Friday, December 30, 2005

Cartoons

Here are the Muhammed cartoons that got everyone to piss boiling water.

Would you install software made by these people?

Every once in a while I hear about people who have gotten a bad haircut and were offered another one as a compensation. I always wondered about it: if they fucked it up the first time around, why would anyone get another haircut from the same hairdresser, considering that the damage is cumulative? And what happens when they fuck up again? Sounds like a sure recipe for the hairstyle of the Russian Civil War hero Kotovsky, which I suppose is OK if that's what you want, but which in any case is not a thing people normally want to pay for.

Well, turns out that hairdressers are not the only ones who are offering such "corrections". Our old friend Sony BMG has reached a tentative settlement with the customers who are suing it. It is offering a new normal CD instead of the "Cd product", another downloaded CD from a list of more than 200, $7.50 (or alternatively three downloands and no $7.50), a promise to stop making CD products with XCP and to provide a software to uninstall that, ahem, technology (I think the proper term is malware).

Somebody please explain me: considering the fine quality of the software that originally came with the CD product, and the even finer quality of the software that they then provided to uninstall the software that originally came with the CD product, is there still anyone in the world who would voluntarily install or use any kind of software provided by Sony BMG?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

"We support freedom of speech as long as you are saying nice things that do not offend people"

That's what a guy from Singapore told me sometime in 1993. He was quite serious about it, too. At that point I figured it must be some cultural difference between Singapore and the West. Guess not:

The Council of Europe has criticised the Danish government for refusing to take action against Jyllands-Posten for publishing cartoons of prophet Muhammed. Franco Frattini, the Deputy EU commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security, said that the cartoons will cause hostility against Islam and foreigners.

No shit, Sherlock? Let's take a look at the background of the case: last summer a Danish writer has complained that it's hard to get anyone to illustrate a book about Muhammed, because everyone is afraid of a retaliation by Muslims (it is forbidden to draw the prophet). In order to test the current state of freedom of speech in Denmark Jyllands-Posten asked a number of artists to draw Muhammed cartoons, and 12 did. The freedom-of-speech test: Danish government passed, Muslims failed, the Council of Europe sort of passed but does not look good.

Silly me. I thought that hostility against Muslims might have been caused by riots, threats to bomb Denmark, and guys like Imam Raed Hlayhel saying that democracy is worthless to Muslims and that women who go to hairdressers will later go to hell. And maybe - just maybe - by a perception that Muslims might overreact to anything that offends them by, say, issuing fatwas against writers, stabbing film directors and having violent protests in Pakistan and Kashmir over depictions of the prophet in Denmark. But now I know that it must be the cartoons. You just look at a cartoon and immediately start doubting that Islam is the world's most peaceful religion.

Egyptian Grand Imam Muhammad Sayid Tantawy also condemned the Danish government for showing such disrespect towards Islam. Wait, is that the same Tantawy who said in April 2002 that Jews are "enemies of Allah, sons of apes and pigs"? And later during the same year called for intensifying the "martyrdom operations" against Israel? Yeah, just the guy whom you want to lecture you on the subjects of respect for other religions and freedom of speech.

Seriously, though, I think that freedom of religion has already pretty much died in the West, and freedom of speech is under attack, and not just from radical Islam.

A tiny minority of extremists

Norwegian NGO FAFO has conducted a poll on the political attitudes of Palestinians.
50% support suicide bombings against Israeli civilians, 33% support Al-Qaeda's bombings in Iraq, 65% support Al-Qaeda bombing in Europe and the US, 12% support Al-Qaeda bombings in Jordan.

For a second I wondered: why Europe? What did Europe ever do to the fuckers? But then I figured: what's not to like? Four assholes blow themselves up on London subway, and immediately G-8 give $3 billion to Palestinian Authority. Hey, if I got $3 billion every time somebody bombs somebody else, maybe I'd support the bombings too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hanukka: who celebrates it?

First of all, who celebrates it? I don't know any Jews who really celebrate Hanukka, or in any case they don't invite me (which might have something to do with the drinking game thing). My guess would be that it is mostly celebrated by Jews in Western countries who have kids and need to have something to show the kids instead of Christmas.

Just checked out the Hanukka customs on the net (the traditional ones that do not, as I just found out, involve drinking games) and they are all very Ashkenazi and Central European (a Yiddish-language game, potato pancakes, etc.). I wonder what do the Sephardi do for Hanukka, and what was everyone doing before potatoes were invented.

Those potato pancakes are evil, BTW. More evil than gefilte fish. I have always had a feeling that most Jewish food (or most Ashkenazi food anyway) was invented by an antisemite. Or else by Jews who had to defend themselves from antisemites, although I am not quite convinced about the efficiency of gefilte fish as a defense weapon.

Christmas

Christmas was good. We went to Maija's and JP's place on Christmas eve, to Ville's and Leena's on Monday, and on Sunday I just stayed home and watched Buffy and Amazing Race. There was wine and ham and the potato thingie and riisipuuro and chocolate cake and good company. Tried to make a raspberry cake which turned out ok but had way too much raspberry in it. Maybe will try it again with less raspberry.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Dreidel-dreidel-dreidel!

Upon realizing that Hanukka is today I also realized I lost my dreidel (a four-side die used for a Hanukka game). I looked around at the Net, and, sure enough, found a virtual dreidel.

I also read up on Hanukka and realized that dreidel is not a drinking game as I always thought. Bugger.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukka!

Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates Christmas, and happy Hanukka to everyone who celebrates Hanukka!

It's kind of weird that they are on the same day this year. Never seen this before.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Great Infidel Holiday

The Great Infidel Holiday is here again. The general panic in stores has to be seen to be believed. I always tend to forget during the year, and then sometime in mid-December I start wondering why the stores are so overrun with frantically shopping people. And then I remember that Christmas is coming and bugger off to Stockmann's chocolate department to see what they brought us for Christmas.

I always feel faintly guilty about liking Christmas, because almost everyone else is panicking and shopping and cooking and whatever, and I just come and eat everyone's riisipuuro. It's easy to like holidays that you don't have to do anything for.

Mmm, maybe should make some riisipuuro by myself just for the hell of it...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mark Steyn on self-delusion

A couple of the current conversations in my blog and elsewhere reminded me of this article, written by Mark Steyn in Telegraph.

A quote:

These days, whenever something goofy turns up on the news, chances are it involves a fellow called Mohammed. A plane flies into the World Trade Centre? Mohammed Atta. A gunman shoots up the El Al counter at Los Angeles airport? Hesham Mohamed Hedayet. A sniper starts killing petrol station customers around Washington, DC? John Allen Muhammed. A guy fatally stabs a Dutch movie director? Mohammed Bouyeri. A terrorist slaughters dozens in Bali? Noordin Mohamed. A gang-rapist in Sydney? Mohammed Skaf.

Maybe all these Mohammeds are victims of Australian white racists and American white racists and Dutch white racists and Balinese white racists and Beslan schoolgirl white racists.

But the eagerness of the Aussie and British and Canadian and European media, week in, week out, to attribute each outbreak of an apparently universal phenomenon to strictly local factors is starting to look pathological. "Violence and racism are bad", but so is self-delusion.

Pyrophobia

I wonder why pyrophobia (fear of fire) is quite uncommon in humans while it is fairly common in other mammals. A few friends suggested that maybe most people who used to be afraid of fire simply got weeded out by evolution, which seems like a good theory. I wonder if there is anything else to it, though. Are monkeys afraid of fire?

Antikiller

Watched Antikiller at Ville's and Leena's place on Tuesday. It's a Russian movie about criminals. The movie was otherwise fun, but the uneven-slow-motion scenes (of the kind filmmakers usually use to hide bad martial art choreography) were quite annoying.

The characters were so disgustingly realistic that half of them could have been my former schoolmates.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The terrorist-in-chief

What have we learned from Iran's First Terrorist this fall:

1. Israel is a cancer and should be wiped off the map.
2. Holocaust never happened.
3. A supernatural light surrounded him while he was addressing the General Assembly of the UN.
4. The main mission of the Iranian Islamic revolution is to pave way for the reappearance of the 12th imam.
5. Israel should be moved to Germany and/or Austria (which begs the question of whether they should be wiped off the map, too).
6. Israel should be moved to United States, Canada or Alaska (which begs the question of whether he owns any map published after Alaska became a part of the USA).
7. Iranian nuclear program is totally peaceful! We swear! Yeah, and we have just coincidentally bought 29 Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile systems, and 18 North Korean BM-25 missiles, too, and we want missiles whose range will extend to 3500 kilometers.

(3500 km is enough to hit Vienna, Berlin and Rome. And Helsinki, too, although it is unlikely that he knows about it. And Israel is only 1500 km away.)

Yesterday the terrorist-in-chief banned Western music on state TV and radio (do they have private stations?) and banned all officials from travelling abroad without a prior approval by foreign ministry. All in a day's work.

The world is mostly laughing him off, just like a lot of people laughed Hitler off after the publishing of Mein Kampf. OK, so it's not exactly the same thing, what with one of them being a ridiculous clown and the other being a president of a 70-million country that is currently building nukes.

Merry Christmas to Karpela

A group of Eduskunta representatives gave an appropriate gift to our Minister of Culture: an mp3 player, a copy-protected "CD product", and an advice to rip it before the New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2005

No rest for the wicked, or säätö on ikuista

Finally installed everything on my computer: got skype with well-working sound, even got it to mount my cameras without much whining. Now the work computer is giving me shit: xorg eats 97% of the CPU.

Googled it. Turned out to be a common problem with ubuntu breezy, and nobody knows a sure solution. There is a million of homemade solutions each of which work for some people.

Anyway, edited the dri and glx modules from xorg.conf, booted. So far so good, don't know for how long.

