Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The evil electricians, part X

Thursday: A guy from the construction company calls me and tells me that they are gonna come next week and Fix Everything - am I gonna be home? I ask him when. He says that they are gonna be at Tero's place Monday at 8 and gonna call me Monday morning and come sometime on Monday.


9:30: An electricity inspector comes and inspects electricity. He thinks that all the wiring of all three ceiling lamps should be replaced and some wiring added in the kitchen.

10:00: Where are the electricians?

10:30: Where the fuck are the electricians?

11:00: Where the fuck are the electricians?

11:30: Where the fuck are the fucking electricians? Gonna rape them with a Cristmas tree if they show up.

12:00: The plan to rape them with a Christmas tree fails for two logistical reasons: 1) no electricians, and 2) no Christmas tree.

12:30: The plan to find them by phone also fails, for one logistical reason: no electricians.

13:00: The plan to find somebody by phone succeeds. Somebody (the same somebody who called me on Thursday) says they have been in the building. I say this doesn't help much. He says they are gonna be here the first thing Tuesday morning at 8.

13:07: I bugger off to work.

19:30: I am back from work with a vague feeling that I should move my stuff out of their way. The problem is that their way is pretty much everywhere.


0:00: Bugger all. Gotta bugger off to bed. Didn't get any sleep last night.

1:00: Woke up to a nightmare about the electricians.

2:00: Woke up to another nightmare about the electricians.

7:30: Woke up to the alarm clock. Considered beating the electricians over the head with it.

8:00: Shower, pants and tea all located. Waiting for the electricians.

8:30: Where the hell are the electricians?

8:55: The doorbell! Hurrah!

A colorful character walks in and stares at my ceiling in a "what the fuck way".

Me: Are you an electrician?
Him: No, I am a painter.
Me: Huh? Öööö...
Him: Supposed to paint over their work...
Me: Can't paint the holes...
Him: That would take special skills... but where are they?
Me: Wondered about it myself...
Him: I'll call them.

With that the Picasso disappeared and was never heard from again.

9:20: Called the somebody again.

Me: They were supposed to be there at 8 and didn't show up!
Somebody: A painter was there.
Me: I know.
Somebody: Did he get the keys?
Me: No. Don't you have the keys?
Somebody: We sorta do...
Me: Gonna leave the security lock open.
Somebody: They are gonna be there eventually.

10:15: Finally at work.

10:17: The phone rings.

The electrician: We are here and we can't get in!
Me: Don't you have the keys?
The electrician: None of them work, the housing company doesn't have your keys.
Me (making a mental note to disembowel whoever lost my keys and make them pay for the lock replacement - not necessarily in this order): I can be there in half an hour.
The electrician: That's too late! I can't just wait for you! Can't we set up a time later in the afternoon?
Me: Sure, whatever, just tell me when.
The electrician: Sometime after 16?
Another electrician in the background: Are you talking to Vera?
The first electrician: Yes.
The other electrician in the background: Wrong apartment, she lives downstairs.
The first electrician (to me): Oops, forget it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A girl who was interested in politics

Somebody just implied to me that there must have been something wrong with me if at 16 I was more interested in free elections than in a prince on a white horse. She did not know that this was also the case at 10. I was gonna tell her off, along the lines of "takes all kinds to make a world", and then started wondering whether the above was in fact a sign that something was wrong with the country.

(Yes, I know that something was wrong with the country. OK, make it "almost everything". I am just wondering whether my interest in politics was a symptom of that.)

I sort of know where the woman who thinks something was wrong with me is coming from. She is also from the Soviet Union, a few years older than me. During our childhood everything was full of politics. Newspapers were full of politics (much more so than in the West at any point that I remember), and so was the TV. We had all kinds of politics (just a figure of speech - it was just one kind of politics) shoved down our throats from morning till night, politics before class, politics during class, politics after class, etc. Everything we did was interpreted as political statement. Personal was very much political, whether one wanted it or not.

