Monday, July 31, 2006

The weekend

I've been very sociable lately, had some social event every evening since coming from Riga. It's fun but maybe I should spend at least one quiet evening by myself at home someday. I am sure that someday I will.

Lasu came over on Thursday and we watched a movie. He said that one of my hard drives makes a horrible sound (I am well accustommed to it so I don't notice), and I ran the diagnostic tool and it said that the hard drive that has the operating system is about to go boom. Bugger. If I had figured it out one week earlier I would have made space on it on the 320G drive I bought then, but now I did not feel like repartitioning it, so I went to the store and got another one.

On Saturday helped a couple of friends move. I wasn't an awful lot of help but did what I could. There were very few people, probably due to the fact that one guy's polttarit were on the same day. While I was carrying boxes the sole of my shoe disintegrated in an explosive way. Weird.

Had some wine with friends in the evening. Wine while dehydrated is a bad idea, but was fun anyway.

Had some soul-searching of whether I want to reinstall Debian AMD64 or install i386. Decided on the i386 version. It installed quite easily in spite of still failing to support my video card (had to get a driver from NVidia).

Sound card failed to install, and after unsuccessfully trying to search for it with all the kinds of software I remembered my dear father's advice: "shove it in really hard, then it will work". (My father is a hardware guy, and the advice concerned PCI cards and not what you perverts think.) I shoved it in really hard and suddenly it started working.

Pia came over yesterday. Was fun, should see her more often.

Disproportionate response

Israel has just committed an act of war during, well, a war, and the world is shocked, shocked. Surprise, during a war people tend to get killed. Even civilians. Especially if the local combatants have a nasty habit of hiding among civilians. Nevertheless every time Israel happens to kill civilians during this war there is a huge international outcry.

Partly this just goes to show that, as I wrote a year ago, war as such is very much against modern Western values and is usually only justified by appeal to necessity, and the thing about necessity is that it tends to seem a lot less necessary when it's somebody else's.

Still I don't remember there being quite as much of an outcry in 2003 every time when we hit civilians in Iraq, even though the necessity of forcibly bringing democracy to the reluctant Iraqis, and winning their hearts, minds and oil in the process is IMO a lot more questionable than the necessity of protecting the citizenry from rockets and occasional abductions. Being a cynic I suspect that it had to do with the fact the the US has a lot more nukes than Israel, and a lot more money, and therefore generally has to at least bomb a Chinese embassy to elicit a proper outcry.

Killing civilians, by accident or otherwise, is sad. The response of the politicians to this whole war, of the other hand, is full of dark humor. Chirac considers the war to be a disproportional response. Hmm, is that the same guy who six months ago promised to nuke any country that would sponsor a terrorist act against France? The funniest, however, was Putin. What did he mean by his "disproportional response"-comment? "It is not nice to attack a country just because they keep shooting rockets across the border and just kidnapped a couple of your soldiers and killed a few" or "500 dead civilians in two weeks of war is quite disproportional; now when we carpet-bombed Grozny we managed to kill 25000 of those fuckers in a week"?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hey, we found the root cause of islamic terrorism!

It's the occupation of Spain by the Spanish, of course.

Al-Zawahiri is telling Muslims to to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from Spain to Iraq. A lot of people have commented on the Spain part of this statement, but I am wondering: why does he limit the Eastern border of the area to Iraq? What about the current Muslim countries to the east of Iraq? Don't they get to join the happy caliphate?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Riga, day 3

In the morning Tiina and I go take a look at the local churches and Daugava. Very bright idea, checking out the churches on Sunday morning. We do the best we can.

It's really, really hot and sunny.

Later on we go to the History and Navigation Museum with Leena and Ville. The history part is interesting; the navigation part contains a lot of ship models but little having to do with actual navigation. The texts in the museum are in Latvian and occasional foreign languages: sometimes Russian, sometimes English and sometimes German. Again, none of the visitors speak Russian.

After the museum we want some lunch. We've been talking about pancakes for a while but Tiina seems to want "real food". We check out the pancakes nevertheles, after which I want real food too. We go to some grill place in the middle of Livi Laukams and get perfectly good beer and steaks. The waitress has a problem understanding my request for no onion - she does not know the word "onion". "Sipuli?" - I ask. "Ahh, sipuls," - she sighs happily and assures me there isn't any.