Nightmare

For the first time in many years had a nightmare that was a continuation to another nightmare a few weeks ago, and it was quite horrible and frighteningly real. I woke up and immediately had to check out the Wikipedia to find out whether or not it really was a dream (yes, if it were true it would be in the Wikipedia). Yes, it was a dream. I also had to concentrate for a while and remember that no, really, I haven't been to Frankfurt in the last few weeks, or indeed in the last 9 years.

I am rarely so disoriented.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hmm...

Maybe will torrent the latest SuSE anyway, just in case...

It's official: I am a moron

Next time I try to install anything at all on a buggy shit of a motherboard somebody should run after me with a whip screaming "remember the noapic option, bitch!".

ASUS A8N-VM CSM, if somebody cares, and what finally got installed was Debian testing, complete with a scary Nvidia video driver, a 3com ethernet card (could not get the motherboard's own integrated ethernet device to work and the great-grandmother of all Ensoniq audio cards (got the integrated SoundMax audio working with the newest ALSA and great effort, but the sound was truly terrifying).

Almost gave up and started torrenting the latest SuSE, feeling like a fallen woman, but then remembered the noapic.

Now it's official: I am a pervert

Just spent a while wondering how to synchronize sex life and kernel compilation so that the kernel would be ready as soon as I come.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Iran's religious leaders oust Ahmadinejad, claim he was a Mossad agent

Iran's religious leaders, lead by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have ousted the democratically elected president Mahmud Ahmadinejad. He is currently imprisoned and accused of being an Israeli agent whose assignment was to tarnish Iran's image in the international community.

OK, just kidding. The man is on the roll. He denied Holocaust again, and suggested that Canada and the US might be good places to move Israel into. He did not explain what Canada and the US have to do with the Holocaust, except that they know that it in fact happened. I reckon that he thinks the further from Iran, the better, and next candidates will be Chile and Argentina. If Iran prefers that Jews move to Argentina it is not quite clear why they arranged that bombing in a Buenos Aires Jewish community building in 1994, but hey, that was before Ahmadinejad's time.

The president of the EU's administrative body, Jose Manuel Barroso, said Iranians "do not have the president, or the regime, they deserve. It calls our attention to the real danger of that regime having an atomic bomb." Hmm, I thought they elected the fucker.

This is not funny anymore.

The computer upgrade: light at the end of the tunnel, must be an oncoming train

After having a lot of trouble with Kubuntu I finally said "fuck it" and installed Debian testing amd64, and lo and behold, it works. It uses vesa driver for the graphics and somehow fails to use any resolution over 1280x1024, but otherwise the graphics are fine. It could not find the motherboard's integrated ethernet card, but I installed another one from my ethernet card collection, and it's a mere 10/100, but it works. The sound still does not work - will try to tweak it tonight or, failing that, will install my old sound card which is so ancient that cavemen used to beat each other over the head with it when no clubs were available.

Tried to install some drivers from nVidia site, but they turned out to be evil, failed to unstall and disapproved of every fucking kernel source in the known universe.

"Dear fellow citizens. I've been very, very bad."

Helsingin Sanomat reported yesterday that there is a plan for a new law that would permit the winners of copyright cases to make the person who broke the copyright put an announcement in a paper about it and pay for it.

"Lakiin sisältyvä pykälä antaisi riita-asioissa jutun voittaneelle osapuolelle mahdollisuuden tuomiosta ilmoittamiseen tiedotusvälineissä tekijänoikeuksia loukanneen kustannuksella."

To me this sounds like a clear assumption as to who would in fact win such a case, but big boys told me that this is written that way only because this punishment will only apply when a copyright holder wins the case, and not the other way around. Copyright holders will not be made to put up a announcement "oops, I accused an innocent person, sorry".

The idea is strange, and is fairly far out from the point of view of Finnish legal practices.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tookie revisited, or moonbats galore

Zombie has some Tookie Williams vigil pics. Where do all those insane fuckers crawl out from every time there is even a margianlly left-wing event? I mean, a fair lot right-wingers are completely and utterly batshit-crazy, but every right-wing event does not automatically attract nearly as many batshit-rightwingers.

Mind you, I don't find anything particularly crazy about opposing death penalty to the point of protesting every single execution, especially since they happen about once every two and a half years in California. What I find a bit suspicious are the people who demand the death of various elected officials as opposed to the death of a convicted quadruple murderer. I guess that on some level I don't really believe in the sincerity of their opposition to death penalty.

This brings back the fond memories of many pro-choice events I attended in Boston when I lived there. It needed to be done, I would do it again if I had to, and most people there were completely normal, but there were enough freaks of various kinds to be a nuisance, and all of them tended to believe that all of us support all their crazy causes. And yes, I realize that a person supporing one left-wing cause is more likely than average to support another one, but IMO it's not a reason for all of them to crawl out at the same time.

There was a Socialist Party politician who somehow reminded me of Illinois Nazis from Blues Brothers. There were people who tried to sell me books by Marx. I had to suggest to a number of communists that they should try out the Theory by moving to the USSR, which still existed back then, but I am afraid none of them took my good advice. There were environmentalists all over the place - they sometimes have worthy causes, but I can't quite understand what these causes have to do with abortion. There was a few people to whom I had to explain that no, I have absolutely no desire to help them free Mumia, whoever he is.

My favorite was a woman from a feminist organization (one of the organizers of one event) who said that she does not want us to call the event "clinic defense". "Defense is such a masculine word," - she said, - "we should not use it. We should call this clinic solidarity." I found this strange since our job was to prevent an about 300-person antiabortionist group from entering the premises and blocking the entrances, and violence was expected. Somebody from the crowd asked her whether kicking them with a boot would be considered "solidarity with a dangerous weapon" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but she did not find it funny.

The computer upgrade

Installed the new motherboard and processor. Booted up. It said that my slave IDE is in fact master, and broken, and did not find the master at all.

Checked all connections. Booted. Same result.

Danced a rain dance in the nude, changed the new IDE cable to the old one. Booted. Now it found everything just fine. I guess it is just one of those small mysteries of life.

Tried to install Kubuntu. Installed. Booted. Updated. Failed to boot.

Figured that having a /boot partition was a bad idea to begin with. Repartitioned. Failed to install. The installer referred me to /target/var/log/bootstrapper.log, which wasn't there.

Repeated several times before realizing that fucked something up with primary and logical partitions. Repartitioned. Installed. Xorg still doesn't work but at least the thing boots and finds the network.

Said "fuck it" and buggered off to work without my morning tea.

Life sucks

Did not sleep enough, my nose is sore and I managed to bite my lip to the point of a rather bad bleeding (as in two very bloody tissues). Now it is sore and drinking tea hurts.

Feel like going home to bed and crawling under the blanket with some cough medication.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Blue ice

Borya went to Argentina and took some really beautiful pictures.

A bunch of murderers

Just came into my mind: if I had to choose a group of people who'd done the most murders per person and the obvious choices like "murderers", "terrorists", "people whose last name is Hitler", etc., were out, I would go for "Nobel Peace Prize nominees".

Of course I don't know what kinds of murderous assholes were nominated in the last 50 years (they don't reveal nominations until 50 years have passed) but the nominations of the times before that were bad enough. (Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, you name them...)

And yes, I am aware that nomination process is not particularly discriminating and that there was a bunch of perfectly decent people nominated as well, but apparently being a murderous dictator practically guarantees a nomination.

Tired

Been tired lately. Being sociable is fun but drains me; I am not designed to be sociable every night two weeks in a row, and I just did just that. I really need a few evenings all by myself, but the problem is that hanging out with people is a lot of fun and therefore it's hard not to do it; besides, there are quite a few people that I haven't seen for a while now and I miss.

Anyway, to everyone with whom I was supposed to do things in the near future but haven't set up the date yet: it's nothing personal, I am just a bit overwhelmed. I am sure I'll be back to my normal routine sometime next week, or even this weekend.

Been irritable lately, too: I am sure people are not suppose to go into dark and murderous rage from accidentally shading a emacs window. (No, did not kill anyone, even the window in question.)

Bought a motherboard yesterday, feeling better now. Will feel better when I buy a new processor, too. Does anyone know if a boxed Athlon 64 contains everything needed for its installation, or if I need something else (that silver goo that comes in between the processor and heat sink?)?

The weekend: pikkujoulut and being sociable

We had pikkujoulut on Friday at work. First a meeting and chocolate cake (am never eating any chocolate cake ever again), then Megazone (I figured that after 6 year's break I would suck horribly at it, but in fact was 4th in a group of 19), then Cantina West (their lamb thingie has changed since spring: a lot smaller and with a different sauce, but just as good). Was a very nice evening even though some people ran away very early.

On Saturday Anu came over. We had some sparkling wine and then explored the attic, and then I woke up with a new wardrobe (not the clothes but the thing to hang them in) that I don't know where to put and a slight hangover.

On Sunday Heli came over and we had some tea, but she ran away very early (she lives very far away) and I went to Ville's and Leena's place where Ville showed us a most perverse American propaganda movie from 1943 where they said how lovely it was in the USSR. One look at that cinematographic masterpiece was enough to make me rethink my decision not to drink ever again.

Probably should go to Megazone more often (once or twice a week?): it's a good workout. Expensive, but what isn't? Running around shooting at people with a laser gun is a lot more fun than going to the gym.

New things tried:

Chapel Hill sparkling one: good
Cantina West cheesecake: bad (not objectively bad, but creamy and lemony in the way that I do not like)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Fry Tookie

A number of celebrities are signing petitions in favor of convicted murderer Tookie Williams who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow. Is there anywhere I could sign a petition in favor of his execution?

It's strange really: in general I would like to see death penalty abolished, but in every particular case that is publicized in the US my first reaction is "fry the fucker" and I have no desire to see that particular person granted clemency.

("Fry" is a figure of speech here: I disapprove of the electric chair as a barbaric method of execution, and am glad almost all states got rid of it - Nebraska is the only state where the condemned cannot choose a lethal injection instead).

