Experiencing Fall in Finland: Finnish Culture

Experiencing Fall in Finland: Finnish Culture

**Warning** This blog post might not be suitable for young children 🙂

Finnish Sunset

I can’t believe fall is almost over and I have not yet blogged about my “cultural experience” thus far in the land of the Finns (a.k.a Finland). I hope it is entertaining for you (both my Finnish and non-Finnish friends) – at least as entertaining as it has been for the people who hear me try to speak Finnish.

Today, for instance, I used my Finnish to ask someone’s name. She replied “sorry?” – and my mind was racing. I thought for sure I said the words right, so I repeated them a little more slowly and clearly (“Mikä sinun nimesi on?”), and she still replied “sorry.” I started to wonder if she really just didn’t want to give me her name but was trying to being polite, like there was some Finish tradition of not wanting to give your name to funny-looking strangers, or if I was just really mispronouncing the words that badly, or what? I asked her if she spoke English and it seemed almost to turn into an Abbott and Costello act:

– “What is your name?”
– “Sorry.”
– “What’s the matter?”
– “What do you mean?”
– “Why are you sorry?”
– “I just am.”

Well – it turned out her name was actually “Sari,” a fairly common name to Finns – so chalk up another embarrassing experience for me. 🙂

Moving on, these next three pictures I wanted to show are taken in a national park not far from Joensuu in NorthErkki and Paivi Karelia, Finland, called Koli. It is beautiful, especially as the leaves are changing colors. I hear that soon the Aurora Borealis are visible in the night sky here too. Many people here like just going to the woods so that they can escape into the silence (which is much more valued here – making the Finnish band Lordi that much more of an idiosyncrasy). Correct me if anyone knows better, but as I understand it the stereotypical Finnish man is one who drinks a lot (the national way to relax), spends free time in the sauna, lives alone in the woods and eats bear. The picture to your right is not your stereotypical Finnish man and woman, although they still enjoy a good sauna and trip to the woods. It is the legendary Erkki and Päivi Sutinen, some of my favorite people here. Erkki tells a joke about a Finnish wife who asks her husband after being married for 30 years, “Why don’t you tell me you love me?” The man’s response: “I already told you when we got married, I’ll let you know if the situation changes.” Erkki, on the other hand, tells his wife how jealous he is of her. “I tell her that am actually very jealous that she somehow managed to find a perfect spouse.” 🙂

Clint in Koli

They only told me after we arrived to forest that the real place they wanted me to experience was the Paha-Koli cliff and the court stones (Erkki is all about helping people experience new things). The story goes that the people who lived here anciently used this place to hold a court – and if they couldn’t agree if the person was guilty or innocent, they would put it in the hands of the gods to decide by throwing the accused off the cliff. If they died, they were obviously guilty, and if they lived that clearly meant they were innocent. It is not surprising that with that kind of ingenuity running in their ancestral lines that Finns have come up with things like Nokia (which, by the way, provides an entire 1/3rd of Finland’s GNP). In the end, despite Erkki’s encouraging words, I decided not to utilize the throw-me-off-the-cliff method of innocence detection. I did, however, participate in an activity that felt somewhat suicidal, which I will talk about shortly.

As a quick aside – I think walking in the woods and trying not to get lost is considered a sport here. And if you are isolated in the middle of the woods and happen to pass someone that completely ignores your existence – that is actually considered very polite (see previous blog entry about Finnish etiquette).

Of course, the fact that people aren’t paying attention to each other comes in handy when you are walking nakedSauna in Woods from the sauna (pictured here) to the freezing cold water for a quick and painful swim (the near-death experience I referred to) and then running back to the sauna. One of my foreigner friends here calls Finnish saunas a “sight-seeing” experience of its own. It’s amazing how much submerging your naked body (not pictured here) into icy water will do to clear your mind! They say it is healthy, but I’m not sure I buy it quite yet. Of course, maybe it is this kind of conditioning that has helped Finland produce so many champions in Formula One racing, High-speed downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, long-distance running, rowing, even tennis – basically good at any sport as long as you can do it alone and it almost kills you.

