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.