For those who don't know: Tookie murdered four people in two different robberies, all of them execution-style when he certainly did not have to.

Riots in Australia

There have been riots in Australia now, in Sydney. And, surprisingly enough, nobody is searching for root causes or wondering how Australia failed those young people. Everyone - at least all the news reports I've read, and the local political leaders - is calling them "thugs", which is what they are, and not "disadvantaged young people".

One could suppose that Australians learned from the French experience and started calling things their own names. But, being cynical (oops, I mean "experienced"), I have just a slight suspicion that this is because in Australia it's "majority/white/Anglo"* thugs beating up people of Middle Eastern origin and not the other way around.

* There should be some word for them, really. "White" is the word most often used, and "Anglo" is used at least in the US, but I sort of object to using "white" to mean "white - group X" in the context of a conflict of two white groups, or "Anglo" to describe a groups that is usually rather marginally Anglo. "Non-middle-eastern whites" would be correct in this particular context, but sort of too long.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The unspeakable in pursuit on the unattainable, again

The Music Publishers' Association will launch its first campaign against sites offering unlicensed song scores and lyrics in 2006.

MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed.

Islam's moderate face

Saudis are pissed off that Ahmadinejad opened his mouth at a summit dedicated to showing Islam's moderate face. Guess Ahmadinejad showed some other body part.

I, on the other hand, am pissed off that apparently we (the US) don't have the world's dumbest president anymore. Iranians sure won.

Ain't drinking anything ever again

How did this wardrobe appear in my room, and where the fuck am I gonna stick it?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Gimme some of those mushrooms, dude!

Iran's First Terrorist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad opens his mouth again, this time at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

This time he said that the "tumour" of Israel should be moved to Europe:


"Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail."

"Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?"


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have limited his enthusiasm for moving current countries and populations to moving Israel out of the Middle East. In any case, he did not reveal any plans for Iranian Muslims to move back to Saudi Arabia and leave Iran to the Zoroastrians that Muslims have once conquered it from.

Israel, the USA and Europe condemned Ahmadinejad's comments. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said "I condemn them unreservedly. They have no place in civilised political debate." IMO Ahmadinejad himself has no place in civilized political debate, but I guess politicians could not put it that way.

That, boys and girls, is the guy who is going to have nuclear weapons real soon now.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hurrah! I am a real person now!

Got my permanent residence permit on Monday.

I wasn't dead

Haven't posted much lately because my parents were visiting. It was great to see them even though I had to endure a 5-day-long lecture on How I Live My Life In A Totally Wrong Way And Never Sweep Under The Bed.

We walked around the downtown Helsinki, had a few friends over, ate good food, spent afternoons calling grandma, aunt and other various relavies who attended to grandma in their absence.

Among other things my parents were concerned about was the unsufficient size of the chocolate cakes I make.

Anyway, this is why I was largely absent from blogging/work/irc/parties lately.

Now I am so sleep-deprived that today I dragged myself to a doctor and sat there for half an hour wondering why he does not call me in before realizing that this is a wrong day and my appointment is for tomorrow (no, nothing dramatic). Bugger. Could've slept longer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Don't fuck horses...

At least not anally, or in any case when it's your ass and their dick.

Here is the article about the newest Darwin Award candidate:

Two gentlemen, Mr. Tait, 54, and Mr. Pinyan, 45, decided to seek sexual pleasures in a barn that did not belong to either of them. Mr. Pinyan opted for receptive anal intercourse with a male horse while Mr. Tait was videotaping the event.

Pinyan died of perforated colon. Tait was sentenced to one-year suspended sentence, a $300 fine and 8 hours of community service for trespassing. No animal cruelty charges were filed as only a human was harmed in the making of that movie. The fate of the videotape remains unknown to me, but I can only hope that it will make it to the internet.

Happy Independence Day, Finland!

I think this is going to become my traditional yearly Independence Day address:

Happy Independence day, Finland.

Good thing you got out of Russia when you did. Russia sucks.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shopping is good for your soul

Had a shitty week in many ways: allergy, waking up too early in the morning, broken data at work, grandma is sick, parents are coming or not coming to visit, etc. (Parents coming to visit is good if they actually come, which it seems they probably will.) Decided to go shopping to cheer myself up. Bought 512M of memory. You can't really go wrong with memory: it's even better than shoes.

Stuck memory in the motherboard and am feeling a lot better already. Except that can't do the same again anytime soon as have run out of DIMM slots in the motherboard.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sony: forever in the news

Now it turns out that MediaMax, another copy protection scheme used by Sony, installs itself even if you say no. Anybody surprised?

In related news, New York Attorney General is considering suing Sony after finding the allegedly recalled XCP "CD products" on the shelves of many stores.

Our friend Sony again

The mind boggles.

Apparently Sony was not first made aware of the rootkit problem when Russinovich published it on Oct. 31, but much earlier: F-Secure notified Sony DACD on Oct. 4, and they forwarded the email to Sony BMG on Dec. 7.

Read it all, but I can put the loveliest quotes here:

"This e-mail, which we have also reviewed, seems to be about a routine matter," says Hesse. "While it did introduce the notion of a 'rootkit,' it did not suggest that this software was anything but benign."

"F-Secure had a conference call with executives of First4Internet on Oct. 20. It says First4Internet argued that there was no real problem because only a few people knew of the vulnerability XCP created, and said an update of the XCP software, due out early next year, would fix the problem on all future CDs."


Haloscan is broken

Sometimes it shows zero comments even though the comments are all there.

News of the really weird, part 2: Ahmadinejad sees the light

Iran's First Terrorist says that a light surrounded him while he was delivering his speech to the General Assembly. He also says that "I felt it myself, too, that suddenly the atmosphere changed and for 27-28 minutes the leaders could not blink, I am not exaggerating…because I was looking. All the leaders were puzzled, as if a hand held them and made them sit. They had their eyes and ears open for the message from the Islamic Republic”.

What conclusions should we make of it:

a) as Ola says, hallucinogenic mushrooms indeed grow pretty much everywhere,
b) a career in politics should require mandatory sanity checks,
c) there is a conspiracy to drive politicians crazy, or crazier, and they are fairly effective.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday, November 28, 2005

Surrogate mothers, adoptions and assumptions

Talked with two friends (separately) about the protections (or rather total absence thereof) that Finnish law offers surrogate mothers. I found it interesting that both were surprised to hear that I meant protections against the prospective parents changing their mind and refusing to accept the child.

One even said "but one can always put the baby up for adoption" and I had to clarify that I meant a situation when a couple "orders" a baby and then splits up, after which the biological father accepts the baby but demands child support from the biological mother and not from his ex.

Anyway - it got me wondering why none of the agencies and organizations that inform pregnant women about adoption (whether as an alternative preferrable to abortion or neutrally as one alternative among many) ever bother mentioning that in an adoption the baby's father can and should be consulted, and can indeed prevent an adoption from happening. Is there some assumption there that mothers only want to get rid of kids if there is no father or the father is unwilling?

Antisemites of all countries, unite!

David Duke is visiting Syria to show solidarity, says Arabic news. For some reason the article refers to him as "former US Senator", which he isn't, as opposed to "former leader of Ku Klux Klan", which he is, or a "former live-in guest of the federal prison system", which he also is.

David Duke is an American politician who makes Buchanan blush. Literally. In 1976 he ran for Louisiana State Senate as a Democrat. Being the Ku Klux Klan leader at the same time had detrimental effect on his election results, and in 1989, no longer being the leader of Ku Klux Klan, he decided to try his luck again, this time in the Louisiana State House of Representatives, and as a Republican. He had better luck there. He also tried to run for Louisiana governo (his opponent's campaign's main point was "at least I am not Duke", and that was enough), US president, Louisiana State Senate again, US house of Representatives etc., but to no avail. Extracurricular activites included writing a sequel to Mein Kampf and serving 15 months for tax and mail fraud.

"Dr. David Duke's wonderful visit has given us a new and very positive view of the average American," said Syrian parliament member Muhammad Habash.

News of the really weird

Former Canadian defence minister Paul Hellyer urged Canadian parliament to hold public hearings on relations with extraterrestials.

He believes that the USA are preparing for an intergalactic war and building military bases on the moon.

What does this tell us (select the most appropriate):

a. the hallucinogenic mushrooms that grow in Canada are very good indeed,
b. violent computer games with sci-fi themes should have politician warnings as well as child warnings,
c. Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi really are aliens from outer space, with scaly tails and all.

News of the weird

Michael Jackson has moved to Bahrain, and some sources say he also converted to Islam. He says that he wants to enjoy the kind of freedom he does not have in the USA.

Hrmm, I always thought that people usually go to Thailand for that kind of freedom. Except that it is probably illegal there too.

The weekend

Again people were having two different parties at the same time. I wanted to go to both but only made it to one. Had a really good time.

The next day I was feeling so weak that did not manage to drag my ass to help Lynoure move, of which I am deeply ashamed. Luckily Killeri came in the evening to entertain me.

Went to the PC-Superstore bankrupcy sale this morning. An awful lot of people and you hear "ei täällä oo mitään" all around you in Dolby Surround. Very little stuff, and their prices during the bankrupcy sale are higher than Verkkokauppa's in peacetime. Good riddance, PC-Superstore.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The recordable media tax

Somebody on finet.toiminta.effi asked a good question: what will/should happen to the recordable media tax (hyvitysmaksu) when the recordable media becomes so big that there is no sense in assuming that most of it is used for music?

I own about 150 CDs. Ripped into oggs, they would take up about 6.6 G (assuming about 3M per track and about 15 tracks per CD). OK, a true music lover might have 1500 CDs, 66G. A true purist - and these are few - would rip them into flacs, 660G.

But what then? Hasn't one paid enough after having paid the recordable media tax on 20-30G of storage? Or do the fuckers think everyone is trying to own all the music produced in the world, and that each and every one of us burns it in the numbers sufficient to flood a small country with CDs?

