Sunday, June 28, 2009

What women like

Recently I read a few net discussions where men were discussing what women like and want in men. The dissenting input of any actual women was, as usual, summarily ignored.

These discussions are rather common, and what always strikes me about them is that the real subject of the discussion is usually not what women in general want, but what kind of things are most likely to improve a man's chances with women.

These are not the same thing, of course. If 60% of women want the feature A and 50% of men have it, and 5% of women want the feature B but 0.01% of men have it, then the feature B is a lot more useful in attracting women than the feature A, but women still on average like the feature A a lot more often than the feature B.

What never ceases to amaze me is that the vast majority of the participants usually fail to see this difference.

Work and shopping

Been very busy at work for the last two weeks, with the feeling that I am being fucked in every hole, and not in a positive way. It is an interesting project, mind, but I wish I had more time for it and less other urgent stuff to do at the same time.

I firmly believe in the soul-healing power of shopping (twice the healing points if done on the don't-buy-anything day). Also, it's sale season right now.

Yesterday was a good day to shop for shoes, apparently (did I mention that my real name is Imelda Marcos?). I like funky shoes, but I usually buy sensible ones. This time I figured that I have enough sensible shoes and I want to buy something funky. This is pretty hard, because my other requirement for the shoes, besides funkiness, was that I'd be able to put them on and walk at least 15 thousand steps in a row without socks, blisters, pain or band-aids.

Usually I buy Eccos and Clarks and Lacoste, now I wanted something new. I have wanted a pair of El Naturalista for a while, but the fuckers don't make them in my size. Bought a pair of Art, which is a sort of El Naturalista ripoff (or is it the other way around?) which actually fits. We'll see if it works for me.

BTW - has anyone tried Fly London? This is another shoe company that appeared here during the last year or two. They cost like real shoes, and feel like you can hammer nails with them. Does anyone actually buy them?

Next time I am going shopping to Verkkokauppa. Easier than the shoes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Today is not my day

Had to go to work today, and decided to shop a little before that.

Ran to the bus. Fell, hit my leg in several places, and my head. The leg is sore. The head is perfectly OK, probably because it's empty.

Went shopping. All the shoes were too small and almost all the clothes (except a pair of capri jeans) were too ugly. Bought a kettle instead.

Then my pants suddenly disintegrated. Just at the same moment I realized that the bus that comes close to my workplace doesn't run on Sundays. Had to walk to work in disintegrated pants.

Report on non-alcoholic red wine

Just like several people said in response to my question, the non-alcoholic red wine turned out to be bad. However, it was much improved by a shot of vodka (the shot of vodka was poured into the wine, not ingested by me before the tasting).

Mommie dearest

I am rarely bothered by other people's custody battles, international or otherwise, and always use sufficient birth control to avoid having any of my own. Usually I just assume that the sprog has two loving (if not necessarily very sensible) parents in any case, and the court will sort out the rights of the adults somehow.

Lately there has been an exception to that:

Natalia Zarubina, a Russian woman, came to Portugal illegally in 2001 in order to work. There she met a Ukrainian man named Georgi Tsiklauri, started a relationship with him, and in April 2003 a little girl was born. They called her Alexandra.

Soon after Sandra's birth they broke up, and the child stayed with her mother, who, according to witnesses, did not take particularly good care of her. The father didn't either. Another Russian woman said that she knew a couple that would take care of the child, and so Natalia left Sandra to Florinda Vieira and João Pinheiro. She was 17 months old and weighed 5.7 kg. They took her in and raised her as their own child.

The father was told about the arrangement, and wanted nothing to do with the kid, financially or otherwise.

The mother visited the daughter sometimes, often drunk. The daughter did not speak any Russian.

Anyway, at some point the authorities noticed that Natalia was there illegally, and tried to kick her out. At that point she remembered that she had a daughter, demanded that the daughter be kicked out together with her, and Florinda and João tried to demand the kid for themselves. A custody battle ensued, along with a pause in deportation proceedings.

The first trial resulted in custody being given to Florinda and João. After that Natalia's mother wrote to Putin, and the Russian embassy interfered in the next trial. A Russian citizenship was arranged for Sandra, and the representatives from the embassy started pestering the judge, promising that in Russia Sandra will have the same living conditions as in Portugal.

What the fuck was the judge thinking? (This is pretty much what the judge himself is saying now.) Even apart from the fact that Russian diplomats are not the kind of people that you would want to buy a used car from, or give a used child to, for this girl you can't arrange the same living conditions in Russia (or the US, Finland or Spain, for that matter), as in Portugal. The reason being, there are only two people in the world whom she calls "mom" and "dad", and they happen to live in Portugal.

During the custody battle Florinda and João claimed that Natalia was a prostitute, alcoholic, and drug user, and that she was gonna take Sandra to a place where there is no toilet, and everyone drinks vodka and eats spam (not the email kind).

The claim about prostitution and drugs could well have been just a baseless custody war weapon, especially since I find it very difficult to imagine that some human being would pay real money for Ms. Zarubina's company. The stereotype of Russians living without toilets and drinking vodka all the time pissed off quite a lot of Russians, since most of them don't really live like that.

What is, however, a matter of public record, was that Natalia had to be removed from the roof of a bus by police and firefighters while being drunk and aggressive, and had to be taken to a psychiatric facility. Also, that the psychologist who used to supervise Natalia's visits said that ever since the visits became supervised the child is not afraid of the mother's verbal and physical aggression anymore.

The was also a demonstration of the members of the local Russian community in Braga, the city where Natalia lived. The basic point: "we know that bitch, please don't give her the poor child".

