My name is Isko Salminen.
I'm an entrepreneur and a web developer living in Helsinki.

The absurdity of toilet paper

For certain reasons I've recently spend a lot of time thinking about toilet paper and the reasoning why we in western countries use it. The more I keep thinking about it, the less it keeps making sense to me.

Here's why.

When I was twenty-something and traveling around Asia, I remember the first time I happened upon a toilet with no toilet paper, just a water hose and a bucket of water. I remember thinking "how uncivilised, they don't even have toilet paper here". After that I was carrying a roll of toilet paper in my backpack everywhere I went, as a some sort of token of being civilised.

Then in 2005, I was studying in Shanghai for awhile and while there, happened to read a book about the cultural differences between East and West. The book was written for western business travelers coming to China and it used stories to highlight the sometimes funny differences between these two cultures.

One of the stories in the book particularly struck a chord with me and I still keep thinking about it every time I sit on the toilet. The story was about the use of toilet paper and how absurd it is to use paper for, well, cleaning after the 'number two'.

The story, as I remember, went something like this:

A western business man is traveling around rural China for the first time. On his first day of travels, he happens upon a small village where he and his entourage stop for a dinner. Afterwards, the business man goes to look for a toilet and the restaurant owner, an old man, takes him behind the restaurant to show him where the toilets are.

Upon entering the stall the business man sees there is no toilet paper, just a bucket of water. He goes back out to find the old man, and with the translators help, comments about the lack of toilet paper:

Business man: "How uncivilised are you here? No toilet paper? How do you expect me to wipe my behind after I've done my business in there?"

The old man calmly listens to the translator and then explains:

The old man: "If you would fall face first into a pile of shit, which one would you choose: a paper towel or a bucket full of water?"

***

If you're wondering about the book, I think the name of it was something like "Why Chinese mice don't eat cheese and other cultural phenomenons". Sadly I can't seem to find it anywhere online, and I've lost my copy of the book. I might also remember the title wrongly so that might be why it won't come up in any searches. But anyway, if you happen to find this book somewhere, buy it and read it. It's well worth the read! And send me a note about the title!

And if you're wondering what Chinese mice do eat? Well it's rice. Apparently mice don't like cheese because it's bad for them.


Bacon flavoured mussels in cider, with garlic bread

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I love mussels. I really love all kinds of seafood, but mussels are something we haven't made that often at home. So to fix this, a few weeks ago we found a nice patch of fresh mussels and decided to make some.

For the recipe, instead of the classic white wine version, we wanted to try something different. I found one with some bacon in it and as you know, anything with bacon must be good, so we had to try it!

The ingredients:

  • 1kg of mussels (we used Blue Mussels)
  • 150g of smoked bacon, try to find the thickest slices you can
  • 150ml of good quality cider
  • A small bunch of fresh tarragon
  • A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
  • 2 gloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Loaf of quality rustic bread

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Put the bacon slices on a large pan and put it on medium-to-high heat (remember never to preheat a pan when cooking bacon). Use a large enough pan so that it can hold all the mussels later.

While your bacon is frying, check all the mussels. If any of them are open, give them a small tap and they should close. If not, you should throw these away as they are not good to eat.

Once your bacon is nice and crispy, pick up the slices and leave all the nice, juicy grease on the pan. Add the mussels on top the the bacon grease with 1 crushed garlic glove, all the cider and a nice lug of olive oil. Cover the pan with a lid and let them steam for a good 3 to 4 minutes, or until all the mussels have opened.

Make sure to shake the pan occasionally to spread the flavours nicely.

As the mussels are steaming, take out the bread and slice it into nice, thick slices. Put the slices on a grill or a toaster and let them warm up. Once they are nice and warm, rub a cut side of a garlic glove on both sides of each slice. Don't over do it as even a little bit of rubbing will give a nice taste. Drizzle them lightly with some olive oil.

When all the mussels have opened, transfer them to a large platter leaving all the juices behind in the pan. If any of the mussels have remained closed, throw those away as they are not good to eat.

Add the crème fraîche into the pan, stir, and let it come to boil. After it has bubbled for a few minutes, add most of the herbs (leave some for decorating), some of the bacon, taste and season with pepper. Stir the sauce a little and pour it over the mussels. Add the remaining herbs and bacon on top and you're done.

Don't let them sit for long as mussels are best while they are fresh from the pan.



How to watch Hulu and US Netflix outside of US

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Being a non-US citizen and a media consumer can sometimes be a little bit frustrating as many of the services are US-only. While I don't watch TV, I do enjoy following certain TV shows. Two of the best online services to watch TV shows and movies are Hulu and Netflix.

