Tuesday, May 30, 2006

God hates Fred Phelps

...and so does Bush and pretty much everyone else.

Yesterday was the Memorial Day, and Bush has signed the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, which was passed by Congress in response to Phelps' and his Westboro Baptist Church's activites.

The main activities of this fine religious sect involve seeing gays everywhere and rejoicing at every disaster on the assumption that every disaster must have killed some gays or at least people who support gays, or at least maybe people who are not actively against gays.

They rejoice at every death of a US soldier in Iraq, because the soldiers are part of the army of a country that does not punish homosexuality by death, and are therefore defenders of the Great Gay Conspiracy and deserve to die. Phelps & Co. have lately spent most of their time demonstrating at soldiers' funerals with signs like "Thank God for dead soldiers", "Thank God for 9/11", "Thank God for IEDS" and "God hates fags".

The new law forbids such demonstrations within 300 feet of a national cemetery, so hey will have to do it elsewhere from now on, or face fines up to $100000 and prison sentences up to 1 year.

Phelps, who usually hates America and everything it stands for, suddenly became a great supporter of the First Amendment and thinks his First Amendment rights are being violated.

Westboro Baptist Church has about 100 members, most of whom are Phelps' children, grandchildren, cousins or all of the above. Members are not allowed to marry outside the church, so in a few generations we might have a new interesting breed of people, homo phelpsicus.

Monday, May 29, 2006


I think I am paying my sleep debts now. Sleepy all the time. It is probably doing me good, and yet the desire to be sociable while being sleepy all the time is not a good combination.

Friday was an especially bad day for sociability, what with everyone celebrating Lordi and there being too many smokers and not enough toilets. I gave up and went home to sleep.

On Saturday there was a very good party during a weird time of the day, which featured a lot of nice people, one (but big) nice cake, very well-behaved children (the end of the world is surely here already) and kimchee chocolate. After that went with a few friends to a weird but great whisky-tasting place in Puotila. The world is full of strange things.

Heli came over on Sunday.

It's fairly cold outside. Can't drink in the park, at least not for long.

Eeek, moving soon. Scary.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Just how fucked in the head can one be?

This is just too funny. (via Jihad Watch) First blasphemous cartoons, then blasphemous ice cream. In fact I think the ice cream happened first, this is just an old interview.

For those unfamiliar with the blasphemous ice cream: last fall Burger King in UK made ice cream cones that featured a picture of an ice cream swirl on the wrapper. The swirl happened to look somewhat similar the Arabic spelling of Allah, and a number of Muslims were offended as usual.

The interview is an interview with a particularly offended young man. "That was the defining moment of my life," - he says of the moment when he saw the terrifying blasphemous cone. " I want to humiliate the person who did this to an extent that he never works again. I’m going to make him see that it was the biggest mistake in his life." "I’m going to bring this country down."

Usually I post such things as shining examples of religious peacefulness, but in this case I have a feeling that British mental health services, or lack thereof, also have something to answer for.

"Eek! Eek! You are gonna starve to death!"

When an overweight person is eating chocolate, ice cream or cake in some social situation, nobody in their right mind would consider expressing concern (rude people and close relatives don't count). Telling them "you are overweight already, maybe you shouldn't eat chocolate, it's bad for you" is a social gaffe of enormous proportion. Telling them that chocolate is bad for everybody is almost as big a social gaffe, and besides it's not true.

There are many perfectly good reasons for this: first of all, somebody else's weight is not a polite topic to bring up, second, most fat people know that they are fat (and if they don't, they have their mothers to remind them) and where the fat comes from, and third, people are not likely to change their eating habits no matter what you tell them.

Why is that, then, when someone is skipping a meal, it is considered quite appropriate to admonish them on the unhealthiness of that, or at least express concern? Why is it, in fact, that people even are concerned, assuming that the person skipping the meal is not underweight and has no known eating disorders? I've never heard that any long-term harm came to any person of normal-or-higher weight from skipping a meal.

I get this often, because I do this often. Usually at least a couple of times a week my first meal of the day is when I come home from work. I am no worse for the wear, but people tend to express concern when and if I mention it. I don't find that concern in any way offensive but it does give me a vague feeling that I am doing something that is generally considered shameful and that I shouldn't mention in polite society if I were a properly polite person. I am very curious about the reasons for it, though.

Is it some kind of atavistic thing from the times where there was geniunely not enough food to go around? Or is the awareness of eating disorders so high that people start imagining that if I skip a meal I will immediately stop eating altogether and eventually starve to death? Or is it just that most people are more physically bothered by skipping meals than I am, and think of it as some great physical discomfort?

