Thursday, August 30, 2007


Helsingin Sanomat has written a few articles about Thai massage parlors and prostitution, but forgot to mention the most interesting thing: are there male prostitutes there? Most importantly, the kind of male prostitutes who'd serve women?

"What the fuck are you grinning at?"

Jennifer Dziura (via bobvis) writes about men harassing her in the streets. One of her peeves are the men who say "you're pretty -- why don't you smile more often?" She says "Among people and animals, a smile is often a sign of submission. Why don't you smile more often?"


Uhm, that would be me. I don't know why, but I smile a quite lot without any visible reason. Often the reason is only visible to myself: I think of something amusing and smile at the thought. Sometimes not even that: I just find myself smiling without being particularly amused.

(This nonwithstanding, I do understand Jennifer - I get very annoyed myself if somebody tells me to smile in one of the rare moments when I am not already smiling.)

I've heard that thing about a smile being a sign of submission before, many times. I don't recognize that in myself, but then I am not a shrink. What I am really curious about is: if smiling is essentially a submissive gesture, why have so many people interpreted my smiling as a challenge? And since it happened a lot more often as a child and teenager than as an adult, is it some kind of childhood thing or a Russia thing?

This happened a few time in the US and in Finland, but during my school years in Russia it happened a few times a week: somebody would come up to me out of the blue, snarling and ready to fight, and screaming "what the fuck are you grinning at?". The answer was always "none of your fucking business", and this resulted in actual physical fights a few times a month. I sort of wish I knew whether I was still smiling when giving or receiving a good kicking.

Sometimes that happened in a street, too, usually with less physical fighting but more insults.

BTW, I think this partly explains why the people in the streets in Russia are so surly. You probably learn not to smile too much when every time you smile without a reason somebody wants to pick a fight with you. Ugh, I must have been a really slow learner...

Does that kind of thing happen often among the children and teenagers here and in other countries, or is that just a Russian thing? And what is it that makes people attack others for smiling?

One more thing that I have been wondering about: a lot of people never smile without a visible reason. How come? Do they actively suppress the smile when they happen to think of something amusing? Do they never think of anything amusing? (Eek, a scary thought!) Do amusing thoughts just fail to trigger a smile in them as opposed to the external stimuli?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The beginning of an end?

Belgium has been without a government since June 10th.

I remember a strike of the federal administration in the US about 10 years ago. It lasted for a couple of months, and ended when the federal administration became concerned that if this goes on, the citizenry might notice that they are doing just as fine without them. Strikes are no fun if it turns out that nobody has needed you at work in the first place.

Belgium is well over the two-months mark, and the politicians are understandably concerned. An optimistic friend of mine said yesterday that they shouldn't fret, because if the country falls apart the resulting two countries will need a double set of politicians so nobody is left without work. Problem is, they already have a triple set, and that's not even counting all the EU politicians.

The underlying problem is that Flanders wants more autonomy, Wallonia wants less, and nothing really happens without the mutual consent. The result is probably about as satisfying as a relationship where one party is extremely horny and the other one decided to join the Order of Perpetual Celibacy.

And now they can't form a coalition, because the upcoming constitutional reform is the biggest thing on the list, and they can't find any consensus. Isn't it funny? Belgium is the only European country I know of where parties have tried to play a real sandbox game: they all agreed to keep the unpopular (or rather too-popular among the voters) kid - Vlaams Belang - out of any coalitions, and now they can't produce a coalition to keep it out of. Heh.

I kind of want them to fall apart, at least as long as they can do so peacefully. Partly because I am just very curious about how the thing will be handled bureaucratically, but also because I don't think Flanders needs Wallonia for anything.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dictators of the world, unite: the un-Iranian haircuts and un-Soviet pins.

"A Russian Jew and and Iranian Jew, they are brothers," - an Iranian Jew cheerfully told my father while we were waiting in line for something in the refugee camp in Vienna. "And Gorbachev and Khomeini, they are also brothers," - he added, a lot more grimly.

The idea of the brotherhood of dictators was nothing new to me. The descriptions of the pre-war Nazi Germany sounded pretty close to home, and the rarely-read and rarely-seen (in Russia) descriptions of the Chinese cultural revolution sounded a lot like my grandparents' stories from the Soviet history.

Nevertheless every once in a while some moronocracy manages to do something that awakens the sweet memories of my youth way too strongly, and makes me feel the same things I used to feel as a young girl. Like the desire to beat someone over the head with a shovel. Until they are dead. And then a little bit more, just to let off the steam.

When I was young in Russia, and quite for a while before that, it was unadvisable to look different from the crowd in any way. And by "unadvisable" I don't just mean that this was a social faux pas, although it was that as well, but that it could get you in real trouble with police, school and concerned citizenry.

Looking ethnically different from the rest of the population was somewhat disapproved of, but at least the police and the teachers generally realized that one can't help it, and unless they had something against the ethnic group in question did not harass the person beyond making sure that he or she is not in the front row anywhere where it matters.

All other differences invited a lot more hostility. I think it is somewhat in the nature of young children to try to harass anyone who looks a bit different, but I firmly believe that by the time one has gotten a university degree in education one should already know better, and I have never noticed any differences between my fellow students and our teachers in that respect.

