Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The War on Spam

I am wondering: how many gruesome murders of spammers would it take to significantly reduce spam? I mean, if spammers' bodies started to turn up, obviously tortured to death and with a note attached saying that the person was executed for being a spammer, and some proof of the fact that the person really was a spammer.

No, I don't really recommend this a method of reducing spam, both for humanitarian and financial reasons. (Although would probably be at least somewhat amused if that actually happened to some spammer.) I am just curious in theory: what would the graph of the volume of spam as a function of the number of murdered spammers look like? I am sure it would also be a function of the location of the murders, but for the sake of the experiment (the gedanken experiment, mind you, don't stage actual experiments at home) let's assume that murders are evenly distributed with regard to the number of spammers in each location - say, every metropolitan area has an equal percentage of spammers murdered.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hey, that Saudi guy is good!

Here are a couple of samples of the Saudi guy's writings:

On religious freedom and the cities of Mekka and Medina:

No non-Muslim may enter the cities of Makkah and Madinah. (However there is one unpublicized exception. Our national bus company, SAPTCO, runs Mercedes buses. Naturally, being a nation of managers and civil servants, we haven't learnt to maintain them ourselves. So we import German mechanics. What happens when a bus breaks down in one of those cities? We send in an infidel German mechanic to fix it, under cover of darkness. We Saudis are not stupid. If we didn't, then over time, years, perhaps decades, every SAPTCO bus in the country would eventually end up broken down in Makkah or Madinah. We wouldn't be able to get them out. Imagine the congestion. Then all the beggars and overstayers would go and live in them.)

On religious police:

Clearly, I believe that we should have full religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. Let's try and be normal, just like the rest of the world. But we could do it in such a way that we still preserve our cultural heritage. Like Religious Policemen. Obviously we should keep those, otherwise this blog will have no further reason to exist. And Religious Policemen from different religions will introduce some diversity.

Quaker Religious Policemen won't tell you off. They'll just come and stand alongside you, waiting until the spirit moves one of you to say something.

Jewish Religious Policemen will correct you, but they'll start with a joke about their Mother.

Catholic Religious Policemen will be quite tough, especially if it's Sunday Morning and you haven't gone to Mass. They won't let you go until you buy a dozen raffle tickets.

Anglican (Episcopalian) Religious Policemen, on the other hand, will be quite lax. They'll say things like "Hey, if it's cool with you, it's cool with me".

Mormon Religious Policemen will be easily recognized. They will be two young men with dark suits, short haircuts and briefcases. They will tell you off, once they've said what nice children you have.

Just go there are read for yourselves.

Eek, Saudis are reading my blog

Yesterday saw that somebody from Saudi Arabia was reading my blog again (it happens every once in awhile) and for a second had a bad reaction to it, as in "argh, some evil Islamic extremist is reading my blog", although I realize it's more likely to be some Nixu employee who knew me in Finland and has nothing better to do on a long business trip in Saudi Arabia. The feeling was a bit strange since I don't have such a reaction when people from other Moslem countries are reading my blog. I guess I just have a very bad image of Saudi Arabia and people living there. But anyway my first impulse was "if those evil Islamic extremists are gonna be reading my blog I am gonna get right back at them by reading theirs".

A search for Saudi blogs on Google gave me this as the first hit. The guy does not seem like an Islamic extremist at all, writes fairly well and has funny pictures of kittens, camels and Saudi politicians.

Last Man Standing

Saw Last Man Standing, just because Lasu told me that's a good movie. Should've known better than to take movie advice from a man who liked Tomb Raider.

The movie is a remake of Yojimbo and Per un pugno di dollari, and, unlike Sergio Leone, they actually give credit to Kurosawa. But really you shouldn't make remakes unless you have something new and better to say, or at least some cool special effects or cute guys or something. The most obvious change in the story in comparison with Per un pugno di dollari is that it happens in the 1920s as opposed to the 1870s. This is not nice from the eye candy point of view, since the 1920s clothes and hairstyles can make even good-looking people look bad - not that there are any in this movie. The other radical change - and not for the better - is that the "strong and silent" main character talks to the audience (or to himself) all the time in voice-over. Sorry, I didn't really want to know what the guy was thinking.

Bruce Willis is a decent actor sometimes, and I am sure there are roles that he'd be able to play better than Clint Eastwood. This, however, is not one of them. Besides, Eastwood looked much better. To make the matters worse, Willis has the dumbest-looking haircut you can imagine.

Willis's character is about as much of a poster child for firearm safety as Eastwood's was, but at least Eastwood's character had to reload his gun at decent intervals. Willis's character keeps shooting dozens of bullets out of his pistol without any reloading at all. Besides, he shoots with both hands, which should only be allowed if you are swearing in Cantonese at the same time, and then only in John Woo movies. Willis's character also uses the gun that's between his legs for the purposes of obtaining various information, which is also an innovation in comparison with Per un pugno di dollari.

I guess I gotta watch Yojimbo one of this days for comparison.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Holy milk products (by Panu's request)

The phenomenon is not news to me, but the extent of it is:

Russians abroad tend to believe that Russian food tastes better than the same kind of food in whatever country they live it. This is understandable, people often like what they are accustommed to. This is very understandable in the US, where many basic foods taste very differently from the Russian ones, and less understandable in Finland, where the food is a lot more similar to the food of the nearby Russian regions, but understandable nevertheless.

What I can't understand is that many Russians apparently believe that Russian food, especially milk products, is somehow healthier and more pure than foreign food. When questioned on this subject they become afflicted with rage that I would more normally associate with a devout Moslem's reaction to a suggestion of bombing both Mecca and Medina. With barrels of pork, no less.

Lately I've participated in a conversation on this subject in a Russian forum where people behaved a lot more peacefully than Russians on average but reflected the same attitudes. Since we were talking about importing food from Tallinn the subject revolved around Estonian rather than Russian food, but the opinions were the same.Their claims were:

- All the milk products in Estonia taste better than similar ones in Finland
- Estonian sour cream is delicious and pure, the ones sold in Finland are full of god knows what additives. (To that I quoted the ingredient list on the jar of sour cream that I had in the fridge and that said "pastoroitu kerma, hapate".)
- Estonian butter is delicious and unsalted, and here there are these disgusting margarines with god knows what additives. In the end they had to concede the point that there is butter here, including unsalted one, and that it tastes the same as Estonian butter.
- All of the above is much more expensive here. (Surprise?)
- And the most common and funniest argument: "ALL FINNISH FOOD IS FULL OF CHEMISTRY!". I decided not to upset them by mentioning that there might be some physics, too.

In the news

The power in Iraq has been handed to the interim government two days ahead of schedule. Hope they do better than us (the US), but am not holding my breath. As an ex-Russian, for me the words "interim government" tend to ring an alarm bell. We all know what happened in Russia after the 1917 interim governemnt. Hope Iraqis fare batter. They could hardly fare worse.

Khat plant (a mild drug used by Somalis) boost sperm power, says BBC. Heh. Now we know why there are 6.91 children per women born in Somalia, the highest number in the world.

Taliban is expressing its own opinion on the upcoming national elections in Afghanistan by blowing up a bus with election workers and murdering at least 14 men for having voter registration cards.

An Australian man who killed another Australian man by making him drink hydrochloric acid at gunpoint just died in a Thai jail. How does one make somebody drink hydrochloric acid at gunpoint, and why would anyone drink it? It's probably much safer to throw the acid in the eyes of the person holding the gun. You'd probably get a bullet for your efforts anyway, but it sure beats drinking the acid.

Israel has killed the West Bank commander of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and five more members of the same organization. Good riddance.

"Civility Low in Congress", said a Boston Globe headline a few days ago. Tell me something I don't know...

Monday again

Talked to Killeri and am feeling much better now, not pissed off at all. Hope I wasn't an evil girlfriend from hell.

Bugs are still here and did not disappear mysteriously over the weekend like I hoped.

Somebody should turn off that rain for a while.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Lasu's pancakes and evil boyfriend

Went to Lasu's place to eat pancakes with some Debian people (not in the sense that pancakes are stuffed with Debian people, of course). Bought some ice cream, it turned out to be low-fat. Always should read the nutritional values in addition to reading the list of ingredients to avoid such mishaps in the future.

People were nice. There was one guy of the variety who never have anything good to say about anything or anyone, but even he was quite amusing, especially when he talked about his successes with women. I had to bite my tongue many times, but he provided good comedy anyway.

Killeri managed to piss me off big time, to the point when I decided there is a need for some educational measures (no, they definitely do not include Krav Maga or any other violence). Unfortunately during our relationship Killeri has learned to anticipate my desire for educational measures very well and he always disappears like a bat out of hell as soon as I am starting to get really pissed off. I am not sure whether he even does it consciously or purposefully , but he is so good at it that he manages to start running several seconds before I even realize how angry I am. I am wondering whether he takes clues from me (and what these clues are) or whether he simply realizes he has just done something to piss me off. (That's in general - in this particular case he had to realize he has just done something to piss me off, and he was in a good position to run, too.) OK, educational measures next time. If I remember.