Anyway, the judge, whatever the fuck he happened to be thinking, gave the child to the, uhm, mother, and she took little Sandra and her dog to Russia.

Now the Russian TV made a report on her. Several, actually, this is just one. Holy shit! They really don't have a toilet, or indeed a real bed for her. They really are all drunk, except possibly the grandmother. There really is spam on the table. And most importantly, the mother is obviously neither decent enough not bright enough to abstain from hitting the child on national TV.

They live with Natalia's parents, brother and other daughter. This other daughter was never supported by her mother financially, and and hadn't seen her since 2001. She is 14, and already pronouncing death threats on national TV.

Florinda and João were invited by a Russian TV program in the end of May and tried to come to Russia, but for some reason were refused a visa.

The Portuguese are negotiating for Natalia and Sandra to come back, and Natalia is trying to get some money out of them. We'll see how that develops, but so far looks bad.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Portugal: demonstrations, zoophile union, and fado in Chiado

Portugal was quite pretty. Before going there I was a bit stressed out about the language, mostly because I used to be able to speak it and had forgotten most of it. As usual, it was not worth stressing about. I could read everything I wanted to read, and could say everything I wanted to say. Understanding was a bit more difficult, because the Portuguese don't speak Portuguese like normal people from Somerville and Watertown. They eat almost every vowel that's remotely edible, and don't palatalize t's and d's where they should. They do, however, speak English better than most of the southern Europe.

Lisbon is full of places that are very retro and give you the feeling that you are inside some Italian neorealist movie of the fifties. Usually I only like the fifties on screen, but it was all right for a short vacation. And it was certainly unlike any other place I'd seen.

The city is situated on a bank (not both banks, really) of a huge river called Tejo. They have an unbelievably long bridge over it, 17 kilometers or so.

We stayed in Chiado apartments (well, one of them), and I highly recommend the place to everyone who goes to Lisbon for a week or more. Beautiful apartment, spacious, well-equipped, great location, great view, great everything.

Except for fado. But it's not the apartment's fault. You can't escape the damn thing anywhere in Portugal.

In fact, everywhere in Europe musicians of dubious quality like to play outside in the center of the city in hope that somebody will give them some money to go away, but in Portugal the extent of the problem was orders of magnitude worse than elsewhere. They have fado.

Fado is the Portuguese version of the common folk music topic "I am a redneck, and nobody wants to have sex with me", mostly - or so I heard - with the added theme of "I am a redneck lost at sea, and if anybody even wants to have sex with me, they surely aren't here on the boat". But whereas other peoples of Europe sing of their horny redneckitude to cheerful or at least melodic tunes, fado tunes sound like the cries of a donkey that is being raped to death excruciatingly slowly.

(Speaking about the raped donkeys: they (the Portuguese, not the donkeys) have an organization called União Zoófila. It is some animal protection organization, but the name is suggestive.)

And they sell it. To masochists, I assume, or maybe to the Deaf community. We had a fadomobile parked right on our street all day, an ancient car that played fado all day and had a human being sitting in it and selling the CDs. Every time we walked by the fadomobile we discussed various ways of sabotaging it, but there were too many witnesses.

When the fadomobile left for the night live musicians came out, even though every time they did so they risked becoming dead musicians. The worst were a couple of guys that played one night right under our windows. Their music was composed as atrociously as the fadomobile's, and played even worse. I considered throwing eggs, rotten tomatoes and other similar tokens of appreciation at them, had to remind myself that I am a cultured and law-abiding Western woman, and also that the area is probably monitored by security cameras. Then Benka came out of here room, where she went to escape the sound, and reminded me that we don't have any eggs.

Benka has become a total jock in her advanced age. Good for her, but I am not sure the rest of us will survive it. Every time she sees any steps, her reflex is to run up them. I am afraid to visit the Empire State Building with her.

The Portuguese have obliged her and built a great many steps. They also built Lisbon on a number of hills.

Anyway, this time she brought a step meter with her, and it became a bane of our existence. She holds a very firm opinion that a person who hasn't walked 25 thousand steps during the day does not deserve any lunch, and the problem with that is that after you walk 25000 steps it's usually time for dinner. My parents also disapprove of such human needs as coffee, water, or sitting down for a minute, so every time I feel in need of any of the above I get to hear a lecture about my weaknesses. I am, however, allowed to piss without a lecture.

BTW - the public places in Portugal are usually rather well-equipped with toilets.

The favorite hobby of the Portuguese seem to be demonstrations. On the day we arrived, there was a demonstration against "fortress Europe". On the day before we left, there was a demonstration of teachers against bureaucracy. One of them asked us to send them an extra Obama, if we have one. I told him that I'd be glad to send them the Obama that we have in the White House, and he found this rather generous.

In between those two big demonstrations there was a number of smaller ones. On the days when the government failed to do anything objectionable and thus provide a good reason for a demonstration, folk dancing was substituted for it.

More later.

Monday, June 08, 2009

I am back

I am back after three weeks of various adventures and misadventures in Portugal and the Netherlands. Despite dire warnings by my father, I was not eaten by a goat, and did not fall off a mountain. I must have also gotten old, because nowadays the words Amsterdam and "coffee shop" produce a mental image of an establishment that sells actual coffee.

I'll write more on this after I get some sleep.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Eek! Alle bagage is gelost!

Reading "Alle bagage is gelost" is shocking for a second, until the English translation comes up on the screen and you realize that 'gelost' means 'unloaded'.

Traumatic memory loss

I'd never believed one can forget a traumatic event, but apparently I have. When I was 4 (and this was an age from which I remember a lot), two people got killed by a train a few meters from me. I sure remember the adults talking about it, but until now I didn't know that I was actually there.

I have no memory of the event whatsoever.