Monday, 31 December 2007

Less privacy

Finland has earlier been ranked as a top country concerning the integrity of the citizens but as it turned out now in the latest research done by Privacy International Finland is on a mere shared 11th place in the EU together with Ireland and Czechoslovakia. Okay, I thought the Czechoslovakia was divided into Czechia and Slovakia or have I got this wrong?

Something here seems odd and peculiar, anyway, it seems odd that Greece and Rumania should have better security concerning the privacy of citizens, Canada I still somehow can buy. The reason for Finland to rank as low as this consist of several factors such as the phone company Sonera’s spy scandal, GPS satellite tracking and that the police can get your tax information to their mobile phones when on duty. Here comes my question, can the police do that even in their spare time?

Isn’t the tax register official knowledge anyway in Finland? And is it not good to be able to rack your own offspring by GPS to know at east where they are up to something?!?

Shopping today, the last day of this year, was as unpleasant if not to say as awfully hideous as it always is when the shops are crowded. I tend to avoid having to do any shopping at these times but this year’s holidays were quite placed unfortunately, I had no other choice. Everywhere I went I had to queue, at the pharmacists, at Alko for the midnight celebration bubbles, at the supermarket for some groceries and a couple of smaller specialized shops where there hardly is anyone else normally when I shop there. Being without wheels all of a sudden is the oddest experience. You take your car for granted, having access to it at any time of the day, and night for that matter, and always ready to go.

Well, sometimes you just have to give up your transportation, either out of convenience for mere peace in the house’s sake or to do someone a favour as they need the wheels more than you do. Having normally need for a car about twice a week, and here I strain on “must have” as in compulsory appointments in addition to all the other “just easier this way” or “just lazy right now”. When these appointments are in the middle of town it would be much easier to go by public transport as finding a parking space sometimes can be hell in bigger cities, even here in Finland. Not to mention the prices of the parking fees, and having forgotten about the parking fees the tickets are no fun to receive on your windshield. Anyway, where am I now going with this?

All of a sudden finding out what bus goes where, and when they leave can be hard enough if you are unused to it well that can be mended by either googling or asking the offspring about it as they are used commuters by now. No that hard part of it is the noise that all of a sudden surrounds you. Women happily chatting away their pastime on the bus, louder than convenient to any sitter nearby, brakes screeching, doors slamming open and shut and the odours, or maybe I should be all frank with you, the stench of bodily odours of the person sitting three rows away!

Imagine, wintertime not even summer when you get all sweaty and hot, no this fellow smelled like a full dustbin that had not been emptied for a fortnight, and believe me I do know what it smells like.

It does not smell like roses!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

89% married first time


There are currently 2 million married people in Finland, which also can be conclude into 1 million ongoing marriages at this very moment, even to my ability of comprehending arithmetic’s. 89% of these married couples are married for the very first time but every 17th inhabitant in Finland end up remarrying at some point of their life as there are 200.000 married a the second time, about 2000 people in their fourth marriage and even a couple hundred of brave individuals who are married for the fifth time. Marrying for the fifth time must be quite an optimistic thing to do, you have not quit yet nor lost their belief in romance in the modern society of today, or then you are just plainly stupid. Who am I to tell?

Anyway, Xmas cards is one way of showing your friends how artistic you are, I must confess I have also committed that sin and to tell you the truth, quite often lately, even more than in my youth when I still was actively doing some painting. Many even turned up as birthday presents and wedding gifts, which were greatly appreciated as they were handmade but it seems fewer people, have the understanding for photographic art, or maybe it is as I see art presented as photographs they do not appreciate as much as they liked my paintings.

Better though is to have your kids do their art that is absolutely genuine and as contemporary as it can be. Save them as they might be worth a fortune when that little brat turns out to be the modern day Picasso, if you’re callous enough, or just save them as nice memories of one Xmas long time ago as precious mementos of a child you once knew.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

5,3 million Finns



At the end of the year all statistics tend to pop up more than any other time of the year and by the change of the year into 2008 Finland is estimated to have 5,3 million inhabitants. Actually I think it said “Finns” in the original Finnish text I read but as this is my translation, I prefer to use Finns, even with the risk of it being a misinterpretation of statistics and it would not be as funny then.

Anyway, the next phrase informed that the immigration to Finland had never previously been as high as the current year and that 23.000 people had moved to live in the country. So how many of these 5,3 million Finns are not Finnish citizens? Or have dual citizenships for that matter, just to try to get the word “Finns” right here.

The winter still has not arrived to southern Finland.

There is no snow to be seen anywhere, except some small stacks of it melting away in secluded and shadowed spots. If I remember this number correctly, the average temperature here in southern Finland has been 9 degrees all year round, which is about 1,5 degrees warmer than normal. The lakes are now almost iceless again and here there are again talks about going fishing on Tuesday as this happens to be a tradition, to go ice fishing on New Year’s Day. Well, there was no falling on their last trip on Independence Day either but now I seriously doubt I will allow my dear spouse to go fishing with his crazy fisherfriend. There must be something more lucid to do than risk your life because of the whim of your colleagues, maybe I should throw a dinner party, no, actually lunch would be better timewise in this case.

And our youngest family member, who not at last even has received a genuine name suiting her, is always on the move, nipping a quick bite at your toes when ever passing by so the reindeer bones we so kindly were advised to try help sometimes and at other occasions they are forgotten about. The whole family has been very cautious about letting the toilet seats and the lid on top of it in order to prevent the kitten from drowning but just this morning I woke up by a hollow echoing screech intertwined with a big splash before the toilet seat was banged up and down by a cold and wet kitten rescuing herself from the toilet. At least we now know she can swim and that she also is able to get up from the toilet should she falls in a second time, which I seriously doubt.

Strange, all these things every kitten tend to do at least once, either out of curiosity or maybe more lacking the needed knowledge about things. Talking about a narrow view of the world, the kittens, just knowing our apartment to about 3 feet high from the floor not knowing there is more to the world than that!