God, how much I hated this... And I wasn't even a particularly different-looking person.

It probably wouldn't have pissed me off quite as much if it were only the question of clothes, which you can at least change when you get home. Unfortunately this also concerned much more permanent parts of one's looks. Breasts, for example. I had D cups in the 7th grade, which did admittedly stand out in the crowd. Our class teacher once told me that it was unappropriate to wear breasts like that to school. I told her, very politely and in a most respectful manner, that sanity, on the other hand, should never be left home all by itself (ok, it was more along the lines of "what drug are you on?", but that was about as polite as I could manage under the circumstances).

Some teachers would see a different-looking person and spend the whole 45 minutes of a lesson screaming at them, and the annoying thing was that there were no rules, written or otherwise, and you never knew when you were about to get in trouble. Two memorable events (memorable meaning that the teacher was screaming so loudly and became so red that there was a least some hope she'd die of stroke) were a girl who got a haircut that I found only mildly unusual - the normal 80's long hair with bangs thing, except that the bangs were a bit wider and shorter than most - and another girl whose skirt ripped at the seam and who used a pin to keep it together, and failed to convince a teacher that the pin was a necessary functional thing to prevent her ass from being visible, and not a sinister sign of some secret organization.

In general our teachers tended to assume that any unusual look meant a membership in a sinister secret organization. I never really understood the point. I mean, an organization cannot be too secret if all its members have the same silly-looking bangs, can it?

The police, at least in my time and in Leningrad, were a lot more lenient. You had to look really different in order to be harassed by them. Like, be a guy and wear an earring or something. Or look like you'd listen to heavy metal.

Things were worse before. In the fifties, groups of police and other Powers that Be used to hunt men with unusual haircuts and cut off the bits they found superfluous. In the sixties, when my parents were teenagers, the hunt was on men in wide trousers, and the hunters actually cut the trousers apart.

In the late seventies and early eighties the street hunt eased up, and in the mid-eighties it started again after being outsourced to the "informal youth groups" of the kind that support the government and hunt anyone who looks different.

Anyway - in case you haven't noticed, I really, really, really hate that shit. A government that hunts its critics is something that I can understand, even though I highly disapprove of it. A government that hunts the citizens who tweeze their eyebrows is something that invokes a raw emotional response that involves shovels and heads, or, occasionally, shovels and asses. (And yeah, before anyone asks: if our government ever decides to forbid Muslim beards, that will be the day you'd see me in a Muslim demonstration on their side, in spite of my lack of fondness of both Muslims and beards.)

In any case, the reason I am writing about all this right now is that Mad Jad, Iran's First Thug, is having a crackdown on men sporting Western haircuts (which, I bet, are not really defined anywhere) much in the style of the 1950s USSR. There is one new twist, however: the Iranians also force those men to identify their barbers. The Russians somehow never thought of that.

Friday, August 24, 2007

You belong to this culture, and you belong to that culture...

I grew up in a country where everyone's ethnic group was written down in their internal passport. You inherited the ethnic group of your parents, and if your parents belonged to two different groups you could choose one of those at sixteen, and could not change it afterwards.

Most westerners say "eew" at that, mostly for a reason. While some record of ethnicity is quite useful for statistical purposes, and while my own ethnicity was rather obvious (for Russians, anyway) in my name and on my face, it's not every official's business. In fact the only officials that I can think of who have any business knowing my ethnicity are the people who compile statistics by ethnicity, and the medical establishment who might want to send me a letter saying "the risk of the disease A is 10 times higher in your ethnic group than in the general population, so get tested, please".

The same goes for religion and culture (whatever that means), even more so, because, unlike ethnicity, the religion and the culture can and sometimes do change in a person's lifetime.

Problem is, I think that in the West the concept of "culture" (as in, "a person's own culture") is becoming a sort of new ethnicity: considered somehow immutable, and, more disturbingly, endowed with its own rights.

You see a bit of that everywhere, in many countries and in many contexts. The Finnish officials will make exceptions in the naming law for your children if you can prove that in your or your parents' old country the naming conventions go differently. A white British schoolgirl in some school is not allowed to wear her hair in cornrows, although her black classmates are, "because it's their culture". Sikh police officers in England have been allowed to wear turbans for many years, but Muslim police officers got the same right only in 2003. A school in the US tried to force somebody I know into a bilingual English-Russian program just for having been born in Russia, even though the person had neither need nor desire to participate in that program. Etc., etc.

A lot of it is definitely the multiculturalists' fault, but I am not quite sure why they do it. One does not have to, even if one wants to bring foreign cultures into the country.

I would find it extremely disturbing if Sikhs living in Finland got a right to wear turbans as a part of their police uniform, like they do in Britain. Not because I would mind the police wearing turbans - if there is a demand for the turbans, for example from Sikhs, and if police had deemed that to permit turbans as a part of the uniform does not violate anyone's safety, there is no reason why they shouldn't - but because (if implemented the British way) it would be a special right for Sikhs. And I think that would be wrong, and against all the principles of equality that modern Western democracies try to profess. I am not against the police turbans, or against the fact that they would be allowed because a special group has asked for them. But once we decided that a police officer can wear a turban, this should be allowed to a Virtanen from Pohjois-Karjala just as well as to a Singh from Punjab, without Virtanen (or Singh, for that matter) having to prove any kind of religious conviction.

