Thursday, October 11, 2018

Manyparts changed. Car works.

Intake manifold sealants changed, valve sealants changed, fuel injection relay changed, crankshaft position sensor cable changed, idle speed controller cleaned, and winter tires put in, 510€. Runs, at least at the moment.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Temporary replacement car

Temporary replacement car, because Volvo is still giving trouble. Specifically, it is giving the trouble that in the repair shop it is not giving the trouble that left me on the road. They are going to replace manyparts in case it helps.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rådhuset metro station

What a wonderful metro station in Stockholm. Even if these are fake, they are nice...

All urban exploration articles can be found from Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Banff Mountain Movie Festival 2018

Banff mountain film screening @ Stockholm.

I missed the Helsinki screening that I usually go to, due to a business trip. Fortunately, the next week I was in Stockholm for work and was able to visit on the screenings there.

Great pieces, all of the movies that I saw. I remember best the movie "Johanna", which is about a Finnish free diver who likes to swim under the ice without scuba gear... And the movie "Into Twin Galaxies", which is about dragging kayaks under the ice field in Greenland.

And here is my landing picture to Arlanda that morning:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Amaranten Sauna

In the 1990s I used to spend a lot of time at the Amaranten hotel in Stockholm. It has been a long time... but now I visited it again. It is still quite a decent hotel, nice rooms. However, the sauna ... leaves something to be desired.

The Amaranten is today called Clarion Hotel Amaranten.

On a scale of 0 to 10, this sauna is maybe a 1 or 2.

It was so mild that one couldn't really get sweaty at all. The floor was covered on the other side with maybe 5-7 cm of water. 

There was a bucket of water to throw to the heater, but it was outside the sauna door, partially filled with stearin (!), and the tool to throw water was a plastic drinking cup.

Pool had been covered and panelled over.

Yuck. I think I'll stay in other hotels from now on, the saunas as such a central requirement for me.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. All sauna and pool photos have been taken with permission, after closing times, and/or when there are no other customers.

More multi-flash practice in caves

The Finnish Caving Association was having a course on basic caving. I've been on that course... but it seemed like a fun thing to do and a nice visit to Turku. And I ended up doing more practice with cave photography using multiple flashes and radio triggers.

My previous attempt was not entirely successful, the back light not being very visible. I think I got the idea now, having increased the flash level on the back flash -- even on a small area and with just half a meter distance, I used 1/4 or 1/2 flash output on a Nikon SB-910, and the front/side flash was set at 1/8 on a Nikon SB-25.  For bigger spaces I may actually need more powerful equipment.

The Nikon flashes that I have are around GN 30, whereas the flash we used in the bigger caves in Austria had a GN of over 100.

Looking forward to trying this technique out even further. But it is not easy, the technology is just a tiny part of the issue. Figuring out what makes artistic sense, where is a suitable place to take a reasonable photo, coordinating everything so that there's someone who is exactly at the right place, has the right expression that supports the photo setup, and so on is hard!

I was also inspired by two other things on this trip, first off, fed up with garbage on the cave sites, I decided to bring all that I could find back to a trash can and do it on all my future caving trips as well. And secondly, we got to witness Dare Talvitie's new book's (Valkea Liekki) release event. Looking forward to reading it!

Here is Ralf and Jukka holding lectures:

Here are some of the pictures taking with the multiple flash setup:

And here we are practising chimney technique on the crack next to the cave. And Ralf levitating.

This article has also appeared at TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. And all caving-related articles are of course found at! Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Garbage caving

*Every* cave that I go to in Finland seems to have at least one beer can. Lets clean them up!

Join me in bringing the junk out. I started out by taking stuff out of the Luolavuoren luola or the Cave  Mountain Cave in Turku, as we were visiting it on a caving course.

It isn't that complicated. Bring a small bag on every trip to a cave, and bring out the trash you see.

Besides the ugly garbage, I was inspired in part to do this by the example set by the Swedish Plogga effort which was talked about at the Banff mountain film festival that I visited in Stockholm last week. Why not clean up garbage and other broken things when you see them? It is up to all of us.

This article has also appeared at TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. And all caving articles can of course be found at! Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

I guess I'll have my call here

I guess I will have my conference call from here, until the tow truck arrives.

Made it 800m from home no problems, and then... I have electricity but engine doesn't run. 

And people stopping to tell me that this is a bad place to park. I know.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

I'm not starting -day

"I'm not starting" -day.

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Largest indoor ski hall... somewhere between North Korea and Siberia

I'm stuck at a meeting in northern China, somewhere between North Korea and Siberia. Abandoned concrete housing projects fill the rainy horizon in this city that no one seems to have heard of. But this does not mean that the locals cannot have nice things. Or me. World's largest indoor ski hall, for instance?

This really is the last place one would think such a construction happens. But it is true, arguably the world's best and nicest indoor ski hall is in Harbin, China. The ski hall is also the largest in the world, as certified by the Guinness World of Records certificate.

The Wanda Ski Park, a stylish multi-level and multi-piste ski hall that rises above a huge mall and the darkness of the city's evening, painting the scenery with light emanating from the video screens covering the hall's walls.

The setup of the ski hall is a basic design of a huge, rising structure. It is so big that there are three slopes side by side, with the intermediate-level skier's slope dropping off more slowly than the other two and then turning back to bring the skiers to the starting point. Nice design, catering for different steepness-levels!

There are altogether 6 ski lifts, two efficient chairlifts and four magic carpets. In addition to the three main slopes there is a beginning area that is at the bottom and slopes only moderately.