Friday, June 25, 2004


Went to grill at Killeri's place. Brought a lot of meat, just in case. Ate it all, like it usually happens at a grill party. Was so full that couldn't even get drunk, which is probably just as well. Kristiina made a delicious but small cake. I helped a little, and I swear it did not seem small when it was in the process of being made.

It was a good party. Not too large, good friends, including two that I rarely see in person, a good grill, etc. I was expecting possible tensions between two people, but luckily nothing happened. Leena had the mother of all weird wine bottles with her, but what came out of it was perfectly normal white wine.

Started suddenly feeling very shitty at the end. Apparently one pill of Claritin is not enough. By the time I figured I better take another one it was too late. My fucked-up don't-eat-too-much-pills doctors-are-trying-to-poison-you upbringing tends to override doctors' advice sometimes in situations when the doctor's advice is "take them as you need them and don't worry what it says on the bottle; the side effects of taking too much are likely to be less trouble than the effect of taking too little". The effect of taking too little is, in this case, continuous severe coughing.

Kristiina was giving Anu a ride and decided to drive me home too, which was very nice considering how far from there I live. On the way Kristiina and Anu heard some nostalgic old songs on the radio and rejoiced (this word is somehow out of style here, but that's what they did). It was great to watch even though I'd never heard half of the songs and did not care much for the other half, either. Anu looked at the sunset and said that this is a perfect Juhannus night, and I was glad she did, because I was thinking the same but would have never said it myself.

Now at home, ate a truckload of drugs (the kind that you get from a pharmacy, not the other kind) and feel much better. Might have some tea and go to bed.

Krav Maga

The spring's last Krav Maga session yesterday was quite an educational experience - I am glad I went. This time three people kicked my ass (each separately, not all together). It's really unfair when you are trying to stab a person and they give you a good kick in the chest. A proper kick to the upper chest is not beneficial for sustaining a good balance, either (in plain English that means you fall on your ass). The person who was doing the kicking and otherwise resisted the stabbing very efficiently was very constructive with her criticism - so constructive that I started wondering whether she sometimes works as an instructor there. Should've asked. If she doesn't, maybe she should. Turned out she does ballet, too, and knows at least some of my friends who study ballet. The world is small.

In the evening I went to visit a friend. She's got a roommate now, who was pretty nice and also turned ut to know some people I know. The world is small, again.

Funny spam

Just got a spam with a subject line that said "Do you have allergies?". Opened it just for the hell of it, and they offered Vicodin, Xanax and Valium (oops, I mean V*ico*din, X"ana^x and Va*lium) from an online pharmacy. For a second there I thought "hey, those are not meant for allergies" and then realized that some of them might work in a way. For example, a fistful of Valium: "Yeah, I still have the allergies, but I really, really don't care..."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A whine

It's raining, my new software still does not work, the bug is really weird, I should go to Krav Maga soon but I really don't feel like it, Should go anyway, it's the spring's last class. Should also buy some booze before that (for drinking with a friend after), which means getting to Herttoniemi's Alko and from there to the subway and getting all soaked in the process. I haven't done a proper Juhannus shopping, and won't have time to do it tonight, which means will have to do it tomorrow when there are 5 million other silly fuckers like myself trying to buy everything at the last moment.

I am sleepy, too. And horny. Sleepiness seems to cause horniness lately, but luckily not the other way around.

Need to eat some allergy pill, too. Hope I have it with me.

Our toilet has no reading matter at all, except for 5 hair care and styling products. They are not mine but provide a little bit of amusement when I try to compare the warning texts in many different languages. Two of them are extremely flammable - why would anyone put extremely flammable stuff in their hair? Another two are to be sold to hair care professionals only - how does one pretend to be a hair care professional? Gotta ask the girls next door, although wouldn't be surprised if one of them really is a hair care professional.

On top of all this I seem to have insulted somebody's religious feelings in a Russian web forum. Who could've known that people can have religious feelings towards Estonian milk products? (Well, I sort of did, but then had to go and insult them anyway. That's because I am a bad person. OTOH, I was asking a real question in hope of a real answer.)

Lovely Thursday morning

It's raining. And it's dark. And I can't find the bug.

Woke up at 6:30 and went to the aliens police office (that's the one that accepts residence permit applications from aliens, not the one where aliens work). This time I only had to sit there for 2 hours, and the woman who took my application was very nice. I still can't figure out why every time I go the the aliens police office the loudest people in the room sit next to me. Even if I sit down next to some quiet person after a while the quiet person disappears and a loud one takes his or her place.

In the railway station I saw one of the Helsinki-St.Petersburg trains and remembered how during the beginning of my life in Finland my parents warned me not to go anywhere near the place from where trains go to Russia. "But our department is near the railway station!" - "OK, but be careful." I was careful and did not wander into the train by accident. Didn't get kidnapped, either. Today I saw the train and gave it an evil glare, just in case.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I am not eating any ice cream ever again

Note to self:

1. Buying and eating two ice creams just because you happen to be in a store that sells Russian-style ice cream and you haven't had any for quite a while is a bad idea if you are somewhat lactose-intolerant. You are somewhat lactose-intolerant, and remembering it more often would do you good.

2. While a nice cup of tea is a certified cure for sore throat, angst and Lisp bugs, it has not been found to cure the consequences of ingesting too much lactose. If, however, you are still using it for placebo effect, then having a few cream toffees with it is not a particularly bright idea.

Patterns of Global Terrorism

Just looked at the new version of US State Department's Report on Patterns of Global Terrorism and was a bit surprised for a moment. For a second there I suspected they can't count right, but then I realized that they consider Turkey to be a part of Western Europe.

Krav Maga

Went to Krav Maga yesterday, despite feeling a bit dead. Had to fight against an overwhelmingly better opponent - she got 5 punches through for every one of mine, and the only times I managed to hit her was when she opened a bit in order to hit me, and mostly not even then. Then we had some 2-on-1 exercise for the rest of the lesson: the two don't attack simultaneously, but strangle and stab the third person in turns and rest in between. The third person does not get to rest, which is sort of the point of the exercise.

Katariina (my overwhelming opponent) gave me some nice tips on wrestling, but I am too lazy to describe them here.

My neck hurts quite a bit - in fact there is not much pain, but every single muscle there is sore. Somebody was doing some mighty good strangling.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Now I feel a bit bad about painting such a negative picture of Masha in the last posting. She was a bit crazy back then, and I think that particular year was a rather low point in her life. Later she resolved most or maybe even all of her problems and grew up to be a fine young woman. She stopped biting people and became a lawyer, and as rumor has it, quite a good lawyer. I know this sounds like a lawyer joke, as if practicing law were some substitute for biting people, but I don't really mean it that way. I've known perfectly good lawyers who'd never bitten anyone. In fact none of the other lawyers I know have ever bitten anyone, to the best of my knowledge.

Adventures in tresspassing (an old story)

One should never, ever, write anything about the past events, especially when it involves people who can and probably would kick your ass. Or at the very least one should never mention people by name. OTOH, the people who knew about the events back then would recognize the participants even if I changed the names, and those who didn't are not likely to guess who they are only by the first name, so what the hell...

Anyway, a long time ago, in a city far away...

There were 8 of us:
Lena, about 16, the birthday girl,
Ilya, 19, Lena's boyfriend,
Vera, 19, sort of Lena's relative,
Tanya, 17, Lena's schoolmate,
Masha, 15, Lena's schoolmate and sort of Vera's relative,
Sasha, 20, Tanya's on-and-off boyfriend,
Marik, 19, everybody's friend,
Peter, 26, running after Tanya.

The friendships within the group would be too long to describe, and largely irrelevant, but we all used to hang out together, except for Masha who usually didn't but occasionally did.

And the event was, of course, Lena's birthday. I am not sure whether she was technically 16 already at the moment. Too bad, because this is relevant.

Lena's parents promised to leave the apartment to us until midnight. Masha's mom had called me before the party and asked me to promise that I would make sure that Masha does not drink, do drugs or fuck boys at the party. "Sure thing," - I cheerfully lied to her.

The party was going fine, everybody was talking, drinking and generally having a good time. I was the only one not drinking, because back then I used to be an upstanding citizen... OK, I know you did not believe that. I was not drinking because I had a food poisoning the day before and therefore had some reasonable doubt about my ability to keep alcohol down. So I only drank pink ginger ale and ate raw garlic. (Yes, that was before the time when I became a mosty sensible person.)

At some point Peter came and started drinking too. When Peter drinks (or drank - I haven't seen him for at least 10 years now) he asks people all the time "Am I too drunk? Am I not drinking too much? Please tell me when I've had enough!". Unfortunately when he really has had enough he is certainly not listening to the people who tell him so. Instead he becomes aggressive and declares himself sober and everyone else a liar. The trick, of course, is to tell him that he is drunk before he is quite drunk, but I had never mastered it.

