Friday, May 30, 2008

Note to self: just punch them

Seppo Lehto got 2 years 4 months for many counts of defamation and libel (it seems to be the same offense here).

I don't doubt that Lehto has insulted and defamed pretty much everything that moved, and I do think that libel should be a criminal offense. But 2 years 4 months? In Finland?

For comparison, the Wikipedia article that refers to the statistics from the year 2002 says that for an aggravated battery, 62% got a suspended sentence, 2% got community service and 37% got a prison sentence, and the average suspended sentence was 12.5 months, and the average prison sentence was 18.1 month.

Aggravated battery in Finland is a battery that causes a serious injury, is dangerous to one's life, is done in a cruel and unusual way or is done with a deadly weapon.

OK, granted, those are sentences for one aggravated battery, and Seppo Lehto committed many defamations, but damn, there should be some sense of proportion. Something is seriously wrong when defaming people on the Internet brings a longer sentence than punching those same people in the nose would.

Better now

The crisis is almost over, the friend who had a heart attack had his artery cleaned and is feeling much better, though still in the hospital, his wife and son are here, and I regained my own bed.

I must say that although on the general policy level I really support the idea of "when in Rome, do as Romans do", in a real-life situation I totally failed to convince my Russians of the Finnish ways, such as "here in Finland, when somebody is having what appears to be a heart attack, we call the ambulance. We do not try to bum some nitroglycerin off random citizens. More specifically, we do not go into a cafe whose employees all appear to be under 30 and try to bum nitro off them, because most likely they don't have any."

The most amazing thing was that they did in fact manage to bum three pills of nitroglycerin (not from the young cafe employees, though). It didn't help much, and they let me call an ambulance.

The ambulance totally rocked, BTW. They had an EKG device that not only drew wavy lines, but actually said "looks like a heart attack". They also gave us all a ride to the hospital.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No rest for the wicked. No lunch, either.

The day started with a dentist, and making another dentist appointment. Went to work, had to debug an annoying bug and had nobody to blame for it, because it was my own. Then had to run to the general shareholder meeting of our apartment building. Was late.

After that, decided to have some coffee with a few friends visiting Helsinki from Russia. One of them had a heart attack right in the cafe. We just got back from Meilahti, he is feeling better but will have to stay there at least until tomorrow night, the rest of them are sleeping all over my place because without him they cannot get to their hotel somewhere 30km from Helsinki, his son is driving over from St. Petersburg overnight, and I have a feeling that the night is not over.

Friday, May 23, 2008

And now let's have a drink in support of alcoholics...

Lately I have seen several news items in the English-language media about people shaving their heads in support of some cancer victim (usually a family member).

Ugh, and I am not just saying this for aesthetic reasons. The whole idea just seems so perverse in a World According to Garp way. (In that book there was a girl named Ellen James, who was raped and whose tongue was cut out, and a group of feminists who called themselves Ellen Jamesians and cut their own tongues out in her support.)

I wonder if there are many cancer victims who actually enjoy that. "Oh, honey, we figured you don't see enough bald people in the hospital and in the mirror, so your father and I decided to shave our heads too for your viewing pleasure." Yes, I know that in many cases misery loves company, but IMO this is not an emotion that should be encouraged in oneself or others.

I was almost tempted to leave a comment somewhere suggesting what else might be cut off in support of, say, women who lost a breast to cancer, but then wisely decided not to give them any ideas. You never know...

BTW, my dear readers: you know I am afflicted with a horrible addiction to computer upgrades, and break my computer regularly in the process. Please don't show your support for me by breaking your own computers on purpose. It really won't make me happier.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I am back. I was in Turkey, and after that for a few days in Paris.

Turkey was very interesting, beautiful, and damn cold.

The Evil Muslim Conspiracy didn't do anything highly evil, but they conspired to keep me covered and in the Muslim prayer position. The evil-doers arranged for the weather to be so cold that men and women, both Muslim and infidel, not only had to keep themselves covered but were all dreaming of long underwear. Visits to mosques required a hijab or some other hair covering (no, you are not getting to see a picture of me in that), and the WLAN modems in both hotels were so bad that the only way you could use the Internet was in the Muslim prayer position, at the door of your room in the direction of the modem. I think that from now on I will forever think of Mecca as a huge malfunctioning WLAN modem.

The population of Istanbul and Izmir doesn't seem to be particularly religious, and is mostly dressed like anywhere in southern Europe. There are some ferocious-looking bearded guys, but fewer than in London. There are also some women in shiny hijabs, and they are a lot more common than the ferocious guys. We were told that some of them are religious and some are just rural; the religious ones have the hijabs on tighly, so that you can't see a single hair; the others just have it any which way. Very few women were wearing something like a huge black sack pinned in front so that you could only see the eyes. Poor woman's burqa, I guess.