The design and attention to detail is very good. Most other ski halls have unrealistic mountain scenery or colourful advertisements on walls. At Wanda Ski Park the overall design is white, with tasteful mountain scenery and light-coloured advertisements. The resulting feel is incredibly good, making the place feel even larger than it is.

When I first looked down from the top, I thought they had painted a picture of a castle at the bottom end. But the castle is actually a large, real building housing a cafeteria and a number of ice sliding tracks.

I realise people may not believe me, but I didn't know about the skiing until a day before my trip to the meeting started. I was in the meeting to make sure 5G specifications are in sync with a particular piece of security technology. A small thing, but for some reason it has been tough going... how can agreeing that two specs need to be in sync take 10 months and counting? Fortunately, in the end I found people from other implementation teams who obviously also struggled with the same detailed questions. What counts is that the code actually works.

I had some trouble finding a time slot to visit this place, as the meeting filled the days and my evenings were mostly filled conference calls in the European time zone. But I finally managed to find time one evening for a visit.

And when the week was over, it turned out that my flights were about to be delayed so much that I would have been stranded at Beijing airport. I opted for moving my flights a day ahead instead. This would mean that I'd be stuck a long day on non-aisle tourist class seats at row 50, on a day that would be my birthday. But, the plus side was that I'd have an extra day in Harbin. I spent it walking the city's temples, visit a "cave" bookstore, two visits to the sauna and pool. And yes, even more skiing!

More pictures from the slopes:

Beginner area and the castle:


This article has also appeared in TGR. Tämä artikkeli löytyy myös suomeksi Relaasta. And all skiing articles can be found from!

Photos and videos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Not really a cave nor could I get in...

Every time I go on a business trip, I try to look for places that I could either ski or go caving in. In Harbin, China, the language and Internet information differences were too big for me to figure out if there were any caves that I could visit. However, there was a reportedly nice bookstore that was built to resemble a cave.

Unfortunately, the bookstore was closed on the (holiday period) day that we visited there. Oh well. Not a cave, and not even getting in. The lamest work trip caving experience so far?

We visited the cave bookstore on a morning after a big, big meal and many refreshments. Here's one of the two whole lambs that we ate:

So I have to say we were a tad tired. But the meal and the drinking was not the only reason for this, for I had spent the night packing and the stressing out what to do with my flight tickets, as the Air China flights suddenly were 3 hours delayed... making me miss my connection. I ended up sleeping maybe three or four hours altogether that night, spending an hour and half on the Air China customer service line, and occasionally glancing at the sunrise:

This article has also appeared at the TGR site. And, of course, all caving related stories can be found from the site! Photos in this article are (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko and Alf Zugenmaier.

Sauna in Harbin

I was on a business trip in Harbin, China, at a decent hotel, the Songbei Shangri-La. It turned out that they had a VERY nice pool and sauna area.

Usually, it is difficult for me to find decent saunas outside Finland. There are some exceptions; in Austria and Switzerland they can be amazing. And I have not been to Russia, but I hear that they have a bit of the same sauna culture as in Finland. Harbin is a short drive away from Russia's Siberia. Perhaps the Russian culture influence has impacted the quality of saunas in Harbin as well?

In any case, a great sauna. Hot, 85 degrees, with a water bucket. Pool was quite good too, an infinity pool on the third floor of the hotel, overlooking nearby skyscrapers.

But otherwise the location of the Shangri-La left something to be desired; the only food source anywhere near was the hotel restaurant. I ate the whole week there. Good food, actually, but too much is too much :-)



This article has also appeared at the TGR site. And of course, all sauna and swimming articles can be from and sites!

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved. All pool and sauna photos have been taken with permission and when there were no others present or when the facility closed.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

St. Peter's Basilica

Janne and I visited St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.Wonderful structure, and great to see the not-for-us gardens of the Vatican from above. Would be wonderful to visit. But can you ski in the Vatican?

If it ever snowed, and it probably sometimes has or will, there'd be enough slope somewhere in the garden. But there's no access!

The other option is the rock slope just in front the main presentation platform of the Vatican:

This looks definitely skiable on a rainy day and with plastic skis. However, I don't think they would like anyone to go and ski there. Unless there's a big mass for the religious skiers some day. While waiting for that, I don't think I can collect the Vatican to my skied countries.

Other pictures:

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Vienna Flak Tower

Is it an aquarium or a construct of the evil nazi regime? Well, both...

I have previously visited the nazi flak towers in Berlin and Hamburg, and while picking Tor up from the airport on our way to EuroSpeleo, we had a chance to look at one of the flak towers in Vienna's Esterhazypark.

The tower in Esterhazypark is the easiest and possibly to access and possibly the only one where one can go inside. It is a fire control tower ("L-tower"), however, so while it is high, its footprint is not as large as in the gun towers that I had seen in Berlin and Hamburg.

The tower has been converted to an aquarium and there's a remarkable climbing wall on the outside of this 54 meter high tower. Somewhere in the middle there's a small cafeteria and at the top there's a nice bar and terraces. The conversion to the aquarium has brought two huge glass extensions on both sides of the building that now house some of the crocodiles and birds.

I also bought a book about the archeology of the Vienna tower. Unfortunately, it is only available in German. I've progressed two pages into it so far but the plan is to learn the language through the use of Google translate until I remember all the words :-) Achtung, Ich kann Bunker-Deutsch sprechen! 

Location: N 48.1976 E 16.3528.


The climbing wall:

Crocodile-aquarium from below:



Nice cuts:

From the top down:

This article has also been published at TGR. And all urban exploration articles can be found at!

Photos (c) 2018 by Jari Arkko. All rights reserved.