Thursday, March 30, 2006

The optimal amount of violence in society

I've been wondering what is an optimal amount of street violence in a society, or rather how it can be calculated for any given society.

I mean the realistic optimal amount. The unrealistic one is zero, of course.

A good citizen is not supposed to use violence for anything except serious self-defense in a situation where it is not possible to extricate oneself otherwise. You are not supposed to hit a person who forcibly pushes you out of a line at a sausage stand, a person whose hand you find in your pocket looking for your wallet, a person who has grabbed your tits, a person who has just kicked or punched you without causing any actual damage and is trying to get away, a person who has grabbed your purse and it trying to rip it out of your hands, etc. Not responding with violence in such situations is, for the most part, the law, the custom and the sensible thing to do. And the societies where people always respond to such things with violence are usually not very nice places to live in.

There is another side to this, however: all these things can, for the most part, be done with impunity. You can push people out of lines, hit them, grab their purses or tits, etc., and you are not likely to be punished. Some of these things are illegal, but it's unlikely that you will ever be found. The police will most likely not bother to look for you if you punch somebody in the face without causing an injury or even a visible bruise. They might look more for a purse-snatcher, but even then they are usually only caught after many purses.

I have a theory that one of the factors that stops people from doing such minor acts of violent assholicity to each other is the risk that the victim or some bystander will in fact hit them back. It's not the main factor (I hope that most people are raised to be decent to the extent of not hitting the person next to them in a sausage stand line), but it probably is a bigger factor than fear of police. I strongly suspect that if there were a society where thugs knew for sure that people are not going to hit them back, we'd see a lot more thuggery and it would not be a pleasant place to live in, either.

Since I think that a certain level of aggression among the general population tends both to increase and curb street violence, I am wondering what would be the optimal level of aggression (perceived aggressiveness level is more important here than the actual one) that would be high enough to scare most thugs into behaving themselves most of the time, but would not be high enough to generate a lot of violence by itself.

Monday, March 27, 2006

System upgrade, again

I decided to embrace my tendency to upgrade systems for no reason and start saying "apt-get upgrade" every day. At least it minimizes the damage per upgrade.

My Skype starting working again, miraculously. Also Konqueror stopped crashing all the time.

Looks like my video driver is fucked after all, because gdm started doing the same thing as kdm. Bugger nVidia and the horse they rode in on.

Gonna try some other drivers sometime soon.

Life has been bad for blogging, again

Apart from having a lot of work at work and updating my system, was playing games and having a social life and helping people move.

Niksu and Saara came over on Friday. Drank hot chocolate and red wine, talked about life, the universe and everything.

Saturday was helping Lyn move. If was kind of fun in a very absurd way, especially the bed that consisted of a million metal pieces and had to be dismantled before moving. I did not know they made beds like that. I did not know they make tiny-tiny elevators like that' either.

Wanted to go to the party after that, but was in no condition for it (not because of moving but because of sneezing). Blaah. I hate missing parties.

Had a game session yesterday. Exalted demo thing with ready-made characters. Exalted's rules are as complicated as they say, but it was a lot of fun. Having a big sword and magical abilities rules.

It looks like spring is finally coming.

Friday, March 24, 2006

...and another religion respecter

Remember Ahmed Akkari, the spokesman for the Danish Muslim group that recently toured Middle East with 12+3 cartoons in order to stir shit? This fine upstanding citizen (earlier convicted for assault on a 11-year-old boy) has been videotaped threatening to bomb Naser Khader, a Danish Muslim politician and the founder of Denmark's Democratic Muslims network.

Danish police is starting the investigation. Akkari is saying that he is sorry and he did not really mean anything bad.

"I am deeply sorry about the remark, which was meant as a joke, but was taken seriously," he said in an open letter to Khader. As opposed to, I suppose, the terrifying cartoons of blasphemy, which were not meant as a joke, but as a cunning way to start WWIII and blame it all on Muslims.

If convicted the joker might spend eight years in prison.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Respect for all religions

A month ago Islamic leaders all over the world, including Afghanistan, condemned the terrifying cartoons of blasphemy and urged respect for all religions.