What is it that causes people to make special rules for the minority groups? What's the use of them? Is it an attempt to separate the group from others? An attempt to express some kind of an official disapproval of the practice (like "we have to allow it to them because it's their culture but it should not be allowed to normal people")? An attempt to officially mandate cultural diversity ("they are doing their cultural thing and you should be doing your own cultural thing and not theirs")?

Another concept which I think is coming from the same direction, is "community leaders", whom politicians tend to visit and talk with when there has been some trouble in the community, and sometimes also when there hasn't. Who are my community leaders? I have no idea, but I know that I have not elected them, have not empowered them to speak for me, and have no means of making them answer to me. The existence of community leaders is more understandable than that of special rules, because sometimes the politicians or the police need to talk to someone in the community and usually they try to talk to someone visible, but everyone involved should better remember that this does not make that person a real leader.

Finally, there is some general sense of "every culture should do their own thing, to do others' things is unauthentic and insulting to others", coming from fairly many people all around the political spectrum, from rabid multiculturalists to rabid nationalists and through everyone in between (although, now that I think of it, extreme nationalists and extreme multiculturalists tend to press this point more than anyone in between).

I have seen an otherwise perfectly sensible white American woman say that she enjoys wearing shalwar kameez and ask some Indian women whether they would consider it insulting if she wears it without being Indian or Pakistani. (They answered "WTF, of course not, you are not insulted to see us wearing jeans and t-shirts, now are you?".) I have also heard some black women say that they are insulted when white women wear cornrows or little braids, "because they are our hairstyles and not theirs". During the times when all things Irish were in fashion I've seen a lot of people complaining about other people doing Irish things "because they are not really Irish and they know it". I've heard many people say "the sushi restaurant A is better than the sushi restaurant B, because it is run by real Japanese", in spite of the food being identical. And if I had a dime for every time I've heard someone complaining about minorities assimilating into the majority and "losing their culture", I'd be a rich woman now.

The words "authentic", "genuine" and "real" figure a lot in these conversations. Also "wanting to be something you are not".

In fact, you often see people using the word "culture" as a sort of substitute for ethnicity, to mean something inborn and immutable. Recently I've run into some people who believed that it's easier for people to learn their ancestors' language than other foreign languages. Not to mention people who say that they won't even try to cook some ethnic food because it won't come out "authentic".

Come on, people. Culture is learned. And changeable. And changing. Both in general and on the individual level. The vast majority of people don't change to another culture completely because they don't want or need to, but learning some of somebody else's stuff is neither impossible, nor an affront to the authenticity of the universe. If you don't want to, fine, but don't begrudge it to other people. If you do want to, just do it.

Anyway - if you like kugel but don't think you can learn to do it as well as I because I have dozens of generations of Jewish grandmothers behind me and you don't, that's OK (although you'd be wrong because you can get all the same recipes from the same Google, that ancient repository of grandmotherly wisdom). If, on the other hand, the officials allow police officers to wear turbans if they are Sikh but not if they are, say, Catholic, we have a problem - even if there is not a single Catholic police officer who'd want the damn turban. Because this would mean that a Sikh and a Catholic are not equal in the eyes of officialdom, and because this means that some official somewhere gets to decide what a Sikh or a Catholic can and cannot do based on their religion, and who is a Sikh and who is a Catholic. And I think we (the Western world in general) are moving towards a world where the officials get to say "you belong to the group A, and you get to do thing A, and you belong to a group B, and you get to do thing B". Turbans for the interested Catholics might be a joke, but forcing bilingual education on people who want to be educated monolingually is not.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kill! Kill! Castrate!

Today there was an article in Helsingin Sanomat where two young Romani women were defending the tradition of blood feud. The people who commented on it were of course horrified.

In the same paper there was also an article about the chemical castration of pedophiles that is now being suggested in France. The idea was fairly popular among the readers.

I find it somewhat, well, uncivilized that the idea of cutting bits of people off (or switching those bits off chemically) is creeping into the Western legal systems. I don't have any rational reason for this: I just find it uncivilized, that's all. I think that criminals are people, too. Who have rights, or at least should.

Sometimes there is no time or resources to be civilized. That's OK. During a war you just shoot in the general direction of the enemy troops and hope not to hit too many civilians. I can live with that, especially as I am not on the receiving end (or the giving end, for that matter). If you find a terrorist who is holding information necessary to save human lives, and absolutely have to torture him or her in order to get that information - hey, you do what you have to do. If a child - or an adult, for that matter - manages to disarm (shouldn't this be "disdick"?) a rapist with a big rusty knife, good. If a gang of hooligans attack some passerby and get shot in the process, tough shit, sucks to be them.

There are moments when you cannot afford to be civilized. The moment when a convicted criminal receives his or her sentence is, however, not one of them.

Zweig, etc.

Decided to reread Stefan Zweig (whatever I have read), and read the books by him that I haven't read yet.

Zweig is really good. I have even read some of his biographies (I mean biographies of other people written by him), even though I don't care much for biography.

