Monday, December 28, 2009

Security measures

I often feel sorry for TSA and the Homeland Security Department. When they are trying hard and nothing happens, everyone makes fun of them for so much futile effort. When they miss something, everyone is angry at them for that.

This time around they really sound a bit strange, because they are doing both of the above. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father says he has warned many people, including the US embassy. TSA says they didn't have enough evidence to put him on the no-fly list. This have never stopped them before from putting babies and US Senators on that list, but fair enough - maybe they really improved their ways and don't put people on that list without proper evidence, what with being unable to fly being a rather major inconvenience.

We do, however, also have a list people who should be subjected to extra searches and extra questioning. Was he on this list? If not, why not?

The pantybomber was on the UK no-fly list, which is really the UK no-enter list (they are allowed to transit to UK airports but not to enter the country).

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "the system worked".

Excuse me? Worked? I feel so safe knowing that our system's necessary components include having bad detonators, inept terrorists, and brave Dutch filmmakers sitting in their immediate vicinity.

Happy end is not the same thing as "the system worked". Sometimes it just means the terrorists were not all that bright, and the bystanders happened to have a lot of courage and good reflexes.

Anyway, the new measures include having everyone sit in their seats for the last hour of the flight (AFAIK only in the US, but those things tend to spread around), and having all the luggage in the overhead bins during the same time. Yes, it does mean that you can't have a book, a mp3 player or a blanket. And no, I don't know why only the last hour, but best not to give them any ideas.

The new security measures have already born fruit: they arrested another Nigerian guy on another Amsterdam to Detroit flight, for failing to vacate the toilet when ordered. At first they suspected him of being a terrorist, but then it turned out that he was using the toilet for a much more mundane reason, undoubtedly after sampling a wide selection of Northwest or KLM food.

I am sure all the chronic diarrhea sufferers will thank the pantybomber as they sit in the planes clenching their buttocks and praying for the big white porcelain deliverance. At least they have something they can appropriately deposit on his grave. After he gets one.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The news of the peaceful

A Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight going from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas day. He tried to repeat the feat of Richard Reid, and in fact had, failing to blow up the airplane and getting caught. Unlike Reid, who used shoes and failed the igniting part, Abdulmutallab actually managed to set a bomb in his lap on fire, and only the passengers' and crew vigilance and subsequent beating the living shit out of him saved the plane.

We still do not know whether he has grilled his nuts enough to make this officially eligible for a Darwin award submission, but this is not really essential for the gene pool, since his only potential sex partner from now on is likely to be Richard Reid. At least they have a lot in common, testicles or not.

There is a story making rounds in the press that the man is the son of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the recently retired chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria. Damn, the story is starting to sound like a Nigerian spam letter already.

God knows what poverty can drive people to.

Today I saw the term "joulurauhan uskonto" somewhere. Unfortunately I have no idea who to attribute it to.

The aviation authorities have responded by banning cabin luggage for the last hour of the flight (meaning that one hour before landing you put all your stuff in the overhead bin and just sit there for an hour without a book or a player, wishing a thousand painful deaths on Abdulmutallab). Oh well, we should probably be grateful be did not stick explosives up his ass.

In much more amusing news: Abdullah Tammi, the founder and the former chairman of the Islamic Party of Finland, resigned last week due to his taking stand against terrorism. He decided to found his own party, the Party of Socialist Peace.

I wish I could say something funny about this, but I really can't make it sound any funnier than it already does.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The end is nigh, and Denmark is running out of tarmac space, too

I think I was seven when I first read about buying and selling indulgences in a novel set in 16th-century Belgium. The idea struck me as rather dumb even then, at least from the point of view of the buyers.

Are we having some kind of neo-middle-ages now? Blasphemers are being burned at the stake, world leaders talk about impending end that is about to befall us for our sins and in general sound like apocalyptic madmen, and otherwise perfectly sensible people are buying carbon indulgences. Sold, no doubt, by people who are strongly and publicly concerned for the environment.

As I have said before, I am a simple woman who doesn't know much about climate science. No, I am not pretending to be a prole here, but of my two degrees one is in Linguistics and the other is in Computer Science, and none is in Meteorology or Climate Science. So probably I shouldn't be saying anything. On the other hand, these considerations about the lack of education don't seem to deter anyone else, starting with Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an avid air traveler and an engineer.

(A mean-spirited Guardian commenter calculated Mr. Pachauri's travel miles for the period of Jan 07 - July 08 at 443243, based on his his public appearance schedule. Mr. Pachauri supports heavy aviation taxes, which IPCC will undoubtedly pay for him.)

There is some disturbing point about science and faith in here somewhere. We take our science on faith; we believe in whatever they tell us in secondary-school astronomy much the same way as some centuries ago people believed when they were told that the sun revolved around the earth. What makes the difference is the scientific method and the scientific consensus; how much faith are you ready to put in either of those after those emails from Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia got published? Especially since the message is pretty much "the end is nigh, give us power and money"?

(A very disturbing off-topic aside: the reason we abhor the human sacrifices of the ancient cultures is that we know they didn't work; if they did, we'd be totally doing it all the time.)

Anyway, as I've said before, I might not know much about climate, but I sure know politics, religion and bullshit when I see it. I am sure I am the least environmentally conscious person in the Western world. I use energy-saving lamps because I happen to like them, public transportation because I live in a place where it is very good, and I wouldn't ever think of giving up anything I really wanted for the environment. But you know, I suspect that if I really cared, like all those politicians surely do, I'd at least consider some small sacrifices. Like, flying first-class in a commercial aircraft instead of taking my own private jet? Or maybe at least carpooling, or rather private-jet-pooling with some other dignitary coming from the same city?

But that's just me, and that's probably why they don't invite me to any summits. Prince Charles and Gordon Brown apparently felt it was unprincely or un-prime-ministerial to share the same private jet.

Just before the summit, the Copenhagen airport reported that it was expecting 140 extra private jets, and was unable to accomodate them all, so they'd have to be parked in other Danish airports and in Sweden. More than 1200 limos were ordered.

Is it just me, or does it seem to you that those people don't believe in the imminent apocalypse any more than I do?

Wish we knew the names of everyone who attended the global warming (sorry, it's climate change now) summit in private jets and then came home and told the peasants not to fly on vacation. People should know their heroes.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


In the process of moving from Haloscan to Blogspot comments. Please use the Blogspot ones.

Any good advice on importing Haloscan comments into Blogspot is welcome.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Open relationships and celebrities

The whole Tiger Woods scandal made me wonder:

Why do so few celebrities negotiate themselves an open relationship? OK, some of them might be in love with someone special who doesn't agree to it, but what's up with the rest?

I know that open relationships are not for everyone, of course. I also know that monogamy is so much of an assumption in our culture that even most of the people who'd prefer an open relationship probably do not raise the subject with their partners.

Somebody like Tiger Woods, however, has more than enough sexual market value to negotiate himself an open relationship should he want one. He didn't, however.

For a while I wondered whether an open relationship would be a scandal as such, and whether this is the reason it is so uncommon among the celebrities. Guess not. I had to turn to Wikipedia to see if there are any celebrity couples in open marriages (more recent than Sartre and de Beauvoir). Yes, there are. Very few. I don't remember any of them being any kind of public scandal.

So, what prevents the guys who want to have sex with a lot of women and have the means to do so from finding wives who'd let them do so without any scandal?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The worst drinking game ever

A friend of my mom's, herself a Russian-born woman, once said "I'd believe anything they'd say about Russia, even if they say that nowadays bears eat people in the streets". The longer I live the more I realize how right she was.

I keep following the story of the Lame Horse nightclub that burned down in Perm almost two weeks ago. If the story were a movie, I would laugh at it as unrealistic.

Unfortunately it's not a movie, it's a horrible human tragedy. None of those people deserved to die there, not even the owner.

Inevitably, though, for the people who did know anyone involved the sense of tragedy slowly dissipates, and the whole thing starts resembling a drinking game. Drink once for every official who got fired afterwards, drink twice for every violation the club committed, drink three times for every person crimilally charged... Drink once for every firework whose instructions were not read because they were in Chinese, drink twice for every firework whose instructions were in Russian and said "for outdoor use only" that got used inside nevertheless.

The findings, so far (might change as the investigation proceeds):

- The club was on the first floor of an apartment building. The premises were owned by the Ministry of Defense, and rented out illegally.
- On the paper, the place was a cafe for 50 persons, with an area of 460 m² and huge windows. In reality it held 400 people on the most crowded nights (which the fire night luckily wasn't), had no windows to speak of and was 660 m². The extra 200 m² appeared and the windows disappeared when they moved and rebuilt the wall. Nobody admits having ever received any rent for the extra square footage, or metrage, and none of the inspectors noticed it.
- Emergency exits? We don't need any fucking emergency exits! We have those huge windows, just look at this paper! (OK, there was one unmarked extra exit that only the staff knew about.)
- The first fire inspection paper was signed in 2003 by a person who got fired from the position of a fire inspector in 2002.
- The ceiling was made of twigs and highly flammable polystyrene that was so poisonous that it took people a couple of breaths to pass out.
- The wiring was under the polystyrene, so the lights immediately went out. Emergency lights? What's that?
- Most employees were not officially working there.
- Come to think of it, the place didn't really exist, at least not as far as the tax office was concerned.
- The police who were investigating where the fireworks came from found 700 cubic meters of fireworks in a plastics factory in Chelyabinsk, where they were stored without any fire safety measures. They also believe that 120 tons of fireworks are being stored in a research center called "Geodesy" in a Moscow suburb, and that this is where the nightclub fireworks came from. They'd like to test this hypothesis, but the research center police is not letting them in. The research center in fact happens to be an artillery range and has nothing to do with any geodesy.