Right now a man is facing a possibility of death penalty in Afghanistan. His name is Abdul Rahman, and his crime is having converted to Christianity about 15 years ago. Sharia punishes converting from Islam to another religion by death. Not every Islamic country implements that, but Afghanistan does. And that, mind you, is the kinder, gentler and more secular Afghanistan liberated (at least partially) from Taliban by American troops. Heh.

They really are in fact kinder and gentler nowadays. In bad old Taliban days the guy would have been lynched in seconds. Now they are going to give him a fair Sharia trial, whatever that is.

The judge, Ansarullah Mawlazezadah, has shown the true extent of his religion's tolerance. "We will invite him again because the religion of Islam is one of tolerance. We will ask him if he has changed his mind. If so we will forgive him," he said. And if not, they will kill him. In some extremely tolerant way, I am sure.

Some of the authorities are trying to help the poor guy by declaring him to be insane, which would get him out of the death penalty thing. If you are insane, becoming a Christian is understandable and is not punished by death.

Maybe it's just me, but this strikes me as a rather peculiar way of showing respect for Christianity.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A free ticket to paradise

Turkmenistan's dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who wrote his own little red book Rukhnama, told his people that reading the damn thing three times will make reader more intelligent, make him recognize the divine being, and send him to paradise.

Inquiring minds would like to know whether the transfer to paradise will be immediate upon the third completion of the reading.

In any case this is a refreshing change from the traditional approach of dictators. Usually an immediate meeting with the divine being is promised to those who refuse to read the dictator's book.

Misadventures in computer update, again

Updated my system again. Realized that the reason why kdm does weird things is not that there is something wrong with my graphic card, but that there is something wrong with kdm. Changed to gdm. Works.

The thing refused to install the new kernel. At first I superstitiouly thought that it got tired of my constant updating, but then I fixed some symbolic link and the thing got installed propoerly. We'll see if it will boot tonight.

Skype stopped working in some mysterious way. Gotta look into it.

And what I really want to know: why is thrice-fucked KDE changing my config files every time I update it? I realize that there might be some new config options that it might want to add, but one could think that if did not want it to make warning sounds with the old version I won't suddenly want that after the update, either, right? Right? Suddenly the thing starts making the most horrible warning sounds, the sound of breaking bottles. Ugh.

Konqueror (3.5.1) keeps crashing as soon as I look at it. Might be that it got some interesting new bug since 3.5.0, but most probably it just fucked up all configurations beyond all imagination. Ugh.

Tired, again

Have been working too much for the last few days, and sleeping too little. Today am just sitting at work with my eyes crossed and doing the non-brain-intensive tasks like checking up on customer problems and fixing the documentation to reflect the last couple of days' changes in the program.

Awfully sleepy, too.

On Sunday helped a few friends to move into a new apartment. They have unbelievable views from their windows. Didn't know they had such views in Kallio.

Now I feel like buying a place of my own in Kallio. Gonna go talk to a few banks.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Evil

University of Tampere has invited Pentti Linkola to speak at an upcoming philosophy event in April, and then cancelled his participation after he gave Aikalainen magazine an interview where he said that there was nothing wrong with Nazi Germany apart from losing the war.

For fuck's sake, people. Does it really take a nazi-admiring statement to realize that the man is a clear example of pure and unadulterated evil? There is probably a whole separate department in hell just for him, where he will spend the eternity as Fred Phelps's and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's lover (which incidentally, will be also the punishment for Phelps and Ahmadinejad) having unsatisfying sex and long arguments as to which groups of population should be killed first.

One thing I've wondered about pretty much every time I heard any statement by Linkola: why is incitement against some religious or ethnic group a crime, but incitement against the whole population is not? I mean, if you are not allowed to say "kill all Muslims", "kill all Jews" or "kill all Christians", why should you be allowed to say "kill everybody"? Or, to be more exact, "kill almost everybody except me, because I am a valuable ecologist and will show you the light, there should be as few people as possible, and the more get killed the better, but I do not regret having had two children, and all scientific and technological progress is evil, but please give me my diabetes medications"?