One thing that's weird here is that they don't ask you how you like your steak. They just bring it well done. I feel like asking for rare, but am not sure whether the quality of their meat allows it. (As an aside, why do so many restaurants in Helsinki ask you "medium or well done?" when they are perfectly capable of producing rare on request?)

Afterward I finish the church round by visiting the Dome church and the St. Peter's church. Both ask money for the visit, which is quite fine with me. St. Peter's has a small but worthy show of paintings, and an elevator to the tower. Lovely views.

Many museums here have separate prices for tickets that does not give you permission to take pictures and one that does.

I buy some amber jewelry and go to check out the synagogue. It is on a tiny deserted street which should probably be marked "under renovation" as a whole. There is a mobile police booth from where I hear a woman talking on a cell phone. While the policewoman is not watching I walk into the yard and pull on the front door.

The door is not locked. There is a sad-looking Jewish (these are not the same thing, even though some Jewish authors like to tell us so after looking in the mirror) man of about sixty reading a book and smoking.

"May I take a look?"
"Yeah. Come in."

There is something very Soviet about the place, but it's still pretty. The man comes in too.

"Where are you from?"
"Born in Russia. Moved to the US. Moved to Finland. Long story."
"Live in Finland now?"
"How's your Russian?"
"Mostly fine."

He switches to Russian:

"Why did you start with speaking English?"
"I am not sure speaking Russian around here is polite, at least without asking first."
"Bullshit. Do you think that they'll like you better if you speak English? Well, maybe they will, but they will also give you the menu where the prices are twice the ones in the Latvian menu."
"Speaking English does not prevent me from reading Russian. Besides, they haven't done so yet. But this phenomenon is familiar to me from Prague."
"Argh, Prague..."

He starts a long and fairly entertaining story of having been mistreated in Prague while travelling there. Then he starts talking about life here. He does not like Latvians, even though he is a Latvian-born Latvian citizen. He feels more of a connection with the US, Israel and Australia. I get a feeling that he needs to move somewhere there.

"And now they keep celebrating "forest brothers" as fighters for independence..."
"Uhm, they were fighting for independence."
"Murderers is what they were."
"Who wasn't, back then?"
"Who cares about Latvians anyway? Riga has never really been a Latvian city."

What can you say to that? I've seen people like that before; they usually also tend to think that Latvia has never really been a Latvian country, and prefer things to remain that way.

"And you know, they even have a Holocaust rememberance day, July 4. But do you think they really care about our dead? They care about their own dead more!"

I try to explain that people generaly care about their own dead more than about the neighbors' dead, and I don't find this fact either surprising or objectionable. He does not buy this.

"And in Estonia they removed the monument of the Russian liberators!"

I abstain from saying that maybe they did not feel particularly liberated.

At some point he stops talking about the general evilness of the Baltic nations and complains that all the other Jews went to the beach in Jurmala and left him here to watch the synagogue and wait for the Messias. He also complains about New Yorkers who committed a crime against humanity (his exact words) by charging him $7 for a pack of cigarettes.

I go for a walk again. There is an ice cream place where they sell ice cream in waffle cups by weight. The girl speak no English but turns out to speak Russian, and sells me a cup of redcurrant ice cream.

The shopping center at the railway station is fairly big. There are countless shoe stores that require people to wear socks while trying shoes on, but do not provide them. There is also a jewelry place that sells a ring which is almost an exact copy of mine. I have a very strong impulse to buy it, I don't know why, but don't. Instead I buy some beer and a caramel product called variti iebiezinats piens and go home.

We all go out for some food and drinks and then spend the rest of the evening together at home drinking and chatting.

"Eek, eek, take me back into the land of the cartoon-drawing infidels!"

As soon as there is a war the kind of gentlemen who normally encourage the young Muslims to burn embassies, hate the West, become martyrs and enter paradise suddenly decide that they themselves are in no rush to assume their own rightful place in paradise, and run to the rebuilt embassies they had helped to burn in order to be evacuated to the horrible Muslim-oppressing infidel countries.

Ahmad Akkari, "the man behind the pig snout", one of the Danish imams who toured the Middle east with 12 Danish cartoons and 3 of their own, asked Danish embassy in Beirut (the one that has been burned down largely due to his own efforts) to evacuate him from Beirut. Since the embassies are supposed to assist in citizens' evacuations from the war zones, and since this clown is unfortunately a Danish citizen, they did. has a lovely picture of him boarding a ship under a Danish flag, without even trying to set fire to it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Riga, day 2

Tiina comes in the morning. We have some Baskin-Robbins ice cream, making me dream of a full-scale Baskin-Robbins invasion in Finland, and go to the apartment.