Stop it, I can't drink that much.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Evil Eclipse and voodoo programming

My Eclipse (currently run in Ubuntu Karmic, but the problems started earlier) has been having some nasty problems for a while now. Quite weird really, boxes were not responding to the OK button, new software sources were not being added, you could commit stuff to SVN but not tag it, etc.

Turns out it's due to changes in GTK+, and can be completely cured by saying export GDK_NATIVE_WINDOWS=true before starting Eclipse.

It just feels so much like learning a magic spell in a roleplaying game.

Friday, December 11, 2009

You know the world economy is in crisis when...

...even the terrorists can afford to discriminate.

Five Americans tried to join several terrorist groups in Pakistan, but were rejected by Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Muhammed for being foreigners without sufficient references.

Sheesh. Where is this world going with such discrimination against foreign labor?

Anyway, now Ramy Zamzam, Umar Farooq, Waqar Khan, Ahmad Mini, and Aman Hassan Yemer (See? See? Not a single Muhammed! Take that, Mark Steyn!) have been arrested and are being questioned by the US security officials.

Could be worse, of course. You know that the economy is really fucked when they start demanding 10 years of experience from people applying to be suicide bombers.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

No, we don't have campfires indoors

There was a horrible fire in a nightclub in Perm. 112 people are dead, out of about 250 people present; considering the injuries of the survivors, the death toll is likely to rise.

There is a lot of soul-searching in the Russian forums right now. Russians are corrupt, and not particularly safety-minded, and well aware of it, but they are not sure what to do about it: they are not all corrupt, of course, not even the majority, but it only takes a few percent of the population to make it possible for everyone who wants to bribe a fire safety inspector to find a bribable one. A few more percent, and the honest people stop choosing the professions where a lot of people take bribes. One can resist giving bribes, but in many cases it's not an option.

I kind of wish I knew how much the fire inspectors got in this case. To begin with, the club was on the first floor of an apartment building. Its ceiling was quite low (2.5 meters or so) and made of straw and dry twigs. Behind the twigs they had a highly flammable sort of polystyrene and lots of electrical wiring. Just the place for the indoor fireworks. The fireworks turned out to be bigger and hotter than specified, the place had only one emergency exit, and it was unmarked, and all the light worked from the wiring in the ceiling, so as soon at it caught fire the lights went out. And of course there were no sprinklers or fire alarm.

Well, they promised that the evening would be unforgettable, and it sure was. :(

But enough of the Russian fire safety enforcement. Shit happens everywhere. 6 years ago there was a very similar fire in Rhode Island. There the fire inspectors were not bribed but happened to overlook the absence of sprinklers anyway. The company that delivered the insulation materials forgot to mention they were flammable, and the emergency exits were all there, but apparently during such situations people tend to run back where they came from. The survival percentage was much higher than in Perm, of course, but still, 100 people died.

What I really want to know is: considering that almost all the big nightclub fires around the world lately come from the indoor use of fireworks, what exactly possesses people to continue using them? How many people really want to see fireworks during an indoor show? Those events have sufficiently bad air as it is. The whole thing makes me feel like explaining to people "no, we don't have campfires indoors".

It just seems like such a fucking bad idea.

Happy Independence Day, Finland!

Good thing we got out of Russia when we did. Russia sucks.

Friday, December 04, 2009

And now for some statistics

Decided to check out the statistics on crime vs. race in the US cities. While doing so picked up some interesting trivia, and added more stuff to the table (nativity, language, education, median household income and poverty rate).

There are 34 cities with more than half a million population in the US. One of them, Chicago, still hasn't learned to calculate its crime rate, so I didn't include it.

I was not sure whether to count hispanics separately, as used to be traditional, or together with whatever race they actually are, so I did both, like the US Census Bureau. The population data come from the American Community Survey, which is a survey they do to complement the data between the censuses. For one city, Louisville, I had to make up the numbers of non-hispanic whites, because it wasn't available, but it was easy and correct to about one percentage point, because they don't really have almost any hispanics there.

The crime data are FBI's for 2007. The numbers are crime rates for 100000 people.

The table is sortable.

I'll write more comments later, but here are the first few:

- The first thing that surprised me was how few people claim to be of two or more races, in comparison with what you see in the streets. Except in Honolulu, where they don't seem to care.

- I'd known that there is a negative correlation between the number of hispanics and the violent crime rate, but I didn't realize it was that strong.

- The correlation between the percentage of people below the poverty line and violent crime is not nearly as strong as I expected.

- Some things are kind of obvious: the positive correlation between number of blacks and crime is well known, and the negative correlation between the number of immigrants and crime rates is understandable too: you come to the US, you wanna move somewhere nice, as opposed to Detroit. Some things are quite interesting, though: for example Louisville is much poorer than Boston, much blacker, and very much less educated, yet much safer. El Paso is a very poor, very hispanic and very safe city.

- It's interesting that the cities with a non-hispanic white majority tend towards the middle of the table when ranked by safety.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The true you

The previous post reminded me of Mr Halpern, one of our English teachers. He was a passionate man of the kind that want you to be your real self and do whatever you really want, and inform you exactly what it is.

Some of the teachers who are that way want you to agree with them, others want you to argue with them, and both types want you to pretend not to care what they want. He was just one of the really difficult ones who wanted different things on different days, and I am not much of a mind reader.

It's annoying enough when people try to raise your class consciousness, but at least most of them have the sense to do it in more general terms, for example talking about "most X" rather than "you". "Most women only wax their legs because of the society's pressure," that kind of thing. I have no idea whether or not this is the case, for all I know it might be. Personally, I kinda like waxed legs. Like them on men, too, even though the society seems to be failing with the pressure here.

None of that weaselly "most" stuff for our Mr Halpern. He was dealing in "everybody", "nobody" and "you". And simultaneously, mind, wanted me to be true me.

The true me did in fact know what she wanted to do, but it was illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and likely to result in suspension and bad grades, so I didn't. So I just sat there listening to how nobody really likes ice cream in cups (he believed that deep in their hearts everyone prefers cones and cups are just society's pressure) and counted days to the end of the semester.

Natural beauty, in the world of the differently sane

First of all, a disclaimer: this story has not been confirmed in any official way. It was told in an online community by a member in good standing who did not appear to be lying. But you never know. But what the hell, I just want to comment on it here, and who is to say I can't? It's too funny to be true, and too funny to be fake.

Anyway, the girl is a high school student in a small New England town. They had an English project: give up three hair styling products and makeup for a week, and write about it afterwards. Of course the three products have to be something you'd normally use, and the teacher insisted that they really should give them up.

Just for the record, I oppose such projects on general principle. School should not intrude on one's own life in such a way. If it's the text they want, they should be satisfied with a fictional account of giving up those products; if they want authenticity, the paper on "why I really didn't want to give up my styling products" should be just as good as "how I felt when I gave up my styling products for a week".

And then there is one more very obvious problem: not everyone has three styling products to give up. I fact I suspect most people don't, although the girl thinks otherwise. And the task specified that you can't give up showering, shampoo or conditioner, which leaves me - and the girl of this story - with exactly 0 styling products.

(Yes, there are boys in that class. They were allowed to give up shaving instead. Girls were allowed it to, but strongly discouraged from doing so because, according to the teacher, it's disgusting. The girl in question doesn't shave anyway.)

Now, common sense and teachers are not necessarily compatible, which I knew at that age but the girl definitely doesn't, and if it were me there instead of her, I would quietly write a paper about the whatever three products I managed to google or look up in a drugstore, how at first I felt uncomfortable without them but then I found the power of the beauty within, yadda, yadda, yadda. (Thanks, Mr. Halpern, for demanding spontaneity and sincerity and telling us what exactly our spontaneity and sincerity should be.) If the teacher were someone I were actually comfortable with, I would have handed him or her the bullshit paper and the authentic one too, which would have been something along the lines of "gave up shampoo and conditioner for a week; nobody noticed anything unusual, least of all myself".

The purpose of the exercise, after all, is to make the girls see that they don't need all that to be beautiful, and to teach them about the beauty of the natural body. (According to the teacher, that is.) Leaving aside the concept of beauty and the question of what styling products actually contribute to it, it seems rather obvious to me that the people who don't use the products anyway have already figured out that they can do without and don't need a project to make this message sink in.

The girl, however, turned out to be not nearly as cynical as I was at her age, and decided to tell the teacher that she does not use any styling products. It was all downhill from there:

- the teacher sent the girl for a mental evaluation,
- then she sent her to the school office for "improper hygiene",
- then she told the girl that she can have 50% of the points for the assignment of she gives up combing her hair, but that she'd like to see a "drastic change" (the girl is considering using hairspray to induce said drastic change),
- but she is gonna take some points off for lying, because she just doesn't really believe that the girl doesn't blow-dry her hair.

Now, if it just me, or is this teacher pretty much the last person in the world who should instruct anyone on the wonders of natural beauty?

The most amazing thing is that the girl (and apparently the teacher) lives about thirty miles from where I lived when I was in high school. Aliens truly do live among us.

