Thursday, February 25, 2010

Benefit to society

I was taking part in a conversation about smokers and how much their diseases cost the society.

For the record, I don't agree that the mere fact of having public health care should oblige everyone to be on their best behavior, healthwise. For one thing, almost nobody ever really is, and the whole thing is just an occasion to complain about other people's sins. Everybody wants to tax the neighbor's unhealthy behavior, and starts complaining about health fascism when somebody is trying to tax their own. (Well, not strictly everybody - demanding taxes on unhealthy behavior is the habit of a certain kind of people - the kind who want to tax traditional sin, such as alcohol, tobacco, and sometimes unhealthy food, whatever that is supposed to mean. I have never seen them demand taxes on dangerous sports, suicide attempts, or giving birth to genetically suboptimal children when a genetic problem is known in advance. Ugh, maybe I shouldn't give them ideas.)

But I digress. The conversation was mostly between people who seemed to believe that one does in fact have an obligation, and part of them pointed out that smokers don't really cost all that much to society, because they die younger.

I've heard this argument many times before. it always makes me shudder to think that in many otherwise normal people's minds, the concepts of "benefit to society" and "cost to society" do not, in fact, include years of life of its members.


Kind of tired, stressed out and unwell, despite the fact that everything is fine, work is not being stressful right now, I am not physically sick, there is nothing stressful going on in my private life, nothing is wrong and the people who broke the window did fix it.

I think this winter is just getting to me. Want summer now.

All the people I should have contacted lately but didn't: I am sorry.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My life is not like the lives of other people, part 2

On the way home my panties suddenly fell down. Or at least as down as they can go within my jeans. It was very sudden, very uncomfortable and against all laws of physics and man.

I live in one of those inner-city buildings with a small enclosed yard that has nothing except pavement and trash bins. The first floor is wider than the rest of the building, and if I open my window, which is currently not a good idea, I can walk on the roof of the first-floor hall. Except that there was more than half a meter of snow there in the morning. Both this roof and the roof of the building have a lot of ice hanging off it. I remember taking the trash out yesterday and vaguely wondering when are they gonna clean the roof and whether anyone is gonna be killed before that. Or during.

The answer to the first question came to my mind as soon as I walked through the gate. There was a portable red fence. They had in fact cleaned the roof, and now there is a fucking iceberg in our backyard. We can't get into our yard to get to the trash cans. The trash collector cannot get to the trash cans. And I have no idea what else is coming from the roof, but it can't be good.

When I came into my living room I noticed snow between the windows and figured the pressure of snow has opened the outer window. When I came closer I realized that the building caretaking company has in its infinite wisdom dropped all the ice from the upper roof to the lower roof, and one of the huge pieces of ice came through my window.

Now I have:

- a broken window,
- two big tables with computer hardware in front of the window that need to be moved in order for anyone to get to the window,
- a pile of stuff in front of the tables, that will have to be moved first,
- a pile of snow about a meter high pushing on the window from outside, and likely to fall into my living room if anyone tries to open the window,
- no access to the window or the pile of snow from the outside, because of no access to the inner yard,
- a double headache from having to deal with it both as the apartment owner and a member of the board of the building,
- some fragrant trash at home, and no garbage collection,
- a software deployment at 6:30 in the morning, and a very minor surgery at 8.

I am so pissed. When I find the morons who did that, I am not just gonna rip then a second asshole. They will cry and wish that I stopped at the second while I am ripping them the 284th. I will castrate every one of them and give them a bleach enema, and then strangle them with the remains of their own bowels. And then I'll show the judge what they'd done, and walk free.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The car

I kind of bought a car. Or rather a third of a car. It's nice to have a car every once in a while, but I don't have any daily use for it.

I promised my dear parents not to start driving it on snow and ice, what with having had a long break from driving, and having never had a rear-wheel drive car. Somehow, though, I managed to do exactly that, and due to natural lack of common sense I even mentioned it to them. Eek.

Anyway, I kinda like driving. It's parking that I hate. With a passion. Not even the parallel-park part, even though my parallel-parking skills appear to have rusted a bit. It's looking for a damn parking spot in the first place that I really hate. And looking. And looking. And finding, and then realizing that it's too small. And looking again. And finding, and parking, and getting stuck in the snow. And being unable to get in or out. And trying to get out and realizing that I can't open the drivers' door because of the snow. And climbing out of the passenger door, insulting the door, the snow and their mothers, and shoveling the snow from under the wheels. And finding another spot, 4 blocks away, and wondering about carrying 200 kilos of Lundia for 4 blocks. And then wondering about what the hell the the "I" parking permit, which I certainly do not have, and do I really have to move it somewhere by 9am, and where?

I've always wondered about people who equate a car with freedom. I can understand it in rural areas, but I've also met them in Helsinki. For me, freedom of movement is that I go to a bus stop without looking at the schedule, and immediately a bus shows up. A car is the opposite of freedom - it's more like a very demanding pet, who needs to be fed, taken to a vet, and kept in appropriate places.

However, just like many pets, it's quite a lot of fun.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


Lately I've been following a Russian forum - a forum for the Russians living in Finland. Some of it is nice social fun, some of it elicits morbid curiosity in the manner of a train wreck, and some of it is useful social info.

Anyway, lately they were talking, among other things, about children and schools. More specifically, about how many schools (but not all) automatically put native speakers of the foreign languages into Finnish for foreigners classes, even if they also happen to speak Finnish at a native level, or a sufficient level to attend a native class. In all the cases they mentioned the situation was fixed when the parents protested.

I had suspected as much. A few months ago there was an article featuring a 13-year old Somali boy born in Finland who was in a Finnish for foreigners class in school. At that point I figured that either the kid was dumb as a rock or the school system was dumb as a whole pile of rocks - and the kid didn't seem particularly dumb.

Anyway, some schools - apparently many - stick kids with fluent Finnish into classes for foreigners, and the parents learn about it when the kid complains at home about the school being superboring and consisting mostly of Finnish 101.

My reaction to that was "WTF?". My Finnish friends' reaction to that was "well, how is the school to know?" ("ask the kid" is the obvious answer) and "well, this whole immigration thing is so new to us, we are still figuring out what to do and how to do it right".

This is a disturbing thing in and of itself. When we came to the US we settled in a state with a proud 350-year-old tradition of multiculturalism (ok, in the beginning it was often about shooting Indians and hanging Quakers, but let's not go into that). I went to school in a town where 25-30% of residents were foreign-born. It was one of the most multiethnic schools around, and it was a nice school. As of a couple of years ago, about 27% of residents are still foreign-born and the schools are still good.

Stable 30% of foreign students in Brookline schools is not a problem, but do the people here in Finland realize how fast the change is happening here? 15 years ago there were very few foreigners in schools; now some schools have more than 50% of foreign-language students, in spite of the fact that there is still a rather small percentage of foreigners in Finland.

What can or should be done? Frankly, I don't know and I suspect neither does anyone else. What shouldn't be done, however, can be learned from the long sad history of the Boston school district.