Looking for ADSL

Time to look for a new broadband connection.

Saunalahti does not serve my new building. Sonera has just taken more that 4 months to get Anu her broadband, which is a bit slow. Elisa... well, Elisa is Elisa. DNA sold their broadband to "kimppakiva" 24 Online and I don't feel that close to my neighbors yet. My new neighbors, that is. My current neighbors are damn well close enough, I can hear everything they do.

Right now I am considering Suomicom or Maxinetti. The appealing thing about Suomicom is that they promise 2M and 3M upstream, although in my area it is just "coming soon". A couple of years ago there was a lot of complaints about them; right now there are none, which can be because they have improved or because they do not have any customers anymore. Their webpage sucks and has outdated information, and very little useful information at all; customer service by email is, however, quite good, or at least they answered all my questions quite fast and to my satisfaction. The buggers don't have an IRC server, but that's OK.

Maxinetti has a more respectable webpage and probably more customers, but they are not promising any 2M and 3M upstream. But their support works on weekends, which is nice.

If any of my readers has any experience with either of these, please tell me how you like it.

One thing I am quite sure about: I am not going for any of those "commit to us for 12 months and we waive the installation fee" things. That much faith I do not have.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bergamo, Desenzano and Sirmione, 11.5.-14.5.

In Bergamo the hotel is much closer to the station, and has an elevator and a decent breakfast. We leave our stuff at the hotel and go check out the city. It looks sleepy in a way that suggests that three days here might be too much.

There is a big street that goes from the station to the cable car that goes straight up to the old town (or high town as they call it due to the fact that it is on top of a hill). It takes twenty minutes or so to walk to the cable car; in that time the street changes at least three names.

The old town is pretty, and pretty small. Does not take long to go all around it. The main square is Piazza Vecchia, it looks nice and contains a pleasant-looking fountain, a number of cafes where capuccino is normally-priced at 2.50 or 3 (and everything else is also priced accordingly), a beautiful tower and no trace of pigeons of pigeon-feeders. We decide to get on top of the tower, and, as my luck normally has it, the elevator is broken but they still charge us the 2 euro per person. We walk up the stairs, with Benka running lightly ahead of me and insulting my physical condition and even parentage all the way up. Yeah, I know I am my father's daughter, and whose fault is that supposed to be? ("Uhm. I guess mine," - says Benka.)

The view is really great. After we've had enough we go down and have some coffee in one of the cafes. In some countries when you order coffee with ice cream you get a cup of cold or hot coffee which either has ice cream mixed into it or floating in it; in some countries you get an ice cream with a bit of coffee poured over it; apparently in Italy you can have either.

We take another cable car to San Vigilio castle. There are castle walls filled with earth (or built around a hill, who knows) from where you can see lovely views, but no building as such. We condemn the lack of the actual castle but linger there for a while.

We figure we have to go somewhere else for a day and go to Desenzano di Garda. It turns out to be a very pleasant vacation resort. From there we take a boat to Sirmione, which turns out to be an even nicer vacation resort with a real castle. We go to the castle and on top of it. Climbing the tower the day before has done me good, and Benka does not insult my physical condition quite as much. It's a great sunny day, too.

We go to some restaurant outside and order two seafood salads and one caprese (tomato and mozzarella) salad to share. They bring us The Mother Of All Mozzarellas. Later they turn out not to have a bathroom and try to explain themselves in German.

In the evening in Bergamo all the sandwich places are closed so we get a takeout pizza from some halal pizza place. Don't know about their halality, what with all the ham, but the pizza is good. I, on the other hand, am not feeling very good due to too much sun and dehydration and have to listen to Benka's lecture about the young generation (in particularly myself) having no endurance as opposed to herself. Eventually tea and pizza revive me.

The TV has only one English channel, CNN. The volcano in Indonesia is still about to erupt and Benka is impatient. The Palestinian leadership in the person of Ismail Haniya is still proud and free and won't cave in to any infidel demands (but please give generously). The Palestinian people are still complaining about having no money and having to deal with the lessons of objective reality, the lesson being that if most of your country's income comes from foreign donations then electing a guy who wants to piss off the donors might not have been such a bright idea after all. Heh. One week with Benka exposes me to more TV than the whole earlier of the year.

The next day we just hang out in Bergamo, mostly in the lower town but also in the upper for a while. Benka tries to purchase pantyhose for grandma and fails miserably since grandma does not care that much for light blue fishnets with red stripes. Wonder where Italian grandmas buy theirs.

We see a restaurant that offers something called Nablus Koktail. I scan the menu for Molotov cocktail as well but no luck.

