Friday, March 30, 2007

Greenpeace stowaways

Saw three Greenpeace-activists yesterday morning. They paid for Helsinki internal tickets, tried to get to Espoo, and got kicked out of the bus. Upon being kicked out they were swearing that they imagined they were in Helsinki.

I gave them the benefit of doubt then (map-challenged people are common, and being abroad does not help), but now that I know that they were going to an organized event in Espoo, the benefit of doubt has weakened somewhat.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

One day I'll go postal and mount a device right up the manufacturer's ass

My employer-provided phone (Nokia 6600) is a buggy shit, and the phone I actually own (Nokia 3510) was made when dinosaurs roamed the earth and cavemen beat each other over the head with cell phones. So I am considering buyng a new one.

One new feature I am very interested in is the possibility of connecting the phone to the computer by a USB cable. (BTW, when I am the queen of the world all the people who manufacture devices that need their own proprietary USB cables will be rounded up and flogged publicly, and told not to do so anymore. On the second offence they will learn what "cell phone penetration" really means. Unless they actually like it.)

Anyway, the description of most of the phones that have a possibility of a USB connection has some words about Windows and drivers. Not a word about Linux.

Having never owned Windows I have no clue whatsoever why they seem to need a separate driver for each and every USB device, but Linux tends to use its own drivers and see the devices connected to its USB ports as mass storage. Or sometimes not.

I can understand Nokia's and other device manufacturers' reluctance to write drivers for Linux, but why the hell can't they just say whether the damn thing will work on Linux or not? It does not take a fucking Einstein. All it takes is a device, a computer running Linux, and a person who is capable of physically attaching the one to the other and writing down the result. "Can be mounted on Linux as mass storage" or "cannot be mounted on Linux as mass storage".

(Actually, the speed with which Nokia has answered my question on the subject shows that they have already tested it. Is it so hard to put that info on the web?)

Kiroileva mamu

Kuukautisista ja liian vähäisestä alkoholin nauttimisesta johtuen rupesin ajattelemaan että olisi hauskaa jos olisi joku "kiroileva maahanmuuttaja"-sarjakuva, samantyylinen kuin Kiroileva siili. Koska en osaa piirtää edes tämän verran, joudun tyytymään kirjoittamiseen. En itse asiassa edes hahmota toimiiko tällainen kirjoitettuna. Kokeillaanpas:

Kukkahattutyttö: Onpas ihana kun tulee lisää maahanmuuttajia, saadaan vähän väriä katukuvaan!
Maahanmuuttaja: Osta spraymaalia perkele! En mä mikään vitun väriläiskä oo.

Maahanmuuttaja A: Paljonks Kela maksaa sun Kämpästä?
Maahanmuuttaja B: Vittu se mitään maksa.
Maahanmuuttaja A: Millä vitulla sä sitten elät?
Maahanmuuttaja B: Mä käyn töissä, saatana.
Maahanmuuttaja A: Miten niin töissä? Mikä vittu se sellainen on?
Maahanmuuttaja B: No sellainen jossa mennään töihin joka päivä ja tehdään töitä ja saadaan palkkaa joka kuukausi.
Maahanmuuttaja A: Ai perkele! Ihan oikeissa töissä! Mäkin kokeilin sitä vuonna 1986, ei ollut yhtään vitun hauskaa!

Militaristinen setä: Miksi helvetissä ne somalit tulee tänne? Ja vieläpä nuoria miehiä, perkele! Puolustaisvat isänmaataan, saatanan käpykaartilaiset!
Somali: No vittu, minähän olen puolistanut! Tapoin vaikka kuinka monta muiden klaanien tyyppejä, mutta sille saatanan sodalle ei vain näy loppua.
Militaristinen setä: Mitä siitäkin olisi tullut jos jokainen suomalainen mies olisi lähtenyt karkuun Ruotsiin, perkele? Me jäätiin vittu tänne ja puolustettiin isänmaata, ja tehtiin se helvetin hyvin. Jokainen suomalainen vastasi kymmentä ryssää, saatana! Teidän pitäisi painua täältä vittuun takaisin kotiin ja tehdä samoin!
Somali: Mutta mistä vitusta mä löydän kymmenen ryssää siellä Somaliassa?

The right name for the right man

OK, it's not nice to make fun of people's names, mostly because they have already heard every joke you can invent at least a thousand times. But hey, the guy is hopefully not reading my blog.

The WHO decided to recommend circumcision for the prevention of HIV infections. And who is speaking to the media about this? Dr. Kevin De Cock, the director of the WHO Department of HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's tax time

Time to file the US taxes. Forms are easy to find, but I had no clue where to send them.

Nowadays you can e-file. The basic idea is, according to their webpage: "You can file your taxes on the Net if you have a computer, an Internet connection and appropriate software. You can probably buy the software somewhere. No, we have no clue where."

It looks like I am not about to start filing on the Net yet, but luckily (or maybe purposefully) that page had a link to the addresses where people should file their tax forms if they are filing them the old way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Very few people use their own names when writing about the Religion of Peace nowadays. This is quite understandable, considering, especially in the areas where there are significant minorities thereof. I don't, however, think that Finland is one of those areas - yet.

The level of fear is pretty high, even here. I realized it when I started getting emails from people (BTW, thank you, guys, once again) offering to help with the song video, but strictly anonymously, and people suggesting that even if I write under my own name I shouldn't give out any other useful information.

Personally, I don't think the danger here in Finland is all that high right now. OTOH, you never know what tomorrow will bring. One of the reasons this blog is in my own name is simply that when I started it I had no idea I would write so much on this particular topic. I also had no idea Theo Van Gogh would get killed, etc.

If I ever start feeling that this is getting dangerous, I will start a separate anonymous blog just for this topic, either by myself or with other people.

The reason I am thinking about all this today is that Sheik Yer'mami got "outed" by Cairns Post journalist Gavin King, who approached him for an interview and guaranteed him anonymity, and then went on to reveal his name, age, address, birthplace and place of business in the printed article.

I certainly respect Sheik Yer'mami's and everyone else's desire for privacy and safety, but I don't think that in general there is much safety in hiding. I think that it is safer for everybody if everyone who can decides to stand up and be counted - especially in places where it's still not very dangerous to do so. This would assure that it would remain not very dangerous to do so.

As for dangers - one danger I never thought about before this year: will it ever be safe for me to visit a Muslim country? Considering that my name is quite rare, if any of them google the visa applicants they will surely find my writings. (The question became current for a moment, but now it is theoretical again, especially since after this summer vacation my passport will become unfit for travelling in most of the Muslim world).

Remember those innocent old times when Khomeini's fatwa against Rushdie was a new and absurd thing, and American newspapers printed cartoons with the First Amendment and a note "void where prohibited by ayatollah"?


Haven't been able to sleep properly for a couple of days now.

I never know whether to go to work or call in sick under such circumstances. Usually end up going to work, just because staying in and trying to sleep is not very conductive to properly sleeping the next night.

OTOH, feeling like a vegetable at work is not nice.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Oh, deer...

Necrozoophiles live among us.

Cheesy coffee-ey goodness

Just made some coffee and cream cheese ice cream. Yummy.

This is one of those flavors that Finns usually just don't understand.

I've always found it funny that Finns don't usually like coffee-flavored things even though they drink a lot of coffee.

I have also wondered how come the coffee-flavored stuff in Finland is usually called anything other than coffee-flavored: "mokka", "espresso", "cappuccino", even "lavazza".

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Confessions of a former multiculturalist

This is my answer to the question "mistä teitä sikiää", which I hear every once in a while:

Multiculturalism is a very easy mistake to make - or at least was in the 80s and in the 90s. There are some people who encourage it for their own political purposes, but the reason the multiculturalism has become so popular with the educated masses is IMO simply that decent educated people (decent != educated, but there are a lot of people who are both decent and educated, and I am speaking about them) have a very strong tendency to know only other decent educated people, and have a chance to observe a perfectly peaceful interaction of cultures.

When you think of foreigners your think of your Spanish or Canadian or Sri Lankan or Arab coworkers; your friend's Chinese wife and another friend's Israeli husband; a Russian, an Indian and a Nigerian that you went to the university with; the kid of some Iranian dissidents who went to your high school; your father's Bulgarian or Portuguese coworker, etc.,etc. All of these perfectly nice people, getting along without any problems.

Of course people who come from different cultures can along very well. You can see it with your own eyes. People who claim otherwise - well, probably they just haven't seen it with their own eyes yet. Or are stupid. Or evil.

Since these people whom you know are all good people, and get along pretty well, their cultures must all be quite nice, and get along perfectly well, right?

Or maybe you don't believe that. Maybe your Bangladeshi coworker has told you about the war and how Muslims used to kill Hindus, or maybe your Cambodian friend told you about how Khmer Rouge used to kill, well, everyone. Or maybe even you yourself came from Russia and actually have a pretty good idea that the Western culture is much nicer than most or all others.

In this case, obviously, the people who come to the West came to the West because they preferred living in the West to living wherever they come from, and therefore like the West better. And of course they know better than to make the West into a semblance of their countries of origin.

