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.