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Finland for Thought » 2006 » June | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

Finland for Thought
             Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & United States

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30.6.2006

Former Finnish Idols judge snags existing magazine’s name

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:32 pm

You all know about everybody’s favorite free English-in-Finland magazine that I often promote (and often write for) on here called, “The Ovi”, right? Well former Finnish Idols judge Jone Nikula (what’s the infatuation with this guy, he looks like such a dirball?) is using the same name for his forthcoming free magazine – weak!!..

Whether Jone was influenced by Thanos Kalamidas and Asa Butcher’s Ovi was not mentioned in their Press Release (http://www.marmai.fi/doc.te?f_id=915164), but he will certainly become aware of the fact over the next few months.

The original Ovi has been an online magazine for 14 months, has published 14 issues and the name has become synonymous with our style. According to international web measurements, Ovi magazine, the only e-zine from Finland, outranks many Finnish monthly and daily magazines, in Finnish or English. In addition, we have been presenting a weekly radio show under the name ‘Ovi Magazine Bad Boys’ for over four months.

After all the expense and effort they have done and will do, they will find that they are coming second and advertising another magazine that might not be their style! From our side, the only thing we have to do is remind them that there are European laws protecting copycats and fourteen months of successful history gives us a good advantage.

28.6.2006

Photo of the Day

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:23 pm

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of Finland, Ms. Tarja Halonen…

tarja_halonen_is_pretty.jpg
Hat Tip to ‘sorry’ for the link – Photo from here

27.6.2006

Patrice O’Neal on foreigners

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:42 pm

Since we’ve been talking alot about immigrants lately on here – In one of my favorite stand-up sets ever, comedian Patrice O’Neal discusses his love for foreigners in America. Click here to download (3:12 – 2.8MB – requires XviD) This is NOT for those who are easily offended!

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Two new Finland-in-English blogs to check out

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:24 pm

Along with a few old favorites (Such as Jukka V., FinnSense, and Mr. Slender), here’s a couple new Finland-in-Englsh blogs to check out…

Toby Archer of the Finnish Institute for International Affairs (interviewed here on Radio Free Finland) begins a new blog about international politics entitled, “Northern Light – chilled thoughts from the top of Europe

We are colleagues who work as researchers studying various aspects of international affairs. Our interests are wide and many, often going beyond what we have time to write about for our work. This blog is to provide space to write shorter, but hopefully still well-informed, comments on whatever else sparks our interest. We are based in Helsinki, so there may be a Finnish ‘tinge’ to the comment, although Toby is British and Charly has spent as much time out of Finland as in it. The focus will be unapologetically on international politics – if this makes us foreign policy wonks or geeks, we can only take that as a compliment.

Helsingin Sanomat begins a new blog in English for this summer. “Citysherpa” puts together a tourist, a native, and a reporter together for a tour of the city – then they write about it on the blog…

Wouldn’t it be great if a local showed Helsinki to you? It is possible now and it doesn’t cost anything! Citysherpa is a service which gives a tourist the chance to meet someone who lives in Helsinki and who wants to show his or her city. Sherpas will not be paid a salary, and it doesn’t cost anything for a tourist to use their services. The job they do is entirely voluntary.

How does it work? Read the presentations of sherpas and send an e-mail to the person you wish to show Helsinki to you. Citysherpa says yes, if it is all right for him or her. There is no defined length for the tour, it can take an hour, or a day. The tour as such doesn’t cost anything, but you are expected to pay entrance fees and other such expenses yourself.

Have any of you volunteered to be a Citysherpa? I think I’ll sign up and my tour will be called “Excellent Espoo!!” or “The Welfare State Experience: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Alcoholic” ;-)

26.6.2006

Why do Americans have to work so hard at taking it easy?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:25 pm

Back in Finland from a relaxing yet busy holiday. Many many many thanks to Mr. Hank W. for keeping this blog interesting and active while I was away, from the scores of comments I know that you all thoroughly enjoyed his posts. Beers on me the next time we meet up Mr. Majander!