Why is it that Zweig and many other German-language authors (Frisch, Durrenmatt, Feuchtwanger) are so much harder to find in English and Finnish translations than in Russian? I get the impression that pretty much only the students of German read them here, which is too bad, because they are really good, and also because this means that they are mostly available in German and I can't read it.

OK, getting the books is not a problem nowadays, what with the Amazon and a lot of books in Russian translation in the public library, but I am kind of annoyed at not having anyone to talk about them with.

Reading The World of Yesterday now. It's his autobiography, more about the world around him than about himself.

He was born in 1881 in a failry wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, and was more interested in art and literature than in politics or money. He describes the Vienna of his youth as a place where it seemed that the country would last forever, the world is finally fairly stable, nationalism is a thing of the past, tolerance and mutual understanding between people and cultures have been achieved, the poor and destitute are well cared for, etc.

Damn, was he surprised... Twice, no less, what with WWI and WWII.

In spite of the fact that the world of his adulthood was hell in comparison with the world of his youth, he was capable of both discerning and welcoming the good things in this new world: the technical progress, the demise of victorianism, etc.

He and his wife killed themselves in Brazil in 1942, despairing in the future of Europe and European culture.

Too bad. He was just the kind of guy who would have probably greatly enjoyed the postwar Europe. One could think that the man who was so surprised by his world twice could suspect that the world might surprise him for the third time, but I guess not...

Life: parties and grilling and the dark side

Life goes on as usual. Been to a really fun party last Monday, drank too much and played too much with cats but had a really good time. Been to a nice party yesterday too, ate too much cake. It was full of people I hadn't seen for ages, and many of them had wives and husbands and children with them.

Saw HG's and Clo's daughter, and she is a kid with a spirit: grabs men's asses. She is not even a year old yet.

Been to a grilling party, too, and also been grilling in the park with Anu.

I have also been lured to the Dark Side, even though they don't have a Linux client yet (Real Soon Now). In the meanwhile am using Windows client on wine, and suffering.

"Don't offend Muslims! Let's offend animal rights activists instead!"

The BBC has dropped plans to show a fictional Islamic terror attack in an episode of Casualty to avoid offending Muslims.

Now the bomb will be set off by animal rights campaigners instead.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More about "not my type"

As a continuation to my last post:

One thing that I have always wondered about after telling men why exactly I am not interested (hey, they asked):

If I did not know better from experience, I'd expect that they would be more upset and defensive about the features that describe a problem in their general standing on the sexual market (for example "too old") than about the features that are just a personal preference (for example straight vs. curly hair), because the latter has a lot less bearing on their standing with other women.

This has not however been the case. I have not noticed any difference in defensiveness between these two cases. Instead, these men have been most defensive about my rejection of features that are perceived as more masculine. "Too hairy" and "too muscular" have pissed them off a lot more than "too old", "too short", "too curly", "I'd rather have a blond guy" or even "too annoying".

Why is that?

"Sorry, not my type"

When I was young, and occasionally still now, I often answered unwelcome sexual advances with something like "thanks, I am flattered, but sorry, you are not really my type". Their answer was, more often than not, "why not?" or "what is your type, why not me?". This did not sound like a rhetorical question, this sounded like a question for which they were expecting an answer.

Being somewhat literal-minded, I usually answered the question with a detailed list of the differences between the man in question and the man that I would find to be a desirable sexual partner. This always upset them and sometimes pissed them off.

I am not surprised that people don't enjoy hearing such lists. The question is, why were they asking? And what were they expecting to hear as an answer?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

On numbers, history and current problems (to Ebrahim)

(The answer to Ebrahim, who commented on this post.)

First of all: considering that you are not a new reader but have been reading my blog every now and then, I find it very interesting that you have written this comment in response to an article that does not in fact blame any Muslims for anything.

Sorry for answering your points in the order different from the one in which they were written. I'll try not to take you out of context though, and if you find that you are being taken out of context, do tell.

"But over time, I learned that you are a person who hates Muslims. A person who wants to create a bad image of them among his readers and friends. Your articles are biased."

I think this post explains a bit about the changes in my point of view in the last several years.

"Is Islam a violent and barbaric religion? Fuck yeah! Is Judaism or Christianity any better? Fuck no! Just browse through the pages of history and you will understand that."

That's exactly the thing: history. With Judaism and Christianity, barbarism in the name of religion is just that: history, or a rare aberration nowadays. In Islam, barbarism in the name of religion is a lot more modern and a lot more common.

There are good people and bad people in every nation and religion, just like you say. Also normal people, and really bad people. But numbers do matter. When I hear about a bomb going off in London or in Morocco or in Bali or in Spain, or about a woman being stoned for adultery, or about a father killing his daughter for trying to marry the wrong guy, I don't think "damn those militant Baptists!" or "those fucking Orthodox Jews are at it again!". And - admit it - neither do you. Mind you, every once in a while you find a Christian or a Jew carrying out a terrorist act in the name of their religion. But all in all, if you are betting on what kind of religious terrorist will commit the next lethal terrorist act it's quite safe to place your money on Muslims.

Numbers matter in other ways, too. You, agnostic and secular people from Muslim countries, are afraid of your religious fanatics, because there are so many of them. Among Jews and Christians, our religious fanatics are afraid of us. The Western world has some unspeakably disgusting religious fanatics, and they don't sound any better than Muslim fanatics, but you don't see them kidnapping people for forcible conversions, beheading anyone, or blowing places up. This is because they know that the minute they move from words to action there will be police at their door, and they won't have a place to hide, even among their own community.

