Posts Tagged ‘Finland’

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Welcome to Finland! [Disclaimer: strong posturing in the view]

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I’m back. And what a trip it was! I’ll only comment the end till now:

Today, thursday, 16. of July, I took the perhaps 1000 people carrying Eckerö Line Nordlandia ferry from Tallinn to Finland, crossing the 80 km wide Gulf of Finland. It left at 17:00 and estimated time of arrival was 20:30.

Medical Emergency

There was a medical emergency on board. A coast guard helicopter was called and it arrived much later when the ship was already visibly close to Helsinki. Perhaps an hour away? I can always check the date of the photos and videos later (tomorrow). There was a long time between the announcement and the helicopter actually being visible. I think one person was winched down from the heli, as well as some equipment. Much earlier, not much after leaving Tallinn, I (and many others) had seen a fainted woman being transported on a wheel chair in the main ballroom, and many speculated it was her who was the medical emergency person. I do not know yet.

I will upload video of the helicopter hovering tomorrow. It was quite close to some of the deck structure. I think it was a pretty small one, Bell Sky Ranger or related model. Definitely not super Puma or any modern enclosed rear rotor one.


Later, when approaching the Ruoholahti western harbour, the ship experienced some electrical problems. I was already on the car deck and most of the lights went off. Many lights on ships have inbuilt batteries that keep them on for some time even when the power goes off so it didn’t get dark really. I just thought it wasn’t anything big. If I remember correctly, the lights came back on, went back off, then came to stay back on.

Then I remember hearing distinct strong rattling sounds. I thought it was the sideways propellers for maneuvering, but it turned out later that they probably were the anchor chains being dropped. The ship didn’t shake at any point so I don’t think there was any contact with anything. (I’ve been on a ship (much smaller though) that hit underwater rocks, and it jumped up strongly, and also sounded a lot different.)

Since I still was waiting for my friend who was the car owner and had the keys, I was getting impatient and went back up a few floors (one pneumatic door didn’t work but the adjacent did, I don’t know if this was caused by the blackout or not) and phoned him (it’s impossible to find anyone on such a ship). He said he was at the stern and we weren’t going to land anytime soon. So I went there. And finally there were announcement on the speakers on all the languages (Finnish, Swedish, Estonian, English) that they are experiencing electrical problems, are anchored in front of the pier and are waiting for tugs to come help and it’s just an inconvenience.

We could literally see the pier about 200 m in front of us from the rear of the ship while waiting for the tugs to tend our disabled ship in. It had already turned around to back into its slot behind the faster green Tallink ship (that would have cost doubly for us, but would have left later and arrived earlier!), when the blackout apparently hit. A dangerous situation.

Eventually two tugs, Hektor and Protector (or some such) arrived and ropes were thrown and we were put safely to the intended spot on the pier and could go to land.

Conclusion, Speculation

It could have been much more dangerous though. I’m not clear what maneuvering capability remained during and after the blackout.

If it had happened for example when crossing paths with some tanker or other ferry in the very busy gulf of Finland, a large accident could have happened in a very short time frame. I also don’t know what would have happened if it had hit the pier with a swinging motion. It is always very potentially dangerous when a vessel becomes unable to maneuver.

I think this is a serious incident and should be investigated thoroughly. It’s good that there are mandated safety systems on ships like lights with batteries, anchors etc. They were definitely helpful in this case.

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Finland is enacting laws that lead to building some more wind power. Like some professionals in the Finnish wind power association, Suomen tuulivoimayhdistys, have told me, perhaps the most important thing about wind power is that you have to be smart about what and where you build.

The wastelands of dead windmills in the California deserts are a result of subsidizing the building of very immature technology, with little concern for actual electricity production.

Wind power can be useful for energy production and CO2 emissions reduction, but it must be built with operation in mind. Finland and the whole Nordpool market operates with a power generation mix that includes possibilities of reducing CO2 emissions by just injecting wind power to the market when there is wind.

If Finland is serious about deploying large amounts of wind power, offshore is the way. The winter sea ice is a hard problem. Lighthouses have washed away in the fifties because of moving thick sea ice. It is even possible that  wind power in icy sea conditions is simply not profitable in the near term, even with high subsidies. It also might be that because of the very high cost of the foundations per mill, the optimal unit size is far bigger than in warmer waters. This all would require a methodical approach with multi-year testing programs of different foundations and possibly different turbine paradigms. (Sort of how the current wind turbines enjoy the methodical research programs and various large prototypes of the nineties.) So a decade perhaps from start to deployment, at rapid pace, starting immediately.