More importantly, why are the people who say "let's kill [insert your favorite ethnic group]" generally ridiculed by everybody, and the guy who just generally says "let's kill people" invited to speak at civilized people's events as opposed to being left to himself to spread his "philosophy" to the frogs in the privacy of his fishing boat? I know most people find Linkola ridiculous, but still he has enough respectability to be invited to events whose organizers would have never dreamed of inviting the late Pekka Siitoin.

OTOH, sometimes I wonder whether Linkola and his philosophy are just an overlong experiment in how many left-wingers can you get to support extreme right-wing views if you do it in the name of ecology. The answer is, luckily, not all that many, but apparently enough to give this clown at least some respectability among some people. Sheesh.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Sparkling wine is just not the same without you"

That's what I said to Anu when telling her how I wanted some Henkell Trocken on Sunday but did not get any because had nobody to drink it with (also, Alkos are closed on Sundays, but a Pol Remy from my fridge would have sufficed). She was very amused for some reason.

Also, port is not quite the same without Killeri.

Work: a pain in the ass

The last couple of weeks at work have been pretty stressful, to the point that I am considering telling one of the bosses that I am not going to follow his verbal orders and that every time he wants me to do anything for him he has to write it down. Did not get much sleep either since there were meetings almost every morning. Monday, too. Blaah.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Mohammed again

A few months ago I quoted an article my Mark Steyn that claimed that "these days, whenever something goofy turns up on the news, chances are it involves a fellow called Mohammed."

Anyway, did not think much about it lately, what with the big Mohammed news and terrible blasphemous cartoons. But it came to my mind again about two weeks ago, when a man rented the biggest SUV he could find and decided to drive it through a crowd, injuring nine in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By an amazing coincidence, the guy's name is Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar. By an even more amazing coincidence, he did it "to avenge the deaths of Muslims all over the world".

He told the judge that he considers his upcoming trial to be an opportunity to spread the word of Allah, and that Allah is going to be his defense attorney, too. Don't know if Allah has passed the bar exam in North Carolina.

Weekend: parties and hangovers

On Friday VPK and Nng came over, and we had a lot of red wine and brownies. Was a lot of fun, should probably do this more often (I mean see VPK and Ning. I probably should not have red wine and brownies more often than I do now).

On Saturday Kikka and Hukka had a housewarming party somewhere in deep Espoo. The house is really nice, and the party was fun and the chocolate things were numerous and the cats were cute, and, more importantly, hypoallergenic. Kikka makes the best chocolate drinks ever.

After the party I decided to go home, but Sampo who was in the same bus, managed to seduce Anu and me to the dark side. The dark side was in Uusi at some biological fossil party (where "fossil" is defined as anybody who started at 2001 or earlier). I thought I was the most ancient fossil there, but Sampo dug out another one and introduced me to him. I was not sure whether going there was a good idea, because in my experience such parties tend towards big crowds, bad beer and bad air, but in fact it was quite fun, especially after the crowd became much smaller afer the last buses. The air was bad though, with a number of people smoking where they are not supposed to, and then there was the problem of not knowing any biologists, so I concentrated on watching cute guys, of which there was a number. There was one really cute one, but I figured that the combination of my sexual market value and blood alcohol level wouldn't be enough to make asking him to bed in any way feasible. (He looked like a guy who is very well aware both of his beauty and of the fact that there are a lot more girl biologists than boy biologists.) I decided to visit computer science students party sometime soon. They tend to have a lot of cute guys who have not realized how cute they are yet.

Anyway, when the smoke started to annoy me I went home, but it was kind of fun and should go to the student parties more often.

Spent Sunday at home being somewhat hung over. Tried to catch up on some sleep, and was so successful that managed to fall asleep only about at 4 o'clock at night.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Western civilization and demographics

I have seen a lot of articles lately about the decline of the population in the civilized world and how it threatens the future of Western civilization.

There are people who are worried about the growing population of the world in the "oh my God, will there be enough natural resources for everybody" way, and there are people who are worried about declining birthrates of the Western countries (usually separately in every particular Western country) in the "oh my God, we are dying out" way. Being worried about both at the same time is generally frowned upon in the "oh my God, this evil person wants white people to breed and brown people to stop breeding" way, so I am not even going there.