Later we all head to the Occupation Museum, located in a newish building wildly incongruent with its surroundings in the center of the old city.

The museum is extensive, as is its topic. Latvia has been occupied by Russians in 1940, by Germans in 1941, and by Russians again in 1944, until 1991, and they, like everyone else, describe their grievances in well-deserved gory detail. Their democracy was in quite a bit of a crisis even before the Russians occupied them in 1940, but then the thirties of the last century was not a particularly high point in European democracy and human rights in general. Considering what Russians were doing there in 1940 it is not surprising that many Latvians welcomed Germans as liberators in 1941; they were sorely disappointed, and so were also the people who met Russians as liberators in 1944. A sad story, really.

Most things are in four languages in the museum (Latvian, Russian, German and English), but some documents are left untranslated. Among them is a list of 70-something people shot by Russians on some particular day (26.6.41, IIRC) and their offences, for example "had a fire in his backyard, probably to attract the Germans; joined the army voluntarily in 1919".

They proudly display some German official's complaint that Latvians don't exterminate Jews nearly as enthusiastically as Lithuanians; I cynically note that they nevertheless did just as good a job of it as Lithuanians.

They also state quite clearly the current grievance:

"Of the original two conspirators against international law, who conspired to deprive Latvia of its independence and subject its people to lawlessness, one was defeated in World War II, and its successor state, the Federal Republic of Germany, has gone a long way to make amends to those against whom Nazi Germany committed grievous crimes. The successor state of the other conspirator, Russia, has failed to do so. Furthermore, it continues to adhere to Soviet myths and distortions by refusing to acknowledge the present Republic of Latvia as the continuation of the Republic that declared its independence on 18 November 1918; by refusing to acknowledge the Peace Treaty and its provisions of 11 August 1920 between Soviet Russia and Latvia; by refusing to acknowledge the true nature of the 1939 agreements between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union; by refusing to acknowledge the fact of Latvia's occupation on 17 June 1940; by refusing to acknowledge crimes against humanity committed by the Soviet Union on Latvian soil and against the Latvian people."

This made me think, once again, that there should have been Nurmberg trials in Russia. I understand why there wasn't, but I think this is a loss for the world and for Russia. The word communist should have become a swear word similar to nazi, but it hasn't.

This museum is the first place in Riga where I don't hear any Russian spoken. I do hear German.

After the museum Tiina goes to the apartment and we go to the central market with Leena and Ville. Central market is huge, and cheap. One very distinctive feature is the almost-total absence of strawberries, while all the other common fruits and berries are available.

We find some tiny place that sells DVDs and I buy a few Russian ten-in-one DVDs. I am still not sure whether they are pirated or just Russian-quality.

Tiina comes back and we all go have a lunch/dinner in Livonia, a medieval restaurant. The food is good but we are not sure what's medieval about it. Then Tiina and I go for a walk.

They have their own statue of liberty here (not a copy of ours). They have a lot of security cameras everywhere; some of them are static, some move around frantically. They have pretty good ice cream. They have a lot of stands selling cheap amber jewelry. They have a lot of people speaking Russian.

There is a lot of women in tiny shorts and very high-heel shoes, which makes them look a lot like cartoon characters. The shorts are cute; the heels look ridiculous, especially when the women fall off of them. In general there are a lot of women in high and thin heels here in spite of the cobblestone streets.

We go outside of the old city and take a look at the Orthodox cathedral. There are lots of religious people there because the head honcho of the local Orthodox church is giving a sermon. We bugger off in order not to disturb them. The church is pretty, but everything is written in Russian, even stuff that clearly should be directions for tourists, like "women should have their head covered".

Outside we run into a young man in a t-shirt that I at first interpret as a sign "fucking doggie-style is forbidden". It also advertises the site, and I realize that it is some kind of anti-gay message. Tiina says that the picture of the guy on all fours had a tiny dick and makes fun of me for not noticing.

There are a few other guys in such t-shirts.

Bookstores are nice, and so is Stockmann. We buy books and beer and a cake and some food.


My trip to Riga made me think: the hotels (or, let's say, the 1-4 star hotels in the industrial countries) are sort of an institution where certain things are expected and done, and certain things aren't, and which are definitely not optimal for the purposes or which most people use it, which is giving people a place to stay in for a few days. I much prefer renting an apartment, but they are usually bigger and only feasible for several people.