Friday, 28 December 2007

It’s a secret


I was having lunch with one of my girl friends the other day and all of a sudden her mobile phone rang, which is not that unusual in itself but her answering it while we were having a nice lunch and an even better discussion of our respective spouses not to mention all about our offspring’s’ latest explorations into real life and relationships.

As the sounds on her mobile had been turned up loud enough for me to hear the caller’s voice and as I thought I recognized the voice on the phone I made a joke about it being Brad Pitt as she put her phone down on the table. And my funny remark fell limply on the table to continue straight for the floor as my friend me that it really was him and I was totally flabbergasted. I could not believe my ears; she had been on the phone with one of the most recognized men in the whole world!

My friend told me that she had known Brad Pitt since their early childhood and as such had forgotten to mention about it to me, as he is just Brad for her and always has been. Well, I am no big fan of Brad Pitt anyway, I would much have preferred it to have been Sean Connery for whom I have had a soft spot since my early teenage, and anyway, to tell you the truth it was not really Brad Pitt, but it was someone just as famous as Brad Pitt, and he is not a film star but a world famous rock star instead and as I am not at liberty to tell you who it really was it will have to stay a secret.

At least until the day I run into him which was the reason for the call in the first place, that this childhood friend of my friend’s is coming here to Finland, and of course incognito to everyone’s great disappointment so no one will know except the few chosen ones to meet him in real life.

Anyway, Cow & chicken, my favourite cartoon is back for me to enjoy and I am very lucky to be the only one in the household to like the show so I am always left alone at 2 PM to watch it which is a nice change now with the Xmas vacations on and full house with offspring to my daily nuisance. I have for a long time been wondering about the minds of these people who come up with these ideas for various cartoons such as Cow & chicken or even South Park which I am not that great a fan for. Making the cartoons for years and years and always coming up with fresh, new ideas for the shows, the crazier the merrier.

And talking about TV, I always thought MTV was a music channel but to my big surprise there was a movie on one of the Xmas holidays, My Sweet sixteen. I have never understood why there are the reality shows on MTV either, but then I do not understand reality TV anyway. At least in my youth there was music, even though they tended to be the same songs over and over again, the times played determined by how much the artist in question apparently had paid to get on air, it all resulting in the same unequal distribution of good music and great artists or bad performers and hideous songs.

Even the personal choice lists of songs on MTV made by viewers themselves must have been chosen in the same manner, keeping in mind that is paying the big bucks, the record companies of course. And to let you in on a big secret, you have certainly been seeing this rock star; that I am about to meet some day in the near future, many, many times lately, both on MTV and the Finnish channels as his band has just released a new album.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

End of festivities


Finally the hollidays come to an end, even though Christmas really still keep on going on until Epiphany, the thirteenth day of Xmas when it really ends.

Not having posted anything for almost a week does not necessarily mean that I have not had anything to write about, I have just neither had the opportunity nor the time to post, all the Xmas preparations and activities to cope with, you know, and so many people hanging around doing nothing, just surfing the Net in order to avoid death of total boredom totally ignorant of my great displeasure about my disrupted morning routines, not being able to blog.

A great many ideas passed through my mind and many of them were even written down on paper at the time, some even got as far as getting typed into the PC but none got posted in the hurry.

Just the other day I was thinking about what Xmas really is, what does Xmas consist of?

And I guess there is no right answer there, just as many answers as there are people. At least for me much of the joy comes from the preparation of the festivities, the cooking and planning ahead of time on order to get the show on the road when it is time. A lot of my Xmas consists of food, not always the eating but the cooking of it, the smells of the cooking, and the scent of hyacinths, gingerbread and mulled wine and the Xmas music.

Xmas can actually be faked like we had to some years ago out of practical reasons. We had to postpone our Xmas until December 28th and it all went well, even the offspring did not notice we swapped dates and we were even successfully able to conveniently swap daddies as Santa’s with our neighbours without disturbing either families Xmas activities as it normally would have done.

By the way, I am very pleased with our family doctor, the care and treatment he is providing- the very first in Finland to really have been bothered to care even in his spare time, interested enough to occasionally drop in to read my Blog. During my visits at his surgery it has become apparent for me that we do share many ideas as well as have differing opinions on many issues so I would be thrilled having a discussion with him in private, and as he lives nearby, just down the road (of course I have googled him!) it is not such an impossible thought that we might bump into each other, in private so to speak. But I guess it would not be really ethical; being a social acquaintance of your family doctors’ would it?

Okay, I better get going to the supermarket in order to get something else but Xmas food for dinner tonight.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Late nights and early mornings


I always have hated having to get to the airport early in the morning, which in this case more might like in the middle of the night to drive someone to the airport in order to catch an early morning flight.

I can never sleep in the night before worrying whether I’ll wake up by the alarm or not and there is no difference in me just dropping someone off at the airport or me boarding a flight. Add to this the fact that yesterday night was spent at a Christmas party you could not say no to out of obvious reasons having to stay until 1 AM in order to get up at 4 AM to get at the airport at 5.30 AM at latest in order to not miss the flight. Coming back home there was this beautiful almost full moon shining, hanging as low as almost dropping from the sky onto the treetops and then there was no sleep. It took me two days until I could sleep, I did try to catch a nap when sleepy and hardly no longer could stay awake, but by the time I got to my bed to catch a nap I was not tired and could not sleep anymore.

Anyway, the TV show Good morning Finland, which I usually refer to as morning TV, was formerly broadcasted live from the so called glass palace in central Helsinki and it was nice watching passers by making their way to their jobs in the morning, having a glimpse of the weather out the window behind the narrators and seeing the traffic passing by during the morning rush hours on one of the busiest streets in Helsinki city. I actually have no idea how long the show was broadcasted from the glass palace maybe longer than I have lived in Finland, but I do miss it, now the show seems so small, like cramped into a too small box, or room like in this case. No air to breathe.