The birth rates are very low all over the civilized world and are below replacement levels in almost all the Western countries. If this continues that way, eventually we will die out. If they are very much below replacement levels, we will die out pretty fast. Fast dying out causes a number of problems, such as having too few working people to support all the retired folk, and undesirable neighbors moving in and replacing the locals by breeding faster than them.

I recognize the problem, but am obviously not about to lecture people to have more children. I mean, I am part of the problem: I don't like children, don't have any, am not going to have any, and, much as I love the Western civilization, am not about to save it with my own pussy. Besides, I would not take it well if somebody tried to make me to, to put it mildly.

Immigration can be a solution, but obviously only if you get the right kind of immigrants. Otherwise they will fall into the category "undesirable neighbors moving in", see above, and will be part of the problem rather than of the solution. Immigrants should be fairly easily assimilable, otherwise they will make your neighborhood so vibrant and multicultural that eventually even the police will be afraid to go in.

Acquisition of easily assimilable immigrants is politically difficult, because it would entail a public debate about which groups are more easily assimilable and which are less so. Nowadays in Finland and in the US one can oppose immigration or support it, but supporting immigration by some groups while opposing it by others is still considered bad. Although in countries whose culture has been recently enriched in more aggressive ways, such as France and the Netherlands, the debate seems to be starting.

The actual supply of easily assimilable immigrants is in fact pretty good. There is Russia and China and India and South America and Eastern Europe. We'd need an infinite supply, too, because any group that will successfully assimilate into Western society will likely also have a very low birthrate.

Anyway, all of the above is stuff that most people already know anyway. But there is one thing that people who write about low birth rates never mention: how permanent is this phenomenon?

The numbers of the childfree have been rising steadily for many years now, and are still. However, there have been now only a couple of generations during which easy birth control have been available to most of the population in the West, and therefore only a couple of generations during which the extent to which a person likes children has had a very strong influence over how many children a person has. What I am wondering about is how strong is the genetic component in people's personal dislike of children, and how fast will the childfree people breed (heh) themselves out of existence? (Or rather, not out of existence but back to being a fairly small percentage of the population, sort of like gay people.) And if they will, what exactly will that mean for the demographics of the Western world? Will it be enough to rise the birth rates to the replacement rates?

Another thing that can help is technology. How hard and how expensive would it be to gestate fetuses by some technological means? I mean, the current method is complicated and painful and who the hell would want to have something the size of a watermelon up her pussy anyway? (OK, OK, a lot of people do, I just don't understand, etc., but I wonder how many would choose to have their fetuses mechanically gestated if they easily could and what effect that would have on the birth rates.) Anyway, this is probably not going to happen tomorrow but might not be a bad idea.

Also the social policies: wouldn't it be wise to limit child subsidies to the first three children if what we want is for the people with two children to have the third, rather than for the people with ten children to have eleventh?

Finally, after a trip to Southern Italy I realized that the reason every family down there has one child is that there is no way you can fit the whole family on one motorcycle if you have two children. italian government could probably greatly influence theit extremely-low birth rates by buying very big motorcycles and selling them to the population.

Silly me

Note to self: next time there is a really mysterious probem in your Java program, check if there is any space left on the partition.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Faija ja sovjetologit

Kerran vuonna 1989 faija kutsuttiin sovjetologien bileisiin. Kenen nerokas idea se oli, minä en tiedä.

Jossain vaiheessa iltaa, kuultuaan jonkin verran sovjetologikeskustelua ja juotuaan jonkin verran sovjetologijuomaa, faija nousi ja piti seuraavanlaisen puheen:

"Kun mun vessanpönttö menee tukkoon ja mä kutsun putkimiehen korjaamaan sen, mä tiedän että se putkimies on korjannut vessanpönttöjä kolme vuotta kokeneemman putkimiehen alaisuudessa, koska sitä tarvitaan siihen että se saisi luvan harjoittaa putkimiesammattia Massachusettsissa. Miksi sitten sovjetologeiksi pääsee tyyppejä jotka eivät ole koskaan edes käyneet Neuvostoliitossa saati asuneet siellä? Minusta pitäisi olla pakko asua Neuvostoliitossa jonkin aikaa ennen kuin ihminen saisi kutsua itsään sovjetologiksi."

