Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bikinis at the swimming pool, what is the world coming to?

A woman was lying in the sun near a swimming pool in Tapuli park in Helsinki in her bikinis while her children were playing in the pool, when some park employee showed up and told her to put her clothes on.

The chief of the play parks, Leena Timonen, said that bikinis are not forbidden as such, but every employee gets to decide what is appropriate.

Oh, dear... A swimsuit is inappropriate in a park near a pool.

For those who don't know: it's not unusual in Helsinki to lie in a park in a swimsuit. I am sure there are people who disapprove of that, but then there are people who'd disapprove of anything. This culture is in general quite relaxed about nudity, let alone swimsuits. Sauna culture and so on.

Moreover, since we are talking not just about a person lying in the sun by the pool, but a person whose own 5- and 7-year-old kids happen to be in the same pool, I can't really think of any other appropriate clothes, since the parent in such a situation should be ready to go into the pool and get the kids out of there should the need arise.

Timonen says: "We have a lot of people of immigrant origin, who might be offended by revealing clothing. But these rules are not made just for them."

Excuse me? "Immigrant origin"? "Might be offended"? Might be just an unfortunate choice of words, but a) if we talking about people of immigrant origin (which for me implies that they are either children of immigrants or at least have been here long enough to become Finnish citizens), as opposed to people who just got off the plane last week, shouldn't they have already learned what is considered appropriate in Finland? And b), have any of them actually expressed offense, or are we banning things on the basis of what we think they might be offended by?

Moreover, what if they are offended? Even leaving aside the Religion of Permanently Offended, and assuming that all the offended ones are native-born ethnic Finnish Lutherans: since most of the population doesn't seem to mind swimsuits, why should we always go with the ones that demand more clothes? I can understand to some extent going with the demands of people who demand less noise and less smell, since those are rather penetrating and hard to turn away from, but why should we automatically consider it a right not to see anything one might not like?

More to the point, would those park employees like to ban clothing that they think might offend me (take a wild guess what)? No? Didn't think so.

For the record: I, as a representative of the immigrant (and not "of immigrant origin") community, hereby declare that bikini or even full nudity in the park do not offend me. I could list here what articles of clothing do offend me, but I am afraid that state prosecutor Illman is lurking around the corner. In any case I don't want those banned, either. Because - novel as this idea might be - I think that their right to wear whatever they like in a public place is more important than avoiding offending me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The amazing world of gay Iraq

CNN has a piece on the difficult life of gays in Iraq. Some Iraqi men hate homosexuality so much that when they find a gay 16-year-old they spend the next 15 days raping him. Yes, I am sure there is some obscure planet in some alternate reality where that might make sense.

What doesn't make sense is this: "Rami said he once fell in love with a man who was part of the Mehdi Army, a Shiite insurgent group loyal to the radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.Their relationship eventually soured."

Dear gay children: when you grow up, do not start relationships with Shia terrorists. I heard they sometimes go sour.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On tolerance and hypocrisy

Lately I've often seen people say that others are hypocritical when they pay lip service to tolerance, while at the same time they don't really like the people or phenomena that they pretend to be tolerant of.

What is so hypocritical about it? Isn't this what the whole concept of tolerance really means? When we say that we are tolerant about something, we mean that we are ready to put up with something that we don't like, are suspicious of, or are uncomfortable with. Sometimes people of course use the word when they mean that they are perfectly comfortable with something that they believe the wider society is intolerant of. In either case, however, the whole concept of tolerance implies that somebody somewhere disapproves of the thing we are being tolerant of. People rarely say that they are tolerant of hugs and chocolate.

I think tolerance is a good thing in general. (Like almost everyone else, I think that there are things that should not be tolerated, but this is not the point.) It is a good thing that for most of normal people in the Western society there are things - or people - that they don't like, but are still not willing to forbid or persecute. And frankly, I resent the idea that if I am tolerant of something or someone I have to pretend to like it or them.

