Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The election

The Senate and House elections are coming soon. Today I figured I should finally figure out who is running in my congressional district (Massachusetts 4th, if anyone is interested).

The House race is warming my heart with childhood memories: we have only one candidate, like we used to in Russia. Barney Frank (D) is so popular that nobody wants to run against him, he usually gets 70-something percent of the vote. OTOH he represents the opinions of the district, often including mine, quite well.

The Senate: Edward Kennedy (D), the classic Social Democrat, probably personally responsible for paying most of the alcohol taxes collected in Massachusetts. Supports everything that Republicans oppose, by definition. What can you say about the man who lost most primaries to Jimmy Carter? Kevin Scott (R): believes in abstinence and prayer in school. Kenneth Chase (R): the perfect moderate.

Slim pickings. Gotta think more about it closer to election. Also gotta get an absentee ballot, which is not always easy.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

In the news

I have long known that in some South Asian countries some citizens try to settle various personal disputes with the help of sulphuric acid, but this is the first time I have heard that an ex-employer has done it to an ex-employee for refusing to rejoin the company. Ewww. Hope this manner of recruiting does not spread in the field.

This Employer of the Year got a life sentence for this recruiting effort. The story does not mention how many new resumes his company got after that.

In other news of the desperate recruiting measures, the Fox News journalists kidnapped in Gaza two weeks ago were released, but first were made to convert to Islam at a gunpoint on videotape. The group who did it calls ifself Holy Jihad Brigades (which is totally not the same as Jihad's Holy Brigades, Holy Brigades of Jihad or Holy Jihadist Brigades) and is apparently very short of new members.

And, for once, there is some intelligent life in the federal government: federal air marshals are now allowed to choose their own clothes, as opposed to wearing all similar suits in the manner of the Secret Service people from The Roman Holiday.

Blood pressure

Watched a few episodes of ER, and started wondering: how do doctors interpret the blood pressure levels if they do not know a particular patient's baseline? Isn't, for example, 90/60 normal for some people but low for most? How do they know whether 80/50 is somebody who is normally 90/60 and had a little drop in blood pressure or somebody who is normally 140/100 and had a big drop? Are they interested in the actual levels much at all (unless they are extreme), or are they measuring it to see whether it's stable or going up or down?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Archery, evil computer, life, and, as usual, terrorism

We had some kind of a sports day at work on Tuesday. Tried some archery. While I question the wisdom of shooting instead of coding so close to the deadline, it was a lot of fun. And left a lot of bruises.

After the archery practice we had some beers and talked about politics. I sometimes wonder why talking about politics with people who disagree with me can often be fun whereas reading the newspapers that disagree with me is quite boring. It seems like people say more different things than the papers - but it might just be that people who I drink with are on average more intelligent than journalists.

Saw United 93 again, and had some food at Habibi in forum. Habibi was good; the movie was good too, except for the way the camera moves. Note to filmmakers: short, fast and unsteady camera movements that feel like the camera was hand-held by a person who has enjoyed more vodka than is healthy for them does not make it feel more authentic or artistic; it just annoys the viewer and makes him or her throw up.

The computer at work has some weird problem, buffered reads from disk are 4 times slower than they should be. Pisses me off to no end, and I have no time to do anything about it because of the deadline. Maybe updating the BIOS will help - not that I have a faintest idea of how to do it, but first time for everything.

The terrorists who put bombs on trains in Germany got caught. They must have been angry about Germany's participation in the war in Iraq. Oh, wait, Germany is not participating in it. Never mind...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Life, weekend, MSG, etc.

A lot of work to do at work lately, hence not so many blog entries.

Sleepy weekend: had a couple of beers with a few people, hanged out with Anu yesterday.

Been to a large pro-Israel demonstration with Id, who summonned me there. About 2500 people (according to Hesari), lots and lots of police (never seen that many in one place in Helsinki). No incidents. We came late so did not get any flags to wave. As usual when participating in a large demonstration, felt a bit guilty about blocking the traffic.

Lately I've heard a number of people complaining about MSG (monosodium glutamate, natriumglutamaatti) being used in a lot of restaurant food. This made me wonder. is there anyone in Finland besides myself who actually uses MSG when cooking at home?