 

 

Nordic WalkingSpeaking of sports, this is another unique sight on the streets here – Nordic walking. It is like cross country skiing, but just no skis. I’m thinking of bringing it back to America and see if it catches on. What do you think?

 

Here is a picture of a few of the typical unique foods here: There are Karelian pies, rye bread, and somethiFinnish Foodsng else that I don’t remember the name of, but which is a type of bread thing with fish pieces inside of it. You can also see the cheese off to the upper right, which is really nice to put on all of it. There sure are a lot of hot drinks too – which I think is one of their strategies to keep warm.

Something not in this picture, but which is also pretty common is different types of berries and edible mushrooms. Either people go to the woods to pick their own, or more commonly these days, buy them at the store. After I got my first “moose fly” from picking berries in the woods I think the store is not that bad of an option. Other local favorite foods are Smoked Salmon, Pea Soup (always on Thursday, because a Swedish king hundreds of years ago made his troops eat it every Thursday to prevent deficiency disease, so why not continue?), Meat balls, and Salmiakki (a salt liquorice “treat” which is really a compound of ammonia and hydrochloric acid).

**This next part is where you might want to plug the ears of your young ones**

This might come as a shock to non-Finns, but did you know Santa Clause actually comes from Finland? You can still go and visit his house (I am thinking of trying to go there in early December). Certain Christmas traditions, however, are a little different here. The person I am renting my apartment from told me one of her family traditions at Christmas time is to have Reindeer Stew! We like to talk about Reindeer at Christmas time in the US, but generally don’t think about eating them. Maybe that is where the “rumors” began that Santa moved to the North Pole – to get away from the Finns eating his help.

**OK to unplug ears**

Cute Finnish Kids

There is not really any celebration of Halloween, but in April the children do dress up as witches and knock on your door to trade you a stick they decorated for money or candy. Seems like a lot more work than just saying “Trick or treat” but perhaps that was an intentional strategy from the government to limit sugar consumption.

OK – this entry is already getting a bit too long, so here is one last picture. Just kickin’ it in the leaves. Sleeping in Leaves

When people ask me why I love it here so much, it is sometimes hard for me to capture it in words. Finland has no real enemies, and nobody knows anything bad about Finland. Of course, nobody usually knows much anything about Finland. But I find that there is something just good about Finland. A book by Roman Schatz summed it up well: “Finns really are… they are… let’s say, they are a bit different than your common or garden variety of people. They’re wholesome, if you know what I mean, a bit like their dark bread, the one with the hole in the middle. They’re hard to digest, but very good for you.” 🙂

And who knows, maybe a little “sisu” is even rubbing off on me? (Sisu is an almost super-human Finnish characteristic of non-aggressive, passive, introverted stamina that gets stronger when the odds get worse.)

Suomen kesä on lyhyt, mutta vähäluminen.

Viva Finland!

Finnish Flag

Recordings for EdTech Ph.D. Seminar on 30.10.2007 @ EdTech Lab

Recordings for EdTech Ph.D. Seminar on 30.10.2007 @ EdTech Lab

EdTech Logo

Thanks for all who participated in an interesting seminar! Don’t forget the next seminar at Kitee on 21.11.2007 (see http://clint.wisdomoftheworld.com/?p=77)

We still need some work on figuring out the best ways to handle video and audio in this environment (especially for people who wish to join us from developing countries), but at least this represents a start at trying to include people at a distance in these PhD seminars.
I’m sure one day we will look back and think about how primitive these tools are, but for now it is the best we have.

  • Report by Erkki’s trip to South Africa & Discussion with Marjo from San Diego (unfortunately, although we could hear her great, the mic didn’t record Marjo very well as we tried to capture her voice from Skype into Adobe Connect): (Duration – 00:31:36) http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/p92688056/
  • Discussion led by Clint about research by the Gallup organization regarding what is it that people have in common who are excellent at what they do (in business, education, sports, entertainment, etc.). We discussed the one thing they found these people had in common. (Duration – 00:24:50) – For part of this time (starting at about 00:17:00) we broke into groups and I do not think anyone will want to watch that part. http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/p38892677/
  • Presentation by Andres about his research in Tanzania (his audio was not very consistent for us, but you can actually hear the first parts of it better once his slide show starts in the recording than we did in real life). Once you are viewing it, you can also see in the “file share” pod a document called presentation.pdf – click on it and save it to your computer, or you can also find it as an attachment on my blog entry about this PhD day. He has requested that we please review the presentation document and email him any feedback you have for his research! (Duration – 00:17:34) http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/p80216809/

