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?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition

When I was a little kid 30 years ago, I read books about the Spanish inquisition, and how it burned people just on the mere accusation of blasphemy. I did think then that people must have been stupid and crazy in the middle ages, but nobody warned me that I'd be reading similar stuff in the news 30 years from then.

Not in Spain, obviously. In Pakistan. They burned 8 Christians accused of blasphemy.

According to Henningsen-Contreras statistics, Spanish inquisition executed on average a little over 5 persons a year during the years 1540-1700. Not that it's really relevant here.

It's called race, stupid

A little while ago I read a YLE article about how racism is hard on bicultural children.

The basic point is that people easily assume that bicultural children are not Finnish, even if they have lived all their lives in Finland, and sometimes speak English to them.

I certainly don't doubt that this is the case. I could dispute whether this is a manifestation of racism or just an educated guess on the part of the person making the assumption - this depends on whether you define all the assumptions on the basis of race as racist, on how justified the assumption is in a particular case (an area with a lot of non-white Finnish-speaking children vs. an area that doesn't have any), and on how insistent the person making the assumption is in their mistaken ways - but my point isn't about that. It's about the gross misuse of the term "bicultural", and indeed of the term "culture".

I know a number of Finnish people who grew up in bicultural families: Finnish-German, Finnish-English, Finnish-American, Finnish-Polish, etc. So far I have never observed strangers trying to speak English to them on the assumption that they must be not Finnish. I wonder why is that. Could it be because - gasp - they look like they are Finnish? Like, they look northern- or central-European?

The whole point of the article is about race, pure and simple. It's about people who are Finnish but don't look like that. And it's not about any controversial race topic, either. It's about race in the sense in which everybody not totally divorced from reality knows it exists: that the people with genetic heritage in different parts of the world tend to look different.

It's kind of funny that the author uses the words racism and racist quite easily, but avoids the word race completely.

The other rather mystical thing is that the author is writing about this as a problem affecting specifically biracial (or rather, as she says, "bicultural") children, although almost all the problems that she has mentioned - except the adoption assumption - would affect any non-white children growing up in Finland, as well as the darker varieties of white. Makes one wonder whether she herself considers monoracial non-white children growing up in Finland Finnish.

(To the more ethnically-oriented folks reading this: yes, I am aware that the word "Finnish" has an ethnic meaning as well, and that in that sense monoracial non-white children are not Finnish. I am using the word "Finnish" here in the sense of "carrier of Finnish culture", which one can obviously be regardless of race and ethnic origin.)

I wouldn't bitch about one badly written article that much, but it seems to me that more and more people, regardless of their political positions on race and/or immigration, have started using the word "culture" as a substitute for "race". It's not. Race is that thing you are born with. Culture is that thing that you learn when you are little, and learn more when you are bigger, and you can choose to learn other ones later, or not.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hand disinfectant (gross topic warning)

The company where I work is kind of concerned about swine flu. They lecture us on washing hands all the time, and they put up the bottles of various hand disinfectants all over the place.

I probably benefit the most from the disinfectant. Just sit in front of the computer, rub it on my hands and enjoy the smell.

The one they put up in the women's toilet (LV) is really weird though. It has the exact consistency of the lubricant that comes out of a vagina during masturbation, and it is slightly sticky in the exact same way, so every time I come out of the toilet my hands feel like I've been jerking off for half an hour.

A teaching moment

The Gates-Crowley scandal has pretty much come to an end. A call to the police about the possible burglary in progress, the police's attempt to check it out, the resident freaking out and yelling at the police, his arrest - ill-advised or not - the president's comments - ill-advised or not, etc. Our peacemaker-in-chief managed to reconcile the professor and the officer with the help of a sufficient amount of beer. The nation had its teaching moment.

What exactly did we learn? Not being an officer of law, a professor of African-American studies or a president, but just a simple American woman with a computer and Net access, I have followed the story of the woman who called the possible burglary in, and learned the following things:

- don't ever mention the race of a possible suspect to a 911 dispatcher, even if they are asking about it. To be on the safe side, don't mention the sex, either. Or the species. Or the number. "N beings are trying to break down the door." Or, to be on a safer side, just don't call the police when you see somebody breaking into somewhere,
- if you have exercised bad judgment and called the police, record the call yourself, so that you can have immediately available proof that you have not in fact mentioned race or anything else that might possibly describe the suspect,
- if the suspected burglar turns out to be a sufficiently privileged person, retain an attorney.