Sunday, April 25, 2010


Iranian cleric (Friday prayer leader for the city of Tehran, says Wikipedia) Kazem Sedighi said that immodestly dressed women cause earthquakes.

This does make one wonder why Iran has so many earthquakes - could it be that the Lord's opinion on what is modest and what is not differs quite a lot from that of Iran's leadership? Makes one wonder about Kazem Sedighi's sanity and the recreational pharmaceuticals he uses, too.

Anyway: tomorrow is the day when thousands of women across the world, myself included, will try to prove him wrong by wearing immodest shirts. As of now, the event has 165497 confirmed participants on Facebook.

Imagine our surprise though if the big one hits Iran tomorrow...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Who are those people?

President Obama has ordered the Health and Human Services agency to ensure that the hospitals that get Medicare and Medicaid money grant visitation right to whoever the patient wants. It was mostly described in the news as giving the visitation rights to same-sex partners, but it fact it concerns all the people who wish to be visited by someone who is not a member of their immediate family.

This is very good news, of course, but the very fact that the issue exists makes me wonder quite a bit - who are the enemy, I mean the people on the other side of the issue? Why? I've never seen them. This sort of gives me the feeling that there is some other, alternative USA out there.

Obviously, one of the guilty parties is Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. A few years ago a woman visiting Miami got a brain aneurysm and was rushed there. When her partner of 17 years came there with their three children, they were not allowed to visit the woman, in spite of the fact that the partner had a medical power of attorney document with her, and in spite of the fact that there was no medical reason to prevent the visit. The woman died, alone.

Jackson Memorial Hospital argued in court - successfully, no less - that they are under no obligation to allow any visitors at all. I can only hope that everyone who does have an opportunity to choose their hospital has heard this loud and clear.

The whole thing makes me suspect that Miami Jackson Memorial Hospital is in fact run by aliens (of the extraterrestrial kind) with little green antennae, who did not come in peace. Seriously, I've never seen anything like that. I've never seen any hospital in the US (or in Finland or Austria, for that matter) take any interest in who their patient's visitors are. Moreover - I know that there are many Americans who are different from me in one way or another, and I've met quite a lot of them, from rather far right to rather far left, from the coasts and from the Midwest, religious and atheists, but I've never met a person whom I could even imagine supporting this idea. Who are they? Hey, if any of you are reading this, wanna tell me who you are?

I can imagine that if some hospital in Boston suddenly started admitting only immediate relatives to visit patients, the result would be immediate violence, with the perpetrator utterly failing to be convicted by the jury of his or her peers.

What's in it for the hospitals? Also, how do they even know who the immediate family are? How does anyone know that I am my parents' daughter, or my parents are married to each other? Obviously, if the matter comes up in some court, one can unearth some certificates, my parents have their wedding pictures somewhere, and quite a lot of living witnesses to the event, and the fact that they are my parents can be established by a DNA test. Anybody who does not have the time and money for all of the above would have to rely on our word, though.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Helsingin Sanomat forum moderators rather open-minded for once

"No Hitler oli hyvä mies ja oikealla asialla, kun pyrki hävittämään nämä tuholaiset maailmasta, mutta homma jäi vain hieman kesken. On vain ajan kysymys, milloin nouseva äärioikeisto hoitaa homman vihdoinkin loppuun!"

(Translation: "Well, Hitler was a good man and he was doing the right thing when he tried to remove this vermin [Jews] from the world, but he didn't quite get the job done. It's a question of time when the rising far right will finally get the job finished.")

That was one of the readers of Helsingin Sanomat, the biggest Finnish daily, commenting on an article about Israel asking its citizens to leave Sinai.

Now, I am all for the right of newspapers (and anyone else, for that matter) to have unmoderated forums, where anyone can write anything and where things get deleted only by a court order or not at all. This, however, is a pre-moderated forum that claims not to tolerate any racism or group hatred, and that has routinely removed messages that were even slightly offensive to some other groups. It's not the question of moderators not having noticed it yet, either - in order to be posted there the thing (signed with the nickname "Natsi" (nazi), although in my experience actual nazis for obvious reasons rarely compare Jews to nazis, as he/she does elsewhere in the posting) had to go through a moderator.

I would really like to know: what the hell was the moderator thinking?