Under those circumstances quite a lot of people became very strongly apolitical, in a "just leave me in peace to live my sex life and wear whatever I want, I am not interested in politics". At the time I wondered whether the leaders realized that their attempt to make everyone interested in their politics had the result opposite of the intended; nowadays, older and even more cynical, I wonder whether this was in fact the intended effect.

Anyway, this reaction is barely comprehensible to me now, and was even less comprehensible at the time. My personal is usually not very political, but it is quite clear to me that if the powers that be have chosen to lecture me on the style of my shirt, the personal has become the political whether I want it or not.

The funny thing was that pretty much everyone I knew understood that if a bully comes up to you in the street and expresses desire to punch you in the nose because he is offended by your makeup the thing to do was not to explain that the makeup was not intended as a personal offense to him - he knows it as well as you do - but to hit hard and/or run fast. But I felt fairly alone with the idea that the same is the case for the governments. Although, obviously, this was not the kind of thing I could easily discuss with my classmates, so I was pretty much limited to listening.

Yes, I also wished to be left in peace, I just realized that it was not gonna happen, or in any case not by leaving *them* in peace.

I remember the day that Brezhnev died. I was 11, and sat in class wondering whether the next guy was gonna be some new version of Stalin, and the possible implications of it. Nobody, including myself, ever mentioned this possibility out loud, but the general feeling that our lives depend on who the new guy will be was there. How can one not be interested in politics under those circumstances?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The great flood saga continues...

Friday, 18:00: Three wise men and a disgruntled Virgin Mary. OK, I would be even more disgruntled if I were a Middle Eastern girl with a newborn baby wondering how to explain to her family and friends that she is still a virgin in the face of rather overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

The three wise men totally look like movie characters. The builder (aka "wall-breaker") looks like a smaller and more comical version of Victor Le Nettoyeur, the plumber looks like a British gentleman, and the electrician looks so ancient that I keep wanting to ask him what he'd done for a living before the electricity was invented. He is incredibly grumpy, too.

18:30: The ill-tempered electrician informs me that the morning plumber is still in the hospital, that all such accidents are reported to the electric safety officials and that they would surely like to see me and my apartment.

The builder wonders what the fuck, and does that wire in front of his nose still have electricity in it? It sure does. They try to find out experimentally what each of the fuses and switches do in spite of the fact that I know pretty well what they do, and am trying to tell them. What the fuck?

18:45: After 15 minutes of trying they figure out what I kept telling them from the very beginning, namely that all the lights in the apartment are on one single fuse. What the fuck, wonders the builder. The electrician explains that the system is ancient, and look who is talking!

18:50: the electrician decided to rip the lamp switch out of the wall, and now it's his turn to ask what the fuck. Apparently I have illegal wiring in my wall. The good thing is that I have an alibi: it was put in before I was born, in the sixties, and was illegal back then, too. The electrician swears profusely about the fucking Estonians, and occasionally apologizes to the ladies present (which are, apparently, me, a least if you use the word "lady" loosely enough). I find it weird, because there wasn't a lot of Estonians here in the sixties, and besides the electrician should probably be apologizing to the builder, who appears to be an Estonian (fucking or otherwise).

19:00: The three wise men decided to break the ceiling.

19:30: Now there is a huge hole in what's left from the ceiling, and still no source of leakage uncovered. The three wise men want to get into Tero's apartment but don't have a key.

Negotiations ensue. I tell Tero that they want to get in. Tero tells me that he is out for the evening, and what the fuck, the superintendent and the humidity measuring guy told him that the leak is definitely not in his apartment. I tell the same to the three wise men. The three wise men are convinced that the leak is in Tero's apartment, and have a unanimous opinion as to where the humidity measuring guy can insert his humidity measuring device.

20:00: The three wise men decide to continue at 10 in the morning. They go home, and leave me some scary-looking tools. I run to the store for cleaning supplies. The apartment is a concrete-covered ruin.

21:00: One can actually walk in the apartment with a fear of a major foot injury. And I sort of have a toilet. Which doesn't flush.