I have some questions for you now:

  1. Did you watch any of these?
  2. Were they helpful?
  3. Should we continue to do this?
  4. Any other suggestions/ideas to make it better?
EDEN in Sweden

EDEN in Sweden

EDEN logo

I present today at the European Distance and E-learning Network’s (EDEN) 6th Open Classroom Conference. The theme of the conference is “Real Learning in Virtual Worlds”. I have already learned some valuable things and will blog them throughout the conference, but here is one of my initial reactions.

I have sat through a few of the normal boring sessions, occasionally hearing the typical sweeping rhetorical fallacies such as “Video conference is more effective than face-to-face methods”; “Books are worthless and should be done away”; “ICT improves the effectiveness of learning”; and so on.

I suppose that since the jobs and livelihood of these people is tied to ICT in education that I should not be surprised to hear marketing jargon and messages like this instead of scientifically critical and contextualized statements – but I get weary of hearing them (including when they have come from me in the past).

As one example, the “no significant difference phenomenon” seems so well established with regard to media comparison studies that we really don’t need any more media comparison studies or statements. Rather, much more interesting and productive are discussions and experiments with novelties in pedagogy, educational ideologies and approaches (enabled through various media). Especially when they are contextualized to specific situations, assessed in the best way we know how, and published in an open and replicatable way.

  • What specific problems exist in previous teaching/learning situations?
  • How do the new approaches solve those problems?
  • What do we give up in exchange for these “solutions”?
  • Etc…

It would be unfair to say that every presentation has been uninteresting or stereotypical, and I have met quite a few people doing very interesting things, but I just wanted to vent my pet peeve. I’ll email more later about things I have learned and enjoyed.

___

 

On the positive (and somewhat random) side – (1) the sun was out all day yesterday, and (2) when I came to a cross-walk on a busy street in Stockholm I was pretty surprised when all the cars from both directions stopped so that I could cross. 🙂

 

California Firestorms

California Firestorms

From my friend Sabine, near San Diego: “The sun looks quite red and foggy this morning. This is the sun at 8:30am, seen from my doorsteps. The fires continue and nobody stays outside. The dust makes the air too difficult to breathe.”

fire in CA

Over a half million people have already been evacuated from their homes.

for full coverage
http://news.yahoo.com/fc/US/Wildfires_and_Forest_Fires
and more pictures on Flickr
http://www.flickr.com/search/?s=rec&z=t&q=california+wildfire+orange+fire+smoke&m=text

Two EdTech Ph.D. Seminars: (1) On 30.10.2007 @ EdTech Lab and (2) On 21.11.2007 @ Kitee Folk High School

Two EdTech Ph.D. Seminars: (1) On 30.10.2007 @ EdTech Lab and (2) On 21.11.2007 @ Kitee Folk High School

To begin with, click here to subscribe to the EdTech Google calender that Ilkka has kindly created:

 

______________________________________________

University of Joensuu EdTech Ph.D. Seminar Program for 21.11.2007

Kitee logo

**The tentative schedule will look something like this.

10:00am – We will car pool from the Science Park at to the Kitee Folk High School

12:00 – We will have a short lunch Eating

1:00-3:00pm – Presentations (I am not yet sure if we will be able to broadcast this one to all EdTech students or not.)meeting room

So far we have:

1. Michael de Raadt (visiting from University of Southern Queensland, Australia) – will present and raise some questions about Peer Assessment:

  • Is peer assessment a valid form of assessment?
  • Can peer assessment save instructors time?
  • Should students be rewarded for participating in peer assessment?
  • Can students give accurate subjective reviews of a peer's work?

He will also discuss the approach to distance education (and education in general) from an Australian perspective less formally, if people are interested.

