Thursday, June 29, 2006

R.I.P. grandma

Grandma went and died yesterday. Rather surprisingly so, she was quite fine the day before. I mean, she'd been saying that she is gonna die real soon now for as long as I remember her, first rarely and lately a lot more often, but I didn't expect her to actually do it. She was 91.

One should not write bad things about dead people, and I am coming up short on good ones, but I feel like writing anyway. Well, for one thing she was fairly bright. She was not very nice, was very deficient in social skills and even more so in moral fiber, and never had anything good to say about anyone, but she was mine. She loved us all (her family) very much, but she never liked us. I think that for the most part the feeling was mutual.

I have always wondered what's going on in her head, kind of tried to understand her point of view, but never could. What was it like to grow up as the seventh and youngest child in a family where nobody had much time to pay any attention to children, and then watch that family being ripped apart by various fluctuations of Polish-Russian border? If we are concerned about what children learn from violence on TV, then what does a 6-year-old child learn from watching Polish officers torture her brother in front of her?

She spent her childhood in a border zone on the Russian side, in a village called Kublichi. Her older brother and sister lived just a few kilometers away in other villages, but then the border came between them and she never saw them again. Her other four siblings eventually went to study to various cities and always needed a special permission to come home to visit their own family, because it was too close to the border.

I guess harsh times often make harsh people. Places, too.

She went to St. Petersburg to try to get into the university to study physics. Why physics, she has never managed to explain to me. It's not like she ever expressed any interest in physics during my lifetime. She did not get in, but was offered a place in the department of biology, which she didn't take. She worked for a year and then applied to the university of technology to study economics, and got in. (In Russia there is a M. Eng. economics degree for some reason; I am not sure if there is anything like that in any English-speaking countries; I suppose the closest Finnish equivalent would be tuotantotalous in TKK).

She had a boyfriend. I know very little of him. I know they lived together for seven years, and then he was killed during the war.

The Russian-Polish border moved again in the beginning of WWII, and after that nobody ever saw grandma's mother or four oldest siblings. All that remained of them was the two oldest children of the two oldest sisters, who somehow made it over the border under the cover of the night.

Grandma worked, was evecuated somewhere (somewhere fairly close to where her only two surviving sisters were avacuated), came back to St. Petersburg, married my grandfather, and started what was a very impressive career for someone who is female, Jewish and from a very wrong kind of a family. She had my mom, and was disappointed that the kid did not turn out exactly like she wanted. Not that my mom turned out badly in any way, grandma was just a bit of a control freak.

When I was born she retired, and wanted a second try at raising a perfect child. I turned out to be even more of a disappointment than mom. Mom would nod reassuringly to whatever grandma said and cheerfully trot off to do whatever the hell she wanted; I would actually argue with grandma all the time, and then do whatever I wanted, too.

She had a very strong mental picture of what is proper and right and how the world should work, and then tried to bend the world to her influence. It did not necessarily work. When I was a kid I liked to put a lot of salt on my tomatoes. Grandma always chewed me out for that, because that much salt is unhealthy. At the same time she tried to make me put salt on my cucumbers, although I did not want any salt on them. My attempts to explain to her that putting double salt on tomatoes and none on cucumbers would result in an accpetable total, but she did not quite get it (the difficult part being how can anyone eat cucumbers without salt). That was grandma at her most classic. "You do this like this, and that like that because it's the right way".

When I was a kid grandma lived with grandpa and her sister Musya. Musya deserves a separate post, which I will write someday. She was everything that grandma was not, and had a rather big formative influence on my mother and myself. Musya, I think, was the only person that grandma could talk with about abstract things and life in general. After Musya died when I was 13 grandma gradually learned to talk with me, but I am afraid I was a rather poor substitute.

I remember talking about God with her (not sure why, because neither of us believed in him). She said that she does not believe in God, because if a God existed he would never let her mother and four siblings and their families be murdered. I found this to be a rather weak argument against the supposed existence of an omnipotent being and said: "But haven't you considered that maybe a God exists and maybe he just hates you?". (Yes, grandma was not the only one lacking social skills in our family.)