Probably should write some politicians about it. Too bad I can't afford to buy as many of them as the recording industry.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sony entertainment: the gift that keeps giving

Sony keeps entertaining, if not music lovers, then at least readers of technology news:

The fine copy protection that breaks your computer can be stymied by a piece of scotch tape.

This is a definite progress from their earlier copy protection technology that could be circumvented by a magic marker.

Ei pitäisi lukea Hesaria aamulla univelkaisena, ei.

Ensin luen "WWF: Neljännes Venäjän puusta ehkä laittomista hakkuista" ja mietin mitä tekemistä World Wrestling Federationilla on puiden kanssa, ja sitten ihmettelen hetken kun vahingossa luen "Turkki huolestui kurdien kuohinnasta", vaikka siellä olikin "kuohunnasta".

Monday, November 21, 2005

You know that you are a geek...

...when a friend says "beautiful sunset" on an IRC channel and you almost ask him for a URL before realizing that he is talking about the actual sunset that can be observed in the sky.

"Hey, everyone else is doing it too!"

"RIAA president Cary Sherman has backed Sony's use of spyware rootkits and claims that other companies do it all the time."

Hmm, I heard that other people also download music through bittorrent all the time. Let's all back that.

"We apologize for the inconvenience"

In an unprecedented move Al-Zarqawi apologized for the Nov. 9 bombings in Amman that killed 59 people and injured about 100. He said that they did not mean anything bad, did not mean to kill Muslims and did not mean to bomb a wedding party. They only meant to kill people from American and Zionist intelligence services.

Excuse me, but how do you suicide-bomb a wedding party by accident? It's not like our (the US) guys who drop bombs down from planes, and, great map-readers that they are, occasionally drop a bomb or two on Iran instead of Iraq. What happened to the four suicide bombers? Did they, like, mean to go to Israel, and then were unable to read the map and unwilling to ask for directions? Or did they decide that the wedding party was in fact CIA and Mossad meeting in disguise?

In order to point out his good will and underline that he really did not mean anything bad, Al-Zarqawi told all the good Muslims of Jordan to stay away from hotels, embassies, tourist sites, the Dead sea and the city of Aqaba, which are all sites where he in fact does mean to do something bad. He also promised to cut off the king's head. Meaning nothing bad, again.

"We want to assure you that ... you are more beloved to us than ourselves," Al-Zarqawi said, addressing Jordanians. Somehow this is not very reassuring, coming from people who tend to blow themselves up.

On the same day as the apology was issued, Al-Zarqawi's suicide bombers murdered about 75 people in two Shia mosques in Iraq. I am sure they did not mean anything bad by that, either. After all we all know that Shia mosques in Iraq are the favorite hangouts of American and Zionist intelligence services.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Sony and CDs

The copy-protection software is "an important tool to protect our intellectual property rights and those of our artists", said Sony just before getting caught with code from at least five open source projects in said software.

If somebody wrote a book or movie about a multinational corporation that fucks up so badly people would say that this is not plausible and nobody is that stupid. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

One thing that keeps amazing me is that the media keeps calling those things "CD"s even though they aren't. I realize that a lot of people call all the music discs of particular size CDs, but shouldn't media know better? ("Toimittajat ei tajua sitäkään mitä ihmiset", comments a friend.)

Sony's EULA calls it a "CD product", the difference between a CD and a CD product apparently being the same as between meat and meat product. This document is very interesting and demands that the user get rid of "CD product" and all the music on it before moving to another country or filing for bankrupcy (I shit you not).

Puhuttua: Linnan juhlat

Keskusteltiin Killerin kanssa siitä miksi lähes kaikki naiset Linnan juhlissa, tai ainakin ne joilla on tarpeeksi hiuksia, tekevät joitain hienoja korkeita kampauksia joiden laittamiseen tarvitaan 100 pinniä ja 3 kampaajaa.

Killeri: No kun pitää näyttää erilaiseltä kuin kaikki muut.
Minä: Voisivat vaikka pukeutua pingviineiksi, se näyttäisi erikoisemmalta ja levittäisi Linux-sanomaa kansalle.
Killeri: Niinhän puolet niistä tekee.

Ja nyt mietin: oliko frakki ihan oikeasti keksitty sitä varten että ihmiset näyttäisivät pingviineiltä?

The weekend: being sociable

Had a lot of people over on Friday night. This happens to me rarely: I often have people over, but usually no more than 2-3 at a time, and rarely have bigger parties, but this time I just felt like inviting a lot of people over ex tempore. It was a lot of fun.

Went to Viljo's and Jenni's place yesterday. Was a lot of fun too: good company and delicious food. Gold Strike liqueur is evil though.

A game session tonight. This time I even remembered to take some cookies with me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Normality. We have normality.

France is down to burning 98 cars a night.

Our rainforests are gone!

Here is a two-year-old news item about Herlitz, a German company that makes envelopes, boycotting paper made of Finnish rainforests. This was obviously not enough - we hardly have any rainforests left in Finland.

"XCP: the true meaning of audio security"

Or at least that's what it says on the webpage of First4Internet, the company that made XCP and is probably about to be sued into oblivion.

They also removed the contact information of its management, just in case.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

And this week's combined prize for stupid arrogance and arrogant stupidity goes to...

... Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG's global digital business division, for the following quote:

"Most people, I think, don't even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?"

The weekend

Had a few drinks with Tiina on Friday.

Was working on Saturday, and then went to two parties, both of which were good and unfortunately at the same time. Why the hell were so many people born in October and November?

Went to see Wyrd Sisters Sunday night. Liked it, unsurprisingly. Ran into a number of friends there (in addition to the ones I came with). I still think I liked the Alter Ego production better, but it's been a while since that.

Rioting, calming down in France

Last night: 215 burned cars, 71 arrests. Sunday night: 284 cars, 115 arrests. Saturday night: 374 cars, 212 arrests. The state of emergency has been prolonged to three months. On Saturday the rioting reached downtown Lyon but the police managed to kick the scum out of there.

There were also riots in Sangla Hill, Pakistan. Considering that this is a town of 10 000 inhabitants, the number of rioters, quoted as from 1000 to 2000 in different sources, is quite amazing. Rioters burned some churches, a convent, a boarding house, a medical centre and the home of the local Catholic priest. At first I assumed that this was because the French did not give them enough money, but
the real reason was even more absurd
. (A Christian was gambling and won, and the guy from whom he won the money spread a rumor that the winner set fire to the box for preserving torn pages of the Koran.)

Islamic militias killed 12 and wounded 21 in Somalia while fighting for morality and against cinemas that show western and Indian movies. They claimed those movies promote immorality and violence. Uhm...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

French riots, 16th night

502 cars, 206 arrests. 2 cops injured (was 7 yesterday). A Molotov cocktail thrown into a mosque. 3000 cops deployed in Paris. A ban on public gatherings from 10am today till 8am tomorrow.

They are having a long weekend, they had a Veterans' Day yesterday (I think they call it Armistice day but the idea is the same).

Friday, November 11, 2005

The French riots and some other news

463 cars, 201 people arrested.

Al Qaeda issued an explanation for the Amman bombings. I wanted to write something sarcastic about it, but Sandmonkey has already done so.

Pat Robertson graces us with his new pearl of wisdom, saying that the residents of Dover, Pennsylvania voted God out of their city.

"...and you may keep them if you want..."

Worried that France might be experiencing acute hooligan shortage, Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky offered them Russian football thugs as humanitarian help.

The idea is that the Russian football thugs would beat the shit out of the "youths of North African origin" thugs, and peace and quiet will resume. On one hand, the man has a point. I wouldn't be so sure of who would beat up whom, but in either case the total number of thugs would be reduced and the normal people would win.

OTOH, what if the Russian thugs bring the slogans "Hooligans of all countries, unite!" and unite with the French thugs and go beat up normal people together?

News of the smart for a change

Inspired by the warning example of Kansas, voters in the Pennsylvania school district with an Intelligent Design controversy elected only the opponents of Intelligent Design to the local school board.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

News of the peaceful

The Religion of Peace, Tolerance and Homemade Explosive Devices has been a lot in the news lately:

Three bombs exploded in hotels in Amman, killing at least 57 people. Al Qaeda's Iraq office took responsibility, on account that the hotels were "turned by the dictator of Jordan into a garden for the enemies of our religion, the Jews and the Crusaders". Having apparently found no Jews and Crusaders in sight, the bomber in one of the hotels decided to detonate the bomb in the center of a wedding reception. Obviously for these people Islam's prohibition on killing other Muslims does not apply if the other Muslims are celebrating weddings in hotels that also cater to infidels. Considering that al-Zarqawi has already been sentenced to death for bombing one of those hotels in 1999, it's only too bad Jordan cannot give him another death sentence, or even enforce the first one.

Indonesian terrorist Azahari Husin, believed to be the bombmaker for the 2002 Bali attacks, left this world with such a bang that probably not even Allah can put the pieces together. He and a couple of co-workers were surrounded by police and did not have much to lose. They managed to blow themselves up without killing any of the police. Australians are celebrating.

Argentina has named a suspect in 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. The guy, Ibrahim Hussein Berro, is a Hezbollah member and a Lebanese citizen. Probably wanted those Argentinian Jews to stop their long-distance occupation of West Bank and Gaza.

Riots: calming down

482 cars burned, 203 people arrested. One guy had his hand blown off while throwing a tear gas grenade at police. Also, somebody there might read this blog, because they attacked a power station in Lyon.

The baseline - when there are no riots - is 100 cars per night.

Belgium has had its fourth night of mild unrest, but only 15 cars were torched.

Inquiring minds want to know: when the rioters say that they want the official France to stay away from their suburbs, does that also include their welfare checks?

