Conan O’Brien updates Nokia Ringtone

Conan available online all week in Finland thanks to Team CoCo. Tonight’s segment? A rockin’ update to the Nokia ringtone!

Current Events

Helsinki “Snow-How”

7-minute video on CNN about how Helsinki handles it’s annual snow removal operations. The last time Helsinki’s Vantaa airport closed because of snow was in 2003 and that was for just 30 minutes.

Current Events

200-year old Champagne Preserved by Icy Baltic

Earlier this year it was reported that several cases of champagne were discovered in a shipwreck 55 meters under the Baltic Sea, off the small island of Åland near Finland. After tasting it, a local champagne expert suspected that the bottles were from Veuve Cliquot, the famous French maker established in 1772. Out of a total cargo of 172 bottles, 168 were recovered intact and in November, more experts were invited to Åland to recork several bottles and, in the process, confirm their identity. Jean-Hervé Chiquet, visiting in November is quoted in the New York Times today

He was “overcome with emotion,” he said, when he first tasted the Champagne at the recorking in November.

“There was a powerful but agreeable aroma, notes of dried fruit and tobacco, and a striking acidity,” Mr. Chiquet said by telephone. The oldest Champagne in Jacquesson’s inventory is from 1915, he said.

The Champagne was probably en route to the court of Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg when the wooden cargo vessel sank. Though the exact age of the Champagne is not yet known, it goes up against tough competition in the oldest Champagne category.

The Champagne house Perrier-Jouët claims that its vintage of 1825 is the oldest recorded Champagne in existence. Mr. Hautekeur said Veuve Clicquot’s oldest drinkable bottle was from 1904.

It’s not clear how old these bottles are but markings on the cork, the shape of the bottles, and plates also found on the wreck puts them in the early 1800’s. Most of the champagne survived and is quite drinkable with the tiny bubbles still visible and the taste, “compared favorably to some of the best Champagnes today.” The total darkness of frigid waters off of Finland served as the perfect wine cellar.

Current Events

Getting Down Finnish Style

Hope you all had a chance to tune into Radio Helsinki at 4:30 pm and boogie down. For some virtual fun, click play on all three links below at the same time.

It’s all part of Happy Helsinki and the Helsinki Festival.

Current Events

Finnish Town Rivalries

Despite their quiet nature, the Finns have a fierce sense of loyalty to their hometown. You would think that a country of 5 million that is a linguistic island unto itself would pull together and present a unified front to the rest of the world but this Wikipedia article shows you that there is quite a colorful rivalry going on between towns.

A couple of choice bits:

Some people in Helsinki refer to Kehä III, the outermost of the two ring roads surrounding the Greater Helsinki area, as a “wolf border” (susiraja), outside which there is no civilisation. Outsiders refer to inside of Kehä III as the biggest psychiatric hospital in Finland.

Those from Helsinki view people from Turku either as naïve and simple-minded, or arrogant and impudent. In Helsinki they have a saying that the only good thing in Turku is the highway leading to Helsinki.  Inhabitants of Turku see Helsinkians as presumptuous and parvenu.

A popular joke in Turku asks why children in Tampere have a flat nose. The answer is that there is a Turku midwife working in a Tampere hospital. After delivering a child, the midwife holds him/her into the glass of a window and says: “Look now, child. That way is Turku, there is civilisation.” Students across Tampere go to the border of Turku and nail wooden nails to the ground, in order to make the city drift off the mainland someday, and also go to the center of the city and jump there, so that the city would someday sink back to the sea.

Ouch! With friends like that, who needs enemies?

Current Events

Onkalo, long term planning

How would you like to be the Project Manager on a construction project that is due to run through 2100? That’s what they’re doing 300 kms Northwest of Helsinki at Onkalo, a long term storage facility for highly radioactive nuclear waste. It’s a timely topic of discussion. While the uncontrollable spewage from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico from BP punching holes in the earth in search of oil, the Finnish Nuclear authorities are working on a place to keep the spent fuel rods confined and out of way, a trash bin, once full, we hope to forget.

Graphics from Poisiva project brochure

The crypt, 500 meters down in the bedrock granite that makes up most of Finland, will be sealed up sometime after 2100 when it’s full to capacity. Because it’s radioactive waste and will stay dangerous and lethal for a very long time, the design spec requires the storage facility to remain closed and impervious to breach for 100,000 years.

One hundred thousand years. Think about that. Put that to scale. The pyramids were built 4,000 years ago. The first cave dwellers popped up around 30,000 years ago. As Michael Madsen, director of Into Eternity, a documentary film about the project put it, “The human species as we know it today is believed to have existed for approx. 100,000 years.”

Planning for this timeline brings with it all kinds of challenges:

Geological changes predict another ice age within that time so in order to maintain the integrity of the tunnels, they need to be designed to withstand the weight of the anticipated two mile thick ice sheet.

