Finnish Independence Day

The Finns had a rough go of it winning their independence from the USSR. It was just 70 years ago so the wounds are still fresh. The commemoration is more of a memorial in honor of those that served in the bitter civil war than the Norman Rockwell-like celebration that I am so used to in the United States.

Perhaps it’s the passing of time but I think it’s more the Finnish character that cuts out the pomp and circumstance of the independence day parade. Look at the Finnish flag. No noisy Stars and Bars, just a simple, austere blue cross.

Sisu indeed.

Friendster Ruins Uncovered – The Onion

The Onion takes a crack at what future “internet archaeologists” from the “Friendster Excavation Project” discover when they run across the ruins of the ancient online civilization, Friendster.”

One day users were posting a seemingly endless stream of bulletins about “awesome parties” and “cool shows” and then, nothing. Total silence. . . Their lives come to a complete stop, live flies trapped in amber.

Friendster Ruins Uncovered

I rarely delete any of my social networking profiles but I deleted my Friendster profile just last week after reading the news of it’s sale to a company in Malaysia. Truthfully, I never really used the service and was only reminded of it when one of my contact’s birthdays was coming up.

My favorite profile was Andy’s but with the redesign my old link no longer works.

Does AppleCare Cover for That?

Blam! That was how Israeli security forces took care of Lily Sussman’s Macbook at the border. “I’m sorry. We had to blow up your laptop.” After two hours of questioning her they took her laptop out back gave it three bullets .

Macbook Blown

They missed her hard drive so the data is apparently safe and reading comments on the post (450 and counting) it appears like she will get compensated as well. I realize tensions are high in the region but they could have asked her first.

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Santa Lucia

It’s cold and dark in Helsinki.  Minus 10 Celsius with a bitter wind blowing off the Baltic. Snowing too. Coming down sideways, blinding at times and so cold the snow doesn’t really collect on the ground but just blows around like sawdust that squeaks when you walk on it. The sun doesn’t make an appearance until 9 am and then slinks back down around 3:30 pm.

Santa Lucia Festival, Helsinki

At this time of darkness, when the pagan calendar marks the longest night of the year, towns all over Scandinavia crown a local beauty that year’s Saint Lucia. Last weekend Tyler and I braved the cold outside of Helsinki’s Cathedral to watch the procession.

It’s a beautiful ceremony. Rich with tradition and history. We arrived at 5 pm to an almost empty square and watched as torches were lit and friends gathered. By 6 pm a small crowd had gathered up near the Cathedral door, mostly for warmth as we huddled together and tried to stay warm.

When she emerged it was unworldly. A band played softly the traditional procession march (oddly, it’s the Neapolitan aria Santa Lucia) and her train slowly marched down the Cathedral steps. All dressed in virginal white with candles in her hair. The light, the light! The crowd was transfixed by the silent beauty and hope that came from this simple ceremony in the dead of Winter.

It’s good to know that the days will be getting longer now, the sun sticking gaining strength.  That night, along with the rest of Finland, we celebrated turning a corner.

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Berlusconi Pizza with Reindeer

Finnish humor at its best.

The Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was famously quoted as saying he had to “endure” Finnish food during a visit several years ago. So it certainly amused me when I found out that the a Finnish pizza chain has named one of their pizzas in his honor.

Thumbing their noses squarely at Berlusconi, this version of the Italian specialty features Red Onions, Mushrooms, and Smoked Reindeer. We ordered two pies the other night and they were delicious.

I’m pleased to read that news of this has reached the Italian papers. I’m sure the Prime Minister had a good laugh when he heard the news.

Berlusconi

Old School Playground

Back when I was a lad life on the playground was a little more . . . tenuous.

Everything in the playground was more dangerous. And they were different and unique, seemingly put together by the neighborhood handymen who in a burst of creative energy one Saturday morning emptied their garages of old tires, 2×4s, and chains and just nailed it all together. – Old, dangerous playground equipment

There was little adult supervision during recess. A skinned knee or elbow taught you the limits of safe. Broken bones marked the less graceful or too-brave-for-their-own-good. Kids would devise new, often alarming, uses for the playground structures. This was time before product testing and lawsuits.

Witch's Hat

Behold the Witch’s Hat. This was a device at my elementary school in Connecticut. The people that made this thing thought the children (imagine boys in sky blue shorts with suspenders and girls in red gingham dresses) would hang onto the bar in a neat circle and playfully skip around like merry little Dick and Janes.

The reality was more edgy. 6th graders would offer to give the younger kids “high rides” lining up a few unsuspecting subjects and invite them to hang on to one end while they would then jam the other right up next to the pole, lifting five or more kids up off the ground. As they began to spin you around it was a thrill for the first minute or so, wind in your hair, legs dangling out from under you as you whirled round and round. Once you realized this ride wasn’t going to stop, an icy determination to hang on for dear life took over.

Suspended a good 10 or 15 feet off the ground (which, if memory recalls, was rough asphalt), the bigger kids would spin the ring around the pole, faster and faster, while keeping you, now terrified, high up off the ground. Sweaty palms start to lose grip as your legs swing out almost horizontal from the centrifugal force.

One by one your classmates would fly off, thrown into other playground equipment or even the fence, bodies crumple to the pavement like rag dolls. Seeing the image of the rusted device above I can still hear the screams. It was the stuff of prison yards. I survived my high ride and learned lessons about grit, determination, the frailty of life and the cruelty of mankind.

Now everything on the playground has rounded corners and is covered in plastic. The ground is a sea of vulcanized rubber. It’s a kinder, gentler world of helicopter parents and the safety council. Maybe, as Bill Cosby says, the grown-ups were trying to bump us off.

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The Largest Ocean Liner in the World

While we’re making lists, Finland topped another one earlier this week with the launch of the Oasis of the Seas which was built in the STX shipyard in Turku, Finland. 1,180 feet long and grossing 220,000 tons this ship is longer than an aircraft carrier and carries more than 8,000 people (including crew of over 2,000) on board. Some more tidbits picked up from The Atlantic’s piece on the Oasis which features an excellent graphic:

  • 21 swimming pools
  • a football-sized interior park featuring trees up to 20-feet tall
  • two theaters and a 1,380 seat playhouse
  • a 100 megawatt power plant that burns through 12 tons of diesel fuel an hour produces enough to power 105,000 homes

The Atlantic goes on to note that the total cost to build the Oasis was $1.4 billion, placed in 2006 when it’s owner, Royal Caribbean must have been enjoying better times because they ordered not one of these but two (the sister ship, also being built in Turku, will be delivered next year).

The Oasis is headed for Florida having just squeezed under the Danish Belt bridge with just a couple of feet to spare. She’ll set sail on her maiden voyage on December 5th.

Photo by Ereine
Photo by Ereine
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