Tag Archives: Finland

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Home.

That’s where I’ve been for the past 2 weeks, hence the lull in writing as of late.

What a journey though – train from Jyväskylä to Helsinki, fly to Frankfurt, fly to Montreal, bus to Ottawa and after a quick shower, jump in a car and drive to Thunder Bay…. (that last part is a 17hr drive across Ontario for those that don’t quite get the grandeur of the Canadian landscape).

This post is a bit more personal than previous ones, so feel free to skip if you don’t really know me but bear with me, the flow of more stimulating posts will come shortly – just figure I need to recap and reflect on life for a sec before jumping into the news and big issues. (I also am not at all up to date in the world around me at the moment… but I am aware that I should not eat Maple Leaf meats!)

North Shore the journey

For those that love a good road trip, the stretch between Sault Ste. Marie (ON) and Thunder Bay, along the north shore of Lake Superior is not to be missed. What a beautiful drive.  Be sure to stop at the provinical parks (Katherine’s Cove is a definite favourite.) The clear fresh lake to your right, rolling hills and a gorgeous sunset make it one of my favourite places in all of Canada.

Thunder Bay the destination

I grew up here, but I’ve often had this “ew, get me out of here!” feel for the city. (I guess many people have this feeling of wanting to leave – especially in an isolated city like TBay, 7-hour drive to get to a bigger city (100 000+) in every direction – easy to understand the need to get out! But as like most things in life, you don’t appreciate something until you step back from it.

So, this time I went back – I saw things a little differently.  The Sleeping Giant, one of the (controversial) Seven Wonders of Canada is just stunning and the sound of whispering aspen (the trees surrounding my house) is extremely relaxing.  I loved taking saunas and jumping in the lake at  “camp” (not a cottage, cabin or kesämökki), (funny how I’m praising lakes, trees and saunas of Northern Ontario while my current home is in FINLAND!). But I guess the real joy was spending time with my family- complete with great bbqs, good drinks and jazz on our new deck:)

The Sleeping Giant

And I was happy to see that the art scene is picking up a bit with more local art shops.  One thing that I will just never understand though… the lack of PATIOS! I sat at the beautiful marina and was in awe that the bar didn’t really serve alcohol on the patio (we managed it no worries:)  One of my joys in life is having a wine or a beer on a nice patio!!! Get with it Thunder Bay!

I was there for a family wedding and although I won’t elaborate on it here, for those that were there, I’m sure we can all agree that it was beautifully done and full of personal detail.  All the best to the happy couple:)

But, all in all, it was great to be home. The ihearttbay.ca website will be up shortly, and I’ll be sure to let you tbayers know when it happens.


My many homes…

I’ve always loved moving and living in new areas. I love the excitement of dropping my bags, exploring a city, and making a new “home” for myself. I’m usually pretty quick to accept my new surroundings – and I hope to continue doing that for a few more years yet. And hopefully one of those years will be spent outside of the western world. Need to shake it up a bit and get out of my comfort zone! There’s so much to see in this world!

Although I’d like to be more of a global citizen I’m feeling the Canadiana in me a little more as I get older… hence why I just picked up a book “A Short History of Canada” and I’m currently reading one written by a relative, “Life in a Thundering Bay

So, although I have no idea where I’ll end up in life (still could be anywhere) I know where my roots are and I think that that’s important.

But, now to my second home – Ottawa. Patios, here i come!

And next week, to my third home – Finland. Nähdään pian! Mä tuun!

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When life just works out

Go back a year.

I was done my undergrad and debating really hard what to do with my life. Go to Finland for my Masters? Or, stay in Canada and start my own thing? I’ve had that entrepreneurial itch for a few years at least and after the mesh conference (which I sadly missed this year) I felt like, ready or not, I should just dive into the scary yet exciting startup world.

Fast forward.

I went, totta kai (of course) to Finland.

And I could not have been happier with my choice.