Especially if you yourself are part of an immigration wave consisting of people who disliked their country of origin and were committed to the West, you assume that most non-Western immigrants are.

You might not care much for Islam, but you understand Muslim immigrants all the better for it: after all, who would ever want to live in a Muslim country?

Sometimes immigrants rob or rape, but of course so do the natives. Sometimes they clearly behave in bad ways that they have clearly brought from the country of origin, but these are Isolated Incidents (tm) and Exceptions from Which You Shouldn't Generalize.

And then you walk down Edgware road in London, in a Muslim neighborhood, and lots of people try to give you flyers calling you to Islam, and you are much annoyed, but not that much more than with Jehova's Witnesses or Hassidim.

And then you walk on Trafalgar Square the next day, and there is a demonstration, thousands of them, carrying slogans that say "Islam - the Future for Britain", and suddenly you realize that you really don't want Islam to be the future for Britain, or any other civilized country for that matter. Also, you find yourself thinking "if Islam is so wonderful, why don't you bugger off back to some Islamic shithole".

The same summer some things slowly connect in your mind. Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie, WTC bombing in 1993, an attempted attack on France with a plane hijacked in Algeria; the 1995 bombing of the Paris subway... a tiny minority of extremists, to be sure, but why always the same minority?

You start thinking suspicious thoughts about Muslims on your flights.

You read up on Israel and Palestine, which you have always assumed to be just a territorial conflict, and realize it's not just that. You find it natural that Palestinians hate Israel - after all, warring neighbors always do. What you don't, however, find natural, is that so do Pakistani and Indonesians, considering that they are neither neighbors nor at war.

And then you read an article where a Somali girl casually says that her parents would get angry if they found out she has read Anne Frank's diary, because "Jews are our enemies", even though there is probably not a single Jew in the whole Somalia.

And then your country gets attacked by a group of Muslim terrorists, and you see a lot of other Muslims celebrating. And then they attack your country's ally, and your country's another ally, and a place that just happens to be often visited by tourists from your country's another ally, and a lot of random Buddhists in Southern Thailand, just in case.

And then you check out the uneducated anti-multiculturalist rednecks and their writings again, and suddenly you realize that they don't mean every single immigrant, and suddenly they make a lot more sense than 10 years ago. They have changed. Or you. Or the world. Or all of the above.

You search for sensible Muslims. You find them, too. You also notice that they tend to receive death threats when they speak out.

You feel the world change around you. In the Western Europe where you moved just over 10 years ago there used to be no places where you'd be afraid to walk alone at night. Now there are places where you wouldn't go with a group of friends in the daytime. In the Western world of 1989, Khomeini's fatwa was taken as a joke, an insane demand by an insane old man. In 2006, there is a lot of otherwise normal-looking people who say "we should respect their culture" under similar circumstances.

You see huge crowds all over the Islamic world burn flags, embassies and occasionally each other because of a cartoon in the Islamic world's obviously most popular newspaper, Jyllands-Posten.

You listen to what various Muslims say. And you mostly don't like it.

You are receiving new information and adjusting your worldview. You don't like it either - but then the people who were unable to adjust their worldviews according to the new information did not live long enough to become your ancestors.

At some point you realize that the Exceptions from Which You Shouldn't Generalize are the ones with whom you do get along, not the ones with whom you don't. Even though the majority of the ones you meet in person are still very nice.

And then you see multiculturalists realize the same thing. Instead of bravely continuing with the "Isolated Incident" line, more and more of them start saying "we'll have riots on our hands" and stuff like that. They still sing the multiculturalis song too, but I wonder for how long anymore.

"They are good and enrich our culture... besides, pissing them off is easy and dangerous"

During the last year or so, the multiculturalists (I mean those people who say that immigrants enrich our culture, that communities with very different cultures can always easily live together, that multiculturalism does not create any problems and that any bad things the representatives of the third-world cultures ever do are isolated incidents that we cannot and should not generalize from) started using a new kind of arguments: "you can't stop them from moving in anyway", "the ones already here will get really pissed off", "you'll need the army for that", "printing those pictures is disrespectful, and, besides, it will cause a riot".

OK, I get it: these are perfectly nice and peaceful people who are just like us and whose rapes, violent robberies, riots and terrorists are totally Isolated Incidents, and who will start rioting again if we don't let more of them in and give them the Most Peaceful title. I understand.

The reason I am pointing this out is not to accuse multiculturalists of hypocrisy: all kinds of groups and individuals, probably myself included, easily switch from realism to idealism and back whenever it happens to suit them. The reason I am pointing this out is that, in this particular case, this is a fairly new phenomenon. Until about a year ago the multiculturalists sounded rather purely idealistic. The reason I am pointing this out is because it is a pretty new development.

Either I am hearing the kind of multiculturalists that used to be silent before that, or the multiculturalists have found realism. In the latter case it will be interesting to see what happens to the multiculturalism as an idea, and whether or not it will survive the encounter with realism.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Immigrants - who are they?

No, I don't know either. This posting is just a list of things to consider when trying to guess who they are and what to expect. Most of then are rather obvious. All of the following is empirical and not scientific, of course.

1. Security problems:

Some groups are inherently a security problem, in the sense that no matter how much you screen them, if you let enough of group X (say, Muslims) into a country you will have a security problem. Will, not might. Generally, if a group is a security problem everywhere else, it will be a security problem here, too.

(This is not a reason to completely close borders for them, IMO. An individual Muslim who has not been suspected of participation in Islamist activities is a very minor security risk, and can often have good reasons to move to a country (spouse, job, etc.), and the benefits of letting them in usually far outweight the risks. But if you want to bring in large groups of workforce it's better to get them somewhere else.)

Also: yes, it's true that for every perfectly decent-looking Muslim immigrant (yeah, I know that your friends - or mine - may be exempt from that, but immigration authorities usually don't have time to know them as well as people usually know their friends) there is a small (but significantly larger than average) risk that either a) they are a closet Islamist, b)they will become a Islamist eventually, or c)they will never become an Islamist, but their children will. This, however, is no reason not to try to filter out people who are already Islamist. You can never be 100% sure that a person is not a security threat, but there are some people about whom you can be 100% sure that they are a security threat. Being persecuted for Islamic extremism in Muslim countries is a rather good sign of it. This is a no-brainer, or should be, but some Western countries have admitted people who were an very odvious security threat.

2. Ethnic/religious minorities:

This should also be obvious, but by taking specific ethnic and/or religious groups from some country you get different results. You get something different depending of whether you get Iraqi Arabs or Iraqi Kurds, Iranian Muslims or Iranian Bahai, Lebanese Muslims or Lebanese Christians, Estonian Estonians or Estonian Russians, Russian Jews or Russian ethnic Finns, etc.

3. Education:

Also an obvious thing. Security problems might well exist in both groups, but immigrants' employment prospects are vastly different depending on whether they are, say, Iraqi engineers or Iraqi goat herders.

(The stereotype of an uneducated third-world immigrant is very strong. It is, of course, based on the fact that most of them are uneducated, but amazingly many people believe that they are all uneducated. I remember when I worked in a store and one of the workers was an older Iraqi man, at some point everyone was totally amazed that he had a university degree in English literature. "They have universities in Iraq?!")

4. Timing:

During an immigration wave different people arrive at a different time. Even if they belong to the same ethnic group and social class. The Russian Jews who went to the US in 1972, in 1978, in 1988, in 1991 and in 1998 were fairly different groups of people, even though they largely knew each other and were related to each other. Timing and structure of immigration waves are a complicated question, but to simplify it grossly: the most dynamic people, the people with the most initiative go first. This might mean that they find jobs easier and faster, or that they make better criminals. The structure of immigration waves tends to depend on the situation in the country of origin, too: if there is a developing crisis, the smartest go first. If there is some ongoing problem, the most decisive go first.

(This, of course, is a vast generalization. There are surely some very intelligent and decisive people leaving Russia even now. But this generalization really does have something to generalize from, in that first there were immigrants who went to the US without any idea how it will turn out, and having never even heard of such a thing as public assistance; then there were immigrants who knew how the system worked and believed they could make it in the US, and then there were immigrants who only wanted to go when they already had enough relatives in the US, etc.)

5. Who are they - in comparison to the rest of the original country's population?

In Finland I often hear the stereotype that there must have been something wrong with the immigrants/refugees back home, or else they would have never come to Finland. This is usually not the case, but sometimes it is.

Sometimes they are persecuted minorities or individuals. Usually persecuted people are persecuted for some reason. Most often this reason makes no sense to anyone except the persecutors (why did the Hutus kill the Tutsis again?) but sometimes, especially in case of individuals, they have been persecuted for a very good reason. Usually, however, they aren't.

Sometimes they are upper- or middle-class. Sometimes they are lower-class. To make another rough generalization, oppressive regimes tend to generate immigrants or refugees who are somewhat higher-class than the general population, countries with very large income discrepancies and a very poor underclass tend to generate lower-class immigrants, and all-out wars usually have pretty much everyone on the run. If you have an oppressive regime with very large income discrepancies and a very poor underclass that has just started an all-out war you will probably actually have to ask who the refugees are.