She was an extrovert with poor social skills, which is an unfortunate combination. She also sort of did not believe in friends, even though she had some. In the last few years she kept telling me how family is very important, and friends are not at all, and simultaneously complained about how lonely she was in spite of being constantly visited by all the family and how nice it would be to have somebody to hang out with. I urged her to call her friends, but she would say that they surely have something better to do and that she does not want to be forward and force herself on them.

Her friends (the few that she had) were, of course, self-selected from the kind of people who would keep calling and visiting you even if you never call them back, and were in fact pretty nice.

She was all for sexual morality and often claimed not to have had sex ever. (Mom was apparently born with the help of the Holy Spirit.) She was much against premarital sex and premarital relationships too, which was kind of funny from a person who lived with a guy for seven years in the thirties without the benefit of visiting the marriage office. I suspect that for her living together was sort of like being married, so she did not regard that as premarital sex. When I turned 23 or 24 she suddenly turned from being concerned about me spending too much time with men to being concerned about spending too little. She disapproved of all my boyfriends on general principle, although she has only ever met one of them, and tried to set me up with other guys, to the point of giving my phone number to strange young guys that she happened to like (Russian interpreters in hospitals and suchlike).

She was passionate and vengeful. She hated Germans to the point where I would not trust her with a gun in Germany. She also hated German shepherds for some reason. She also hated Communists, but less so, because they have managed to kill only a few of her family members whereas Nazis killed a lot more.

She had a strong anti-intellectual and even anti-abstract streak in her, which grandpa shared. They did not own a lot of books, and grandma has often suggested that we should burn most of ours, too. When they borrowed books to read, grandma wanted to read only about the things that she knew already, and read only the books set in Russia during the time she lived there. She scoffed at my suggestions that she try to read for example Shakespeare. "But this has nothing to do with our life," she said.

In spite of mostly not being interested in things outside of her normal realm she liked to travel. Too bad she was too old to see much of the world after she left Russia, because she would have liked to. She's been to Israel and Canada and New York and Florida and California, though.

In a strange contrast to her usual anti-intellectualism she was quite interested in all sorts of new inventions. She liked to surf the Net. She asked me how TCP/IP works a few years ago, and mostly understood the explanation. She talked quite often about how one of the main reasons for her to live now is to see what kind of new things will be invented in her lifetime. She also often told me how the first radio came to their village when she was 10, and how far we have come from there.

Now I pretty much know that something really important that she would have liked to see will be invented in the next few month. Murphy's law or whatever.

Rest in peace, grandma. Although, knowing you, it's extremely unlikely.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Still alive

Moved. Tired. Sore. Working on making the new place livable. It has already a bed, phone, Net but no proper computer (I have to find all parts of my computer, plus the table to put it on, and two lamps.

My throat is sore as hell (don't know whether it's flu or allergy) and I dragged my ass to work today just to make sure that I don't spend all day at home doing physical things.

Haven't used my stove, my washing machine or my brain yet, but gonna try in the near future.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Moving, cleaning, and Arabic flag

The young whippersnappers who sold me the apartment were a bit unfamiliar with the concept of cleaning it first, which led me to buy and use more cleaning fluids than during all my previous life. Hmm, maybe it's all for the better.

I am not sure why one of the closets was full of soil, but being a mostly charitable person I should assume that they were growing roses in there.

The packing is in full swing, 23 boxes packed, 27 to go. 6 terrifying torture devices purchased, on the off chance that one of them might be installed in the living room ceiling to hold the lamp. The final lamp solution for the bedroom has not been found yet, but there is no way I am having the ceiling lamp over my bed, since changing the lightbulbs would be hell.

Today in the Stockmann bread department there was a saleswoman who was obviously an Arab (she had an Arabic name and spoke Arabic with a customer) and I noticed that there is no flag on her advertising this fact. (Stockmann employees usually wear flag buttons so that the customers know which languages a particular employee can speak.) Then I remembered that the guy in the fish department who seems to be an Arab too does not have a flag either. And then I realized: which flag? There are about 20 Arab countries. You can use English flag for English, Spanish for Spanish, etc. just because that's where the language originally came from, but something tells me that using the Saudi flag by the same token might be unpopular.