Sen jälkeen sitä ei enää kutsuttukaan sovjetologibileisiin.


I dream a fair lot about stuff I don't have and could never have (eternal life and youth, lots of money, straight hair, an apartment in the Kamppi terminal building, a harem of my own, a 4-digit IQ, small tits, whatever) and always assumed that everyone else does too. Yesterday, however, I was told that some people don't enjoy dreaming about things they can't have and even find it frustrating. This was kind of a surprise.

Now it would be nice to know how many people enjoy or do not enjoy dreaming about things they want. So, my readers: do you enjoy such dreaming or not?

Mehiläinen weirdness

Probably should have written about it a while ago, because the whole situation is over, but better late than never:

I went to Mehiläinen sometime in June, and it was a work-insurance visit that Endero was supposed to pay for. In December I suddenly got a bill for that. I called Mehiläinen and told them to send the bill to Endero. They told me that they cannot because I do not work there anymore and that I should pay and then demand the money from Endero, or send the bill to Endero myself, or whatever. I told them that I did work for Endero at the time of the visit, isn't that enough? They said that no, it isn't. They also refused to tell me whom I should contact in Endero about this.

Wasn't a big deal in the end, and I did send the bill to Endero and they did pay it, but just on general principle: is it supposed to work like this? Is it normal for Mehiläinen (or any other workplace health services provider) to charge for the services 6 months after the services and send the bill to the patient rather than to the employer? What would have happened if the employer went out of business during that time? I tried to look this up on the net, but did not find anything.

While we are on the topic of dealing with various companies: Instrumentarium has replaced the wrong contacts they sent me, and they were very nice and apologetic about it. And fast, too.

The year of the absurd strikes again

My previous and much-unloved employer, Endero Oyj, has just announced that they bought the dental clinic Hammassairaala Oral Oy, are planning to sell all their IT business and become a dental business and are changing their name to Oral Hammaslääkärit Oyj. I would rather recommend the name Oral&Anal Hammaslääkärit Oyj, but that's just me.

WTF? One friend suggested that by now they probably have no more programmers, but a number of people whom nobody likes, but IMO this is no reason to give these people a dental drill and unleash them on unsuspecting public.

I am wondering who is going to buy their IT business, which is all they had until now.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Life is bad for blogging

Was busy at work and with life.

Work has been a bit annoying lately because had to run afwully long import jobs that took a lot of time and processor time; I hate it when I have to wait a long time between two attempts at debugging and can't even surf or write properly in the meanwhile because the computer is crunching some numbers very hard. Oh well...

Had a game session on Friday. Went to see 9th Company on Saturday, and then to a party. 9th Company was fairly good, except that, like many Russian movies, it made me feel like taking a shower afterwards. The party was very good as usual. I had a most amazing conversation there, of which I probably understood only half, and now I am wondering whether it was too much alcohol, or not enough. I wish I could quote it, but I am afraid people will stop saying crazy things to me if I keep quoting them in my blog.

On Saturday watched Dawns are quiet here and Helmiä ja sikoja with Anu.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Why I don't respect your religion

Uhm, give me any good reason why I should?

I think that in current (not just cartoons-current but 21st-century-current) discourse people have started to confuse having respect for other people's right to practice a religion with actually having respect for other people's religions.

"Respect" means high regard or esteem. It means that you consider something or someone important and valuable. Is there any reason to consider other people's religions important or valuable?

I am an atheist. I don't see any particular difference between practicing a religion and adult people believing in Santa Claus. I am all for their right to believe in Santa Claus or any other supernatural being if they feel like it, but I don't see why I - or anyone who does not share it - should hold a belief like that in high regard. It's even harder to imagine why somebody who really believes in some kind of a deity would hold the beliefs of the people who believe in other deities incompatible with their own as worthy of respect.

