Technological Superiority

I am very jealous of the ease with which technology integrates into the everyday life of the average Finn. It's not obvious from the get-go, but becoming mobile is very, very easy over here--provided you already have the necessary devices.

Allow me to provide an example. The past two years I've visited, I had my phone with me, but it was a very limited-use device, what with exorbitant roaming charges, so I mostly kept it off, or in Wi-Fi-only mode. This year, I decided to just bite the bullet and pick up a prepaid SIM card and slot it in for the duration of my visit. I had a hard time finding concrete information on how much a decently-priced data plan would be, or what the limits or speed would be like, so I decided to just play it by ear and figure it out when I got here. In the US, picking up a prepaid plan is often a bit of a pain. I looked into AT&T's prepaid plans a year or two ago and they were expensive and restrictive. T-Mobile's aren't bad, but their coverage is spotty. Finding information on anything else proved to be surprisingly difficult, and finding a retailer to sell a prepaid SIM was a crap-shoot at best.

Here in Finland, we walked into an R-Kioski (roughly equivalent to a 7-11), asked what prepaid cards they had available and were handed a list comparing five or six different brands and plan details. I wound up paying 5 euros for a card pre-loaded with 6.60€. Calls are 0.06€ a minute, texts are 0.06€ per, and data is 0.66€ per day for unlimited usage. (These are all domestic rates. Calling and texting out of the country is naturally quite a bit more expensive). Since, for the most part, I use my phone as a pocket computer and don't do a whole lot of texting or calling, this plan is fantastic for me. I also get consistent 4G speeds and a good signal everywhere (though I think that's more a result of Finland's small size and flat geography). The best part? I can share my phone's (unlimited!) data plan with anything via Wi-Fi. I'm actually writing this post on my tablet using my phone's internet connection. Give me a power outlet and I can keep this up from pretty much anywhere!

But it's not just phone service. I keep running into little things that are surprisingly complex and well-designed. Take, for example, this video of me demonstrating how to recycle bottles in Finland:

I actually place the bottle onto a treadmill that's capable of moving the bottle back and forth as well as rotating it. It sucks up the bottle, and a barcode scanner looks for the barcode. If it can't find it, it starts rotating the bottle until it's successful. It's an impressively-designed bit of machinery, and I am very jealous of it.

But maybe it's not so surprisingly that their designers and engineers are inspired when they've got views like this:

alt-text

Approaching the lake

WP_20131218_020

Climbing a hill overlooking the lake

WP_20131218_021

From the top of the hill.

WP_20131218_11_44_41_Panorama

Panorama of the shore.