Universal values

The Swiss have voted to ban construction of minarets. The Secretary General of the Organisation of The Islamic Conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, said that the ban was "an unfortunate development that would tarnish the image of Switzerland as a country upholding respect for diversity, freedom of religion and human rights and also as a recent example of growing anti-Islamic incitements in Europe by the extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, scare-mongering ultra-right politicians who reign over common sense, wisdom and universal values".

Universal values? Universal fucking values? This is the organisation that, twenty years ago, figured that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights wasn't good enough, or Islamic enough, and produced a competing document, whose first article starts "All human beings form one family whose members are united by submission to God and descent from Adam," ends "the Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification of any of the articles of this Declaration.", and has such pearls of wisdom as "everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari'ah."

Guys, can you make up your mind as to whether we have any universal values or not?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Removing glass from under the skin (warning: really gross)

I removed a glass shard from my eyelid last night. It wasn't one of the best moments of my common sense, but it went well. This is something that is not advisable to do on your own, at 2 in the morning while being extremely drunk, but there was the damn piece of glass sticking out of my damn eyelid, and it was either remove it myself, or go to sleep with it (not an option), or try the emergency room in the middle of Saturday night during the high Christmas party season.

I've removed glass from my skin before, hundreds of shards, but those were fresh, and none of them was in my eyelid. This one had been in my eyelid for 18 years or so, until a couple of weeks ago it started to move from its habitual place outwards, for reasons unknown.

I whined about it to my friends, every one of them recommended seeing a trained professional, and for some reason (severe attack of sudden russiannness?) I failed to do so. I was sort of thinking of doing so. Next week. Maybe. Or maybe not.

Anyway, for more than a week now I had a little hole in my skin that wouldn't close and wasn't big enough to let that thing through, it was getting bigger and more uncomfortable, last night it was big enough for a little bit of glass to stick out, so I squeezed it the way you squeeze a zit (more carefully though), more glass came out, and I grabbed it and pulled. It came out, nothing is damaged, nothing is bleeding, and it sure does feel weird not to have any glass in my eyelid.

The glass came to be there 18 years ago, as a result of an accident (face, meet windshield, windshield, meet face). I was taken to the emergency room, the doctors put a couple of stitches where they were needed, disinfected everything that needed disinfecting, and let us home with an advice to use bacitracin ointment, which turned out to be rather good. (OK, there was a lot more trouble involved but it wasn't medical and is beside the point.)

When I got home and slept on it, I realized that my face was totally full of glass shards, and some of my scalp too. I wondered why the doctors did nothing about it, because they must have known they were there.

In any case I was not about to go back there. I took tweezers, washed them with vodka, and started pulling out whatever stuck out. The process was suprisingly painless and bloodless. After getting rid of everything that stuck out I realized that there is lots more under the skin, and that they are easy to find (those were the places where even a little pressure on top causes sharp pain). A very small amount of very intuitive experimenting showed that they can be squeezed out like acne, although more carefully, and that all there is to it is squeezing them from the directions where they are flat, not from the directions where they are sharp, and that it's very easy to figure out which is which.

After a few days of that work all the glass was out, except for the shard that came out last night (it was in the middle of a rather big wound which i didn't feel like squeezing). No more damage was done, because every piece came out exactly the way it came in, without cutting anything.

And here is the thing I've been wondering about all those years: how do the trained professionals go about removing small shards of glass from patients' skin? The procedure I have just described requires the person to feel what he or she is doing. Do the professionals just cut bigger holes? Do they have some special way of finding the glass and squeeze it out themselves?

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I have gotten many Facebook friend invites lately, from people whose names I don't recognize. Usually I ask them "who the hell are you", but lately I was too overwhelmed even for that. (Overwhelmed by work, mind you. I am not that popular, to be overwhelmed entirely by Facebook invites.

I am trying to keep Facebook for my real-life friends and acquaintances. I also accept friend requests from Net acquaintances, and sometimes from blog fans who are friends of friends, etc, but please, people: if you are not sure I know your name, I probably don't, and if I know you as "blogger X" or "nickname Y from IRC" or "that guy who talked with me at that party and would like to talk again", please mention that in your request. I really don't know half of the real names of the people I meet on the Net.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Misery! Pain!

For a week now I have been having a project from hell and possibly-swine flu. I haven't been as miserable since, well, February.

The project is really not too bad, except that now it's late and I feel really bad about it. The flu was not really too bad either, except that I am not accustommed to fever, and except for the coughing afterwards.

As I have probably mentioned, I tend to throw up when I cough hard. And this flu was just the kind to cause severe coughs afterwards.

Basically, for a week now I have done nothing else besides working and speaking Norwegian into a big white porcelain phone. For a fucking week.

It's totally horrible. I can't sleep properly. And the difference between exploitative and nice workplace is that in an exploitative workplace they chew you out for a late project, and in a nice place they chew you out for a late project and then they chew you out again for working too much while sick.

And it's not like I am some damn work hero. I was just in no condition to do anything else. Half of what I eat comes out the same way it came in, I can't sleep properly because I wake up to the need to throw up, I don't even have the concentration to watch videos. Work, on the other hand, is something that sorely needs to be done, and something that I find cleansing in a way.

Well, complaining is cleansing as well, and here are my two complaints:

1. You can't buy any dextromethorphan in this country in the pill form. Why? Why? More importantly, why was I an idiot and forgot to buy the pills during my trip to the US? The only way to get this stuff here is the cough syrup. Do those people have any idea how hard it is to get the cough syrup down when you are already throwing up to begin with?

2. People always tell me when I am coughing. I have no idea why, but they tend to do it to everyone. Please. I know that I am coughing and that it sounds terrible. I really don't need to hear it from you. I noticed it the first 50000 times I did it, I noticed it the first 2000 times someone has commented on it today, and I noticed it the first 50 times you commented on it during the last hour. Please stop. Please. There really is nothing you can do, nor I. And yes, I have seen a doctor. A number of the fuckers, actually. They have stuff for various condition, but there is nothing they can really do for a person who coughs louder than most and tends to throw up while doing so.

This commenting is a strange phenomenon, really, not limited to me, but for some reason limited to coughing. People don't comment half as much when you just throw up. Or fart.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

From Ilkka's keyboard to God's eyes?

Some kinds of development is not very hard to predict, but it's still very funny when somebody predicts something and the next day it happens.

Yesterday Ilkka mentioned that "there is a serious fracture hidden inside the progressive vanguard, lying in wait between the urban SWPL types and the green eco-activists".

Today, the nuts actually decided to separate themselves from the granola.

This is the page I saw on a few IRC channels and considered a joke until I noticed that Vihreä Lanka is linking to it as the actual program of the new party.

To quote a few:

Kaikki vihreän etiikan ja maailmankatsomuksen muodot sallitaan, kunhan ne kaikki ovat liikkeessä alisteisia syväekologiselle ekosentristiselle holismille.

Me hyväksymme kaikki toiminnan muodot vallitsevaa järjestelmää vastaan, niillä jokaisella on aikansa ja paikkansa.

Olemme linkolalaisia ja paloheimolaisia, olemme primitivistejä ja kommunalisteja sekä sosiaaliekologeja. Me olemme ekobolshevikkeja ja ekoanarkisteja, ekokonservatiivivallankumouksellisia ja ekososialisteja. Olemme ekofeministejä, ekouskonnollisia, ekonihilistejä, ekohumanisteja, ekosyndikalisteja, survivalisteja ja eläinoikeustaistelijoita.

Vallitseva ryösteliäs maailmanjärjestys, tämä koko ihmiskunnan kuolonmarssille pakottanut kaikenmurhaava sivilisaatiomme, huutaa päällensä oikeutettua kostoa. On lyötävä alas tämä koko vanha maailma.

Jos Linkola olisi kuollut, hän kääntyisi haudassaan.

Ihmisten on avattava silmänsä; aikamme tuhon ideologia ei ole uusliberalismi, vaan liberalismi yleensä.

Reformismipyyteistä irtisanoutuminen tarkoittaa, että jätämme aikaa vievän, työlään ja tarkoituksettoman parlamenttipelleilyn vähämielisempien koikkelehtijoiden temmellyskentäksi.

Emme aio myöskään siis hirttää itseämme naurettavaan legalismin ohjenuoraan. Käytännön vaatimukset, käytettyjen keinojen toimivuus päämäärien saavuttamisessa sanelevat toiminnan muodon. Jos päämäärä ei pyhitä keinoja, niin mikä sitten?

Suora toiminta on radikaaleimmissa muodoissaan suuressa määrin "ulkoistettava" autonomisille soluille31 ja yhteistyökumppaneille.

Äärimmäisen tarpeellista on myös luopua ns. positiivisen eli aktiivisen47 omistusoikeuden periaatteesta,48 ja siirtyä passiivisen omistusoikeuden periaatteeseen. Omistaminen ei siis ole luovuttamaton sisäsyntyinen ja automaattinen perusoikeus,49 vaan omistuksessa on kysymys siitä että toistaiseksi annetaan jonkun jotakin omistaa, sikäli mikäli siitä ei ole kokonaisuudelle haittaa.