At midnight Lena's parents came home and we decided to continue the party in Marik's dorm in Brandeis. Marik lived alone in his dorm room and therefore could party there freely. The party continued in good spirit until Lena and Ilya decided to have sex in the hall, which was a very bad idea considering local sensibilities and the legal fucking age regulations. (Nobody, including Massachusetts lawyers, really knew whether the legal age in Massachusetts was 16 or 18. There were two laws, one forbidding sex with people under 16, the other one forbidding sex with chaste people under 18. There was no definition of "chaste" anywhere, although I cannot think offhand of any definition of "chaste" that would have included Lena.) It was also a very bad idea considering that carpets in Brandeis dorms and other buildings are really not designed to be fucked on, and tend to cause carpet burn in all those who try. Tanya, who by that time was intimately familiar both with legal age problems and the burns caused by Brandeis carpets, tried to dissuade the young lovers from the idea, but they just found a quiet corner in the hall, and off they went. Meanwhile in the room Peter was trying to hit on Tanya, which was not a very good idea in the presense of her on-and-off boyfriend Sasha, even though they were in an off state at the moment. I watched Peter with great amusement since he was trying all the exact same words on me two months previously. Sasha danced a slow dance with Masha when suddenly he screamed, grabbed his neck and ran out screaming something along the lines of "she bites!". Masha said she bit him for a reason, and lay down on Marik's bed. Marik sat down next to her and started sweet-talking her to sleep, rather successfully, so she passed out and we never heard her side of the story. After washing the blood off his neck Sasha came back and said that the attack was totally unprovoked.

We sat in the hall for a while. Masha slept in Marik's room, Marik went out to the bathroom, Ilya and Lena were back with us and complaining about the carpet burns, Sasha was complaining about crazy bitches who bite him, Peter was complaining about women who don't put out and I was complaining about the food poisoning that I had the day before. Tanya wasn't complaining about anything, IIRC, and just sat there contemplating the absurdity of the world.

At some point a residence assistant (an older student who lives in a dorm and watches over his/her younger neighbors) came out of his room to go to a toilet. He saw us, asked us whose guests we were, and told us to go to Marik's room since drinking and smoking was not allowed in the hall. We said OK and started getting up, when Peter, who was drunk, aggressive and lacked both college experience and social skills to realize he was dealing with an authority figure, told the RA to fuck off. The rest of us tried to shut Peter up and apologize on his behalf but the damage was done: the RA inflated like a balloon and became red like Soviet flag, and started roaring that we have to be out of the building within a minute or else he is calling the police. I tried to tell him that 1 minute is too little for 7 people who need to get their stuff together and visit a bathroom, and we would highly appreciate if he gave us 5 minutes before calling the police, but he was in no condition to listen. Marik came from the bathroom and tried to smooth it over, but it was a bit too late for that, too.

We woke Masha up and ran to our respective bathrooms. The women's bathroom was full of boys and girls from some pot-smoking party who'd heard the noise and decided to hide in the bathroom. Having quickly done what we had to do we ran down to Marik's room, to find Marik lying on the bed and telling us that the boys have left already. Tanya's jacket was missing, and Marik said the boys took it with them. We grabbed our stuff and started for the door.

I opened the door and ran straight into a scary cop. He was beet-red in the face and so fat that he was easier to jump over than to walk around. Not that I have anything against fat people, but when a person is trying to jam the door with his or her body it's easier to get past them if they are thin, what with me not being a good jumper. "You are still here?!" - he roared. "We were just leaving, you see, just had to get our stuff together and were walking out the door when you came," - I said, trying to look small and innocent and harmless and apparently failing. "Who is driving?" - he continued at the top of his voice. "I am," - I lied immediately, since it did not take long to compute that I was the only person among us who had a driver's license, and also because I just had a very strong flash of intuition telling me that mentioning other people, walking or cabs to this guy would be a big mistake. I rarely trust my intuition, but then I rarely have intuitive insights of such strength and clarity as I had then. Still don't know whether I was right. "Aren't you drunk?" - "No, officer". The RA was jumping behind the officer and screaming that I was definitely drunk, which I wasn't, and that he saw me drinking a beer, which he didn't. I maintained that the RA must've been mistaken.

Not having a breathalyzer, the cop made me stand on one foot, then on the other, and then recite all alphabet forwards and backwards while standing on one foot. It made Masha furious and she lunged ahead, but luckily Lena and Tanya caught her in time. I shudder to think what would've happened if she had bitten the cop. At that time I even thought that one night in a cell in a police station might be an interesting experience, but I certainly did not want to spend it in the company of pissed-off Masha who had just bitten a cop, a cop that has just been bitten by Masha, and contemplating what a judge and Masha's mom would tell me in the morning. After I successfully recited the alphabet forwards and backwards the cop told me to breathe at him. I breathed with all the might of the half a pound of garlic that I had eaten that night. "Out!" - screamed the cop, and out we went.

We had come there in 3 cars: Sasha's, Ilya's and Peter's. Now the cars were there at the parking lot, but the owners were nowhere to be seen. We figured they got lost, although it was strange. We had 3 jackets for the 4 of us, Tanya's jacket being god knows where with the boys. After 20 minutes we figured we better do something because it was getting cold and we had to get home somehow. We figured the guys had returned to Marik's place and were drinking there again, so we went towards that building. The police cars were still there. I approached carefully, the others kept a few meters behind me just in case Masha tries something funny. One of the police cars was shaking and weird thumping sound was coming out of it.

The fat red cop appeared. "You are still here?!" "We are looking for our boys," - I said somewhat sheepishly. "I am taking your boys, and I will take you, too, if you don't get out right now." I took a closer look at the car. There Peter was trying to break the window with his head and screaming something. The door of the building opened and two more cops came out, leading handcuffed Sasha and Ilya. (As later turned out, they also ran into the police while trying to leave, and instead of trying to talk their way out like us they tried to hide in the building and were caught there.)

We did need to get home, though, and I tried to ask the cop to let us borrow Peter's car keys. "You lied to me! You said you had a car!" - he started screaming again. "No, I said I was driving. I was gonna drive his (pointing at Peter) car. He was in no condition to drive." (I figured the cop definitely had to concede that point.) The cop then turned towards Peter and continued screaming without drawing a new breath: "You lied to me! You said you walked here!" Peter continued beating his head on the window and yelling "Give the lady her jacket! Give the lady her jacket!" The cop finally let Peter hand me the keys and Tanya the jacket. I tried to ask Peter whether there is some kind of extra locking system, but the cop's generosity did not extend that far.

We walked away: Masha had sobered up, come back to her senses and was chatting with Lena about police brutality, Tanya and I were trying to develop a plan B in case the car turns out to have either a strange locking system or a stick shift. Luckily it did not turn out to have either of those. Unfortunately it did not have brakes either, at least not of a working variety. Was good enough for a slow night drive from Waltham to four points in Newton, though.

By the time I got home and called Waltham police to ask what is needed to post bail for the guys they had already posted bail themselves and continued partying at Peter's place. While they were at the police station somebody smashed the windows of their cars in Brandeis parking lot. We still don't know whether it was just a coincidence.

The rest of the story is a lot of trial hearings and three fines: $90, $90 and $40. Peter got the $40 fine, because he only got fined for trespassing and Sasha and Ilya also for being underage and in posession of alcohol. There is no justice in the world, or in any case in Waltham.

Monday, June 21, 2004

My life lately...

...has been kind of hectic. It's a combination of having a lot of stuff to do at work, and a lot of fun to have at nights. Also have been sleeping badly, which is not nice when trying to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at work. Now feeling better since slept half of the day yesterday, and fairly normally last night,too.

Joy had a birthday party on Saturday. It was smaller than usual (some people were at some festival last weekend) but fun. They taught me some card game but I have already forgotten it in spite of having been sober. Joy's retarded cat Lumppari is awfully cute, although I probably say that every time I see it. It's white and fluffy and has very light - almost white - blue eyes and no brain function whatsoever except something that makes it meow about once every two seconds. Krabak says this cat is the best example of why brothers and sisters shouldn't have any offspring together. OTOH, Benka has an acquaintance who has even less brain function, and her parents probably weren't siblings, although what do I know...

There was Tanda with little clothes on, which is not much of an event since he goes to the parties fairly often and does not wear much clothes in summer, but probably I just hadn't seen him in a while. Anyways, this time I realized that just looking at a very beautiful guy in skimpy clothes cures hangover.(For that to work the skimpy clothes should be on the guy and not on you. Although skimpy clothes on you probably don't have any ill effect, either, and guys without any clothes, skimpy or otherwise, probably work even better.)

On Sunday I slept in really late, missed a dog agility competition and the Alter Ego picnic, saw aforementioned Battle Royale 2 and wandered into Akateeminen just to take a look at Pratchett's new book, but the damn thing just jumped into my hand and refused to part with me, so I had to buy it and bring it home. In the evening Killeri came to entertain me.

This morning went to check out the new ulkomaalaispoliisi (alien police?) office. It was pretty awful, though not all the badness was due to authorities. The new office is in Malmi. Just like the old office they have a stand with all the application forms except the one that I needed, so I had to wait for hours to get the form from a real person. There was a lot more people than the last time I was there, which I guess is not their fault, and a lot of customers found it necessary to bring their children and unnecessary to tell them to behave. Grrr.