Yes, most people believe that the severely retarded or the recovering drug abusers should be helped, but most people don't have to have anything to do with either of those groups. This is normal. To those who think that this is hypocritical and people should learn to embrace those groups or stop being tolerant - think twice what you are asking for. People are never really gonna like either of those groups, because statistically they mean trouble. What they are saying, in essence, is "I am ready to pay taxes so that the state can take care of those people, but preferably not right near my home". Do you really want them to say "I don't want any of those near my home, so there is no point in taking care of them anyway" instead?

(Yes, in the end they usually turn up situated near somebody's home, but almost everyone hopes it wouldn't be theirs. And one can play the same thing hypocritically - for example saying they we don't want them near our homes and condemning others for saying the exact same thing - but I don't think there is anything inherently hypocritical by thinking that they should be taken care of, but not wanting them around.)

One can be tolerant of blacks without wanting to live in a neighborhood with many of them, tolerant of immigrants without wanting to open the borders for everyone, tolerant of homosexuals without being comfortable with the idea of homosexuality, tolerant of single motherhood without thinking that this is just as good as having two parents, tolerant of low-hanging pants while thinking they are ugly, and tolerant of marijuana without smoking any. One can argue with at least some of these positions (for example one can argue about the effects of single motherhood with statistics, but arguing about whether or not low-hanging pants are ugly is not very productive), but none of them make people who hold them inherently intolerant.

If a white guy in the US interviews a black job applicant without giving a second thought to his or her race, but wouldn't even think of buying a home in a neighborhood with more than 5% of black residents, and then votes for a black presidential candidate for whom he would not have necessarily voted if he were white, and then is very concerned when his daughter starts dating a black guy, and then meets the guy and is a bit uncomfortable but concludes that the guy is OK, and then ends up happily playing with his half-black grandchildren, this does not usually come from his evil hypocrisy, intolerance or any kind of cognitive dissonance: this comes from the fact that in a lot of urban white people's experience a black employee is just an employee like any other, a black neighborhood always means more crime than a white one, a black president would be a new and cool thing to have, and a new black family member is a surprising and somewhat alarming development that one usually gets used to.

I don't see any point in making tolerance an all-or-nothing concept. This goes against the very concept of the thing, pisses off the people from whom said tolerance is demanded, and is only useful to the kind of people who want to be the only tolerant guy on the block. I think that a society where all things would be clearly divided in everyone's eyes into the Perfectly Good Things/People That Are Just As Good As Any Others on one side and Evil Things/People That We Should Not Tolerate Under Any Circumstances on the other would be, in fact, extremely intolerant.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

To Katri Manninen, part 2

Katri's answers to my previous post are here.

"Oh and when I say stuff that you don't need, I mean like buying a tv to EVERY room (including bathroom), clothes, shoes and purses that you don't use, home appliances that you don't use, knick-knacks you don't use... "

You see, that's my problem with the original article: you seem to believe that you know what everybody needs better than they do.

There are people who have use for a TV in every room, and there are people who derive some joy from owning some wearable stuff that they don't actually wear, or gadgets they don't actually use. I like owning a lot of earrings (I buy a pair during almost every vacation, and sometimes several at a time, in spite of the fact that I have only one pair of holes in my ears and don't even use those every day. I just like having a big box full of earrings, with full knowledge that some of those won't ever be worn), and I would probably like to have a TV in every room if I watched TV to begin with.

I also happen to value overseas vacations, high-end kitchen knives and expensive Belgian beer. I am sure for lot of people those are useless crap. My own category of "useless crap no one ever really needs" includes all manner of salmiak and licorice candy, all professional haircuts, motorcycles, all kinds of camping equipment and a lot of other things - except that I have long observed that a lot of people are quite willing to pay perfectly good money for all of the above, and concluded that this happens not because the evil advertisement has brainwashed them to buy totally useless crap, but because they find all that stuff useful or pleasant in the ways that are clearly beyond my ken.

"Vacations need more planning, that's why I would say they are rarely bought on whim and therefore are rarely unnecessary."

That's why I found it very strange when you used them as an example in your original article, especially since you seem to like them yourself. The other two examples you used were leather-upholstered furniture (is fabric-upholstered OK, or is all furniture useless crap?) and a new car (surely you must know that all the people who use cars on a regular basis must replace them every once in a while - so how do you know whether or not a car purchased by somebody else is useful or useless to them at the moment, and whether it was purchased because they think they need it "in order to be admired by other people"?).