To give whoever reads this blog a hint into what I’m doing this summer (and perhaps for a while after that);

I was offered a job at the University of Jyväskylä to work with an amazing team on spurring growth venturing in Finland (and elsewhere), across disciplines, across fields (researchers, practitioners, students) on ‘problems worth solving’. (It can go a lot deeper than that, but I’ll stick with that for now;)

It hits the key tenets that I’ve been thinking/blogging/dreaming about:

  • Entrepreneurship and access to capital is a must for getting the ball rolling (not just small business entrepreneurship, but high growth, VC field entrepreneurship)
  • Mass collaboration changes everything , ala Wikinomics
  • We need to move into the sustainability age (enough blogs on this topic…)
  • Innovation will play a huge role in fixing yesterday’s, today’s and tomorrow’s problems. But we need to get people thinking about positive innovation. We already have a lot of problems; let’s use our creative skills to fix those, not start new ones.
  • Marketing has an important role to play in getting meaningful messages out – not just the usual “buy buy buy!” message
  • Think global, act local

For the most part, I’ll be writing my thesis this summer and working on some other tasks for the group.

I’ll let out pieces here and there about what’s going on, but in general thought I’d give you an idea about what’s going on in ‘ma vie’.

And, starting off on a good note, I’ll be traveling to Geneva next week to attend the Net Impact Europe Conference. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Again, love it when life just… works out.

(NB: i am aware of the extreme amount of linkbacks in this post!)

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The amazing drying act!

There’s something I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while now…

THE DRYING CUPBOARD! (tai, astiankuivauskaappi in Finnish)

The first time I came to Finland I was in awe at the simplicity of this commonplace object.

Let’s face it, we’ve all had to do dishes at some point or another. And for those of us who don’t have a dishwater (i.e. most students) it can be a pain. Washing the dishes at my grandma’s house we’d divvy up the tasks:

  • Someone washes
  • Someone dries
  • Someone puts away

But here it’s so much easier with the help of this:

Wash, and stick in the cupboard, close the cupboard and let drip dry over the sink. I don’t dry and it’s my storage.

Every single kitchen in Finland has this and yet amazingly this idea hasn’t spread to many other countries. For those building new or renovating their kitchens, c’mon, give it a try!

Such a simple, yet effective solution.

Save time
Save space
Save energy (if you don’t use the dishwasher and just physical energy if you’re hand-drying!

When I come back to Canada I’m bringing the sauna and the astiankuivauskaappi with me;) (of course not literally…)

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from toilets to the bigger picture: water

I’m happy to say that my toilet post spurred a lot of interest. Even Guy Kawasaki himself wrote back to my comment on his blog and then twittered me (I got very excited by this…. but unfortunately my happiness couldn’t really be shared with all – “Guy who? Twitter what?”)

Anyways, I’m adding to the post. Jay, my most ardent commenter;), brought up the point that the two flush toilet idea wouldn’t work in Canada, based on the fact that water just isn’t that expensive and so the return on investment for switching just isn’t there.

But is this really a return on investment issue? I think it’s a regulatory issue.

He’s right. Water just isn’t that expensive in Canada – damn right… we have the CHEAPEST water in the world!!  (not something to be proud of…)  – really $0.40/m3 vs. $1.91/m3 in Germany – 5 X cheaper!

So perhaps that’s the reason why we’re the second largest consumers (right after the US)

Just because Canada was blessed with most of the largest sources of fresh water in the world doesn’t mean that we should be wasting and polluting it down the drain. Droughts around the world are making Canada look like a haven. And of course the US (with their own droughts) is of course (already) knocking on our door for our blue gold supplies. (If you think this isn’t happening soon think again… Atlanta, Georgia didn’t even know if they could cover 3 months worth – stating a water emergency in the fall. Even in Canada, there’s talk about how blue is becoming the new green…

So, without the market incentives it should be of no surprise that most people just aren’t saving – hence the need for changes in the legislation to make these incentives work.

(of course subsidies for water efficient appliances and taxes for water wasting help too- and this is often being done…)

What about greywater systems?

Not to tackle Jay on this, but he said that it was a ‘non-starter’ in most of Canada.

“You have to shunt water from grey water sources to greywater storage, which costs money to buy and install, as well as taking up floor space (which also costs money). If the maintenance costs of a greywater system are too high, then the cost and headache is hard to justify in the presence of cheap fresh water.”

But looking at this from the glass half full; it’s not a non starter…it just hasn’t fully started yet.

We don’t have the mindset for it but we’re soon moving in that direction.

  • Green building practices (LEED) pushes for it
  • Our old pipes are being replaced – i.e. OPPORTUNITIES for change
  • There have been best practices – it’s been used all over the world

Not saying that everyone should run out and install greywater systems, but over time we should be moving in this direction. And for the gung ho who want to get started on this, here’s some info .