The other thing, like the major parties have been saying, is nuclear power. In an energy mix, this can push out the fossils out, approaching from the bottom instead of the top like wind power. If current trends continue, there will be a few more nukes soon. If I recall correctly Mauri Pekkarinen, the trade and industry minister from the center party commented how the next nuclear power plants would replace, roughly one each, electricity imports (from Russia), old nukes (that have to be retired in the future decades), and fossil fuel plants. Perhaps that is not entirely correct and gives little possibility for energy conservation or renewables, but I actually view it as a rough and dim picture of a not worst possible future.

So, in summary: be careful about how you encourage and where you build big wind – otherwise it’s just a nuisance – and also, build some nukes (keep the regulatory body in good control of them).

I am a fan of wind power – correctly built wind power. And so are the people at Tuulivoimayhdistys – they are professionals after all. Lawmakers should listen to them very carefully, when deciding what kind of subsidies to make.

I’ve seen some talk how in USA the Democrats that currently hold power are proposing methods of CO2 cuts completely based on renewables. This seems unrealistic to me. Too bad the Republicans, when they were in power, did nothing to make CO2 cuts. Now they can just complain about the methods.

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The April fool’s joke about a secret Finnish rocketry project was naturally not credible, but it was inspired by a few real pieces of history. One has to remember that until perhaps fifties or even the sixties, Finland was mostly a poor not very developed nation where most people worked in the agriculture. The history shows how transformation is possible, and even difficult projects are possible in small countries as well, if given good effort and thought.


Finland had a viable submarine program before the second world war. This was in co-operation with the Germans who were banned from developing submarines in their peace treaty from the first world war. The German side manager of the program, sub expert Karl Bartenbach, came from an assignment in Argentina, where he had unsuccessfully tried to engage in a similar program – and his wife brought tango dancing to Finland on the way from there. The submarines were successful and the first real German built U boot type (after they didn’t care about the treaty anymore) was actually similar to the last Finnish model. The Finnish subs were a real threat to the Soviet navy during the war (after mines and guns), and one sub successfully rammed a Soviet sub (after missing a torpedo attack). I’ve read a book (in Finnish) about this, but the name escapes me.


Between the wars, Finland had started a state aircraft industry, which built mainly trainers. During the war, there were attempts to develop an indigenous fighter, but the results were failures. There were no large enough import engines available, and the main effort, VL Myrsky had flutter problems. None really engaged in any combat. Finland got german Me 109:s at the end and fought with them. After the war, the designers said that they had had the wrong construction approach and mindset from the slow speed trainers, wood ribs and rag. There was no aluminium production in Finland, and high quality wood glues were hard to get from the troubled Germany. Many pre-war wooden trainer planes lasted fine in use while the substitute emergency developed Finnish glue built wooden fighters suffered moisture related problems. Jukka Raunio has written good books (in Finnish) about the subject, two which I’ve read, “VL Myrsky” and “Valtion lentokonetehtaan historia, osa 2”.

Submarines, again

This time a completely Finnish development. The Soviet Union was looking for deep sea research submarines in the eighties. After scouting around the world for various builders, the Finnish Rauma-Repola shipbuilder was contracted, and they formed a completely new subsidiary, Rauma-Repola Oceanics, for this purpose. The main problem with a deep sea submarine is the weight of the pressure shell. There were Canadian companies who proposed welding it out of Titanium plates. Instead of that, Rauma-Repola developed a new steel that was cast with a proprietary method to avoid pores. CIA tried to intervene, since the submarines were of strategic use, and they contacted president Koivisto. He said that the business was private and completely legal and thus he could not and would not interfere. The electronics and composite parts were indigenously developed as well, since American contractors were unavailable. Against the expectations of observers, the subs were very successful, and still operate to this day as Mir 1 and 2 – they have visited Titanic for example, as seen in the movie. Almost nobody knows that they were developed and built in Finland. After the delivery of the Mirs, the sub industry was driven down by direct pressure from CIA, the company officially citing that it was not profitable. The technology to make the pressure shells is gone today and would have to be redeveloped if more were to be built. There was a lengthy magazine article (again in Finnish) in Tekniikka & Talous about this, which is available on the net.

The Photos

Where did the photos come from? They are actually from real Finnish projects, although of far lesser scale. The engine is Juhani Hemmi’s completely from scratch self built regenerative steel rocket engine. The picture is from an issue of Avaruusluotain, the magazine of SATS, Suomen avaruustutkimusseura (Finnish Space Research Society, for which I also write a column sometimes). Unfortunately mr Hemmi doesn’t have a web page and I don’t know the current status of the project, the article being from 2006.