Hotels normally have uncomfortable beds, itchy blankets places on top of a regular sheet, and either no fridge at all or a little fridge full of silly drinks. I want a blanket properly placed in a two-sided sheet that you normally put a blanket in, dammit (damn, I don't even know what the thing is called in English)! I want a fridge where I can put some food in, and a kettle for boiling water, and some cups, and maybe teabags if they are feeling generous. (Some hotels do provide the tea paraphernalia, but this is way too rare.)

Instead of all these comforts the hotels offer extensive and absolutely unnecessary cleaning service every fucking day. I don't need new sheets every day, or new towels. I certanly don't need anyone to fix my bed every day and tuck the blanket's edges under the mattress so that it takes considerable effort to pull them out. Most of all, I absolutely don't need anyone going through my stuff and arranging it in neat rows. I find this, well, invasive. I want some fucking privacy.

Usually you can't even get rid of the cleaners by putting the "Do Not Disturb" card up for the whole day. At some point they usually do come and disturb. Possibly one can avoid the cleaners by demanding it at the front desk, but they are not going to provide me with useful things instead for the same money.

I am sure I am not the only person who feels that way. Why are there so few hotels that cater to us?

Does anyone actually like having cleaners come in every day?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Riga, day 1

(Been to Riga this weekend. Pictures are forthcoming.)

Gaah! Gaah! The plane is tiny and has two propellers! Scary!

Despite shaking all the time and being scary the plane arrives on time. The thought of being in a place where half of the population speaks Russian is terrifying.Eek.

The border guard is a friendly young man:
"You speak Russian?"
"First time in Latvia?"
"No. Probably the third. But the last time was about 20 years ago."
"And probably with another passport?"
"Yeah... No, actually, no passport at all."

The bus to the city has just left the stop but the driver notices me and stops. I hop in. There is a granny selling tickets on the bus. She sells me the tickets, all the time saying something in Latvian.

I look out of the window. Soviet Union looks back at me, with occasional pieces of the West here and there. These are the moments when you thank capitalism for chain stores.

We enter Riga. It's full of wooden apartment buildings that I vaguely remember from 25 years ago and which surely have not been painted since then, or most probably since 1940.

Leena and Ville meet me at the Stockmann bus stop and we go to Stockmann to get some food. Much to my joy the place has sour cherries and good ice cream. Stockmann is much like Helsinki Stockmann even though the food is different.

The apartment is huge and lovely. It has steel doors sufficient to keep out a small army, but the entrance is from the inner yard and it does not have any kind of a gate.

We try to go to dinner in Rosengrals, a medieval restaurant. There are two guys outside dressed like monks and lazily swearing at each other in Russian. Nobody pays us any attention. When Leena asks them for a table for three, non-smoking, they show us to a table and give us menus. Five minutes later someone shows up to say that kitchen is closed.

During our stay we have no problem at all finding non-smoking areas in restaurants. At some point I realize that this is because Latvia has banned smoking in restaurants.

We go to Alus Seta, which has perfectly decent self-service food. When we go to buy drinks the bartender keeps ignoring us on account of our standing in the wrong place. Naturally he does not bother to inform us of it. When e finally shift to the right plce he gives Leena a wrong beer. Not that there was a lot of difference between it and the right beer. The service is almost Soviet, but not quite, on account of no swearing.

On the way back I pick up an advertisement paper. Steel doors seem to be very popular.

Bakri asks for British help

Our old friend Omar Bakri Mohammed, who declared war on Britain a year and a half ago, has begged Britain to evacuate him from Lebanon and at least take him to UK for a short visit.

The UK responded that his presence there would not be conductive to the public good. No shit.

Last week the organizations Al Ghurabaa and the Savior Sect, the offshoots of Bakri's Al-Muhajiroun, were banned in Britain.

Omar Bakri Mohammed is wanted in Syria for a number of crimes and for some reason does not feel ready to go to paradise.

I suspect that declaring war on every country one lives in is not a good survival strategy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Yesterday I was listening to some music at work. Suddenly one of the bosses tried to listen in on my headphones and asked whether I was listening to Prince. I said "Who"? Apparently it was somebody that I was supposed to have heard about, because the coworkers kept making fun of me till the end of the day, and the Wikipedia article about this Prince is fairly big.