No smoking in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is banning all smoking in bars and restaurants beginning July 5th, thus becoming the 6th state in the US to enact such a ban (the other 5 are California, New York, Connecticut, Maine and Delaware). Not that it has any practical meaning for me - every city and town that I ever visit has already banned smoking in the restaurants, and those who haven't are probably located in the great beyond generally called "Westah Wustah" ("West of Worcester", for those who don't know the Masshole dialect - Worcester is kind of Massachusettsian Riihimäki minus the trains and the culture) and probably don't have any restaurants anyway.

Terrorists are having a bad week

On Friday, hours after the murder of the American hostage, Saudi forces killed Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, the leader of the Saudi chapter of Al Qaeda. They also killed 3 other terrorists and captured 12. Unlike Israel's killing of Hamas leaders it did not cause an international outcry (not that it should, IMO) but was reported in the Western media as a positive event that it is. Saleh Al-Oufi was appointed the new leader of the Saudi Arabia's Al Qaeda, and we can only hope that Saudi forces won't miss his acceptance speech.

Algerian army killed Nabil Sahraoui, the leader of the terrorist organization GSPC, and several of his coworkers. They'll have to share virgins due to overcrowding in the Martyr Paradise arrival hall.

Battle Royale 2 (major spoilers)

Hey, I found the worst film of the year! I mean, the year is still young and I might see something worse yet, but I seriously doubt it.

When Krabak warned me that it was very bad, I sort of assumed that he was saying that just because the movie was a lot worse than the original Battle Royale. I liked the first movie very much, and I figured the second one would be much worse but OK. I was wrong.

First of all, it was a war movie. The mother of all the awful war movies. It has a bad script, and even worse acting, and horrible pacing, too. Worst of all, it had a deep social and political message, and it did not know what it was. "Soldiers bad". "Adults bad". "Children good". "Kalashnikov good". "America bad". "Explosions good". "Government bad". "Terrorism good". "An unnamed central/south Asian country where a war has been going on for 20 years good". "Look at all the bloodshed and killing, so sad, so tragic, let's kill some more". I think this was the list of all the major points.

In the beginning the movie introduces Shuya and Noriko, the survivors from the previous movie, in such a way that makes you hope for their fast yet painful deaths (they blow up about 10 high-rise buildings in some Japanese city). Shuya and his gang, called Wild Seven but consisting of about 20 people is waging a war on all adults in the world. They are all staying on the same island where the original Battle Royale was fought, and instead of bombing them into oblivion the government sends a class of teenagers to kill them. The teenagers are given big guns and are paired off and collared. If the pair is more than 50 meters apart, the collars explode. If one dies, the other's collar explodes.

The class attacks. There is about as much shooting as in the sea-and-beach sequence of Saving Private Ryan, and deaths are about as individual. After they manage to kill off most of the class in the first 20 minutes of military action we hope for the better, but it never comes. The remaining 90 minutes of the movie consist of political statements and homeopathic warfare (at some point the remaining 10 or so survivors of the class join their forces with the Wild Seven and fight against the several hundred soldiers who attack them).

At some point Shuya tells the others about his and Noriko's visit to an unnamed central/south Asian country where the war had been going on for the last 20 years but where people smile proudly, and in the end the Wild Seven survivors end up in this paradise on earth. I have a feeling that they meant Afghanistan, but this impression is somewhat spoiled by women wearing skimpy colorful little scarves as opposed to burqas, and cars driving on the wrong side of the road, which made me think of Pakistan. OTOH, maybe in the movie's alternative universe it's Pakistan that has been at war for the last 20 years. Or maybe Kashmir...

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Soviet newspapers

Contrary to the popular belief in the West, there was a lot of them, and not just Pravda. And they were different from each other, too.

The first newspaper (or was it rather a magazine?) that I remember seeing at home was Bloknot Agitatora ("Agitator's notebook"). It was very soft and had just the right page size, and therefore was immensely popular. The print didn't come off easily, either, which was also an advantage. The paper did not contain any actual news and therefore it wasn't read before use, but it made tolerable bathroom reading if you needed one.

In general the popularity of newspapers in Soviet Union was much boosted by general unavailabilty of toilet paper. We sometimes got some because the disabled WWII veterans were entitled to it every once in a while, and our grandpa was one. We did not get it often because there was a lot of us and only one disabled veteran, and even Soviet authorities were intelligent enough to figure out that one disabled war veteran had only one ass to wipe in the overwhelming majority of the cases. Later, the disabled veterans of the Afghanistan war were entitled to the same privileges, and I am sure there was much agonizing in the ranks of the authorities as to how to declare those people war veterans without actually declaring the event (whose official name was "friendly aid to the brotherly people of Afghanistan" or something along those lines) a war, but they managed it somehow.

Pravda ("Truth") was not very popular due to boring writing and coarse paper. Leningradskaya Pravda ("Leningrad truth") had a somewhat less coarse paper and some local news and TV program listings.

At some point the publishers of Bloknot Agitatora made a tragic mistake, changing the format to a larger one and the paper to the kind that lost even to Pravda. The popularity of the paper fell dramatically, and we had to find a new one. We chose Sovetskaya Rossiya ("Soviet Russia"), a publication with fairly soft paper. The format was rather inconvenient - a regular large newspaper - and it took some work to cut up. Besides, the print came off very easily and if you were not careful you ended up with the portrait of the Leader of the World Revolution on your ass. It was, however, fairly easy to get rid off, unlike the actual Leader of the World Revolution, whose mummy is still on display in the Mausoleum.

One of my grandmothers used to get Literaturnaya Gazeta ("Literary Newspaper"), which was widely reputed to be a KGB publication and contained some literary rumors and, unlike most others, had some intentional humor. Its ass-wiping properties were average.

Content was generally a problem. There were foreign news, but they were limited both in nature and in size. Internal politial news and election campaigns were quite rare due to the fact that there was only one candidate for each election, who usually mercifully kept his or her campaign to a minimum. You couldn't report bad news, usually, although sometimes you could. You could report good news, but there usually wasn't any. No advertisement, either, since you don't need to advertise in a place where the population is always trying to buy everything it can and a lot of things it cannot.

They wrote about politicians, about the success of some kolkhoz, about the failure of another, about the evil intentions of some film director whose movies were never shown in Russia anyway, about an earthquake somewhere across the world. Sublte people could read the articles between the lines and deduce some plans of the authorities. Subtlety is unfortunately not one of my virtues, and I have failed to learn to read between the lines although both my parents were proficient at it and tried to teach me. So I did not really find any content in the newspapers until the mid-eighties, when they suddenly started to write how exactly everything is Jews' fault, which for some reason was an interesting topic from my point of view, but by that time you really did not need to be subtle to understand what it was all about.

My parents' skill has impressed me the most when on April 29 (or was it 30?), 1986, they read a two- or three-line note about a small accident in Chernobyl in Sovetskaya Rossiya and told me that the accident must've been fucking huge. I did not quite believe them until I went to a newspaper kiosk and found that all the foreign newspapers, which at that time consisted of East Block newspapers and several Communist newpapers from the West, have disappeared, both from this kiosk and from all the others that I checked. Some foreign newspapers tended to diasppear for a few days every time something big happened in Russia, but the extent of this disappearance was so unusual that that it registered very strongly even on my rather coarse weird-newspaper-shit-meter, and I figured parents were right after all.

An amusing change from Leningrad's newspapers were the papers we read on vacation in Abkhazia. They were full of local social news, and the main social news was a list of locals who got convicted for one crime or another that day, with the description of the person, the crime and the sentence. There was so many of them that I still wonder how come some of the population was running free in the streets.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The 9-11 commission

The 9-11 commission is holding its final public hearing today, and posting staff statements. Lots of interesting stuff there, And a lot of stuff that seems to be likely to have been obtained by interrogating Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Enquiring minds want to know: where exactly is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed ("undisclosed overseas location" is a safe bet, but more specifically? There is a whole world of undisclosed overseas locations out there.) and what exactly are they doing to him in order to make him talk? Not that I am particularly concerned for his well-being (I am sure the feeling is mutual), I am just really curious at to whether they are using "truth serum", electric current to the genitals, having him raped by a whole batallion of female soldiers, forcing him to listen to pop idol wannabe competitions over and over again or using some other ways of gentle persuaion.

Duh, and they did not find any connection to Saddam.

I'd bet Oska a bottle of sparkling wine on the fact that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is never going to reappear and eventually is going to die in detention of natural causes (or whatever passes for natural causes among terrorists), but Oska is probably not going to accept the bet, the cunning bugger.

Come to think of it, Oska has not accepted any political bets from me ever since Clinton got elected for the second term.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

"Real whatever"

I've actually been told many times that I am not a "real American". People who said that did not usually mean "a real US citizen" (which I am) or "a real native-born US citizen" (which I am not), but "a person that fits my idea of what Americans are". For example "Americans can't even find their country on the map" - "I can." - "Well, you are not a real American, then." Duh! No wonder Americans can't find their country on the map if you define Americans as the subset of US citizens who can't find their country on the map.

The probelm is certainly not unique to Americans. I've heard people being told that they are not real men, real women, real people of whatever nationality or religion or ethnicity, real adults, etc.