6. Loyalties

Loyalties vary. It is quite normal for a normal immigrant to have divided loyalties, and not necessarily a bad thing - depends on how well-aligned the interests of the old country and the new country are (Finland+Spain might work better than Finland+Russia). With refugees, the loyalty questions are a lot more complicated: some really have divided loyalties, some are all for the old country, some are all for the new country, and some hate both on general principle.

In general a high level of connection with the old country does not predict much good (I suspect that this is one of the factors of why Russians here are doing worse than in the US). And it's not like any particular act of establishing a connection with the old country is bad in itself - but the desire to do so very often on the part of the whole community is not a very positive predictor for integration.

There are some really strange things that affect loyalties and integration - one of the reasons Russians "bond" with the US better than with Finland is that the US is a big country, and Finland is a small one, and they want to be a part of a big country. I would never have imagined it until I heard so many of them say it.

New template

Got a new template. The main news are the hierarchically arranged archives and the labels. I might add labels to the old posts, too, if and when I feel like it.

Tried to keep layout and color changes to the minimum, but there are a few.

Hey! Can I have some slaves too?

Research commissioned by Finnish Ministry of defense shows that a conscript army is cheaper than a professional army to whom you have to pay salary.

And in tomorrow's report from Nokia, I am sure: "our research shows that free workers would be cheaper than paying salaries to the employees".

While we are at it, can I have a couple of slave boys to pay my mortgage?

On the other hand: forget the slaves. Just pay me for conducting similar studies, and I'll be all set.


Nyt alakerrassa on nigerialaisten helluntalaisten lisäksi kotimaisiakin. Heillä - luojan kiitos - ei ole omaa bändiä, mutta he ulvovat oikein reippaasti, ja joka saatanan arki-iltä tällä viikolla.

Kun ne soittaa jotain humpantapaista se ei ole hirveän kovaa eikä kovinkaan ärsyttävää, mutta jatkuva "halleluja! halleluja!" joka tulee seinän ilmanottoreiästä varmaan ajaisisi kovempiakin tyyppejä hulluksi.

Ajattelin suorittaa kostotoimenpiteitä vapputorvella, mutta kävi sääliksi viattomia sivullisia.

Immigrants are forever

One - and probably the most important - immigration issue that the US handles better than Finland is that the US understands that people who come to the country are there forever, and is realistic about it. Well, tourists are usually an exception, but even they sometimes stay. When you let a refugee, a guest worker or a foreign student in, there is a very good chance that you are never going to get rid of them. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but this is the kind of thing that should be discussed realistically and taken into consideration when admitting people into the country.

Refugees come to the host countries, and most of them are already offically in need of a permanent resettlement and are given some kind of permanent or soon-to-be-permanent residence permits, either immediately or after a long application process. Some are issued temporary permits on the assumption that the problem in their country of origin is only temporary. The time flows, and some of them finds spouses, some find jobs and the rest get their temporary permits extended. Then, after a few years and a few residence permits the authorities discover that, against all their expectations, the third-world shithole where the immigrants have originally come from has still failed to develop into a semblance of a civilized country, say "what the heck" and give them a permanent residence permit. After having supported them for several years on taxpayer money, usually.

For some reason Finns tend to have an illusion that refugees will eventually go home. Regular people have this illusion more often than immigration authorities - I often run into people saying that refugees should not be expected to work because they are here just to be protected. These people mean that they think the refugees here are temporarily. (At least I hope so - otherwise they would mean that refigees should be entitled to lifetime support in Finland just because they ran away from somewhere, and that is a bit too much even for the most multicultural folks. I hope.)

I've never run into this in the US. There might be some kind of a temporary refugee visa there, but I've never met a person who'd had it. Or a person who imagined that refugees eventually go back. There, people know that refugees are forever.

IME the understanding that refugees are here to stay is a healthier way to relate to them than expecting them to go back, both for the country and for the refugee (there are a lot of refugees that also imagine that they will eventually go home, although they won't). The causes that produce refugees are usually long-term, and the people who flee some genuinely short-term trouble like floods don't usually go all that far.

As the result of the realization that refugees are there to stay Americans are both somewhat more welcoming, somewhat less patronizing, and have more expectations of the refugees. They hear your sob story in the consulate, give you a visa if you are lucky, take care of the elderly and sick and provide the newly-arrived refugees with a health insurance for a while. Then you come to the country, and come to your case worker, and they give you a booklet with some useful information, tell you what officials you have to visit, where the English classes are and how many months of support they will provide you, and wish you good luck finding a job. This might sound a bit uncompassionate from the Finnish perspective, but the jobs are usually somehow found, and fairly quickly.

The same goes for guest workers from undeveloped countries. (The people from developed countries usually move to other developed countries for some personal reason, so their moves are a lot less predictable.) There are exceptions among the people from undeveloped countries, too, but in general a person who has moved from some Camelfuckistan to a civilized country does not want to go back to Camelfuckistan any more than you want to move to Camelfuckistan. And they won't. Deal with it.

The common objections: from the left: "but of course they want to go back to their homeland", and from the right: "but of course we can make them go back". Sure thing. Just ask Germany. Or France. Or the Netherlands.

(Dealing with it IMO means a)don't let any group of refugees or foreign workers in unless you can accept that they will probably become a permanent fixture, and b)any integration measures should be applied to any immigrants you can get your hands on (i.e. everyone on public assistance), even if the triple choir of multiculturalists, anti-multiculturalists and immigrants themselves is singing "but of course they/we will go home". They won't.)

The worst is when the immigrants themselves believe it (this is mostly a refugee problem). Nothing is quite as annoying as an immigrant who has been in a country for many years and have done nothing to build a new life, learn the language or find a job, but instead keeps saying how he or she will eventually come back home on a white horse (or in a black limouisine). I've known a number of Russians like that, and I still haven't seen any of them ride a white horse on Red Square.

In the US system tends to gently correct those people, unless they are elderly: at some point they notice that the public assistance is about to run out and they still want a lunch every day, so they have to go out and get a job. In the countries with eternal public assistance they can go on about "going home Real Soon Now" forever. At taxpayer's expense, naturally.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


What do people use mascara for? (I mean, as opposed to permanent coloring.)

I understand that some people tend to use different colors on different days, but there are a lot of people who use the same mascara daily - wouldn't it be easier to just dye the lashes?

Or is the "mascara look" (which is somewhat different from the dyed look) a desirable thing in itself for a lot of people?

Pant crisis postponed

One pair that I classified as both "too small" and "have a hole between the legs" turned out to be the right size, and have only a small hole on the ass. With any luck I'll survive till my summer vacation.

(I usually buy my pants once a year, in the US. You can get really nice jeans there for $10 a pair. But in case of emergency I sometimes buy pants here. The last time was a bit more than a year ago, and they promptly fell off.)

I buy bras in the US, too. Although lately my size have been very hard to find, even though there are smaller and larger sizes all over the place. I am still looking for a way to blame Islam for that. Probably Osama Bin Laden is sitting on a pile of bras in Tora Bora.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A deadlock

Probably gonna write some thoughts about immigration sometime soon, and here is a somewhat absurd conversation as a prologue to them.

A few years ago my old friend S. has visited me here in Helsinki with her family. We hadn't seen each other for 15 years. They still live in Russia.

We had a pretty good touristy time, and then came over to my place for food and drinks. All that time S. herself, her husband and her parents sounded very excited about Finland and the West in general and kept talking about how bad it is in Russia and how the real life is here.

I happen to share this opinion, and a lot of other people do, too (some don't). But then I am here, and I sort of assumed that pretty much everyone who wanted out of there has already gotten out of there. But they really sounded like they wanted out of there. What made the situation really mysterious is the knowledge that S. had been offered jobs in two European countries, and decided not to take them.

After a few glasses of wine I asked the natural question: "Why are you guys still living there, then? Or are you trying to get out?"

The temperature in the room seemed to drop a few degrees, and they gave angry looks to each other.

"We are ready anytime," - said the parents, - "but the kids don't want to go".
"I'd go anytime," - said the husband, - "but S. does not want to go".
"I'd go as soon as my husband learns English," - said S., "otherwise he is not gonna find a job".
"I'd start learning English as soon as we move," - said the husband, - "what's the point of learning it now?"

I took a deep breath and pointed out that a) learning language before moving is in fact quite useful and tends to save time, and b) S. can support the whole family on one salary in the West better than on two salaries in Russia. This started a new round of complaints about the deadlock: S. not wanting the responsibility of being the sole breadwinner even for a short while, the husband not wanting to study language in advance, and both wanting to live in the West anyway.

"Ever considered going as refugees?" - I asked. At the time some countries still accepted Russian Jews as refugees.
"No," - said S. firmly, - "if you move somewhere as a refugee you end up washing floors for the rest of your life".

This made my jaw drop. This is undoubtedly true for uneducated third-world people, at least in some places, but S. and I know pretty much the same set of Russian/Soviet refugees, and none of them spend their lives washing floors - all the working-age ones are employed in some kind of professional jobs.

"Do I look like I am washing the floors for the rest of my life?"
"No. But you were much younger when you left."
"My parents were much older, and they are not washing floors either."
"Yes, but they are smart."

