Saturday, November 27, 2010

Warrior of an open information society

Helsinki, -13 degrees.

Just a couple of days ago a new report, telling about Finland as a country brand, was released. In this report Finland was e.g. suggested to be the world leader in negotiating in 2030. Finland is called the problem solver of the world. Here follows some citations from the report: “Finland is already the best country in the world. Considering its small size, Finland has an unbelievable array of strengths and opportunities to solve some of the world’s most wicked global problems. If Finland did not exist, it would have to be invented. We have a mission. Finland’s greatest strength is the unbiased, solution-focused approach to problems, which derives from our history and culture. When faced with an impossible situation, we roll up our sleeves and double our efforts.”

It’s hard to argue with the fact that Finns are innovative people. Usually though, we’re not that proud. Reading the report put a smile upon my face, since it was the first time I could read about Finnish pride. Good job! Let’s change the fact that we’re known for being modest. We have lots of things to be proud of, let them show I say!

The main mission for Finland seems to be, according to the report, to create social innovations, make lake water drinkable, serve organic food and teach others about our school system. With social innovations it appears the report means to develop new production, new kinds of activities, which will contribute even to the export of social innovations, co-operation that is. You can find the whole summary here.

The funniest and most innovative part of the report in my opinion was the part meant for you, me and all other Finns living in Finland. The report actually gives ideas on how all of us can participate in making Finland a better place to come to but most of all to live in. Only then can Finland be a functional society. The parts that were related to me and my work were the ones where the report talked about neighborhoods and public sector openness.

Concerning neighborhoods, the report actually suggested that everybody should organize a party in one’s apartment building, hehe. The reports claims that joint events, meetings of the housing association and getting together to put the yard in order must be turned into a party because they offer an opportunity for learning how to do things together. I wish my housing association would organize a party, but then again I’m all for privacy of one’s home. I think I already know too much about my neighbors, and they about me. But a fun idea. Maybe one day when I own an apartment, I might be the one organizing a party for the neighborhood, for now I’ll settle for parties for my friends.

According to the report, public sector openness is crucial since knowledge is power. The biggest trend in the 2010s is the information society development, where public information resources are open for use by all interested parties. The guiding principle is to give everyone access to information compiled with the taxpayers’ money and to facilitate the development of thousands of applications that make life easier, help solve society’s problems and create new business opportunities. In this matter, I can help by trying to get all the information we gain at the office open for the public. Information should be easy to find, it should almost come to you instead of you looking for it. I will work as a warrior of an open information society. If you’re interested in the whole report, please see it here.
Friday, November 26, 2010

Among tourism actors

Helsinki, -12 degrees

I have now been working about three weeks as a substitute at the Tourist Office of Helsinki. Although it’s not a new work place for me, I feel that things have changed since I got the new position. I now feel as a part of my working team, and even my way of thinking has started to change.

I’ve been to a couple of events now where I’ve had the chance to meet other persons active in the tourism field here in Helsinki and it’s so exciting to finally have faces to the companies involved in the touristic growth and wellbeing of my favorite city in the world :) Only once you’ve met the persons that make Helsinki into the city it is, you can truly have an understanding for how it works. In that sense, you don’t merely feel like a part of the team you have at your workplace, but of the whole tourism field in Helsinki. Even though we’re of different ages, we have at least one thing in common: a mutual love for Helsinki. All of us want to bring out the best sides of the city and see it grow. Surprisingly all the actors in tourism are friendly and open to co-operation. They’re also open minded and unprejudiced towards new, young actors in the field.

Helsinki is such a great city, both as a working place and a living place. One of the reasons for this is the fact that Helsinki is one of the few cities in Europe growing in a radical way. Every time I attend an event talking about the future of Helsinki I am astonished by all the projects going on. Sometimes I wish I would have been born in Helsinki some 20 or 30 years later just because of all the changes that are heading our way.

Yesterday I got to hear Johanna Kurkela, a Finnish singer. Usually I don’t listen to music in Finnish but sometimes an exception has to be made when you find such a great voice that you cannot go without listening to it. I was happy to realize that Johanna was also very down to earth, a likeable person in real life. That makes the music even more pleasing! Dare yourself to listen to music sang in Finnish and find her songs on YouTube for instance. One of my favorites is the song “tuo se mulle”.
Thursday, November 18, 2010

and so Helsinki got its first snowflake..

Helsinki, -1 degrees

Being happy and crazy in love is waking up five in the morning with you and watching the first snow of this winter as it's falling down outside our livingroom window..
Thursday, November 11, 2010

The travelling book

Helsinki, 5 degrees.

Some days ago at the Tourist Office of Helsinki I found something interesting while during my regular cleaning round check where I check that our brochures are in order and that our guests haven’t left something in the office. I stumbled upon a book, but not just any book- a travelling book. On the book there was a note saying “this book is free-I’m a very special book, I’m travelling around the world making new friends”. Apparently this book was a part of the official bookcrossing movement ( where books are read, left, and found by new owners all around the world. What a fun idea! The book had its own id number and I was just so curious that I had to check where the book had been in the world. It seemed this book came from an active Finn from the city Pori who had brought it to Helsinki. A personal thank you to this person for making our office nicer and introducing us to this movement.
I left the book in the office so now it has continued its travel in the world.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Closing the covers

Helsinki, 1 degrees.