Saw United 93, and liked it well enough. One thing I sort of don't understand on the emotional level: what makes people want to call their loved ones when faced with an imminent or highly likely death. I mean calling to say goodbye - calls meant to obtain or convey information are quite understandable. I've never been in such a situaton but find it hard to imagine that I'd want to call family and friends to say goodbye. Emotionally I'd find it upsetting, and the information value of such a call would be exactly nil. My family and friends hopefully know that I love them already, and also know that any kind of mercy on the guilty party, if caught, would not be among my dying wishes.

Started reading Confusion and found it much better than Quicksilver, which in itself was not bad either.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Don't buy from Mizzbrazil

If any of my readers have any experience with getting UK businesses in trouble, please advise me on the best way to do it. If not, I'll go with PayPal at first.

I ordered a DVD from Mizzbrazil on 06.07. The order is still marked as "processing" on their webpage, even though they claim that if processing takes more than 7 days they will contact the customer. I tried to find out how long the processing is going to take. None of my emails were ever answered, and their phone does not work in principle.

I would much rather have the DVD than the money back, and therefore have not demanded money back yet. I'll do that tomorrow, and if I don't receive it by the end of next week I'll start getting it back through PayPal.

Usually when I buy something from a new place of the web, I first do, among other things, a search on the company name and the word fraud and see if any of the results yield some description of an actual problem. There wasn't any. Well, I guess there is now.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The anti-Israel demonstrations revisited

Yesterday afternoon Pysäyttäkää Sota organized the fifth demonstration demanding immediate ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon. The fact that such ceasefire had already started yesterday morning certainly did not stand in the way of organizing the demonstration.

In their own report they say that this is the fifth demonstration that they have organized on the subject and that the demonstrations have been attended by 2500 people. This seems to be a strange way to put it, since even their own numbers of attendance for each demonstration do not quite come up to 2500 when added together (although since they were described as "more that 300", this can stretch), and also, obviously, because this implies that people who have once attended one of their demonstration do not participate in any of the subsequent ones.

The new feature of yesterday's demonstration were signs saying "Emme halua lisää muureja" ("We don't want any more walls").

Now, for the record and if anyone hasn't figured it out yet: I am not for peace in this particular case. The peace that they had for the last 6 years was not working very well, and Israel decided to give war a chance, and I support their decision. I support Israel. I also think that it's perfectly fine for people to support Lebanon if they are so inclined.

What I am annoyed with here are people who pretend to be for peace when they are in fact supporting one side in a war. The pictures on their own site feature a Hezbollah flag, portraits of Nasrallah, various flags of Arabic countries, people wearing kaffiyehs (whose appearance suggests that they do not normally wear one), a sign saying "Voitto on meidän" ("victory is ours"), a sign claiming that Hezbollah attacks military targets and Israel civilian ones, a sign and a number of signs equating David's star with swastika. Does this sound like a demonstration for peace, or does this sound like a demonstration for "argh, now that those other fuckers are shooting back it's time to pretend that we want peace?"

And, again, I am not surprised that they are doing it. If I were participating in a war that was going badly I would be all for peace myself, and would probably do a better job of it, too, or at least a less obvious one. What surprises me is that some people can look at all that and believe them.

BTW, I wonder what would have happened if I came out there with a sign that equates crescent with swastika. I think this question will remain strictly theoretical for now.

On demonstrations

The weekend was rather peaceful. Everyone else was at the Ropecon and I was home with books, tea and ice cream. Was imagining that I would do something useful, but usefulness was quite limited.

After last week's postings a lot of people IRL have asked me whether one should abstain from going to a demonstration if somebody is carrying signs that they object to, if the demonstration is otherwise for something that they agree with. I answered that this depends; but if the objectionable signs are either numerous or held by the organizers of the demonstration, I would abstain.

In general I find that in demonstrations it is polite to keep on topic. Back in the US I've participated in a number of demonstrations, often on the traditionally leftist issues like abortion rights or gay rights, and was always somewhat annoyed by a number of people who show up to advertise completely unrelated leftist issues. If I show up to defend women's right to abortion or gays' right to marry each other, it certainly does not mean that I would like to free Mumia or vote for the socialist mayor candidate. However, such people are usually marginal at these demonstrations due to the fact that many people actively support abortion/gay marriage, and relatively few want to free Mumia or vote for socialists. If Mumia-liberators suddenly figured that they can attract more people to their cause by advertising their demonstration as a pro-choice demonstration, I certainly would not go there, or would leave if I happened to go there by mistake.