This happens to me every once in a while. I don't know many musical celebrities. I know Beatles and can recognize a lot of their songs. I also know Doors and Rolling Stones can can identify a couple of songs by each. I know about Michael Jackson and Madonna and what they look like because I sometimes see their faces on Google News, but can't identify a single song by either of them. I have heard about Bruce Springsteen and Elton John but these are just names to which I can't connect any music or faces. What I wonder about is how the rest of the world manages to know all the famous buggers?

Part of it, of course, is that all the media I ever use is written. I don't listen to the radio and don't usually watch TV. But I think that a greater part of it is that I am not interested in new music, and I wonder what makes other people interested in it. Basically: does new music contain some useful new information for other people?

When I read a book or watch a movie an essential part of the fun is that the book or the movie contains some interesting information (true or fictional). One can't read the same book all the time. There are a lot of books and movie that I enjoy watching over and over but even then I don't normally do so in a row: a fair lot of time has to pass before the book or the movie regains its freshness. I think most people do the same. Therefore one wants new books and new movies all the time.

But music? As far as I am concerned it is a purely physical pleasure, like food, and, like with food, I can enjoy a lot of the same stuff in a row, and I am satistfied with a finite number of different dishes/songs. There is no desire to look for more. I gladly try new food if I happen to see it and it looks appetizing; in the same way I sometimes buy a song to which I get accidentally exposed and which sounds good (this happens quite rarely), but I never have any desire to look for new because the old gets old, because for me it doesn't.

Not that I never find anything new: usually I pick up a bit of new music from the movies, and sometimes by accident from bars or at friends' places. I generally resist people's attempt to have me purposefully listen to something new, but at least one such attempt was successful.

The music that I don't like is usually just noise to me, and I have no recollection of it afterwards.

So, my dear readers: do all the rest of you actively look for new music? What makes you want to do so? And how do you manage to remember the performers of the music that you don't normally listen to?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

As tears go by

Went to see Wong Kar-Wai's As tears go by yesterday. Liked it, too. Wong used to make perfectly good movies before he became all artsy, and this one even has a plot and all. I highly recommend it, at least to the people who are capable of enjoying a Hong Kong gangster melodrama.

(And, no, I don't disapprove of artsy movies in general, but in particular case of Wong Kar-Wai artsiness was definitely not an improvement. See As tears go by, then see 2046, and see what I mean.

On the way back some guy tried to take the bus 64N to St. Petersburg, but was told that it only goes to Itä-Pakila.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"Eew, should never have moved there!"

When Israel and its situation are discussed and somebody raises the question of what Israel is supposed to do to defend itself, somebody else almost invariably says: "They shouldn't have founded Israel there in the first place. Should've taken a piece of land from Germany instead and founded it there."

These people definitely have a point there, although their rather belated advice is obviously not helpful at this point in history, and, as we all know, hindsight is always 20/20 and I can sort of imagine Jews in 1948 not wanting to settle next to Germans. What I would really like to know is whether these people realize that what they are essentially saying is "civilized people should have known better than to settle in an area full of Arabs".

"War bad. Tree pretty. And violence has never solved everything."

One more observation of the last few days: it's very easy to be a pacifist when it's not your own war.

OK, it's not exactly the observation of the last few days. Nor does it concern the Middle Eastern wars in particular - on the opposite, you find even more pacifists who are against the low-profile wars that they do not know anything about. Nor is it a just Finnish problem.

It's easy to be against a war if you don't have a stake in it one way or the other. It's also easy, and I think quite fashionable, to say "both sides are equally guilty" to show how impartial we are, even if they obviously are not. Hell, I've heard that said about the 1994 events in Rwanda. Many times. (For those who still think Hutus and Tutsis were killing each other: no, they were not. Hutus were killing Tutsis.) Somehow, nowadays it is also common to express desire for killing both parties in a war in order to stop it, which makes me feel a bit of doubt about the person's commitment to pacifism.

I wonder whether this "war is evil and all the parties are equally bad" thing is just a way for people to say "War bad. Tree pretty"?

Another thing is the people who say "violence has never solved everything". This is so obviously untrue that I always wonder how they can believe it themselves, but most of them seem to be quite sincere. Even Finns, the vast majority of whom tend to believe that it was a good idea to fight against Russia during the Winter War and the Continuation War.