"When you die, you can take your memories with you -- but not all that crap you bought."

Errr... when you die, you don't take anything with you, neither memories, nor material things. You can of course argue about the metaphysics of death and posit an afterlife where the person exists and has access to their earthly memories, but in this case you can just as well posit an afterlife when the people still have all their earthly property, or some astral projections thereof.

Unless, of course, you mean "take with you" as "erase from this life", in which case I fail to see why it should be considered a good thing. In fact my memories are quite useless after I die, whereas my ice cream maker can still be used by family or friends to make perfectly good ice cream. Wouldn't this rather make the case for buying stuff and opposed to paying for immaterial fun like vacations? But I digress...

"Do you ever use certain brand names? Why do you think you thought at the first place that they're better than some other stuff? And do you really think that they're so much better than any other (cheaper) brands?"

Yes, I do, quite often. The established and more expensive brands are often that way for a reason, and sometimes not, and sometimes this is the reason that I would pay the extra money for, and sometimes it isn't. For example shoes made by brands such as Ecco, Clarks, or Gabor tend to be much better than similar-looking cheaper equivalents. (Sometimes the cheaper equivalents are just as good, but you can only find that out by buying and wearing them, and with only one pair of 4 or 5 turning out just as good it's not worth it.) OTOH, I have never been able to detect much difference between expensive and cheap jeans, and therefore never buy expensive ones. While in shoes paying extra for a name brand to guarantee goodness makes sense (for me, anyway), in sparkling wines it doesn't: IMO the only reason to pay real champagne prices, as opposed to sparkling wine, is because you can be quite sure that champagne is drinkable, and the same cannot be said of all the other bubbly, but once you've tried sufficiently many and know what you like, this is not a factor. In general I'd say the more longevity and reliability is a factor, the more I am likely to stick with a brand that either has a good reputation for it, or I have a good experience with.

"Or maybe you just have to go to Walmart and see what people are putting in their shopping carts -- and then pay attention how they are paying for it. Yup, it's almost always "credit" not "debit"..."

This is just part of the culture and has nothing to do with whether they can afford the stuff they buy.

Credit cards are a much older phenomenon than debit cards in the US or at least my part of it (when I was young in MA, we did not have debit cards at all, just credit cards and ATM cards), and at least for a while after they appeared, they were not insured against theft, while the credit cards were. Therefore there was no reason whatsoever for a person to own a debit card, let alone use one. Even now after many years in Finland I have never found any use for those things, and would certainly never pay with a debit card anywhere I can pay with a credit card.

Your points about the kids from disadvantaged backgrounds having less opportunities to learn useful stuff at home are quite true, and also about good and bad example. But as for learning to be careful about credit, it's really pretty simple, well within every normal person's intuitive understanding: read the fine print, and don't spend more than you earn on the regular basis. There are some otherwise intelligent people who have trouble with the implementation of this, but after burning themselves once or twice they tend to avoid credit in the first place. I don't think I'd ever met a person, disadvantaged or otherwise, who'd have trouble with the very concept.

"If you ruin your credit, you're pretty much screwed here -- I've seen that happening around me. And it's scarily easy to ruin it."

If you ruin your credit, you're pretty much screwed here too, especially since there is no personal bancrupcy in Finland and there are a lot of strange places that refuse to sell stuff - for example insurance - to people with bad credit.

I disagree, however, that it is easy to ruin one's credit rating. It can sometimes happen to people through no fault of their own, or with a minimal fault of their own, through all kinds of emergencies: disease, death in the family, prolonged unemployment, business falling apart, freelance jobs suddenly being hard to come by, etc.). However, the scenario that you describe takes a staggering amount of irresponsibility, usually over a prolonged period of time:

"First you want to buy stuff, that you can't afford, so you get yourself some of those nice credit cards, that they advertise you in the mail -- all you have to do is to send back the preapproved application and voila -- you're on your way to buying stuff you don't need and too often also ruining your credit. You max them out -- your credit score goes down. You miss a payment, your credit score goes down even more. Your credit score goes down -- your interest rate goes up to 22% and more. Soon you'll struggle to stay behind the payments. But then you get luckily an offer for a new credit card -- with a smaller credit limit, and you use that to pay the other credit card -- except soon that new card is maxed out too and now your credit score goes down even more..."