21:10: Ville and Leena come over and take me outside to eat, which is nice.

Saturday, 03:00: Fuck, it's raining again!

03:30: Shit, I can't breathe! Gotta open the window.

07:00: Brr!

08:00: BRRRRR!!!!!!

09:00: Antihistamines, pseudoephedrine, salbutamol and a glass of calvados - the breakfast of a true lady. Hyvin menee...

10:00: No three wise men yet.

10:30: Where the fuck are the three wise men?

11:00: Judging from the horrible sounds, apparently they are upstairs.

11:30: The builder came to get his tools.

12:00: The horrible sounds continue, I keep expecting the builder to fall through my ceiling.

13:30: Hurrah! The hole in the pipe has been located, and it is in Tero's apartment.

14:00: The wise men leave until Monday. I have a working toilet again, which is nice. Tero doesn't. My apartment is cold and the air is unpleasant.

Monday: The plumber(s) came and fixed the pipe. Now Tero can use his bathroom too and it's not raining in my place. Happy happy joy joy!

I still have huge holes in the wall and the ceiling, and no light in the hall. Tero has an even bigger hole in the floor. But hey, the new pipe!

Tuesday: Situation unchanged, gonna be fixed real soon now.

Friday, December 09, 2011


22:40: Back home from nice beers with coworkers! Whee!

00:20: What the hell is that sound?

00:21: Shit, it's raining!

00:22: Shit, it's raining inside!

00:23: Shit, the rain is brown! Shit?

00:24: Gotta wake up Tero, the neighbor upstairs. Tero! TEEEROO! Open the door!

00:26: Shit, do I have a bucket? Do they sell buckets in 24-hour Alepa?

00:28: Bucket located and installed under the rain.

00:30: Calling Tero. Still no response. Left a message. Tero, Tero, why hast thou forsaken me and possibly a fair amount of water as well?

00:33: Calling the maintenance guy. He sounds as drunk as, well, me, and I can't really blame him. They are gonna be here in half an hour. Maybe.

00:37: Hurrah, Tero woke up and called me! No water anywhere in his apartment though.

00:40: Tero is here and looking pessimistic. We are wondering what the fuck.

00:45: Tero goes back home to sleep, asks to be awakened when the maintenance guy comes.

01:05: The maintenance guy (not the one who answered the phone but another, sober one) naturally comes right when I am in the toilet. Pulling the pants up and running to open the door. He stands for a while looking at the ceiling and wondering what the fuck.

01:10: The maintenance guys goes and gets Tero. They stand for a while looking at the ceiling and wondering what the fuck.

01:11: More water coming out of the ceiling lamp. We are wondering what the fuck.

01:12: The water comes out from the same hole as the lamp's cables. What the fuck?

01:13: I figure it might be a good idea to turn off the lamp.

01:14: The maintenance guy figures it might be a good idea to summon a real plumber.

01:15: Tero figures it might be a good idea to go to bed while he still can.

01:16: Shit! Now I have water coming out of two places, and only one bucket.

01:20: An Ikea bag does work as a bucket, and pretty well in fact.

01:40: The plumber arrives, looks at the ceiling and says "what the fuck?"

01:41: The plumber puts his hand in the lamp cable hole and says "ouch".

01:42: The plumber turns off all the electricity.

01:43: Being alone at night in total darkness with two plumbers is not nearly as much fun as porn movies say.

01:50: The plumbers wake up Tero again.

01:55: Much turning off and on the water and flushing ensues.

02:00: They dismantle parts of the ceiling, and keep wondering what the fuck.

02:10: The electricity is back on.

02:45: They are gone. They promise to come back in the morning and tell me that the rain will stop for the night. The whole staircase is out of water and toilets don't work. Nice surprise for everyone in the morning.

07-something: Someone is in the apartment. I wake up jump out of my room naked. A plumber screams "eek" and disappears.

08-something: There is a whole bunch of them, and they are all saying "what the fuck". I alternate between trying to sleep and trying to look decent, failing at both.