Edit: Now they have removed that posting after more than 24 hours, but the question still stands.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Started reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (thanks for the tip, Mari!). It's a time-travel story and a sort of a cross between sci-fi, historical fiction and romance. According to the author it was originally meant to be a historical novel, and sci-fi and romance appeared later.

There are in theory eight books; seven have been written so far, and I have read four so far. Every book has its own sensible story arc, so the absence of the last one is not too frustrating.

One thing that I really love about the series is the protagonist who for the most part does not give a flying fuck about history and whether or not she is fucking it up. It's refreshing because of being rather unusual, and is especially fun in contrast with Connie Willis's time-travel novels, where characters are extremely concerned with effects on history.

A tooth and an ear

Last night I broke my tooth on a salt crystal. "Argh, let this be a nightmare", I thought. A couple of hours later it turned out to have been a nightmare, or at least the tooth is not broken. This was the first time ever it has occurred to me in a dream that it might be a dream.

I got up and turned the kettle on. It was making really strange sounds. I took my tea and went to bed with it, hoping that the kettle problem would be a dream, too.

In the morning the kettle problem turned out to be a ear problem. The damn ear feels like there is fluid inside or something, and is sort of oversensitive to some sounds, for example the kettle. Googling turned up that this is a very common aftereffect of a flu and nothing needs to be done, but it's still pretty damn annoying.

It's better now, but not quite gone.

Had a lazy weekend. Visited a friend, did my US taxes, washed the laundry (probably should hang it to dry, too, or else not gonna have any pants in the morning) and read a book.

Argentina: food

We were told they eat meat, and they sure do! There are delicious steaks to be had everywhere, for about 8-12 euro. The best bet is just to order "bife de lomo" everywhere. Potatoes and suchlike often have to be ordered separately.

in Patagonia they have Patagonian lamb (I can especially recommend the one in the restaurant called Las Barricas). In Iguazu they have the traditional local fish (surubi, dorado and pacu). The only reason it became traditional is probably because they didn't have anywhere to put cows to pasture, or any better fish. Avoid if possible. They do also have salmon and steelhead trout, so the fish lovers are not totally fucked.

The have quite a lot of sushi places, I even saw a kosher sushi place in Buenos Aires. My one and only attempt at sushi revealed that the restaurant only had four kinds of fish: salmon, tuna, shrimp and an unidentified white-colored fish. They did a very good job out of it, much better than I could ever imagine anyone doing, but I decided to leave sushi at that.

Anything sweet either looks very suspicious or contains a lot of dulce de leche. I happen to like the stuff; if you don't, Argentinian pastry is probably not for you.

Finding the wine to our liking was a challenge at first; later we fould a producer we liked a lot, Luigi Bosca. Among local beers, El Bolson totally rules.

They make good coffee. Really good coffee, though in all my travels i still haven't found anyone who'd brew coffee as good as the guy near the big market in Istanbul.

There is a local specialty called cappuccino italiano. That's as opposed to the regular cappuccino, although occasionally you ask for regular and get italiano. It's cappuccino with cream (in addition to milk), cocoa and cinnamon, which makes for a surprisingly pleasant combination.

Ice cream in pretty good. Normally I like coffee, caramel and green tea flavors, but in Argentina they make very good ice cream flavored with strawberry, raspberry and other berries, often combined with mascarpone. I think their secret is that they put enough berries in there.

More about Argentina

Our first experience of Argentina was an immigration official looking at my parents' US passports, noticing their birthplace in Russia, and asking "do you happen to have a Russian passport as well? If you do I won't have to charge you the entrance fee."

They didn't, and paid. I used my Finnish passport, and didn't have to pay. When it was time to fly back, the airline clerk instructed me to show both passports to her, the Finnish one to the Argentina border control, and the US passport to the US border control. (Incidentally, I passed the US border control in Miami, for the first time ever, and was absolutely shocked by the Customs and USDA officials addressing me in Spanish. They did switch to English as soon as they noticed my open mouth.)

The combination of high-trust and low-trust features in Argentina is sort of strange. On one hand, locks, bars (not just the drinking establishments) and guards are everywhere. On the other hand, the population, including lone young women, does not seem to be in any way afraid of being out at 4am. On one hand, any bill starting from 50 peso (about 10 euro) up is checked for being counterfeit by its recipient, and even fairly small credit card purchases often require a picture ID. On the other hand, nobody has ever tried to cheat us in a restaurant.

