The Helsinki City Run

is tomorrow, and I’m in it (with my Arphid chip…)

Thanks to everyone who has donated money in support at we’ve made about £700 for research into Parkinson’s Disease. Brilliant. I just have to run the 21k now, which according to this brilliant page on wikipedia, is about the length of Manhattan.

There’s still a little time left to donate if you want to pile some last-minute pressure on me…

The Finns are likin’ their Leiki

Woke up to a report on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme about research in Finland into the use of play and playgrounds as life-extension technology (RealAudio clip -will disappear unless someone *ahem* archives it…)

It was also featured (in a more fluffy way) in today’s Guardian:

“…a study by a team from the University of Lapland found that a group of elderly Finns between the ages of 65 and 81 saw significant improvement in their balance and coordination after three months of swings and roundabouts. Many of the subjects also said they felt empowered by using the playground equipment, although one can claim to be empowered by just about anything these days. The Finns are now planning to redesign their playgrounds to suit grannies as well as toddlers.”

When we started our work on Play in Nokia, I remember Janne remarking that the verb for ‘play’ – Leiki – in Finnish was associated with ‘childishness’ in a negative way.

This research is heartening.

Reclaiming ‘play’ as something that enriches us all throughout our lives (cf. ‘The Play Ethic‘ which also features Finland prominently), and creating places that encourage both that and *ahem* intergenerational play (don’t be dirty…) can only be a good thing.

Or at least, swings and roundabouts.


Hippy moment over.


This weekend, we went camping at Porkkala. Porkkala is an small peninsula of land about 30km from Helsinki, which had a turbulent history in the 20th century.

From the wikipedia entry on Porkkala

“During the Cold War the Soviet Union secured the rights of lease to naval base at Porkkala, in accordance with the armistice agreement that ended the Continuation War, between Finland and the Soviets, in 1944. A large area centering around the peninsula, including land from the municipalities of Kirkkonummi, Siuntio and IngÃ¥ and almost the entire area of Degerby, was leased to the USSR.”

We didn’t venture as far as the naval base, but found a beautiful spot to camp right by the edge of the Baltic Sea.

The camping site was free, and well provisioned, with fireplaces, WCs and huts that doubled as barbeque cookout spots and woodchopping venues complete with complementary saws, axes and old copies of the Helsinki Sanomat for starting your fire with. We soon got a fire going, and a couple of Nakki (sausages) cooking to accompany some red wine.

A beautiful night, with almost no-one else around apart from the odd sailboat drifting into view, making it’s way around to the archipelago.

» More pictures here

Muoto’s special “State of Finnish Design” issue

muoto magazine

Muoto is a design magazine in Finland. It’s not superficial or consumerist – it has serious design criticism and commentary, but it’s still aimed at a broader audience than just the design industry it seems. Think “Blueprint” rather than “Design Week” at one end of the scale and “Wallpaper*” at the other.

This month’s edition is devoted to an examination of then state of Finnish design and the movers and shakers involved in it. It also has, for the first time, I think; translated all of it’s content to English.

It’s a good read, and a real window on where Finnish design culture is at, and where those involved in it think it’s going right and wrong. Alex Niemenen is part of a group interview that makes some interesting points about the Finn’s inability to package and crow about their abundant talent.

Being able to “evangelise” – market an idea, a potentiality, an abstract, a vision is something that in my short experience here I have found frustratingly absent, although there is something very reassuring about the refusal to talk about something unless every detail or eventuality has been considered.

The word “concrete” is properly the most used in conversations I have about ideas or design here. In a world of image this is anticompetitive but admirable.

A korvapusti for Conan

Aevil has started a campaign to get Conan O’Brien to Finland.

Think of all the things he could do: take a sauna, eat makkara, make fun of drunks on the trams and subway, attempt ordering coffee and korvapusti in Finnish, bring some Budweiser along and finally determine if Lapin Kulta is even more of a king of bad beer than Bud is, try salmiakki, wear something Marimekko, visit Santa, and sail to Stockholm to personally deliver the message that Sweden does, indeed, suck. 🙂

Finland, expats too, grab your pens, postage and postikorttit and direct your witty goading to:

Conan O’Brien hates my homeland Must Come To Finland
New York, NY 10112

What could you do with a chainsaw?

From an amazing story about a woman who moved to a small island off the coast of Finland:

“I had to build a new jetty. I modelled it after others that I had seen. I cut down trees from the forest, and built a chest – a wooden frame – at the end of the jetty, which I filled with stones”, she says on the shore. “It isn’t hard to build a jetty. All you need is a chain saw and a brain.”

Which got me to thinking, what would I be able to reverse-engineer in my mind from memory? Anything? I’m going to try and give myself a quiz, and ask Foe to name 3 things which I then have to sketch the workings of from memory, and perhaps then how I would go about constructing them.

The island-living lady in the story works as a translator over the internet, but it’s not clear as to how much she relies on the net as a source of knowledge to be able to live alone in such a remote place.

I’ve thought before about the web, moblogs and stolen knowledge – collecting your memories of things, proceedures, recipes, constructions through your phone might result in not just a lifeblog, but a life-or-deathblog. Of course, in such situations, it might just be easier to use your mobile phone to give Ray Mears a call…

» Helsinki Sanomat: Living alone on a small island in the Turku archipelago

Watch your mouth kid, or you’ll find yourself floatin’ home.

Aevil invokes Star Wars in a rant inspired by the rather cliched story in the NYT about “dour, repressed” Finns:

“The article is full of stereotypes and it confuses suppressing emotions with being taciturn. Non-Finns seem to take particular offense at this cultural difference but I find the silence is one of the most endearing features of Finnish culture…

…Imagine, if you will, the young Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The young Anakin and Luke were both in touch with their feelings, both lovesick puppies making an ass out of themselves and generally blithering idiots whom the force would have done well to seal their gaping, whining oral cavities. Darth Vader on the other hand was a guy dressed in a stylish black ensemble, like many Finns and, aside from the heavy breathing, spoke only occasionally in a basso profundo voice. Darth was in touch with his feelings as he reached out to Luke to inform him that he was his father and then later that he would die. Darth was a no-frills, in touch with his inner dark side kind of guy. Quiet, thoughtful, no whining. Who would you rather share a land speeder with, whiny Luke or wheezing Darth? No contest, really.”

I have to agree with her. The Finns I have met have been funny, thoughtful and very good company. The signal-to-noise ratio is just very high, and that actually does wonders for one’s well-being I find. However, rather than following Aevil’s suggestion and embracing my inner interstellar genocidal mystic-fundamentalist psychopath; I think I’ll go for nuturing my inner Wookie.