It is ironic how new technology can sometimes make you feel old at age 24. As you all can guess, at my work, I deal quite a lot also with technology since our customers often come in with technology’s newest toys asking for assistance. After all, we have customers from all over the world. Some of you might think that people from the ends of the world wouldn’t end up in Helsinki, but I can assure you that they do seeing as I personally have assisted customers from the world’s all continents. Funnily enough the customers seem to think that we here in Helsinki are suited to assist them in any kind of problem, also technological ones.

I will never forget when I saw for the first time in my life an Ipad. Of course it belonged to one of our Asian customers who thought it was the most common thing in the world when she handed it to me so that I would find her the right wireless internet connection in our office. I must say, at first, I didn’t even dare to touch the thing! But as I found myself in the line of business I do, I couldn’t show my uncertainty so I helped the customer and managed to get myself out of the situation one experience richer. I feel like that in many situations concerning technology: learning by doing and trying my way through.

Nowadays technology makes me sad in a way though. It’s not a question of answered needs. It’s a question of companies inventing our needs for us. Most of my friends that get new computers or mobile phones cannot even tell me why they bought them, in a sense they just wanted to stay surfing on the technological wave that’s passing us by right now. And who says it’s just passing us by? Maybe it’s here to stay. Maybe years from now, we won’t know why we have most of the things we do. We won’t feel a need to explain purchases anymore. I find myself worried in a world where we speak of design as something worth putting money on since it stands for quality. Nevertheless, these so called design items are exchanged every second year or even more often. What kind of quality is that then? And if we’re not buying the stuff because of durability, why are we then calling the items design? I make comparisons to design interior items that last and are inherited by one generation from another. Aren’t these the items we here in Helsinki call design- the kind of design for which we were elected the design capital in 2012?

I understand that technology is going forward in a much faster way now than years ago, but still, I’ve noticed how people tend to forget to be honest to themselves and explain at least to themselves why they are purchasing new technological items. Some time ago, one of my friends told me that in the States, Nokia’s mobile phones are considered “old school”, a plast from the past of something like that. She actually told me that Americans found it cute that she had a Nokia as they all have mobile phones of rivalries of the brand. As far as I have understood, this has to do with the increased smartphone popularity in the world where Nokia has lost its leading role. I just think it’s kind of a paradox that one get s a phone that works also as a computer, but then one also needs a computer that works as a computer. Hmm..

It’s also incongruous how it all started from mp3 players. First we had them, then the same company who came up with them, decided to combine them with phones so that today mp3 players are old-fashioned and unnecessary…hmm…

I understand that persons in leading positions need work phones that have access to their email accounts as well. What I don’t understand is why teenagers or even young adults like me need it? Don’t we spend enough time on computers already? Do we need one in our pocket as well? And let’s not forget the prices of these items. There not exactly cheap. Are we getting blind to things out of our reach? Is nothing impossible anymore? Do we dare to dream about having such thing or is it something we immediately have to have?

One of my friends told me that one of the reasons why he got a smartphone was that when he travels he doesn’t need to buy a tourist book in advance about the place since his smartphone tells him where he is and what the buildings are in whatever place he finds himself in in the world. Does that mean that the idea with tourist books was originally just that we should know where we are, or that we would learn something about the places we visit before we arrive at the place?

I’m the kind of person that hopes, sincerely hopes, that new developments should always take us further, not take us back in time. Smartphones should be used in the sense that they would make us more active and not less active. They should inspire us to look into things deeper since information is easier to get. I witness the increasing trend of lazy travelling every day at my office. Of course, there are still persons that are well prepared before they travel but increasingly more persons that just rely on local hospitality to show them what to do.

I mean, last Saturday when we had a religious holiday here in Helsinki, all Saint’s day, the tourists were chocked. They didn’t want to believe that the shops weren’t open. Some people came from far away but others from our neighboring countries, and they hadn’t even checked if there would be a holiday before they came. And the most ironic part was that they thought it was silly that we had a holiday like this. Aren’t holidays the last remains of our cultural identity? Shouldn’t holidays be something that visitors should appreciate more than shopping? Just a thought.

I love reading. I seldom have the time I would want to read in peace without thinking about other things I have to do. Lately, I’ve used my lunch breaks at work as reading time and it has worked surprisingly well. What I love about books is not only the experience of reading written words, but the fact that the whole reading situation is an experience. With the actual book in my hand, I can understand the work load the writer has put into the making of the book. The contents of the book also changes with time, and the same person can read a book at several occasions in his/her life and get different things out of it. I also like the fact that a book is a companion that you can take with you for lunch or a cup of coffee and it will keep you company.

