Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Please, Darwin, where are you

He was born in Syria. By the age of 19 he was wanted there for Islamic extremism, moved to Lebanon, then to Egypt, and then to Saudi Arabia, where by some amazing coincidence he was also persecuted for Islamic extremism.

After having been arrested by Saudi police twice, he figured Saudi Arabia was insufficiently friendly to radical Islam, and moved to the UK.

As an aside: who let the fucker in? We are not talking about an honest worker from a Muslim country whose children became radicalized to his and his new country's dismay; we are talking about a grown man whose whole career so far had been in the field of Islamic extremism. Yeah, he was persecuted. So. The current refugee system was built in response the Nazi atrocities during WWII and the Communist atrocities right afterwards. Should we have admitted the people who were persecuted by Hitler for being too much of a Nazi? OTOH, maybe I don't wanna hear the answer to this.

Anyway, the man lived in the UK for 19 years, preaching killing Brits on taxpayer's money. That is, he was preaching on taxpayer's money. Killing could be done on any money as long as it wasn't his.

The man organized extremist organizations and held numerous live and Internet lectures on how great it is to die for Islam, although apparently he was in no hurry to do so himself.

Right after the London bomb attack, and right before them, he preached a bit too much, and the authorities started talking about charging him. He quickly went to lebanon, saying that he has not fled, and he is definitely coming back unless Britain says it doesn't want him. "We don't want you," said the Home Secretary, and the man had to stay in Lebanon.

A more sensible man would have figured his luck has turned to the worse, and kept a lower profile. But he decided to preach some more terrorism, for which he was promptly arrested but later released.

The next summer the Israel-Lebanon war started, and the man asked the UK to take him back, but even the UK is not that daft. They didn't take him back, and he continued his good work in Lebanon.

A couple of weeks ago he was tried for terrorism in a Lebanese court and sentenced to life in prison in absentia. He said that going to court is against his religion. "No problem," -said the police and came and got him.

I hope Omar Bakri Mohammed enjoys his stay in a Lebanese prison. I know the middle eastern justice and prisons are a bit unreliable, but that's ok: if he ever gets out he is gonna get himself in trouble again for sure.

And to think that the man could have had a comfortable retirement from age 28 on British taxpayers' money, raised his 6 children in peace, had cable TV and some middle eastern pastries and access to London's best museums for the rest of his life... I wonder whether he still thinks all the terrorist activity was worth it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I can has a tea kettle and a hard drive!

This is the first tea kettle I've ever owned. It does taste better than teabag tea. And df -h says "/dev/sda1 1.4T 257G 1.1T 20% /home".

The people who say that shopping cannot bring you real joy are surely shopping in a wrong place.

Friday, November 12, 2010

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

A couple of weeks ago a man wrote to me on Facebook, saying he was my relative. This happens to me every once in a while; I have a lot of relatives and don't know half of them. He was clearly a descendant of one of uncle Leib's numerous siblings (uncle Leib's parents having been very religious, very careless or probably both).

I was kind of surprised to see I have a relative in London; I always figured that that branch of the family tends to live in Switzerland, the USA, Israel and maybe even Russia.

In any case, the guy - his name is Dima - was coming to Helsinki for a business trip, and we decided to hang out. Dima turned out to be a very pleasant and entertaining guy and we had a good if somewhat surreal time. Hope he didn't get too surreal an impression of Helsinki nightlife, and hope he doesn't have too much of a hangover, although considering that he is attending some company's pikkujoulut the latter is highly unlikely.

We started in Belge, and probably should have stayed there, but this was a "see as many bars as possible" night. There we tried to carefully unravel the mystery of our kinship, a delicate mission since in some places the family tree doesn't branch all that much, or resembles a network. I figured out that Dima's father's father's mother's mother was a sister of my mother's mother's mother, and we decided not to go into all the other, more distant ways he is related to me.

Later we decided to go to Torni and look down at the world. On our way down from there there was a bunch of Chinese-looking women waiting for an elevator. The elevator was on the 12th floor (that is where we were) but the button wasn't pressed. Dima pressed it, and the door opened, revealing two buttocks (dressed) and several suitcases.

The owner of the buttocks and the suitcases complained in English that the elevator wouldn't move, but seemed to have no intention of abandoning his quest, or the recalcitrant elevator. One of the supposedly Chinese women sighed and insulted the elevator's mother in very pure unaccented Russian.

Dima decided that we should attack the elevator anyway, and we did. Turned out that the elevator would go only to the 12th or 1st floor, and its occupants (ther was a smaller person hiding behind the buttocks owner) were extremely persistent in trying to get it to go to the 4th. We just pressed the 1st, and suggested that the innocent elevator victims take another one to the 4th.

Then we went to Rotterdam. Rotterdam was surprisingly empty, and I was a bit taken aback at the senior citizen asking in a rather faltering Russian whether he could sit with us. i would say no, but Dima already managed to say yes.