Venice was full of Russians. Bergamo is a lot less so but there are a few.

Monday, May 22, 2006

OK, now it's official: the French are crazy

The Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis named a street after Mumia Abu Jamal.

What, Carlos the Jackal was unavailable?

Yay, free toys!

I think there is some conspiracy of the part of the manufacturers to provide me with free toys lately.

Usually their business is supposed to work the following way: you buy stuff, the stuff works for some decent amount of time, then it falls apart and you buy new and better stuff. Or, alternatively, you buy new stuff even before the old stuff falls apart because you want some new features.

Lately it has been working the following way: I buy stuff, the stuff falls apart before the warranty is up, they send me new (and sometimes improved) stuff for free. I am all for it, but what's in it for them?

Last week's new toys were a camera and a MP3 player. The camera is exactly the same model that has earlier produced striped and blue-faced images of Janka's and Orava's cats (none of whom is actually striped or blue), Pentax Optio WP, and the MP3 player (iLyn-something) is from some other manufacturer than the original one and a lot better. Well, it would have been hard to be worse than the Transcend player that destroyed four earphones.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

And finally the pictures, and a couple more observations

The pictures.

The observations:

While I was in Milan there was some kind of election campaign underway. My Italian is not good, and all I figured out from the posters is that the most popular tactic is calling the opponent a fascist.

The prices in the cafes on San Marco are astronomical, a cup of capuccino is from 7.50 to 9.80. In comparison, just around the corner on the waterfront it was 2.50 or 3.

It's hard to buy non-Italian wine in Italy (haven't been to specialized stores though). A regular supermarket will have lots of Italian wines and then one French, one Spanish, one Chilean and one American.

All the internet cafes in Venice cost a fortune and required an ID. All the internet cafes elsewhere required an ID without costing a fortune. The woman in the hotel in Bergamo where we were staying told me she has to give the list of names of people who use the hotel's computer to the police. This shocked me, not so much by the fact of the intrusion of privacy as by the sheer inefficiency.

Milan's center was full of police. Don't know whether it was a special occasion or it is always like that.


Yesterday went to see the Eurovision song contest at friends' place. Never seen it before, and yesterday went there just because I wanted to see the people.

Looking back at it, this was the kind of virginity that I did not need to lose. And 24 songs that I did not need to hear.

Glad for Finland, but feel sorry for all those people who promised to do crazy shit in case Finland ever wins Eurovision.

And thanks to each and every kind soul who gave me wine. This was not the kind of thing that should be watched while sober.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Venice, 8.5.-11.5.

The train is way overloaded. They used to put up little paper notes saying which places are reserved and which aren't, but now they did not and we got booted out of our places. Sitting in the corridor all the way, along with a zillion of other people. Some unlucky souls are trying to pass through.

Venice has a big canal zigzagging through it, and buses running along the canal. They are boat buses, and they aren't cheap (5 euro for a one-way ticket), or fast.

There really aren't any cars. Oh well, Benka said she'd seen a couple of cars in there somewhere 10 years ago. "No cars" does not mean "people who don't live there are not allowed to drive into the city", but literally no cars. Everything is done by boat. Boat buses, boat taxis, overpriced gondolas for those who like to travel in style, boat police, boat ambulances, boat deliveries. I hate to think what boat firefighters have to go through if the fire is far away from the water. Or how these people move from one apartment to another.

The city is very beautiful in a toy medieval way, sort of like Verona or Brugge but much bigger. Or at least it feels bigger after you get lost often enough. Very labyrinthy.

We get out of the bus and call the hotel so they'd come and get us, because they said they can't give directions because it's too complicated. I am not sure what's so complicated about "go straight ahead, take the first bridge to the left, then the next bridge right after that, turn right right after the bridge and then first left", but that's just me. The hotel is on the fifth floor without an elevator - Benka believes in healthy exercise - and breakfast is brought to the room every morning, which means that one of us has to be awake and reasonably decent (as in, wrapped in a towel) every morning at eight-thirty. Guess which one it is.

The room has a TV, which Benka of course wants to watch all the time while we are in the room. Neither of us have any experience with a European digibox and we can't get it working. Eventually we realize that the remote control just doesn't work, and find BBC ny hand, in time to see Ismail Haniya complaining about finances and evil people who don't want to give him money. "We will not be told what to do! We are free and proud people who will not give in to anyone's blackmail! Please give generously.".

San Marco square is very different from what I expected, I think because most photos I've seen were from the canal side. Very beautiful in any case. The cathedral is light and fairy-taley on the outside, dark and golden on the inside, and not very big.