The most incredible case was when I was in a bar in Boston with Sangita once. Some perfectly normal-looking guys came up to talk to us. They asked us where we were from. (WTF do I answer to that, BTW? "From right here" is sort of true but leads to additional questions about the accent, etc. "I am American but I was born in Russia and I usually live in Finland but now I am living here for a while" would have been perfectly true at the moment but tends to overflow most people's short-term memory buffers.) Anyways, Sangita said that she was Norwegian, which was true, and the guys started explaining to her that she couldn't possibly be a Norwegian. I was amazed at their nerve. I could understand some Norwegian racist saying that since her ancestors were not a part of native Norwegian population she could never be a real Norwegian. I could also understand some researcher on influence of genetics on the levels of cholesterol in different regions of Norway saying that she is not a Norwegian for the purpose of this particular research. But these were otherwise perfectly normal American guys, and what they were saying, in effect, was that she cannot be a Norwegian because everybody knows that Norwegians are tall, blond, blue-eyed and have Norwegian names, as opposed to being small, dark-skinned, black-haired and brown-eyed and being called Sangita. They did not understand that they were being somewhat bad-mannered, at least not until I pointed it out to them by asking whether they similarly doubt the americanness (americanity?) of the Americans who have somewhat darker skin color. At that point their own skin color was approaching that of beet soup. Sangita said that she gets that all the time and that she understands that they don't really mean anything bad but are just being stupid. I was amazed, again.

Old coworkers and America-bashing (not necessarily in combination)

Was out with a few former coworkers yesterday. I wasn't in a particularly sociable mood, but figured I had to go because these people are nice to see and I don't get a chance to see them often, especially Siva who usually lives in Texas. And they were very nice to see, in spite of the fact that they sometimes mentioned unprintable words like "functional programming". Cessu and APL even came up to my place for a while to see the apartment and smell raspberry vodka (Cessu wanted to taste it, but after smelling it changed his mind very quickly. Weird.).

One of them (I don't mention by name because I've seen the phenomenon many times and my rant is against it in general, not against this person in particular) expressed hope that Bush should be elected US president again in November, thus causing the US a lot of problems. I realize of course that a lot of people here like to say nasty things about the US that they don't necessarily even really mean, for a variety of reasons: first of all, it's fashionable at the moment, second, the US is the richest and most powerful country in the world, causing understandable jealous resentment in those who aren't, and third, the US really does have the dumbest president in the industrial world at the moment.Given fashion, jealousy, a president who belongs in a baboon cage and a cabinet that such a president has put together, it's not surprising that people just blurt out random nasty things about the US, much in the same way as I have sometimes blurted out wishes for turning the country Afghanistan into a lake Afghanistan a couple of years ago, or for bombing Saudi Arabia.

The only difference here is that, to the best of my knowledge, I've never said any of these things in the presense of any actual Afghanis or Saudis. Not, of course, that I had a lot of chance to, but I wouldn't even if I could, at least not unless I am attempting some personal insult as well. And that's the problem: when people engage in such recreational America-bashing (as opposed to, say, normal discussion of America's latest fuckup) in my presense I can't help taking it as a certain sign of disrespect for me. That's assuming that said people know that I am an American. "In my presense" here means in my physical presense or when I am actively present on an IRC channel. Can't really expect people to restrain themselves when I am idle on an IRC channel.

Strangely enough these people are often otherwise very nice and polite people whom I cannot imagine saying anything like that to a person from any other country. I wonder whether this is because they really think/feel that such politeness in unnecessary towards the Americans, or because they don't consider me a "real American", or both? (Although the second possibility is to some degree an offshoot of the first.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Football hooligans

Can anyone tell me what the football hooligans are about, what, if anything, are they trying to accomplish, and why is there more of them in UK than in other football-playing countries?

The bookseller from Kabul

Evil Killeri reminded me of the fact that I had with a great effort managed to forget: that there was a sale in Akateeminen. I went there and bought 4 books. Started reading Åsne Seierstad's The Bookseller of Kabul. The author has stayed with a Kabul family for a while during the post-Taliban period and written a book about them. As an account of life in Kabul it would have had a bit more credibility if she had bothered to learn Dari and not just relied on the few family members who spoke English, but it is highly entertaining - a lot more so than Kinski's real and imagined sex life. The funniest parts are excerpts from Taliban's decrees ("7. Prohibition Against Kite Flying. Kite flying has wicked consequences, such as gambling, death amongst children, and truancy. Shops selling kites will be removed.") and Taliban math textbook ("Little Omar has a Kalashnikov with three magazines. There are twenty bullets in each magazine. He kills 60 infidels with two-thirds of the bullets. How many infidels does he kill with each bullet?").

Monday, June 14, 2004

Argh (matalahiilihappoinen vesi)

In case you cannot read Finnish, "matalahiilihappoinen vesi" means carbonated water with a low carbon dioxide content. I refer to it in Finnish because I've never seen the damn stuff anywhere else, nor do I care to. Apparently nobody drinks that except Finns. Come to think of it, I've never heard any Finn express a preference for it, but apparently some do, otherwise it wouldn't be sold in such amounts.

The stuff tastes like carbonated water that has gone a bit flat. Why would anyone want that, as opposed to either normal carbonated water or uncarbonated water? More to the point, why did it become impossible to get normal carbonated water in 0.5 liter bottles lately? Has anyone seen a 0.5 liter bottle, preferably in a fridge, of normally carbonated BonAqua in any store this summer? Where?

And why doesn't anyone (or almost anyone) write the actual content of carbon dioxide on the bottles?

Sunday, June 13, 2004


Reading Klaus Kinski's autobiography now. An unusual and not very good piece of mostly-fiction. Unfortunately, he concenrtates on his sex life, real and imagined. Nothing against graphic descriprions of sex, really, but a 500-page book mostly consisting of them makes a somewhat monotonous reading, and besides, most of it is obviously untrue. At least if 1/10 of the sex encounters he describes were true, I don't quite understand how he found time to make more than 130 movies. Besides, things like "was in a hospital with kidney stones; at night a nun came, climbed on me and fucked me; in the morning the doctor came and also climbed on me and fucked me" do not sound completely plausible. Especially considering that the man was spectacularly ugly. Not ugly in a common unshaved-alcoholic-guy-with-bad-skin-and-no-redeeming-features way, but in an uglier-than-consequences-of-a-nuclear-war-absolutely-cannot-be-fucked-without-a-paper-bag-on-his-face way.

He was a very good actor, though. Especially good at playing psychotic people, and now that I have read what he was doing in between real and imaginary sex, I can understand why.

Besides sex, the book describes various tricks of the kind that is normally featured on Darwin Awards and also describes a lot of his coworkers, especially the director Werner Herzog, in a most unflattering way.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Discretion or lack thereof

There was a conversation on one of my friends' IRC channels today about mentioning people in blogs by name.

As everybody has probably noticed by now, I mention people I know and their doings by name. I use my own judgement as to what can be mentioned freely and what cannot, which for example means that if you tell me that you have just gotten a sexually transmitted disease from a well-known politician I won't mention it, and if you tell me that you have just found an interesting new flavor of ice cream in Fazer, I might.

If you don't like being mentioned here, either in general or on any specific occasions, or don't like being quoted, or consider some subject private that I might not automatically recognize as such, just tell me so.

Have you ever had a parovarium inflammation?

No, you probably haven't. A lot of you don't even have a parovarium, and most of you have probably never heard about it.

Anyway, it's a common disease in Russia, or so they believe. Comes from cold, of course, like all the other diseases there. Also from sitting on a stone. It's called "vospalenie pridatkov" in Russian. "Vospalenie" is "inflammation". "Pridatki", as I found out today, is "parovarium".

When I was a little kid every time I was sitting on a stone some old ladies would come up to me and threaten me with the parovarium inflammation that would happen from sitting on a stone. I knew already what an inflammation was, and was fairly sure that it does not normally come from sitting on a stone. I did not know what a parovarium was; from their mysterious glances and constant referring to the fact that I was a girl I assumed they meant some sex organ, but which? They also referred to some vague terrible consequences, which in their language could mean either loss of fertility or loss of virginity. The former was no problem and the latter was quite an interesting proposition, except that I already knew that this, alas, also does not happen from sitting on stones, at least not unless you have company. i also assumed that at least some of the old women knew that too.

I continued ignorantly sitting on the stones until yesterday, when a friendly Russian finally gave me a link to a Russian medical dictionary that described exactly what kind of organ a pridatok is. It's parovarium in English, epoophoron in medical Latin (though sounds like a Greek loanword) and different Finnsh sources offer "lisämunasarja" or "munanjohtimen liepeessä sijaitseva mesonefroksen jäänne". If you still have no clue, Webster online offers "A group of tubules, a remnant of the Wolffian body, often found near the ovary or oviduct; the epoophoron." Other than that I have no clue, either.

A quick search on Google has revealed that nobody in either English-speaking or Finnish-speaking world has considered this horrible disease important enough to mention on the web. Come to think of it, I don't really know any Russians who'd had it either, An urban legend disease?

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A bit more about pain

I've heard stories about women giving birth and asking for pain relief being told that they can do without and that quite a lot of women before them have done without. I've heard many stories like that in Russia, some in Finland and a few even in the US. It does not happen very often in the civilized world, but sometimes it does.