The people are friendly, laid-back, and mostly southern European in appearance. They are also covered with liver spots in a way that I found scary, and to a much higher degree than in Southern Europe, which made me wonder whether Buenos was much sunnier than, say, the south of Spain, or the sunscreen much less popular.

I really loved the way they tried to correct my Spanish, and started thinking that if I lived there for several months I would be fluent. Once I tried to find matches in a supermarket, and having failed in the attempt to find them by myself, asked an employee for cerillas. He led me where the damn things were, pointed at them, and said in Spanish in a schoolteacher tone: "Fosforos. Only Bolivians say cerillas."

Argentinians seem to love demonstrations, dogs and traveling. We'd seen at least 10 demonstrations in about 8 days in Buenos Aires, mostly on various political topics: they supported some party or other, demonstrated against paying of the national debt, in favor of recapturing the Falkland islands "because our brothers' blood is priceless!" (somebody should explain them the concept of sunk costs), and against drugs. Every self-respecting demonstration had drums, and people who beat them with a big stick and a great enthusiasm, and demonstrations seemed to compete among themselves in how much noise they could create. The only exception was a rather sinister-looking demonstration of people in Che Guevara t-shirts with evil-looking faces, who had very big sticks and no drums at all.

There is a great number of dogs, who are just as laid-back as humans. The city was full of people walking dogs, people walking as many as 10 dogs at a time, and a great number of dogs without any visible people present, who nevertheless did not seem to be strays. Picking up the dog shit from the streets is not common, and one should exercise due caution while walking.

The national parks were full of tourists, most of whom were from Argentina. There was quite a lot of people from the other South American countries, too. The parks usually have different prices for Argentinians, people from the local province, people from the local town, people from Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) and all others.

Another interesting feature of the national parks was the languages: posted notices tended to be in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Hebrew.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Alabama on the forefront of high-school BDSM

Oxford High School in Oxford, Alabama, has a dress code for prom dresses: the hem cannot be more than 6 inches above the knee and the cleavage cannot be below the breastbone. The article is not clear on whether they mean the top or the bottom of the breastbone; neither makes any sense to me.

That is not the point. Silly dress codes happen. The really amazing thing that after 18 out of the 352 students violated the code they were given a choice of paddling and a three-day suspension, and 17 chose the paddling.

Wow. I'd never imagined a backward place like Alabama would be as open to BDSM as to paddle consenting high school students on taxpayer money. In my home state of Massachusetts it's illegal even between consenting adults, and 10 years ago police even arrested the participants of a BDSM party in Attleboro. The case was thrown out on technicalities, but not before the local population renamed Attleboro into Paddleboro to the great joy of the local authorities. But Alabama? Just wow!

I am probably the last person on earth who should ever joke about the family trees that don't branch, but I often suspects that the states who have the reputation for having a lot of inbred morons tend to have it for a very good reason.

The even more amazing thing than the fact that paddling is offered as a punishment (do they also have whipping? piercing? fisting?) is that out of 18 students given the alternatives between a paddling and not having to go to school for 3 days, 17 chose the paddling. Either Oxford, Alabama is absolutely full of subs in need of a dom, or their school is so much fun that nobody wants to miss any of it even under the threat of being paddled, which sort of makes me wonder what other activities go on in there.

I am also kinda wondering whether they need an extra employee for the prom season.

Monday, April 05, 2010


Just got back from my first trip to Latin America, which (the trip, not Latin America) consisted mostly of various parts of Argentina.

It's a damn big country, incidentally. My mother's packing advice was along the lines of "pack for the moderate climate, the glaciers, the rainforest and don't pack too much".

The first words that came to my mind upon seeing Buenos Aires were "old-world charm", which was strange, because I have never seen any in the old world. Or rather there is quite a lot of charm in the old world, but none of the kind that I have ever felt like calling old-world charm.

The second words were "that's fucking huge". Buenos Aires has some streets that are so huge that they have to be seen to be believed.

I expected Argentina to be a reasonably civilized third-world country, but it didn't feel particularly third-worldly to me. The general impression is similar to that of a poorer Western European country, for example Portugal. Nowhere where we'd been was in any way scary (we did not seek out slums, but we weren't careful of where we were going, either), tap water was drinkable though not tasty, the restaurant bills did not have any mysterious extra items, and there were fewer beggars than in Prague, or in fact fewer beggars than in Helsinki after Romania joined the EU. The general impression of Argentina was way more civilized than that of Hungary or Czech republic.

More later.