That's a very bad thing to do. Jumping from a bridge, also very bad. :)

Seriously, I have several of those credit cards that you get through a pre-approved application (in the US), and several more that you get through an immediately-approved application here in Finland. I am not sure about how much credit they provide when put together, but it really doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that maxing them all out would be a bad idea.

I suspect that gross and continuous misuse of credit is some kind of psychological problem that some people have. It doesn't, however, make them slaves, and it certainly doesn't make the stores that sell stuff to them, the banks that extend credit to them, or the employers for whom they work to afford all this any kind of slavemasters.

"Or maybe you bought a house a year or two ago, when the prices were inflated -- and now you're struggling to make your mortgage payments."

Why? It's quite unpleasant to have negative equity, of course, but if you haven't lost your job or something like that you still have the same mortgage payments as before and still can make them as before. Unless you've taken one of those subprime ARMs that has a low initial interest that rises later, on the assumption that you refinance before the rate goes up, and now you can't refinance because of the negative equity. Which some people have surely done, but which is a risk they were willing to take.

"Or you really think you can "buy now, pay later", just to find out that you end up paying way more than you ever should have."

You can buy now and pay later, I do it all the time. Of course, if you want to buy now and pay much later, you have to pay extra for it.

In short (oh well, too late for that): credit that banks give to people is a valuable service that they provide to the consumers and that the consumers are willing to pay for. There are consumers that have trouble using it responsibly. A lot of them notice it (some, unfortunately, only after ruining their credit history) and then stop using credit. Some of them don't stop, which is quite unfortunate for the people in question, but which does not, IMO, make them slaves.

Monday, July 21, 2008

To Katri Manninen

Katri Manninen decided to answer my recent post where I criticized her column in Metro.

Thanks for the answer, Katri, I appreciate it. I'll answer here, the comments are too short.

"I wonder when was the last time you lived full time in the U.S. and if you've actually hanged out for extended periods with the U.S. citizens (and especially illegal immigrants) who struggle to survive with their minimum wages?"

The last time I lived full time in the USA was in 2001. I have hanged out, and worked, for extended periods with the U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who lived on minimum wages, and also with the ones who lived on SSI (the money provided to the poor elderly and handicapped by the federal government). As to illegal immigrants, they are not supposed to be there in the first place. You can't seriously blame any country for being an inconvenient place for illegal immigrants to live.

"I'm sorry if my point didn't come across from my column, which was that also many Finnish people are on their way towards the same kind of voluntary slavery -- therefore we can't really judge "Americans" for what is happening here."

Yes, this point did come across at the end, I just didn't find it all that important. For me the issue was not so much whether you were talking about the voluntary slavery in the US or in Finland, but with the whole concept of "voluntary slavery". Basically, you came across as saying that the lower-class people (forget the nationality) are not intelligent enough to figure out what they really want or don't want to buy.

I am not trying to say that advertisement - on TV or otherwise - doesn't affect consumers' choices. I just think that it's both stupid and extremely condescending to consider this phenomenon slavery, that the whole expression "voluntary slavery" smacks of 1984 (I believe the exact quote is "freedom is slavery"), and that while advertisement can well affect whether one wants to lie on the beach in Aruba or in Gran Canaria, most people, including the ones of the wrong side of the IQ bell curve, are in fact capable to decide for themselves whether they want to buy a sofa, a vacation or neither.

Just for curiosity, Katri: how enslaved by your consumer choices do you feel? When you decide to take a vacation, do you feel like you've made the decision yourself, or is it some TV-induced brainwashing voluntary slavery? This is not a rhetorical question: I tend to see all the discourse on this topic as extremely condescending in the "of course I have free will and think before I buy, it's only those other people who are enslaved and brainwashed" way, but sometimes I wonder whether at least some of the people who write articles like yours genuinely feel that they themselves are not quite in control of their own consumer choices. Do you, personally, feel in need of the personal freedom war that you urge your readers to start today?