Maybe I should understand them: after all, if I grew up in a country that considered me an outsider even though my parents and some of my grandparents were born there, belonged to a minority ethnic and religious group, had considerably worse education and employment prospects in comparison with the general population, were attacked every once in a while and insulted fairly often for belonging to a minority, lived in a building that resembled Khrushchev-time Soviet slums... argh, shit, I forgot, I did grow up in such a place. Did not get around to burning any cars or trashcans, though. Not that the idea of violence never crossed my mind, although a tire iron is a more natural weapon for me than a Molotov cocktail, but there is one thing I don't understand: my main grievance, the one that made me think about doing violent thing, was the difficulty of getting out of the damn place. After we were mostly free to leave, most of us did. Somehow, France's abused minorities are not leaving at all, and instead are trying very hard to get in.

I also find it somewhat disturbing that the French government did pretty much everything that Le Pen suggested, just a few days later than he suggested it. How many new voters is he getting now? They have a presidential election in two years, and "France's new president Jean-Marie Le Pen" is not exactly a headline that I'd like to see then.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Riots: curfew works

617 cars burned, 204 people arrested, no cops injured. Some asshole threw a dumbell on a man from 15th floor.

I am trying to understand why police don't shoot the people who throw Molotov cocktails at them, and can't. Molotov cocktail is a deadly weapon, and the death is of a rather unpleasant variety. I really do think that anyone trying to throw those things at people or buildings/vehicles that contain people should be shot on sight, and tried for attempted murder if they survive. (The barbarian in me suggests sticking a Molotov cocktail up their ass and setting it on fire, but such punishment does not belong in a civilized country, and probably violates some fire department rules, too.)

More news of the stupid

Six years after becoming the laughingstock of the nation and the world, Kansas Board of Education is at it again.

They redefined science so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Six of the ten board members can themselves now be used as arguments against both evolution and intelligent design.

Life, for a change

Have been having a lot of social life lately. Kristiina came over on Thursday, and we had hor chocolate with rum and watched Duel, a Hong Kong movie with cute guys. On Friday Killeri came over, and we went to see Night Watch. It was all right and I am gonna see the sequel when it comes out, but it was still a disappointment in comparison with the book.

Hanged out with Tiina on Saturday and watched Corpse bride. It was quite good. On Sunday there was a game session which was good but too short.

On Monday Maija, J-P and Sakari came over. I tried to make one of those crepe cakes I liked so much in Japan, and it did not come out right but was quite edible. We had a good time and some wine and a lot of tea. I tried to advertise a lot of science fiction to them.

Maija has a blog now.

Otherwise life is normal. The weather is nice (I like it wet and dark and fairly warm), the work is fine. Haven't been sleeping well lately due to some post-flu coughing, but now I have armed myself with all the anti-cough medication known to woman and am going to have Better Living Through Chemistry.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Surrealism rules

Iran is going to submit a proposal for a solution for peace in the Middle East to the UN The article does not say whether this solution is final and whether it involves wiping Israel off the map.

Riots: a little better

1173 cars, 330 arrests, 12 police officers injured. Nobody is mentioning trashcans anymore, I guess they have burned them all already.

The government has authorized curfews in towns that need it (AFAIK it's each town's mayor's call). They are not actually doing much, they are just talking about being firm. I realize that it's easy to criticise from a couple
of thousands kilometers away, but I am starting to understand why some people have been using the term "villepinist" as a synonym for "idiotarian". (The use of both terms can be conveniently demonstrated by mentioning that the Green party considers curfews "a totally disproportionate escalation". The cynic in me says that none of their constituency lives in the afflicted suburbs.)

Anyway, I don't think they are going to do anything until and unless the rioters go into cities and attack decent people there. (Or maybe not until they attack Chirac and Villepin personally.) I am sure all the decent Arab people in the suburbs (not the "poor frustrated youths" but the ones whose cars they are currently burning) feel soooooo loved and cared for by their government.

Couldn't we give the rioters a state of their own? Please? Somewhere in Northern Siberia? They would live happily together there, and make laws that forbid forming any kind of police force and give everyone lots of money, which they would also conveniently print, and lots of women, which they will probably also have to print.

Monday, November 07, 2005

The first death

Jean-Jacques le Chenadec, a 60-year-old man who was beaten into coma on Friday night, died today.

Im Westen nichts Neues

1408 cars, 395 arrests, 34 wounded police officers - a few of them shot by rioters.

Warning: anonymous comments

Just because I have just run into a person who did not know this bit of trivia:

When you post comments anonymously, they are anonymous to the outside world. They are not, of course, anonymous to me. I usually know who you are. So if you (especially somebody who knows me in person) are commenting anonymously just in order to avoid discussing the matter with me, don't bother.

Of course there are ways in which you can hide your identity, but is it worth the trouble?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Riots, day 10

1295 cars, of which 32 in Paris proper, of which 4 near Place de la Republique. Burnt schools, gyms, supermarkets. 211 communities affected. 21 police officers injured, which brings the total to 56. A man beaten into coma.

A bomb-making factory was discovered in Evry, with 150 bottles of Molotov cocktails, many liters of gasoline and hoods for hiding rioters' faces.

Here is a pretty good article by Amir Taheri.

BTW, considering that a significant portion of rioters are minors, inquiring minds want to know where the fuck their parents are.

In lighter news

Now that we are done with the news of the evil for today, how about the news of the stupid:


"HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A lawyer for eight families urged a federal judge on Friday to overturn a policy that requires the discussion of ``intelligent design'' in biology classes, saying it improperly promotes religion in schools.


A lawyer for the school board defended the policy, explaining that it was intended to call attention to a new ``science movement.''"


New science movement? Is the guy a lawyer or a standup comedian?

The riots, more seriously

The actual report for the last night and today lists 897 burned cars, 2 burned schools, 1 paper recycling plant, a city hall, a synagogue, an apartment building and a number of warehouses and businesses.

Luckily they haven't set any more people on fire, but they have prevented an ambulance from taking a sick patient to a hospital, and stoned it (the ambulance, not the person).

The violence started to affect the city of Paris itself: 13 cars burned and one Molotov cocktail thrown at a police station.

The politicians and media keep talking more and more that the riots seem to be organized.

A clarification on the earlier post

When I mentioned in an earlier post that I disapprove, at least on an intellectual level, of the idea of police machine-gunning down the rioters, I meant the kind of rioters who burn trashcans. The kind of rioters who would pour gasoline over a person and set them on fire for not getting out of a bus fast enough, can, as far as I am concerned, be machine-gunned freely. I mean, it would be a lot more civilized to bring them to trial and give them life sentence, but machine gun works too.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Down with the French state!

Dear rioters!

I share your anger and frustration at the stupid and racist electricity that killed two young men, bright hopes of the nation's... I mean the ummah's future without any regard to their youth, race, IQ, religion and the suffering they have already endured in the hands of cold and uncaring French society, who cruelly ripped their parents out of warm, safe and egalitarian lands of Tunisia and Mauritania.

In the last few days you did a great job in trying to drive the French occupiers out of your ancestral land of Seine-Saint-Denis. You have attacked your neigbors' cars, public buses, police, post office, kindergarden, synagogue, firefighters, handicapped passengers, ambulances and other symbols of the occupation and the oppression. However, you have not yet done anything about the most important symbol of French occupation and Zionist conspiracy: the power relay stations. These stations killed your brothers! Do you even know that over 99% of French and Zionists use electricity?

It is absolutely essential that you destroy these symbols of the oppression with your own hands. Allah loves people who destroy power relay stations, and your place in paradise will be guaranteed. The real heroes shall smite power relay stations with knives and swords and bare hands!

In the name of Allah and evolution,
Vera

Friday, November 04, 2005

Paris riots, day 8

The rioters celebrated the end of Ramadan by torching about 500 cars, a car dealership, 27 public buses, at least one school, etc. I note that no electrical relay stations were reported to be attacked, which probably means the the rioters can learn from others' mistakes.

They also doused with gasoline and tried to burn a real live human being, a 56-year-old handicapped woman who, being handicapped, could not run away from them unlike the other passengers of the bus they attacked. She is in a hospital with 2d and 3d-degree burns. The bus driver managed to extingish the flames on her.

At least 20 Paris suburbs have been having riots, as well as a few suburbs of Dijon, Rouen and Marseille. I am starting seeing the words "civil war" more and more in the media, although I think it's still a bit of an exaggeration.

Rioting in Denmark

I saw mention of rioting in Århus in several blogs, and wondered why it did not make any English-language or Finnish-language news. Here is an article in Jyllands-Posten for those who are interested and understand Danish. Viking Observer kindly provides an English translation.

06.10.05, Himeji

The flu is not quite as bad as the day before, and the weather is lovely. Himeji is a city of one tourist attraction, but that attraction is the biggest and most beautiful feudal castle in Japan. Even signs at the station point to the castle.

I leave my luggage in a locker at the station. Amazing how many lockers there are in Japan, and sometimes not just at the stations but in the streets.

I walk by the tourist info office and am surprised by a woman who tells me in perfectly comprehensible English that here's the map, and the castle is right over there, just walk down this street, about 15 minutes' walk. I thank her and follow the directions. There is indeed a wide boulevardgoing straight from the station to the castle.

On the way I buy Baskin-Robbins' green tea ice cream and decide that it is not nearly as good as Häagen-Dasz green tea ice cream.


I am not good at describing castles. Better go look at the pictures. But this castle was everything I expected, and more. Big and white and beautiful and with a special little building for harakiri. It also had a few noisy school groups who greeted people with "Hara! Hara!", although one kid totally surprised me by saying "Ni hao" instead in a fairly good Mandarin pronunciation. A lively conversation ensued among the kids, from which I only understood the words "Chinese" and "American".