Rikokset elonkehää ja tulevia sukupolvia kohtaan tulee tuomita mitä drakonisimman käytännön mukaan. Tämä oikeus ei tunnusta kansallisia rajoja. Mikäli kumousvalta tulee Suomessa voimaan, on se velvoitettu tätä oikeutta levittämään ja toimeenpanemaan myös rajojemme ulkopuolella.

Kaupunkien (sikäli mikäli niitä päätetään ylläpitää) tulee lakata olemasta ravinnontuotannollisesti katsoen loiskasvaimia. Niiden on kyettävä tuottamaan itse merkittävä osa ravinnostaan. Koulut, työpaikat ja kotitaloudet/taloyhtiöt tulee ottaa mukaan ravinnontuotantoon.

Imperialismin Suuri Saatana, Yhdysvallat, elonkehän suurin vihollinen on kurkottanut kuolettavat lonkeronsa yltympäriinsä rakasta palloamme näiden.

Nykyistä liberaalidemokratiaa voimme ainakin pitää kuoleman uskontona.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Please, people, put the Misanthrope Supreme back where he crawled out of

"Writer and fisherman Pentti Linkola is of the opinion that having children is the greatest environmental crime,", writes Antti Manninen in Helsingin Sanomat.

Damn, how can a journalist miss such a chance to be snarky? It should be "writer, fisherman and a father of two Pentti Linkola...", for the man who wants everyone else to die is still alive at 76, and certainly has not kept his dick in his pants, nor even in a condom.

The man is pure and unadulterated evil - the kind of evil that you laugh at as too much over the top when you see it in the movies. For those who are not familiar with him - he is a sort of environmentalist version of Fred Phelps, whose basic idea is "kill everybody, they are bad for the environment" and who rejoices every time there is a bombing or a tsunami or some other disaster somewhere.

The main difference is that Baptists are in general rather embarrassed about Phelps. Environmentalists, OTOH, are not nearly as embarrassed about Linkola - oh well, many of them are, but not near enough.

Linkola, of course, wants a dictatorship. (I assume he means the kind where he or somebody with similar opinions is the dictator and bans everything and kills lots of people who go to malls or own cars or something, not the kind of dictatorship where I am the queen of the world and all the "let's reduce the numbers of humanity by poisoning water supply" types are rounded up and summarily executed on the first day.)

That, BTW, is one of the answers to the question jmk asked me in the comments to the previous post: a lot of people are fond of Communism and other dictatorships because it provides a sweet fantasy of power: a dictatorship tends to elevate at least one Linkola to Pol Pot, which is a pretty nice deal if you are in fact the person who gets the power. The brighter ones remember what happened to all the candidates who did not get to be Pol Pot, and enjoy the fantasy of power from afar; the dumber ones get to be the bones in the killing fields; the really lucky dumb one gets to be Pol Pot. But I digress...

Anyway, Linkola is luckily not Pol Pot, has never been elected to any position of power and - thank God for small favors - is not even insane enough to go postal. I don't really care why he is the way he is. Homicidal misanthropic maniacs, including ones who don't go as far as actual homicide, do happen in the population. What I want to know why media tends to write about him as if he were somebody sane. I mean, a lot of media write about Phelps, but they always make it quite clear that they know the guy is a complete nutcase.

HS says that Linkola was interviewed in the magazine called Responsible Influential Person. Do they even realize how much red wine hurts going through your nose? That's the last time I am ever drinking anything while reading HS.

Just how desperate the people in the Responsible Influential Person are? Why are they interviewing the guy? Was Mugabe unavailable? Fidel Castro too old to give an interview? Ahmadinejad refused to talk to them?

If you as much comment on the sexual tastes of some group's prophet, you end up in court. You say you want to kill Jews, Muslims, Christians, blacks, whites, gays, heterosexuals - you will get convicted, and for a good reason. But try to incite people to commit what would be in effect crimes against humanity, and not only don't you get dragged to court, you get interviewed by supposedly serious magazines and idolized by the lunatic fringe of environmentalism.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Wall

I remember when it fell down. It was sort of a shock, even though a very pleasant one.

Nothing much happened to the Soviet system during my childhood, at least not as far as I could see. Brezhnev was the fearless leader when I was born; Andropov and Chernenko and the Gorbachev succeeded him. The adults could see subtle differences and occasionally pointed them out, but they were potentialities, not anything immediately obvious, especially not to a child. The only thing that was obvious was the stuff disappearing from the stores: when I was 5 or 6 there were occasional long lines for salami and toilet paper; when I was 10 or so the lines disappeared completely along with the salami and the toilet paper (you could still find both if you knew the right people, but there was none in the stores).

One more thing that we didn't have was immigrants. I'd never seen a single one during my 16 years in Russia. There were tourists, lots of them. I heard there were students from Africa and Vietnam, and I heard that sometimes they stayed, but I'd never seen any that stayed. There were people on business trips, diplomats, and sometimes exchange teachers for a few weeks of months. Probably exchange students, too, but I'd never met any. I'd heard there were some Communist immigrants from the West in the 30s and 50s, I'd heard what had befallen them after arriving in Russia, and didn't wonder why didn't get any new immigrants after that.

The closest I'd ever seen to immigrants were the folks who were born in Poland and didn't manage to get out when Russia annexed their part of Poland, and Laura. Laura was an Italian woman who was married to a Japanese man who was stationed as a representative of some company in Leningrad and Helsinki for a couple of years. The man commuted between the two cities all the time; Laura chose Leningrad because she was a student of Russian and wished to practice; needless to say, she wasn't planning on staying there, wasn't eating what normal people ate, or using the local public transportation, or standing in lines for anything, but she was the only actual live foreigner sitting in the yard of my grandparents' apartment building and talking to us, ever.

I never wondered why we didn't have any immigrants. In fact I'd have been very surprised if we had, considering what kind of a shithole the place was. (OK, now I know there is also North Korea, but at the time I was unsure of exactly how bad it was, and in any case suspected that all the evil countries probably return the defectors to each other.)

One thing I didn't quite understand was the existence of Communists in the West. I knew there were some because they sold the newspapers printed by the Western Communist parties in Russia; the newspapers were not in my opinion proper Communist newspapers; I suspected the whole thing was some kind of a money scam (people getting money from Russia to print newspapers that occasionally praised it).

We left Russia in April. One week later, on May 1st, we saw a small Communist demonstration in the streets of Vienna. The realization that those people were there entirely voluntarily, without anyone threatening them or offering them toilet paper or an extra day off work was stunning. "They are insane," offered an older neighbor for an explanation. I was a innocent young girl then, at least in some ways, and wondered why they don't move to Russia. "Not that insane," suggested the neighbor.

In the US we had a history teacher who was a Communist. He often used to tell the five Russian students in his class how we don't understand in what a great country we used to live. We usually responded with a suggestion what he should move there and find out how great it is for real. Strangely, he never did.

I was not entirely sure at the time why Western people become Communists, and in fact am not quite sure of it now (I do have some idea though), but one thing I firmly knew by the age of 16 was that not a single one of the fuckers ever moved to the thrice-befucked workers' paradise! (At least not after the Communists killed the last crop of movers. See? Even Communists can learn!)

But anyways, the Wall. It was sweet. God, it was so sweet. I felt a slight pang of regret at not witnessing its fall in person, even though by that time I was quite aware that historical events are best observed at a safe distance.

The teacher (who was not our teacher that year, but anyway) was absolutely livid. I probably shouldn't be mean to him, but at that moment I lacked other Communists to be mean to (life was terrible before the Net). The man looked like he was about to personally run to the Home Depot for building materials to keep that wall up.

I don't think he ever did that either.

If it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck... just might be a fucking duck!

Seriously: yes, of course, a guy named Nidal might go postal just like a guy named John. (Hmm, Nidal, it means struggle in Arabic. At least they didn't name him Jihad.) Besides, being a soldier, a Muslim and a psychiatrist at the same time might be kind of hard on a person's mental health (no offense to people who are any of the above).

Still: according to quite a lot of sources, the man praised suicide bombers, was disciplined for preaching Islam to the patients, handed out Korans before starting his shooting spree, listened to the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, and screamed "Allahu Akbar" while shooting. What does it take to figure out what his motives were? Should Al-Qaeda print membership cards, or sell t-shirts?

Somehow it didn't take the media half as much time to figure out Sodini's motives.

Of well, Nidal Malik Hasan is alive, we'll see what he has to say. Maybe I should start a guessing game:

1. "Allahu Akbar!"
2. "Oops, sorry. Eek."
3. "Well, I was in such a state of shock that I completely blacked out; I can't remember a thing."
4. "Texas is occupying Palestinian land!"
5. "I totally need a lawyer!"
6. "Jews made me do it."

Citizenship: the process

First of all, forget about whether the residence requirement is 5 years or 6. It was 5 until 2003; then they made it 6; now they are planning to make it 5 again. The difference is not essential in comparison to other things: when the required residence period starts, and whether or not it can be interrupted.

The law of 2003 allowed the possibility of interrupted residence: you can apply after 6 years of continuous residence, of after accruing 8 years of residence during your lifetime. The new one reduces those to 5 and 7.

More importantly: the law of 2003, and the previous one as well, counted as residence only A-permit and permanent permit residence - you could live all your life here on a B-permit and never be eligible to apply for the citizenship. (I won't do into A- and B-statuses here; enough to say that the student and temporary workers get B, and some of the permanent workers get B for the first 2 years.)