"I'm sorry if I sound like a leftist feminist, but I do believe that the better a country/society treats its children and mothers, the better it will do economically, environmentally, spiritually and morally (?)."

As opposed to the childless adults and fathers?

"As of now I've never seen an industrialized country that would mistreat it's women and children as horribly as the U.S. does."

So, how does it mistreat us? I have been both a woman and a child in the US, and I am curious. Didn't feel particularly mistreated at any point.

(Yes, I am more or less sure you mean that the social security net for them is not as strong as you want it to be. First of all, I don't consider this mistreatment. Second, the social security net for single mothers with dependent children is already stronger than for any other groups of population, except the elderly and the disabled.)

OTOH, maybe we shouldn't start an argument about taxes and services. It will be endless.

"Of course I can't speak for other people, but I have no problem to criticize ANY nation in the world -- including my native country of Finland."

But of course. Almost nobody ever has any problem criticizing their own country. But have you in fact ever criticized the big eastern neighbor in print?

Not that I would think worse of you if you hadn't - I am sure there are many countries I myself would love to criticize but have never gotten around to criticizing.

"In addition to that I think "Americans" who believe that the U.S. is somehow better or more powerful than any other nation, are living in the denial. I totally agree that in the 50's and 60's this was one of the best places -- if not THE best place -- in the world to live. Even 70's and 80's were pretty good, but the life in the U.S. at the end of the first decade of 2000 is unfortunately no picnic."

Life is unfortunately no picnic anywhere, and the US is certainy not perfect.

As to the US being more powerful than any other nation militarily, this is a simple fact. No need to be in denial of anything, just compare the size of the armies, the budgets, etc. Not that this fact would be a good source of jealousy, except for people who feel they personally might have use for an army.

As to whether the US is a better place to live than Finland or some other European country: depends on your lifestyle, of course, but there are some general trends. I have obviously chosen Finland, and I can at least say that IMO in general for an urban single person Helsinki is a more pleasant place to live than Boston. Objectively, however, there were 13045 Finnish-born foreigners living in the US in 2000, and 2354 US citizen foreigners living in Finland in 2007. The statistics are not nearly a perfect match, since the ones in the US were taken in 2000 and show residents who were born in Finland and are not US citizens, and the ones in Finland were taken in 2007 and show residents who are US citizens and not Finnish citizens, but I think the discrepancy is large enough to notice that more people prefer to move from Finland to the US than otherwise.

In any case my main point was not to argue about the US and how it should or should not be improved, but to point out what I see as gross misuse of the concepts of freedom and slavery.

Anyway, good luck there in Hollywood!

Friday, July 18, 2008

I am having a Green moment, the end of the world must be near

I am a simple woman, and, like the vast majority of the world's population, don't know shit about climatology. I really don't know to what extent the world's temperatures are rising in the long term, and how much of it is caused by human activity and carbon emissions. As far as I can see, most scientists who study the issue say that the temperatures are rising and human activity is a significant contributing factor, some say otherwise, nobody is quite sure of the extent of it, and the whole issue is intensely political.

I do, however, usually know a religion when I see it, and I can plainly see that many people are using global warming as a religion, some as the kind of religion that says that everything they do is sinful and they need to atone for it, most as the kind of religion that says that everything their neighbors are doing is sinful, and gives them unlimited license to disapprove of those neighbors.

Not that this is ultimately the fault of the global warming, mind you, or even the related science and politics. I am sure that if tomorrow the scientists proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the world is in fact cooling, or staying the same, most of those people would find some other reason to disapprove of the neighbors. The global warming movement has made disapproving of other human beings just for the living disturbingly mainstream and disgustingly socially acceptable, but many people's tendency to look for any excuse to disapprove of the neighbors is much older (original sin, anyone?).