Sometimes rabbis have sex (forcible or otherwise) with children. Sometimes Catholic priests do, too. But in the West when they are caught they go to prison. And if their superior turns out to have been covering for them, he gets fired. When ayatollah Khomeini married and had sex with a 10-year old girl, he did not go to prison. He made having sex with 10-year old girls (after marrying them, of course) legal in Iran. Note the difference?

"Why don't you write about Telmud?"

Because I don't have to. I've never read it and I don't live by it. It is an evolving book, and it's bigger than the full VMS manual. I don't have to care what's in it; those people who do are not powerful enough to make me.

In my admittedty limited experience those people who do bother to read Talmud don't take it at the face value. Talmud is not the word of God - it's a record of centuries of rabbinic discussions. The rabbis who wrote it lived a hell of a long time ago and could be wrong about things, and often were.

BTW - I don't doubt that you can find a number of really nasty quotes from the Talmud, and I can find some more from Tanakh, but next time try to search the texts themselves rather than quoting from a known Holocaust denier and conspiracy theorist.

Here is one from the Torah for you:

"23. If there is a virgin girl betrothed to a man, and [another] man finds her in the city, and lies with her,

24. you shall take them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall pelt them with stones, and they shall die: the girl, because she did not cry out [even though she was] in the city, and the man, because he violated his neighbor's wife. So shall you clear away the evil from among you."

And the reason I don't normally write about this is that we do not, in fact, stone betrothed virgins for being raped in the city.

"Why don't you write about the fact that stoning people to death was first introduced by the Jewish religion, and then inherited by Islam?"

I think it predates the Jewish religion, but yes, Judaism started stoning long before Islam started it. Judaism also ended stoning long before Islam started it.

"Now, do I have to hate Jews? Fuck no! In every nation, in every religion, there are good people and bad people, put it simply. Why should I hate my good Jewish friends, only because of the dark side of their religion or history?"

I don't hate my Muslim friends or acquaintances either, or indeed most of the individual Muslims that I happen to meet. Writing about the dark side of their religion and (unfortunately extermely modern) history does not make me hostile towards individuals.

"Are you a person who wants to bring peace to the world, or one who wants to create a darker world by writing inflammatory articles about those who she hates? I hope I am wrong, but I can't feel a scent of peace in your writings."

Sorry, but when somebody does something evil and I write about it, I don't think it's me here creating a darker world. I am just writing about the darker world being created around us. Don't kill the messenger.

I want peace, I am just growing more and more pessimistic about the possibility of it. I see the Islamic world encroaching on ours, and I don't think it's bringing much anything good with it. (Yes, I noticed that our world makes forays into the Islamic world, such as the war in Iraq. I don't think we are bringing any good there either.)

Good fences might make for good neighbors, and peace, but I am not seeing many good fences being built.

I am certainly not saying that most or all Muslim people are bad. But the countries where they constitute the majority tend to be the countries I, or most Western people, wouldn't want to live in. Or probably even you, considering that you are posting from Australia. Even the best of them - Turkey - has to expend quite a lot of effort on suppressing religious fanaticism. In the countries where they constitute a significant minority they are likely to be a troubled minority.

I see how women and non-Muslim minorities are being treated all over the Islamic world. This does not make me want to attack (even verbally) individual Muslims in the street or at a party, but it does make me want to vote for the kind of immigration policies that would make sure that we avoid having a Muslim majority or even a large minority.

Given all of the above, I am a bit concerned about the growing problems with Muslim minorities in Europe and the rest of the Western world. Do you think that I am wrong? That there are no problems? Or that I shouldn't be concerned or express my concern even if there are problems?

Sorry if all of the above is unpleasant to you. It's not your fault. Nor mine. The problems of Islam won't disappear if I stop writing about them.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fear of heights

It seems to me that I run into people suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights) in Finland a lot more often than in the US or in Russia. Does anyone know whether it is really more common here than elsewhere, or is it just that I happened to run into more acrophobic people here by accident?

News of the really stupid

Here are two news items from yesterday:

"Hospital staff in the Lothians have been told not to eat at their desks to avoid offending Muslim colleagues during Ramadan.

NHS Lothian has advised doctors and other health workers not to have working lunches during the 30-day fast, which begins next month."

(Lothians is a region in Scotland, roughly the city of Edinburgh and some suburbs. According to the 2001 census the whole of Scotland has 42600 Muslims, which constitutes 0.84% of the total population.)

Excuse me, but since we are speaking of NHS here: didn't all their Muslim colleagues just get arrested for those car bombs in London and Glasgow airport, and are therefore not in a position to come to work and get offended by their colleagues having lunch, and are being offended by their fellow prisoners having lunch instead? OK, this is a cheap shot. I am sure there might be some Muslims somewhere working for NHS Lothian who did not get arrested for the bomb plots, did not participate in the bomb plots and didn't even cheer for the bomb plots. But guess what: I don't hear them demand that their colleagues stop eating lunch. Maybe - just maybe - they, having either grown up in a mostly-Christian country or moved to a mostly-Christian country, actually understand that the rest of the country does not observe Ramadan with them, and are OK with that?