It's obviously not a good idea to solve everything by violence, especially since most things are obviously not solvable that way, but violence has solved a lot of things, and had good potential to solve more. To take the most obvious example, violence has solved the problem of Nazism in Europe. Violence (the invasion by the Vietnamese) got rid of Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. Violence (a bullet in the head of a certain old pedophile in the 60s or in the 70s) would probably have prevented Islamic revolution in Iran. The threat of violence is what prevents robbers from taking your money, rapists from raping you and people who just like to fight from punching you in the nose.

The latter problem, is, BTW, only solvable by violence so far. There are countries who for some geopolitical reason don't need an army (I can almost imagine Icelanders feeling all morally superior about having had the foresight to locate themselves in the middle of the ocean, as opposed to in the middle of the Middle East), but I have never heard of a country without police or some kind of a penal system.

Everyone is, obviously, for peace. The fighting parties in most wars are also, for the most part, for peace (there are some who are for the eternal war or for the end of the world, but they are in a minority). Of course, each one of them is for their own peace, and therefore they are waging a war in order to make the other party accept their version of peace. That is natural. The so-called peace movements who are clearly for one party's version of peace in a particular war, but who pretend to be "just for peace", however, smell of cheating. Nowadays, every time I see a demonstration for peace, I feel like asking "whose peace?".

If I were one of the leaders of a country at war I would certainly finance the peace movement on the other side.

I don't think the war in Iraq was a good idea. I have chosen a side, and as an American I think that a war in Iraq was a bad idea because if most likely does not serve American interests sufficiently in comparison to our investment of resources, and possibly does not serve our interests at all (remains to be seen). This was one of those wars where I was, in fact, participating in a demonstration against it. But I still have a very strong impression that quite a lot of people demonstrating against it are not really against the war, just for the other side.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Random thoughts on the Middle East situation

Israel still misses Nasrallah, but their aim is getting better.

When Israel hit Nasrallah's home he declared a war on it. What does he imagine he has been doing up till now? Friendly fire?

Q: Can Israel win a war on terrorism in Lebanon?
Radio Beirut: Syria is a very good country too.

I'd been wondering how come the people of Gaza behave like fucking teenagers, and finally it dawned on me that part of it might be because they are in fact teenagers (fucking or otherwise). The median age there is 15.8. This is a scary thought, not just in case of Gaza but in general, that somewhere in the world the median age is that low. Uganda's median age is 15. The words "inmates are running the asylum" come to my mind.

I've also been wondering what would Finland do if one of the political parties in Estonia took up a habit of shooting rockets into Finland on a regular basis.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Estate tax

People who support the estate tax (I don't, but that's beside the point) tend to say that the estate tax is good because it prevents a lot of wealth from concentrating within the same family.

So why is it that both the estate tax law and the inheritance law try to prevent people from leaving their money to heirs outside their family? If this society wants money to circulate, rather than to stay in a family, what is the point of charging double or triple estate tax when people inherit from distant relatives and friends? And what exactly is the point of the law that says that half of one's estate goes to one's children?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

It's not nice to attack an independent country peacefully shooting rockets at you

Today a coworker suddenly informed us all "hey, Israel has attacked Lebanon!". I stared at him incredulously and said that it was the other way around, but I should have asked him where he had read something like that. Some of the stories in the media somehow fail to mention small details, like Qassam- and Katyusha-rockets shot at Israel from Lebanon.

(Of course it might be that it's not the fault of the news source and the coworker is just the kind of person who does not consider a few wee rockets to be an attack, but he seems otherwise quite normal.)

Lebanon's prime minister Fouad Siniora says that Lebanon and its government had nothing to do with the attacks. Heh. Imagine Kokoomus shooting rockets at Russia across the border and Vanhanen saying that the rest of us have nothing to do with that.

And the big question is: since the Party of Allah is financially supported by Iran and Syria, which one of them has ordered this circus - or both, or neither? Hmm, Hamas's big honcho nowadays lives in Syria too.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"We don't talk about things like that in public, dear"

The DVD region code was an exceptionally useless invention to begin with. One could think that at a time when a) one can buy two DVD players with two different region codes for under 150 euro and b) a lot of people torrent movies from the Net without the benefit of buying a DVD of any region this stupidity would be long forgotten. But no, never underestimate stupidity.

Manufacturers nowadays make most players so that you can in fact change the region by feeding the player some code, drawing a pentagram, jumping in and out of it and howling at the full moon. I know this. You know this. DVD manufacturers know this. Tribesmen from Papua who have not invented fire yet know this, and maybe even our dear Minister of Culture knows this. However, most manufacturers refrain from putting this information on the player, the box that it comes in, the manual or their own homepage in an apparent desperate attempt to convince any aliens who observe our Earth in an extremely cursory fashion that they have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the players that they make actually can change the region code.