10:15: The superintendent calls and asks me to stay home, he'll be here in two hours.

11:00: Most plumbers ran away, one remains.

11:30: The plumber sticks his hand into the wel lamp cable hole, gets a shock and falls off the ladder, screaming. I say "what the fuck".

12:00: The plumber needs to go to a hospital, tells me he'll be back and not to piss in the toilet.

13:00: parts of the ceiling fall off.

14:00: The superintendent shows up and starts running around, waving his hands, screaming "what the fuck" and flushing everyone's toilets. He keeps at it for an hour. He finds that the right toilet belongs to the 4th floor neighbor, and now it really starts to rain. The plumber is still in the hospital.

16:00: The superintendent come back with a humidity measuring guy. The guy says that the whole wall between the hall and the toilet is fucked, what the fuck. They invite a wall-breaker. I have to empty a bookcase.

17:00: The wall-breaker arrives and starts breaking the wall. He totally looks like he'd escaped from some gangster movie.

To be continued...

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Movies (spoilers for The Three Musketeers, The Skin I Inhabit and Midnight in Paris)

I've been having a movie week, also known as my-ticket-booklet-is-about-to-expire week.

The Three Musketeers was in fact quite enjoyable, in spite of raping the plot, the history and the laws of physics in spectacular and unspeakable ways. For one thing, it's the first movie I'd ever seen that has a teenage d'Artagnan, like in the book, played by an actual teenage actor.

I've wondered about this before. The book's d'Artagnan is a teenager, and does a lot of stupid things that teenagers do, especially while being out of school, away from adult supervision, and hanging around with deadly weapons. In the movies he tends to be played by men in their thirties, and not in a Luke Skywalker-like boyish-looking-man-playing-a-teenager way, but in a way that implies that the character is an adult, which makes the viewer really wonder about his IQ.

Another delightful thing about the movie was that the royal couple were not in their 50s, as they often are in the movies, but fairly close to their historical age of 24. Explains a lot about their behavior, I guess, although most people have more sense at that age.

Speaking about the book: the plot made me wonder quite a lot about the queen. When I first read it at the age of 8 or 9 it was not clear to me a) why the queen would get into that much trouble for giving some stupid piece of jewelry to that Buckingham guy, and b) considering that she knew that disappearance of said piece of jewelry would cause trouble when discovered, why didn't she give him something less unique, like roses and chocolate. Actually I still haven't figured those out, maybe I ought to reread the book.

In any case - the movie was fun, although in a way that made me wonder about the recreational drugs used by cast and crew.

About The Skin I Inhabit: I always wonder why I like watching Almodovar's movies. I mean, the characters tend to be insane and their motivations incomprehensible. This time, however, Almodovar surprised me by having a character who appeared to be absolutely sane apart from the heavy use of hard drugs.

Midnight in Paris was very enjoyable in "whee, I love Paris" way, because, well, I do. Apart from that, I find it really annoying when the Deep Understanding to which the protagonist comes at the end of the movie is obvious to the viewer from the very beginning. I mean, for fuck's sake, if you were walking around Paris and suddenly found yourself in the year 1920, how long would it take you to figure out that those guys don't have antibiotics and modern dentistry? Not to mention that there is a fairly big war coming up in 19 years? And that the Internet is nice to have?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Naked guy demonstration in San Francisco

I've seen a number of naked guys in my life, but this is the first time I'd seen one in a hat. I think hats look pretty stylish in the absence of other clothes.

When I went there to take pictures I was embarrassingly aware of having the smallest camera in the crowd.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Look, pterodactyl!

I still ain't dead

It's been a while, I know. All kind of life has been happening to me, including Android, Pacific ocean, bear country, canyons, fucking huge trees ("fucking" is an adverb here, not a verb, in case you are wondering), San Francisco, mysterious mists, Hearst Castle, Boston, seals, relatives, whiskey, Numb3rs, the latest Pratchett and the newest Ubuntu.

