Saturday, October 10, 2015

The truth is sometimes stranger than a teenage boy's sarcasm

As I have mentioned before, our geography teacher (in the USSR) once gave us the following speech:

"Many people complain that we don't have enough trousers. Trousers, however, are not important. They, like all the other textiles, are light industry. What's really important is the heavy industry, like iron and coal, so that we can produce enough tanks and win in Afghanistan."

"I think trousers are a lot more useful than Afghanistan," said one kid who didn't have much sense of self-preservation. "Why did we invade Afghanistan anyway? Do they," he added hopefully, "maybe have trousers?"

Anyway, today I started reading Svetlana Alexievich's Zinc Boys - a collection of interviews with soldiers and civilian employees who were sent to Afghanistan in the eighties, and the family members of the ones who didn't make it back. And yes, it turns out that they did in fact have trousers, in a much greater variety than Russians at the time, and that people who were returning to the USSR were bringing with them lots of clothes and electronics (such as tape recorders and VCRs) that they couldn't get in the USSR. A couple of interviewees specifically mentioned the shortage of swimming trunks in the USSR at the time, and how they just had to bring them from Afghanistan.

I still suspect that it would have been more efficient to produce trousers instead of tanks under the circumstances.

Friday, September 04, 2015

What the hell are we doing?

The conversation about asylum seekers is getting more and more emotional on both sides, as the bodies are piling up. I am not much of a psychologist, but I suspect that part of what is making people scream so loudly is that it's getting quite clear that the old "nobody there is in real need of help anyway" and, on the other side, "we gotta help everyone who needs help" are not working anymore: there are obviously lots of people really in need of help, and we just as obviously cannot help them all. All that can be discussed at this point is numbers, which kind of takes all fun away from an ideological debate, and pisses off both sides.

But yes, lots of people are trying to get to the EU and apply for asylum. And no, for the most part we cannot help them where they are. In the places overrun by ISIS, for example, "helping them where they are" would, I am afraid, involve a summary execution of all the members of ISIS, which is rather expensive, and likely to produce a lot of innocent victims if done by carpet bombing.

I am looking at all this, and I am wondering: what the fuck are we doing? I don't even mean that we are taking too many, or too few: how are we going about it, and who gets selected?

Seriously, this makes no sense at all: we (Europe) build fences and do everything we can in order not to let asylum seekers into the EU. Then after some of them do get into the EU, we have to take the applications from all of those, and in the first country they arrive to (I can see how Italy and Greece might be a bit pissed off by this system, and we would be too if the eastern neighbor suddenly started producing refugees). Then the applications are considered, hopefully to the best of the officials' ability, and their ability is not all that good: it's hard to say who is a criminal, it's hard to say who is a terrorist, it's sometimes even hard to say who is who and who is from where. But then, after an application has been approved, we are not gonna kick the person out no matter what kind of criminal he or she has turned out to be.

What is the sense of all of this? We are actively selecting the people who can get to Europe in something that doesn't deserve to be called a boat, and can afford to pay the smugglers. I totally think that both young men, and people who have money can be just as worthy of asylum as for example poor old women, but is there any point in actively selecting them, and in the process encouraging lots of people to a) risk their lives while crossing the seas on god-knows-what, and b) give their money to the people who provide that unseaworthy transportation?

Can't we, like, decide on how many we can take, handle the applications elsewhere, and then let the winners of that lottery arrive on a proper ferry with proper papers, while turning the users of Oh-Shit-The-Raft-Is-Leaking Sea Transportation away on arrival? People are not dumb (well, most aren't), and if rafting over the Mediterranean is not occasionally rewarded with a residence permit they are likely to stop doing it.

And please, can we send the seriously criminal ones back? On the Oh-Shit-The-Raft-Is-Leaking Sea Transportation, if needed. Yeah, the transportation might take a downward direction, quite literally. Yeah, they might be subjected to inhumane treatment there. They will probably have to take a number and stand in line for that along with half of the population, many of whom we have turned away to begin with, but anyway... Tough shit. They could've thought about it before robbing or raping somebody. No matter how many or how few refugees we decide to take, all the refugee places should be reserved for regular people trying to resettle and live a normal life, not for somebody wanted for terrorism in Iraq or armed robbery in Finland.