On the way back to the station I see a Peruvian or Equadorian band much like the ones you see in Helsinki playing in the street. Suddenly a guy who surely must be Japan's most senior citizen tries to drag me to dance, all the time explaining in fairly passable English that he wants to dance with me. I try to refuse politely without stepping on him in the process. He might've been cute if he were 60 years younger and had 30 more teeth, and in an appropriate mood I might have danced with him even if he were not cute, but I don't think it is safe to dance with a guy who was too old to fight in the Russo-Japanese war. Extricating myself from the situation takes some times and makes Japanese women around us double over with laughter.

I get back to Ookayama at eight, and Joy and Krabak are not there yet. They come a bit later. Krabak is in a foul mood, and describes some experiment of his in unprintable words that I haven't heard since some of my aunt's experiments went wrong.

Bugger.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Riots, day 7

Seventh day of riots in Paris suburbs. The young immigrants and second-generation immigrants from north Africa are angry at France for the war in Iraq... oops, occupation of Palestine... I mean of Seine-Saint-Denis, and hope that France will withdraw its troups, police, firefighters, post offices, kindergardens, cars, trashcans and electrical substations from Clichy-Sous-Bois, Sevran, Aulnay-Sous-Bois and other ancient Muslim lands. At the same time they, or the kinds of newspapers that sympathize with them, complain about unemployment, bad schools and having to live in high-rise subsidized housing covered with graffiti and plagued with crime.

Schools, unfortunately, are usually only just as good as the student body. Having recently read the website put up in memorial of the two late teenagers, and the comments to it, I am not wondering about unemployment either. I wouldn't hire most of the people who write there either, at least not for any jobs where one can be ever expected to write French. I am no grammar nazi, but if a bunch of people who mostly grew up in France writes much worse French than my French class in high school it makes me wonder whether they are ready for the job market. And I am not even talking about the content. And what, pray tell, do they expect subsidized housing to be? The best apartments in the center of Paris? Or one-family houses in the suburbs somewhere? And I am sure all the graffiti appears there just because the cops sneak in at night and spray-paint it. Ditto for the crime.

Europe as a whole has failed its newest citizens, says Dominique Sopo, head of SOS Racism. Maybe I don't understand something, but to me it sure seems like these particular newest citizens are failing Europe. Not that I should speak for Europe, of course, what with having been here only for 11 years and not having burned a single trashcan.

The French media is still all about which politician said what about whom and whether the measures are too harsh or not harsh enough. And everyone is promising to investigate what really happened with the boys and the police.

I am not sure how that matters. The only surviving eyewitness, the boy who did not die after the electric shock, said that they started running, apparently from police, and he does not know why - the other boys yelled "run" and he ran. Either police were really chasing them, or not. In either case running from police "just in case" and climbing over a rather high wall into an electrical relay station is not a particularly good example of Europe failing its newest citizens. It's more of an example of evolution in action.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The riots, again

On the sixth day of the riots HS started referring to rioters as "immigrants" and not as "young people" anymore. "Immigrants of African origin", even.

French Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy called the rioters scum. French Minister of Equality Azouz Begag accused him of racism for that. Hmm, doesn't such accusation say more about Begag's prejudices than Sarkozy's?

French media is a bit annoying to read, because it concentrates more on the resulting political storm than on the actual events. The actual events are pretty bad though, and the violence has spread to other suburbs: Sevran, Aulnay-Sous-Bois, Blanc-Mesnil, etc.

I don't know if it is some common phenomenon or if it's just because I am bad and heartless person who was born and raised in a bad and heartless country, but for me such riots tend to negate the humanity of the rioters, at least on the emotional level. Theoretical thoughts like "what would happen if police used machine guns on the rioters?" come to my mind and utterly fail to horrify me. I sort of know that these creatures are human, but only because I keep reminding myself. If I really knew that police were going to do something like that I would consider it a bad idea because of human-rights and public-order considerations, and try to stop it if I could, but if they actually managed to do it then I don't think that the steaming pile of bloody corpses would produce any negative emotional reaction in me at all. I would think "this is not right" but I would feel "ugh, good thing they got rid of all that trash".

I wonder how common this phenomenon is, and how much such emotional reaction or lack thereof really affects people's actions. I'd like to think that it doesn't, but I know that to a certain extent it does. As I said, I would try to stop such a massacre because I think it's wrong but my heart wouldn't be in it and that would show. Maybe it would show almost imperceptibly but in a large group of people that feel the same way it would really show.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Riots

The fifth night of riots in Clichy-Sous-Bois. Again, like in New Orleans, what is wrong with those people? Imagine that in your neighborhood two teenagers climb into an electrical relay station and earn a well-deserved Darwin award. (Some people claim they were running away from police, some that they were not, and some that they believed that police was chasing them even though it really wasn't.) Would that prompts you to burn all the trashcans in sight, torch a few cars of your neighbors, throw Molotov cocktails around, set fire to the local post office and daycare and attack the police? For five nights? Not unless you enjoy doing all those things to begin with and were just looking for an excuse.

What kind of fuckers enjoy doing all of the above?

Another interesting question: why does this get so little attention in Finnish media? HS started covering it only after two days, and did not cover some of the previous French riots at all. And was there anything at all about the current riots in Egypt?

05.10.05, Hiroshima

I decide to take it easy and just go to The Museum and then rest and eat and drink tea for the rest of the day.

The city looks, sorry for the cliche, like it has been bombed. Not just-bombed, of course, with ruins and all, but in the same way in which many German cities look like they don't have a building from before 1945.

I came here because I wanted to see and touch and know it was real. Also, because i wanted to see that there is something more to it than having been bombed in 1945.

Well, there isn't. I mean, it's a fairly big city, and people live there, but pretty much all the center is geared towards the war rememberance. There is a fairly good-looking castle (Hirosima was founded as a castle town) with a moat and walls and turrets and its own rock garden and Shinto shrine, but even that is full of explanations about how each point fared in the explosion and who was where, etc. There are ruins of Imperial Army headquarters on the castle grounds, and even every tree that survived the bomb has a note on it saying that this is a tree that survived the bomb.

I feel quite relieved when inside the castle there is some mention of middle ages when the castle was first built.

An observation, later repeated a many other places: Asian tourists in Japan, when they need to ask something, tend to approach other tourists rather than Japanese. Probably due to language problems.

Hiroshima is a hell for a childhater like myself. It is full of schoolchildren (fron kindergarden to high school) on school trips. Must be Japan's favorite school trip destination. It wouldn't be that bad, but quite a few of children seem to be from places where they have probably never seen a white person, and tend to react strongly and initiate contact. When they see me they start screaming "hara! hara!" and clearly expecting some reaction. My first reaction is to wonder why they are saying "shit" in Hebrew. It takes me a few such incidents and some observation of other foreigners' reactions to understand that they are trying to say "hello" but having trouble with the 'l'. I say intermittently "hello" and "konnichiwa" back to them but feel annoyed and stressed at it.

There is a fair lot of foreign tourists here, though not as many as in Kyoto.

The park commemoration the war and the bombing is called the Peace Memorial Park. The A-bomb Dome, formerly the industrial promotion hall, is the exhibit number one. The park is full of higly annoying children, graves and memorials to various groups of victims, from children to Koreans.

I get accosted by a group of three or four children aged about 10. They are doing some school project and are supposed to interview tourists. Their questions are written for them on a paper in English and Japanese, and their pronunciation is quite good, but their English is still quite poor and unsufficient for understanding any answers, so they give me a paper to write my answers on. The main question is "what do you think about the Second World War?" What am I gonna tell them, what? Who the fuck comes up with such questions? Do they expect me to write an essay? "You guys really shouldn't have started it" feels a bit mean-spirited under the circumstances and I settle for a more neutral "I wish it had never been started".

The museum itself is quite large. It costs 50 yen but rents English-language audioguides for 200 or 300 yen. I rent one but there is really no point in it because there are texts in English everywhere. The place is extremely crowded. The exhibition is in two parts, both of which are impressive, but the especially the second part is quite gruesome. There are fallen-off nails and hair of the victims, and large pieces of keloid scars. And then there are clothes, a lot of them. Everybody who'd read about it knows that there were high school students mobilized for the demolition work near the hypocenter of the explosion, but there you see that most of those "high school students" were 12 to 15, and they were also very small for their age, probably both due to being Japanese and to growing up during the war, so there are all those tiny-tiny clothes with holes burned in them and notes saying "13-year-old student such-and-such was doing demolition work when the bomb struck but managed to crawl home before dying in the evening". This does not of course make their death a bigger tragedy than that of their grandparents, but makes me wonder who the hell can send someone that size to do demolition work.

At some point a cynical thought came to me and I started wondering what kind of atomic bomb museum they will build in Tehran.

The museum was certainly worth the trip. I am still not convinced that it was a bad idea to use the bomb, but I think it would be good to have all the people who have the authority to order the use of nuclear weapons visit this place before assuming such authority.

Later I go shopping. It's raining, but thank god and Japanese people for roofed shopping streets. I run into a missionary from Gibraltar who asks me whether I think I will go to heaven, and say "no". He tries to continue the conversation, and I start explaining everything about Olam Haba (the world to come) in great detail, even though the rabbinical scholars themselves are quite unclear on the details. He imagines he has run into a religious nut and leaves me in peace.

During the shopping I encounter, but unfortunately do not buy, a Star of David made of (silver) bones and decorated with a skull. I am not sure what the symbolism is supposed to mean.

The museum store did not have any books in English, and I buy a book of Hiroshima eyewitness accounts and a grammar book in a real bookstore. Locals seem to be using the store for reading manga. When I pay for the book the girl asks me something. I say "wakarimasen", which means "I don't understand" and is a very useful word. She waves her hands and runs to get her boss, who does not speak English either. Finally some customer translates: they were asking me wether it was OK to charge all the money at once or whether I would like to spread the purchase for a few months. That was for about 20 euro worth of books.

I have some tea and cake in Doutor, which is a very nice cafe chain. They have layer cakes where layers are made of pancakes. Then I explore the city some more, have some kaiten-sushi and go back to the hotel to drink endless tea.