I didn't even have time and evergy to say something snarky about the natural death of Anwar al-Awlaki and the trial of his disciple, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. I am all out of snark at the moment. Seriously, when the guy sets his balls on fire in pursuit of 72 virgins, what can you possibly say to top that? I guess al-Awlaki neglected to inform him that the 72 virgins in question are in fact the bearded men currently in detention in Colorado Supermax.

Anyway, here is my "what I did on vacation":

- Spent 21 days in the US.
- Saw 16 relatives. This was overwhelming but nice, because somehow we forgot to inform the one really obnoxious relative of our arrival. I sincerely hope she doesn't read this.
- Saw an apple dog in an Chicago airport. I shit you not: they had a dog sniffing out apples and a customs officer with a huge bag confiscating them from evildoers. Hope the customs officers baked themselves a huge apple pie.
- Took a lot of pictures. All of them here.
- Realized that the altitude of 2 kilometers and a sinus infection do not combine well.
- Drove all over the bear country and didn't see a single bear. Which is good, because I'd have to wash my pants afterwards. Saw quite a lot of deer, blue birds, seals, and a couple of zebras.
- Saw a demonstration of naked men in San Francisco.

Some observations:

- The Pacific ocean is big, cold and wet. I am totally sticking with Atlantic for any beach vacations. Or at least the Asian side of the Pacific.
- There are seals everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Check out my pictures from the Santa Cruz wharf. They also had a critter that looked a bit like a pterodactyl, but hopefully wasn't.
- Californians keep their clouds on the sea and on the ground, instead of letting them float in the sky like normal people.
- Daly City is a mysterous cold place where visibility is always zero and the sun never shines and there is thick fog everywhere. I think Cthulhu lives there right near the Hellmouth or something...
- Pluot is a good, good fruit, and I want them here.
- Sequoias are pretty big. In fact all the other trees in sequoia forests are huge too.
- San Joaquin valley is poor, desolate, dried-out and full of posters saying whom they are gonna vote out of office during the next election. Pelosi, Boxer and Costa are the "favorites". Except that Pelosi isn't in their district.
- Tioga road in Yosemite turned out to be a most interesting place, even though at first it didn't look that way.

Friday, July 29, 2011

On terrorism and responsibility

There was a lot of talk lately on the anti-islam and anti-multiculturalism movement and the responsibility for the anti-multiculturalism terrorist Anders Breivik and his acts.

Some people demanded that we condemn him, some accused us of trying to avoid responsibility every time some of us did condemn him, some took the condemnations as an admission of guilt, some took absense of condemnation as silent support, etc. Some of us did condemn him publicly, some considered condemnation as an admission of guilt and said we had nothing to do with it, etc.

I guess this is all just different ways of different people for dealing with it. Personally, I don't connect condemnation to guilt, and of course I do condemn him (one could have figured that out from my rhino rape comments). And no, I don't consider myself guilty in any way just because a terrorist happened to have some of the same political goals as myself.

Some people, however, tried to score points on the terrorist attack (I don't want to single out anyone, there was unfortunately too many) saying things like that Breivik's actions were a result of a misguided immigration policy, etc. Basically saying that if the society had agreed to whatever Breivik wanted in advance he wouldn't have killed all those people.

Yeah, I understand that a lot of people are upset that Breivik's act has hurt the anti-multiculturalism and anti-islamism movements. But terrorist acts are supposed to hurt the causes in the name of which they are committed. Even when those causes happen to be ours. Otherwise terrorism works, and you get more terrorists.

We (well, apart from the people who actually encouraged him to take up terrorism, if any) are not responsible for Breivik and what he has done. But if we start trying to score political points off his murders, or, God forbid, succeed in scoring those points, we sure as hell are gonna be responsible for the next ones. Terrorism shouldn't be rewarded.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On hate speech and incitement

A lot of people are asking those who discuss Islam as a threat whether or not they feel responsible for the massacre.