Some things you just get accustomed to, like your morning cup of tea, or coffee for that matter if you are a coffee person, which I am not at least early in the mornings not even after a big sturdy breakfast.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

In a hurry

Visitors often are surprised by seeing the Finnish pedestrians docilely standing waiting for the red light to switch to green and go mode, even with no cars driving past the Finns still patiently wait.

I am not sure whether the Finns are just that law obedient, or if they just fall asleep when waiting. In many other countries, including the neighbouring ones, but especially further southwards in the Europe there is a tendency to just cross the street when no cars are coming when ever possible. But now it seems to be the season for jaywalking in Finland, these few days just before Xmas and no matter what city you are in the same go everywhere it seems.

Pedestrians crossing the busiest, most trafficked street in town on red, inpatient to wait for it to switch into green and the busiest and most stressed ones are the most dangerous and daring ones. They just cross the street anywhere not even bothering about the zebra crossings and right when they are in the middle of the street there comes either a car in high speed or a bus that has to avoid running over the daring pedestrians. Sometimes it looks like pigeons running over the street. These people putting their limb and health in danger are both men and women, and no difference in sexes here apparently. They are not the young ones as one would normally assume neither are they the teenagers, instead they are the normal, average middle aged citizens.

Women in their forties with their fur coats, hands full of shopping bags scurrying across the street. Men rushing in suits on their lunch breaks to get something done before time runs out, even older grandmothers slowly walking in the middle of the street waiving their walking sticks. Then there of course always is the odd “normal ones” trying to make a short cup to the liquor shop, if you get my drift.

This strange and rarely occurring phenomenon of Finns jaywalking is best observed when on foot, and not from a car passing by. The Finns somehow seem to be in heat now before Xmas, they do not have their normal patience with waiting and queuing, shifting foot, sighing and restlessness even at the cash automate waiting for your turn to withdraw some money to buy presents with.

People are so very much more inpatient than normal right now and we are here talking winter time when things tend to be more slow and tedious in every way with the prevailing lack of light. The normal pace is completely opposite to the spring out coming of all the beautiful summer butterflies shedding their winter cocoons of multilayered warm clothing and dressing colourful and light, even with the weather not agreeing on it.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Papercards


The Finnish forest industry together with the paper and pulp industry are facing hard in the near coming future.

Just today one of the two big paper manufacturers announced their plans to invest 4 billion Euros in a pulp mill factory in north western Russia right after having announced layoffs for about 2500 employees and several factory closings around the country as well as several hundreds in their factory in Canada, claiming it to be effects of future decreasing demand on paper as well as increased costs of wood,

The other big paper manufacturer is just negotiating with the unions on how to proceed with their layoffs affecting another 600 workers in several factories and closing dons of production lines as they are not, at least to my knowledge, closing down whole factories, as Xmas bonuses this year yet. But next year maybe?

Now the agricultural- and forest producers union state that the forest owners are not to be blamed and they claim the factory closings is not a result of increased raw wood prices as this is less than 10% of the costs but more the result of a global overproduction on many paper qualities instead together with the climbing energy prices and increased wages for paper industry workers. This being the result of the several weeks’ long strike of paper workers union in spring 2006.

Anyway, the Saimaa Canal has been leased by the Finnish from the Russians and a new contract is due to be signed by end of this year as the old agreement runs out in 5 years time and a great deal of the raw wood material for the pulp industry imported from Russia has been transported to Finland on boats on the Canal. Maybe there won’t be any need to sign another lease on the Canal for the Finns as it won’t be affordable anymore to import any wood from the east.

The Russians have also denied abolishing the high export taxation on wood despite talks with both the Finnish government representatives as the representatives of the EU and the increasing taxation will have the effect that hardly any wood will be imported from Russia in the future as it will be too expensive.

So here comes my clever question, of course as an ignorant foreigner, what is wrong with using domestic wood instead?

There are great forests here in this country and the forest industry has announced them only being in need of birch wood as there is not enough natural resources to match the demand. Maybe grow more birch forests to match the future demand on it or has this just been another Finnish scheme to get Carelia back unnoticed and this time in wood, buy it back in small pieces of wood. At least it would be a much healthier way than it being involuntarily inhaled by the people all over southern Finland as tiny smog particles from forest fires burning in Carelia during the summer of 2006.

Anyway, today is your last chance to send you Xmas greetings if you want them to arrive in time for Xmas Eve here in Finland. During the years the habit of sending each other Xmas greetings with a paper cards seems to have grown more and more outdated as hardly anyone seems to bother sending cards anymore. I am not sad about receiving my Xmas greetings by e-mail, on the contrary, I prefer the more personal greetings with photos of the family or drawings from our friends children or even clips from Xmas parties, singing Xmas carols or some schools’ theatre play more than the traditional greetings sent with the postman to be delivered on your door step as I can save them to my hard drive.

The Xmas cards one still tends to throw away after the holiday season anyway and they are more and more becoming a waste of paper, except for elder people who are not into this high-tech society we nowadays live in.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Awaiting snow


There is no snow in southern Finland at this moment, which is quite unusual for this time of year, both according to the statistics as well as to my own experience.

We might sadly enough be having another black Xmas this year again, the second in a row and Xmas never seems to be the same with snow absent as decoration to give a festive spirit.

Yesterday there was only 25 cms of snow to my great disappointment, and that was way furthest up in north according to the weather forecast, which means the skiing season here in southern Finland will also have to wait to be opened much to the disappointment of the offspring. There would of course be the option of making some snow artificially of course, but with the temperatures being on and off around zero degrees Celsius it would only be a waste of time as it keeps melting away and it is no better in the European Alps either by the looks on TV from various World cup skiing venues. There the surrounding countryside was also almost bare of snow and the skiing slopes must have been laid with artificial snow.

Anyway, this season’s first ice fishing apparently went well last weekend, no casualties such as taking a dip in the icy cold water of a lake, despite my lack of trust on the ice being strong enough. No catch of fish though, much to the disappointment of our cats, but what they are not aware of they do not complain about.

