
He added the best way for a racer to carry the "wife" -- in his case, a friend he has been racing with for four years -- was "Estonian style".
"That means (for the racer) to dangle her upside down over his back."
Finland also won the third place bronze with the team of Ilpo Haalisto and Satu Juurinen.
Sonkajaervi village, located some 490 kilometres (302 miles) north of Helsinki, has in the past 15 years made its entertaining wife-carrying competition known around the world.
This year, 51 teams from 13 countries including Australia, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates competed in front of a crowd of 4,000.
The race was inspired by the legend of a local thug, Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, who lived in a forest in the late 1800s and is said to have snatched food and sometimes ladies from villages in the region.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Finnish Press

Chris and I are still doing our nightly study of Selkouutiset. We listen to the five minute broadcast and translate the stories together. Now I know words like eduskunta (parliament) and ydinvoimaloista (nuclear power power plants).

Guess what word I learned last night? vakoiluskandaali--spy scandal. Yes, the United States is often a big part of the Finnish daily news. One lead story on the Helsingin Sanomat was the recent Supreme Court opinion on state gun laws.

I enjoy checking the English edition of the Helsingin Sanomat in order to keep up with the Finnish news and the Finnish take on the United States. Imagine my dismay and envy when I read this:


The International Edition will be in recess for the whole of the month of July. The daily items were updated for the last time before the summer break on Thursday 24th, and we shall be coming back online at the beginning of August. Weeklies will return shortly after we open up again.

Though there can be exceptions, July is not traditionally a very "hard" news month in Finland, neither in politics nor in business life, as the country tends to go on holiday from the Midsummer or Juhannus weekend and Finland is more or less "closed" for the duration.

Finland’s politicians, from the new Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi (Centre Party) to anonymous back-benchers, will be spending their time pressing the flesh at the country’s countless summer festivals rather than pressing voting buttons in the debating chamber.

While the world will continue to turn, and news will doubtless be made, we hope that on the Finnish front at least it will be possible to enjoy the short Finnish summer in peace, eat lots of strawberries, leap into lakes from cottage saunas, and to return refreshed in early August.

We thank all our readers for their attention and for the feedback we have received over the year, and wish everyone a pleasant summer season.

Enjoy the berries and the sauna leaps. I will wait here in the country of hard, bad news for Hessari in English to return.