Well, what can you say to that? I shut up, which I should have done half an hour earlier anyway, and they continued to talk about how nice it would be to live in the West.

Pant crisis

My jeans fell apart. That's the third pair of jeans in 3 or 4 months. I should own a jeans factory.

Right now all the pants that I own belong to at least one of the four following categories: "too small", "too large", "have a hole between the legs" and "capri". Except one pair that is only a little bit too large and has a hole on the ass, and can therefore be worn with a belt and a sufficiently long shirt.

Since purposefully gaining weight or sewing up the holes is out of question, the only options remaining are either a really fast diet in order to fit into the biggest of the too-small (2-3 kilos should do it), or declaring the start of the summer and putting the capris on.

And no, I really don't feel like shopping right now.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The weekend: shopping and playing

The two great discoveries of the weekend: there exist special drill bits designed for stone, and cats have scleras. The first was a total surprise: I went to a hardware store and saw a set of drill bits that claimed to be designed for stone. I bought them, somewhat sceptically, and they really work! The second I coud have figured out if I thought about it, but since cat's irises are bigger than their eyes, I'd never seen their sclera until one cat rolled his eyes at me yesterday, probably due to my failure to take him in my lap or give him any food.

I also found my long-sought fridge magnets, at Chez Marius, and at 50 cents each.

Had a really nice one-shot game yesterday. (Stalin meets Cthulhu. Or maybe Stalin is Cthulhu. That would explain a lot in Russian history.) Everything went really well (apart from slime and various deformed body parts and characters not trusting each other) until my character shot Sauli's character's head off (sorry, Sauli).

While I was at it one of Janka's and Orava's cats tried to chew my hand off but without much success.

Had two election parties to go to, but did not make it to either of them.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Damn, now I know what to say if I ever get caught doing anything

Two immigrants from ex-USSR, Jurijus Kadamovas and Iouri Mikhel, have been sentenced to death by a federal court in Los Angeles. This is the first time in more than 50 years somebody gets sentenced to death on a federal charge in LA, and even though I don't approve of the death penalty in general, they richly deserve it.

Together with their accomplices who are yet to be sentenced they abducted 5 people for ransom, got most of the ransom, then killed all the hostages and dumped the bodies in a reservoir.

The defense was truly original:

"Lawyers for Mikhel, a St. Petersburg native, and Kadamovas, a Lithuanian, unsuccessfully asked the jury to find for life in prison rather than death. They said the two were affected by having grown up under a communist government, contending they learned they had to be criminals in order to survive."

Funny thing, it was sort of true. Or rather, you could live without breaking a single law but it was neither easy nor nice. We were criminals, I can admit that. We bought and sold stuff at the black market, badmouthed the government and the party, bought stolen gasoline and stole ethanol from our workplaces if we had workplaces blessed with ethanol. We also gave bribes, because it was hard to do without, and I assume that if most of us gave them some of us also took them. But funny, I don't remember kidnapping people for ransom and killing them afterwards as absolutely essential for survival. Seriously. Never had to do that.

I guess the jury did not buy it either.

Well, at least the lawyers did not appeal to the community. Knowing our (Russian-American) community, the response would probably have been "where can we donate some electricity for the chair?", followed by a lot of people saying "most of the gang belongs to other ethnic groups, not to ours!". Which in the case of this gang would be true for any value of "us", considering that Mikhel, Kadamovas and their 4 accomplices belonged to at least 5 different ethnic groups.

Mikhel and Kadamovas have plotted at least a couple of escape attempts. Mikhel has also tried to kill himself three times, and in the name of the pissed-off Russian-American community and long-suffering American taxpayers I sincerely wish him success on the fourth try. Assuming he does not hurt anyone else in the process, of course.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fridge magnets

Can anybody tell me where to find decent fridge magnets? "Decent" means "capable of sticking to a fridge and keeping several pieces of paper there". I'd also like them to be cheap and cute, but would settle for one of the two.

The World Jewish Conspiracy

I've heard so much talk of the World Jewish Conspiracy that I decided to establish it. With myself as the Grand Master, or course. It will be officially established as soon as I design the membership cards and the webpage.

Membership will be open to both Jews and goyim. Circumcision is not necessary, but there will be an unspeakably difficult membership test involving eating a piece of gefilte fish, baking hamantaschen and an interview with a Jewish grandmother. For people unwilling or unable to take the test, or situations where the test materials (e.g. Jewish grandmothers) are not available, their will be an alternative way of joining: donate a beer to the Conspiracy (wine and chocolate will be accepted too).

The World Jewish Conspiracy will start with two very important campaigns:

1. Vowels for Israel

We will collect vowels for the benefit of the state of Israel and Hebrew-speaking Jews elsewhere. The state of Israel is the historical continuation of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, which were established almost 3000 years ago. 3000 years, and the fuckers still cannot figure out how to write vowels properly. We gotta help them.

The people of Israel are suffering without vowels! The readers there have to scratch their heads and try to guess what the hell the writers meant! Generations of Israeli schoolchildren have been struggling with orthography! Think about the children!

Especially people from the nations rich in vowels, such as Finland, shouldbe encouraged to donate generously.

Naturally, we won't give a single vowel to the Arabs. Let the World Muslim Conspiracy take care of their own.

2. We demand our fish back!

What has once been Jewish must be Jewish forever. Especially the fish. Several years ago some antisemites decided to deprive our people of the fish that has rightfully belonged to us since times immemorial and renamed jewfish into goliath grouper. We want our fish back! We are going to campaign to restore the proper world order and the balance of the Force and rename the so-called goliath grouper back into jewfish.

Salzburg, May 04

I noticed that I tend to start describing some trip, but never finish it, so the last few days of a two-week trip are always missing. I'd like to fill these in afterwards and put them next to the beginning, but somehow the new blogspot does not allow me to publish new posts with the date in the past, so bear with me here.

Anyway, Salzburg, part of a larger Germany-Austria trip. Quite a pretty town, although I liked Innsbruck better, but it is raining all the time and it is very cold: +3 at the worst.

In the evening I buy some rum, especially since we are in Austria and Stroh is everywhere. I tell Oska that this is 80% rum and he claims there is no such thing until he reads the label on the bottle.

There are a lot of Mozartey things everywhere, even more than in the rest of Austria, because he was born here.

There is a fortress on a hill, with lovely views on the city. In the fortress there are a few museums, including a war museum, or rather the museum of some local regiment.

Unlike Germans, who have totally accepted responsibility for the WWII and the Holocaust, Austrians usually claim that they have had nothing to do with the whole thing and everything is Germany's fault anyway. Such tendency to rewrite history is understandable in its own way, but it does not combine very well with the tendency to tell everyone how heroically Austrian troops have fought for the Third Reich. The local regiment in question has fought in France, Norway, Finland and Russia and, according to the museum really kicked ass everywhere they went. Benka says "eeew, let's go", but I want to see more.

A significant part of the exhibition are the pictures that the regiment took of their heroic deeds. I start looking through them, and find that their most photogenic deed was in fact burning of Rovaniemi. Lots of pictures of houses burning, some shot from such an angle that you can see a road sign saying "Rovaniemi".

"Eeew, let's go," - Benka says again. "Argh, they burned our Rovaniemi!" - I show her the pictures.

And then I notice their greatest WWII trophy. On a table under glass. A Finnish army boot. One. "They stole out boot, too," - I observe. This is so absurd that I feel like screaming "palauttakaa saapas, siat!" just for the hell of it.

I still sometimes wonder whose boot it was, what happened to the owner and how did the brave Austrian regiment manage to steal it.

Another local sightseeing attraction is Hellbrunn, where some practical joker had installed fountains in the most unseemly places, such as coming out of tables and chairs to the surprise of people sitting there. The visitors are warned but usually end up wet anyway. Although it was raining and we were already wet. There was also a crown balancing on a fountain, with nothing but water to support it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

How about a party of the misunderstood?

Being under a fairly grave threat of being employed only by The Merciful and The Compassionate, and rightfully suspecting that The Merciful and The Compassionate might be unable to properly transfer his salary from the Heavenly Account, Al-Hilali decided to go into politics.

Being a man with a spirit (not of the alcohol kind, of course), he is not deterred by the fact that he is a laughingstock of the whole country and doesn't speak English (after all, he has lived in Australia for only 25 years).

Spokesman Keysar Trad said Sheik Hilali's vision was for a party founded on universal human values and open to all faiths and would attempt to win elections at all levels of Australian politics. The whole idea is to promote fairness across the board and specific values, such as honesty and dignity and equality.

Hey, I totally understand that the guy is about to need a new source of income, but Al-Hilali founding a party promoting honesty and dignity and equality? What are we gonna hear next? Pat Robertson founding a party to promote secularism and gay rights? Markus Drake and Rosa Meriläinen starting a War on Drugs? Osama opening an American Cultural Center in Tora Bora?

Monday, March 12, 2007

The weekend

Was a rather nice weekend, even though I did not get anything useful done.

On Friday Anu and I went to Lasu's place to engage in various perverse activities, such as vacuuming the books, gluing ex librises into them and drinking up Lasu's wine. I think this can be considered a somewhat useful activity.