Now I feel like calling Stockmann and asking them which flag they would use if they had to. If I were them I'd use the flag of the country whose dialect the particular employee speaks, but that's just me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Stuck in my head

People often complain about some song just being stuck on a constant replay in their head. It happens to me too, and often not just with songs but with quotes from books.

The quote that's been lately in my head every time I hear Lenin mentioned:

"And remember, children: grandpa Lenin is not dead. Grandpa Lenin lives. And he is VERY, VERY HUNGRY!"

Brain drain

I wonder if anyone has ever made a study of brain drain from the countryside to Helsinki (or a similar brain drain in any other country) by sampling the IQ of the population of different towns and cities at the ages of 15 and 25. Probably not, but it would make interesting statistics.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Eek! Eek! Panic!

Argh. My throat is sore and I feel feverish but there is no actual fever as indicated by the thermometer (Killeri has suggested buying a new thermometer but I am not quite sure it will help). Lately (during the last 8 years or so) I have had very few fevers, even when I am actually sick and feel like I have a fever. I wonder what's up with that.

Moving next Sunday, 25.06. Eek. Feel like should be packing something but the boxes will only arrive on Wednesday. A bad day for moving - most of my friends will probably be somewhere in the middle of nowhere feeding mosquitoes and eating grilled sausages, but I assume Friday and Saturday would have been even worse. And yes, this is a cry for help: if you know me in person and don't have anything better to do on the Sunday afternoon, please come.

Still haven't got the keys to the damn place, and can't get hold of the current residents. Ugh. Stressful.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Bombers don't kill people. Bomb kill people."

Fron The Australian, via Jihad Watch:

Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian Muslim cleric believed to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and convicted of conspiracy in 2002 Bali bombings, has been released after serving 25 months. He maintains that he is innocent. He also maintains that he is innocent in 2000 Christian church bombings all around Indonesia and in 2003 bombing in a hotal in Jakarta, of which he has also been accused.

He suggested that the Australian Prime minister should convert to Islam and that families of Bali bombing victims should convert to Islam. I am starting to suspect that the guy thinks pretty much everybody should convert to Islam.

"He said the families of the dead should understand that they were killed by bombs, not bombers, and that it was "God's will"."

Bombers don't kill people. Bomb kill people. Hey, sometimes we get really stupid criminals in the US who claim that their gun aimed and fired all by itself, but the only people who actually expect to be believed on that are the kind of people who only have four biological greatgrandparents, one of whom is a goat, one is a sheep and two are siblings from West Virginia. Such people don't get to become spiritual leaders of anything, not even Westboro Baptist church. But I guess in Indonesia not everyone can afford to have theit spiritual leaders and/or mass murderers to be up to Western standards.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

American health system and damn stupid users

This is not a post about the American health system, although I think a lot of Finnish people have fairly serious misconceptions about it. It's very good, but it has its problems (genuine problems, not ones caused by dumb users). However, allowing for such a high rate of dumb user failure is a problem in itself. This post is in particularly about the stupid users.

OK, I understand that Finns, Canadians and suchlike who grew up with the idea that the state provides health insurance for everybody may recoil at the idea that one must pay for one's own treatment and if one does not have health insurance one can receive a bill that one is supposed to pay, and that the bill might have a number with many zeroes on it. The morons who do not buy health insurance are, however, mostly American and one could think that they grew up accustommed to how things in America work, but no.

About 15% of Americans don't have health insurance. Most of them can afford it. A lot of them also bitch about the state not providing it. I can understand preferring to have public healthcare, although I do not share the feeling. Healthcare, however, is a very valuable commodity when you need it, and one would think that people would provide for their own within the existing system, but 15% of Americans obviously disagree.

I was raised with the idea that health insurance is the number one priority, approximately on the same level as taxes. You just can't avoid paying it. You pay it, no matter what, and only then you think about the secondary problems, such as having or not having enough money for rent or food.

A lot of people don't share this opinion and prefer to spend the money on something else: rent and food, but also clothes, toys, etc. - some people even save money while not having health insurance. I kind of understand the feeling - paying $250 a month (that's how much my private insurance cost back in 2001) while living on an unemployment check was quite unpleasant indeed, but so is paying taxes, and few people decide to stop paying those.