2. Antti Rainio (from the Kittee Folk High School) – will present about TEDIT ? (Towards Equality and Democracy Through IT-education):

  • TEDIT is a planned project for years 2008-2011 in Lusaka, Zambia. Project is about giving skills to 24 Zambian people to teach computers and to understand democracy and good administration as well as project coordination. Aim is that these people can spread this knowledge and offer basic computer skills education to 200 orphans during the project. In larger scale the project is about enhancing democracy and equality in the Zambian society.

3. Eeva Turtiainen (one of our students and also working at Kitee Folk High School) will present about her “not-so-ready” research plan 🙂

  • Title “Educational games in mathematics”.

4. Clint Rogers (visiting researcher at Joensuus Yliopisto) – will present about his evaluation of and recommendations for the IMPDET program.

  • Evaluation of the IMPDET program

3:00-5:00pm – We will have small group discussions and brainstorming sessions.

5:00-8:00pm – We will continue discussions over a nice dinner and time in the sauna, steam room, and pool Sauna picture (Unfortunately for sure we will not be able to broadcast this part). pool pictureClint will also be bringing materials for everyone to learn how to make a type of Smores. Yum!

8:00pm – Some will travel back to Joensuu

For those of us who are staying the night, we will watch a movie that one critic said “This film will impact the course of your life forever.” After we will discuss the learning/teaching approaches in it and potential implications for educational technology
As people continue to submit ideas for presentation at this seminar, I will post them here accordingly.

________________________________________________________

University of Joensuu EdTech Ph.D. Seminar Program for 30.10.2007

University of Joensuu logoEd Tech Logo

**Thanks for a great seminar – recording URLs can be found at: http://www.clintrogersonline.com/blog/?p=81

This was at 10:00am (GMT +3) in the EdTech Lab – but as we will be including any of our students or faculty around the world who want to participate, you can go to the World Clock Meeting Planner to see what time it will be for you where you live.

If you are at a distance, you must simply click on this URL to join the meeting: http://connectpro64128288.emea.acrobat.com/edtechseminaroct30/

Here was the initial program.

(9:45-10:00) People at a distance should click on the link, and we will work out any bugs before the meeting begins.
10:00-10:10 Welcome and Introductions by Erkki Erkki – (and distribution of Halloween Candy by Clint)
10:10-10:30 Presentation by Marjo (from California): about her research and experiences in San Diego
10:30-10:45 Presentation by Temtim Temtim(from Ethiopia): Introduction of himself to the research group

10:45-11:00 Short break

11:00-11:30 Demonstration (and discussion) by Illka and Javier Javier pictureof North-South Gateway (e.g. progress on Tug-of-War)

11:30-11:45 Informal discussion on some spontaneous topic of interest

11:45 – Presentation by Andrés: “What to do in Tanzania during November” (see: Copy of Andrés Presentation – please review in advance)

Difficulties in intercultural communication: What not to do

What is it that makes intercultural communication, especially about sensitive issues, difficult?

I can think of many reasons – and I’d be interested in also hearing your thoughts. As one of many of the difficulty, I think the following pattern frequently occurs:

_________________________________

When people get defensive about sensitive issues they often make generalizations and give labels intended to attack the credibility/image of another person or group (e.g. derogatory slurs – which are too abundant to name them all – or terms such as worthless, “evil”, bigot, and so on). In an emotionally vulnerable state – instead of isolating conversation to specific aspects of an issue or policy that they disagree with (while generally having respect for the people involved), too often people make sweeping generalizations that do little good (even for their own cause) and usually only end up doing more to alienate groups and polarize differences. In this kind of an environment people tend to minimize their own faults (and if they admit them at all, justify them through some sort of blame) while at the same time over-emphasizing the negative in the other side.

________________________________

These kinds of interactions are painfully evident internationally in disagreements between China and Japan, arguments between various racial groups in South Africa, and the controversies between Sunnis and Shiites, Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East, the so-called “war on terror”, and the list goes on and on.

In the U.S., this kind of pattern has contributed to an increasing divide between liberals and conservatives (as seen in unfair over-generalizations by either side of controversial political figures such as Hillary Clinton or George Bush).

Historically and recently inter-religious discussions also prove difficult.

So it is not surprising what happens when you combine religion and politics. It easily becomes evident why religion and politics are two issues that usually are omitted from polite discussions.