The discovery of the day: some people actually make makaronilaatikko. I had always thought that it was the kind of thing one only buys in a store.

The second discovery of the day: Lasu is a pervert (no, nothing new here) and puts cheese in it.

The third discovery of the day: it was actually pretty good.

On Saturday I went to a really nice party, saw a lot of friends and some nice acquaintances I only see once a year, and spilled a lot of wine on my jeans (not sure why, wasn't too drunk).

A conversation from there, from the "good advice from friends"-series:

Kaveri 1: Iik, miehelläni on lyhyempi tukka kuin mulla!
Minä: Tämä on aina huolestuttavaa. Mistäköhän mä löyttäisin miehen jolla olisi pitempi kuin mulla?
Kaveri 2: Hevareita?
Minä: Onhan niitä, mutta niiden huono puoli on se että ne kuuntelee hevimmusiikkia.
Kaveri 2: Koeta löyttää tosisnobihevari: sellainen jonka mielestä mikään musiikki ei ole riittävän hyvä.

On Sunday Anu came over and we had some drinks. Drank, among other things, to lintukoto.

Today went to see the election event in Sanomatalo. It was more fun than expected. It's somehow reassuring when the first thing you see at an election event is mjr's beard. I saw a few friends, said hi in person to one guy I'd only known on the net so far, and ran into a very nice woman I know but don't see very often. Did not bother to watch any actual debates on the screen though.

I have a very weird "haven't gotten anything done at work today, but who cares" feeling, which is strange because I have in fact gotten done everything I planned to do today, and probably would have cared if I didn't.

"You can preach anything you want, just don't talk to the media!"

The Lebanese Muslim Association has banned five imams from Lakemba Mosque in Sydney from talking to the media. The imams include our old friend Taj al-Din "cat meat" al-Hilali and Yahya "god destroy the enemies of Islam" Safi.

Right. It's ok if they preach god knows what to the congregation, as long as the infidels don't hear it.

Al-Hilali has already defied the ban and given an interview, saying - guess what - that he has been misunderstood.

I can already imagine his next job performance review, which AFAIK is coming soon:

Lebanese Muslim Association: Hey, asshole, haven't we told you not to talk to the media? Infidels really don't need to hear all your shit.
Al-Hilali: Argh, bugger off. Media is our friend.
Lebanese Muslim Association: Media might be your friend, but we are your employer, so better get your ass in gear.
Al-Hilali: I am not working for you, you puny infidel-pleasers! I am working for Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Lebanese Muslim Association: All righty. Your next paycheck will be coming from the Merciful, the Compassionate, then.
Al-Hilali: Hey, guys, I did not really mean it! You are taking me out of context! I have to live on something and I can't even hit insane teenagers for donations because that silly punk Feiz Mohammed already collects all their lunch money.
Lebanese Muslim Association: Tough shit, as the Prophet (pbuh) has probably said to a lot of people. Save this context bullshit for the infidels who believe in it. Both of them. And if you speak to the media again even those two won't believe in it. There is a billion Muslims is the world and you have single-handedly used up all their out-of-context excuses for 5 years ahead. Bugger off.
Al-Hilali: But please!
Lebanese Muslim Association: OK, OK, you can preach the special sermon to retards, and no talking to the media.
Retards: Hurrah! Finally, one of us!

On current politics

The election is coming. Of course I cannot vote because I am a foreigner (with a bit of luck I just might become a citizen before the next election) but this doesn't stop me from browsing the politicians and thinking whom I'd like to vote for if I could.

If I could, I would vote for Jussi Halla-aho. Not because I agree with him on many things, and not even because I agree with him on most immigration- and multiculturalism-related things - in fact I don't think I do - but because I think that some things really, really need to be talked about in Eduskunta, and he is the best person to talk about them.

My second favorite issue is Lex Karpela (or should it change its name to Lex Saarela now?), so if i were a citizen and were not voting for Jussi Halla-aho, I'd vote for one of the people who want to do something about it.

Aside from these two issues - the election questionnaires tend to give me various Kokoomus people, which probably does not surprise anyone who follows this blog. One thing that surprised me while I was browsing this questionnaire: the nuclear energy has become a litmus test issue for me. I have always been for it, but now I absolutely won't vote for anyone who is against it.

I am too lazy to list all the things that I am for or against, but one more thing: the student subsidies and the tuition fees. I've never had any opinion on student subsidies, and still don't, but I find it disturbing that somebody would want to keep the subsides too low for people to live on, and simultaneously penalize the students who take too long to graduate because they have to work. At least pick one.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Violence, what violence?

The French have banned the filming or broadcasting of acts of violence by people other than professional journalists. Now bystanders can't film the "youths" rioting or police beating somebody up.

Damn, I've heard that they have a problem with police violence, but never thought it was quite that much.

Goatse meets jihad?

Via Jihad Watch:

An Iraqi man, Fadhel al-Maliki, got caught by LAX airport security with a magnet and wires up his ass.

Officials said he posed no apparent threat. They let the plane leave without the guy but with his luggage, which makes me wonder who is the biggest ass here.

Can anyone please tell me why a person would be carrying a magnet and wires up his ass in an airplane? I can think of only three reasons offhand:

1. He is making a terrorist "dry run" to see how well the airport security works.
2. He is trying to reinvent the vibrator in-flight.
3. He is stark raving mad.

There might of course be some more outlandish reasons, such as that aliens forgot said items during the anal probe or that he tried to perform one of the five daily prayers in low-cut trousers in a very bad company or that he imagined that the magnet had viagra-like properties. I only hope that the powers that be will:

- investigate the man's possible terrorist connections,
- inform him of the availability of ready-made sexual toys,
- tell him that crazy people here in the West have traditionally worn tinfoil hats as a substitute for a wired anal magnet,
- catch the employee who decided that the plane may be allowed to depart with this passenger's luggage and insert that luggage up his or her ass.

One more thing inquiring minds want to know: if this was a "dry run", does the guy expect some bonus extra virgins for performing this assignment?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Environment - the new impure thoughts

First of all, a disclaimer. While I don't really care about environment in any meaningful way and certainly wouldn't inconvenience myself for any environmental reason whatsoever, I don't think it's a bad thing that some people do care. If those people manage to give me a good opportunity to do something enviromentally useful without being inconvenienced much, I look at it as a positive thing.

I don't own a car and I mostly use fluorescent light bulbs because somebody out there arranged for the city of Helsinki to have enough transportation so that I don't usually need a car to go anywhere, and somebody developed and started selling fluorescent light bulbs. I could smugly say that I do this and many other environmentally-friendly things (such as living in an apartment building close to the center of the city, or having no children) for the environment, but I just don't care enough. Instead I can be and am smug about other things, the ones that I do care about: not needing to look for parking space, getting more light for less electricity (and a smaller electricity bill), saving oil for the airplanes, and keeping the traffic manageable (IMO a city Helsinki's size or bigger cannot function very well if everyone is moving around by car and it's only fair if I leave driving to those who need it more than I do).

I don't consider it bad when other people brag about how environmentally-friendly they are when they are just doing whatever they want to do and it happens to benefit the environment in some way or another. It's always fun to say "look at the virtuous me!", and I am sure I do that often enough on other issues. Problem is, for a lot of people the environment seems to have become a "look at those evil sinners!" thing, and a rather alarmingly popular one.

Again - I don't in any way disapprove of caring about environment as such, but I think that the environment has become a new substitute for impure thoughts: an easy way to disapprove of people everywhere, whatever they do. Just like every person has some kind of impure thoughts, every person does something bad for the environment, such as for example gets born to begin with. It's hard to disapprove of fellow citizens having been born, although some especially efficient nutjobs manage that as well, but look at the range of things you can frown upon! You can disapprove of almost any purchase or consumption of anything, of having children, of travel, of living in the country, of immigration, of foreign food, of meat - you name it.

And, of course, one usually disapproves of what other people do, not of what one does oneself. The childfree get to disapprove of those who have children (because, you know, we all decided to be childfree for the sake of the environment only). The people like myself, who live near the center of the city, use public transportation and like to fly to various places on vacation several times a year get to disapprove of a person who drives his or her car from Vantaa to Espoo to work every day. A person who lives alone in a one-family home and never goes anywhere gets to disapprove of air travelers. A person who lives in the middle of nowhere and drives 50 miles to work and 50 miles back every day in a regular car gets to disapprove of a person who drives 5 miles to work and 5 miles back every day in a SUV.

Most people just live their lives as they see fit, pay lip service to the environment, and then a lot of them accuse other people of living their lives as they see fit and paying lip service to the environment. When people give something up for the environment (or indeed for any other reason), they naturally tend to give up things that are of little or no importance to them, but they also tend to tell other people what kind of things they should give up without giving any thought to what is important to those other people.