I also tend to know bullshit when I see it, at least when there is a huge steaming pile of it. I don't even mean the kind of politician who makes his career out of global warming, flies everywhere on a private jet and has a home that consumes 20 times as much electricity as an average American home. This is just, you know, politicians being politicians. I mean the kind of politicians who sound totally convinced that the global warming is the most urgent and horrible thing threatening the humankind, and at the same time snub their noses at the most obvious though not totally perfect solution: the nuclear power.

Let me see: they consider the global warming to be a major and imminent disaster caused mainly by carbon emissions, they know that nuclear power produces a lot less carbon emissions, and they consider building more nuclear power plants to be an unworthy solution because, let's see:

a) disposal of nuclear waste is an issue (a major and imminent disaster kind of issue?),
b) nuclear power plants can be attacked by terrorists (doesn't it make terrorists an issue, rather than nuclear power plants? and aren't they reasonably well protected?),
c) building nuclear power plants leads to nuclear proliferation (because, I guess, the USA, Russia, China and India totally need a new nuclear reactor to get hold of some nukes? oops, they already have some... or because Finland will make nukes as soon as they build another nuclear power plant? yep, that must be it),
d) nuclear power plants are expensive (as opposed to the consequences of global warming?).

Are those politicians totally stupid, or do they think that their voters are? In either case, why would anyone who cares about global warming, or even anyone who doesn't, vote for them?

I have decided to participate in the fight against global warming by not voting for any politicians who are against nuclear power, and also not voting for any politicians who claim to care about global warming and are undecided on nuclear power. I also promise to highly disapprove of any of my neighbors who fail to do the same.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

From specific to general, from general to specific

In various conversations, both on the Net and in real life, the following pattern emerges:

X: Group A does this (or is that, or is better/worse than group B in something).
Y: Not, they don't. I know quite a lot of people from group A who don't do this.
X: Well, obviously I didn't mean all of the group A, I was saying that statistically group A is significantly more likely to do this thing than group B.

X kind of does have a point here. One can say "men are taller than women" without having to qualify that one means that men are on average taller than women, not that every single man is taller than every single woman. It is more convenient to say "men are on average taller than women" to distinguish this from the case when a statement is true in case of almost every man, as in "men have penises and women don't", but IMO the statement "men are taller than women" is not in any way an abuse of English language, even if you don't add "on average".

Speaker Y and other similar ones (there is quite a lot of them) are often blamed for derailing the conversation, purposely misunderstanding what the other speaker meant to say, and failure to understand that the conversation does not concern specific cases, but the general case. These accusations can be fair or not, depending on the context.

What is interesting is that there is quite a lot of people with the opposite problem, ones who clearly have difficulties with going from the general to the specific, and while a lot of people point out to them that they are wrong in other ways, I've seen very few people explain to them in general that this is neither logical nor a sensible way to conduct a conversation.

A conversation like this:

X: Women prefer men who have a car.
Y: There is quite a lot of women who like men who don't have a car.
X: Yeah, yeah, I was not talking about every woman in the world, but on average women prefer men with cars.

is quite understandable, from both sides and on many levels. The participants are not sure how universally X's statement was meant or understood, and are seeking to understand each other. X might be annoyed because in X's opinion X's statement is obviously not meant to mean all women, just the majority. X often accuses Y of failure to understand that such general statements are not meant to apply to every member of a class. Obviously not meant to.

The problem is, this is not in fact obvious. And the reason it is not obvious is that by this point Y, and probably also X, has participated in many conversations that go the following way:

Y: I've met a few new guys lately, but nobody I am really interested in so far.
Z: That's because you would only date a guy with a car.
Y: No, I don't care about that, they were just not my type.
Z: That's just what you are saying, but I know you want a guy with a car. Women always do.

Z is being entirely unreasonable here: he/she is, in fact, taking the implied statement "women prefer men who have a car" to mean every single woman, and is clearly not ready to accept an example to the contrary. However, I have never seen anyone accuse Z of being unable to understand that general statements so not apply to every specific case. This accusation is usually reserved for Y in the previous conversation.

So: why do the people who try to deny a general statement as if it were a universal statement by citing specific counterexamples get accused of not understanding the nature of general statements, and why do people who try to extend a general statement into a universal statement by denying existence of counterexamples not usually get accused of the same?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I decided to welcome my new evil overlord

No, I don't mean either of the candidates in the US presidential election, I mean coffee.