A few people were of the opinion that since peace means that both sides should stop shooting at each other it's quite ok for the pacifists to join a demonstration that demands that side A should stop shooting at side B. I find the idea strange to say the least.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hey, at least clothes are still allowed

Four and a half years ago I was laughing when certain people on Usenet were saying that soon the only things one is allowed to have on a plane is a passport and a wallet in a transparent plastic bag.

Well, much as I hate to admit it, it certainly looks like the joke is on me.

UK is on the highest terrorist alert, US is on a heightened alert too. The terrorists planned to blow up a number of planes going from the UK to the US. Since I travel that way failry often I sort of find it difficult not to take it personally.

18 terrorists have been arrested so far. I am sure they all represent, well, broad strata of British society.

In the name of all the air travellers I would like to thank the terrorists for not stuffing the explosives up their asses. Just imagine those checkups.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Well, peace does ensue when you kill off one party in a war...

...but I would not really call a demonstration calling for that a "peace demonstration". Not as such.

The Pysäyttäkää sota group nowadays has an anti-war demonstration every Monday. OK, they don't really even claim to be anti-war, their webpage says "against Israel's military action", but their name is "Stop the War".

I am not surprised that these people exist, that they picked a side in that war or that they are demonstrating for it. That's their right, this is a free country. What I am surprised about is that these fuckers try, and indeed sometimes manage, to pass for pacifists.

Yesterday I ran into these lovely people near Stockmann. The demonstration was led by a group of people sporting traditional Finnish big black beards and hijabs (mostly not both on the same person though), but there was also a number of Finns of a blonder and less bearded kind. Some of the bearded kind tended to carry portraits of the world-famous pacifist Hassan "It is an open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth" Nasrallah.

One pacifist of the beardless kind wore a lovely pacifistic t-shirt saying "bomb Israel". The same guy also expressed his opinion with a poster.

They were screaming "down with USA", the favorite mating call of the moonbats worldwide, whether they are protesting Israeli military action or Danish cartoons.

According to the local tabloid Ilta-Sanomat the peaceful demonstration culminated in violence when the demonstrators ran into members of the Finland for Jesus organization who climbed on their bus and put up posters with quotes from bible about God blessing Israel. The pacifists started throwing eggs, tomatoes, flowerpots and bottles, screaming "Death to Israel" in Arabic and waving Hezbollah flags.


Lots of work lately, and lots of parties.

There are truckloads of stuff to do at work. Bosses have been acting a bit weird yesterday: either they are also stressed out, or overheated, or maybe I am just being paranoid.

Grilled with a couple of friends on Friday, and then we were joined by some of the Alter Ego's young generation. Young generation turned out to be very sweet, maybe should try to get to know them better.

Lasse had a lovely party on Saturday with a lot of cake and people from the game industry. It was a lot of fun and there were a lot of weird objects, such as a device for giving oneself electric shock.

Helped a friend move on Sunday. It was so easy with an elevator and a sufficient number of people.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Oops, where did that rocket go?

I realize that Israelis usually aim better than Hezbollah, but it still seems a bit unfair that when Israelis miss their target by 50 meters is causes an international outcry, whereas Hezbollah gets to fire their rockets into a wrong fucking sort-of-country with nary a peep from anyone.

(Yeah, I know that as an American I should probably be quiet about hitting the wrong country, remembering the occasional bombs that we dropped on Italy and Bulgaria during the war in Serbia, but it's still sort of funny in a morbid way.)

A few of Hezbollah's rockets landed in the West Bank near Jenin. "Even if it were to fall on our heads, it wouldn't have spoiled our joy. All of us here are praying for Hezbollah's success and victory," said a local Fatah activist. Wow. Talk about putting real friendship into the friendly fire. Hey, if the rocket falls on this particular guy's head I might even wholeheartedly share the joy.

Well, maybe I should not complain about the international community. If these clowns don't mind rockets falling on their heads, why should anyone else? Hezbollah, OTOH, should be more careful. With such good targeting they will eventually hit Damascus, and then say goodbye to half of their funding.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mad Jad is just being himself

Iran's moron-in-chief presents his own, rather predictable solution for Middle East peace in our time: destroy Israel.

"Although the main solution is for the elimination of the Zionist regime, at this stage an immediate ceasefire must be implemented," he says. Hmm. How exactly do you reach a ceasefire with anyone if your stated purpose is to destroy them afterwards?

International and multinational

What is the difference between these two words, if any? I have always assumed that you use "international" normally and "multinational" to describe a big international company whose products you do not like, but they are speaking of a multinational force now.