People's usual explanation for that behavior is that they don't expect to get sick and they have some better use for the money. Some of them even have a backup plan, for example unmarried couples where one person has insurance and the other one doesn't and they figure that if the insurance-less party gets sick they will just get married and the other person's insurance will automatically cover them. This is a perfectly good plan if you get cancer, but a rather unfortunate one if you get into a car accident and run up $50000 in hospital bills before you can even say "I do".

Mind you, if you have some serious medical problem that requires immediate medical attention they will treat you, insurance or not. It's just that you are really not gonna like the bill you'll get afterwards. And in most (all?) big cities there are free clinics available for non-emergency care for the uninsured, but you have to wait in line for hours. Oh, the horror!

The funniest thing is that the very same people who can't be bothered making paying for their health insurance their first priority tend to blame the state, the society and the insurance industry really loudly, demanding that the state provide health insurance to everybody. Just where do they think the state will get the money? That's right, taxes. Their taxes, usually, since most of them are not poor.

I can understand people considering themselves too weak to bother buying insurance for themselves and wanting the state to forcibly buy it for them out of their money. But somehow they never say "I am a silly shmuck who will blow the money on something else anyway, I'd rather the state collect it as taxes and buy the insurance for me", they tend to say "our system is evil and rotten for not providing us with free insurance." Whatever...

I am very curious to find out what will come out of Massachusetts's new health insurance law. Massachusetts is planning to do exactly that: force the people who don't have insurance to buy it. Surprisingly enough, the same people who usually complain about not being forced to buy it were mostly against the new law.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

How not to spend a night (probably a bit of overshare)

22:30 Oh, god, how come I am so drunk? Especially since had only 4 glasses of wine spread over three hours. The wine must've gone bad. Or maybe should have had something to eat before that.

Everyone else is moving from the park to a bar. Maybe should go home instead and get a proper night of sleep. Gotta piss first, though.

Marja calls me while in the toilet. I answer guiltily, imagining a huge line outside. She and Hannu want to pick up the table I promised them and ask if 8:00 in the morning is OK. It's OK. Can't imagine Marja herself being awake at that hour. She must be drunk too.

00:30 Falling asleep. Still drunk. Big mistake. Should never fall asleep while drunk, always wait for the hangover.

04:00 Argh! Argh! Horrible, horrible nightmare! Woke up.

Am never drinking anything again. Or at least never going to bed before sobering up. Bad. Bad.

Need a cup of juice (pomegranate juice is very good for hangover), a slice of sausage and some cherries.

Hmm. Horny. Very horny. Maybe should masturbate a little,

05:20 Argh! Can't spend all night wanking, because Marja and Hannu are coming at 8 and I have to work in the morning. One more time, though...

Hmmm. Maybe should check email and Google News and say hi to whoever is awake in IRC.

Whee! Coffee protects liver from alcohol damage! Having 4 cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of alcohol-related liver damage by 80%! I have nothing to worry about!

Ugh. Remembered I don't drink coffee. Maybe should start now.

Eew. The prospect of drinking 4 cups of coffee a day is a lot more terrifying than the prospect of reducing alcohol consumption. Maybe should get back to bed and try sleeping.

Neighbors are strangely quiet. Haven't heard a sound from there since early Saturday morning. Maybe I was wrong and they did kill each other and now there is a decomposing dead body behind that wall? Wonder if it will start smelling before I move out of here?

06:00 Should really stop wanking and go to sleep now.

06:45 Peep! Peep! An SMS from Hannu asking if it's OK for them to come at 8:30 instead of 8:00. Couldn't they find a better time to ask? Grr!

Back to sleep!

07:00 Kaboom! Explosion. It's not Islamic terrorists, it's not Tamil Tigers, it's not Maoist guerillas. It's the fuckers who are building a tunnel from our yard to Kamppi terminal.

07:30 Drrrrrr! Drrrrrr! Now they are drilling something.

08:15 Bzzzt! Marja and Hannu. I open one eye and one door and look at them blearily. They take the table, thank me and go, advising me to go back to bed. I go back to bed, wondering whether Marja awake at eight is reality or nightmare, and if nightmare, then is it my nightmare or hers?

Back to sleep.

08:15 Bzzzt! Alarm clock. Forgot all about it.