After having noticed that my new habit of drinking 6 espresso shots in one sitting is not going anywhere, I read up on the health effects of coffee and decided I can afford them, and am not going to try to fight it.

Now, step two: convincing my bosses to purchase a device for making espresso at work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Power in unity

Belgium's permanent government, formed after 9 months of rather constipated effort, is falling apart after having functioned for 4 months. Not a very good efficiency coefficient. The Prime Minister Yves Leterme handed in his resignation yesterday.

It is kind of funny that Belgium's motto is literally "Unity creates Strength". In German, one of the three official languages, it is "Einigkeit macht stark", which nowadays sounds almost as grimly self-ironic as "Arbeit macht frei".

To add a minor insult to the major one, there just was a small earthquake there, as if the country literally wants to fall apart.

The resignation has yet to be accepted by the king, and the politicians are already arguing over whether to form a new caretaker government or have a new election.

I've heard they have even fewer nerds on the North Pole

Helsingin Sanomat says that police doesn't have enough nerds. Yes, using this particular word. They mean not enough nerds as employees, not as suspects.

BTW, isn't it a somewhat strange word to use in this context? I don't find it negative and IMO it can be colloquially used in the sense "IT professional", but first of all it can mean many other things, and second, it's very colloquial. Sort of like writing "HKL would like to hire more smurfs".

But more to the point: the Police Data Management center has moved to Rovaniemi two and a half years ago. That's Rovaniemi, Finland, population about 60000, in the middle of fucking snowy nowhere. They moved there from the capital area, population about a million, and 800 km away. In doing so, they naturally lost most of their employees.

And they don't have enough IT professionals to hire out there? Gee, I wonder why.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dicks might want your ass, watch out!

Via the Agitator:

In Flint, Michigan, one of the most violent cities in the US, police chief David Dicks started a war against sagging pants and showing asscracks. The evildoers will be punished by 93 days to a year in jail and/or fines up to $500.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Immediate family, one way

I have always thought that parents and adult children were considered immediate family by the US immigration system, but now I checked and realized that this is not in fact the case, or rather, much more amazingly, it is the case only one-way: an adult US citizen can bring a foreigner parent as immediate family, but a US citizen cannot bring an adult child as immediate family. (They can, however, bring them as less-immediate family, but that involves a long wait.)

I wonder what is the reason for this? Oh course, a person has only two parents and in theory an unlimited number of children, but I suspect that in general US citizens have fewer foreigner children than foreigner parents.

Now I am officially pathetic

I have a thermos bottle with mocha with me at work.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


What the hell? How can an adult person develop a sudden coffee addiction out of the blue?

I have normally drunk about one espresso shot's worth of coffee a month, if even that. In the last 24 hours I've had 6 shots, I am making more right now, and I am already wondering how I'll survive 8 hours of work tomorrow without it, and whether a thermos is an answer.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lower classes don't know what they really want, or Happy Independence Day

In the subway today I picked up the free newspaper Metro. It had a column by Katri Manninen, Paljon Onnea Orjavaltio! (Happy Birthday, Slave State!). "Why, thank you," I thought.

While I have never felt any personal guilt about slavery in the US (never owned a single slave myself, or voted for slavery, I swear), I can well understand black people wanting to remind us about it every once in a while. We have a whole Black History Month for that every year. It is a lot less clear to me why Katri Manninen would like to do the same, especially considering that the American readership of the Finnish-language Metro is probably somewhat limited.

She doesn't talk about it much, though. She starts with informing us that that the equality that the Declaration of Independence mentioned in 1776 did not at first apply to women and black slaves. As opposed to, I suppose, all those other countries in 1776, who did not have our Declaration of Independence.