When I was young I used to know a number of young Russian women who claimed that they never masturbate and never fart. I never imagined they would monopolize the DVD player manufacturing, but apparently they did.

Since pretty much everyone wants to buy DVD players that can play any DVDs they want one would also think that all the stores (online and otherwise) that sell them would compile the region-unlocking instructions of all the models that they currently offer for sale and put them somewhere visible. However, most of them don't. As the result you usually cannot just buy a player normally but have to look up the unlocking instructions on the Net first.

The funniest thing about it is that most DVDs don't have a real region code either. A lot (I would not vouch for most) of DVDs sold as region 1 are indeed region 1. Most of the ones sold as region 2 are in fact region-free (which you can easily notice by putting them into a player set for region 1 and having them play quite normally. Most of the region 3 are also simultaneously available as region 0, and I've never seen anything that would come from the region 6 and was indeed region 6 - they were all region 0 and marked as such. (Region 0 is the same as region-free.)

Service nowadays (rant)

I have been buying more domestic equipment than usual lately, and noticed an amazing trend: salespeople in stores (most notably Anttila and Veikon Kone, but not limited to them) not only don't know the answer to my questions, but they actually have the gall to suggest that I do my research on the Net rather than bother them with these questions.

Listen, dumbfuck: I don't do my research for myself on the Net because that is what you are here for. They are paying you money to find things out for me, so that I don't have to look up every one of those 20 devices and compare them on the Net.

Sometimes I actually do look things up on the Net, but then I also buy them from the Net, where the prices are lower because they don't pay for your sorry ass. Are you absolutely fucking sure that you want all your customers to switch to buying from the Net?

Peace in Mumbai

Religion of peace has paid a visit to Mumbai yesterday. Ok, ok, it's early to say, and nobody has claimed responsibility yet, and it might yet turn out to be Militant Methodists (as Robert Spencer usually puts it), Al-Buddha Buddhist Brigades, Catholic Brotherhood or People's Front of Judea, but it probably isn't.

Which makes me wonder: does Al-Qaeda have some kind of fixation with the number 11? New York and Washington DC 9/11, Madrid 11.3., Mumbai 11.7., or are these just a coincidence?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Sex, taboos, and young people

Yesterday in a tram I saw a group of boys of about 13, one of whom looked extremely fuckable. Obviously I am aware that actually having sex with him would be illegal, and I would not even think of trying it. Still it made me wonder why is it such a taboo to say that they sometimes look quite fuckable (as opposed to, say, expressing a wistful desire to rob a bank in a situation where everybody knows that there is no question of the person really doing so).

One thing I've always wondered about with pedophiles: the media always tells us that people who have such desires can't help it and will always be a danger to society. I wonder whether that is true, and if yes, why? I think most of us have a certain number of sexual desires that cannot be realized due to being illegal, immoral, expensive or physically impossible, and most of us manage to live with that without getting ourselves in trouble. How are pedophiles any different, and why? Of course it could be that media is talking about the pedophiles who actually have acted on their desires and gotten caught, and therefore already proved to have less self-control than the general population, but are these people really less likely to learn from experience than, say, rapists and people who like to make sweet love to their neighbors' sheep or hamsters?

All this talk of screwing the young reminds me of a funny blog I found recently (via Ilkka). The guy has all the straighforward-rough-realism style of Danimal without really having Danimal's grip on reality. He has figured out the basics sexual market value theory, for example that both youth and money have market value, and one can be exchanged for the other, meaning that a Western man in his forties can attract a number of women in their twenties if he moves to a much poorer country. He did just that, and now he enjoys a very good time with very young women in the Philippines, and good for him (and them, I suppose). So far, so good. But where it gets really hilarious is that after pages and pages of describing how young girls are beautiful and sexy and how horrible it would be to have sex with old hags his age the man has absolutely, absolutely no idea why on earth women might want to have sex with young boys. Heh.

In the news

Shamil Basayev has been successfully dispatched to see Allah in person. Funnily enough I see no celebrations of the same kind that we see every time somebody goes to Allah accompanied by slain infidels. In general the we-love-death crowd only seems to celebrate other people's deaths, and appeal to human rights every time the death applies exclusively to themselves.

