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.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back from the US

Back from Florida and Boston and NYC. Should really visit there more often. Yes, even Florida.

For the first time ever didn't go anywhere at all in Boston, just spent my time seeing people, and still didn't see everybody I wanted to see.

This was my first time in Florida, and it was quite lovely, much better than expected. They have sandy beaches, and warm sea, and little lizards, and iguanas, and weird-looking turtles, and weird-looking birds, and flying fish.

Like almost any American I occasionally have some grievances against the federal government, but I could never imagine that I'd add "they hid all the crocodiles and alligators in Florida" to the list. But they did. We didn't get to visit Everglades or see any crocodiles at all.

Realized I actually like beaches quite a lot as long as there is no hot yellow thing in the sky.

Wish I could have taken some pictures of the flying fish, but they absolutely refused to pose in midair.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Some random thoughts on the Snowden scandal

1. Yeah, governments spy on each other, including their own allies. Everyone knows that. When you get caught doing that, the thing to do is to look sheepish and apologize, not to make a huge scandal and create one diplomatic incident after another chasing the whistleblower around the world.

2. We have this thing called the Constitution. Also the Fourth Amendment. The current administration should read it sometime, and so should the Congress. It does not say "the Federal Government should read everyone's mail and eavesdrop on everything that moves".

3. Yep, terrorists. I am all for catching terrorists. Other evildoers, too. That's what we have warrants for, and probable cause. "Uses Gmail" does not constitute a probable cause. While you are at it, you might consider more efficient methods of catching terrorists - for example listening when a foreign government or their own parents warn you about them.

4. I understand there are minimization procedures in place, where NSA only collects the data, and only uses it under very strict rules, so for the most part the data just sits there safe and unused. Hmm... Safe... Didn't NSA just have its own secrets leaked all over the Internet? How safe do you think are yours?

5. It's damn hard to keep secrets nowadays when any fucker with a USB drive and a security clearance can publish them on the Internet.

6. The above concerns both the NSA, and the people's data they collect.

7. That's a lot of data, BTW. How many people do they give the security clearance to in order to deal with it? How well do they check them? How many wannabe terrorists are actually on the NSA payroll?

8. It appears that what Snowden has done was illegal, and what the NSA has done is only of questionable legality. Nevertheless chasing the whistleblower all over the world in embarrassing ways only works to convince the observers that the whistle needed to be blown. And yes, it did.

9. One thing that I've been wondering about since the original Wikileaks scandal: how easy is it to add fake data to any such revelation? Especially if you add it to a mountain of real data?

Change we can sure as hell believe in

"Often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out. Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government. Obama will ensure that federal agencies expedite the process for reviewing whistleblower claims and whistleblowers have full access to courts and due process."

From Obama's pre-inaguration ethics agenda.

I think the ethics have changed just a bit.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Should take young people more seriously

When I was young, I was very annoyed when older people treated young people as someone who just doesn't know anything about life yet. Now I noticed doing so myself. Last week I was arguing with a 25-year-old guy and I noticed myself thinking "just wait till you grow up, silly child".

And then I thought about it some more, and realized that my 25-year-old self, and probably even my 18-year-old self, would have immediately recognized that the guy was not a silly child who needed to grow up, but an absolute moron who would remain so for the rest of his life.

I don't mean that there aren't any things that one learns through age and experience - there certainly are, and some perfectly intelligent young people just haven't learned them yet, but it appears that the one thing that I unlearned with age is the ability to easily distinguish between immature and mind-bogglingly stupid. Should practice more.

(And to anyone else with whom I have argued last week: if you are reading this and know me in person, this is not about you.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Things change

I remember when my friend Anna got up and argued for slavery, or rather for the northern states allowing the southern states to continue with it. She made a very good and convincing argument, too, as much as one can be made on the subject, mostly based on property rights and the rights of states. A guy named Reza argued for stopping the slavery, using the arguments that are more familiar to us, and was also quite convincing. Then they switched positions, and were quite as good arguing for the opposite side.

This whole thing was very new to me (I had been out of USSR for several months), and I was not any good in arguing for the things I don't believe in (I think I could do a much better job now but am still not as good as Anna and Reza were back then), and I got a C for the class and didn't enjoy it much, but I did learn quite a lot.

We've done a lot of uncontroversial topics like that. I think the only reason we didn't do Holocaust was that this was a US history class, and we only did the debates where both parties were American.

It appears that similar assignments are national news nowadays.

I want nukes

Imagine that I have come to Rautatientori with a pistol. I aim it at one person, then at another, and tell them that I'll kill them all. Would anybody say "don't worry, she doesn't really mean it"? "Don't worry, it's just her usual rhetoric, just look at all her postings mentioning raping people with cactii." "She just wants to look scary so that people will give her some money." (I believe the technical term for the latter is "armed robbery".)

How long will I have to threaten before the talk starts to shift from "she doesn't really mean it" to "she probably doesn't really mean it, and her pistol is probably no good anyway, and she is probably a lousy shot"? And if I threaten to go home and get a proper automatic weapon, will people actually wait for me to do that?

If nobody is gonna take that shit from me, why are people taking it from a dude who a) actually has nukes, b) has threatened to attack the US and Japan with said nukes, and wipe South Korea from the face of the Earth, and c) whose only redeeming quality appears to be that he doesn't have a very good delivery system for said nukes - yet? Granted, kicking is ass his way harder than kicking mine, but he does appear a somewhat bigger threat as well, what with the nukes and a 1.2-million active-duty army (that's for a country with 24 million people - think about it).

10 years ago we (the US) invaded a country ruled by a dictator who was alleged to have weapons of mass destruction. Despite all the effort the weapons of mass destruction were not found, and I - despite not being a supporter of said war - remember thinking for a moment, in a rather cynical way, that it might be better to kick the guy's ass before he has the weapons of mass destruction and not after. And now there is a guy who actually has weapons of mass destruction, and has threatened several countries with them, and nobody is doing anything.

I think the only message to be learned from here is that if you happen to be an insane dictator, your best bet is to get some nukes. Pretty soon every dictator is gonna be getting nukes. Hell, I want to have nukes of my own, and I am not ever a dictator yet. I even have a grand plan for my nukes: gonna make a lot of noise, threaten a lot of neighbors, then give the nukes up and receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Friday, April 12, 2013

An open letter to IRS

Dear IRS,

I do hereby solemnly swear that I don't file my federal taxes for fun and personal entertainment, but because you require me to. If you would like to change your mind and stop requiring tax returns from people whose total income is 0, adjusted gross income is 0, and taxes or refunds owed are 0, please do so, it would be most welcome. Until then - please adjust your processing software to be able to process the forms where these values are 0.

Also, please do not ask people to put things in parentheses if your forms don't accept parentheses.

Checkboxes that cannot be unchecked are not a nice touch, either.