With usually only 2-3 weeks of vacation per year, Americans do very little relaxation while on holiday, they try to cram as much Disneyworld, rollercoasters, and sightseeing into their vacation as they can – and when they return home they’re so exhausted they need a vacation from their vacation. With usually 5-6 weeks of vacation per year for Finns, there’s more time to take it easy and get much needed rest. Here’s a few little tidbits from a recent Time magazine article entitled, “Just sit back and relax – Why do Americans have to work so hard at taking it easy?“…

- Americans are allotted few vacation days (14 days, on average) compared with other industrialized countries.
- The average American will leave four vacation days on the table this year, which adds up to a whopping 574 million days of untaken vacation, collectively. One of the top reasons is that it’s too much extra work, they have to catch up on their workload upon their return
- Americans spend more money than anyone else in the world on leisure – fully one third of their income – and yet they are simultaneously No. #1 in the world at not taking vacations
- Only 14% of americans will take a vacation two weeks or longer this summer
- American lunch breaks during work average 31 minutes, down 5 minutes from 10 years ago
- The average American office worker “goofs off” for just over two hours a day – and that’s not counting lunches or breaks. (Surfing the internet is the top reason)

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22.6.2006

Gotta love American TV commercials

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:29 pm

Gotta love American TV commercials, they’re often more entertaining then whatever show you’re watching. The year’s most watched TV event is the Super Bowl, and a huge portion of the population only watch it because of the funny new commercials that debut between the game.

My first day back in the states I was shocked to see a commercial that compared their product with a competitor’s product. I’ve never seen this in Finland, but this is very common in the U.S. And this is true for not just TV commercials, but radio ads, newspaper ads, magazines etc.. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about, “The Honda Civic has more cargo space than the Toyota Camry, and more horsepower than the Audi A4. And unlike French cars such as the Peugot 307, it’s not constantly on fire.”

Like I said, I’ve yet to see this in Finland – Is there a law against mentioning a competitor’s product/service in an advertisment? If so, doesn’t that kinda violate basic freedom of speech (assuming the advertisment is truthful)? Do any of you think it should be against the law to do this?

21.6.2006

Everything in America is so damn cheap

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 6:41 pm

Everything in America is so damn cheap. Even without the strong euro vs. weak dollar, everything is still ridiculously inexpensive. Your money travels sooooo much further in the U.S. compared to Finland, I don’t think people understand how inexpensive everything is unless you’ve spent time here.

First off, there are sales everywhere. You are a fool if you pay full price for anything. I went to the grocery store and half the products I bought were on sale, many were half price. I went clothes shopping and virtually everything I bought was like half to two-thirds off. Go to places like TJMax, Marshalls, Kohl’s and buy name-brand clothes for a tiny fraction of the price. Even with the gas price tripling in the U.S., it’s still about a 1/3rd cheaper than Finland. Automobiles are virtually half the price. I rented an awesome Chevrolet HHR mini-SUV for $39/day (30 euros). Hotels start as low as $39/night. And if you don’t mind buying used goods, quality used stuff is almost given away for free. What’s great about low costs is that it benefits everybody, especially America’s poor, immigrants, young families, single mothers etc..

There’s no comparing making 20,000 euros a year in the U.S. versus making 20,000 euros a year in Finland – you’re so much better off in the states. Most all your necessities are much cheaper here. One exception is housing prices, but they’re high in Finland as well – the difference being, it’s easy as hell to get a nice loan in the U.S. Healthcare is a major factor though, 20,000e/year is nothing if you don’t have any healthcare. Imagine if the U.S. cut that military budget in half and spent the other half on healthcare! However, isn’t it amazing how millions of immigrants are flooding into the states each year even without the guarantee of healthcare?

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Finland tightens prostitution laws

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 6:17 pm

Finland originally had plans to ban all purchasing of sex services, but the government have agreed on a partial ban

With a vote of 158 to 15, MPs approved a version of the bill which would only criminalize buying sexual services from prostitutes if pimps or human trafficking were involved.

The punishment for first-time offenders is six months in prison. MP’s hope the law will be implemented as quickly as possible.

How are you to know if you’re dealing with a woman who is involved in human trafficking?? If prostitution was fully legalized and licensed brothels were setup, wouldn’t this really slow down hookers involved in human trafficking?

Banging your Head into a Finnish Wall.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 2:14 pm

Way to avoid a headache – learn Finnish?!

As we’ve been skirting the immigration thing lately; here is one good human experiment to read for anyone having any imagination of just popping over to a northern waste and start digging gold like the people did in the Alaska Gold Rush:

Six Polish journalists were sent to Athens, Barcelona, Dublin, Helsinki, Lisbon, and London to look for work. Their mission was to portray themselves as ordinary job applicants and to describe conditions in each of the cities in blogs and newspaper reports.The journalists’ reports were part of “Next Stop Europe”, a joint project of three major media – the leading newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the radio station TOK FM, and the television station TVN24. The project examines the implications of large numbers of Poles travelling to other European Union countries to work.