Naah, NHS Lothian doesn't expect that much common sense from the Muslims. It probably thinks that the reason those doctors tried to blow up those car bombs was that they got a bit miffed that their colleagues ate lunch at their workplaces during Ramadan.

I don't like Islamist bullshit much, but it's doubly disturbing when such a huge steaming pile of it is generated without the participation of any actual Muslims, at least AFAIK, and in a country with only 0.84% of them.

I should probably start observing Ramadan at home. Just in case, you know. Or else some Muslim somewhere might get offended and join Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. And if the Muslims don't get offended, then at least NHS will on their behalf.

And then there is this:

Bishop Tiny Muskens (I am not touching this name with a ten-foot pole, people!) of Breda has suggested that Christians should refer to God as "Allah" to promote better relations with Muslims. Because God, you know, doesn't really care how we address Him.

When I read that my first thought was "WTF? Is it April 1st now? Are we having a new April Fools' day in the middle of August and nobody told me?". But no, apparently this is not a joke.

OK, I know that marijuana is legal over there, but the guy is 71 - shouldn't one at least switch to the lighter varieties at that age?

If that's his idea of making peace with Muslims, I would really like to watch him make peace with homosexuals. I'll bring the camera, too.

Bishop Tiny Muskens did not seem to have any suggestions as to what Muslims should do to promote better relations with Christians.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Been to the Ropecon. It's a weird event where you run into lots of people whom you see very rarely, and lots of those whom you see very often, too, decide to go to some events and go to the totally different ones, which turn out to be different from what you expected but still fun.

Note to the organizers (probably should tell them): having the event where people talk outside, especially without a microphone, is a really bad idea. Can't hear a shit.

Note to the people attending such events: bring your own slingshots for the benefit of the people who decide to stand up while the rest of the audience is sitting down, in the apparent misconception that they are transparent and the people sitting behind them can see through them. Slingshots can also be used on people in the audience who decide to talk loudly among themselves, but axes are preferrable.

Was fun anyway. Listened to presentations on fencing and killing and getting girls and women to play, the latter being a bit funny considering how many girls and women are already playing. Hanged out with people. Drank beer.

With regard to women playing: a lot of women play tabletop games, computer games, MMORPGs, LARPs, etc., but you almost never see any women at the miniature gaming table. I wonder how come.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

For freedom and serfdom! For God and slavery!

These were the slogans of the two warring parties in Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Romulus the Great. (BTW, how come so few people here seem to read Dürrenmatt? He is quite good.)

These slogans somehow came into my mind when I was reading this.

The ministry of interior wants to make Finland "the safest and the most multivalue country in Europe". They are planning to do it by practicing zero tolerance towards racism.

WTF is a multivalue country? I sort of dimly remember multivalued functions from math, but I am sure it's not the same thing. I haven't find a proper definition for a multivalue country or society, but almost all the pages that I googled and looked at say that a multivalue society (moniarvoinen yhteiskunta) is a society most characterized by tolerance.

Wow. They are going to make Finland Europe's most tolerant country by practicing zero tolerance towards racism. For tolerance and zero tolerance, comrades!

(Sounds funny when you put it in English. In Finnish, of course, they would use two different words, suvaitsevaisuus for tolerance, nollatoleranssi for zero tolerance.)

"Tolerance" is, of course, an empty word of the kind that politicians use when they want votes. Along with "freedom", "equality", etc.- and, increasingly, "freedom of speech". We are all for tolerance, freedom, equality and freedom of speech. Almost everyone you ask will tell you that they are very tolerant of everything except the kinds of things that cannot be tolerated. It's what can and cannot be tolerated that people disagree on.

Hey, I am all for catching all the people who'd punch somebody in the nose for belonging to a wrong ethnic or religious group, and punishing them enough to make them decide not to do so again. It's just that I have a feeling (you may call this a prejudice if you wish) that the zero tolerance for racism won't stop there.

I suspect that "zero tolerance for racism" will mean that there will be some official truth about the races: "races don't exist, but they are equal in intelligence and all the other abilities, even though intelligence cannot be measured in any way anyway, and any statistical differences between ethnic or religious groups are either an illusion or society's fault anyway". I also suspect that "zero tolerance for racism" will mean that the people who publicly deviate from the official truth will be punished.

Rasism is a negative thing. But I just wish that anti-racism crusaders would clearly say what they are trying to do. What kinds of things do they want to make illegal, what kinds of things do they merely disapprove of? Do they want to outlaw racist violence? Discrimination? What counts as discrimination? Do they want affirmative action quotas? In what kind of places? Do they want ethnic jokes to be outlawed? What counts as an incitement against a group? Is it ok to say that group A is better than group B in some kind of things? Does the answer to the previous question depend on whether the statement is factually true?

Yeah, I know the answers vary, which is why I wish people made themselves clear. Or else we can just say that we are all for everything good and against everything bad, and leave it at that.

Whee! I can predict the future!

This just in. Abu Hamza ordered to pay back £1,088,944.97 in legal aid.

