Friday, August 31, 2007

Double Rainbow over Kumpula Radar today

Finland goes digital!

After today, there will be no more analog television broadcasting in Finland. The government expects that 10% of people haven't upgraded their TVs with digiboxes to enable them to receive digital broadcasts. You can read more about how the decision was made on the Helsinki Sanomat web page.

Some places in northern Finland (about 2000 households) will not be able to receive digital broadcasts) unless they buy a satellite dish.

In the U.S., the date for conversion is set to February 17, 2009.

Photo from


I had the pleasure to be invited to join the Vaisala rowing team for practice last week. We rowed a church boat, similar to the one pictured above, around the waterways near Helsinki. It is called a church boat because the Finns who lived on the many lakes in Finland would travel to church in these boats. They hold 14 paddlers and a person who steers. Now the Finns race these boats, distances ranging from 15 to 60 km. The 60-km race takes about 5 hours.

Photo by Takashi Murata

Rainbow over Helsinki

Seen yesterday evening near Kamppi.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Pictures from the Summer School for Mesoscale Meteorology and Predictability

To see pictures from last week, go to

No spelling contests in Finland

At the summer course last week, I found out that they don't have spelling contests in Finland (what we call spelling bees in the USA). The reason is simple. So much of the language is spelled exactly as it is pronounced, there wouldn't be much of a challenge.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summer School on Mesoscale Meteorology and Predictability

This week I am at the Hyytiälä Forestry Field Station in Finland hosting a course on mesoscale meteorology. I have four distinguished lecturers from the US and Germany and about 30 students from Finland, Russia, Albania, Sweden, and China. Topics include fronts, orographic circulations and cold pools, numerical weather prediction, and convection. We are also having lectures on stable atmospheric boundary layers, orographic precipitation, atmospheric aerosol formation events, publishing your journal articles, developing your career, and the physics of sauna. I'll provide a more complete update later.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Finns make noise

This Saturday night was the Suzanne Vega concert in Helsinki at the Kulttuuritalo. The show was very enjoyable and well worth seeing, if she passes near you. One of the highlights was watching her bass player, Mike Visceglia, crank out the bass lines of "Blood Makes Noise," "Undertow," and "Cracking." It brought me a greater appreciation of how important the bass was to her music.

Nearly every song featured an incredible arrangement that brought new meaning to the songs I have listened to on record many times. "Caramel" and "Undertow" were particularly impressive. She was also quite chatty, explaining some of the meanings behind her songs. Her new album Beauty and Crime ranks as one of her best, behind 99.9 F°, in my opinion.

One interesting observation was that several people were shouting out to her a lot, either requests ("Undertow", "Soap and water", "Cracking") or just plain disturbing fan mail ("I love you, Suzanne"). After performing her song "New York is a Woman", Suzanne asked the crowd what kind of city Helsinki was. The best answer was "Depends on the weather". One obnoxious person shouted out, "Helsinki is an asshole." I failed to understand that response.

Yvette mentioned that when she saw the Nine Inch Nails in Helsinki back in March, the crowd was very quiet, despite the head-banging music. So, what happens to make the normally serene Finns irritating at a folk-rock concert?

13-Year-Old Finn discovers error by Reuters news agency.

"News agency Reuters has been forced to admit that footage it released last week purportedly showing Russian submersibles on the seabed of the North Pole actually came from the movie Titanic."

"The images were reproduced around the world - including by the Guardian and Guardian Unlimited - alongside the story of Russia planting its flag below the North Pole on Thursday last week."

"But it has now emerged that the footage actually showed two Finnish-made Mir submersibles that were employed on location filming at the scene of the wreck of the RMS Titanic ship in the north Atlantic some 10 years ago."

"This footage was used in sequences in James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster about the 1912 disaster."

"The mistake was only revealed after a 13-year-old Finnish schoolboy contacted a local newspaper to tell them the images looked identical to those used in the movie."

"Reuters has admitted that it took the images from Russian state television channel RTR and wrongly captioned them as file footage originating from the Arctic."

Good God!

Full article and photo from Media

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Honor System

In Helsinki, you get on a subway or tram without showing any proof of payment. Every once in a while there will be a group of people who roam through and check that you have prepurchased a ticket or have a travel card, but most of the time it is the honor system. Not having a valid ticket results in a 66 euro fine.

I noticed such systems in other subways in Europe (e.g., Munich, Vienna) this year.

In contrast, London, Washington DC, Boston, and New York, for example, require prepaid tickets to pass through the turnstiles to enter the subway platform.

What is it about the difference between Britain and the US and some European countries?

10% of the US budget goes to war

From All Headline News:

Congress Estimates U.S. Will Spend $1 Trillion On Iraq War

August 1, 2007 9:11 p.m. EST

Christopher Rizo - AHN Staff Writer

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the war in Iraq could cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1 trillion, or at least double what has already been spent.

The nonpartisan forecast, released Tuesday to lawmakers, includes the cost of keeping some U.S. forces in Iraq for several years and of providing long-term care and financial support for wounded soldiers and benefits for the families of those killed, the Boston Globe reported on Wednesday.

"We are now spending on these activities more than 10 percent of all the government's annually appropriated funds," said Robert Sunshine, CBO assistant director for budget analysis.

Testifying before the House Budget Committee, Sunshine said that he used two scenarios - an optimistic one in which most U.S. forces are withdrawn ultimately, and another less rosy picture in which a sizable contingent remains for several years - to calculate anticipated costs, The Globe reported.

If the United States gradually reduced its troop level in Iraq to 30,000 by 2010, the US government would still have to provide up to $500 billion more to sustain those troops, as well as pay other expenses, he said in the report.

In the alternative scenario - in which 75,000 US troops remain stationed in Iraq over the next five years - he said the nation would have to pay an additional $900 billion.

The high price of donuts in Finland

After watching The Simpsons Movie, Yvette and I began our search for the best donuts in Helsinki. Although many grocery stores have a fresh bakery section, few carry donuts. One chain that has several stores is Arnolds. However, their donuts range from 1.40 euro for a small cake donut with icing to 2.00 euro for larger donuts with a creme or jelly filling. (Donuts with icing are called fancies in the Aussie language.) By comparison, donuts in the US cost 30-75 cents. So, where do you get the best donuts in Helsinki?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Kynsilaukka Restaurant Garlic

Yvette and I tried this restaurant at Fredrikinkatu 22 last week. We enjoyed it quite a bit.

The menu for 28 euro was a great deal. Try the garlic cream soup, lamb stew, and warm berry crepes. Check out the web site.

Photo from Assured Produce.

A Hitchcock movie in Finland?

"Sean Connery in Savonlinna, a hair-raising high-speed chase in Vainikkala on the Russian border. The Short Night could have been the most famous Hollywood movie to be set in Finland. Too bad that it was never produced - even though director Alfred Hitchcock visited Finland himself to look for locations."

Here is the link from the Helsinki Sanomat web page.