The square is full of pigeons and people who want us to feed them. I don't understand why. Doesn't everybody hate pigeons? Eventually we see that people put bird food on their arms and head in order to get pigeons to sit there, and take pictures. Eeeew! If a pigeon sat on my head the next you know it would be one very dead pigeon (and then I would probably be arrested for animal cruelty). The square would be lovely if it were not so pigeon-infested and is in fact lovely in the evenings when the pigeons and pigeon-feeders have buggered off.

One really dumb pigeon flies into my leg and looks like it got a concussion.

The square also has a tower with wonderful views and an elevator.

Rialto bridge is quite nice but I am not sure why it is so famous. We buy some tomatoes from the guys who try to forget to give me part of the change. This is the only time anyone has ever tried anything like that on me in Northern Italy.

They sell underwear with a picture of a dick in the appropriate place. I consider buying a pair for Killeri and then think better of it.

The second day is rainy and we explore the Doge's palace. Kiva työsuhdeasunto. After that we walk around in a rain, going to our hotel for a nice cup of tea every few hours. The TV says some volcano in Indonesia is about to erupt and Benka gets all excited. She likes volcanoes for some reason. She was so disappointed when we went to Etna four years ago and it totally failed to do anything interesting, except setting one newspaper on fire, and that only if you throw the paper in one particular place. Personally, I think that when a volcano starts doing interesting things it should not be observed from up close.

On the third day we explore the ghetto. It is really The Ghetto, the original one from which the word comes. We take a guided tour of the synagogues, which are very interesting-looking, pretty and somehow Venetian, but don't bother with the museum. There is a little store near the synagogue where I buy myself a new Magen David and Benka buys me a mezuzah as a housewarming present. Now I gotta figure out how to attach it.

After that we just hang out and look at the city. It's beautiful, again, and hard to navigate but we are not going anywhere in particular. One good navigation aid is the price of Venetian glass jewelry in stores: the higher it is the closer you are to San Marco square.

Italians have a great invention: a self-service restaurant. I mean they have them everywhere but in Italy it's good and cheap and the meals are not all put together in advance but you combine the stuff to your liking. Great way to get our regular seafood salad and grilled eggplant.

I really should learn to grill the damn things at home.

Darwin almost won

Yesterday I have observed a rare event: a man stopped a woman walking down an underground passage to inform her that she has big tits, and for once the woman wasn't me.

I don't quite understand why those men feel the need to inform the women of their breast size. It's hardly likely to be news to the woman, and even less likely to improve that man's chances with that woman. But what I understand even less is why on earth a fragile-looking man in his forties would want to do so to a woman who is walking around with a twentysomething man who looks like he is abusing too much steroids, has a neck that's thicker than his head and biceps thicker than his neck and generally looks like a Tony Halme wannabe minus the latter's friendly charm and sunny disposition. And, moreover, how did this moron even survive to be in his forties?

The Tony-wannabe stopped, raised his fists and started explaining to the moron that this was not nicely said. The moron, upon realizing that he has just pissed off a man twenty years younger and twenty times more muscular, started to apologize, explaining, quite truthfully, that he is a Finnish drunk moron, although I am not sure what the nationality had to do with that. The Tony-wannabe did not look like he considered that a sufficient excuse but the woman dragged him away.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Wakey-wakey, neighbors!

Managed to wake my neighbors up by playing fairly loud music at 9am. At least that's how I interpreted very loud banging on the wall, although it might be that the neighbor was just trying to jump-start his brains by hitting his head on the wall repeatedly.

If these were any other neighbors I would be mortified, but these, mind you, are the neighbors who usually start their parties at 2am with very loud music. Several times a week.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Milan, 6.5.-8.5.

I hate Charles de Gaulle. Not the man himself, of whom I have no strong opinion, but the airport. The food is bad and expensive, and so are the shops. Besides, I am afraid of flying quite enough, and I would like to relax in the airport without being concerned that that roof will fall on me and kill me. Grrr.

Milan, against all my expectations, is quite a nice town. One can see from the architecture that it has been owned by Austrians for a while, and yet it is unmistakably Italian. Nice buildings, nice streets, nice boulevards, even sane drivers.

My hotel is right near the Central railway station, which is unbelievably monumental with its huge arches. Supposed to be a bad area, but isn't.

The city was built by Romans. The subway and the trams looks like they were built by Romans too, and never repaired since, but they are fully operational. The subway stations have endless underpasses and look very deserted, except in the very center.

The cathedral is lovely, especially the roof. You can actually walk on it, which is something I have never seen in any other cathedrals and which I highly recommend. There is nothing quite like standing on the roof of a proper Gothic cathedral. The inside is very good too.