Fortunately I still have some perch from earlier catches this autumn to serve them, even thought it seems our gentleman prefers winter fished perch and I can not tell the difference myself, or might it be that the perch from some lake are better than the other? At least there I can tell a difference in colour but have not personally found any difference in taste, but then I do not eat that tiny little fish as often as the cats do as there size has no what so ever matter. Just the way you make use of it, the fish I mean.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Pensions scare


Pensions have been a widely discussed issue in the media for some time now here in Finland.

This country seems to be owned by insurance companies as they own banks, real estate and they are also share holders in many companies. They also decide upon your pension as a part of it comes from them, the part counting from your work earnings converted into pension money so to speak.

Anyway, most of the big insurance companies have had extensive ad campaigns painting an exaggerated gloomy picture of the future and in fear of poverty when retiring many people have a monthly investment in a savings fund with an insurance company. That means to give your money to the disposal of the insurance company, money to be invest as they please and hopefully it will still be there for you and not lost, as so often happens in economics when the big boys and not to forget the big girls, are playing with somebody else’s money, when time is for retiring in maybe decades time from today.

Still according to Eläketurvakeskus, the Finnish National Centre for Pensions, the state pension funds have not vanished and the next generation of pensioners will have unmatched purchasing power compared to previous generations as the pensions already have surpassed the pensioners to receive over 60 percent of their salary compared to their last year at work. Is this not misleading of the public by the insurance companies just to make a few bucks?

The government is currently also reducing the taxes for pensioners by 3, 2 % by beginning of next year if I have got it correct. The 3, 2% tax reduction is only to be effective if you earn between 13.000 and 31.000 Euros per year. If you earn less it won’t affect you as much, but they say your taxes will still be reduced. Nobody seems to know how much yet though, but it is apparently to be presented during the parliamentary session today. Why are people with less income not the ones the tax reductions affects the most?

Anyway, the government is now counting how much they can afford to invest in senior citizens, as the amount of pensions as well as health care costs and care taking costs will be going up as a big generation will be retiring soon. Ten years ago 80% of citizens between the ages of 60-64 were retired compared to last years’ 59%.

Does this mean people are healthier or are they just afraid to retire? Or have the demands in the society become so much harsher that you are afraid to retire and enjoy life as you loose your identity that is who you are at work, not who you really are in your private life. Has life become that shallow that only your CV and working merits counts in the eyes of people and not how you act or how you are?

It is so much easier to be the executive of some corporation, the bank clerk or the all-knowing janitor instead of having your dear spouse bossing you around all day; your spouse does not listen to your opinions anyway. As what comes to respecting you, compared to your employees well wives and husbands probably know you better than you do yourself so is it that we get what we deserve when retiring and this is what we really are afraid of and not the money we might have in pension?

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Wrapping it up


It is always sad having to attend to the birthday any child just the days before, or right after Christmas for that matter.

I am not here suggesting you should make more efforts in family planning as that is impossible, or at least so it has been for me, children are born right when they think they are ready and not when you want them or have tried to have them born. My parents tired to make my younger sister so she would have had the same birthday as I had. Such a stupid idea anyway and I am glad my sister was stubborn enough to be born a fortnight later than our parents had planned. I guess this means my parents know the exact date I was made…

Anyway, there never seems to be the right time for a beginning family, your just either get pregnant or you don’t. Sometimes it takes time and sometimes it catches you by surprise not quite at the planned time in your professional life, but that is life to you. Takes you by surprise it does, life.

AO back to this birthday issue, I am thinking of the amount of present to the birthday child as there are all the present for Xmas to get to every one, and the present you tend to get on your birthday are all wrapped up in Xmas paper anyway as it is much easier to do it so having the seasons wrapping papers ready at hand. Well, having been aware of this I have always been strict about having the presents wrapped into something else and it causes problems when wanting your presents to be ready wrapped in the store.

One of the bigger department store chains went last year through great trouble in finding any paper that was either not a Xmas one by colour or design and in the end the dolly I had got was nicely wrapped up in pink roses with pink ribbon tied around it. Just the right thing for the little girl it was destined to.

It was trickier to get the CD that was wished for as present this year wrapped up in the store, as they would have charged a whole Euro for the procedure, which I think is outrageous as they do it for free all year around except now at Xmas. The offspring that is not as accustomed customer as mum when it comes to shopping Xmas presents or any other presents for that matter that had taken charge of the mission impossible to acquire the present then continued to the next department store to get it wrapped up and was baffled by them wanting to see the receipt for the CD ringing me on the mobile complaining about it.

It seems that the thought about how and when presents are wrapped up it had never earlier occurred to the offspring, and in this particular department store the wrapping of the present would have been free of charge, if it had been bought on the premises. As it happens it was the same one where I got the dolly the previous year. So offspring rushing off home, the desperate rushing through cupboards in search wrapping paper, cellar tape and ribbon even though they are just in their designed spot as they have always been, but certainly not were found by me the raid in my kitchen cupboards.

The present was wrapped up and ready just in time for us to leave for the birthday girls’ party with the best looking home made birthday cake I have seen in decades with handmade snowmen, snowballs and fir trees on top of it made out of marzipan.

Even though the cake was gorgeous I did not have any cake this time either, as I never do no matter how rude it may seem, even though this time I am not sure whether I regret it.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Nightwish blazing


It now seems like a good time changing subjects from water to fire.

Nightwish is one of the brighter stars on the Finnish musical sky, and yesterday they made a sparkling if not blazing performance having had time to perform only three of their songs in Jyväskylä Paviljonki before the concert place was on fire.

The place had caught a smaller fire in the roof constructions and the whole audience of 6000 people had to be evacuated to take precautions against anyone getting hurt in the incident. The evacuation took place all quietly with no panic struck among the audience, and after the fire brigade had secured and put out the fire the concert continued.