I've needed a few stitches a few times in my life. When I came to an emergency room, they have always put some painkiller on the wound before putting the stitches in. None have ever said "so many people before you have gotten stiches without anaesthesia, you can too" although, assumedly, I am not the first person in the world who has had a cut that needed stiches. Never heard about anyone else in a civilized country being denied anaesthesia in such way when getting stitches. Why's the difference?

Ugh (I read a web forum)

While being somewhat frustrated at work I decided to let off steam by reading a bit of Ilta-Sanomat web forum. These things are sometimes interesting in a trainwreck sort of way.

Found a thread about ceasarian vs. vaginal birth (I can read these things fairly comfortably due to a firm decision never to have anything to do with either). Here are the themes that often came up there:

1. "You can't control everything in life." Yeah, obviously. Is that a reason to avoid controlling things that we can and want to control?

2. "Why are people nowadays so intent on avoiding physical pain?" If you need to ask that, the only appropriate answer is a practical demonstration. No, I don't recommend that my readers perform it for such people, and I myself am a sufficiently law-abiding person not to perform such demonstration for people who discuss this topic on the net or in person. But if I ever hear something like that from medical personnel while asking them for pain relief (and that has happened to some writers in that thread), I really will perform a practical demonstration that will hopefully make them understand why people prefer to avoid pain.

3. "But giving birth is a natural process." Yep, in some countries it still is. Check their infant and maternal mortality rates.

This is a rant against stupid arguments, not against vaginal birth. I am sure that everyone who intends to have children is able to choose their optimal method of bringing them into the world without my learned advice, and am also sure that vaginal birth in the civilized world is a lot safer than somewhere where it is indeed fully and irreversibly natural.

Another thing that has struck me as weird before, and especially in that thread, is the way many people tend to consider other people's sexual life totally unimportant (unlike, of course, their own sexual life). And I don't mean the normal healthy selfishness - of course our own lives are a lot more important to us than those of other people's, it would be weird to expect otherwise - but that the gap between our attitude towards our own sex life and our attitude towards other people's sex life is a lot wider than most (all?) other such gaps. "Turhamaisuus" (vanity) was the word most often used on that web forum with regard to women's concern about possible damage to their vaginas from birth. And I don't think it's a gender issue - I've seen in other contexts people dismissing men's concerns about erectile dysfunction just as nonchalantly. Somebody also compared men concerned about possible damage to their wives' vaginas to immature 13-year-old boys. People who cannot get laid are mostly laughed at, even by the people who take it very seriously when they cannot get laid themselves, and people who complain about their spouses withholding sex are told to grin and bear it. And yet most people take their own sexual life as a matter of utmost importance. I wonder why is there such a strong difference? Is it one of the results of sex still being a taboo on some level?

Per qualche dollaro in piu (little spoilers)

Finally saw Per qualche dollaro in piu. It was good much in the same way as Per un pugno di dollari. The soundtrack was not quite as good, but there was a lot of nice things to compensate for it: Lee Van Cleef, for one thing, and the much better bad guy played by Gian Maria Volonte (he also played the bad guy in Per un pugno di dollari but that role was not nearly as good). And, most of all, Klaus Kinski, who has a small but memorable role as a psychotic killer. He had always played psychotic characters superbly, and now that I am reading his autobiography I am starting to understand why.

Eastwood's and Van Cleef's characters calling each other "boy" and "old man" are somewhat ridiculous, considering that they (the actors) have about 5 years' age difference and both look older than they are.

Now that I have seen all the three movies, I can have an opinion on the much-flamewarred topic of whether Eastwood's chatacter is the same person in Per un pugno di dollari, Per qualche dollaro in piu and Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo, and my opinion is that in the first two it might well be the same guy, but in Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo the character is different.

Lidl and strawberries

Today they opened a new Lidl in Herttoniemi and I decided to give it a personal inspection on my way to work, figuring there would not be a lot of people at that time. I was wrong: it was full of Somalis, people on welfare, Russians, housewives, Gypsies, senior citizens, software engineers on their way to work and other shady characters. Normally it wouldn't bother me, but since Lidl does not have shopping baskets and everybody is using a cart crowded Lidl tends to get on my nerves. Otherwise it was all right, exactly the same selection of stuff as in any other Lidl even though this is the biggest one I've seen so far. The only difference was that in this Lidl they had baggers, which is normally unheard of in Finland except in Stockmann during Hullujen Päivät. This was the silliest thing I'd ever seen in a grocery store: baggers without bags. Each register had an employee standing next to it and trying to load the groceries back into customers' carts, which was very annoying if these customers were trying to pack those same groceries into bags at the same time.

Didn't even have cheap Spanish strawberries, sniff. They had expensive Finnish ones instead. In general it looks like the Finnish strawberry season is starting, unfortunately for me. For some reason Finns usually prefer Finnish produce and especially Finnish strawberries. I could never understand why until I finally realized that most Finns in general prefer the sweeter and softer varieties of strawberries that are not usually imported except maybe from Sweden. My loss, I guess, since I prefer firmer and more sour varieties and at some point these are nowhere to be found.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Ritual uniforms

At times I wonder about uniforms worn for ritual purposes, and about people who like the idea. I wouldn't have any problems with them if they just wore the uniforms themselves and left the rest of us in peace, but, unfortunately, they tend to want other people to wear uniforms as well.

I understand safety-related dress-codes (such as that it is not a good idea to let people wear blouses with very wide hanging sleeves while operating heavy machinery in which such sleeves are likely to be caught). I can also understand uniforms in professions with high visibility where other people need to distinguish employees from everyone else at a glance, such as for example police and flight attendants.

But what the fuck is it about wearing a uniform while doing A in order to put you in the mood for A or to remind you that you are doing A? Don't know about you, but I usually do remember what I am doing. And yes, I am already in the mood for A, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. If, however, I am not in the mood for A and am doing it out of necessity, wearing the clothes of somebody else's choice is not bloody likely to suddenly put me in the mood.

This rant is now inspired by one of Jukka's comments (no offense) but usually comes up in discussions about school uniforms. People says things like "so that kids would think about school and not about clothes" or "to put kids in the mood for school". I have worn a school uniform for 10 years, thought about clothes then more than ever (mostly about how nice it would be to wear something else), and the only thing that it has ever put me in the mood to do was to burn all those uniforms along with their designers and the people who decided that we had to wear them. Judging from the behavior of my classmates most of them did not get into the proper mood for school, either.

The Krav Maga session yesterday was rather intensive, without a minute of rest. They also threatened us with some sessions outside now that it is summer.

Kristiina came over last night; we had a good time, talked, drank and watched The Shawshank Redemption. It is a good movie, and not nearly as heavy as we both expected.

Venus has moved across the face of the sun today, but it was cloudy. Just my luck.

MBTA (Boston's public transit system) is instituting random bag checks on subway and commuter trains. I am not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, but I am amazed. Never thought I'd live to see the day. ACLU is pissing boiling water. I feel like cheering both MBTA and ACLU and watching them fight each other.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Troy (spoilers)

Went to see Troy last night, even though almost everyone said it was bad.

Homer is probably turning around in his grave, but I was entertained anyway. OTOH I was easy to entertain in that particular moment: just show me some scantily clad men with big swords, and I am happy. OK, the men's skirts were a bit too long for my taste. There was no particularly impressive swordfighting, but they made up for quality by quantity, and it was fun anyway. Halfway through their fighting I started wishing Jet Li and Donnie Yen were there, but unfortunately the political correctness and the artistic license did not go far enough to have Chinese Greek warriors.

Brad Pitt and Eric Bana were quite tolerable as Achilles and Hector, and Orlando Bloom was absolutely awful as Paris. Of all the cast I liked the most Boromir (oops, I meant Sean Bean) as Odysseus. Pitt has grown himself such big muscles that I half-expected him to start speaking with an Austrian accent.

They took a whole lot of artistic license with the plot, so even those who really remember the Iliad should watch out for spoilers.

The movie does not make quite clear why Achilles is such a great warrior. When he lands on the beach with his elite special force of 50 people, they take about 20% loss within the first several seconds, and Achilles behaves as if it's normal although these are supposed to be the men who spend their whole lives fighting together with him. In general, all the beach landing by Greeks and fire by Trojans scene was very appropriate for watching on the D-day anniversary.

Now I am waiting for the sequel: Odysseus trying to sail home without GPS. They can make audacious changes here too: have him actually sail home with GPS, get home early, find Penelope having sex with some minor gods played by Jet Li and Donnie Yen and have them fight Odysseus's men for the rest of the movie.

R.I.P. Reagan

Reagan died. He has probably been dead for several years now for most real intents and purposes because of the Alzheimer's, but now he is really dead. Surprisingly, if feels like a bummer. He was a fairly good president in spite of having wrong (different from mine) opinions on some issues.

I owe a lot to him with regard to helping USSR fall apart. It would have fallen apart a few years later anyway even without him, and it would probably not have made a lot of difference in the world history, but it made quite a lot of difference in my life. Thanks.