And as for space? C’mon… we’re in Canada where space is everywhere! Our houses are big, our cars are big, heck, WE’RE big! When water costs go up, I don’t think space will be a major concern.

Anyways, in the mean time maybe I should start campaigning… “RAISE MY WATER BILL!” – will others follow suit?  Haha.. probably not… perhaps I’m too much of an idealist;)

On a completely different note… I tried mämmi today. It’s a traditional Finnish Easter porridge. Looks terrible (would go well with my previous post…) but actually, not too bad…

Mämmi.jpgMämmi.jpg

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A return to knitting?

Ah, back in Finland. I’ve got a hot tea, Norah Jones and sweats – perfect time to just relax and get back to the blog.

For those that want to hear about how I passed the holidays etc. here’s a quick recap before getting into the “knitting” subject (if you don’t care to hear about the personal stuff, then just skip these bullets;)

  • Lyon, France was AMAZING!- partied in all my favourite places, drank my favourite “Desperados” (tequila beer), I spoke French better than I did two years ago (no idea how but even dreamed in French!) and saw all of my fabulous French friends. It was a trip I’ll never forget. Thanks to all you Frenchies and hope to see you again soon!
  • Savonlinna, Finland for Christmas was like being with family (no offense family members… missed you all of course). Wonderful food – about 7 different types of salmon.. mmmmm… and very traditional, saunas almost everyday (even whipped with the vasta) and just so relaxing.
  • In Helsinki now and hanging out with some friends for the New Year.
  • Christmas present - no i didn’t make these

Ok, so about knitting… (I got home-made wool socks for Christmas, extremely impressed!)

There were a couple odd things that I wanted to do while in Finland for these two years:

  1. learn how to knit
  2. pick mushrooms

A little strange I know, but there was something simplistic and endearing about these activities which seemed to have been left in a bygone era. Before I came here I learned all about the Finnish culture from my best friend. Here was one of our first conversations in France….

  • Don’t you make your own juice? (as in pick your own berries and make concentrate for the rest of the year)
  • Don’t you go into the forest to pick mushrooms?
  • Don’t you know how to knit? Even guys your age knit their own winter hats!

I soon learned upon my arrival that it was true. Almost all Finns do these activities. All Finnish children learn about these important “how to’s” in school. Biology class – pick mushrooms. Elementary – learn how to knit, sew, use tools, cook etc. I know that Canada (at least Ontario) used to have some classes like this (“home ec & shop” was it?) but they left with the budget cuts of the 90’s.

So, I was determined this holiday season to pick up the needles. I was a little embarrassed however that it took me about an hour to learn two stitches and make a 5cm square red block. (My grandma would be ashamed – or perhaps happy that at least I tried).

My profile picture on Facebook right now is the one below and I’ve actually gotten a lot of comments about the whole knitting thing. Turns out, there’s a Microtrend (new book I bought today) about how teens (ahem, young adults lets say) are turning to knitting (one of the main reasons I bought the book😉

Here are some interesting points from the book:

So, there we have it. At a time when people are connected 24/7, living jet-set lives in this heavily globalized world – we also see the return to simplicity and, dare I say, subsistence.

Seriously, I think the Finns and our grandparents had something right. Grow your own veggies (or just buy local), make your own juice and make some of your own clothes. Not only is this good for the environment and society (brings us that little bit closer to nature), it’s relaxing in a world full of stress. And sometimes that feeling of “I did it myself” is all the satisfaction we need – even if it comes in a 5cm red knit square.

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On another note, let me know what you think of the new interface. Wanted something with easier font. 

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Canadian Pulp and Paper industry: a problem is just an opportunity in disguise

Fabulous read in the ROB magazine. Yakabuski’s article “It Ain’t Pretty” on the state of the Canadian pulp and paper industry is bang on.

I’m a pulp and paper girl (born and raised in Thunder Bay and my dad’s in the industry). I know all too well about the problems facing the industry. I even did a paper on it last year for one of my classes, and interestingly enough,Yakabuski and I came up with the same conclusion: the industry’s failure isn’t so much a market-based (even with our extraordinarily high dollar), it’s not even a demand-based failure (paper consumption is up, but not newsprint- our main product) -IT’S VISION FAILURE.