We can fight about the numbers later, but can we put some sense in the procedure first, and fast?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Abu Hamza (a repost)

Abu Hamza just got a life sentence. In honor of this I decided to repost my own poem from 7 years ago. Turned out to be kind of prophetic.

I am Abu Hamza, a Muslim cleric
I used to preach in Finsbury Park mosque,
My sermons were a little bit barbaric
But I delivered them with mighty force.

I'm all for the equality of sexes
And polyandry I don't mind a bit.
I married one of my bigamic exes
So I could get a residence permit.

When I was young I used to be a bouncer,
But they decided that I was too dumb,
And it's more fun to be a doom announcer
So I became a radical imam.

Osama is my most-admired hero,
I tried to give a hand to Taleban,
I lost both hands and eye, but kept my beard,
And all the body parts that make a man.

In Britain I became a famous preacher,
My name is always mentioned in the news,
In my sermons the most important feature
Is killing of the kuffar and the Jews.

A Jew-free world would be a great improvement,
Behind all evil there is some Jew.
They also guide the planetary movement
And nowadays my bowel movements, too.

Please kill the unbelievers when you see them,
With bombs, or guns, or poison or a word,
For any reason or without a reason,
The unbelievers should be put to sword.

But then came the police, and then they told me
That murder is a thing I shouldn't preach.
How dare those kuffar to try to scold me?
I want respect for my freedom of speech.

The court convicted me of the incitement
As poor man, I never stood a chance,
I could not fight this horrible indictment
Though state gave million pounds for my defense.

And now the state has noticed I'm not poor
And is demanding back the million quid,
They froze my jail allowance to be sure,
And found some of the money that I hid.

My life is full of misery and anguish,
I'm serving seven years in Belmarsh,
In British prison I don't want to languish,
The kuffar justice is unduly harsh.

Americans want Brits to extradite me,
They'll put me in the Supermax for life.
One thought that really does not delight me:
I might become the Unabomber's wife.

I used to think that I was very clever
And lead my students to the life of crime,
But now I'll have to stay with them forever
And hear their bullshit all the time.

Americans! I really hope you will
Show mercy to a person whom you hate:
It sure is unusual and cruel
To put one in a cell with Richard Reid.

But in the meanwhile in the British prison
I realized that my nurse is a poof.
They surely had some ungodly reason
To let a guy like that under this roof.

He probably gets totally excited
Each time he wipes my handsome manly ass,
And as a Muslim I should be entitled
To have him fired or at least harassed.

Gay people are a vile abomination
But even though I spit and scream and curse
In this atrocious godless kuffar nation
They won't assign to me another nurse.

At least I can refuse the nursing service
And try to wipe my anus on my own.
Oh shit, my hooks are stuck, I'm getting nervous!
Oh God! Wrong move! Right hook stuck in the bone!

It is too late, but better late then never -
Oh dear Lord, my ass is ripped to shred -
Allah, please do me an enormous favor:
Insert some common sense into my head.

We, Joe III, don't feel like getting emails from our subjects

Decided to contact my House Representative, Joe Kennedy. Haven't even written the actual email yet, but decided to find the contact info anyway.

Found it. The first thing it says:

"Regrettably, I am unable to reply to any email from constituents outside of the district. Please enter your zip code to verify residency and go to the next step:"

Several questions:

1. Does the guy mean that he only accepts email from his own constituents (I thought the word "constituent" already implied that), that he only accepts email from his constituents who really reside in his district, or only from his constituents who happen to be in his district physically at the moment?

2. Considering that nobody has ever demanded a 9-digit zip code from me before, why do I have to supply it just in order to be given my representative's email address?

3. Has the guy ever heard of an ancient technique called lying?

Maybe I am overreacting, but somehow I get a feeling that addressing this guy with an expat issue will be like talking to a wall.

Friday, January 09, 2015

People, including expats, should know their heroes.

Charles Rangel, D-NY, one of the two cosponsors of the FATCA bill.

That's the man most concerned about Americans living and/or banking abroad and not paying taxes. Well, I am glad that for once a politician is legislating on something he is an expert on.

A few years ago the man got caught renting 4 adjacent rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan. Those are meant to be primary residences, preferably for people of limited means. I don't know how he ever explained his burning need for having 4 primary residences.

At the same time he filed a homestead tax break on his house in DC. AFAIK these are also meant for primary residences.