The problem: Hulu's only available for US citizens, and the Finnish version of Netflix is not even remotely up to par with the US version.

Enter Media Hint plug-in.

Watch Hulu.com

Just install the Media Hint browser plug-in (for Chrome or Firefox) and head over to Hulu.com. You need to create an account but this will give you access to all the free Hulu content. Just add all the shows you want to watch as favorites and they'll appear in your Queue for watching.

Sadly, if you wish to gain more access with Hulu+, you'll need an US credit card. Thankfully the free content is more than enough for me.

Watch US Netflix

Again, you need to have the Media Hint plug-in installed for your browser. You'll also need an Netflix account. As I'm subscribing to the Finnish Netflix, I already have an account. With the Media Hint plug-in installed, just point your browser to Netflix and you'll have the US content available to watch.

One thing to keep in mind is that this only works on your browser. So for example, if you use Apple TV to watch Netflix, it still shows you the non-US content. Also, for this same reason, Netflix won't sync watched items between your browser and other devices.


How to clean Trangia ruined by a dishwasher

Few weeks ago I was feeling lazy and instead of hand-washing my Trangia, I threw it in the dishwasher. Stupid me. If I’d only read the manual I would have know you’re not supposed to wash Trangia — or any other aluminium cookware — in the dishwasher as the detergents cause the aluminium to blacken and discolour.

Well my Trangia came out looking totally ruined.

After some frantic Googling I found there was a way to rescue the situation and bring back the bright aluminium colour without damaging the metal. Here's how:

  1. Find a large enough pot that fits the Trangia and fill it with enough water to submerge all the parts. Add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar per every litre of water and stir. I used freshly squeezed lemon juice.
  2. Bring the solution to boil and add the Trangia in separate pieces. Let it boil for at least 10 minutes. I found that for the harder stains it took closer to 15 minutes.
  3. Once you see most of the stains disappear, remove the Trangia from boiling water and use steel wool or similar to scrub and remove any remaining stains.
  4. Rinse and wash the Trangia thoroughly with clean water and dry with a towel.

This was kind of laborious but I was able to rescue my Trangia and remove most if not all of the discolouring and dark spots.

Lessons learned: do not wash aluminium cookware in the dishwasher and always read the manual.


2012 Christmas tree hunt

While going through photos from the past year, I also happened to find these ones from December 2012. We were on our annual Christmas tree hunt — just like we did this year — and I took these photos after my brother had cut down their Christmas tree.

It was a lot colder, and a lot snowier back then!

Sidenote: it's funny how old the camera design on iOS6 looks now only after such a short time.


Sipoonkorpi Christmas hike

Yesterday we had some downtime and, wanting to burn some extra calories from Christmas, decided to go for a quick day hike in Sipoonkorpi National Park. We got off to a late start but still decided to try to hike the 4,8km Kalkkiruukki nature trail.

By the time we got to the trailhead the sun was already going down and it was clear we would either have to hike an unknown trail in the dark, or come up with a new plan. As driving to the shorter trail would've cost us even more time, we decided to hike the trail for as long as we could and then turn around and try to reach the campfire site before dark.

My girlfriend got a pair of Meindl Island Lady hiking boots for Christmas and this was her first time trying them on. It was so cute watching her trying not to get her new shoes muddy and wet on the trail that was covered in mud and buddles.

I was trying to tell her that hiking boots are made to get dirty, but she still insisted going around every buddle and muddy area, to protect her new boots. I, on the other hand, was loving being knee deep in the mud.

As during the winter in Finland, the setting of sun is measured in minutes, if not in seconds, we soon found ourselves on the trail with the darkness creeping in. As we knew we didn't have a long way back, we stopped for a quick photoshoot using the Snow Peak's Mini Hozuki lantern as a light.

As I didn't bring a tripod, I was shooting handheld on a pretty slow shutter speeds, but I still think the images turned out great. It's in these kind of low light situations that I really love the in-body image stabilisation on my Olympus OM-D E-M5.

What little did we see of the Kalkkiruukki nature trail, it was easily one of our favourite trails in southern Finland. There is little to no crowd, at least compared to Nuuksio, and the trail runs through a beautiful forest and rocky landscape.

We're definitely going back!

Word of advice though: the terrain is a bit more demanding, and the trail is at times not well marked. 

Getting there

Outdoors.fi recommends leaving your car at the parking area at the yard of Trollberga Tractor Museum (map link) but we left our car at the end of Kalkkiuunintie, right were the trail begins (map link).