First of all, the question is flawed in that considering oneself (partially) responsible is not the same thing as feeling bad about it and thinking "would this have happened if I hadn't said those things?", and it's usually not quite clear which one of those things people are asking about.

But that's not the point. What just happened was, in effect, a hate crime against the Norwegian Labour Party. I have a question to the people who connect the public debate against that party (or similar parties in other countries) with this crime: how careful do you think people should be in their speech? Should one avoid expressing any dislike against a particular party? Should one only avoid incitement to violence? Something in between?

A few thoughts on the terrorist attacks in Norway

I haven't written anything on the Norway murders until now, partly out of respect for the victims, but mostly because all I wanted to do at first was to share my feelings, and my feelings mostly involved rather violent fantasies about the perpetrator being orally/anally raped to death by a herd of enraged rhinos on steroids.

At first I thought it was the islamists. I didn't say so - I wish I could say I didn't jump to the conclusions, but really I just didn't feel like being too graphic about the aforementioned rhinos.

(As an aside to everone who is wondering why we always think of the islamists first: just take a wild fucking guess.)

As soon as it turned out that it wasn't one of them, it was one of us (sorry, my fellow Islam critics, but he did do it in the name of many things most of us believe in, I don't like it any more than you do but it's a fact), I looked through his writings on http://www.document.no/, an Islam- and immigration-critical forum, so see if there were any warning signs that I should maybe pay attention to in the future, and damn, there wasn't. The fucker did a very good job of pretending to be normal and moderate. He even gives advice on how to pretend to be normal in his manifesto.

One of the many cynical things that came to my mind was "that's a hell of a lot of effort just to make people read your book!", and that I should not read it, just to spite him, but still I couldn't resist and read most of it.

Upon reading the book and watching the Knight Templar recruitment video I was immediately overcome with righteous anger (his incitement does work!) and wanted to punish people who betray Western values, facilitate the murder of indigenous people of Europe, and cause horrible things, such as bullying of indigenous teenagers and that blond girl with a bloody face in the video. I was so angry that I grabbed my knife, my pineapple (you don't wanna know), a bottle of some chili sauce, and started looking around for some evildoer ass. I heard that there was some guy in Norway who betrayed quite a lot of Western values, murdered quite a lot of teenagers, most of them indigenous, and probably caused quite a lot of blond girls to have bloody faces, or possibly no faces at all. But then I remembered that he was the author of the book, and arrested, and that proper Western values don't generally include sodomizing people with pineapples dipped in chili sauce. Bummer. No enraged rhinos, either.

OK, sorry, I should be more serious. Still, a few random thoughts:

- there are a lot of cultural (and otherwise) conservatives in the anti-islamization movements, but for the most part they wish to go back to some undeterminate point in time when the TV was already invented, and WWW still wasn't (don't ask me why). I'd never seen one before who'd genuinely wanted to go back to the time when Knights Templar roamed the earth, soap was unpopular and peasants could be killed more or less freely. Live and learn, I guess.

- one fairly striking thing was how much the man himself fit his own definition of people who should be eliminated from the face of the earth.

- not only did he perpetrate his terrorist acts like Al-Qaeda, he sure sounded like it, too. Sacrifice blah-blah, martyrdom yadda-yadda. Killing a bunch of Norwegians also somehow reminds me of all the terrorist attacks done by islamists in and against the Muslim countries.

- WTF are cultural Marxists? The Marxists whom I've known in person wouldn't know culture of any kind if it bit them on the ass.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Giants live in the north beyond the Wall in Westeros, and in Kappahl, too

Went shopping yesterday (all my summer shirts in one day, yay!) and saw a skirt in Kappahl. Quite a lovely skirt, actually, even though I don't wear them. Except that it was about 30 cm. too long for me.

Now, I am not sure whether there exist any women over two meters tall, but I am quite sure I'd never seen any in Kappahl.

Dear giantess who comes there to buy skirts! If you decide to purchase the enormously long black one, can you please send me a picture of yourself in it. I just wanna see it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Sorry for repeating the last sentence of the previous post: people who say that shopping doesn't make you happy just don't shop in the right kind of places. It's easy to make it fun.