In 2008 Rangel totally forgot to mention his rental income from an overseas villa to IRS. Oops. Got caught.

Another thing he forgot was to disclose half of his assets and a bit of his income to Congress.

Property taxes on a couple of his New Jersey properties also got forgotten. Shit happens, you know.

A bit later he happened to violate the House gift rules by accepting trips to the Caribbean.

The ethics trial of the House ethics committee found him guilty in 11 out of the 13 original charges.

And yes, all of the above happened just after, just before, and right during the time when he was cosponsoring the bill that would interfere with the banking of several million Americans so severely that many of them would be abandoned by their banks, just to make sure that they are not hiding something.

A question to New Yorkers: why is this ape still in Congress? Seriously, even among the candidates there must be somebody with more sense and fewer ethics violation.

Important information for Jews

"The offering, sale and/or distribution of many of the products or services described on this website are not intended to any Jews. If you intend to obtain any product or service from OurBank that is described on this web site, you must first inform OurBank whether you are a Jew.

This website and its respective contents do not constitute an offer or invitation to purchase or subscribe for any securities or a solicitation of any offer to sell any securities to Jews. Any brokerage and investment advisory services described herein are not intended for Jews. Furthermore, any solicitation on this web site of banking services (including accepting and/or soliciting deposits), insurance services, mortgage and/or consumer lending services or credit card services is not intended for Jews..."

That's what I just got from my bank. No, the word is not "Jews", but it describes a population group to which I belong. The only reason I withheld the name of the bank is that many banks are displaying the same text, and they have not written it themselves. The word is "US persons", and the guilty parties in this case are the Senate and the House, with the special honorary mentions for  Max Baucus (D–Montana) and Charles Rangel (D–NY), the authors of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009.

(US persons is defined as all US citizens and permanent residents resident in the US, some US citizens resident abroad - they are not saying who, and whether this actually applies to me, and any entity organized or incorporated under the laws of the United States).

This particular law has raised the US citizenship renunciations by a factor of six, which should say something to our Congress, or would have if it weren't, as an old joke says, the opposite of progress.

I am certainly not planning to renounce mine. Seriously, I'd rather vote for Mr. Rangel with a very big cactus, applied anally. But the first thing that comes to mind is banning the population register from identifying me as a US person to anyone, and lying to all the Finnish (and other non-American) financial institutions that I ever deal with that I am not in fact a US person. Funny thing - so far I have always been in compliance with all the US tax laws. Will there be a day when I choose not to report an account just because doing so would "out" me as an American to the bank that holds the account, and cause them to close that account? If that day comes, I will totally do that without feeling guilty in the least.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin, movies 2 and 3 (spoilers)

Lots of spoilers. OTOH: I wouldn't recommend these movies to the people who haven't read the manga anyway. The whole trilogy relies very heavily on knowing more than the movies tell you. The movies are great if you have read the manga; not sure how they compare to the anime.

Saw Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno and Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends. For some reason I'd assumed that the first of these is the Kyoto arc of the manga, and the second is the revenge arc. This is not the case: they are both the Kyoto arc, and are meant to be watched together. Kyoto Inferno ends in a cliffhanger - one that's not in the manga. Kyoto Inferno is paced quite slowly; The Legend Ends is full of action.

Hmm, does that mean they are gonna do the revenge arc sometime later? I certainly hope so.

The good things: the casting. Everyone is very much in the spirit of the manga, and everyone looks just right. Except, maybe, that Aoshi is way older than he should be. The guy (Yusuke Iseya) is still very much in the spirit of the manga, though, and does his best with whatever the screenwriters have done with his character. The acting is good all over. The whole thing is visually beautiful. And the fighting, wow!

I can't remember any other movie where you have 4 heroes (well, "heroes" is a bit stretching it) fighting the villain and not the other way around. Unlike the movie villains our heroes figure out fairly quickly that it's not a good idea to take turns, and they attack the villain all at once. And they still have a fairly hard time.

The bad things: pretty much everything they did to the plot.

First of all, Aoshi. In the movie Aoshi a) has no logical reason to hate Kenshin at all, b) has been fucked in the head since the beginning of Meiji rule, which is like 10 years, and c) appears to have been insane to begin with. It is quite unclear why he just started to look for Kenshin now, and why Misao likes him (he's been insane since Misao was what, five?).