The weekend

Friday night spent a very nice and peaceful evening in Killeri's place. Made me feel a lot better. I had missed him when I was away.

Went shooting on Saturday. Considering that I hadn't been shooting for some months, didn't do badly at all, at least most of the bullets went into the black part of the target. Also my hands didn't get as sore as they usually do after loading 100 rounds of ammunition. Was great to be there, I had almost forgotten how much fun shooting is and how friendly and amusing the people there are.

Nowadays they even have an improvised breast protector (just a scarf, really) for women in the kind of blouses that allow hot shells to fall into their bras. The guys working there said that this happens fairly often, and I used to think that I was the only moron that made it happen. A couple of years ago a hot shell fell into my bra and I started screaming and jumping, keeping my gun on the target with one hand and trying to fish the shell out of the bra with the other. Instead of being gentlemen and helping me by reaching into my bra and getting the shell, the staff and the other customers were doubled over with laughter and just said "Put the gun down! Put the gun down!". But I fished the shell out before I realized that putting the gun down and using both hands for shell removal is a better strategy than doing it with one hand while aiming at the target with the other.

Sat in Ruttopuisto with some friends to celebrate the fact that Yoe is on vacation in Finland. Just as I thought that Yoe's hair color can't get any better she showed up with the world's prettiest somewhat-orangey-bright-red that could have made Leeloo from The Fifth Element cry, become green with envy and fire her hairdresser and go to Yoe's instead. Yoe had a lot of fascinating stories about Japan and about her green fluorescent mice.

The was a lost man from Savo with us, who came to Helsinki without a cell phone and couldn't find his friends' place. He borrowed someone's phone for a second and then decided to sit with us. He had clearly previously enjoyed some mind-altering substance and was therefore not making much sense. In fact he made so little sense that the situation started to seem slightly absurd, and Janka decided we were inside of some urban fantasy game. This feeling was enhanced by a group of very drunk teenagers who were doing funny tricks. Some of them were doing acrobatics, one guy was wrapped in toilet paper and was playing a mummy and one guy was continuously losing his pants, and, at a later point, underpants as well.

Sunday watched some Russian movies with Niksu and then went to see Troy.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Regensburg, 17.05.04-19.05.04

Monday morning met Benka and Oska at the Roissy airport, and together we boarded a flight to Munich. They even let me sit by the window, and the weather was nice so mostly I could see the land, but I forgot to take a proper map with me as usual and had to guess the geographic features from memory. Oh well, one doesn't really need a lot of guessing to recognize Bernese Oberland, not if one has seen it before from the ground, in any case. But I would have liked to remember what all the rivers were, and some of the lakes. So we saw the mountains. They looked fake. To me mountains always look fake, even if I am standing on them, but especially from a plane. To Benka too.

Oska started whining about my Magen David and about how I shouldn't wear it in Germany. I told him that I'd worn it in Germany before without causing Hitler to awaken and arise or any similar calamity. He continued whining though, and I took it off and put it in my purse, all the time growling that lack of sleep and ingestion of airplane food apparently caused at least temporary brain damage. And sure enough, after a good night's sleep and some sausages Oska declared Germany to be a perfectly safe place to wear a Magen David.

Oska is a dangerous person, in that he really knows a lot of stuff, and he also tends to speak in a rather authoritative tone about things that he knows nothing of, so I tend to take him with a grain of salt unless I think that he is talking about the stuff he knows. Lately he has even taken to giving me rather copious advice about my love life. Mind you, that's the man who told me that no man would ever have sex with me if I don't know about Fourier transform. I was 13 or 14 then, and believed him. I stopped taking his advice on erotic and romantic matters seriously upon finding out experimentally that most men apparently don't quiz their sex partners on the Fourier transform before hopping into sack. Knew a guy who talked about Mandelbrot sets in bed though, but that was after sex and everybody was drunk and it's not the same thing anyway.

Got to the airport, got a car. Avis asked some ungodly money (15 euros a day) for including a second driver, and we had trouble opening the trunk, but otherwise was OK. Drove to Regensburg. Germany is very green.

Regensburg is awfully pretty, never seen anything like that in Germany before. I'd only seen Frankfurt, Saarbrucken and Karlsruhe and they had been all bombed rather severely during WWII. Regensburg apparently wasn't, or at least not much. Gothic building everywhere and a lot of narrow pedestrian streets.

The hotel (Munchner Hof) was very nice and had a big suite with a kitchenette. The staff was very friendly, too. We did not know about the kitchenette and were somewhat surprised when we opened a closet and found it.

The city has a beautiful Gothic cathedral, Dom St. Peter. Across the street from the cathedral there is a house with a note that proudly says that Napoleon Bonaparte had stayed there for 2 days at some point. Then there is Alte Kapelle, which is a newer church and not nearly as impressive, too much golden decoration inside. Right near the hotel is Neupfarrplatz, and from a window of the room I can see Neupfarrkirche, a simple but pleasant green Gothic thing. There are some cafes with a lot of tables on the square, and a few stands that sell cheap asparagus and very expensive cherries. Cherries are very expensive this year, both in Europe and (according to Benka) in the US. Wonder whether it's because the cherry season is bad, or whether it's because it's just late.

There is a Kaufhof department store on the square, and we disapprove of its modern and fairly ugly architecture and its nonacceptance of credit cards. Benka tries to find underwear and pantyhose for grandma and fails. I, on the other hand, find a lot of my favorite candy (Ferrero's Pocket Coffee) for very little money, but Oska and Benka immediately confiscate and eat half of it.

I go out on my own to find Danube, which in not hard. Danube is very fast here, unlike in Vienna, and fairly wide, too. There is even a little beach there. People hang out there but do not go into the water. I find an old-looking bridge called Steinerne Brucke and go to the other side. There is some castle-like contraption down the river (probably a castle but too far away to see well) and another one straight ahead when you look from the bridge. There is a very cute Gothic tower in the beginning of the bridge (downtown side) too, with a clock. When you look at the city from the bridge you see a lot more Gothic towers than you'd ever realized there were in Regensburg.

I go get Benka and Oska and we go to the bridge and across the river and then back and walk around the town. The old town is fairly big for a small town like that. We decide not to go to Nuremberg the next day but just to hang out in Regensburg.

The next day we walk around town again, find the old town hall, eat, have a beer outside (that is, Oska and I have beers and Benka sneers at us and our beers), take pictures, buy an incredibly expensive phone card at the post office (10 euros, and the calls to the US cost almost a euro a minute), get pissed off and also buy a cheaper one from a Middle Eastern guy who owns sort of an internet cafe without the cafe part. The guy sells us an Irish card that costs 10 euros and gives you about 150 minutes of calls to the US if you are calling from Germany, or 250 of calling from Austria.

Unlike in Paris there are very few bookstores here, at least in the old town, and none that sell DVDs. There is an outlet of the fast food chain Nordsee, which is the best fast food chain in the world and the rescue for a weary traveler who is trying to avoid sausage and sauerkraut in German-speaking countries. There are a lot of jewelry shops with ungodly prices, and a lot of tourist groups with guides.

On Wednesday morning as we are about to leave I remember that we did not see Porta Praetoria, a city gate built by Romans, and we go there. There is indeed a piece of gate with really old stones sticking out of it. Now I am happy and we can go.


Slightly hungover, and severely tired due to horrible noise made by construction workers in our yard at 7 in the morning. Sounded like they dropped the whole roof into the yard, but apparently was not the case. Yet. But am not terribly efficient at work.

Yesterday got attacked out of the blue by Suomalainen Kirjakauppa that dragged me inside and forced me to buy a book about the design of embedded hardware. OK, I bought it voluntarily, but why the hell? In case I wake up at night and suddenly decide to design some embedded hardware? I wonder how desperate would I have to be in order to start designing embedded hardware for a living. I guess I just bought the book because it cost less than 5 euros and looked like moderate fun. And I wasn't even drunk yet.

Drank with a few friends yesterday, was great.

Have a really bad feeling about something. Maybe will whine to Killeri tonight, he has a magic wand to calm me down with.

Looked at the new application forms at the Directorate of Immigration's web page. They are bad. Really bad. Ask a lot of rather personal questions which they did not use to ask before.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

No smoking

Ireland's ban on smoking in restaurants is doing well, Norway's ban has just started. Sweden decided to ban smoking in restaurant starting 01.06.2005. In the Netherlands the matter is under discussion in the parliament. Finnish minister of Social Affairs and Health said it would be nice to ban smoking in restaurants. Never thought I'd live to see the day...

I wonder when will smoking be banned from all the public places in all the Western world? I am starting to believe that it will be "when" and not "if". Maybe in 10 years the fact that people were once allowed to smoke in restaurants will seem like ancient history, just like now the fact that people used to be allowed to smoke on planes seems like ancient history.

Can you see that I am in an optimistic mood today?

Cell phones, ice cream and gay marriage

Heh. North Korea banned cell phones. You can read about it here. Let's see what they ban next.

Estonian food producers are attempting to get into Finnish markets, says Helsingin Sanomat, and I have already noticed it yesterday at Sesto when I saw a freezer with Estonian Premia ice cream. Bought one called Creme brule: the chocolate-nut coating was absolutely disgusting but the caramel ice cream that appeared when I peeled the coating off was pretty good.