Said all of this, I was surprised when one of my friends told me that lately the trend is going towards e-book readers. I guess I shouldn’t criticize something I haven’t tried yet, but I find it difficult to comprehend that an e-book reader to offer you the same kind of reading experience as an old fashioned book. I remember the time when what one read told about whom one was. Now if you can’t see what one reads, one stays more hidden, right? How about the smell of a book? The sensation of feeling a book’s cover with your hands? Just today I read that the e-book sales have gone up to over 700 million euros in the States this year. Forrester Research predicts that it will triple until year 2015, in just five years. At the same time the book fair in Helsinki had a record amount of visitors this year- 80 000 during four days. Are we the last traditional book readers?

I guess we can say so long, tata, to mp3 players, regular mobile phones, and yes, even old time books.

Quality of life

Helsinki, 1 degrees.

Today I found an interesting article about how to prolong your life written by professor Timo Strandberg. With making the right choices, the article claimed one could enhance one’s wellbeing. Some of the points or choices were easy to guess, I mean everywhere you read about a healthy life, it says stop smoking, avoid overweight, exercise, use if needed medicine for artery health, avoid calories and enjoy alcoholic beverages with reason.

Other points however that I liked even more said that one should eat heart friendly, delicious food. That sounded great in my ears because as you know, I am a food lover. The article meant that healthy food also needs to taste good. One should favor vegetables, root fruit, fruit and the right kind of fat. When one truly enjoys his/her meals, one feels better. It should be a complete delight; for all five senses.

Another interesting point was that one should look at life in an optimistic way. Humans are docile and that’s why it’s important to think about how one can be less cynic and hostile and allow a positive attitude into one’s life.

Besides this, one of my favorite points was that sleep is crucial. In senior high school I suffered from loss of sleep and I hated it. Going to bed was a pain since I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep. After my experiences in Italy, I’ve never had a problem with sleeping again. I just think that if one puts one’s brain and body up for an actual challenge during the day, there shouldn’t any problems with sleeping. It’s important to remember though, that one needs also a kind of inner peace to be able to sleep. I believe I’ve found that now.

The most interesting point of all in this article talked about social life and its importance. This is something today’s society tries to understand but I don’t think anybody has truly understood the depth of this phenomenon. The need also changes with time as societies evolve. The article pointed out that humans are social creatures and cannot survive without social relationships. When these relationships bring happiness and joy to your life, they also add something to the quality of your life and are good for your health.

How well do these points fit into your life?
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flower me gently

Artist finding of the day: Linn Olofsdotter!

Linn Olofsdotter, from Sweden, has explored many mediums before solidifying her career in the illustration field. After getting her education in both advertising and graphic design in Europe and the US, she moved to Brazil to start up a motion graphics studio along with her husband and creative partner. More recently Linn worked as a senior art director at a Boston advertising agency.

During the beginning of her career she used her skills as an illustrator to help brand TV networks such as Fine Living, MTV and Anime Network amongst others. Nowadays Linn works independently creating artwork for a number of clients in the Fashion, Advertising and Editorial fields such as Oilily, La Perla and Bon Magazine.

Here follows some of my favorite illustrations of hers:

This one's name is simply "Flower me gently". How amazing is that?
Friday, November 5, 2010

Life's struggle

Helsinki, 5 degrees.

It’s no secret that the doctors informed us last spring that one of my closest persons suffers from cancer level one out of four. Basically that means she won’t undergo any kind of treatment for her condition but she will have follow-ups every six months. This person is the kind of person that doesn’t often want to talk about her health so that’s why after she heard that the doctors wouldn’t give her any medicine or make her take any treatment, she didn’t want to discuss it any further. Of course every six months when she has her follow-ups, there is always a big part of me that’s scared of the results. It’s like life stands still for a day every six months. Fortunately until now life has continued spinning after the follow-ups.

Cancer or I guess any kind of illness is funny in the sense that people that haven’t been touched by it don’t notice it being present all the time, but once one knows somebody that’s gotten ill, suddenly the illness is constantly present, lurking behind every corner and one sees it everywhere. I mean, I notice cancer headings much easier now, and if I see an article in a newspaper talking about it, I’ll read it because I feel I want to know everything I can about the disease.

Just the other day I saw a program on the TV telling about a well-known Finnish singer who got throat cancer a couple of years ago. It just so happens that that same person has two children that used to go to the same kindergarten as me, and therefore me and the person I know with cancer both know who he is.

Ironically, not knowing about each other’s actions, both I and she watched the program. It was touching, and the person I know with cancer even recorded it. The singer in question has been able to beat the illness for now, and that was what he was talking about: the life changing experience of being seriously ill, then beating the disease and life after being sick. After having been told never to sing anymore he has made the impossible and started singing once again.

The new songs were really touching as they told about his personal struggle with cancer, and I noticed tears running down on both the cheeks of myself and those of the person I know with cancer while listening to the song they gave a sample of during the show when we watched it again together.