Juhani Hemmi With RocketJuhani Hemmi With Rocket

The from the air picture is from the Pollux / SATS hybrid rocket project “Haisunäätä”, that had its second launch in the fall of 2008 in Rovajärvi, Lapland, which is an army proving ground. I know these guys, and they are making a bigger rocket (if it’s not ready yet), for a first flight soon. At the moment the rocket and motor are commercial conventional off the shelf ones, but the electronics are self developed. There is a competing team in Tampere, “Supikoira”.

Haisunäätä @ Rovajärvi high panoramaHaisunäätä @ Rovajärvi high panorama

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At Fingrid. EDIT: same in English.

Usage, Imports and Exports of Electricity in Finland at one moment in timeUsage, Imports and Exports of Electricity in Finland at one moment in time

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Documenting the Crimes of the Soviet Union

Three Estonian / Finnish authors / researchers recently organized a short seminar / book publishing publicity event, the topic being the cruelties and crimes that the Soviet Union did to Estonians during their occupation after the second world war. Helsingin Sanomat has a short writeup in English.

A few Russians from the “Nashi” or “Putin Youth” organization traveled to Helsinki to protest the “fascism in Estonia” because of this event.

Estonia is a small flat country residing in a strategic place. It has been historically overrun by Germans, Swedes and Russians. Like Finland, they were part of imperial Russia in the 1800:s and managed to get independent in the early 1900:s  when Russia changed to Soviet Union (the Estonians fought German forces too to fight off a “Germanification”). I’ve heard that the standard of living was comparable in the early independent Finland and Estonia.

In the second world war, Finland fought, but Estonia surrendered and was occupied by the Soviet Union. In the middle of the war, Germany occupied Estonia for a while, but had to retreat later. Then followed fifty years of Soviet rule, people were killed, moved to Siberia etc., lots of people from Russia were transferred to Estonia. It finally gained back the independence in the start of the nineties from the crumbling Soviet Union. So as a result there are two independence days, the original from 24. of February 1918 and the independence regaining day 20. of August 1991. Estonia is currently poorer than Finland, and lacks much industry. It is however improving, and has been perhaps the most successful ex Soviet occupied / controlled country.

It seems that some Russians don’t have good knowledge of the history. It is a fact that the Soviet Union has occupied Estonia and killed many of its citizens. Documenting this can not be called fascism. The Soviets were not wanted in Estonia, and they did a lot of bad things. It is already evident by just having a quick look comparing the present state of Finland and Estonia. (And was even more evident in the nineties.)

Relation to Finland

There is another, peripheral issue going on: a lot of people are saying that the Estonians are talking about their past painful experiences more openly than Finns. And that us Finns should talk about how much we acted so sheepishly after the war and let the Soviet Union meddle with us. There were also communists (“Taistolaiset”) in Finland in the seventies who entered a sort of self suggested counterfactual state where everything was great and beautiful in the Soviet Union, even when vast evidence pointed out that it was a miserable unhappy totalitarian state. They even went so far as to blame the Finnish war veterans for fighting to keep independence. Mostly, on the other hand, they were an aberration. The lead in Finnish politics tried to steer the nation so that we could just live in peace and not have to worry too much. Finland also had good trade relations with the Soviet Union (in addition to the west), which helped the Finnish economy.

In reality, what options did Finland have at the time? What can small countries do as a total anyway? Sweden had an easy time, sitting safely behind Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia and ridiculing how the Finns were bowing to the east. Could Finland have counted on the support of western nations in case the SU did something? It’s doubtful. It hadn’t happened in the Winter War either. And if there was support, and a massive war erupted, that would have just turned Finland into a battleground of the superpowers. Or if there were massive foreign military forces in Finland threatening Leningrad, that would have just given the SU more reasons to attack. Perhaps the politics that were done were the best possible. The Soviet Union saw Finland as a neutral, harmless and nice neighbor, and Finland kept its freedom and avoided significant threats. However, there are still ugly unearthed facts. How many people spied for Soviet union? How many prevented the publication of Soviet-critical stories in the media? Many former informers might be in the politics nowadays. CIA probably knows this from archives it has obtained. It could use this information to effect politics in Finland. There was a court case where Alpo Rusi, an adviser of Nobel laureate and former president Martti Ahtisaari, sued the state police who insinuated he had been a spy (apparently due to gross incompetence). He won.

Post-Soviet World

This is relevant to the post-soviet politics as well. Upon regaining independence, Estonia joined NATO as soon as possible and has sent troops around the world as part of the “coalition of the willing”. Many Finns feel Estonia is now just bowing to USA. Maybe this is just realism from Estonia – this is the only way for them to stay reasonably free and independent. Many Russians at the moment seem to be unable to cope with their own history and just assume any negative facts about them are controversy machinations by the USA.