Multinational force headed by whom?

The UN negotiations on the keeping peace in our time on Israeli-Lebanese border have come to the point where they are discussing a multinational force headed by France.

I don't share many Americans' and Finns' disdain for France - there must be at least something great about a nation that has bookstores on every corner - but keeping the peace in the Middle East? Aren't these the same guys who still haven't got a hang of keeping the peace in Seine-Saint-Denis?

Mel Gibson revisited, or "take me to your leaders"

Mel Gibson asked to meet with Jewish leaders to ask for forgiveness for his antisemitic remarks and to ask them to help with healing. Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't detox programs a much better place for healing than Jewish community centers? Unless you think that giving him a glass of Manischewitz will scare him off alcohol forever.

An apology was in order (and was offered) but now all this kowtowing is getting ridiculous. If I could draw I would draw a cartoon where in the first part drunk Gibson would be screaming "Jews made me drive drunk! Jews cause all wars! Jews own Hollywood!" and in the second part hungover Gibson would be horrified with the realization "oh shit, they really do own Hollywood!".

Besides, there really aren't any antisemitic insults that every Jew on earth hasn't heard by the third grade.

I don't think he needs to apologize in person to the Jewish community leaders, but now that he is apologizing to people in person I would like to know whether he has apologized to the Jew he insulted the most - the deputy sheriff who arrested him.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I hate communists

Met a communist at a party yesterday. (Which was, BTW, a really lovely party where we celebrated the visit of a friend of our who lives in the US. The company - the communist nonwithstanding - the cake, the wine, the conversation, everything was great.)

It is, however, a lot more fun to write about the weird creatures one meets.

Julie introduced us: "R., this is Vera. She is from Russia."
"Eeww," - said the man, - "I am Polish."

Later we talk some more. He turns out to have never lived in Poland, "but my blood is Polish", he says. He's moved around, lived here and there. For a guy who has never lived in Poland his historical grievances are fairly strong. Not that they aren't justified - Russia has been a really bad neighbor to Poland and much everyone else. I am just not sure that they are a very polite topic for conversation with someone you have just met, but then I am not a poster girl for social grace myself, either.

He tells me that he does not like Americans either (that's after learning that I am an American). After he's expressed disapproval for both my country of birth and my country of citizenship I sort of expect him to say something bad about Finland, too, but he does not go there. Maybe he is just rubbing me the wrong way, but at this point I feel like telling him that from my own historical grievance prespective there is no real difference between Russians and Poles, and elaborate on that.

Much later he start talking about how he believes in communism. I start wondering (not aloud) what kind of person would believe in communism in spite of apparently knowing what it has done to Poland about which he apparently cares. He gets to hear my opinion on communism and goes on to explain that I can't possibly understand anything about it because my mind is clouded by having lived in the Soviet Union.

Once again: there should have been Nurmberg trials for communists, just to show that they are evil to the kind of people that are not capable of understanding it all by themselves. There has been many communists countries in the last century; all of them failed, and for very good reasons, but we still find morons who believe that if a communist state were led by themselves as opposed to, say, Stalin, everything would be different.

The idea "from everyone according to his ability, to everyone according to his need" is inherently evil and cannot lead to anything else besides dwindling abilities, rising needs and the rise of a political elite consisting of the kind of people who enjoy defining everyone else's abilities and needs. When people say that they consider it a good idea I immediately start wondering whether they are, in fact, exactly that kind of people.

That's just the theory. In practice communism also usually involves mass murder committed by the state, and almost always involves closing borders to prevent the citizens from escaping the workers' paradise.

And don't even get me started on the people who say "communism is such a wonderful idea, too bad that the human nature is so greedy and selfish that it cannot be implemented properly". If a drug company made some drug that is supposed to do something good but does not work on humans, would you say "this is such a wonderful drug, too bad that human biochemistry is all wrong for it"? If an architect designed a building that cannot be built of existing materials, would you blame the materials for it?

I really feel like sending all communists to a re-education camp (hah, it shows that I was raised in a communist country) where they would live according to communist principles and actually try out what they preach. We could install cameras everywhere there and it would make for a great reality show, too.

The camp of course would have to be fairly large (there must be at least tens of thousands of communists in the world) and self-sufficient. They will just have to work together for the common good and distribute the fruits of their labors among themselves according to their needs. We'll pick up the bodies later.