I must say that whatever the position of hijab- or sack-clad women is in the family, they didn't seem to yell at their husbands any less than anyone else, maybe more.

There are mosques everywhere, all over the place. The pretty ones in Istanbul are full of tourists. The really popular ones hand out scarves to visitors, for the others you have to bring your own.

Five times a day there is a call to prayer, the first one being at 5 am. The howling is very loud and most horrible, probably scaring the few faithful away from the mosques. Tourists are not supposed to visit during those times, and judging from the number of the people coming out of there the faithful don't either.

On Friday, however, there was some obvious attendance, with a lot of guys praying outside of mosques. Their average age was about 50; there were a few ferocious-looking young ones, but mostly the young guys looked like their parents brought them there, and instead of praying for heavenly maidens in paradise checked out the butts of the living ones in the street in a rather obvious way.

Statues of Atatürk are all over the place in a way that reminded me of Lenin. After a few days seeing a statue that did not feature Atatürk gave me a feeling that something is wrong. Also, baklava is all over the place, and is very good. The third thing that was all over the place was raki, a horrible anis liquor.

People are quite friendly. When they see tourists that look lost, at least on a quiet street, they immediately ask what they are looking for, or point to the nearest tourist attraction or toilet.

In general there is quite a lot of toilets, and almost all of of them have paper and a proper toilet bowl.

In all our time there nobody tried to cheat us, the restaurant bills were never more than they should be, and the street vendors have corrected me when I misunderstood them (my Turkish is quite bad) and handed them more money than they were asking for. Czech people should learn from this good example, and some Hungarians and Italians too.

People in Istanbul and Izmir speak of the population of the east of Turkey much like white Americans in Western movies speak of Indians. Or rather, much like white Americans in Western movie would speak of Indians if Indians had the right to vote and constituted half of the nation at the time. They also don't seem to be delighted about the eastern people moving into their cities.

Turkey must be the whitest country in the world. Every black or Asian person that I've seen there was an obvious tourist.

Turkey has the best cappuccino in the world, or at least the parts of the world that I've seen. Even Italy cannot compare.

Police is everywhere. Also, they search people and their bags in all the museums, public attractions and airport terminals (that's when you enter the terminal for any reason; when you are about to board a plane there is another search).

Turkish Airlines has big comfortable seats and great food. It also has, surprisingly, a Turkish name: Türk Hava Yollari.

The traffic is crazy, and people do unspeakable things, such as driving two ways on roads that can hardly fit even one car, coming face-to-face with somebody going the other way, and then having one of the cars back up until it can get away somewhere. They don't, however, do it very fast, and they seem to consider trams holy: as soon as a tram appears, all the cars performing unnatural acts on the tram tracks get out of the way.

Food is decent but generally unimpressive, apart from the baklava. Supermarket food is even less impressive (unlike, say, in Italy, where restaurant food is unimpressive but supermarkets have delicious goodies). Wine gives a rather negative impression; they say there are good ones, but we didn't find them. The beer was surprisingly good, though: Efes Dark was quite decent and coffee-flavored Efes was a very positive surprise.

Tea and coffee is everywhere in great quantity and quality.

Istanbul's public transportation is good, clean and runs often. In general Turkey is very clean.

The tap water was quite fit for washing fruit and brushing teeth, but not for drinking. It was so heavily chlorinated that probably tastes bad even after you boil it. We didn't try.

More later...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

See you in two weeks

My blog is on break for the next two weeks. Unless I find a free evening and something very important to write about, which is an unlikely combination.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Now they got to the Air Marshals

Via the Agitator:

Oy vey, now the no-fly list strikes the Federal Air Marshals. Just like the regular citizens, the Air Marshals are occasionally denied boarding because they happen to have the same name as some terrorist has used at some point.

Those Federal Air Marshals probably look suspicious, after all. And their ID's can be faked. And they just might be armed. And dangerous.

One thing is not completely clear to me: if, say, a terrorist named Ayman al-Zawahiri from Egypt decides to impersonate a Federal Air Marshal, and has the resources to do so, wouldn't he also be capable of obtaining his fake Air Marshal papers in some name that is not currently on the most wanted lists of all the law enforcement agencies in the world? Once we are into people capable of producing fake documents, checking their names sort of loses its point.

Next step, pilots. "No, sir, you can't board this plane. There is some J. Smith on our no-fly list. What if it's you? What do you mean, it's not gonna leave without you? Not our problem anyway."