In 2007 a court found a bug in the law, and after that everything started counting as residence. This was in fact quite unprecedented: there are other countries that count temporary-status residence for citizenship eligibility, but AFAIK Finland is currently the only one that also gives citizenship to people still living on temporary status.

The new law is a compromise: it will count half of the B-status time towards the citizenship, but will allow people to apply for citizenship only after they got A-status.

That, BTW, is why I only got the citizenship now. I have lived in Finland for about 14 years, the last 8 of them continuously, but since I was a student, a temporary worker, and for the first 2 years of the last 8 a B-status permanent worker, I only became eligible to apply after the 2007 court decision (if not for it, I would only be eligible to apply 4 weeks from now).

Anyway, once the Immigration Service mentioned the court decision sometime it March, the rest was easy. I signed up for the language test. I cannot really comment on the level of the test, because instead of signing up for the medium level (the one for the people who want the citizenship) I signed up for the high level (the one for people with stupid macho tendencies who want to pay extra 45 euro or so and take a harder test for a piece of paper they'll never use). It had 6 parts of varying difficulty - more about it later. I got 6 (the highest grade) on every one of them. Go me!

With the test result, 400 euro and a filled application I went to the immigration police sometime in early May. Yesterday I got a letter with two pieces of paper. One of them said "you are a Finnish citizen now". The other said "go to the immigration police and have them cancel your residence permit, a citizen is not supposed to have one".

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I guess they give the citizenship to pretty much anyone now. Even me.

Whee! After 14 years in the country, 400 euro and one language test, I am finally a citizen!

I am quite happy and still a bit incredulous. It only took the Immigration Service 6 months, I was expecting 12.

Answers to the common questions:

- yes, of course I am still a US citizen as well,
- no, this doesn't affect my taxes and/or social entitlements in either country,
- I am so looking forward to doing my part in voting Keskusta out of power in 2011.

I'll write more about the whole process later.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall foliage

As some readers might have deduced from the previous posting and from the long absence, I was in the US for a couple of weeks.

There, standing on the local library's parking lot while my mother was returning some books, I finally realized why tourists come to New England just to see the fall foliage.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I am not exactly Miss Manners, and neither are my parents. Some of my friends are blessed with even less social grace than myself, and some of my relatives are blessed with none at all.

All of these people, however, generally understand human speech. They might lack tact, blurt out whatever is on their minds, fail to understand subtle clues, but if you tell them to shut the fuck up - well, they might start screaming even louder, but at least they acknowledge it.

My aunt, unfortunately, has not reached this stage of development.

Any visit to her place goes the following way:

"Would you like something to eat?"
"No, thanks, I just ate."
"Would you like something to eat?"
"No, thanks."
"No, thanks, I am not hungry."
"Would you like something to eat?"
"I said no three times."
"Chicken or shrimp? I also have some cabbage pie?"
"No, thanks."

Yes, there are cultures where food is supposed to be offered and possibly refused several times, but even in Russian culture after four iterations it is supposed to be entirely clear whether or not the host really wants to offer the food and whether or not the guest really wants to eat. Clear to everyone except my aunt, that is. On numerous occasions she has gone up to 40 iterations, and would have gone to fifty had I not escaped. Worst of all, at her place I am bound by hospitality rules not to order her to shove the chicken up her anus.

The only time I failed to abide by the hospitality rules was once eight years ago when she was at my place with my father and uncle, helping me to assemble six bookcases I'd just bought. I have no idea why they were there, really: I needed no help, my aunt considered it beneath her feminine dignity to actually help with the shelves but came anyway, and both my father and my uncle considered it beneath their masculine dignity to read the instructions. As the result I was sitting on the floor assembling the shelves, the men were arguing about the most optimal way of doing so and occasionally trying to steal my hammer, and the aunt decided to help out by taking a trash bag and putting there all the objects whose purpose she did not know, plus all the clothes she did not like. After confiscating the trash bag and telling her to leave my stuff in peace for the third time I led her to the kitchen, ordered her to make tea, and told her that if she leaves the kitchen without my permission, or throws out as much as a used teabag, she would be immediately disemboweled. This did catch her attention, and she remained in the kitchen for the rest of the day and kept all her bowels.

This time I decided not to visit her place (I did see her, but not one-on-one), and she called me on the phone instead. Big mistake. In addition, this time she suddenly decided to give me some advice on beauty and femininity. The last time she has done so was when I was 15; even then I realized that you probably shouldn't heed any advice on femininity coming from a woman who wears a beard due to the fact that shaving is very unfeminine.

"It's too bad that you did not have time to come to my place," she says. "We could have gone to see my hairdresser."
"She would have advised you on a new hairstyle."
"I am quite pleased with the current one, thanks."
"You don't have to do anything, just discuss it with her, to be ready for when you do want change."
"I am not interested in any change in foreseeable future, but if I ever do, I'll go to my own hairdresser, thanks."
"I would like you to go to my hairdresser."
"Not gonna happen. I am not interested in seeing your hairdresser, now or ever." And neither is anyone else who has ever seen you, I leave unsaid.
"But you need change!" For a second there I wonder whether she has seen to many Obama speeches, then decide that he is not to blame.
"You do realize you are being rude, right? Unsolicited advice on other people's appearance is quite rude in general, and I have told you three times that I am not interested."
"I just want you to be beautiful!"
"Our esthetic tastes are very different, so I don't think I can benefit from this advice, or any other esthetic advice of yours."
"No they are not!"
"I think we should change the topic."
"You have reached the age when women should wear short hair."
"And I am still not interested, and not interested in discussing it with you, either. This topic is now closed."

She iterated about ten times on length, then switching to color and informing me that my dye has peroxide (it doesn't, but she felt the need to argue) and to the conditioner, informing me that I should definitely use the one that comes in green bottles, and completely ignoring my protestations that a) lots of conditioners come in green bottles, b) there might be a different selection of conditioners in Boston and in Helsinki.

As the conversation (most times she is content to preach while I put the receiver on the table and surf the net, but this time she demanded responses) progressed, I found my mind wandering to the scene from Kill Bill 1 where O-Ren is holding a yakuza meeting and making a rather forceful point about what she does and does not wish to be discussed. In the end, after about thirty iterations of her wanting me to cut my hair, to use the conditioner in green bottles whose brand will forever remain a mystery, and telling me how my hair reacts to the dyes that I do not use, the rather limited reserve of my patience ran out, and I told her that she should look in the mirror and realize that she can ill afford to give hairdressing advice.

Of well, at least I haven't used the words "frightful bird nest".

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Our glorious warrior ancestors would have probably rather played EVE

Ran into a discussion on young men playing computer games. No link to protect the guilty, and also because I've run into the same topic elsewhere: how a lot of young men from the country X - the country varies - have forgotten all about their glorious warrior traditions and proud warrior ancestors and spend all their spare time playing computer games and trying to escape from reality.

What strikes me as funny is that people who apparently can talk about "proud warrior ancestors" with a straight face have the nerve to criticize other people's grip on reality.

And while we are on the topic of bodily secretions...

People are advised not to do a number of things: pick their noses, remove wax from their ears, squeeze out acne, puncture blisters, scratch mosquito bites, scratch healing abrasions, pick dried blood off their surfaces, scratch all sorts of things, etc.

Some of these make more sense than others, but I am still wondering: it there some evolutionary purpose in the fact that most people want to do most of the above? For example, why does healing skin itch in the first place?


When I was a little kid, we were told not to pick our noses. And it was made quite clear that this didn't mean "don't pick your nose in public", but "don't pick your nose at all, even in private".

The funny thing was that nobody ever offered any viable alternatives to picking one's nose, or at least not any alternatives that didn't assume that the contents of the nose had to be liquid.

I am curious: did anyone's parents ever really say what to do instead of picking one's nose? Or did the parents in the civilized world just tell their kinds not to do it in public?

Sunday, October 04, 2009


Either I have horrible lesions of a previously unknown but surely fatal skin disease on my knee, or kneeling on a broken video card is really bad for your skin.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Not only do we own Hollywood...

...but it sure looks like we have taken over Iran!

Apparently Mahmoud "Mad Jad" Ahmadinejad comes from a Jewish family.

Note to ourselves: we really should stop marrying our cousins. Once or twice in a long family line is OK, but do that 10 generations in a row and look what you end up with.

"...and then we'll try to get the vote, too..."

When I was a kid in Russia people used to joke about guerrillas who were hiding in the forests since WWII without realizing that the war is over. Part of the reason for the jokes was, of course, that such people were occasionally found.

Some of the participants in the war of sexes remind me of those jokes. Times change, life changes, their arguments stay the same.

A high school teacher of mine used to say, in 1990: "you girls can be anything you want to be, anything your mothers couldn't even dream of: doctors, engineers...". "Damn," I thought, "just how old do you think my mother is?"

My mother is in fact an engineer. So was her mother before her. My other grandmother was a doctor. Her own mother was a dentist, and her aunt a doctor. And I knew that it wasn't just a Russian phenomenon either: there were thousands of female doctors in the US before my great-grandmother was even born.

A few days ago I ran into a conversation about girls and math. (No, no link, the guilty shall remain unnamed, but I have run into that conversation many times before.) It always goes the following way:

Person A: Girls don't want to study math because they don't believe in their mathematical abilities! Schools must do something to encourage them right now!
Person B: Girls don't want to study math because they don't have the ability to do so, and no amount of social engineering from the schools is gonna change it!