OK, this was very much expected. I am just amused it came right after my yesterday's poem.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Abu Hamza song

I am Abu Hamza, a Muslim cleric
I used to preach in Finsbury Park mosque,
My sermons were a little bit barbaric
But I delivered them with mightly force.

I'm all for the equality of sexes
And polyandry I don't mind a bit.
I married one of my bigamic exes
So I could get a residence permit.

When I was young I used to be a bouncer,
But they decided that I was too dumb,
And it's more fun to be a doom announcer
So I became a radical imam.

Osama is my most-admired hero,
I tried to give a hand to Taleban,
I lost both hands and eye, but kept my beard,
And all the body parts that make a man.

In Britain I became a famous preacher,
My name is always mentioned in the news,
In my sermons the most important feature
Is killing of the kuffar and the Jews.

A Jew-free world would be a great improvement,
Behind all evil there is some Jew.
They also guide the planetary movement
And nowadays my bowel movements, too.

Please kill the unbelievers when you see them,
With bombs, or guns, or poison or a word,
For any reason or without a reason,
The unbelievers should be put to sword.

But then came the police, and then they told me
That murder is a thing I shouldn't preach.
How dare those kuffar to try to scold me?
I want respect for my freedom of speech.

The court convicted me of the incitement
As poor man, I never stood a chance,
I could not fight this horrible indictment
Though state gave million pounds for my defense.

And now the state has noticed I'm not poor
And is demanding back the million quid,
They froze my jail allowance to be sure,
And found some of the money that I hid.

My life is full of misery and anguish,
I'm serving seven years in Belmarsh,
In British prison I don't want to languish,
The kuffar justice is unduly harsh.

Americans want Brits to extradite me,
They'll put me in the Supermax for life.
One thought that really does not delight me:
I might become the Unabomber's wife.

I used to think that I was very clever
And lead my students to the life of crime,
But now I'll have to stay with them forever
And hear their bullshit all the time.

Americans! I really hope you will
Show mercy to a person whom you hate:
It sure is unusual and cruel
To put one in a cell with Richard Reid.

But in the meanwhile in the British prison
I realized that my nurse is a poof.
They surely had some ungodly reason
To let a guy like that under this roof.

He probably gets totally excited
Each time he wipes my handsome manly ass,
And as a Muslim I should be entitled
To have him fired or at least harassed.

Gay people are a vile abomination
But even though I spit and scream and curse
In this atrocious godless kuffar nation
They won't assign to me another nurse.

At least I can refuse the nursing service
And try to wipe my anus on my own.
Oh shit, my hooks are stuck, I'm getting nervous!
Oh God! Wrong move! Right hook stuck in the bone!

It is too late, but better late then never -
Oh dear Lord, my ass is ripped to shred -
Allah, please do me an enormous favor:
Insert some common sense into my head.

In a bus yesterday:

A group of four people, two men and two women with baby carriages. The first man came in without paying, said that the second man would pay for both. The second man came in with an open beer bottle, and started asking the driver to let them in for free, because they don't have money and only want to ride a few stops. The driver disapproved of the idea, but was rather outsized and outnumbered, so the guy went in.

The first man and the two women sat down, and the man with a beer bottle (a tall guy of about 25) decided to pick a fight with somebody. For a victim he chose a man of about 40 who had a 2-year-old child in his lap and was talking on his phone. The guy with a bottle started accusing the guy with the kid of all kinds of aggressive behavior ("are you trying to start a fight with me, asshole", etc.) and threatening him.

The rest of the group had the good grace to look embarassed, and the women in fact said so aloud, but their companion just waved them off.

In the end a fight did not happen. The guy with the kid apologized for all the things he didn't really do, and the guy with the bottle started "playing friends" with him in exactly the same way as schoolyard bullies sometimes do with their victims. ("Nice phone? How much did it cost?" in a fake-friendly robber tone of voice).

Made me feel dirty. Things like that shouldn't be happening, and they certainly should not be happening past seventh grade. Felt like doing something about it, but what could I do? I wish police had some good advice for citizens on what to do in such situations.

A few days ago HS had an article saying that the ethnic group to which the man with the bottle and his friends belonged is the most discriminated ethnic group, at least as far as being admitted into restaurants goes. I admit I had a few uncharitable thoughts of the "gee, why could that be?" variety.

Friday, August 03, 2007

July 3, Amsterdam

Shopping in the morning. I buy way more books than is good for my bank account or my back. Finally some good Dutch dictionaries, too.

I suddenly realize that I understand most of the uncomplicated things that the salespeople say to me. Weird, and great. Despite having visited Dutch-speaking countries many times and being able to read the language somehow, my comprehension of spoken Dutch had usually been about nonexistent, and suddenly I understand a lot of what these people are saying. Go figure.

Another suddent linguistic revelation is that Leidse in Leidsestraat, Leidseplein, Leidsegracht, etc. refers to Leiden.

Afterwards I just hang out in town, which is what I intended to do all the vacation to begin with.

In the afternoon Ville, Leena and I go check out the only roleplaying bookstore we found in town. The people there are nice and talkative, but the store is not very impressive. They have huge dice though.

Leena (bad, bad influence) drags me into a bookstore again, and a book jumps into my hands. It's Filth by Irvine Welsh, and of course I can't resist buying a book where, according to the cover, a bad cop is being persecuted by his own anus. Now that I've read it, I can also say that this was a mistake: the book is way too tasteless even for me, and I am saying this as a former regular of alt.tasteless who usually likes Welsh.