09:40 The world is bad but I just might make the 10:05 bus to work.

In addition to the skype idiots, there are always IRC idiots

Any kind of chat medium seems to have the kind of people who try to start random chats with random people. For the life of me I can't understand why. I mean, if one wants to meet new people IRC has a lot of channels that one can join and talk with people on them. What on earth makes people send private messages to total strangers, and what do they expect except "bugger off"? How do they even choose random strangers to send messages to? Grep for what sounds like the names of opposite (or otherwise desirable) sex?

I am on IRC mostly to keep in touch with my real-life friends. Sometimes I get messages from strangers who either read my blog or something I wrote on Usenet, and this is quite OK. The most typical person sending the messages, however, is some Italian who can't even speak English and either does not know how to use /whois or for some reason assumes that everyone in Finland speaks Italian. I usually tell them to bugger off in Finnish, they swear at me in Italian and bugger off.

Yesterday, however, I got an English-speaking specimen who obviously can use /whois, since he is trying to insult my family, my (in a way) country and my ISP in passable English:

[consuelo has address]

Jun 12 19:04:09 <consuelo> hello
Jun 12 19:04:20 <vera> hello
Jun 12 19:04:29 <consuelo> how are you?
Jun 12 19:04:40 <vera> fine. who are you?
Jun 12 19:04:51 <consuelo> im Davide from Roma italy and you?
Jun 12 19:05:21 <vera> why do you want to talk to me?
Jun 12 19:05:42 <consuelo> maybe i disturb you?..
Jun 12 19:06:07 <vera> yes
Jun 12 19:06:21 <consuelo> ok,so bye and ti saluto stupida ciao
Jun 12 19:06:58 <consuelo> fuck you and all finland
Jun 12 19:07:43 <vera> I don't think you can fuck anything, but that's beside the point
Jun 12 19:08:28 <consuelo> surely,you are the most antipatic girl on the net
Jun 12 19:08:36 <consuelo> so fuck you again you and all your family
Jun 12 19:09:05 <vera> hey, newbie, you ain't seen nothing yet
Jun 12 19:09:16 <consuelo> elisa fuck youu

Hmm, any guesses why Davide from Roma might be having trouble meeting women?

And yes, I am being mean to him, and anyone else would be too.

Monday, June 12, 2006

White is beautiful

Every time there is some talk about black people straightening their hair or Asian people having cosmetic eyelid surgery, there is always somebody expressing concern for those poor people so brainwashed by the dominant white ideals of beauty that they feel the need to change themselves to look more white instead of accepting themselves as they are, yadda yadda yadda...

Funnily enough, I have never heard a similar argument applied to white people trying to get a tan. Even though in the long run it's way more dangerous than straightening hair, and possibly also than eyelid surgery (depends on how much you tan and how white you are to begin with).

Not that we need even more busybodies trying to analyze tanning as white people's self-loathing in silly magazines. What bothers me more is that it is not considered to be politically incorrect to disapprove of white skin, at least in the US. It's usually done with a facial expression of disgust and using the word "pasty".

It's weird. One can - sort of, and fairly carefully - express a preference for people's looks that favors some race or leaves another race out. One is not supposed to express it in the form of disgust for some racial feature, at least not unless one wants to be banished from polite society and be left without a dessert. The only racial feature that you are still allowed to say "eeew" about is white skin, at least for as long as you are disapproving of the color of fair-skinned white people as opposed to the color of all white people.

This is kind of weird, considering that everyone probably knows about skin cancer and its connection to sun exposure nowadays.

Maybe next time somebody says something about pasty skin I will either ask them "don't you find that white is beautiful" or chew them out for racism.

I have no problem with people either tanning themselves (it's their problem and there is no second-hand tan to worry about, as opposed to second-hand smoke) or preferring tanned sex partners. It's just the strong and public disapproval for white skin that piises me off - when people tell others that they are too white when they would not think of telling anyone that they are too dark.

(This problem is fairly rare in Finland for the obvious reasons, but not completely non-existent.)

The assholes that call people in skype

What on earth makes people want to call total strangers in skype? I mean, people don't normally pick up a phonebook of some faraway place (or an online equivalent) and start calling random numbers, now do they? Or of the same city, for that matter.