Have those people even bothered to look up the statistics lately? Or ever?

The Univeristy of Helsinki has admitted 208 freshmen as math majors last year: 107 men and 101 women. The Statistics Finland's database doesn't have a listing of degrees by major, but in the "sciences" group, which undoubtedly includes math, 5947 degrees were awarded last year: 2891 to men and 3056 to women (that's 51.4% women). In the US last year 6594 out of the 14954 bachelor degrees in math were awarded to women (that's 44.1%).

Yes, the schools can apply heroic efforts to encourage girls to study math, and in a few years we might have an incoming freshman class of 104 men and 104 women. Yes, there is an innate difference in men's and women's math abilities, enough to account for the fact that no woman has ever won a Fields Medal - but almost six thousand people graduate every year with a BA in math in the US and only 2-4 people in the world earn a Fields Medal every 4 years.

And yes, there are fields with much fewer girls than boys. I just don't think that any simple explanation, be it nature, nurture, discrimination or general stereotypes, could easily tell us why, for example, in the Helsinki University of Technology chemical engineering students have a 48-52 sex distribution, and mechanical engineers 10-90.

BTW, one really interesting number is the number of women getting degrees in computer science in the US: it fluctuates wildly up and down. So does men's, but to a much lesser degree.

One thing that came to my mind while looking that the Finnish higher education statistics: women get 64.8% of all university degrees in Finland. The only areas of study where men get more degrees than women are engineering (75.7%) and painting (52.8%). The field with the greatest gender imbalance is veterinary medicine, with 92.5% degrees earned by women. Considering all of the above, if we are talking about encouraging somebody to study, shouldn't we be talking about encouraging boys?

Another thought: the real gender issue nowadays is not whether some particular feature of men or women is caused ny nature or nurture, but rather why are we discussing this in some particular situations, but not when the sexes are reversed?

And another thought: in 1850s there was quite a lot of talk about whether women are fit to be doctors. Today, women get 66.2% of all medical degrees in Finland. How long will it take before somebody with a strong liking for the natural order of things and weak grasp of history claims that men can't be good doctors on account of insufficient nurturing instinct?

Friday, September 25, 2009

A nostalgic poem

A really good poem in Russian. Those who don't speak Russian can look at the pictures, they are good too.

A new reality show?

After reading a conversation about communism today, I got an idea for a reality show. I am sure I mentioned the idea before, but now I think I'd refine it a bit.

There should be a lot of participants, at least 10 thousand, maybe 20. Judging from the number of people whom I hear say that communism was a badly implemented but basically sound idea, that number of people should be really easy to find.

Each participant is provided with rations for a few days, and some tools. They can grow their own food (the show should be filmed somewhere where stuff actually grows), forage for it, or produce goods and/or services and sell them to the outside world and buy food from there.

The participants can organize in any kind of groups and make their own rules. They can leave the area and the show freely, unless prevented from doing so by other participants.

I wonder what kind of communism they'd build in the end.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Yiddish in Swedish

Went to the Yiddish class today.

Surprisingly enough, yesterday's mysterious stranger wasn't there.

Even more surprisingly, the class was taught by a Dutch guy I sort of knew. Who addressed me in Russian. Very good Russian, too. I'd never heard that he knew any Russian before now.

My absurdity meter went through the roof, and I had a feeling that the logical conclusion for the evening would be for the Dutch guy and myself to mix vodka and beer, drink the resulting cocktail in the bushes next to the parliament building, and sing "Heveinu Shalom Aleichem" in Icelandic, thereby killing all the seagulls within the hearing range, but I did not quite have the heart to suggest this. Maybe next time.

I did learn quite a lot of Swedish, though.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My life is not like the lives of other people

I am a weirdo magnet.

Today a man came up to me and told me that I look like a person who would like to take a Yiddish class in Swedish. "But I don't speak Swedish," I pointed out. "I don't think this will be a problem," he said.

This happened in the Confucius institute, so i guess the man figured that somebody crazy enough to take a Cantonese class in Mandarin would also be crazy enough to take a Yiddish class in Swedish.

The funniest thing about it was of course that he was absolutely right. Now I signed up for the class.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oh dear...

I have always predicted that one day this would happen, and now it did.

Some asshole (Abdullah Hassan Tali al-Asir) put explosives (half a kilo of dynamite, according to some sources) up his ass and tried to blow up a Saudi prince. The prince got slightly injured, and the terrorist died.

Can't the fucking terrorists be just a little bit more considerate? Does this idiot whose bowels now decorate the prince's walls even realize what he has done (obviously, not anymore)? Can anyone even imagine what is gonna happen to the airport security procedures after this?

And all that after they banned taking a full tube of AquaGlide in the carry-on luggage, too.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

Shit, this is really embarassing

Did Geert Wilders go nuts from all the stress?

He wants a 1000 euro yearly tax on wearing hijabs,

They used to have a beard tax in Russia, too, but at least they had two excuses: the year was 1705 and the czar who instituted the tax was, well, differently sane. What's Wilder's excuse?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Parents of the year, again (do they have them every month?)

Last year a couple was sentenced to a year and two months' suspended sentence for taking their 16-year-old daughter to the Democratic Republic of Kongo. Now a higher court reduced it to four months' suspended sentence.

Right. This will show them! Although, on the other hand, I should be, and indeed am, glad that those assholes were sentenced at all.

It never ceases to amaze me how some places are considered (sometimes quite rightly) too much of a shithole to return a refugee to, even too much of a shithole to return a convicted criminal to, but as soon as parents are trying to send their child there, it's their dear idyllic homeland where the wise relatives instruct the children in their quaint traditional ways.

Anyway, the fuckers had a 16-year-old girl, who had lived half of her life in Finland, they took her to Kinshasa by deceit (because otherwise she would have run away to the shelter, says the father) and they left her there up the shit creek without a paddle (I mean at some relatives' place without a passport). All of this because they wanted to keep her away from bad company and to teach her the African customs.

Let's see. The Democratic Republic of Congo is just as much of a festering shithole as anything else called a Democratic Republic. (Democratic Republic of Korea, anyone? Democratic Republic of Kampuchea, probably the most genocidal state ever?) The thing it is most known for is the Second Congo War, a partially-civil war that really lasted from 1998 to 2003 and has been sort of low-key since then. (The Parents of The Year sent their sprog there in 2006.) The war in question killed 5.4 million people, which was incidentally about 8.2% of the population.

Right now the war is primarily in the east. It's mostly characterized by raping everything that moves. Gang-raping, too, to the point where it causes rectovaginal fistulae. Which, I suspect, is what affects the brains of people who send their children there.

Kinshasa, where the girl was sent, boasts 112 homicides per 100000 people. Yep, that's 0.112% of population getting killed in a year.

In comparison there has been about 2.3 homicides per 100000 people per year in Helsinki in the 2000s.

What kind of local customs did they send the girl to learn? Homicide, group rape and genocide? I think these have been rather out of fashion in most of Europe for the last 60 years or so.

I know there are warm-hearted people somewhere in Africa, with great negotiation skills and all, but I think that when a country is recovering from a big-time genocide one really should go and learn the negotiation skills somewhere else. For example among the drunk teenagers in any mall in Helsinki. Not that they are the optimal teachers of manners, mind you, but at least everyone usually stays alive. In fact I can't really think of any demographic group in Finland that would even approach the 0.1% per year homicide statistic.

Luckily for everyone involved the girl was well-versed in the Finnish methods of negotiation, and contacted a classmate and a teacher by email. They and the police helped her to get home. I can only hope the police charged the parents for the ticket afterwards.

I am not even imagining that the punishment will deter the next parents of the year, but we can at least hope that the publicity will both warn the children and teach them how to get back when left by their parents in the midst crime and/or civil war.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Been mostly at home on Friday and today. Some kind of evil is living in my throat and I am trying to exorcize it with tea, booze, garlic and rest.

This didn't stop me from going to Tallinn with the rest of my coworkers yesterday (it was not the kind of flu that makes me sneeze and not the first day so hope I wasn't too contagious).

We were specifically told that we can bring families and friends, but in the end Anu pointed out that I was the only one who brought an adult of the same sex. Let's just hope that this did not cause misconceptions about my sexual orientation among my single male coworkers.

The tour guide kept talking about how bad the Russians are, which was quite understandable, but not a nice thing to do in front of a Russian colleague (the driver was Russian-speaking). The driver, however, seemed to be unable to understand Finnish or Estonian, which was not nice either.

Tallinn, on the other hand, was as nice as ever. In spite of the rain.

No offense, but...

Jussi Halla-aho (a blogger, a politician and a friend of mine) got sentenced to a 330 euro fine for blasphemy, for mentioning that a certain prophet was a pedophile, and, as the court's decision says, generalizing it to the whole religion founded by that prophet.

The grounds for the sentence have some interesting moments:

1. The term "pedophile" that Halla-aho uses has a very strong pejorative meaning as such.

Hmm, would the court like to suggest some non-pejorative terms for the same concept? "The prophet had a very special kind of love for children"?

Seriously, the law uses such a concept as "intent to insult". I can well understand it in some contexts. For example calling somebody a faggot, a nigger or a whore, even if factually true, can be considered as doing it with intent to insult, because these are, in fact, the insulting words for the concepts for which there exist neutral words.