Of course comparing huge cities like London and Barcelona is not fair. Dublin maybe, but their economy is in such a boom I had to take tourist photos of a “thing you don’t see at home” – vacancy ads in a shop window! Reading the story of finding work in Athens would be interesting. However the poor person sent to Helsinki gave up in a week already…

The other journalists found work in a week, but Ola Pezda was the only one to run into a wall. She says that her gender prevented her from getting work as a painter, and she was told that she might get work handing out the free newspaper Metro “sometime later”. At two employment agencies serving foreigners, Eures and Staffpoint, she was told that “nobody will accept an application form” if she does not speak Finnish.Helsinki is a rough place for foreign job applicants! Everywhere you go you need to know Finnish, as if it were a conspiracy of some kind. Nevertheless, nearly everyone speaks English, says Aleksandra “Ola” Pezda.“You can’t even get a job as a cleaner without a knowledge of Finnish. I was told that measuring and mixing modern cleaning chemicals is so demanding that English is not enough. They don’t really want foreigners here”, Pezda says.

Or maybe due to historical reasons we don’t want to speak in one language to the master, and in another language to the servant. How would it be, say if teaching Finnish to foreigners was forbidden?

And nothing is like at home…

At one point she tried St. Henry’s Catholic Church. In other EU countries, Catholic churches are meeting places where local Poles can swap stories. The church did not even have the typical “wailing wall” – a notice board for situations vacant and wanted. The only announcement there was a notice for a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. A monthly mass had been cancelled.

(Helsinki Catholic Bishop is Polish BTW)

So what is then the observation? Trade Unions are bad – no solidarity here…

Pezda was astounded to see the largest trade union headquarters that she ever seen anywhere. She suspects that the trade union movement might be partly to blame for the negative attitude toward foreigners in the workplace. Pezda met a number of Polish fitters working in the Helsinki area. She was shocked to hear that they were able to send home no more than EUR 500 a month after taxes and the commission paid to the temp agency. Pezda emphasises that Helsinki is nightmarishly expensive.

Yes, well, like *we* don’t know that??

OK, so I’d like to see a Finn go to Poland and find work – how easy would that now be?

20.6.2006

Yay, war.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:40 am

I just found out today that a kid from my old Boy Scout troop was shot while on patrol in Iraq. Josh Snyder graduated from my high school in 2002, he was just two weeks shy of his 21st birthday. I remember Josh very well, he was one of the “younger scouts” but was very mature for his age and was very much respected amongst us “older scouts”.

I also discovered that his best friend (whom I never knew), Norman Anderson, who graduated from my high school with him, enlisted with him, went to bootcamp with him, and roomed with him, was killed by suicide bomber in Iraq just a month earlier. Just two months before his death, Norman married his high school sweetheart. She’s 20 years old and a widow.

These two guys weren’t men, they were just boys like I was at that age. They should have been out dating and drinking and partying and fucking and enjoying themselves – not fighting in some stupid ass war against some other kids who should have been out dating and drinking and partying and fucking and doing whatever else they want to do. Both those guys enlisted in 2002, soon after 9/11, when the U.S. was arguably fighting for a worthy cause in Afghanistan – I wonder if they would have still signed-up if they would have know the situation in 2005?

Yay, war.
norman_anderson_iraq.jpg

19.6.2006

The welfare state hurts immigrants the hardest

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:14 pm

Why are immigrants in the United States succeeding much greater than the immigrants in the welfare state countries? More from Johan Norberg…

SWEDEN HAS no official minimum wage, but trade unions with political power set de facto minimum wages through collective bargaining. That de facto minimum wage for workers in Sweden is equal to about 66 percent of the median wage in the manufacturing sector, compared to 32 percent in the United States. In economic terms, this means that if you are less than 66 percent as productive as the median Swedish manufacturing worker–perhaps because you are unskilled, have no experience or live in a remote area–you will probably not find a job. Any company that would hire you would be forced to pay you more than what you are able to produce. And if you are never successful in gaining employment, you will not gain the skills and experience to raise your abilities and productivity. (more…)

Why the Swedish welfare state works in Sweden

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:09 pm

Johan Norberg gives three reasons why the welfare state may “work” in Sweden [and Finland] but not in other countries…

TO SAY that other countries should emulate the Swedish social model is about as helpful as telling an average-looking person to look like a Swedish supermodel. There are special circumstances and a certain background that limit the ability to imitate. In the case of the supermodel, it is about genetics. In the context of economical and political models, it is about the historical and cultural background.