Occasional disapproval of other people having fun is in itself a very popular and traditional form of amusement (which is probably why so many religions frown on masturbation), but IMO it really shouldn't become a national sport, much less an international one.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Refugee, part 4: the arrival

One day we got a call from HIAS that our papers are ready and that we would be flying to the US a few days later. There was considerable panic on the subject of grandpa and his ability to fly, especially about what would happen if he got so sick that the plane had to land somewhere halfway to the US. We contacted various relatives, friends and acquaintences in Switzerland, Germany, France, UK and Canada, and decided just to hope that this does no happen over Ireland, Iceland or Greenland. We also talked about it to his doctors, who promised to do their best and referred us to Jesus again.

The HIAS people picked us up in the middle of the night and drove us to the airport, together with 20 or 30 more refugees, where they left us to a guy from the IOM (International Organization for Migration). The guy made us sign a paper saying that we will pay IOM back for the tickets someday, and gave us some IOM tags, probably so that we wouldn't get lost.

Our sponsors in Boston were a couple of relatives. They picked us up at the airport and took us to the apartment that they had rented for us. They had also bought us some furniture and a lot of food, and somebody brought an old TV. The place was full of people: various relatives and friends of my parents. Party!

In the morning one of the relatives took us to the social security office where we applied for the social security numbers, to the bank where we opened accounts, and to the JFCC, which was working together with HIAS snd was supposed to pay us the charity money and provide some services. The JFCC woman told us that the money will be provided for 4 months, after which we can apply for the state money if we are still not self-supporting. The state money would be less, and would last for 18 months, after which we damn better be self-supporting. The grandparents would of course get SSI (supplemental security income) permanently. She gave us booklets about living in Boston, told us to apply for Medicaid (health insurance) and food stamps, and to get senior IDs for the grandparents so that they can use public transportation at senior prices. She told my parents where the free English classes were, and that the grandparents should apply for the housing for the elderly, and also asked if she can give our phone number to volunteers.

(The idea that we would be getting some free money from somewhere for a while was kind of hard for me to get my mind around. Social security was pretty much nonexistent in Russia, although there were some free services (like health care and education) that were generally just about worth the price, especially the health care. If one became unemployed, one had better have savings or generous relatives or friends.)

The relative took us to all the aforementioned places. Everyone was fairly nice. The Medicaid guy reassured us that even though the Medicaid cards arrive in some distant future, we are covered by Medicaid already. At the elderly housing place the relative looked through the list of addresses and recommended where to apply.

So it went. During the daytime my parents went to English classes and looked for jobs, and I spent my days listening to grandparents' complaints or sulking in the pool that was in the backyard of the building. I wanted to practice English by watching the TV, but this was quite difficult because the grandparents always came to complain and tended to be louder than the TV, but the pool pretty much served the same purpose because it was full of rather talkative local population.I spent all my time there away from heat and grandparents.

One night fairly soon after our arrival grandpa got very sick again. I called an ambulance, and they came. At some point they found a grid painted on his back with iodine, which some older Russians believe helps against cough or something.

"What is this?" - they asked. And while I was struggling to figure out how to explain the concept of traditional folk medicine in English, they started guessing: "A grid for radiation therapy?"
"No," - I said, - "it's..."
"Ritual paint?"
"Yes!" - I was glad they helped me out with this.

They took him to a hospital, which took very good care of him on taxpayers' money without ever referring to Jesus or any other supernatural forces. The hospital was very impressive and even had Russian interpreters like all the other big hospitals in the area. The kinds of hospitals where ambulances can bring people usually do. The specialized hospitals where people come in on their own usually ask you to bring your own interpreter if you need one.

Some kind of medical checkup was required for all the refugees. Nothing special.

The JFCC volunteers rock. They are just regular people who ask JFCC for phone numbers of refugee families and come to hang out with them. They give one the insight into the local culture that the integrated immigrants cannot, simply because the integrated immigrants have seen so many new immigrants that they are accustommed to somehow avoiding discussion of the kinds of cultural differences that are not immediately practically useful. One of the volunteers still hangs out with my family occasionally.

We don't deal with immigration authorities, because we already have gotten refugee visas before arrival into the country, and we are supposed to exchange it for a green card one year later.

My parents passed the driving tests and bought an old car. I went to high school.

Some day about three months after we arrived to the US my father got a job as an electrical engineer, which was and still is his normal profession. The going rate for an electrical engineer with 16 years of experience and very bad English was pretty much like what they pay to newly graduated American engineers, but they raised his salary to the normal levels as soon as they figured that he really knew how to do the stuff. His English still scares small children and elderly English teachers.

Right after that I got a normal teenage after-school job, and a couple of months later my mother got a job as a software engineer, which is also her normal profession. 9 months after our arrival they bought their own place in a suburb (banks there gave 100% mortgages), and about the same time the grandparents got their elderly apartment (in the sense of an apartment in a building for the elderly) and were glad to finally get rid of us. A year after arrival we exchanged our refugee visas for green cards. And then it gets really boring and not really a refugee story anymore.

We've dealt with the refugee bureacracy several times after that when we sponsored new refugees, and it did not change much since our times - OTOH we haven't done it now since 1993 or so, because pretty much all the relatives are out of Russia already.

One more thing I would like to point out: this was not a story of some particularly spectacular refugee success. That was pretty much what happened to all the educated Soviet Jewish refugees that came to the US at that time, and in fact to many people of various backgrounds and education levels. On average working-age people got jobs - usually so-called "real jobs" - about six months after arrival. Doctors took a bit longer because of all the tests. Blue-collar people also got jobs fairly fast. There were some people who chose to try to live on welfare, but that was not very common and even they usually had some under-the-table jobs.

Most of our relatives and friends were engineers, like my parents. Then our friend Marina came, and she was a researcher of German language and literature. She was met by a choir of old immigrants singing "you'll never get a job with this profession, go to some programming classes fast". She laughed, called us all nerds, and got a job within a week after arrival. It was just a job teaching German, but nowadays she is a full professor and gets to research literature to her heart's content, at least to the extent that professors usually do.

I write about the Soviet Jewish refugees because that is what I have first-hand experience with but as far as I know other refugees tended to find jobs easily, too, and this includes people from Africa and Middle East. The US has had various problems (crime, terrorism, etc.) with immigrants from third world countries - but widespread refugee unemployment is certainly not one of them.

The reasons for this are fairly complicated (and I am not claiming to understand them all), and deserve a post of their own.

Purim with goyim, and the rest of the weekend

Had a Purim party on Saturday night, for the first time ever. Just looked at the Jewish calendar and figured that a) since Purim should be celebrated with lots of drink, hamantaschen-named pastry which in one of its forms is a very close relative of joulutorttu, and rude songs, it would fit in with Finnish culture rather seamlesslly, and b) the fact that it starts on Saturday night this year is clearly a message from god saying that it should be celebrated with a proper party.

The only problem with celebrating a Jewish holiday with a party where I am the only Jew (the only other Jewish friend couldn't make it) is that I am supposed to be the one who knows how to do it properly, and I generally have no clue. I mean, I know how it is usually done, but I have no idea how to do it properly. In the US or anywhere where there are a lot of Jews it's no problem, because you go to the nearest Jewish bakery, buy a lot of hamantaschen, go to a liquor store, buy a lot of booze, put on some Halloween clothes, invite people over, and voila, you have a party. But here in the wild North men are real men, women are real women and real Jews bake their own hamantaschen. Or produce a lot of black smoke and cause the fire alarm to go off at 1:30 in the morning, as the case might be.

The first attempt at baking hamantaschen resulted in the aforementioned fire alarm and the traditional American dance with a broom under it. My soul silently cried out to the Jewish people everywhere, and the Jewish people, in the form of one small genealogy list that I am on, responded with a hamantaschen recipe. As a .jpg of an open recipe book perched upon the biggest hamantasch in Jewish history. In Hebrew.

I figured that I should better consult Google for recipes, and with the help of the Lord and Google (mostly Google though) managed to make a semi-decent amount of the damn things, swearing all the time that our ancestors should have invented an easier pastry.

The party went very well (thanks everybody!) and luckily nobody quizzed me very much on anything religious. My friends already know that I am not the font of all knowledge on the holy books. Or, let's face it, the font of any knowledge on the holy books. Usually all the interesting info on the religious stuff comes from the two theologist friends of mine, but neither of them was able to make it to the party.

We pondered the following things: if on Purim Jews celebrate getting out from under Persian authorities, then what do the Iranian Jews celebrate? And if on Passover Jews say "next year in Jerusalem", then what do the Jerusalem Jews say? My friends suggested that they say "next year also in Jerusalem". My mom said "bugger if I know, send an email to the Jerusalem relatives and ask them".

Anyway: I had fun, hopefully the rest of people in the party did too, the hamantaschen got eaten, and now I found an extra scarf. Two scarves, actually, but I already found the owner of one of them.

Note to self: apple juice in the keyboard is not a good thing.

Another note to self: letting drunk people give you a massage results in unexpected sore places.

Note to everybody: lingonberry juice and cream liqueur do not mix well, judging from the expression of the people who mixed them and drank the result. Hope they did not remember the taste the next morning.