But how do you express the really negative concepts without the intent to insult? How do you say that somebody is a murderer or a pedophile, for example? I really wish the court would say "you can't call a murderer a murderer or a pedophile a pedophile, because it is always insulting" or, alternatively, "you should call a murderer 'a person who has illegally and intentionally caused someone's death' and a pedophile 'a person who has sex with severely underaged partners'".

2. You can't really apply sense and logic to religion.

Well, they got that right. If you apply sense and logic to a religion that encourages young men to fight and die in the name of their god, at the same time gaining more land and people for their community, all on the promise on heaven and 72 heavenly virgins, and on the other hand, allows the remaining male members of the community to have 4 wives per person, you might find an answer to the question "cui bono?". In, like, 10 milliseconds.

3. Blasphemy causes conflict between the parties depending on how important the religion is to them.

Is this some kind of admission that blasphemy against the religions whose representatives are more likely to riot is a more punishable offense than blasphemy against the other religions?

4. It would be different if Halla-aho were criticizing the mistreatment of some specific young Muslim girls.

I though he kind of did. We are talking about a specific girl here, right?


In response to my previous post Markku said that I make it sound as if Linux were but a constant source of grief for me, and ask to write some balancing thoughts.

In fact it hasn't. There is of course the factor that I, like everybody else, tend to write about problems, and not "my computer has been working so well and I am so happy". But most of all, the source of my problems is not Linux or any other thing in the outside world, but my own tendency to update, upgrade and configure everything to death. Although I must say that in spite of all the grief it gives me, it's quite a lot of fun. That's why I do it all the time.

As for Linux: I wish I could be really persuasive about how it is so much better than everything else. Problem is, I can't. All I can say is that I have been a very satisfied user for the last 15 years, and intend to remain so in the future.

The reason I can't easily praise Linux over everything else is that I don't know that much about anything else. I don't touch Windows every year, and the last time I touched a Mac was before the LCD displays became popular.

All my experiences with Windows so far have been rather unpleasant, and part of it was surely due to inexperience, but some of it was clearly objective - for example, the last time I spent a few days in front of a computer running Windows I asked people who had Windows of their own how to make window focus follow mouse, and they couldn't tell me.

Linux does everything I want it to do, and any grief is rare and far between. It is quite distribution-dependent, too. I tend to like Debian, which is great otherwise (lots and lots of packages and very easy updates) but tends to be a bit behind on hardware drivers. I also tend to run the less-than-stable versions of it, because, you know, new! shiny!

To the people who do not consider tinkering with their system to be a great way to spend an evening I'd currently recommend Ubuntu. I have two different Ubuntus installed on two of my home computers (the regular 9.04 on the desktop in the bedroom, and Easypeasy on the little laptop), and both installed without any problem and work like a charm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lessons of yesterday

1. It's really quite easy to make a new Ubuntu installation over an existing encrypted LVM:

- copy your /etc/crypttab to /home,
- boot from an alternate install CD into the rescue mode,
- give the passphrase when the installer asks for it, use the partitioner in the normal way, install,
- boot from an alternate install CD into the rescue mode, again,
- copy the crypttab from /home back to /etc/crypttab,
- update-initramfs -k all -c -v,
- happy happy joy joy.

2. If your laptop's (in this case Dell Latitude E6400) screen suddenly goes black when you activate some display manager, and does not react to anything at all, try taking the damn thing off the docking station. Then boot it, find the power management setting and fix it so that it doesn't do it anymore (in this case, told it not to react to AC poweror closed lid).

How to deal with those pesky bloggers

When a blogger posts something you don't like, threaten her with a lawyer and make sure that whatever you did not like to begin with ends up in the country's biggest newspaper and in many other people's blogs.

Because this worked so well for a couple of restaurants.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On sex and/or relationships with friends

Most of the people I know find sex and relationship partners among their friends and acquaintances. As far as I can see with is the case for my friends in Helsinki, my childhood friends in Boston, my parents' childhood friends in St. Petersburg, and my grandparents. (Although I do know some people who have found their partners as strangers in the bars or on some Net dating service, and they seem happy enough.)

However, the people claiming that once a man is friends with a woman he has no chance are so numerous, that probably somewhere out there there must be a place (geographical or social) where this is in fact the case. I am just curious: where is it?

The Game

Lots of people seem to be writing about "the game" nowadays, meaning the techniques allowing the men to pick up more women. The idea is probably useful; the actual advice ranges from useful to ridiculous; the writers range from people who sound like they more or less know what they are talking about to people who are pick-up experts in the same sense as a guy who is always in trouble with his residence permit is an immigration expert (I know one of those, too).

The purpose of this post is not to bash the male sex as such for inventing silly rules for picking up women. Embarrassingly enough women were there first, at least in modern times, with The Rules and similar books, and I can't say that the quality of advice was any better when written by women and for women.

One of the main points that the male pickup advisers make is to never take any advice from a woman, because they are all lying or don't really know what they want anyway. If you want to heed this advice, stop reading this post now.

If you are still reading: take this with a grain of salt, anyway, because this is obviously seen through the lens of my life experience, and people in other places might behave very differently from the educated classes of Helsinki, Finland.

Also: I don't actively pick up women, so these are just the thoughts that came to me from watching men pick me up, or pick my friends up in my presence.

First of all, about "women don't know what they want: they want X, but not too much of X". Well, duh! Many qualities are distributed on a bell curve, and many people don't like the extremes of the curve in many cases.

Second, even though this sounds like an instruction on picking me up, it's not really meant as such, and just written on the reasonable assumption that I am definitely not unique.

Basically, there are only two really useful things in picking me up: a) be somebody whom I already know and b) be very attractive physically. A and B and interchangeable to an extent; a well-liked friend can well end up in my bed just by being reasonably cute, and a very beautiful stranger can have the familiarity requirement waived, but if you are neither attractive not previously known to me, just forget it.

There have been exceptions to this, when I was in the mood for experimenting and very young and very bored at the same time. The experimental mood is hard to detect, but you might want to find somebody young and really bored.

Familiarity has its degrees, as does attractiveness. My taste is farther out than most, but they all differ a bit. Remember that if women rate you on a 1-10 attractiveness scale some of them will give you a couple more points than you would receive on average. I don't know how one would go around finding them, though.

Being nice and decent doesn't help much, although failing to do so will hurt. The reason it doesn't help much is that everyone else is nice and decent, too. You are competing against the pool of my single friends and acquaintances, every one of whom is nice and decent. They are intelligent, too.

Sense of humor? Not a big plus, because I suspect all humans have it.

If I am up for casual sex, especially for casual sex with a man I don't know very well, the single thing I hate the most is drama. The worst thing you can show is drama potential. (Oh well, you can turn out to be the new Pol Pot, but I guess this also counts as drama potential.) Any man who makes me suspect that having sex with him once and failing to do so the second time will result in screaming, major depression or broken kitchenware is immediately off the list.

Here is where confidence enters the play. If you are planning on casual sex with me, especially if you don't know me well, you should sound like my "yes" or "no" is not a big deal to you, and if it is "yes", then a subsequent "no" the next time is not a big deal either. Any hint of worshiping is not good.

Negativity is not good either, if you don't know me well. Negativity in general only works with people who know you don't really mean it. Very light negativity might work with strangers, but most people, myself included, don't know how to apply it.

Too much confidence is a bad thing too. This is kind of difficult to notice, because it becomes a bad thing very easily and I am not likely to express it, I just withdraw. (My failure, not yours.) My manner with the people I don't know well is rather gentle; it is a kind of a so-called "shit test": if a guy interprets gently expressed movie/bar/restaurant preference as something he does not have to listen to and compromise with, he is out. (With people whom I know well it's different, we can play tug-of-war with those things.)

As for "being an asshole", which is a misnomer, since said behaviors don't always understand assholicity: ignoring me every once in a while is quite healthy, although this can be and has been overdone. Flirting (and having sex) with other women has practically no effect on me (and I know it's quite unusual). Trying to order me around... well, so far nobody dared.

Basically, be somebody I know, or somebody attractive, otherwise your chances are low. And don't overdo things.

One more thing, but I am not sure how common it is, even in my own circle: early hours of the morning is a really bad time to pick me up. That's the time when I don't usually want anyone, even familiar and attractive. Evening is much better.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Go stand on a highway

I saw a demonstration of environmentalists today.

It made me feel like buying a car. Not because I am a contrarian bitch, although I do have those moments, but simply because I wanted to get home and the fuckers filled pretty much the whole width of Aleksanterinkatu and the trams weren't moving.

Downtown Helsinki has enough open space for people to demonstrate without blocking all the traffic in some particular place. For some reason every time I see a demonstration blocking all the traffic it's either the environmentalists or the "youths" supporting some squatters. Even the "peace marchers" with Hezbollah flags and t-shirts saying "bomb Israel" had the decency to let the trams through. The environmentalist cause is apparently too important for worrying about the mundane things like the reasonably smooth running of public transportation.

Also for some reason they tend to demonstrate right in the places where a lot of trams run (oh well, the places where the trams are supposed to run and usually do when the environmentalists are not there blocking the traffic). Has anyone ever heard of environmentalists demonstrating against the climate change on Kehä III? Me neither.

Not that I would really want them to block the traffic there either, but at least it would be more consistent than blocking the public transportation in the center of the city.

Could it be that they find it difficult to get there without cars? Maybe the effort of doing so would teach them why people who live there usually own cars in the first place.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A felon refugee camp?