Anyway, the whole family now has been bit to small little tincy wincy tooth bites be our newest family member, our little precious baby girl with still no proper name. Getting a bit weary at being a biting toy for a kitten I went to the pet shop for some advice, as it is over a decade ago our older gentleman was in the same age being all over the place and I have forgotten about how to go on about it all.

The advice for our tooth marks was to get some reindeer bones for our little baby to chew on and advice fell in good earth, that is the biting has not ceased all completely, odd bites on your toes when hurrying past you jumping over the furniture in order to get into the book shelf still occur, but they happen more seldom as earlier yesterday. Jumping up and down the bookshelf was taken care of also by tucking the lower shelves full with books leaving no room for her to push herself through behind the books.

I at least do recall some of the tricks our mister did when young running wild, but the offspring and dear spouse of mine has more difficulties into realizing that this little cute kitten has sharp teeth and they are tired on you just given the chance. Thank God for the cats to grow up a bit faster than the offspring otherwise I would also be going bonkers soon. She’ll be in her teens by spring and after that it will be easing down, at it least it should do it.

As it is now, our potty training has been a bit difficult, that is to get her to sit still in the potty long enough for me to take a photo of her.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Asked to resign from Nokia


The Nokia management is asked to resign and if it was the company called Nokia I meant, it sure would hit the news big worldwide but as it only is the management of the city council of the town of Nokia in Finland it is smaller news.

Still in the small town with 30.000 inhabitants with 9.000 names collected for the resignation of the town officials in charge when the municipal tap water was polluted by mixing it by mistake with sewage water with scarce info about it, this is big. What makes it funnier from my point of view is that in Finnish pipe, johto, also is management, so the water pipe is asked to resign if you want to get it “wrong”.

Anyway, now the traditional time for all Christmas charities is on and the streets are hit with Salvation Army soldiers with their chiming bells cauldrons to raise funds for people who have not enough top celebrate Xmas. Also on TV there are fundraising concerts to raise money for Hospital equipment. It seems strange in this country that is called a welfare state, that there are people who have not a home to stay in, or money to buy food. Nothing to be proud of really, but so far the weather has been warmer than usual so the homeless have not been freezing that much.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Ban on Finnish


Uppsala municipality in Sweden is to ban the speaking of Finnish at work.

The largest group of immigrants in Sweden are the Finns and at some times Gothenburg is considered as one of the largest Finnish towns, as a joke of course. Anyway, there are large Finnish communities in many Swedish towns and as the Swedes do not understand Finnish they are now to prohibit talking it at work except when on their breaks. Well the same problem remains still, as there are many Finns living in Sweden since decades who do not talk Swedish well enough in order to cope in their daily lives and having an errand at the municipality on anything will then become more complicated as the municipal officials are no longer allowed to talk Finnish at work.

Is this not racism?

Anyway, now the time for sending off your Xmas cards on order fro them to arrive in time before the holidays is running up and I am as always a bit late with them so I better rush off and get them posted. The ones sent to abroad are going to be too late this year as I forgot all about it last week when they were due for arriving at their destinations in time.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Xmas preparations


If you have been reading my Blog for some time you know I am a sucker for this Christmas calendar lottery ticket that you scratch every day and on Xmas Eve see if you have won. This year there is also an additional 100.000 Euros to be won on TV and with one ticket you might have three different wins between 10 and 25.000 Euros.

I have been used to having a Christmas Calendar show running from December 1st to Christmas Eve for the children and the ones broadcasted here in Finland each year has not been quite up to the standards I was used to when growing up. Nothing bad, just different cultures, but this year I was surprised to find out that there actually is one for grown ups. It is a Xmas calendar show on TV every single day from December 1st to December 24th with tips and hints on making Xmas.

The program includes food recipes which wchihc are perfomed in front of the camera so you can see how it is to be done, tips and hints for making your own Xmas decorations and on decorating your home for the Holliday season. And the best of all, you can find the tpis on Internet, so you don’t have to sit there with open ready in hand in order to get it all right the first time. They even give you some tips on presents to give away.

Which is nice if you run out of ideas, and making decorations with your kids is nice as you can keep the decorations and hang them in the tree when your offspring have their own children.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Ice melting


I seem to have been quite preoccupied about water at the moment, in one way or other.

The weather in Finland has been unusually warm for the season and the snow that we had melted away; there is only snow up in the northern most parts of the country at present, and the water levels had on Sunday risen in many rivers by 12 inches, or is you prefer by 30 cms with a risk of flooding like in springtime.

The ice on the lakes had melted thin like in spring and are no more to trust for walking on and there has already been 7 drownings due to the weak ice, as the Finns are passionate ice fishers. Even the police have been active in trying to make people get off the ice to avoid drowning. The weather has even been warm enough for dear husband of mine to collect some more tube formed Chanterelles on his walk on Sunday afternoon. And that I have not heard of anyone doing here in Finland, still picking edible mushrooms in December!

Now on Monday morning the water levels had decreased again so there was is imminent risk of flooding right now but it is depending on the coming weather if we are going to have a winter flooding this year a second time here in southern Finland as the rivers flooded already in January due to snow melting once earlier before the spring melting. Last spring flooding was much smaller than the average year already. This is good for the ground water levels as they had been drying up due to very dry, warm and sunny summer which now seems to have corrected itself.

And the weather is now to be a bit colder, with subzero temperatures in the whole country, at least for a couple of days. Maybe even the sun will be seen in the sky, which would be a nice change as it has been so murky lately.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Water and power


Finally the inhabitants of the Finnish town Nokia can begin to make use of their tap water after sewage had leaked into the local water supply one week ago.

The municipal tap water quality is beginning to improve, and it can now be used once for drinking and cooking if it is for at least five minutes. The tap water is now safe to be used for in washing machines and dish washers and to shower in. hand washing is still recommended to be carried out in boiled water. On Monday there will be an update on water quality and usage recommendations from authorities and the current recommendations apply for the almost entire town Nokia except fro some small parts.