I’d like to look at recent online discussions about politics and religion, and briefly compare them to some larger international issues. I want to also consider the interesting dynamic that occurs with Internet communications; one aspect of which is how people can anonymously post comments regarding sensitive issues. Additionally I’d like to question to role of existing media and entertainment sources in existing interpersonal and intercultural relations.

I’m very interested in other people’s thoughts on the pattern that I speak about.

  • Do you see the same pattern?
  • What, in your opinion, contributes to it?
  • What do you think are the best approaches to mediate such conflicts?
  • How can disagreements about issues be productive instead of destructive?
  • What has been the role and impact of the Internet?
  • What has been the role of media and entertainment sources in either propagating or dismantling stereotypes, etc.?

To be continued…

About Being a Mormon Christian: Facts about Mormons

About Being a Mormon Christian: Facts about Mormons

In studying cross-cultural issues, as I do, it is virtually impossible to ignore the influence of faith on human identity and relationships. I’m not a spokesperson for my Church, and I’m not interested in imposing my personal beliefs on anyone else. At the same time I think it is good to have thoughtful conversations about things like faith.

Salt Lake Temple

Although academicians are usually mute on issues of faith, I have created this entry for two reasons: (1) I have recently received more questions than usual about being a Mormon, and (2) I have been surprised by how much confusion and misrepresentation there is about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (both on the Internet and in mainstream media) – sometimes by those with malicious intent, but usually (I believe) by well-meaning yet misinformed individuals.

One thing that makes these discussions tricky is that faith is usually not anything that can be proven with the tools of “reason” and “logic” traditionally used in Western society (e.g. scientific method, etc.). I don’t want to get hung up on this, for fear of making the entry too long, but I have put three initial responses to this issue in the first comment (on this post), for anyone interested.

I also think people of any denomination might be hesitant to speak about their faith because they recognize it is a sensitive issue (and a source of far too much conflict). Often, people of faith seem to have an automatic defensive response – waiting for someone to attack (usually on the basis of some obscure part of history or scripture that isn’t really central to who they are or what they believe). My feeling is that although I can not know every minute detail of history, or perhaps even speak very accurately for what happened in the past (because obviously I wasn’t there), I can simply speak briefly about my personal experience growing up and living as a Mormon, what I have seen in the mainstream beliefs/teachings of my faith, and what I have respected so much in the leaders and teachers that I have had.

I have personalized some thoughts into four categories that were originally suggested by a leader of the Church.

Facts:

  • First, “Mormon” is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members are often referred to as “Mormons,” “Latter-day Saints,” or “LDS.” The term “Saint” means “member.” (Why that nick name? What “Mormon” means – which quite honestly would sound strange to me if I was not a member – is explained in the last point about faith.)
  • Second, the Church was restored in 1830 in rural New York – we believe it is a restoration of the church structure taught by Jesus. Today the formal Church headquarters are in Salt Lake City, Utah, with President Gordon B. Hinckley as the current prophet.
  • Third, there are now over 13 million members in 176 countries and territories. [Source] I have attended Churchglobe meetings in over a dozen countries and consistently am amazed by the strength and faith of the local leadership and local members, the instant warmth and welcome that I feel, and how much I have learned about what it is to live like a Christian from people with vastly different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.
  • Fourth, about 6 million members live in the United States, making us the fourth or fifth largest Christian denomination there. As one of the fastest growing Christian faiths in the world, the LDS Church completes a new chapel somewhere in the world every working day. Members voluntarily pay a tithe, which is 10 percent of their income, making this, as well as many welfare and humanitarian programs possible.
  • Fifth, local congregations are led by volunteer, unpaid members. Both men and women serve in assigned leadership positions.
  • And sixth, Mormons are not told what political party to vote for but they are encouraged to serve in the communities which they live according to their conscience and talents. As a result, they are increasingly represented in politics and government (in the United States, for example, there are currently 16 Mormons in Congress, from both political parties). Members also serve in high and trusted positions throughout the world in business, medicine, law, education, media, sports, and entertainment. Approximately one third of all Boy Scouts are Mormon, which is not always particularly “cool” to tell your friends when you are a kid (that you are a Boy Scout), but it was fun going camping and scouting with most of your friends in church, and you appreciate it all more when you are older.