For example: buying extra memory just to cheer yourself up: good shopping. Dragging your ass to H&M to replace your favorite jeans, just to find out that they are sold out: bad shopping.

Anyway, bought some stuff lately:

- 8G of memory. Hurrah! Hurrah! Finally! Resulted in much hand-waving and replacing a 32-bit kernel with a 64-bit one.
- HTC Desire. Cannot be classified as fun shopping, because I had to replace the phone that was dying of old age, but a nice new (I bought it used but it's fairly new) toy nevertheless.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab, also used. Even more fun than I expected, and very convenient.
- A LED water tap. Took me 5 years to realize that a leaking tap can be replaced with a new one. Go me!
- A big collection of Cthulhu stories, Kindle edition (the Galaxy Tab caused me to start using Kindle),
- An air purifier (my current one is more ancient than Cthulhu).

Next one planned: an actual Kindle device.

And most of all: The Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the Song of Ice and Fire. Only 4 weeks left!


I have noticed that when I have plans to write something I don't usually write anything else until I do. Probably should fix that and try to write things in the order in which they come to mind, not in the order planned.

Not so much new in life, at least not the stuff that I can talk about without endangering other people privacy, or our NDA. (For the curious: if I were to talk about the stuff that I am leaving out, you would probably find it boring anyway.)

The summer has started, and it's short and not very snowy, as befits a Finnish summer. Had a weekend full of parties, beers, picnics, and the best bachelor party ever (Kikka's). The mood is sunny even though the weather is somewhat rainy.

Been shopping for fun, too. People who say that shopping doesn't make you happy just don't shop in the right kind of places.

Shooting women and children

Every time some news source writes something like "the soldiers were shooting women and children" it makes me suspicious. All kinds of questions arise:

- Are they talking about civilian women and children, or combatant women and children? Or both?
- If they are talking about civilian women and children, what has happened to the civilian men?

Yes, I do realize that sometimes the journalists just see soldiers (or whoever) shoot some women and children and simply don't know anything else about the situation, but in general the use of "women and children" in this context smells either of "well, some of the combatants of the other side were female and/or underage, why don't we call them women and children to create the impression that the soldiers were killing unarmed civilians" or "the soldiers had already killed the civilian men the day before, but who cares".

Monday, May 16, 2011

Iranian justice

In Iran, Majid Movahedi is waiting to have his eyes burned out with acid. The punishment was scheduled for last Saturday, then postponed over the public outcry. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't, maybe it already has.

Don't tell me that this is a barbaric punishment. I know this, and if anyone ever asks me whether Finland or the US should start using it, my answer would be a very strong and definite "no!". My problem is, I guess, that I don't seem to be bothered if the Iranians use it on Movahedi. As Finns would say, the cup of my compassion is oveflowing but shallow. I have coffee spoons deeper that that cup. In fact I don't seem to find any liquid in it at all.

(In case anyone is interested as to why Mr. Movahedi is being punished in this way, well, he threw a cup of acid into the face of a woman who rejected his marriage offer, blinding and disfiguring her in the process. The facts of the matter are not in dispute.)

Even as I ask why any public is bothering to cry out on his behalf, I realize that the compassion in general, the concept of cruel and unusual punishment in itself, and the extent of attention one gives to various imperfections in one's world are deeply emotional issues, and my questions are also just expressions of the emotions of my own, but I still wonder: why?

I can understand what makes people protest against cruel and unusual punishment in their own country, or in the cases where their own citizens are convicted abroad, or in the cases when any obviously innocent people are convicted anywhere. In this case I am just wondering: why are Western people demanding a civilized kind of punishment? This is Iran we are talking about, not a civilized country. You know, Iran? That's the country where a couple of weeks ago several people, including the president's chief of staff, were accused of witchcraft, sorcery and invoking djinns. What kind of a civilized punishment can one expect from a nation like that?