There are some guys in front of the cathedral trying to force what looks like bird food into people's hands. There are a lot of pigeons, and people are feeding them, but I have no idea of why these people want me to feed pigeons rather than throwing the food to the damn pigeons themselves. Why would anyone want to feed the damn things anyway? They are annoying and shit everywhere.

I find the Italian men quite unattractive, not only in comparison to Finnish men, whom I happen to like, but even in comparison to other men from the Mediterranean coast of Europe. What distinguishes them in my eyes is not some particularly horrible ugliness - most men there, just like everywhere else, are about average-looking - but a total absense of any significantly attractive men. It's like the better half of the attractiveness bell curve is missing. I have sometimes wondered how and whether Italian women settle for them.

And guess what - they really don't! I swear, no guy in this city ever gets laid. Ever. I can't think of any other explanation for the fact that I couldn't walk a couple of blocks without some guy coming up and trying very hard with that "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope" look in their eyes. There are places where men approach me often, but nowhere near that often. It felt like being the only woman in a city of men, even though there were other women around. At first I was polite to them, but four guys in an hour will exhaust anyone's politeness. Some of them were pretty weird, too. One accused me of being a teacher of geography. Another one followed me around for half an hour so annoyingly that I considered waiting for him in some alley, jumping at him and demanding to know who sent him. Did not do it, though, because the last time I did it the poor fucker almost got a heart attack, and all I said was "boo!" But I digress.

There is a castle, too. Not very impressive but well worth a visit, and it has a nice park behind it. There is also the church where Da Vinci's Last Supper is located. All the tickets sold out till June. Bugger.

La Scala is not very impressive as a building. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is very beautiful. Italians always build beautiful things to commemorate Vittorio Emanuele II, probably because he kicked the pope's ass out to Vatican.

I don't like Italian food much, but they always have bars open and the bars always sell perfectly good sandwiches to go. Hmm. Ugly men and bad food. Too bad they have such a beautiful country that I just had to go and visit it for the third time. And will do it again, too.

In fact the food is not actively bad. One can go to a supermarket and get fairly nice stuff, though not as nice as in France or Spain. It's just that you can't get anything really nice in a restaurant. I look at the menu - any menu - and all the edible things on it are the stuff that you can just as well buy in a supermarket. They have perfectly good seafood salad, grilled eggplant and fresh tomatoes. I can live on that.

On Sunday afternoon I go to what passes as the waterfront here. It's one tiny river or canal, but it's nice there. They sell some cute cheap jewelry along the canal, and there are pleasant wine bars.

On Monday morning I an waiting for Benka (my mom) at the station near the huge turtle (don't ask). I know that the plane has landed but it takes her two and a half hours to reach the station. I start suspecting that the bus had to be pedalled by passengers but it was just in a traffic jam. We buy train tickets to Venice and go.

Gotta get the photos up sometime soon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Home. Alive. Sleepy. Had a really good time. More later. Now tea and bed.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Fire! Fire!

That's a big fucking fire.

The guilty (if any) have not been found yet, but my bets are on the folks who claim that they are being productive while they sleep or sit a the cafe.

I need a vacation

Sleeping and sleepiness and general tiredness were kind of a problem lately. The fact that they are trying to dig a tunnel to Kamppi terminal right under my windows definitely does not help.

Vappu was exceptionally sleepy. Managed to drag my ass to only to two parties instead of the intended four, and was probably sleepy and unsociable at both of them in spite of all the food and wine.

Joy has come from Japan and is staying over at my place, except that she is away somewhere beyond the Kehä III for the weekend. Well, at least we got to spend a nice evening drinking with her and Anu on Wednesday. She should come more often. I promise to buy a real sofa.

I am hugely in debt on my sleep. I will probably eventually have to sleep for the rest of my life to repay that. I am starting to show the symptoms of being a bit fucked up: being upset over not getting anything done at work in spite of having in fact gotten everything done at work, or at least everything I was planning to do.

But hey, vacation. Soon. Tomorrow. Italy.

I am usually a bit vary about announcing my vacations in my blog in advance, but this time my home is watched by Joy who has my full permission to do the most fearsome things to unwanted intruders, so there.

I'll be back the week after next, and hopefully will be able to blog about something besides being sleepy. That assuming that nobody is digging a tunnel to Kamppi terminal from below the windows of my Italian hotels.

I should learn to use earplugs someday.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fundies raise their heads

The same people who have always been fighting for rights of the unborn and the undead in the US are now also including the rights of the unconceived on their agenda. I think they should have some inclusive name for all of the above, like "rights of persons and potential persons without higher brain functions", which would also include themselves.