Visited Maija and JP on Sunday. They warned me not to make Maija laugh lest she gives birth right there and then, but we had a good time anyway and somehow she managed to laugh without giving birth. When she finally does have the new baby I'll ask her what was the last joke that started the labor.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Maahanmuuttokeskustelua Hesarissa

Hesarissa on viime päivinä ollut juttuja ulkomaalaisista, niiden sopeutumisesta, suomalaisten asenteista, jne. Nyt-liite teetti Suomen Gallupilla kyselyn, jossa 56% vastaajista vastasi myönteisesti kysymykseen "pitäisikö Suomeen ottaa lisää maahanmuuttajia?".

Omituinen kysymys sinänsä. Minun ensimmäinen intuitiivinen tulkintani siitä oli "pitäisikö Suomeen ottaa enemmän maahanmuuttajia per vuosi kuin nykyään", mutta ilmeisesti sitä voi myös hyvin tulkita "pitäisikö Suomeen ottaa yhtään maahanmuuttajaa jo maassa olevien lisäksi", ja NYT-liite onkin tulkinnut sen niin.

Gallup-kysymyksiä voisi toki muotoilla tarkemmin, varsinkin kun "pitäisikö Suomeen ottaa yhtään maahanmuuttajaa jo maassa olevien lisäksi" olisikin aika nollatutkimusta, kun edes kovan linjan maahanmuuttovastustajat ovat harvemmin sitä mieltä että Suomeen ei saisi ottaa yhtään maahanmuuttajaa lisää. Sen lisäksi minusta tuntuu että ihmiset suhtautuvat keskimäärin eri tavalla siihen että maahan tuodaan esim. 5000 kouluttamatonta somalia verrattuna siihen että maahan tuodaan 5000 koulutettua ruotsalaista.

Nyt-liitteessä tänään on haastatteluja kolmen maahanmuutto- ja monikulttuurikriittisen ihmisen kanssa. Kaksi niistä ovat Perussuomalaisten listoilla olevia ehdokkaita, Jussi Halla-aho ja Teemu Lahtinen, ja yksi on ihan tavallinen ihminen joka ei ole ehdolla eduskuntaan. Kun se juttu oli tekeillä, Nyt:in toimittaja pyysi Halla-ahon tukiryhmää suosittelemaan jotain asiallista monikulttuurisuusvastustajaa, ja he suosittelivat minua jossain vaiheessa. Enpä kelvannut toimittajalle, kun olen ulkomaalainen.

No, eipäs siinä mitään. Saahan Nyt ihan hyvin haluta tehdä jutun vain ja ainoastaan Suomen kansalaisten mielipiteistä asiasta, vaikka tässä kontekstissa se on jokseenkin huvittavaa.

Sen sijaan haluaisin tietää, että kun Nyt haastattelee kahta Perussuomalaisten ehdokkaiksi kuvailtua ihmistä, ja yhtä "tavallista" maahanmuuttokriittistä ihmistä, ja sitten myös pyytää erilaisen mielipiteen tutkija Jukka Relanderilta, miksi Nyt unohtaa mainita että Relanderkin on nyt ehdokkaana samassa vaalipiirissä kuin Halla-ahokin?

Refugee, part 3: the living

Usually people who are going to the US stay in Vienna for a couple of weeks and then get sent to the next similar camp in Ladispoli, Italy, to wait for their visas for 2-3 months. My parents try to resist being sent there because grandpa is very sick and probably would not survive a train trip to Italy. We stay in Vienna for the whole three months.

Living in the refugee camp is quite enjoyable. It would not be a good place to stay permanently, but the three months are quite pleasant, or at least would be if grandpa did not try to die at least once a week. People who live there for a long time (mostly those who are waiting for Canadian visas) get tired of it after a while.

Joint pays for the rooms and for the medical care, and provides people with 45 shillings (about $4) per person per day for food, toilet paper and suchlike. They also give us a small lump sum in the beginning for the public transportation, but the weather in nice and we are not in a hurry, so we walk instead. The money is given for a week at a time, in cash, and then you have to come back for more.They also tell us where the flea market is (at Naschmarkt), and tell us about the place where a Finnish Eeva keeps a charity for Jewish (and sometimes goyish) refugees. They also tell us that the tourist info at Karlsplatz gives people free maps if they ask. The concept of free maps was very strange to me.

The culture shock is vast but not unpleasant, especially since we have time just to hang out and look at things. Hairy potatoes fascinate me, and at some point I see half of one (they are called kiwis) at the market and it turns out to be bright green inside and not a potato at all. I ask the seller how to eat it and buy one.

A few days after we come to Vienna grandpa gets sick. We have a phone in the apartment, but it works only for the incoming calls, so mom and I run outside to the payphone. The emergency number people speak no English, so we explain to them "Mein Grossvater Hertz Schmertz" in our best German and give them the address. They arrive in a couple of minutes and take grandpa to a hospital.

The hospital is just a few blocks away. There is a real live nun (only seen them in the movies before) sitting at the reception desk. I get a bit scared, suspecting that they only treat by prayers. Which was not all that far from the truth, after all.

The nun speaks English and asks me stuff about the grandpa. When she asks religion, I hesitate for a second. Grandpa is Jewish but the closest he'd ever been to Judaism is drinking up uncle Zyama's Passover wine. Do I say Jewish or atheist or what? After half a second of thinking I realize that saying "atheist" might earn poor grandpa a chat with a Catholic priest and say "Jewish". She writes "mosaische". I wonder whether "judische" has become a dirty word here after Nazis, or whether "mosaische" just sounds fancier to them, or whether they actually think that Jews believe in Moses.

Grandpa spends all his time in the hospital on the following schedule: they release him a week after admission, and we take him home. The next morning he is sick again and we call an ambulance, which comes and takes him to the hospital for a week. The treatment is very unimpressive - we kind of expected better in the West - but at least everything is clean, everyone is polite and the soup does not contain a genuine human ear, unlike in one hospital where he was treated in Russia.

More friends and acquaintances of ours arrive every week. They tell us that in the few weeks since we left the sugar became something that you can only buy with ration cards.

Austrians are fairly nice, at least the ones I've met. Many of them don't speak English though. There is a fair lot that speak French, surprisingly enough, but my own French was not very good back then. These people are unfortunately not blessed with a sense of direction, and it's usually pointless to ask anyone how to get anywhere. They scratch their heads and pull out a map, and they can't find anything on the map anyway, so your only chance is to take a look at the map yourself. Never seen a nation so topographically challenged.

Some of them disapprove of us. The most commonly voiced reason for disapproval is, quite amazingly, that socialism is great and we just left Russia because we did not understand it. I note that none of the people who say so (several Austrians and one Israeli) are in any hurry to the Socialist Workers' Paradise. Some people, especially in the hospital, also say that if we were good people we would not drag the old people around with us through the refugee camp but first build a new life in the new place and then have them come over. That is interesting, because both in the US and in Finland people more often tend to disapprove of refugees who leave their old people behind in the old country.

I got a job in Joint, as an English-Russian interpreter for sick Russian refugees in hospitals. I have no idea why they wanted me, for doctors usually did not speak any English and patients usually were in such a condition that they could not speak anything at all. Interpreting between non-English-speaking doctors and unconscious patients is not easy. They pay 35 shillings ($3) per hour, including trips to the hospitals (trips back are on our own time).

My boss in Joint is Sylvia, a 23-year-old student of Russian language and culture. Her Russian language was excellent; her knowledge of Russian culture apparently needed some work, because Russians were fooling her every way they could and usually she did not realize that.

For example, Joint decided that they are not paying for people's glasses anymore, except in extreme circumstances. A man comes to Sylvia's office:

"Help, help! My dog ate my glasses!"
"Oh my god! Do you need a veterinarian?"
"No, no, but I need new glasses! And can my wife have new glasses too while we are at it?"

I am amazed how Sylvia could stand us all.

Another amazing person was Eeva. She was keeping a place that helped refugees with clothing and stuff. She was a Finnish woman in her fifties, blond and what Finns call "kukkahattutäti". Usually she was alone in her office or with another woman, but on bigger occasions there were other kukkahattutädit. She provided refugees with second-hand clothes and kitchenware. Sometimes she also showed us movies, and she had a sewing machine for us to use, and she also gave out religious literature (holy books, both Christian and Jewish) to whoever wanted it.

You could come there any time and pick clothes from a pile. The better clothes and kitchenware was kept out of view, and you had to ask for it, so the people who knew what they wanted got better stuff than the ones who were just browsing. Some people would just take anything and sell it at a flea market.

We saw a movie there once. Before the movie there were many rolls of toilet paper in the toilet. After the movie there were none: refugees stole everything.

Refugees also stole Eeva's sewing machine. After that Eeva prayed to her god for help, and her god saw the suffering of this righteous woman and sent her a humongous sewing machine that no number of refugees would be able to carry out of the building.

Our friend Marina comes with her family. She speaks very good German, and immediately gets a job as an interpreter in Joint, and hopes that it would help her to stay in Vienna rather than being sent to Italy. Joint bureaucrats send her to Italy anyway, thus getting rid of their one and only functional German interpreter.