What do they expect in response except "bugger off"?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

May all our enemies wage war that way

Three prisoners have committed suicide in Guantanamo.

"I believe this was not an act of desperation, rather an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us," said Rear Admiral Harry Harris, commander of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo.

Suicide without murdering anyone in the process? Assymetrical warfare? The only reason I can imagine for making such a statement is the attempt to encourage the particularly aggressive enemies from the wrong side of the bell curve to commit more such acts of assymetrical warfare. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Personal choice, you know...

If that was not the thought behind the statement the Rear Admiral should probably be renamed as the Ass Admiral.

Mikko's and Meira's wedding

17:00 Gaah! Gaah! Clothes! I don't have anything to wear! Gonna wear some ordinary clothes and put some makeup and huge earrings on to look all festive. Also probably socks or something.

17:10 How come I own 28 lipsticks and none of them look right on me?

17:20 Where are all the ordinary clothes though? Where? Where? And where is all the underwear?

18:00 Am there. Elevator is broken as usual. Bugger.

Mikko and Meira look lovely and also quite happy. I figure the actual ceremony must have gone well. Everyone else (other than myself, I mean) is nicely dressed, and there are relatives all over in scary numbers. The kitchen party is already in full swing, and there is some really good chocolate cake. Meira! Meira! Post the recipe!

Sampo is supposed to have our gift with him, but he is not there yet. Bugger.

Risto is awfully cute when he is taking care of the cat. Almost like from some advertisement featuring a mother and a baby, but much cuter.

Laura (Mikko's sister) is very beautiful. She is not the only very beautiful person in there, but apparently I see her rarely enough to be impressed every time.

18:15 Sampo is still not there. Tiuku says he was supposed to come about 6. I guess 6:15 is sorta about 6.

Rita is also not there, so I can't ask her to catch all the theologists who are supposed to sign the gift. This, however, is a problem secondary to not being able to locate the actual gift, or Sampo.

The Harmonia people come in. Having Nea and Ronja and Sauli's kid (I still don't remember whether he is Titus or Tiitus) and later also Taika and Lumo around reminds me once again how the five of them together make about three orders of magnitude less noise than one particular kid I could mention but probably shouldn't.

Am very proud of myself for not commenting on Teemu's new hairstyle, especially since everyone else did. People should always mention new dramatic hairstyle changes on IRC, so that one can brace oneself and avoid commenting. (Or, in the case of some people, for example myself, should always mention new color oon IRC because otherwise nobody would ever notice.)

18:30 Sampo is still not there. Panic! Panic! Need a drink. Except that should not get drunk until all the participants signed the gift.

19:00 Sampo is still not there and not answering the phone. Panic! Doom! Gonna get eaten by 40 or so people waiting to sign the damn thing. Feel a lot of sympathy for Leena who usually organizes group gifts.

Gonna spank Sampo publicly if and when he arrives.

19:30 Sampo has been located and will be there in half an hour. I won't believe it until I see it. Should probably leave spanking him to Tiuku, although I'm afraid he will like it.

Remind me never to organize anything with the help of a mathematician. Even a cute blond one pretending to be a biologist.

20:00 Sampo finally arrives, and the gift gets signed and I check that it gets signed by everyone. Oooh. Can relax and get drunk now.

The rest of the party was very nice and a lot more relaxed for me. The sheer number of people was overwhelming, but it's a big apartment. Did not get any allergic reaction to cats, either.

The chocolate cake kept being resurrected every time it got eaten. Delicious... Got some cake and some wine and did not even spank Sampo, so there.

Too bad forgot all about having a camera and did not take pictures of Meira in her wedding dress, Mjr in a really cute t-shirt and Risto with the cats.

Die, neighbors, die!

Why can't my neighbors finally kill each other, as opposed to waking me up with totally unproductive knifefights at 4 in the morning?

Was awakened at 4 by blood-curdling screams, demands to put the knife away and the sounds of furniture breaking and a body falling. Considered calling the police, but then the fallen body unfortunately got up and started bitching at one of the other participants for using the knife.