The senior citizen told us he loved Russia (which was rather obviously untrue), and tried to discuss Russian politics with us, which was hard, considering that we don't live there (Dima turned out to be a French citizen living in London) and don't follow it. The senior citizen then drank for the return of Karelia with us, and then drank again, and again.

Then he told us that he was responsible for Finland's policy towards Russia, that he met Brezhnev pretty often (we started asking whether he kissed him, too, but for some reason he didn't answer that), at least until Koivisto kicked him out, that later he became a historian and wrote a lot of books, that he graduated from France's most prestigious Grande Ecole for politicians, etc. We laughed at his stories, of which we didn't believe a word, and left when he became to drunk.

The laugh was on us. When I came home I googled the senior citizen, and he turned out to be the real thing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

RIP Harry Mulisch

Harry Mulisch died last week, which was a bit shocking, I don't know why - he was not all that young.

For those who don't know, he was a Dutch writer. The Dutch writer, as far as I am concerned. Not that I'd read many other Dutch writers, mind you: I think that besides him I only read Anne Frank.

Anyway, he wrote good books, mostly about WWII in one way or another. Growing up in the Netherlands during WWII as a child of an Austrian Nazi collaborator and a Belgian Jew must have been the perfect recipe for a lifetime trauma, but it inspired pretty good literature.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The white minority in the US

Herja has asked whether or not white Americans are concerned about being or being about to become a minority. The answer is: as far as I can see, they aren't.

The thing is, white Americans are not a minority, nor are about to become one anytime soon. They are about 75% of population, and are projected to drop slightly by 2042. The projection says that by 2042 the non-Hispanic whites will drop under 50% of the total population, but "non-Hispanic whites" are a rather artificial category.

To put it really bluntly, whites are usually concerned about blacks (more specifically about not being a minority anywhere where blacks are a majority) and the black population is not rising in any significant numbers. The Asian population is rising really fast, but I've never met anyone who'd be concerned about that. Lots of people are concerned about Hispanic immigration in the sense of it being a lot of poorly educated people who don't speak English; very few people regard English-speaking US-educated Hispanics as any kind of a threat.

The vacation and pictures

The pictures are up, in Picasa (1600x1200) and on my own server (full size). There are as usual lots of them, sorted more or less geographically.

I visit Paris quite often, but it was only my second time in Rome, and the first one was rather short. Never been to Chartres or Ostia Antica before.

Paris was, well, Paris. Beautiful, but colder than it should be this time of the year. We rented an apartment in the 6th, Place Saint-Sulpice, and it was lovely, much nicer than any hotel I've ever been in. Been to Louvre, MuseƩ d'Orsay (too many paintings for my taste, but it'd been a while since the last time), Notre-Dame, Palais Chaillot for some modern ballet (I didn't get its name or point, but very much enjoyed the dancing, and was even more impressed with the theater itself, all black and red and huge and vertical), Palais Garnier for the premiere of La Paquita (also quite amazing), and for the first time in many years did not go to Sainte Chapelle, which feels vaguely wrong.

Hmm, now that I am writing this: maybe fewer art museums and more theaters is the way to go for me in general?

Another new thing was the St. Eustache church in Paris. The cathedral in Chartres was amazing; my pictures are unfortunately not worthy.

The one new thing in Paris were the women (my best guess would be Eastern European gypsies) who pretend to find your ring and give it to you; I am not sure how this scam is supposed to work, but on a good day three people can find "your ring" in one block.

Rome was very beautiful too, but somehow not as enjoyable as Paris (few places are). Much warmer, though. The ancient ruins were interesting to see, Piazza Navona and Piazza della Rotonda were lovely, Spanish steps a bit overrated although it was nice to live a couple of blocks from there. Pantheon is incredible in being really ancient without being a ruin.

We'd seen more famous churches than I could imagine possible, and more paintings than I could imagine I'd survive. I even found a Gothic church (didn't know they had any), Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Among the not-so-touristy impressions were the astronomical amount of bird shit on an embankment one morning, and the astronomical amount of birds over the same embankment in the evening. The flocks were so huge they scared us; it looked like a horror movie.

The annoying scam thing of the season seemed to be men with flowers who give them for free to a woman and then demand money from the man who is with her. They do run away when you yell at them.

From Rome we visited Ostia Antica, the ruins of a fairly large city, abandoned in 4th century AD (fairly common story, it used to be a port and the sea went away). Well worth a day trip. Has Europe's oldest synagogue, too, or what's left of it.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

I am back!

I was on vacation, mostly in Paris and Rome. From Paris I went for a day trip to Chartres, which had an amazing cathedral, and now I am vaguely wondering how come we haven't visited the cathedrals in Rouen and Amiens and many other places.

Now I am celebrating the victory in the US elections. The victory consists of the Republicans getting the majority in the House. I am really uncomfortable with either party having the House, the Senate and the White House at the same time, and now it's over for the Democrats this time round.

Helsingin Sanomat had a lot of people commenting about how Americans are stupid and have voted totally wrong. For some reason it makes me giggle.