I respect people's right to practice their religions, at least as long as it does not interfere with other people's rights. I can respect some particular social aspects some religions, for example the Christian idea of being generally nice to people, or the Jewish ban on proselytizing to infidels, or the Baha'i emphasis on education. I can respect some religious artifacts and buildings, and the skill of people who made them. I have a few friends who practice religions, and I don't disparage their religion to their face, because to do so would be disrespectful not only to the religion, but also to these people themselves. (I don't, however, hide my feelings about religion from them, as evidenced by writing this entry here - they know that not all their friends share their religious feelings, and they also know that sometimes their friends express their opinions.)

All of the above is, however, respect for people's rights, sensible social guidelines, the need to preserve historical artifacts, architects who build beautiful churches and good people who just happen to have what is, IMO, a strange hobby. I don't have any respect for the belief as such, or for things that religious people consider holy. And I don't take it well when somebody tries to demand such respect from me.

And, frankly, I don't understand how believers can respect other believers' beliefs, either. If you believe that Jesus is a god, and that those who do not believe in him as such go to hell at worst, and are very wrong at best, how exactly do you respect the belief of such people?

I suspect that the current talk about all of us respecting each others' beliefs does (or did) in fact come from religious communities, what with various religious leaders talking about respecting each other's religions, and now it has spilled over into the general culture. All those priests,rabbis and imams falling over themselves in showing respect for each other's religions so that you could show it, too.

Some of this is probably a genuine attempt at making peace in the world where relations between some religions are not very good. And yet some of it seems like religions' attempt to unite in the face of being more and more irrelevant in the modern world.

During the worst phase of the blasphemous cartoon protests there were a lot of Christian and Jewish religious figures saying things like we should have respect for Muslims' religion and shouldn't insult what is holy to them. Maybe some of them meant it as an attempt to make peace, but the cynic in me was laughing: "gee, religious figures demanding more respect for religion and trying to shut up those who say blasphemous things, how surprising".

By some strange coincidence all those Christian, Jewish and moderate Muslim religious figures that urge respect for the other religions never urge any respect for atheism. Or at least I have never seen them do so - not that I am watching them all the time. Here in Finland they are not quite as explicit about it as in the US, but over there the message is quite clear: atheists' lives are shallow, materialistic and without meaning, and by practicing our religion (or at least some religion, no matter that we think that they will go to hell) you will find meaning and become all spiritual and there will be hugs and puppies all around. Hee, makes me feel all respected...

The religious leaders can kiss my shallow, materialistic, meaningless ass. You don't get respect by telling other people what you consider holy and demanding that they consider it holy too. Actually, you generally don't get any respect for irrational beliefs in any way from people who do not share these beliefs. Try to deal with it.

On joharis and noharis

Other people's noharis are really hard to fill, mostly because that by the time I know them well I am usually so accustommed to their negative personality traits that I don't notice them as negative. I can easily list my friends' bad habits (such as "is always late everywhere", "dates most atrocious men", "always tries to put some horrible music on" or "puts chili everywhere"), but negative personality traits are pretty hard to think of.

A few thoughts on my own:

Nohari was filled by a lot fewer people than johari, which is normal, but three of the people who filled nohari have not filled johari. I don't know who any of them are; one put in what looks like a real name that I do not recognize, one put in a nickname and one might or might not be an ex-boyfriend of mine. In addition there was a few people who filled either both or only johari about whom I don't know who they are. Oh well, they probably wanted it that way.

Johari was not very surprising. 31% said "extroverted", probably meaning "sociable" (there was no separate word for that). People also seemed to give me a lot more credit for being "bold" (18%) or "brave" (9%) than I would normally give to myself. "Complex" (18%) was a surprise, I am fairly simple. "Observant" (18%) was also a bit of a surprise. I don't think I am awfully observant.

Nohari: I can't believe I forgot "vulgar" when I was filling it out for myself! I am a poster child for vulgarity. Two people whose names I don't recognize said "aloof", which makes me think whether or not I seem aloof to people who don't know me well (I am not really aloof, just shy with strangers). "Impatient" and "chaotic" were popular, and for a good reason. "Cynical", too, although I myself prefer the term "experienced".