This post probably cannot be considered as urging neighbors to commit crime as they surely cannot read.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Goodbye, Zarqawi. Enjoy your eternity in heaven with 72 horny virgins, and may every one of them look like either Mother Teresa or Idi Amin. Or both.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Broken technical toys, again

The mp3 player that a got a few weeks ago as a replacement for the buggy shit I owned before turned out to be an even buggier shit, and I took it back to the store. Now they gave me another one, let's see how it works out.

It jumped from one song to another all the time, and sometimes also imitated a broken LP record.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dumb and dumber

Did Toronto Star hire Iowahawk to write for them, or what? No offence, I like Iowahawk, he often writes great satire. It's just that I did not expect to find so much satire in a news article (via LGF).

"In investigators' offices, an intricate graph plotting the links between the 17 men and teens charged with being members of a homegrown terrorist cell covers at least one wall. And still, says a source, it is difficult to find a common denominator."

For fuck's sake, people. This is getting pathological. The same page lists profiles of 11 adult terror suspects. Fahim Ahmad, Zakaria Amara, Asad Ansari, Shareef Abdelhaleen, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, Mohammed Dirie, Yasim Abdi Mohamed, Amin Mohamed Durrani, Steven Vikash Chand alias Abdul Shakur, Ahmad Mustafa Ghany and Saad Khalid. Do you need a Sherlock-fucking-Holmes to figure out a fucking common denominator?

I can understand perfectly well the normal healthy manifestations of political correctness, like reminding your readers that roughly 600000 Muslims live in Canada and only 17 of them are believed to be involved in this particlular plot. What I don't understand is the denial of the obvious to the point that it starts sounding like fairly good satire.

All rise against falafel and sanity!

The latest from Iraq: falafel is the new enemy of Islam. Yeah, Iraqis also thought this was a joke until two of them were shot for selling it.

Can anyone remind me again why we are trying to build a democracy there and drag them kicking and screaming into the Century of the Fruitbat? It certainly looks like they have enough fruitbats of their own.

Fuck that. Can we convince as many people as possible that the prophet was agaist all food on general principle?

"There are no biological differences whatsoever between men and women."

... or "American education is getting dumber".

First of all, a bit of a background.

Most colleges and universities in the US teach liberal arts. Liberal arts, as used in American higher education, is a term that usually groups together humanities, social studies and natural sciences (including math and occasionally computer science).

Colleges that teach liberal arts tend to have so-called distribution requirements, which typically means that if your major is in one of the three branches of liberal arts, you have to take some courses in both other branches as well. I don't really see a point in it, but it's no big deal. When I was in Boston University we had fairly typical distribution requirements: 6 courses outside one's branch, with at least 2 of them in each of the others.

Since I changed my majors a few times, and some were in humanities and some were in natural sciences, getting at least 4 courses of each was trivial. 2 social studies courses were quite a bit trickier. I did them in my senior year, when I already knew that you can get by with less work taking senior classes than taking freshman courses. I ended up taking the Sociology of Science, which turned out to be pretty much a course on epistemology, and a very interesting one at that, but had absolutely nothing to do with any sociology, at least as I imagined it. The other one was an introductory course on women's studies, which was not very hard and reasonably interesting. I enjoyed both but they did not ignite in me any desire to study any more social studies.

Anyway, we were talking about education with Sophia and Jenny yesterday (they have both just graduated from college, Sophia in biology and biochemistry and Jenny in mathematics) and it turned out that the things have changed a bit since my times: nowadays you have to take normal humanities and social studies classes for your distribution requirements, but in science they have special dumbed-down science-for-morons classes that humanities and social studies students can take for their distribution requirements, but science majors are not allowed to take for credit.

The finest moment of the higher education conversation came when Sophia remembered the women's studies class she took for the social studies requirement. The teacher started the class saying "There are no biological differences whatsoever between men and women". Being a biologist, Sophia wanted to correct her, but then she figured that if the teacher still does not know any differences while being in her fifties, it's better not to tell her, she might get upset or something.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Q: What do you call a 27-year-old man who fucks a 10-year-old girl?

A: Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ruhollah Khomeini, of course.

OK, he was not yet a grand ayatollah back then, and she was his lawfully wedded wife. Besides, he really believed in giving other men all the opportunities that he had and one of the first things he did after coming to power was lowering the marriage age for women from 18 to 9. His mother married his father when she was 9, too, so I guess pedophilia runs in the family.