Sweden is the biggest and most securely geographically placed nation of the three. It harped on Finland that had to do minor compromises with the Soviets during the cold war.  But Estonia is even more vulnerable than Finland – and now Finland is barking at Estonia for joining so easily with NATO and being forced to traveling around bombing third world countries with USA. It seems different political realities that justify different actions must be assumed. People don’t seem to be able to understand each others’ situations.

The last hundred years of Sweden are boring. Actually, the last two hundred. After the imperial Russia invaded the eastern part of Sweden (that is nowadays called Finland) in 1809, they haven’t really had any wars – as they are just surrounded by small buffering peaceful nations all around and are big enough to defend themselves reasonably independently.

The Future

Well, some depends on Russia. Finland is mulling whether to join NATO or not. Some depends on unpredictable things, like a global recession. Sweden has been driving down their army. Warfare is getting more technological rapidly – and getting more expensive too.

If history repeats itself, very ugly things will happen. In contrast to that, even just staying in status quo would be a wonderful world.

Russia has never been a real democracy. At the moment it’s at least relatively stable and the people have some means of income and some freedom – it’s doing better than ever in many regards. Low oil prices do hurt them. And the oil will run out in reasonable time – the reserves are not great compared to the speed it is pumped at.

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Yes, it was that time of the year over a week ago, 6th of december. I had a post coming up but it still isn’t ready even if it’s not big or anything. But I’m doing this instead.

16 years back was the 75th anniversary year of Finland. Don’t remember 1992 being so awesome, but it must have been even better being there (I wasn’t, I was quite young still back then, and would likely not have understood the musical genius).

There was depression and vast scale unemployment in the nineties. Self confidence of the whole nation was low. Yet there were these three guys just doing their thing. Like Sami Kuoppamäki says in the video, it’s a great country and we should believe in ourselves. They did. Does it matter that they are not internationally known or promoted by massive record companies? It is certain that many of those who have gotten to know them, have fallen in love. There are special sensations, some kind of shivers that they make happen in people. All can not be shown by words, and that is why music has been invented.

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Finland had communal elections a few weeks back. Some communities tested electronic voting machines, and naturally it failed miserably. Now the communities are working on having new elections. The central ministry that should be taking care of these things is silent – except for the justice minister who said the electronic voting thing was decided before her term and she opposes it. Here’s an article in English by Helsingin Sanomat.

The mechanism of the flaw was this: People would have an electronic card where the machine in the booth would write the vote, the people would take the card and drop it off to register the vote. But they pulled the card out too at a time when the vote had not yet been written on the card, and the machine did not indicate anything was wrong.

Machines and extra complexity are needless when the process is extremely simple: choose a single two or three digit number. The vote card can be human readable all the time.

A paper trail (a human readable receipt) would have helped somewhat, but still, it is conceivable that elections could be rigged by manipulating it so that the machine at random times prints different vote cards from the selection made by the user. It does not need to work all the time to still effect the outcome of the election.

Electronic voting machines are extremely hard to inspect or troubleshoot on the spot. The mechanism is always black box like and is easily tampered with. They are also very failure prone compared to paper and pencil. Never mind expensive.

People with the most experience with computers are the least trusting of them on matters like voting, where the process is so extremely simple that computers bring little added value. Also because the user base is extremely varied, it is hard to design a foolproof system, or a system as foolproof as pencil and paper.

What Are Electronic Machines Good For Then At All?

Computers are good for some very reliability critical things like hospital monitors or other equipment where they bring some added benefits with their calculations. Also often such critical systems are used by professionals and are designed for narrow uses, which increases their reliability a lot.

One application that resembles voting quite a lot is lottery. The user base is vast, and the data is extremely simple (actually, with voting, the data is even simpler). Electronic lottery has worked over here for decades, though I don’t know of any critical analysis of “lost tickets” or anything. In any case, everyone gets a human readable receipt for their submitted numbers, and they include all relevant information so that you can get your money in case the numbers match. I don’t know if there has ever been a case of a person possessing a winning receipt but the numbers not being submitted in the system because of some glitch. Technically it could be possible to forge the simple paper receipt after checking what the lottery numbers were and then claim the prize money. I don’t know if any encryption or unique id:s are included in the receipt to make this harder. You could always calculate such a check number with a key from the numbers submitted so that receipt forging would be impossible.

Electronic lottery has sped up the process hugely and reduced the costs as well. No more do the coupons have to be mailed over to one location and then read optically in a failure prone process. Veikkaus has the state controlled monopoly on lottery in Finland, and the winnings left over are used for the public good (though the inefficient Veikkaus company’s overhead is huge). Same with slot and poker machines, which are operated by RAY or Raha-automaattiyhdistys. State owned monopolies are one sensible model for activities that are in essence licenses to print money.

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This month, my homeland, Finland, had it’s 90th independent anniversary. A short history is in order.

Finland, satellite image


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