Which reminds me: last week Ismail Haniya appealed to humanity, which is almost too funny to be true, and asked the international community to intervene and put some pressure on Israel. Is this incidentally the same guy whom I saw on TV this May saying that he will not let himself be pressured by foreign powers (aka the international community) and that bugger the international community anyway (but please give generously)? Thought so.

Kim Jong-Il threatened United States with war. One would think that the glorious leader of the country with no food would behave more modestly towards the people he gets food from (OK, US is not the only one but he managed to piss off everyone else too) and that even a Communist understands that biting the hand that feeds you might be a bad idea, but no.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A moment of absurdity

Yesterday we were sitting at one of the three tables outside Pikkulintu, which is quite an improbable place in itself: a small watering hole at a shopping center in Puotila with an unbelievable selection of whisky. Suddenly an American man in his seventies came up to us.

"Does this place serve kaurapuuro?" - he asked us in Finnish.
"I don't think so," - one of us answered.
"Do you know where I can get some?"

We pointed at Valintatalo, but the American grandpa said that he wants to buy some ready-made warm kaurapuuro, and that 30-something years ago this place used to sell it. We encouraged him to go inside and ask, but he said that he did not have time, showed us a bag of frozen vegetables and walked away.

Hurrah! Hurrah! Toilet!

They fixed my toilet now! I haven't tested it the hard way yet, but at least the water comes through.

This morning I had a plumber come in and install the dishwasher connectors. He was supposed to come at 8, and finally came a bit after 9:30. He looked like a British football hooligan, only a lot more so. He was a small young guy, covered with tattoos, with an almost-shaved head, and his face looked like somebody gave him a good beating yesterday. I just hoped that the beating was not a disgrunted customer's comment on the results of his work.

To his credit I must say that his facial expression did not remind of the football hooligans but of a regular guy in the end of a long workday. He also did everything he was supposed to do, and fairly quickly. Haven't checked if it works yet, but I see no reason why it shouldn't.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Paska juttu

The toilet in my new apartment completely broke down. I am dreaming of a knight on a white horse with a full set on plumbing devices.

Mind you, I am an American. We might be a great nation, but a nation of great plumbers we definitely aren't. I am accustommed to having to use the plunger almost every time I shit, because in the United States of America the toilets are designed for the lesser need only.

In Finland usually the toilets are better. So much better, in fact, that I hardly need to use the plunger even once a year. So much better that in 1994, when my parents first came to visit Finland it took all the strength Benka and I had to detach Oska from the toilet bowl that he saw in K-Rauta and grabbed with intent to purchase it and carry it back home on a plane.

A shitty toilet in Finland is a rarity. When I noticed that my new toilet was not quite as good as others here I was a bit upset, because even though I feel a bit homesick after not having visited the US for almost 2 years, the toilet design is not on the list of the American things I would like to see in Finland. But then I figured I can always use the plunger like in my younger years.

Well, it turned out I can't. I mean, it worked for a week, but then, sorry for the details, the Sunday morning shit apparently turned out to be a bit bigger than the weekday ones, and the toilet got plugged completely. Well, almost completely: if you pour water in it in 3 or 4 hours the water has seeped away somewhere.

After pumping the damn thing with the plunger failed to produce results I went to Stockmann and bought all the toxic chemicals that had any chance to dissolve the shit. I poured some kind of a green bottle in the toilet bowl. It utterly and completely failed to dissolve the shit, but gave the whole mess a poisonous green color and the smell of raspberry essence mixed with shit.

I stared at the whole undogly mess for a while, and decided that this might be the time to call talonmies.

Talonmies turned out to be a smiling youngish man reminiscent of the plumbers in the Russian comedies of the 1970s, and he carried a long and thick thingie with which he tried to pump the toilet, with no success whatsoever.

The plumber is coming today. Till then, no shitting.

R.I.P. grandma, part 2

Grandma was buried on Friday, in the normal way of nonobservant American Jews (Jewish cemetery, funeral home, lots of people, a rabbi who does not mention god too often and keeps his speech short, a Hebrew prayer no one understands, speeches by relatives, and a party afterwards). I was obviously absent; my aunt less obviously so.

My father spoke about her at the funeral, and he mentioned that she was one of the few people who have never stopped changing and learning new things.

I told him what I wrote here. He answered that the moral fiber was not completely absent from grandma's life: one thing she has always refused to do, for moral reasons, was joining the Communist party. Even though her career almost required it and they pressured her about it all the time.