(I am reading his biography by Amir Taheri now, hence the trivia.)

Life, lately

Satu is in town, and Juha came back, so we all went out drinking on Friday. Ran into other friends while we were at it, too. I kind of like accidentally bumping into friends while walking around town, it cheers me up even when I am not feeling particularly sociable. Ran into four of them this morning too, which is pretty good for one morning.

On Saturday went to measure my new apartment. Was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of things that had be measured, but I think I got at least most of them right.

Sophia and her friend Jenny have been staying over at my place since Saturday. I am trying to show them the city and probably am not doing a very good job, but they seem happy enough. They are very sweet and young (21) and seem to be enthusiatic about their science(s), and I am trying very hard not to be openly cynical about academic careers. Although I am probably wrong (not about being cynical but about trying to conceal the cynicism) - one should not hide the realities of life from young people. I think I would have been more openly cynical if they were 16 or 18, but at 21 they are either about to notice everything for themselves very soon (if not already), or actually happen to like the academic life in spite of all its drawbacks.

(I was very enthusiastic about my science at 21. By 23 I was having doubts and by 25 they became a certainty. And then I lived happily ever after, chewing the granite of science at my own very slow pace and making my living in a much easier field. When I was 18 I thought that if I ever do something like I will regret it every morning for the rest of my life. So far the regret has mysteriously failed to appear. The only thing I ever regretted was spending quite a lot of my parents' money in the process.)

Meira's bachelor party was also on Saturday, and was a lot of fun, at least until my allergic reaction to the cat (it was at Killeri's place and I am quite allergic to Zenya and they have carpet floors downstairs) reached some ungodly proportions in spite of the amount of drugs consumed earlier in the day. Still coughing. They should really invent some better drugs.

I hate crying

Crying for emotional reasons is not too bad, because it somehow feels satisfying on some level, but I really, really hate the kind of crying that comes from eye irritation. It's just very unpleasant, physically. Ugh.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Money, revisited

Somebody on Usenet (yeah, I know, the world's most reliable source) mentioned that the Porvoo church damages are about 10 million euro. I decided to count, just for the fun of it, how much it would take the three little arsonists to pay for it.

Assuming that they are making 2300 euro a month (somewhere around the median salary, and yes, please suspend the disbelief), and are allowed to keep 800 of that for their own living expences, therefore paying, all together, 4500 euro a month: about 185 years. That's if they don't have to pay interest. If they do have to pay some normal mortgage loan interest it would take forever, because 4500 euro a month does not even cover the interest much above 0.5%.

If, on the other hand, the taxpayers get to pay the bill, it will mean that the whole lifetime earnings (assuming a median salary and 40 years of working) of 9 people will pay for those morons' moment of drunk fun. 18 if they pay a 4% interest.

No, I am not suggesting any solutions, I am just awed by the extent of stupidity.

Added later:

Damn, forgot that evildoers pay taxes too, and other taxlike things, so from the brutto salary of 2300 they would probably get 1600 or so, and if they have 800 for a living then they can only pay 2400 a month all together. 347 years, then.

Fantasy come true

When I was a kid I read the silly but hilarious Russian book Mess Mend, which was something of a mystery novel and speculative fiction at the same time. Among other things (I don't think I'd ever seen so many plot lines in any other book) it features a mysterious disease that turns really bad people into animals, literally, making them unable to walk upright and turning their hands into paws.

For some reason this book always comes to my mind nowadays when I hear anything about George Galloway. When a few months ago I read that he was walking on all fours and meowing on some TV show the feeling was quite surreal, and it didn't go away.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


The burning of the Porvoo church apparently turned out to be just an idea that came to the mind of three drunk teenagers.

I would like to know how much the arson cost, how much of the damages will be paid by the guilty, how much by the taxpayer and how much by the insurance company. And whether the teenagers realize that they have just burned more money than they will probably able to earn during their lifetimes.

It's weird. I have never heard of anyone getting drunk enough to purposefully burn all the bills in their own wallet, or their own cellphone, and yet people do thing for which they are highly likely to get caught, and to pay enough damages to buy quite a lot of cell phones.