I have hard to imagine how to cope for more than a week without any tap water, being as preoccupied in my own thoughts as I sometimes tend to be. I wonder how many times I would have washed my hands without thinking about it, made some coffee in the percolator, washed some dishes or run a washing machine.

It is the same with electricity, when you have none you can only come to think of a thing that needs it, like watching TV, making some coffee, washing something or using some other kitchen appliance. What would the modern man do if cut off from both clean, running water and electricity at the same time?

Read a book in candle light maybe…as working with photography digitally has its' downsides when no power supply at hand.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Winterblues


The most common form of depression in Finland is so called winter depression coming from the lack of light during the winter months.

When you get the blues from the prevailing darkness you also tend to put on some extra weight and you suffer from constant exhaustion. You just want to sleep and can not get enough sleep. According to the research the use of so called bright light lamps for waking up in the morning can ease the depression and create more beneficial sleeping patterns together with obtaining healthier levels of hormones affecting the sleeping and waking cycle.

The most common cause for sick leave or for retiring from working life out of health reasons in Finland is burn out. This has now been found to have a close connection with liability to either have or get other diseases like depression and a lot of it is causes of the receding light in the beginning of the winter. Suffering from a burn out also, according to this research, makes you more liable to having a heart condition or a circulatory affection like hypertension and even some muscular affections like fibromyalgia.

They say trouble never comes alone, but I think it is unfair and it seems than some people just get more than their fair share of hard things in life to deal with. You get a burn out at work, go on sick leave to get better, you eat more as comfort, exercise less as you grow more fat. God I am depressed again!

Must be the winterblues again, maybe I should go lampshopping?

Friday, 7 December 2007

Turkey feast



I was always a bit envious of the Americans who have their turkey at Thanksgiving as I come from a traditional Christmas ham eating family, and I was desperately looking for a date to have our turkey dinner for years but not until arriving in Finland I got the perfect date, the Finnish Independence day on December 6th.

And so it was yesterday time for out annual turkey feast once again. This year I had decided to document the cooking and the dinner preparations normally going on from the day before the Independence Day, but once again found out I had forgotten about it. It was not until the turkey was carved and most of it eaten I came to think about getting my precious dear camera into the shrine of cooking, which was too late of course. Now there is only the left overs to photograph, but they can sometimes be more thrilling to work with as you have to be creative in more than just the one single way.

Anyway, by the time the turkey was ready to be taken out of the oven and to be carved it was all too dark to take any photos in nature’s own light anyway so I will seriously have to consider acquiring additional lights in order to be able to shoot the photos I want of food, at least this time of the year, until it once again turns into lighter on December 21st. Being very disappointed about forgetting to take my photos I was very pleased with the outcome of the bird though, it was delicious. But so it has been every year, and this time I had a different stuffing with the gravy turning out absolutely superb. I could have spooned just gravy all day so nothing would have been left until dinner time!

Cranberry sauce is one thing we only serve with the annual Independence Day turkey, and with the recipe I have it turns a really dark fuchsia colour. The cranberry sauce served with orange carrots, roasted potatoes, orange sweet potato gratin, brown gravy, white turkey meat and either green peas or haricots verts is a colour clash screaming at you on your plate when eating it, but tastes delicious.

Anyway, I feel bad for the citizens of the town of Nokia with no potable water in their taps, must have been quite a sad way to celebrate the 90th Independence Day with the army been called to help distribute fresh drinking water for the town inhabitants to collect. Now there has even been found Salmonella together with other as virulent bacteria in the water.

Even more sad for the person who opened a valve thus poisoning the whole town doing so by mistake, what feelings of guilt and regret. The Finnish Criminal Police are investigating the incident and it seems that the possibility of polluted waste water getting into fresh cleaned tap water is supposed to be impossible as a safety precaution and a faulty construction is suspected. Now all municipalities are encouraged to see over their water facilities in order to avoid other such incidents.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

90th Independence Day


Today is the 90th anniversary of the Independence in Finland, and it is traditionally celebrated already yesterday.

Okay, here is what I am saying; you begin celebrations the festivities on the day before the Independence day and sleep off the aftermath of the celebrations on the day itself. So here is one mum waiting for the offspring to come home from the celebrations that begun yesterday and will shortly end as the home coming time is nearing...

And finally I can go to bed as well.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Average Finnish citizen


The average Finnish man is 39 years old, he marries when he is 32 years old, earns 2300 Euros per month and he has beer about once a week whilst the average Finnish woman is 42 years old , she marries at 32, has 1,8 children. She earns an average of 2000 Euros a month and has beer less often the average Finnish man and both are overweight.

Anyway, now most of my time goes for getting our turkey in order for tomorrow’s celebrations of the Finnish Independence Day.

Wonder what weather it will celebrated in, I have heard from someone old enough that was there the first time that the weather was ever so cold. And tomorrow there will be the traditional reception at the President’s residence, more commonly referred to as “the Castle”, where Finnish citizens that have made their name know in one way or other are invited to. Women usually spend a fortune in having a new gown sewn, professional make-up done and hair done by a professional as the whole event is televised from the first entry of the guest until the last ones arrives in a before hand determined order. The show is broadcasted on one channel in Swedish and a second one in Finnish. Some guests are interviewed after having greeted the President Halonen and her husband. Some of the after parties are also seen so we all will know how the rich and famous look on this day.

When I first arrived in Finland there was only coffee, tea and soft drinks served but it seems now that wine has been introduced to celebrations to the festivities as well.

And if you did not receive an invitation, maybe you are lucky next year to receive one as they are posted well in advance during the fall.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Brewing stopped


Apparently the brewery in Nokia was not informed about the municipal tap water having been contaminated with waste water since Wednesday so they had kept on brewing their ciders and beer as normal.