I didn’t just like the article because it talked so much about Finland’s strength in the industry (although, have to say that it was really cool when Jyväskylä was mentioned!). I liked it because the pulp and paper industry is vital to the Canadian economy and we don’t at all give it enough respect for what it represents. People tend to forget that forest products are still our biggest net export and give more jobs than any other resource or manufactured good, including oil, gas and autos – and it represents approx 70% of our country’s total positive trade balance.

Lots of good points covered in the 6 page article:

  • Canada dominates the industry in terms of natural resources, market proximity, educated workforce
  • YET, Canada fails to see the prospects of “what could be” of the industry
  • Finland is leading the way in every aspect of the game
    • R&D, education, technology, (it’s the hub of p&p)
  • Canada and Finland’s market situation is actually quite similar
    • what we complain about here (i.e. high dollar etc.) is really the same for them
  • the difference lies in our complacency, lack of R&D and lack of vision.
  • forest industry has a lot of potential
    • bioenergy (a topic that is quite fascinating and I can actually have talks with my dad about black liquor and combined heat and power etc. now! – I’ve said before, I’m quite the nerd)
    • new inventions for paper (i.e. paper with RFID tags in them, nanotech paper etc.)

As for another part, that was just briefly touched on in the article: Finland is also the world leader in producing bioenergy and biomass combustion technologies. Actually, 20% of their primary energy is derived from wood fuels. Their goal is to constantly increase that number too to be more energy self-sufficient.

So it’s not just about the p&p companies – government needs to open their eyes too. I think they’re blinded by oil and gas and they forgot that our country was blessed with a lot more “renewable” types of energy. I’m not calling for an all-out harvesting party either. Trees are renewable though and there are proper ways to clear-cut. Also, there’s a lot of waste involved in the forest industry that can be put to good use – i.e. producing energy and heat with scraps.

Hopefully the people at the top (both government officials and corporate executives) get shaken up by his article and change their tune. A problem is just an opportunity in disguise…there is hope for our industry.

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Paradox 1: Tradeoffs for the environmentally concerned

A friend from back home emailed me a little while ago and asked me about one issue that is particularly bugging her about becoming more environmentally conscious.

There’s all these great new innovations/products etc etc designed to decrease greenhouse gas emmissions, decrease waste production/landfill trash, decrease fossil fuel consumptions etc etc. But it seems like by being conscious of one aspect of “saving the environment”, you almost inevitably increase another.

She brought up a lot of good points. For instance, hybrids are great during their useful life, but what about their afterlife? Supposedly, they can’t be recycled like most cars and are thus meant for the rough and polluting graveyard.

I responded to her with a “yeah! cool that you’re reading my blog!” but also with some answers on the environmental paradoxes.

We have to live with trade-offs – that’s a matter of life. And almost everything we do will inevitably hurt the environment or give us cancer. C’est la vie quoi;) However, a more useful answer actually comes from one of the courses I’m taking right now.

Let’s start looking at the whole lifespan of a product.

This is called Life Cycle Assessments. It takes into account all of the environmental impacts along the entire lifespan of a product. With things like this you can compare the impacts with a more solid ground.

There’s a lot of push right now for businesses to start doing more LCA studies on their products to figure out where they can find efficiencies through the supply chain. After a quick search on it, just found out that Montreal actually just had a conference on it last week. Cycle 2007: Modern Society’s Economic Model is Outdated. Here too.

Interesting stuff and it helps answer some of these questionable environmental choices that we’re faced with. I have to say though: after doing flowcharts after flowcharts and thinking about emissions to air, emissions to water blah blah blah…. it’s a good scientific way of figuring out what you already know. Be smart. Be efficient.

Paradox 2 will be coming shortly;)

Suomi updates: Today I was happy that the sky was a little brighter. And by that I mean light gray… not dark gray. Yesterday was terrible and wet. And all I can say is that it’s going to get darker… I don’t know if I’m prepared for months without sunlight. Let me know if my blog becomes a bit too depressing….

Sorry.. don’t get me wrong though. Life is still good here;)

No more leaves really but liked this one- ahh..Fall. Happy Halloween everyone.

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Gladwell, telling it like it is.

Wow, I feel like I’m a Globe fanatic. So nice to read about Canada though!

Today’s Globe had an interview with Malcolm Gladwell. I’m a big fan of both Tipping Point and Blink. He’s commonsensical (yep, it’s a word;) and he always manages to find the most compelling of arguments to support his theses.