Gunnar and Alva Myrdal were the intellectual parents of the Swedish welfare state. In the 1930s they came to believe that Sweden was the ideal candidate for a cradle-to-grave welfare state. First of all, the Swedish population was small and homogeneous, with high levels of trust in one another and the government. Because Sweden never had a feudal period and the government always allowed some sort of popular representation, the land-owning farmers got used to seeing authorities and the government more as part of their own people and society than as external enemies. Second, the civil service was efficient and free from corruption. Third, a Protestant work-ethic–and strong social pressures from family, friends and neighbors to conform to that ethic–meant that people would work hard, even as taxes rose and social assistance expanded. Finally, that work would be very productive, given Sweden’s well-educated population and strong export sector. If the welfare state couldn’t work in Sweden, the Myrdals concluded, it wouldn’t work anywhere.

Mexicans. They’re everywhere.

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 6:06 am

So how has Baltimore and the surrounding areas changed the most in the past three years since I’ve been back in the states? Mexicans. They’re everywhere. ‘Everywhere’ meaning fastfood joints (Mexican women) and landscaping companies (Mexican men). This is seriously a huge change from three years ago, it amazes me how quickly this has progressed. I wonder what happened to all the (rightfully) pissed-off single black mothers who used to work at all my local burger restaurants? I sincerely hope they left for bigger and better things.

Immigration has been the U.S.’s hottest topic over the past few months thanks to Bush’s clever efforts to get the daily bloodshed in Iraq off of most American’s minds. This nation of immigrants’ biggest complaints about the immigrants is their less-than-fluent English skills, which will surely improve in a few short years time – however, ordering a “#4 Extra Value Meal with a Coke” is difficult enough, let alone having to do it in broken English. Americans get frustrated with the communications problems, as if that’s anything new – communicating with some people in our innercities or our trailer parks has been a longstanding challenge for everyone.

Since Spanish-speakers are abundant almost everywhere, naturally many of the signs and product boxes are printed in both languages – this is another kinda “shock” I experienced when I arrived back in the states. Of course they usually just translate the most simplest of words and phrases – it reminds me of Finland where I’ll seem them (for example) write both ‘ale’ and ‘sale’ – I’m like “Hell, I already know THAT! Why don’t they translate the harder stuff!?” Since I’ve been back in the states I’ve had a few people complain about all the Spanishness infiltrating God’s America, I quickly remind them that I myself am an immigrant in another country and that all these Mexicans are speaking alot better English than my Finnish. That quckly shuts them up.

The United States is finally becoming a bilingual place like much of the rest of the world. People like me are saying, “Oh fuck, why the hell did I only take two years of Spanish?!” or “Why the hell did I waste time programming games into my TI-82 calculator during Spanish class?!” or better yet, “Why the hell did the Democrat-lead public school system only require me to take two years of a foreign language?!”

Anyways, I can’t understand how we (Americans) immgrants can be so hypocritical as to not want anymore immigrants in the country. I’ve heard many Americans on TV and elsewhere say this country is too full, as it’s all shoulder-to-shoulder up in here. To all those people I say, get your head out of your ass, maybe then everything wouldn’t seem so damn cramped and crowded. :-)

Photo of the Day

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 5:01 am

Taken on Friday from my passenger window while heading down at 65MPH to Ocean City, MD

danny_ocean_hon.jpg

18.6.2006

Shuji Nakamura, inventor of bright LED lights, gets Millennium Prize

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 1:34 pm

The Millennium Prize is being awarded for the second time. The prize, worth EUR one million, is given out every two years. It is the world’s largest prize for technology, and is financed by the Finnish state and private Finnish companies. Two years ago the prize went to Tim Berners-Lee, the developer of the World Wide Web. This year’s Millennium Prize for technology was granted to Professor Shuji Nakamura for developing light-producing semiconductors. These light-emitting diodes, or LEDs have proven to be effective sources of light, which save energy.

OK, fine accomplishment, but so why the hell does Finland throw away money to some scientist in America? Not that scientists probably wouldn’t need the money, but they don’t pay the reasearchers or inventors in Finland much either. How much do you guess the inventor of SMS messaging got for his idea? Try like zippo zilch nada.

They can’t find a few hundred thousand euros to keep an ambulance helicopter in the air, but they do have money to invent some kind of fancy prize that nobody has ever heard of. Can’t we have some cheaper PR stunts?

“The purpose is to give the impression that Finland is a top country in developing technology that is close to people.”

And how about paying incentives for people for their inventions? Or does it have to be saved up and then given to some scientist that has probably never heard of Finland or the prize? What good does it do for the development of technology in Finland? If there is a problem with too much money, how about having “keeping technology in the air that has a doctor close to people” to give the illusion that someone cares?

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