Fortunately no contaminated products have hit the market but the Nokia brewery still clean their manufacturing facilities thoroughly, and wait before the water supply is back to normal which can take its’ time. The Nokia brewery is manufacturer of ciders, various kinds of beer and lager, a lingonberry soda and a lemon soda and a bottled Vichy water. Talking about a major economic set back for the brewery having to stop manufacturing now just in time for the peak shopping season of the year! Not to mention the loss in ready brewed drinks having to discard of because of the waste water that accidentally was used.

Anyway, I have wondered about this phenomenon, bottling ordinary tap water, adding fizz to it and calling it Vichy water. But I guess Vichy has over the years become to mean just sparkling bottled water for many people. For me it is of importance how the bottled water tastes as I can detect a difference between them, like Perrier, Evian or any other brand although others claim it is impossible saying “water is only water”.

Well, this time tap water is not water anymore.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Tax returns and tap water


If you have paid too little taxes you are to make your first installment payment at latest tomorrow, with the second to be paid in January next year but if you are getting money back from having paid too much you won’t get them until the day after tomorrow, that is if you have a filed a bank account with the tax authorities. If you have not informed them about your account number you will have to wait until mid month before your get your tax-returns. This might seem like a minor glitch, but if one spouse get s tax return the day after the day the other spouse is to pay, and if you have not got enough money to pay before you get the return then what do you do?

Anyway, it seems strange that three towns have so far this year suffered from contaminated tap water by E-Coli bacteria. There was one case in Vihti in October this year when 8 dead squirrels were found in the water tower earlier this spring and now there is a current case in Nokia, you know the city where the mobile phone company comes from and Nokia car tyres are manufactured. Also in Jyväskylä in September the citizens were also told to boil their tap water before using if for several minutes in order for it to be potable.

How can semi purified waste water that is not fully purified get mixed into the purified chloride drinking water? As for what I know about drinking water and waste water systems they are normally here in the Nordic countries built separate from each other, and the drinking water facilities’ intake are not even in the near vicinity of the waste water plants and the systems normally just are able to run one way, not be reversed just to prevent cases like this. The two different plants purify their water in their own system and normally in quite the opposite sides of the towns.

Having lived outside the Nordic countries I have acquired the here often considered strange habit of having a separate water filter to our drinking water. We have laughed a lot about it among our friends many times but with these statistics for recurrent epidemics around the country with harmful bacteria getting into the drinking water, I might even consider switching into bottled mineral water. It will be more expensive, and there are also bacteria in the bottle waters but guess their amount is smaller than might be in tap water.

Twice so far I have been warned about tap water, once my whites in the washing machine got all black because of some residue was flushed from the water pipes, the other time the water pipe had burst because of the cold weather, which also seems strange as they are normally dug that deep into the ground that they do not burst from frost. It might be the wear and tear of time that has been working at it, but it must be less expensive to change into new water pipes instead of having people die of the infections it causes, especially among the young, elderly and ill.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Buy nothing day


To day is the "Buy Nothing" Day and the intention is to discourage people from shopping and to live without spending money, if only for this one day.

Well I fortunately did my weekend shopping already yesterday, so at least I am game for it even if unintentionally.
But the idea is good; we buy too much unnecessary things without even thinking about it.

Anyway, now Finland's largest retail fashion chains have confessed to having been selling textiles produced with Uzbek child labour, with out knowing about it of course, and the S-Group might even take some of the products off their shelves.

All textile companies are now trying to determine how much of their textiles might be originating from Uzbekistan as the Finnish retail chains wants to trade fair in all lines in the manufacturing of their products.
The cartoon Cow & chicken has been my favourite for long, but seeing it in reality is putting me off meat once again as it already did some 15 years ago, when I turned vegetarian for over a decade and am strongly considering of doing it again after having seen what I saw on the TV last night.

The Finnish welfare organisation Oikeutta eläimille, which would be "Justice for Animals" in English, provided the A-studio TV program with footage of animals cramped together in extremely bad conditions. The footage showed dirty facilities full with sick and injured, suffering animals. As the footage was shown without reference to where it takes place now Evira, the Finnish Food Safety Authority, wants to thoroughly investigate the truth in these claims and the organisation has been asked to give the addresses so the veterinary authorities can inspect the farms in question. The animal cruelty allegations hit the news big yesterday and they were even discussed in the Parliament, but I think that is fair as if we are to keep animals for food and to eat them, then they have to be respected for what they are and not kept in poor conditions in order to make a quick profit.

Unfortunately as our lives have become so urbanised most of us today are not even conscious of where the food comes from, how it is produces or how it appears on to the shelves in the supermarkets where we buy it to carry home in order to cook it and eat it. Milk comes from cartons and meat wrapped in cling-foil.

Piece of cake, or should I say peace of mind?

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Mildewy Opera Festival


Olavinlinna castle in the town of Savonlinna in eastern Finland near the Russian border, holds the Savonlinna Opera festival every summer but next summer the festival might be at stake.

The Finnish Board of Antiques has detected a mildew problem in the castle, which would be hazardous to professional singers’ voices, and the wall behind the main stage is at risk of crumbling down. The castle is estimated to need repairs for at least half a million euros in order to be able to host the next festival and the works need to begin earliest possible in the beginning of next year. The half a million euros is half the cost of what annually is reserved to maintain 400 most important historical buildings in all of Finland so it still remains to be revealed who will finance the needed restoration works. The Savonlinna Opera festival has been held on and off since 1912 and concurrently in the month of July since 1967 almost as long as I am old.

Anyway, the weather has been lovely even though it has been a bit colder than before but that is winter arriving. They still have not been able to go ice fishing yet, my dear husband and his colleague, but they have been handy shopping some Xmas presents in advance to my great relief and satisfaction.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Swedish Finnish?


Since the digital TV was introduced as all over standard in television broadcasts here in Finland,

50.000 households have cancelled their paid licenses. The main reason for viewers to cancel their license fees has been the subtitling of programs that has not worked out to their satisfaction.