They had turned the fridge off for the day. Bugger. What the fuck were they thinking? Luckily there was just a suspicious half-eaten pudding thing in there.

I check out the tv programs and notice that they transliterate Chinese names into katakana. Funny.

04.10.05, Kyoto

We wake up, have a breakfast in - you'll never believe it - the kaiten-sushi place and go to the Kinkakuji temple, which is famous for its gold-covered building. It's raining all the time. I have a flu and am miserable, and keep drinking hot fluids all the time, with the predictable results. Luckily Japan has a fair lot of public toilets, fewer than Hong Kong but a lot more than I expected. Most of them even have bowls, at least in one cabin.

We keep running from temple to temple. It is tiring but the temples are stunning.

Temples usually have some kiosks next to them where you can buy food and lucky charms. There are lucky charms for every occasion and purpose, such as traffic safety or school exams. At some temple they sell some powder that becomes a salty hot soup if you mix it with hot water. It tastes meaty but is in fact some kind of seaweed.

Ryoanji temple has a big outdoor area with pond and a real rock garden, which is rather unimpressive, especially in comparison with temples' "regular gardens". But at least we escape from rain there for a while.

At some point we get a novel idea: I should buy an umbrella. I am not sure of it, because no umbrella has ever survived a day with me, but Joy and Krabak assure me that they'll try to remind me not to forget the damn thing everywhere, and I spend 300 yen for a transparent umbrella. Kind of too late, I am already wet.

In Daitokuji temple we see a real live monk, and it starts raining even more. There is also a little bamboo forest, which I have always wanted to see.

I lean on the umbrella at some point, and now I have a bow-shaped umbrella. Bugger.

Some temples are free, in some the grounds are free but you have to pay 300-600 yen to get into the buildings.

In the evening we decide to eat Something That Is Not Sushi and go a Chinese place. I don't recognize it as Chinese until I am told at is, and I don't recognize the food as Chinese even after I eat it, but it is quite OK anyway. Then we have some cheesecake which is, luckily, recognizable as cheesecake.

I am going to Hiroshima, Joy and Krabak are going back to Tokyo, Simo is staying in Kyoto.

At the station I guiltily stuff the bow-shaped umbrella into the only trashcan that is marginally big enough.

In Tokyo people stand on the left and pass on the right when on an escalator. In Kyoto they do it the other way around. In other cities I give up on guessing and just look at what others do. By the time I get back to Helsinki I have forgotten how it goes there.

Japanese public toilets are usually just holes in the floor, but the vast majority of them also have at least one cabin with a real bowl. They either have a picture of it on the door, or the words "western style", or the corresponding Japanese kanji. When there is a bowl it is usually very high-tech, with a lot of buttons that explain what they do in pure Japanese. Often the buttons also have pictures. This toilet at Kyoto railway station is a bit unusual in that there is a picture that clearly hints at music. Joy was wondering about their mp3 selection but did not dare to try. Now I am wondering whether they had Ring of fire.

The train from Kyoto to Hiroshima is even nicer than the one from Tokyo to Kyoto. By the time I reach Hiroshima, almost 700 km from Tokyo, I realize that all this stuff about different cities in Japan is just for the tourists and people who want to run for mayor. There is just Tokyo. It never ends, never. Its outlying centers might be called Kyoto or Osaka or Kobe, but there is no space at all dividing the cities. Ever.

Hiroshima station is most confusing, and maps are hard to find. It also looks rather deserted. After some wandering around I buy some sandwiches and tissues and check into hotel Flex, where I have a reservation.

Just like the ryokan where we stayed the previous night, Flex is very good. It costs about 45 euros a night, can be found in the hostel listings and has small rooms, but the bed is good and the air conditioner works and there is a TV and all the tea-making equipment that one can need. There is even a fridge - not a minibar but a fridge that does not contain anything except whatever you put in it.

I make tea, more tea, yet more tea and go to bed.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Being in the minority

In Hong Kong and Japan I realized that being in a place (a cafe, a subway car, etc) where everyone else is Asian and I am the only white does not bother me in any way. I stop even noticing it very fast. In contrast, being in places where I am the only white and everyone else is black makes me quite self-conscious and uncomfortable. I wonder why is that. The crime rates would be the obvious answer, but certainly not a complete one: I would feel uncomfortable if I walked into a place where a conference of, say, black ophtalmologists were held, and I am quite sure that ophtalmologists of any color are unlikely to contain a significant criminal element.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday with hiccuping bosses

Tomorrow is a big deadline at work, and people are working on weekend - at least part of the weekend.

Am feeling hungover and horny, but somehow still manage to write code. It even sorta works.

The bosses are here and they brought me a kebab. They also ate some kind of evil pizza and now they started hiccupping and can't stop.

The big party...

...was great. Thanks, everybody!

Yesterday I decided that I am not eating any cake ever again, but now I am hesitating.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Please bomb us! Please!"

Iran's democratically elected First Terrorist gave a speech calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Is that a good survival strategy? "There is that other country in the region that we want to wipe off the map, and, BTW, we are developing a nuclear program, but of course for peaceful purposes only, hehe"? Especially when that other country already has, ahem, developed a nuclear program for peaceful purposes only?

I understand of course that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like to meet Allah as soon as possible, and I wish him godspeed on that path, but somehow I doubt that most of his electorate share that desire.

Throwing pies at people

Just read a conversation about throwing pies at people is one blog's comments (the conversation was there, not the pie-throwing). Obviously I don't consider throwing pies at people (with the possible exception of Markus Drake) a worthwhile pursuit since there is a better use for both pies and people, and for a variety of other reasons. But one more thing that crossed my mind: if somebody suddenly threw a pie at me in a street I might hurt them pretty badly in confusion during the couple of moments it would take me to figure out that this is just a pie. I realize that real pie-throwers don't usually throw them at people in the street but at some public figures during some public events, but I think that eventually some unfortunate confused bodyguard will kill a pie-thrower.

Ugh. Throwing pies at people. Bad idea. Better bring those pies here.

Islamic Jihad's war against Israeli hedgehogs, or Hesari osaa taas

From today's Helsingin sanomat:

"Islamilainen jihad on julistanut sodan israelilaissiilejä vastaan ja olemme oikeutettuja sopiviin toimiin siviiliemme puolustamiseksi", Regev sanoi.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

03.10.05, Kyoto

Simo and I take the same train to Kyoto, Joy and Krabak are already there since the early morning because they took the night bus. I am afraid I am boring company because I sleep all the way there. I am still very tired for some reason (which later turns out to be flu).

Joy and Krabak meet us there and we go to a local kaiten-sushi place at the station. Kyoto station has a huge underground shopping arcade with lots of shops and restaurants. Then we go drop our stuff in our respective hotels. Ours is a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) fairly close to the station and we are greeted by a shy-looking middle-aged woman who keeps admiring Krabak's Japanese.

We start walking and find a huge temple. There is a partial moat full of big fish. (Later it turns out that such fish are pretty much are everywhere.) The temple is called Higashi Honganji, and this is a Buddhist temple. You can tell Buddhist temples from Shinto ones by a massive gate and also by the fact that English-language maps usually call the Buddhist ones temples and the Shinto ones shrines.

Both usually have a gate and an inner yard and the main building and some smaller ones. This one also has a big modern building that looks like it is giving birth to little temples.

We take our shoes off and walk in. The inside is golden and almost-empty and lined with tatami. There are passages to the other buildings of the temple.

A covered shopping street. There are many of those all over the country. In the streets old-style and modern-style buildings stand next to each other.

Next thing we find is Nijo castle, which also has a moat and walls with little towers. I like their pond, too.

The main building has a floor that makes birdlike sounds when you walk on it, so that the inhabitants would notice assasins in time. Nightingale floor, they call it.

We want to sit down for a while but it takes a long time to find a bench. When we finally find some benches they are at the highest point of the park and have pretty nice views.

After the castle Joy and Krabak go to the ryokan to take a nap, and Simo and I wander off each in our own directions, although really I am also in need of a nap. However I decide that sightseeing is of a higher priority than napping, because I want to see all the temples. That was before I realized that there are more temples than people in this city. They often mark Buddhist temples with a swastika on the map, and Kyoto map has more swastikas than the Nazi party in 1939.

I get in a bus. Buses here are small and work in mysterious ways: people come in through the back door, take a piece of paper whose purpose is still unclear to me, and put money (220 yen) into a slot when leaving through the front door. I have a 500-yen day pass.

I decide to ride around and see at least the first 30 or 40 temples that way, but it is impossible because often there are temples on both sides of the street at the same time. At some point I become sleepy and decide to get out and see at least some temple properly. It turns out to be Heian Shrine, a Shinto temple in Helsinki subway colors. Apart from the main building and a nice-looking yard with funny trees it has the typical Shinto shrine gate, a hand-washing place and some turrets.

I catch the bus back, have some cake and tea at a cafe at the station and go to the ryokan to pick up Joy and Krabak. We meet Simo, go have some sushi and look for a bar. Finding a bar proves a challenge and we find some cheap food place that also welcomes drinkers, and have fun there.

In the evening we go back to the ryokan. The place has a fairly big room with three futons and a low table. Guests are supposed to leave their shoes by the door, and are given slippers, which are indeed very slippery. In the toilet there are separate toilet slippers. The room also has a water heater and cups and teabags, which is a blessing.

They have emptied their little hot water before its time, do we fill it up again and have a good time there (relaxing in the hot water and chatting, you perverts!).

Grrr!

The fucking Blogspot ate my post again!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Getting rid of the little Russian within, or better living through chemistry

No, don't take me literally, I am not pregnant.

For some reasons most Russians believe that drugs (at least the kind that a doctor prescribes) are bad for you. I have a theory that this belief has something to do with the quality of Russian drugs, but even then it is excessive. It is also a part of the belief that "anything unnatural is bad for you" in spite of the overwhelming evidence that life expectations have risen sharply with the invention of all these unnatural drug substances.