We find Marko and go to an Indonesian restaurant called Orient, where we finally get rijstaffel (I really like it and was advertising it to others since the beginning of the vacation).

The restaurant has a sign saying that they have smoking and non-smoking areas, but the first thing we hear upon asking for a non-smoking table is that they don't have a non-smoking area, at least yet. They sit us away from all the smokers, though, and their rijstaffel is quite good, and they have no problems bringing us tap water. They give us a huge doggie bag in the end, too.

We go home, and look at the clouds over the railway station. "If they put those into some game, everyone would complain that they are unrealistic," - says Ville.

July 2, Amsterdam

I wake up fairly early, promise to pick Marko up from the railway station, and go to the city. The city looks like it hasn't awakened yet, at least for the most part, in spite of it being Monday and all. Many stores open at noon on Mondays, and many don't post their opening hours so I don't know when they open.

A bookstore (De Slegte) on Kalverstraat. They have last year's editions of Dorling Kindersley travel guides for 10 euro a piece. A few books jump right into my arms and refuse to go away until I buy them.

I find Marko and we go to the boat, where we drop the luggage off and pick Ville up. We go downtown, to Zeedijk, Nieuwmarkt and Dam.

It rains every once in a while.

The royal palace is closed due to circumstances, as a sign helpfully informs us. Nieuwe Kerk, however, is open and pretty as ever. With stained-glass windows and all.

We find a really nice comic shop in Zeedijk, with a very talkative guy who almost makes me feel like buying Everything, but I don't.

The historical museum is better than I remember it.

We meet Leena on Rembrandtplein, which is now decorated with Night Watch sculptures, and go to a restaurant appropriately called Nachtwacht. Afterwards I put the restaurant on my boycott list because they do not bring you tap water, but their steaks are quite good.

Back at the boat we are having a geek luxury stay: a computer per person (the boat has a desktop, and everyone except me brought a laptop). We also have visitors who want food: black birds whose name I don't know (Eurasian Coot, says Pare) and a retarded swan who keeps hitting its head on the boat every time it tries to grab food.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eek! You gotta speak foreign with the foreigners!

Scared a little old lady today.

I was shopping in the Stockmann basement foodstore and minding my own business when a little old lady came up to me.

"I like your shoes! Where did you get them, may I ask?" - she says, pointing at the Crocs I bought on weekend.
"Right here," - I answer and make an up and down gesture meant to show that I mean Stockmann in general, as opposed to, say, Stockmann foodstore or Helsinki. I suppose I said that without a noticeable accent.
"Here in Finland?"
"Here in Stockmann. Up there in the sports department."

At this point she realizes that I am a foreigner, and the look of horror on her face is pretty much as if a perfectly good woman turned into a fire-breathing dragon right in front of her eyes. She starts stuttering, thanks me for the information in a most horrible mixture of Swedish and French (which I hope she wouldn't do to an actual fire-breathing dragon), and runs away much faster than any eighty-something person I'd ever seen.

Unfortunately I ran into her in a tram after that, too. Turns out she can also jump higher than any other person in their eighties.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

July 1, Amsterdam

Finally getting around to writing about Amsterdam. Got the pictures up, too.

The ticket vending machines in the airport don't want to accept my credit card, even though they claim to accept Mastercard in general. Bought them for cash, which means a line and an extra 50 cents per ticket.

In general the ticket vending machines of the Netherlands Railways are not your friend. They usually want some local (debit?) cards, and some of them also accept coins. If you have paper bills you gotta stand in line and pay an extra service fee. Bugger.

Amsterdam GVB (transportation office), OTOH, is your friend. If you have a passport photo of yourself they make you a stamkaart (a card with your name and photo) for free and will sell you a week ticket for a very reasonable price. Works much like the old Helsinki one-month tickets, except that you can buy them for just one week, too.

We find our houseboat without much trouble. Leena and Ville think the houseboat is totally cool. I don't really understand the coolness - an apartment would have been just as fine by me - but as apartments go, it's a pretty nice one.

We leave our stuff and go to shop for tomorrow's breakfast. Albert Heijn is a nice chain of supermarkets, even though they don't accept credit cards.

We go to Leidseplein for dinner. Leidseplein is full of rather nice restaurants, but restaurant Chicano, where we decide to eat for some reason, is not really one of them. Out of two appetizers and three entrees one appetizer and two entrees are totally wrong. Luckily they try to fix their mistake, replace our waiter with a much better one, give us some free wine and give us a discount, so in the end the price/performance ratio is not too bad.

I totally love Amsterdam. The place is somehow overwhelmingly enjoyable.

Transportation card, once again

If you have money on your card, you can use it for several people simultaneously. I wonder how many people actually use this feature. (Probably should ask HKL/YTV.)

This is what makes correcting mistakes so difficult. The first time some "helpful" person took some money needlessly off my card, I went to a HKL office and demanded it back, and they told me that they cannot return it, even though they can see that transaction, because a card can be used by several people at a time and they have no way of making sure there was only one of me. They returned the money anyway after I looked at them. Must've been one hell of a look.