In case nobody has noticed, gay people have been marrying in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for two weeks and a half now, and still the hell has not opened and swallowed the state, the Supreme Judicial Court has not been struck by lightning, all the straight married people have not gotten divorced and even the cardinal did not croak. With any luck the state might survive till my visit in fall.

Mindhunters (spoilers)

Saw Mindhunters yesterday and liked it. 8 people on an island and one of them is killing the others. The movie is well-paced, able to sustain the suspense, and the characters can actually be distinguished from each other, which is nice. I think it would have been better if they were quite sure that they are alone on the island, but this is a matter of taste.

The movie demands quite a bit of suspension of disbelief. I have no problem with most of it. IMO it's OK that in the movies people hit each other quite strongly and without appropriate damage, this makes fights in the movies look a lot better than in real life. However, one of the suspension-of-disbelief-moments (the character dying quite spectacularly from an acid-laced cigarette) clearly belongs only in a sci-fi movie, which this one isn't.

No Krav Maga today

Dragged my ass to Krav Maga in the morning, at a great personal cost due to being very sleepy and horny, and the door was locked. Summer schedules, bugger them. Should've checked beforehand.

Dragged my ass to work practically in the middle of the night. The boss saw me there, rubbed his eyes and apparently decided that something does not compute.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Meanwhile in the world

A federal judge declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional in the US.

Junk food provides one third of all calories in US diet, found researchers in Berkeley. I'd love to see their definition of "junk food". For that matter, I'd like to see anyone's definition of "junk food". Seems that different people use the term to mean totally different things, with some people meaning "food sold by fast-food restaurants", some "cheap food that is sweet or greasy", some "food that is unhealthy by any definition" and some "food high in calories". With the latter definition it's not surprising that junk food provides so many calories.

In Japan a 11-year-old girl killed a classmate with a boxcutter knife, and the country is in shock. I can understand shock over any violent crime in a place where violent crime is rare, but I don't really get the surprise over the age of the murderer. For a number of people the only thing that prevents them from committing some violent crime is the realization that they are likely to get caught. I don't find it surprising that someone so young has less sense to realize that they will get caught than an adult. i wonder about the motive though.

Jose Padilla, an American terrorism suspect who has been held in custody without charges for 2 years, is about to get his case heard in Supreme Court. I can't fucking believe it that it takes a hearing in Supreme-fucking-Court to decide that you cannot put a civilian US citizen on US soil into military detention for 2 years without charges - and the court hasn't even decided so yet. Even though from all I heard the guy probably really is a terrorist. The Padilla case will probably be resolved by the state presenting charges and evidence, but the question remains: what do you do with your own citizens who turn out to be enemy combatants?

Unexpected workout

Got some proper sleep on Monday night, though not enough to be in the condition or in the mood for Krav Maga. Figured would spend a peaceful evening and maybe watch Troy, but turned out that Tane was moving last night and needed more people to help him move, so I went there. Was a good workout, but my ass is a bit sore today. We had a few fun moments when we managed to stick one piece of furniture up the spiral staircase without being sure that it would go up, or even down again. There should be a special circle of hell for architects that design apartment buildings with spiral staircases, especially ones that are too narrow for normal furniture.

The building has two spiral staircases, one wider and one more narrow.

Gotta go to Krav Maga tomorrow, it's safer.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Paris, 15.05.04-17.05.04

Stayed in the hotel Mont Blanc this time. It's in the 5th arrondissement, cheap, clean and otherwise OK, and has a toilet with a door that cannot be closed when somebody is using it because there is no space at all between the seat and the door. Well, that's not a problem when you are alone.

The weather was lovely. Decided not to go to any museums or suchlike and just to hang out. The 5th and the 6th are my favorite places in Paris. The city is much like it was the year before, except for better weather. The only things that changed was the appearance of even more Asian delis than there used to be (beautiful but average as far as the food is concerned) and a lot of newspaper headlines telling about the local gay marriage debate, probably due to the fact that the gay marriages in Massachusetts were due to start on Monday.

Suddenly felt like having sex right there and then, but Killeri was not with me and the locals are very much not to my taste. There was a lot of men perstering women in the streets. Or me, anyway. For some reason I have guys trying to pick me up in the streets all the time, more than many women I know. Don't understand why: I am not particularly pretty, not a particularly nice person, and, alas, not particularly young anymore. Either it's the big tits, or I look much friendlier than I really am, or I just walk around more than most people. In any case none of them has ever had any luck with me. In Finland it usually just takes a glimpse or two of my "inner beauty" to scare those guys away, but many other nations, including the French, are more persistent. The French are brave, too. I can only raise my hat (but obviously not drop my pants) to a guy who is trying to pick up a woman who is 30 years younger than him, 30 cm taller and has 30 more teeth. This time's funniest guy was an Indian from UK who tried to impress me by talking about numerology and palm reading. He asked me for my birth date and immediately deduced from it that I am not married. One could have thought that my previous mention of my boyfriend could cause someone to deduce that I do not also have a husband even without knowing my birth date.

Realized that I'd never been to Champs-Elysees at night and went there. Looked pretty nice but I still prefer the 5th and the 6th. Place de la Concorde was nice in the dark too and the Eiffel tower had some weird blinking lights all over.

Next day I decided to go to a museum anyway. I'd always wanted to go to the museum of cinema and it had always been closed when I was in Paris. Walked to Trocadero and found out that it was closed again. Is the damn thing ever open? Instead saw a lot of Chinese demonstrating for Falun Dafa. Or against, go figure.

Shopped for DVDs. France has a lot of lovely DVDs, too bad I can't afford them all. Also they have a nasty habit of not putting any subtitles in, not even in French for the deaf people. Don't they have any deaf people in France? I can watch a French movie without subtitles but it takes some effort. With subtitles in French it would be no effort at all.

Paris also has a lot of bookstores and books (in French and otherwise). I know it's fashionable to say bad things about the French, both in the US and in Finland, but I am convinced that people who have a bookstore on every corner cannot be all bad. I managed to resist the impulse to go to Gibert Joseph (a huge bookstore on St. Michel; probably part of a chain) and buy it all. OK, I did not really manage to resist the impulse, I simply left the shopping for Sunday and forgot that it was closed on Sundays.

In the afternood decided to walk down rue de Rivoli in Marais and then maybe to rue des Rosier (a Jewish neighborhood) to get some local bagels.

Last year I saw more police in Paris than I'd seen in all my previous life put together, and I'd thought that I'd never see even half as many again. Well, I was wrong. Rue de Rivoli was a complete traffic jam consisting only of police cars for several blocks. Reminded me of Blues Brothers. The cars and the police were positioned like something was happening in the Place de la Bastille and for a second I wondered whether somebody is trying to take the Bastille again. Using my regular prudence and common sense, or lack thereof, I went there too. There was a huge demonstration against antisemitism, which was just ending (demonstration, not antisemitism). A large group of people broke off from the demonstration and moved towards rue des Rosiers so decisively that I realized that unless I run ahead of them I have no chance of any bagels at all, but was too lazy to run. When I got there, the bagels were long gone, the street had a carneval-like atmosphere, some old guys were playing klezmer music and what looked like a Jewish motorcycle gang was finishing up some kosher pizza.

Walked through the 6th again, where some Berber guy in his sixties tried to set up a date with me in spite of being on duty as a restaurant thrower-in. He looked very much like my late uncle Zyama. The thought of being picked up by uncle Zyama made me giggle, which the Berber guy unfortunately understood wrong.

Had a dinner at le Bistrot Mazarin (42 rue Mazarine). Great place, great food, reasonable prices. That's in the 6th but a couple of blocks away from most restaurants there.

One more thing about Paris: nowadays there are role-playing game stores everywhere, at least in the 5th. Lots of them.

Silly me

Should've read Pinseri. The problem I've just mentioned is explained there and is being fixed.

Weirdness with blogspot again?

Pinseri's program that checks blog updates apparently doen't see my log. It gets a "URL not found" from blogspot. I can see my own blog just fine. Wonder where the problem is...

The Day After Tomorrow (little spoilers)

Went to see The Day After Tomorrow yesterday. This is the first time I went to see a movie just for special effects, and I was not disappointed: the special effects were quite special indeed. The characters and the plot were, well, about the same quality as in Independece Day, and I did not expect any better. What I liked the best was the special effect where cold air deep-freezes everything and everyone pretty much instantly. Wonder if I can have some of their magic super-heat-conductive air for the instant cooling of the sparkling wine that Alko insists on selling at room temperature?

Finally bought Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo on DVD. Extended version and everything, but unfortunately no Italian sound. Maybe will buy this separately. It has a pretty good comment track by some movie expert whose name I don't recall right now. Wish there were a comment track by Leone himself but he can't do it on account of being dead.

Watched a bit of Mort d'un pourri, too. It's a 1977 French crime movie that I used to like a lot, and this is the first time I was watching the original French version without subtitles or anything. The language was at times too hard for me when they were discussing complicated bureaucratic stuff in French, but I liked it anyway. Gotta watch the rest of it.