Loosing the license fees means about 10 million euros less for YLE, the Finnish government TV and bropadcast company, in their budget and closing down radio stations and TV channels have been discussed as means to maintain the same quality of programs. The administrative council of YLE has been discussing more collaboration between the Swedish and Finnish YLE news which might mean having to let hand some people their notice. So the Swedish news staff of YLE in protest against the it by a walk out today, so no there were no news in Swedish neither on the radio nor the TV tonight.

I have for long been wondering about if you are Swedish Finnish or are you Finnish Swedish if you are Finnish and your native language is happens to be Swedish. As Sweden Finns should be the Finns living in Sweden and Finland Swedes should be the Swedish citizens living in Finland.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Easier getting visas


Finland is planning new visas for foreigners searching for work and the new visa would allow foreigners to search for employment for up to six months while staying in Finland. This would also mean that you would also be able to begin working immediately after having found a job, instead of having to return to your home country in order to apply for a residence permit. Currently Finland only grants visiting visas valid for up to three months.

Anyway, today the Finnish designer Marimekko announced that they have cancelled all their consignments from their contractor, Borås Väveri that I mentioned about yesterday as it is containing cotton originating from child labour in Uzbekistan. It is the first Finnish company doing so since the revealing Swedish TV program that was aired yesterday.

I guess this is another main reason against outsourcing all manufacturing to countries with cheaper labour as the cheaper labour might consist of exploited children which is not that ethic. At least it does not look good in the headlines. It makes god headlines though, and they say that any publicity is good publicity but I still wonder.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Child laboured cotton


The Swedish fashion giant H&M together with the Swedish home textiles designer, Borås Väveri, uses cotton that has been hand picked by child labour in Uzbekistan.

According to the BBC program that was aired in Sweden yesterday, schools are closed down in Uzbekistan when the cotton is in season to be harvested and schoolchildren are transported out to the cotton fields to work for much less money than they officially are said to earn. The cotton is then bought by Pakistani contractors who manufacture fabric for the two Swedish companies.

So far H&M has stated that they can only put pressure on their own suppliers as they make their agreements with their contractors and if they are supplied with under contractors using child labour and they can not do much about it and are not considering a boycott of Uzbeki cotton. Well if not earlier, than at last this statement has put me off H&M and their clothes!

The second firm, Borås Väveri has announced that they will stop using Uzbek cotton since the news got out about it yesterday. So this was teo companies in Sweden, I just wonder if there are any Finnish fashion companies that also use cotton hand picked by Uzbeki children?

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Finally home


We got our little baby girl home and there has been no rest since.

She has been all over the place, well that is all places she has been able to climb up to so far and she moves fast. Her time awake is spent running from one point to another, hanging from anything she can hang from and eating. The food is gulped down, she eats more than our adult cat and goes to the litter so frequently that I have to clean it several times a day in order to keep up with her.

The first night I had to get up and feed her several times and get her to the cat litter but now she already knows her way around the place. I am amazed that such a tiny creature is capable of so much.

Our older mister has been a bit wary of the new comer as he does not want to loose his dignity acquired over the years caught in action playing with a kitten. But I guess that will come in due time when he has come to terms with the idea she is staying for good. Fortunately, he was there to see and care for his younger brothers and sisters as he was from the first litter of the ten kittens his mother had. He knows our little baby girl is a little kitten and has been acting accordingly, he just walks away when she gets too informal with him and jumps up somewhere high and safe she can not yet reach up to.

So far out little one has not announced her name; there have not been any significant characteristics either so she is currently just the tiny one. We were at one time considering calling her Jane Doe.

Liquorice is the only one she has been responding to since she arrived but I doubt that will be an appropriate name for her even though there is an S in it. I have been told that cats would respond better to names containing an S-sound but so far even using the wrong name has made the culprit in question to responding to the call.

So sad it only works with cats and not as well with the offspring.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Healthier but more obese


Finns are still getting healthier but at the same time more and more are obese.

According to recently done new wide scale health survey Finns gain weight despite pursuing a healthier diet with a fifth of both men and women obese. The survey was carried out by the National Public Health Institute with some 6,000 Finns interviewed across the country with the research taking into account peoples' dietary habits, their lifestyle and their blood levels were examined.

So the Finns are healthier but still get more obese, might there maybe something in the western style of eating that is wrong? If people eat and exercise as they are told to do, maybe there is something wrong with the dietary guidelines we are fed with? Or maybe there are some additives commonly used in our food that we are not aware of how it works within the human metabolism, or something badly lacking in our food that used to be there?

One thing though is, the consumption of alcohol has increased and is suspected to be the culprit in many cases as the use of sodium in common used foodsalt has declined as well as people have switched to healthier vegetable oils instead of the satured animal fatty acids that used to be more common. People also tend to take more care of getting their daily exercise, which reminds me of my own.

Better get my wellies on and grab the umbrella before I go out for my daily exercise in the winter rain.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Temperatures rising


The negotiations in the nurses' wage dispute have unanimously agreed on a proposal for a settlement on a four-year contract plan but no details of it will be made public until and if, it has been accepted by both sides.

There is still time until midnight today to avoid the almost 13.000 nurses quitting their jobs in protest with a couple of more thousands to follow suite.

The pharmacists and dispensers union wages negotiations has failed and their strike has begun and the union is threatening to further expand the strike later this week if no agreement is reached.

Most of the pharmacies are remaining open despite the strike as it affects mainly smaller pharmacies to begin with. In the meanwhile people are warned about longer waiting times than usual when collecting their prescriptions from the pharmacies.

And the Finnish prime minister has sought for medical care again due to lower back problems; maybe his kidney stones are troubling him again so he was admitted to hospital as he was last week.

Weather is bleak and gloomy, moist as the temperature has risen to above zero and the snow has begun to melt. All the joy of winter sports of last weekend is melting away, at least here in the southern parts of the country. Better get my wellies and woollen socks out to avoid spoiling my new winter boots when going shopping later this afternoon. So it seems that the temperatures are rising in more than one way here in Finland. Will just have to wait and see when the new doctor’s appointement arrives.