Faith:

  • If I was going to summarize the purpose of our faith, I would say it is to help each individual develop a personalwashington DC temple relationship with God, so much that you can feel His presence, His love, and His guidance in your life. All aspects of the religion (prayer, baptism, scripture reading, church attendance, service, education, code of health, etc) assist with getting people to that point, and/or come as a result of feeling His love.
  • We believe in the eternity of the soul, that God is the Father of our spirits, and that we can return to Him after death.
  • We believe that Jesus Christ is our personal Savior, and we try to model our lives after Him and His teachings. We commemorate Christ’s atoning sacrifice in our Sunday worship services, similar to taking communion in other churches. We accept as fellow Christians all who believe Jesus Christ to be the Savior of mankind. Many Christians do not understand that we have much common ground with them. Joseph Smith taught that Jesus Christ is the core of our belief, and everything else is an appendage to it (see Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 44). The name of the Church is “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.
  • We believe that shortly after the death of Jesus and his original apostles, the original church structure that Jesus established was lost (and many beliefs such as baptism, priesthood, nature of God, etc were altered) and that these have been restored again in our day. The priesthood, the authority given to man to act in behalf of Christ’s Church, with apostles and a prophet, has been restored as have all necessary principles by which man can draw near to Heavenly Father and accomplish our unique purposes in life.
  • We believe in and we use the Holy Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.
  • And we believe in the Book of Mormon and other books of scripture which support and authenticate the Bible and testify of the ministry and divinity of Christ and of God’s ongoing revelation to man. Mormon was the name of the man living around 400AD who compiled the record of his people, known as The Book of Mormon. As it is a record of God’s dealings with them and their faith in Christ, the subtitle of the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”

Family

Most people already know how family-centered our theology and our lifestyles are, but here are a few facts:

  • Mormons place particularly strong emphasis on family as the basic unit of the Church and of society. We have a deepSome of my family commitment to marriage (defined as a union between one man and one woman), and believe it need not be “till death do you part” – but can continue for eternity. Polygamy, a limited practice in the early pioneer days of the Church, was discontinued in 1890, a long 117 years ago.
  • Families and individuals, whether members of our faith or not, can attend Sunday meetings in our chapels, where we share and learn about living a Christ-like life.
  • Latter-day Saint families are encouraged to hold family home evenings weekly, usually on Monday nights. Although in my home (with 8 kids) they were a little chaotic at times, they were great times for my family to learn together and just have fun. Even many people not of our faith are beginning to adopt this practice with their own families.
  • The Church has special organizations for men, women, youth, and children. These programs provide such things as religious instruction, opportunities for Christian service, sports, drama, music, and Scouting.
  • And there is also much focus on extended family, genealogy, and personal family history, providing young and old with a stronger sense of roots, identity, and belonging. The highest and most sacred practices of our faith relate to our families, both living and dead, and some of these ordinances take place in our temples.

Fruits

It was Jesus who said “by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20; emphasis added). A church, or any way of life, should be judged by the fruits or the results that it generates. Here are a few examples based on United States statistics. But these would be similar throughout the world among practicing Mormons:New Era cover - LDS magazine for youth