I’m showcasing it here because it actually touches on many of the topics that I’ve talked about (i.e. we need more math! labour crunch, smarter people – ok perhaps I haven’t blogged too much about that yet but it’s been in my head)

I hope the government listens though and beefs up our education system. Mind you, I have to say that school back home was much harder than the school here (at least for the moment).

He also, points to the way the web should be. Call it web 3.0, or whatever you want but he’s right. We need to start getting smarter about weeding out the crap and getting access to the right info.

How do you see technological advances changing the workplace in the coming years?

I don’t know. That’s the kind of question I think one only embarrasses oneself by trying to answer. But I know that the next problem we need to solve is, we have given people virtually unlimited access to data, to information; the next question is, can we give them better tools for making sense of that information?

In any case, thought it was a good read.

Finland updates: Feeling settled, had a great sauna/potluck dinner on the weekend, school is good and I’m learning more languages! Slowly but surely I’m picking up the Finnish, I’m taking Spanish on the side with the help of a girl from the Canary Islands and in the winter I’ll be taking beginner Chinese. Should be fun.

Hyvää yötä!

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Ahhh…time to just think

So, I’ve been here now for three weeks and I love how I finally just have time to think.

I’m surprised that school has been pretty laid back so far but I love having the free time to just do my thing. Whether it’s reading, listening, writing or just thinking, it’s incredibly refreshing. Even when it comes down to doing the homework readings, I can get really into it (i.e. for those that don’t know me in a school setting – I’m a huge nerd!) Who knew Corporate Environmental Management books could be so interesting!

I’m someone who can’t always sit down and look at the minute details of something but I love looking at the big picture and last night I had one of those wonderfully deep conversations with one of my friends here. It was great to finally discuss the ideas that were in my head and realize that although unconventional, I’m not in left-field somewhere. And it’s always so inspiring to feed off of other people’s passions.

Throughout all of this pondering, I did come to one conclusion though…I’ve got to keep working on this blog.

Aside from a few, I don’t really know who reads this blog, but if you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to send my way. I’m always looking for ways to improve it. (And one way would be to write more frequently….so I’m working on it;)

Kippis ja hyvää viikonloppua!
(That’s “Cheers and have a great weekend” in Finnish – my Finnish on the otherhand…needs some work!)

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How do you inspire ACTION?

Just continuing my thoughts on getting the action ball rolling…

How often does this happen to you:

You read something terrible (or inspiring!) on the news and you get that itch to go out there and act on it.

I feel like what we’re missing is the outlet for people to act on their emotions.

Think about it… what “outlets” do we have?

I get pretty disappointed when I see the options:

  • Give money to a cause
    • We can’t always be philanthropists, especially those with no income… (i.e. me)
    • Plus, giving money to causes gets tiring – everywhere you go, someone’s trying to take a piece of the philanthropy/charity pie – and I don’t see it getting any bigger…
  • Write a letter to someone who cares (i.e. media, government etc.)
    • Can’t say letter writing is the oomph that makes something roll…
    • And essentially, you’re just passing on your opinion to someone who will hopefully act on it. So, again…not exactly action.
  • Research the cause to become more knowledgeable about it
    • Yes, this is important, but nor is this equal to actual ACTION.
  • Buy the product/service
    • If it’s a valuable product/service that’s a start but I wouldn’t label being a consumer taking actual action either.
  • Change personal behaviour
    • This is true action and the most difficult. I think all disciplines have something on this topic.
    • Also, unless that person is a connector (quoting Malcolm Caldwell’s Tipping Point theory) – the action is limited to stay within his/her personal bubble. Good, but not good enough for spreading the action to the mass market.
  • Do Nothing
    • The most obvious and most common answer and of course the one with the least impact

Now, I’m not saying that you have to act on everything, but there should be better outlets for people to actually DO something. Like I said before, I seriously think that our society has the intellectual capacity to solve a lot of today’s issues (and tomorrow’s for that matter), but we’re missing a huge key to the solution: the action aspect.

This is where smart marketing comes in. We need better marketing to the mass market to make society understand how best to do their part in making this world a better home. Thoughts run through my head on this topic daily. It’s still a fuzzy picture but hopefully someday I’ll do my part on taking action too. I’ll keep you posted when that glorious day comes;)

On a personal note – Finland is starting to feel more like home. Yesterday I finally got a bed (only a mattress before) and curtains. Tonite’s sleep should be good. So, hyvää yötä everyone!

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