While Marina is still in Vienna, she comes to grandpa's hospital to interpret for him. She tells the doctors he is her uncle. Before that the doctors discharged him every week, conversed with me in broken English and French, and always mentioned Jesus and his possible help without actually doing much useful. My parents say that that's because he is a poor refugee. In any case, after Marina shows up the attitude changes magically. I am not sure whether it's because she speaks good German, or because she is "frau Professor" or why, but now he is a "worthy patient". Not that it does that much good anyway, but at least some.

My own work is rather absurd at times. Once they call me and tell me to go to the hospital in the middle of nowhere (right outside ot Vienna) to interpret for the woman named Livia. In a cab, no less, and in a hurry, because Livia is not making sense to the doctors. I get there, and of course Livia is not making any sense: she is stark raving mad, and is very close to a diabetic coma on top of that, which they can see without talking to her. They are giving her insulin already. She tells me that everyone is conspiring to kill her and that her diabetes is the result of deliberate poisoning by antisemitic neighbors. She also tells me to call her sister in New York collect and tell her about it. I do that in the evening, and the sister sounds like a perfectly sensible person.

There are all the kinds of sick people in the refugee camp: the two that I especially remembered was a woman with one lung, who had lung cancer and smoked like a chimney; her husband had been murdered some years ago, and she was going to Washington, DC, in order to bring her son to her friends and die; the second one was a woman from Gomel who had gotten a good dose or radiation; instead of temporarily losing her hair, like most people do under the circumstances, she has grown hair all over, including a beard and moustache that would put Fidel Castro to shame.

In fact pretty much all the misery I see in the camp comes from people being physically sick, in the ways that are either unfixable or beyond the local medical care.

Since we are staying in Vienna for 3 months we get Alien Passports, valid for 6 months.

The interview in the US Consulate is rather uneventful and seems to be routine for them. Jews? Yes. Discriminated? Yes. Are you some kind of bad guys (criminals, terrorists, etc.)? No. OK, you may go, and then go to that address for a medical checkup. There is one guy at the consulate who picks out interesting people for individual interviews on scientific topics. My father is an interesting person; the rest of us aren't.

The medical checkup picks out contagious diseases and retarded children. The US does not want the retarded, and they have to go somewhere else or stay in Austria.

Our landlady, the woman who rents our apartment to Joint, has bought the apartment next to ours and decided to make one big apartment out of them. We get new neighbors: a family from Vilnius, a family from around Moscow, and a Bulgarian family who ran away from Mosambique. They are one of the few non-Jewish families served by HIAS and Joint. HIAS picked them up because there are no refugee organizations specifically for Bulgarians, because there are so few Bulgarian refugees. Bulgaria is very hard to get out of, harder than Russia. That is, if you are trying to go to the West. If you are going to some socialist paradise shithole, they let you.

Nikolai and Elena (the Bulgarian couple - they also had a small child and somebody's mother with them) and their family went to work in Mosambique, which is a shithole of such epic proportions that even a Bulgarian has to see it to believe it. If you are a foreign worker, Mosambique does not suck quite as much as for the locals. They pay a Bulgarian 5 times less than to his or her Portuguese colleagues, but still much more than to locals and much more than a Bulgarian gets in Bulgaria.

After arriving in this particular socialist paradise they started planning an escape. Originally they planned to walk over the border to Swaziland, but then there was too many robbers and gangsters on and around the border. Then they switched to a more expensive plan B, which Nikolai actually discussed in the local US consulate, in order to go in which he had to paint his face black. The people in the consulate told them to fly to Europe and to use HIAS's help, which they did.

The money that I earn in Joint is enough to afford an ice cream a couple of times a day, a couple of books, and a tank top. My parents also save a bit of Joint food money so that we can go to museums. In general when I am not at work and the grandpa is not in any kind of acute distress we spend most of our time doing a budget tourist thing and checking out the city and its various tourist attractions. We can't afford theatre or a movie or a cafe, but the museums are cheap and one can always buy ice cream from a store and sit down with it in a park.

In general the refugee camp is quite a pleasant memory for me. There are much worse ways to spend a summer.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Refugee, part 2: the processing

The plane arrives to Vienna airport, our papers are checked and we are taken to a big room where a young and very cute Austrian soldier with an automatic weapon guards us. He is 18 or 19, and has obviously not been taught what to do when two elderly refugees start fighting for the only chair in the room. He looks around helplessly, then comes at them from behind and steals the chair, after which the fight stops by itself. The boy is clearly officer material.

The Sokhnut (Israeli immigration agency) people come, ask for people who actually want to go to Israel, and take them away to wait for their plane. They also collect from the rest of us the names and addresses of the people in Russia who want Israeli invitations. Some time later the HIAS (refugee organization) people come and take us to the arrivals hall. There we wait while they drive people to the refugee camp a few at a time.

The refugee camp is a camp only in the sense that this is a facility for temporary storage of refugees who are supposed to be resettled to other countries. The people are actually housed in rented apartments and hostels, a small family per room or a larger family in two rooms. People who are all by themselves usually get a small single.

Our place is two rooms in an 3-room apartment in the 6th district, and the instructions are a) to be home with all the papers ready the next morning, when we would be taken to the office for processing, and b) not to go anywhere at all without writing down or remembering the address first. They tell us a cautionary tale about a man who wandered away without writing down his address and without knowing a word of any language besides Russian. He got lost, and at night the police picked him up when they saw him in obvious distress; he could only cry and repeat "HIAS, HIAS" and the police called HIAS in the morning and they came and got him.

We walk in, and three curious heads poke out of the third room. "Hi," - say the heads. Their owners come out and inform us that they are going to Canada and have been waiting for a visa for 8 months and their names are Sara, David and Maria. They also tell us that the stores are closed on Sundays, and offer us some food.

The next day we spend almost the whole day in the HIAS office. The whole thing is run by HIAS and Joint: HIAS takes care of the paperwork and Joint takes care of the living arrangements. Sunday is always the day when at least two planeloads of refugees arrive, so on Monday the whole office space and the square in front of the building are full of people waiting for their turn to be processed. The office has two armored doors and two big Hungarian guys who first let a person between the doors, take a look at the person and only then let them in.

The HIAS/Joint camp was mostly inhabited by Soviet and Iranian Jews and their families at the time, and also had occasional people from different places who did not have a refugee organization of their own. People who have "their own" refugee organizations, such as ethnic Russians, usually get sent there. (All I know about their organization was that it is called Tolstoy Foundation and that at the time it tended to bring them to Providence, RI.)

Iranian Jews arrive during any day of the week, so there is not an awful lot of them in the Monday rush. They tend to be richer than us, and more civilized, and speak better English. Most of the ones in their late thirties and forties have been educated in the US or UK. Almost none of us have ever had any chance to speak with a real live foreigner before, so those of us who speak English talk to them and ask them about the life in Iran. We are kind of surprised to have a lot in common with them, and I am also surprised to hear that Iranians don't crack down on Jewish worship quite as much as Russians, and even allowed Jews to have Jewish schools. One Iranian, a fortyish doctor with a somewhat-British accent, pats my father on the stomach in a friendly way. "A Russian Jew and an Iranian Jew are brothers", - he says. And then he sighs and adds dryly: "And Gorbachev and Khomeini, they are also brothers".

Iranians also tell us how they got out of Iran. There were basically three ways:a) with fake papers to Pakistan by plane, b) across the border to Turkey - very difficult terrain and generally not attempted by anyone who is not native to that area, and c) across the border to Pakistan in a truck - not very difficult but patrolled by the Guards of the Islamic Revolution, who are usually 12-14-year-old boys with automatic weapons. It is kind of strange to listen to completely normal adult people talk about how they got ambushed by a busload of the Guards and killed them all with a well-thrown grenade, and I can see that it is strange and unpleasant for them too. In fact, a year later I met a guy who was an ex-Guard, and he told me that he also had found shooting of fleeing families rather unpleasant, especially since they tended to throw grenades back.

A HIAS guy processes our paperwork. He asks us about our family and friends and people who've been through this place before us, and ones who we think are coming, and about our lies to the Soviet authorities. He then asks us where we want to go, and we answer: Boston.

People here actually get to choose their own country, if the country will have them, and most Western countries accepted Soviet refugees automatically at that time. The guy explains that if we want to go somewhere in Europe it has to be done quickly, because it involves some time window between leaving USSR and arriving to the new place, whereas if we want to go to the US, Canada or Australia, we'll have to wait several months in the camp in order for the paperwork to be processed. The waiting time for the US was about 3 months at the time; for Canada, 10 months.

The vast majority of the people chose the US; empirically, Canada seemed a very distant second and Germany a very distant third. It's hard to say how many people went to Israel because they never went through this system but flew there straight from the airport.

The most common reason people gave for choosing a particular place was that they already had relatives and friends there.

The people who chose the US was given a choice between New York and some big city in Texas (IIRC Houston, but not sure). One could also ask to go to any other place in the US, but for that one had to have a personal sponsor there.

The idea of a personal sponsor (usually a relative) is that Joint and federal government can feed you anywhere in the US, but the various refugee resettlement services are provided only in a couple of places, so people going elsewhere need to have a person who'd take care of them, show them around, etc. A personal sponsor is sort of like a personal unpaid social worker. We had enough family and friends in Boston to sponsor us.