  • A $4 million dollar study conducted at UNC – Chapel Hill studied youth and religion – and found that of all the religious groups surveyed, Mormon teenagers fared best at avoiding risky behaviors, doing well in school and having a positive attitude about the future. [Source]
  • One of the fruits is a longer life. Studies show that practicing Mormons are healthier and therefore live longer than the national average. [Source] In 1833 Mormons believe the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith the Word of Wisdom, as a way to live in order to enjoy a long and healthy life.
  • Those who are married in and attend the temple regularly have a divorce rate far below the national and world average. [Source]
  • Members of the LDS Church achieve an educational level that is higher than the national average. In fact, there is research evidence that as Latter-day Saints become more educated, they are more likely to be active Church participants, a trend opposite what seems to be found elsewhere. [Source]
  • Self magazine has repeatedly ranked Provo and Orem, Utah as the number 1 or 2 healthiest city in the country for women. The article said that the Mormon influence is the reason women in Provo experience such low incidents of cancer, smoking, drinking, violence, depression, etc. [Source]
  • Over 70,000 members volunteer each year at their own expense to serve for 18 to 24 months in humanitarian efforts, Church service assignments, and full-time missionary service throughout the world. [Source]
  • There is strong emphasis on self-reliance and a solid work ethic. We encourage active involvement in our communities and in providing service to others. The Church continues to donate substantial money, goods, and services to humanitarian causes around the globe [Source], including untold hours of labor donated by members to assist in disaster cleanup [e.g. Source about hurricane Katrina] and relief [e.g. Source about working with Muslims in the Middle East crisis relief].Humanitarian services
  • In March 2001, President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of the Perpetual Education Fund to provide members in developing countries with opportunities to gain education and training which lead to employment opportunities in their own countries. Within months of being announced members had donated millions to fund this effort. [Source]
  • I have found so much to respect in most (all though not all) of the Mormon’s that I have met. I am amazed by the time and interest that so many of my teachers and leaders have spent in service to me and others. [Link to listen to recent talks given by leaders of the Church]

Hawaii temple
Well, I hope this entry came across as I intended. It represents some of my personal observations and experiences. I have spent some time studying many religions, and I am fascinated by the topic. For anyone interested in a safe, non-confrontational discussion about any religion, I am open to it.

 

Some additional links for anyone who is interested:

Day of Defense – Completing a Doctoral Dissertation in Finland

Day of Defense – Completing a Doctoral Dissertation in Finland

Yesterday was my friend Mikko’s turn to sweat, although he handled everything quite elegantly (I think that is the right word).

Whereas in the U.S. we have 5 committee members that approve our initial dissertation proposal and then they are also the same ones in our defense to ask us the tough questions, it is done differently here in Finland.

There is a knowledgeable “Opponent” who must come from a different university, and frequently from a different country. Mikko’s distinguished Opponent was Prof. Seugnet Blignaut from the University of the North West, South Africa.

Mikko's dissertation defense audience

The formalities are taken care of (welcoming the Opponent, the audience, and the Custos – or custodian of the event) and then Mikko introduces his research to the audience, which was nearly 100 people (including even a former Finnish ambassador to Tanzania, and the Provost of the school in Iringa, Tanzania, where he did his research) – all who have access to a copy of his dissertation before they come.

The Opponent then stands and begins by introductions. But the niceties only last so long. Soon questions were revealed about everything from the research design to the validity of the results to the intended future actions. I thought the Opponent actually did a great job at simply highlighting what good research is and pointing to some of the weaknesses in this particular study, giving Mikko a fair chance to address them.Mikko's dissertation defense

After the question and answer exchange (which I think seemed to last about an hour in this case), the Opponent decides if the answers suffice, and then immediately stood to the pulpit again and makes a recommendation (in this case) to pass the defendant. (In the U.S. the defendant has to leave while the 5 committee members confer with each other what their action will be.)

Then the Custos opens it up so anyone in the audience can ask questions. In this case, quite a few did ask questions, including me. I was told that it is Finnish tradition to invite anyone who asks questions to the formal evening party (called the karoukka), and that it is also custom for the person to decline the initiation out of politeness.

Mikko Defense party

Well, I accepted the invitation anyway. 🙂 But I figured since he had already given me a written invitation and a map to the location, it was probably OK. Seeing that I had my name assigned to a place to sit, I felt more confident that I did not make a mistake in attending 🙂 The karoukka is supposedly in honor of the opponent, but in reality most of the speeches are about the soon-to-be-doctor (who is not “Dr.” until after the next faculty meeting). The food was great, the speeches were interesting, and the whole event was as enjoyable as it was enlightening. There is no graduation ceremony for him, but in four years he will have a “promotion” ceremony where he can receive his hat and his sword (should he want to purchase them for himself).

I have a lot more that I could say about his research (which dealt with the contextualizing of basic ICT curriculum for Tanzania), and about a conversation I had with his Opponent following the event, but since this entry is already so long, I will refrain.

Congratulations Mikko! (Now maybe you have time to go running with me again.)

For anyone that might know more than me about this, did I miss describing anything important in the formalities of the proceedings?