That, by the way, is why Russia has so many abortions and drug-resistant bacteria. When I was a teenager most young women who used birth-control pills at all used them by buying them and putting them in the drawer without actually eating them as directed. Then, if she missed a period, the woman would eat a whole month's supply at once. This often worked, too.

The drug-resistant bacteria appear when Russians in their infinite wisdom start eating antibiotics and then stop as soon as the symptoms disappear. And it's not like they don't know any better: the doctors that prescribe said antibiotics keep stressing that they should be taken until the bitter end; it's just that the population is not listening.

Now, I take my birth-control pills and my antibiotics properly, but I tend to lapse on much anything else. Yesterday during a work-related checkup I had a nurse actually remind me to take my medication.

The medication in question is nothing dramatic: various antihistamines (usually Kestine) and fluticasone propionate (a nasal spray that helps with runny nose). I have never had any side effects from either. So why the hell do I always need somebody to remind me to use these as the first resort and not the last?

Feeling much better today, BTW, after using the fluticasone propionate as directed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

02.10.05, Tokyo

I wake up early because the sun is shining and my ass is very sore (must have pulled some muscle while dragging the bags the day before). Actual getting up, however, takes some time for all of us, and it's after twelve when we finally go out. It's excruciatingly hot.

Ookayama (and, as I later learned, pretty much any other Tokyo neighborhood) is full of life in the ways in which neighborhood in Europe or the US almost never are. Here is Helsinki the area around some outlying subway or train station, with the exception of very big ones like Malmi, usually has some essential services, such as a supermarket, an ATM, a video rental place, a pharmacy and a bar. Japanese neighborhoods are more like downtowns of small towns, with lots of shops and restaurants, etc. Ookayama has a semi-pedestrian shopping street, a sort of main square around the subway station, a post office, two supermarkers, one big bookstore and at least two small ones, a few pharmacies, a few bakeries, pet stores, harware stores, a 100-yen store, many restaurants, etc. People walk or ride bikes within Ookayama because there is no public transportation apart from the subway, and no parking spaces. There does not even seem to be enough bicycle parking space for everyone.

Local streets usually have sidewalks painted on them, but nobody seems to care much. People walk and ride bikes all over the street and if a car shows up it moves very slowly and people and bikes usually let it pass. Most bikes have a basket built into them to put shopping bags into.

There is an unbelievable amount of cables in the air all over the country. That's because they don't keep cables in the ground on account of earthquakes.

We go to Shinjuku. The Shinjuku station is so full of people that it's hard to walk there but we make it out of there and go to Himawari sushi where we are supposed to meet Yoe and Sty and their friend Simo. Sty and Simo are there, and Yoe comes a minute later, carrying very cute boots that she bought from somewhere.

Himawari sushi is a kaiten-sushi restaurant, which means that people sit around a big counter and little plates of sushi move around on a conveyor belt. If you want something that is not there you can always ask. Plates usually contain two pieces of nigiri or four pieces of maki and are color-coded to show the price. Usually expensive fishes are, well, more expensive, but some places just have all sushi the same price and if the fish is expensive there are fewer peices of it. There are saucers for the soy sauce all around the counter, bottles of soy sauce, jars of pickled ginger, mugs, green teabags and faucets with hot water. In Himawari the usual price is about one euro per plate, and the quality is good. In other places prices and quality vary but I've never seen a really expensive kaiten-sushi place.

I discover the best fish ever, bintoro. It's pink and delicious and some kind of tuna.

After lunch Yoe helps me exchange my Japan Rail Pass exchange order for the actual pass, and then Yoe and Sty go somewhere and the rest of us buy some beers and go to the park that surrounds Meiji shrine. It's unbearably hot. At some point they close the park and kick us out, and we go to see the shrine itself. It's big and dark, and there is a lot of sacrificial sake.

After that we go to Harajuku, the neighborhood full of funnily-dressed teenagers and delicious-looking crepes and little stores with funny clothes.

At some point Simo goes home and we go to some tower in Shinjuku through a lot of underground tunnels. I am so tired I could drop and dissolve but I can't well miss the tower. From the tower we see lots of lights, and we also see that all large buildings and some small ones all over the city have some strange slowly-blinking red lights on them.

We go home, have tea, Joy and Krabak go to the night bus to Kyoto and I say hi to their hamsters and pass out.

Some links

Muttawa is back! In fact he has been back for a couple of months now after a long absence, and he is as good as ever.

Iowahawk has two great posts (This war Sucks and I hate my boss) by a guest blogger Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

No children

Jukka's question made me think: I have always thought that I write a fair lot about myself here, and yet here is a person who has been following my blog for a long time and he is asking me about my biological clock. I guess I have never written about it, which is not surprising considering that most readers are people who know me in person and most of them know it already. But anyway, here goes:

I don't have children and I intend to keep it this way. I never liked them, never wanted them and have no intention to share my resources (time, money and energy) with them. Besides, there is absolutely no way I would have something that size in my pussy. No. Fucking. Way.

That said, this does not mean that I will eat your baby if I see it. I only eat particularly ill-behaved children.

Friday, October 21, 2005

01.10.05: in the air

In the morning I leave my subtropical Manhattanish paradise with a bit of regret and go to check lap cock. I mean Chek Lap Kok, the Hong Kong airport. My flight is Korean Air, through Seoul.

The airport is quite nice.

Amazing discovery number one: the Hong Kong-Seoul and Seoul-Tokyo flights use big planes (Boeing 747-400?) and not small ones like they use for flights inside Europe.

Amazing discovery number two: Korean Air feeds people real food that does not taste like airplane food. They had something that looked like a rather big smoked salmon salad, and you add rice and some sauce and seaweed to it and mix. Of course I needed the advice of the woman next to me to figure out how to eat it, but it was good.

Seoul airport must be the most confusing airport ever.

Tokyo is a sea of lights, not as intense as Hong Kong but endless.

We arrive more than an hour late, and I also get searched for the first time after leaving Russia. They only want to search the suitcase. Luckily they don't open my backpack, where the first thing they'd see would have been The Rape of Nanking.

In spite of the search I make it out of the airport in 25 minutes after landing, but still miss my train. The next one is 45 minutes later, and turned out to be a local and not an express. It takes forever, and at some point I realize that I might not make it to Nippori where Joy and Krabak are going to meet me before the last train that we are supposed to change to.

After Hong Kong the public transportation in Tokyo is a rude awakening. They don't have any night transportation at all. OTOH, the Hong Kong transportation is serving a very densely populated area of 7 million and Tokyo transportation is serving a much more spread-out populationg of 35 million, so they are doing amazingly well considering the enormity of the task.

When I get upstairs at Nippori I am greeted with screams in Finnish: "Vera, get a ticket, quick! The last train leaves in five minutes!" Joy and Krabak are waving their arms and doing a fairly good imitation of a windmill. I run to the ticket machine, can't figure out how to use it (you are supposed to give it you old ticket in addition to the money, but with the help of Joy and locals I somehow manage, and we run to the train.

Tokyo has an uncountable number of subway lines (literally: you start counting them on a map, in the unlikely event that you have a map that shows them all, and you get confused pretty fast; Wikipedia says there are about 70 lines and 1000 stations) operated by at least 22 different companies. Like in Hong Kong, you pay as you go; unlike in Hong Kong, if you change from line 1 to line 2 and then to line 3, you pay to 3 different companies, and each ticket's price varies according to the distance. (If you buy a cheap ticket and then decide to travel a longer distance than it allows you have to pay the difference before exiting.) To avoid long ticket lines and general despair among citizenry 21 of the companies sell cards called Passnet that work much in the same way as HKL card with value, except that you don't load value on the card but just buy a new card every time the old one runs out. They come in denominations of 1000, 3000 and 5000 yen.

The biggest company of them all, JR East, does not use Passnet but instead has its own card named Suica. It works exactly like HKL card with value and like Octopus card in Hong Kong: you load value on it, use it, load more value. The first one costs 2000 yen of which 500 is deposit and 1500 value.

To alleviate the confusion (I am sure) and further point out differences between Passnet and Suica Passnet has to be fed to the ticket gate and then taken out of it, whereas Suica only has to be shown to it. Still, cards are your friends and make life easier.

Subway and trains and stations are the only places in Japan where you can see any useful information in English or at least in Latin alphabet. Stations have their names written in kanji, hiragana (apparently sometimes katakana but I haven't seen any) and Latin alphabet. Trains have displays that show the name of the next station, which lines you can change to and whether the doors will open on the right or on the left. They also announce it, in both Japanese and English. JR East has the best display of them all, and shows also the estimated arrival time of arrival to every station.

In comparison with the trip from the airport the trip from Nippori to Ookayama is quite short. There is a 10-minute walk from there, and we go to a store to buy some food first. The supermarket - more about it later - is open until one and has a lot of unrecognizable scary foods. I play it safe and buy yellowtail and green tea ice cream.

Japan also has lots of convenience stores open round the clock. They are called AmPm.

The most surprising thing is how small the houses are. I somehow imagined Tokyo to be a city of skyscrapers, much like Hong Kong, but most of the houses are just 2-3-storey high. It figures, Japan being such a seismically unstable place, but I had just never thought about it. Now I understand why they are so short of space.

Joy's and Krabak's apartment is very American in a heartwarming and unexpected way. That is, the inside is American; the outside is a bit more HOAS-style. They have a carpet floor and a fan and bathtub in the shower and even an American-style sink, which is kind of weird because it does not contain an American-style garbage disposer inside. For a second I am afraid that it has The American Problem, too, but no, the plumbing works perfectly well. (We might be a great nation, but a nation of great plumbers we are not.)

We sit on the floor and drink tea (they have the best hot-water device ever, I want one like that too! It heats the water and then keeps it hot.) and talk about life. I still can't believe that I am seeing real live Joy and Krabak.