Second, the government. In order to save its face it does a number of things none of which is likely to result in any face-saving.

Third, "the ball of stupid". In the end, everyone appears to have caught some brain disease causing them to make tactically unsound decisions. It does work out for the good guys, because the bad guys are similarly afflicted.

Still, had a good time and gonna buy the DVD. So there.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Orthodox larps for secular Jews

Last summer I was visiting a synagogue in Italy, in a city with a very small Jewish community. The synagogue was lovely, and so was the lady who was guiding the tour. The synagogue was also very obviously Orthodox - you can tell that from having separate sections for men and for women. The lady appeared to be considerably less Orthodox, although with the modern Orthodox you can't always tell.

The description of the local Jewish life was something I've heard before: a small community, the people are very secular, the synagogue is "of course" Orthodox, the young generation doesn't give a fuck, the leaders of the community are concerned.

"For fuck's sake," I thought. "Doesn't she see how those things are related, and why can't the so-called community leaders buy a fucking clue?" I did not say that out loud: first of all, she was a very nice lady whom I didn't want to upset, and second, the community leaders wouldn't recognize a fucking clue if it bit them right on the ass.

I've been on vacation in Italy 5 times. I haven't seen a single obviously Orthodox Jew over there. I've lived in Helsinki for 18 years now. I've seen an obviously Orthodox Jew once. I think he was the guy who runs the local Chabad house. This probably means that there is another one (Chabad houses are usually run by couples). The rabbi of the local synagogue makes three, if he is really Orthodox. I wonder if those guys even have enough for a minyan (you need 10; if you are Orthodox, you need 10 men).

Seriously: why? In the USA, they have different synagogues for the beard and wig brigade, for the ham and cheese brigade, and everyone in between. Nobody in their right mind would think of establishing an Orthodox synagogue and expecting the local young secular Jews to show up there and larp the Orthodox. I think everyone involved would be rather surprised if anyone did. So why is Europe so full of Orthodox synagogues run for (and, I suspect, often by) the secular folk, up to the point of asking said secular folk to show their dicks, if any? And, more importantly, why is anyone surprised when the young (OK, let's face it, "young" in the sense of secularization of Jews in Europe starts with my grandparents' generation and possibly even earlier) people fail to come to this badly written larp and go to some crayfish party instead?

The only explanation that I can think of is that somebody out there is really not in his or her right mind.

Putin-setä asuu Venäjällä

Putin-setä asuu Venäjällä.
Sieltä on niin lyhyt matka helvettiin,
Kohta Putin-setä
on samassa paikassa kuin setä Lenin
ja setä Ho Chi Minh.
Putunilla on niin suuri otsa,
siihen mahtuu Krim, Ukraina,
tiikerit ja kurjetkin.
Putin-setä ei hymyile,
kun on jo käyttänyt liikaa
rahaa botoksiin.
Putin-setä asuu Venäjällä,
ja sitä ei kutsuta kylään
edes Vietnamiin.
Hän rakastaa kaikkia,
ja häntä rakastaa
vain setä Chavez
ja setä Ho Shi Mihn.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

RxJava on Android

Having never put a single devil into hell before, the girl found the first experience a little painful.

I am still not sure it was worth the trouble, but it appears to work fine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dear Lord,

If you have any sense of justice at all, please make a 10-meter saguaro cactus grow out of Putin's chair, and right up his ass, right as he speaks to the Russian parliament. This will be a most impressive display of your might, much better than burning bushes. Besides, a burning bush is not very well visible through the pants.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Dear Russian leaders

I am not your citizen. I have never even seen your country since its establishment in 1991, and I would like to keep it that way. However, I do speak the same language, and intend to continue doing so, and I am starting to feel your undying love for me. Again.

I was born in the USSR, lived there for 16 years, and, like all the citizens, was very much loved by the authorities. This love was expressed in not allowing people to leave, or allowing it only with great difficulty. I think that if you express such a love for your partner in a civilized country, it is called unlawful restraint and punished by several years of imprisonment; the Soviet authorities, however, wrote their own laws and had nobody who could put them in prison where they so obviously belonged.

Eventually we did manage to leave, and the Soviet authorities had better things to do that loving us at a distance - after all, they had all of Eastern Europe to love.

