Please let me slap you, said the right hand to the left


Silo bureaucracy is a fantastic thing, if you’re interested in the absurdities of life.

Bureaucracy is often faceless, but in reality it is often very personal. There’s often a single person behind the decisions. Park those somebodies as neighbors in government organisations which don’t communicate, and you’ll get great kafkaesque results.

Case example: employer-sponsored smart cards for exercise, for example Ticket Mind & Body which we have.

The point of that benefit is to make us exercise more. Bad physical condition is very expensive to the society, especially in an aging society like ours. Diabetes, heart disease and asthma spread at at an alarming speed. Workout is the best cure for all of these.

We tend to be lazy and come up with excuses of not to exercise. Smart cards takes on of those away by making it easy to join access the services. You can enter the gym or join the workout session just by pushing in a PIN code. You can have self-service gyms, 24 hour gyms; access could be with the exercise card. No need for separate cards or keys.

Except not. Technology does allow this, but the Finnish taxman does not. About a year ago, somebody in the taxman’s office woke up to the possibility of wrongdoing: you could give your smart card to your spouse, who could get the benefit instead of you – and that’s wrong.

So, nowadays smart cards can’t be used with a PIN (which they are made for), but with printed receipts which you need to sign. The gyms need to have service people behind the counter at all times (unless they give you a separate access card), and we can’t use the smart features of the card.

From the national health point of view, wouldn’t it be better that at least someone used the card for exercise? Wouldn’t it make sense to make that as easy as possible?

But hey, that’t not in the areas of responsibility of the taxman…

Old Culture vs. New Culture

Finnish speed skier Häkä Häkkinen told in a recent interview, that the Finnish cross-country-ski-obsessed Olympic Committee prevented his participation in the Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck in 1964, because “downhill is not a real sport” – even though he was then one of the fastest skiers in the world.

We’ve had the same question asked even in 2013, when the TV hosts of the Finnish Independence Day gala asked the old cross-country hero Eero Mäntyranta, “if he considers snowboarding as a real sport” (after quite a few World Championships won for Finns). Of course he did, thank god.

The same attitude seems to apply for culture – there’s the “real culture”, and then the suspicious new stuff, which probably is not real culture.

Tove Jansson, the creator of the Moomins, was born a 100 years ago, 1914, and was remembered in the Finnish MTV3 news on January 10. The newsflash told us, that Moomins are the biggest Finnish copyright-based export ever.

Well, Moomin Characters made a 6 million € turnover last year. The biggest Finnish game companies made 153 M€ (Rovio) and 78 M€ (Supercell) – and that was before Supercell went really through the roof. Currently, Supercell makes in each week the same amount in profit than the whole turnover of the Moomin Characters in a year. Rovio – the owner of the Angry Birds brand – makes half of their turnover through licensing, just like the Moomins.

But I guess games don’t count, because they are not real culture.

I'm bigger than any birds, I am!

I’m bigger than any birds, I am!

The ABCs of the land of the Horseshoe

I was driving around Helsinki the other day, doing my favorite holiday activity, hardware store hopping. The ring roads of Helsinki, like most cities, are lined with car retailers and a chain of familiar brands; IKEA, Biltema, Plantagen, Bauhaus, Gigant, etc., and an occasional Lidl.

Most of the shops are from abroad. Especially the Swedes are very capable of building retail brands with a unique approach, with the capacity to make it in the international market. Besides on-line shopping, I would name the flat boxes of IKEA as the biggest innovation in recent retail history.

When I stopped for a cup of java in the ABC service station, it struck me that I was having my coffee in one of the only such unique products in the Finnish retail. Generally speaking the Finnish retail landscape is depressing. As Saku Tuominen put it, “Swedes made the biggest furniture chain in the world, Finns made the biggest horseshoe“. The way Finns have tried to battle the pressure of low-cost products from the globalized market has been to cut costs, save in design and diminish the quality, which is a losing fight in a country with the most expensive workforce in the world.


But ABC’s are different. The Finnish consumer market is really centralized, with two massive chains dominating in retail. Fueled by the power of the largest of the two, the S Group, these huge centers packing together supermarkets, restaurants and activity parks (oh yes, almost forgot, you can buy gas too) are spreading along the highways of the country at the speed (and tactics) of Starbucks cafes.

People tend to hate them, because they are all similar and they kill the local business. But they are a unique concept. Besides Rautakirja kiosks (which are also omnipresent in the Finnish towns and villages) it is the only such innovation in Finnish retail. Shouldn’t we love it and be proud of it, instead of loathing?

ABC’s could go international. The duopoly status of the S Group and the other retail giant, Kesko tends to make them slowish for taking risks, especially when you have to be a challenger instead of the dominatrix. But then again, there is nowhere else to grow anymore for these chains, so they are both already active in for example Russia and the Baltic countries. Let’s hope they cross the borders with ABC’s as well – that might also save the business of a few independent gas station owners along the Finnish roads.


The Death and Rise of Collectible Record Business

I am addicted to vinyl. Cannot help it. I had a break of almost a decade (the dark age of CD’s) but never sold my vinyls, and now in our new house with a music room the addiction is back with a vengeance. I have bought more than a 100 records in the last half a year.


My Transrotor Leonardo Turntable, spinning a clear vinyl issue of Hunky Dory by David Bowie.

Besides the primal urge to own more and more vinyls in general, the other problem in trying to control the urge is my eclectic taste in music. So, I always find something to buy in almost any store or flea market, since I like funk, punk, indie, jazz, avantgarde, soul, Latin, African… you name it.

Anyway, the business of collectible records (as all collectibles) has really changes shape since the last time I was keen on analogue media, in the early 90’s. It is the most concrete example of the long tail I have ever seen. The small record stores are vanishing (too bad for the record stores, really), but in eBay there are at the moment 3,5 million records for sale (on the US eBay only). The rarity has become a commodity; almost ANY record is available at ANY time (for a price).

The long tail, social media -driven marketplace is also increasingly transparent. Sites like Popsike publish information about the value of the records, and the fast-growing Discogs combines the features of a wiki-style music database (currently 4 million entries from all over the globe, and counting), marketplace, social platform (you can find me there) and record value indicator. One more proof that communities can do things which are impossible otherwise.

For the collector, this really is the golden age. I am setting up a vinyl store with my daughter. We will trade really rare records, which I have purchased over the years. Finland used to be a lousy place to buy & sell really obscure music, because the local market is small and the tastes conservative. But now we just operate from Finland – we know that there will be a market, because the market is the world.

British Air Fails

Sitting by the laptop at the home office – but I should be sitting on a BA plane to London.
After trying to check in on-line (as I usually do) at 8 PM, 1 Am and 5 AM just to get an error message, I was finally left out of the plane after queuing for 1,5 hours at the check-in counter (two officials and looooots of people – of course, as the on-line did not work…) when the flight was closed. At that time, there were six of us left in the queue. Way to go, BA.

Anyway, the whole frustrating process really made me think of the stupidity of the current check-in-systems. Why on earth do all the airlines have their own chek-ins (especially since most of them are sorry pieces of web design & technology, and I fully understand that people are afraid of, don’ t trust them and still prefer to queue)?

An universal check-in would finally rid us from airport aggressions; especially if combined with body scanners for security.  Maybe Foursquare could extend their service from just playing around to real check-ins?