Tomb raiders from future generations also need to be taken into consideration. Refined plutonium is valuable and a core ingredient for nuclear weapons and a valuable target turning this tomb into a treasure. If you think what happened to the pyramids when gold was discovered there, keep future generations out will be a challenge indeed.

It’s an anthropological puzzle. How do you look ahead thousands of generations and figure out how to keep people away? Do you post “No Trespassing” signs everywhere? If so, in what language? Or, is it better to forget this place, leave it unmarked and forgotten? When you lock it up, what kind of locks do you build? Who keeps the key? May this creepy trailer to Madsen’s film will do the trick.

A review of Into Eternity by the New York Times leaves us with this thought:

As a species, we are good at forgetting. So maybe the best, ultimate, defense against people messing with Onkalo would be simply to forget that it is there. The best way to keep a secret is not to let on that there is a secret at all.

But what about the ethical duty to warn those future generations with some kind of marker that would survive the scouring of Finland by glaciers and evolution of language? If, in fact, the canisters are rediscovered a few hundred years or a few thousand years from now, we can imagine our descendants’ reaction at having been left such a nasty surprise.

Of course, we ourselves could be surprised, like the peasant who found Qin’s army. One joke that went around the Onkalo project for a while, according to Mr. Madsen’s film, could have come straight from a novel by Arthur C. Clarke. What if, the team thought, the first thing it found when it started digging were canisters left by somebody else?

Current Events

Finland Suggest

In homage to Laura Lippay’s Google Suggest experiment, I decided to do a few of my own.

No, I didn’t know what the Finnish Men’s Shouting Choir was either.  They some audio clips on their homepage if you want to have a listen.

Any Search Suggestions of your own?

Current Events

Heating by Bytes

File this one under Green.

Sometime in the near future, district heating in Helsinki will be supplemented by heat thrown off by local data centers. This will enable them to cut back on greenhouse gases produced by more traditional methods to heat the water that is pumping through radiators across town.

In a first of its kind experiment, the city of Helsinki will look at piping the waste heat produced by a data center, specifically the underground Academica Data Centre, to run under buildings and provide much needed heat for the residents. In a further move to enhance the greenness of this data centre, it is also going to be cooled by the icy waters of the Baltic Sea. This is one of the unique features of this system – the pump can both heat and cool water. This efficacy means that the output energy is five times more than the input energy. This directly translates into five times cheaper power. . . They can heat around 500 houses [and also save] around $ 563,000 annually for the company in power bills.

Pretty nifty.

Source: The Data Center Journal

Current Events

USPO should copy Finnish NetPosti


A recent editorial in the New York Times spoke of how internet commerce is eating into the US Postal Services’ bottom line.

The Postal Service made a profit until 2006. Since then, declining mail volumes — as more Americans use e-mail and pay their bills online — and the demands of its retiree health benefit system have dragged it deeper and deeper into the red. Last year, it delivered 17 percent fewer pieces of mail than in 2006 and reported losses of $1.4 billion, this year it expects to lose $7 billion. Postmaster General John Potter warns that unless the service takes major steps to bring its costs into line, it will lose $238 billion over the next 10 years.

Some of the suggestions include ending Saturday delivery and closing lesser used branch offices and replacing them with ATM-like kiosks in supermarkets or malls. While these may make sense to cut costs, if there was more flexibility for the postal service to expand into new businesses, they would stand to gain from the growth in other areas where they have suffered such as online, electronic invoicing.

Here in Finland I was surprised that the Finnish Postal Service has a strong online presence (NetPosti) that is an integral part of everyone’s life.

  • Receiving e-invoices in NetPosti does not carry a fee.
  • An e-mail notification and/or SMS message of e-invoices received in NetPosti
  • Pay for the e-invoice in any online bank from any account using the virtual barcode.
  • The e-invoice is convenient to attach to an e-mail as a PDF file.
  • E-invoices can be read and archived in all online services that offer the NetPosti service.
  • A free-of-charge archive for seven years (instead of the previous six years)

Netposti has not only everyone’s physical address (they get a feed of all address changes from the Finnish government), but they also provide an account for everyone tied to your social security number and an email address that you can provide.

I get my paychecks delivered electronically as a PDF and I can neatly archive them into folders for future reference. As it says above, I can receive my bills via NetPosti and pay them online via my bank’s website. All for free.

Why doesn’t the US Post Office partner with PayPal, Visa, Amex, etc and deliver invoices electronically and take part in the 21st Century?

Current Events

Nordics Bathed in Broadband

More pretty infographics via’s 2009 State of the Internet report. What is it about the internets up here in the Nordics. Norway, Sweden, Finland are the top three for internet penetration (I believe that’s number of households). In terms of speed Finland is quite a bit shy of Japan and Korea but still pulls in at a respectful 22 mbps average broadband speed with Sweden next at 18.2.

State of the Internet 2009

See also: Finland has 3rd fasted internet