She goes on to say that it took 232 years to have the first presidential candidate who is not entirely while, and almost have had a woman candidate. I certainly hope she meant "first non-white candidate who has a good chance", since I have paid attention during the Black History month, and remember that there were several black presidential candidates from smaller parties before Obama, and black people who'd participated in primaries. Shirley Chisholm ran for the Demoratic nomination in 1972, Alan Keyes has tried to get the Republican nomination every damn time for god knows how long, and Lenora Fulani was the first black person to actually be on a ballot in all 50 states in 1988. The first woman to run for the US presidency was Victoria Claflin Woodhull in 1872.

That wasn't, however, Manninen's main point. She wanted us to know that America is still based on slave labor. Because, you know, it's hard for a poor person to get an education, and then they get low-paying jobs, and after a hard day's work they watch TV. The only purpose of the TV programming in the US is to keep people in front of it long enough to brainwash them into thinking that they are not happy without a leather sofa, vacation trip or a new car, and having to pay for all of the above keeps them in low-paying jobs.

For fuck's sake. One can like and dislike countries as one pleases, but how pathetic is it to "celebrate" an independence day of a country by writing a newspaper column about how its lower classes are slaves to television? Granted, she also says that we should all start our war of liberation with ourselves and ask ourselves whether we want to buy stuff we don't need, and understand that self-esteem cannot be bought from a store.

Well, I am glad that Katri Manninen seems to understand that lower socioeconomic classes are on average less intelligent than the middle classes, but I don't think they are quite as stupid as Manninen imagines. (And if I did, in fact, think so, I would have the sense not to say so in public.) On the basis of my admittedly limited experience I'd say that on average they are capable of understanding whether or not they really want to buy something. And people who are not aware that a TV has an "off" button tend to live in the institutions where nice nurses help them with it.

Not to mention that the line about being brainwashed into wanting a vacation trip is a bit rich coming from a person who lists travel as one of her hobbies on her webpage and whose blog's latest entries describe her five-week trip across the US from Florida to Los Angeles. I see: Katri Manninen, a Master of Arts in scriptwriting, can appropriately enjoy travel and even write about it in her blog, but my ex-supermarket-coworkers Carol and Marsha, when they feel like going to Florida to get some sun, need to be told by their betters - for example Manninen - that they have been brainwashed into that by TV and that they don't really need that trip.

(If I found the wrong person's webpage and there are two scriptwriters named Katri Manninen in Finland, they both have my most humble apologies. I, however, doubt that this is the case.)

Russia Day was about 4 weeks ago. I wonder if Manninen has written a column titled Happy Birthday, Eastern Aggressor?

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

Damn. It's Independence Day, and I am stuck here and not even having a day off. Oh well, at least it's sunny and I can grill something.

It's my choice, anyway, because I don't like being in Boston in summer, but I still miss it. Finnish Independence Day is unfortunately a totally different thing, because Finns got their independence without slightest consideration for whether or not it would be convenient for future generations to celebrate it by grilling outside. I guess they had other priorities, but I would still drink to the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, who founded our nation in July. They probably also had a barbecue.

Happy Independence Day, in case there is some crazy American who is reading my blog today instead of grilling.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

In the news

Robert Williams, the torturer-rapist about whom I wrote a couple of weeks ago, has been found guilty on 44 charges. The sentencing is on July 24.

While we are on the subject of people who have disqualified themselves from human race, Zimbabwe's Marxist president Robert Mugabe seems to have "won" his election, using methods (don't click if you get nightmares easily) that are quite grotesque even by local standards.

Mugabe said that the opposition will never govern while he is alive. If I were one of his advisors, I'd be screaming "No, man! Don't give them any ideas!" But that's probably why I am not an advisor to a third-world dictator, but just a blogger in Helsinki.

In any case, if the opposition decides to deal with him in the same way as the opposition of Equatorial Guinea has dealt with their President for Life, Francisco Macias Nguema (his life as a President for Life ended by a firing squad), nobody will miss them much. Not even the UN, who is still thinking whether to express deep concern or grave concern.

Seriously, there are green hairy things in my fridge who could lead a country better than Mugabe, although I suspect that this is a general rule: any green hairy thing from any fridge can lead a country better than any Marxist.

In other news, Western immorality keeps invading Yemen: another 9-year-old filed for divorce If it continues like that, soon all the 9-year-old girls in the country are divorced.