One of the problems with the refugee admission systems in Europe is that if a refugee or even an asylum seeker turns out to be a serious criminal, you can't send them back like any other foreigner: either they might be in danger in their country of origin, or the return is for some reason technically impossible.

I think that the solution for this problem can and should be provided by the UN, in the same spirit of cooperation in which the countries accept refugees from the UN refugee camps.

The UN can establish a separate camp for the refugees whom their host countries have chosen to deport for being convicted felons. It should be separate from the normal refugee camps, and preferably far away from any local populations.

This should not be a punishment or prison camp. The idea is to provide convicted felons who have already served their time with a reasonably safe place to live if their country of citizenship is too dangerous to go to, and their habitual country of residence has kicked them out for being too much of a criminal. The standard of living should be about average for a UN refugee camp that's not in war zone. The residents should of course be free to leave at any time if they decide that their country of citizenship is not that dangerous after all, or if some new idiots decide to take them in.

I am sure this would greatly improve the goodwill of citizens towards the refugees.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Responsible adults

From a certain forum (link omitted to protect the guilty):

"We didn't use any birth control, because we are adults and know how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy."

- a woman asking advice on obtaining an abortion, referring to a coitus interruptus that turned out to be somewhat uninterrupted.

A thought for the day

Friendly teasing only works with actual friends.

Relatives are weird creatures

One of my cousins contacted me on Skype about six months ago, and we've been chatting occasionally ever since. Today was one of those days, and it brought a revelation.

Him: Hey Lida!

I do actually answer to that name, due to having had an elderly grandmother who used to confuse people's names. Here, however, after a minute of reflection I remembered that he is neither elderly nor my grandmother, and made a brilliant, though, as it turned out, erroneous deduction that he actually wanted to talk to Lida and clicked the wrong line in Skype. I decided to set him right.

Me: Hi! I am not Lida.

Him: Oops... Who ARE you?

Me: Vera.

Him: Oops... I thought you were Lida all that time.

Mind you, Lida does not share my last name, which also happens to be my Skype username. Go figure...

It must be contagious, because this cousin's wife has recently sent me a couple of emails under the mistaken assumption that I am my father.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Next year, a special program for Martians...

The Foreign Ministry says that more than half of the diplomas of the West African students who have applied for residence permits in June and July on order to study in Hamk are in fact fake.

The applicants are mostly from Ghana and Nigeria, and were selected in a test that was given in Ghana after 4 out of 5 Hamk's English-language technical programs turned out to be almost empty.

I am not asking why the students faked the papers. I'd probably do the same. I wanna know why the hell Hamk has 5 English-language programs, 4 of which are almost empty.

Hamk or Hämeen korkeakoulu is a technical college of about 7000 students in the historical province of Häme, which is now three smaller provinces. It has five degree programs in English, out of the total of 25: Automation Engineering, Construction Engineering, International Business, Mechanical Engineering and Production Technology, and Supply Chain Management. They are starting the sixth this fall: Industrial Management.

There are 1301 English-speaking people living in Häme, out of 22192 foreign language speakers, and a total population of 854593. Does this maybe explain why they are having a bit of trouble finding folks willing to study Supply Chain Management in English? Maybe somebody in there should also study demand a little bit? Maybe having 20% of the study programs in English is not such a bright idea in an area where 97% of population are Finnish speakers?

Finland offers free education to foreigners, including non-EU foreigners. It's very nice of them to do, of course, and I have myself benefited from that in my own time. However, from Finland's point of view I can see only two purposes in such generosity: getting some new educated workforce, or spreading and promoting the Finnish culture around the world. I don't see how having foreigners in their own separate English-language programs can benefit either of these.

It's even worse if those programs are meant for the foreign-born young people who are already living in Finland. How do they expect them to integrate and find work if their college environment is all English-speaking and if they don't speak Finnish in the first place? Yes, high-tech fields do accept non-Finnish-speaking employees, but in general this is Finland, and people speak Finnish here. OK, they speak Swedish in some places, but Häme isn't one of them. Not speaking any Finnish is a serious disadvantage, and not speaking any Finnish after having graduated from a Finnish college is even more so.

I don't mind it if some Africans with a genuine interest in Finland come to study something useful in some normal Finnish study program and stay to work, or even go back. I do mind spending the taxpayer money for a number of absolutely useless programs that the school cannot even fill without a hunting trip abroad.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

At least it's not a capital offense...

A friend of mine is on trial tomorrow. For blasphemy, among other things. In Finland.

That's one thing I'd never expected to say outside of the role-playing game context, but it does unfortunately happen to be the case in real life.

The blasphemy consisted of saying that a certain prophet (police be upon him) liked children in more ways than one. I'd rather not be more specific, lest the holy inquisition thinks that I harbor some impure thoughts as well.

Instead I'll quote from Ayatollah Khomeini, the respected Shi'a religious authority who married a 10-year-old girl at the age of 27 (Clarification of Questions):

#2410. If a person contracts for himself a girl who has not reached puberty and before she finishes her ninth year enters the girl he must never have intercourse with her in case he causes her path of urine and menses or that of menses and stool to become one.

#2459. It is recommended that one hurries in giving husband to a daughter who has attained puberty, meaning that she is of the age of religious accountability. His Holiness, Sadegh, salutations to him, bade that it is one of a man's good fortunes that his daughter does not see menses in his own house.

And lest we forget the Sunnis, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh: "It is incorrect to say that it's not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger. A girl aged 10 or 12 can be married. Those who think she's too young are wrong and they are being unfair to her."

Khomeini is dead, but I am sure the Finnish authorities can try the Grand Mufti if he ever visits here. For defamation of his religion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I can't brain today. I has the dumb.

I forgot a beer in the freezer, and the ice cream outside of the freezer. Three times today. I also forgot the butter somewhere, and am still looking for it. I was supposed to do some things, and I am sure I forgot half of them.

Usually this happens to me under severe stress, but currently the level of stress is just somewhere slightly above average. I guess sleeping five hours a day is starting to get to me.

I rarely manage to fall asleep before two, and at seven the evildoers start doing their work. Evil work. For whatever reason all the buildings in our yards decided to fix their yardward surfaces right now, and each hired a team of manic workaholic sociopaths who start their work every morning at seven with some very loud drilling.

Incidentally, if you read in the news that a naked woman attacked some construction workers with a steak knife, cut their hands and other useful organs off, and drilled overy one of their teeth with their own drills, remind the police that I would never do anything like that.

I took some work home over the weekend, and have been on call, too. Imagine my suprise when our VPN told me to bugger off. I don't know who broke it again, but currently the only thing that stands between our sysadmins and a heinous act of sadistic sodomy is the idea the sick leave resulting from shoving all our media object backups up their collective anus will further delay the VPN repair.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The parents of the year and bad English

A few weeks ago there was a girl raped in Arizona. An 8-year-old girl, raped by 4 boys aged 14, 13, 10 and 9. All the participants were from Liberia.

This is quite a newsworthy event in and of itself, but it made really big news when the parents of the girl disowned her for dishonoring the family. They also said that they don't think anything should be done to the boys.

Now the parents are denying it, saying that they were misunderstood because of their poor English. I think they are lying, because the girl's older sister said pretty much the same thing, two different police investigators said it was not a misunderstanding, and various Liberian powers-that-be behaved like it was an unfortunate cultural feature, rather than shocking news.

If the family tried to avoid whatever shame having a raped daughter brings in Liberia, it didn't work. If the parents of the year had at least pretended to be real parents, the story might have never gone far beyond Arizona. Now even the Liberian president got to comment on it, so at least all Liberia knows what happened and probably who they are. Hope the child protection services find the child some better parents. Also hope that at least some Liberian parents - I am not holding breath for these particular ones - drew sensible conclusions from the event.

Anyway: the whole bunch of fuckers is suddenly unable to speak English. The parents, who say they came to the US 5 years ago, also claim thet they thought that "it's her fault" and "take her, I don't want her" actually meant "we love our dear girl and want to help her". Steven Tuopeh, the 14-year-old who is being tried as an adult, has come to the US in 2005 and "has limited understanding of English". The uncle of the two youngest boys, aged 9 and 10 (in some sources, 9 and 9) says that they came to the US 6 years ago and speak very limited English.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? I went to high school in the US; everyone who'd been there for 2 years understood English well and spoke it tolerably, regardless of whether they were from Russia, Iran, Israel, a Cambodian refugee camp, someplace unpronounceable in China, or Texas. And those were older kids (14+), for whom learning a new language is an effort. How the hell do you get a 9-year-old who'd lived in the country for 6 years and doesn't speak the language?

I understand that something like that might happen in a sufficiently big town where everyone around speaks the kids' native language. But we are not talking about Spanish-speaking kids in the most Spanish-speaking parts of El Paso. We are talking about Liberians in Phoenix, Arizona, a 1000-2000-person community in a city of 1.5 million. Not to mention that English is in fact the official language of Liberia, even though only a minority speaks it as their native language.

On a related note: there were a few discussions on IRC of whether the family was Muslim. They are not; they are Christian.

On a somewhat-related note: Liberia's ex-president Charles Taylor is on trial for rape, murder, mutilation and cannibalism. Maybe those Liberian boys just want to grow up to be like the president.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Am I imagining things, or am I seeing a lot more tattoos on people's bare arms and legs this summer than there were last summer?