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.