In 1989 the Eastern block started disintegrating, and in 1991 the Soviet Union fell apart, and all the citizens held in the country by authorities' love finally had the opportunity to leave. For a while Russia had other things to do than to express forcible unrequited love to people beyond its borders. Now, however, you are at it again.

Your president just said that you consider it your right to protect the Russian-speaking people beyond your borders. Yes, that means me. Now face it: every single Russian speaker who left Russia and lives as a member of a minority beyond your borders is there because he or she, for one reason or another, chose not to live as member of the majority within your borders. And every single Russian speaker who was born outside of Russia in the other parts of the former Soviet Union and would actually prefer to live as a part of a Russian majority, is still outside Russia because you did not make him or her welcome. It's your country, of course, and you don't have to make them welcome unless you want to, but you appear to have a disturbing tendency to only welcome them when they come with their own land - or somebody else's.

You, of course, are not the only ones to have wanted to love and protect me when I had absolutely no desire to be loved or protected. Several times in my life I have encountered men who wanted to love and protect me in the same way. They had to be convinced otherwise, usually with the help of heavy or sharp objects. When a guy comes up to me in a street at night, saying things like "nice tits" or "wanna fuck" or "I have a huge dick", I am not particularly concerned, because they usually just annoy me for a while and go away. When a strange man comes up to me and says that he would like to walk me home and protect me, I immediately start looking for something heavy, because these situations have always ended in violence.

There are two key differences here. First of all, those men were strangers, and you are publicly known. Unfortunately whatever is known about you does not work in your favor at all. Second, those men's expressed desire to protect me makes me look for an empty bottle or suchlike. When you say you want to protect me, I feel like looking for a good-sized nuclear arsenal.

Anyway - on some level I wish I could really share my feelings, but for that I would need the aforementioned nuclear arsenal, which I don't currently have, and besides it would hurt a lot of innocent civilians who haven't even voted for you. So, could you just please bugger off together with your love, and leave us in peace? Preferably before somebody's feelings get expressed by weapons.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Monday, November 04, 2013

A new use for an old exit visa

A little while ago I checked out the web page of the Russian consulate in NYC, and found the following text:

"Applicants who used to be citizens of the USSR or of the Russian Federation and then emigrated from the USSR or from Russia must submit one of the documents which confirms that they are no longer citizens of the Russian Federation (so called "Visa to Israel" or stamp in their passport saying that they left for "permanent residence abroad" before the 6th of February, 1992 or official document certifying that their Russian citizenship was renounced), otherwise the applications will not be accepted. A naturalization certificate is to be submitted also."

The reason I checked that page out in the first place was that an acquaintance was denied a tourist visa because her current last name happened to be different from her last name when she left the USSR in 1970-something. They figured she must be a spy or something.

The bottom line: in order to visit Russia as a tourist, I would have to show them the exit visa that the Soviet Union issued me 25 years ago, a piece of paper looking approximately like this: The text I quoted above appears on so many consulate pages in so many countries that I assume the requirement is universal. One of the consulates explains that in the absence of such a document a person would have to apply to have their citizenship or lack thereof confirmed, which costs money and takes from one to six months.

I probably even have that exit visa. Or my parents have it, somewhere. OTOH, London would be a perfectly nice place for my next vacation, and British officials, for all their tendency to ask weird questions, have never asked me to prove that I am not their citizen before letting me into the country.

Yeah, I know that "bugger them, I am not going there" sounds somewhat ridiculous from a person who wasn't going there in the first place.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Allies who listen to each other

In a 2008 speech in Berlin Obama told Germans that allies should listen to each other. Well, I am glad that at least some of our politicians keep at least some of their campaign promises. Although, judging from the Germans' reaction, I don't suppose they'd realized that he meant it that literally.

 Now the media is speculating whether or not Obama knew about the surveillance, and the White House is not admitting anything either way. I can sort of understand them. "I didn't inhale" sounds kind of stupid, and "I did inhale" is somewhat embarrassing.

 What are the implications of Obama not knowing about the surveillance (which, IMO, is about as likely as Clinton not knowing about what Monica Lewinski was doing with his dick)? Either the man is (possibly intentionally) stupid and doesn't know where his surveillance data comes from, or he just doesn't care, or the NSA is doing whatever it wants and doesn't inform the president at all, or share the surveillance data with him. None of that sounds particularly good.