It's quite possible that Ahmadinejad's chief of staff is not a very nice person, but I am also quite sure beyond any reasonable doubt that he has not invoked any djinns. At least not successfully.

Usually I an quite annoyed when people tell other people that they should switch their attention from one public issue to another, but seriously, even if one's favorite public concern is the state of justice in Iran, I wonder why anyone would start with Majid Movahedi.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

For promotion of virtue and destruction of vice

Me: "Well, I stand on the opposite side of this issue, but..."
The guy: "What do you mean, opposite side? I am for equality and justice!"

After that I could only smile and bite my tongue to avoid saying things like "and I am for our new overlords and their cute little tentacles".

Friday, April 29, 2011

Beijing, April 9

We start with Tiananmen square. Turns out you have to go through security just to get there, and it's not a very efficient security check.

The square is huge.

The Forbidden city is also huge, and, unlike the square, quite beautiful. In general all the traditional Chinese palaces and temples look very beautiful to my eye, and very similar to each other, and it occurs to me that if I can't tell 14-century architecture from 18-century architecture, it probably means that somebody has been honoring the traditions too seriously.

After the Forbidden city we go on to the so-called hutongs. "So-called" because, as far as I can say, "hutong" just means some kind of a small street in Chinese, but the hutongs that tourist books talk about are not just any small streets but streets full of traditional courtyard houses, that are actually called siheyuan.

The traditonal courtyard house hutongs mostly consist of gray fences around the courtyard. Usually you can't see the actual houses. Interesting, though.

Some of the hutong areas that tourists don't get taken to, but come upon while walking around the city, have a public toilet in every block, because some of the houses don't have toilets.

Near the touristy hutong area there is a lovely lake, Qianhai, with lots of reastaurants around it, and we decide to visit it later.

After the hutongs we go to the Temple of Heaven, which is somewhat different from the rest of Chinese architecture due to its main hall being round. Lovely temple, lovely long corridor leading to it, lovely park around it. You are not allowed to bring guns there.

In the evening we decide to go to a famous Peking duck restaurant, but at 8:30 we find out that it closes at 9. No duck for us, and we go to some restaurant in a mall.

The mall's basement floor, where we go to buy pastry, is unreal. We are the only customers, but the place is full of counters, mostly selling candy, cookies and suchlike, and staffed by many people who all bow to us as we walk through.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beijing, April 8

"You are gonna be OK," says Weijing. "Just don't go to any drinking places with strangers, don't ride homemade taxis, and don't eat any scorpions."

These are probably sensible instructions for life in general, not just in Beijing.

"What's wrong with the scorpions?"
"Nothing really, it's just that you Westerners are not accustommed to them. In fact don't eat any kind of meat that you wouldn't eat in the West. Snakes, frogs..."
"I've eaten frogs. Tastes like chicken."

Weijing is appalled: "Then you have eaten entirely wrong kind of frogs! They are much better than chicken!"

The hotel room is fine, and internet works. They ask for 1000 yuan (about 110€) deposit for the minibar contents. This is a practice that I'd heard about, but never seen before, and I wonder what they have in their minibar for that money.

Evian bottle, 40 yuan. Gotta be fucking kidding. I drink a bit from the tap (unadvisable unless you are me) and head outside.

These are the taxis that Weijing warned me about, a metal box on a three-wheel motorcycle.

The hotel is in Dongcheng, right off Wangfujing st., the main touristy shopping street or whatever. There are very few people, considering that this is the main shopping street at noon. Everything looks a bit faded, and the air smells weird and is not quite transparent.

The street is full of stores calling itself "supermarket" or "local food supermarket" and selling unidentifiable stuff.

A little further down is a fairly large pedestrian area, guarded by a lot of police for no obvious reason.

One really nice thing about the street is lots of benches.

The stroll down the street reveals no obvious convenience stores, supremarkets with real food, or restaurants, and I figure they must be inside the big department stores, like in many other places in Asia. Exploration of the stores, which are eerily empty of people, reveals restaurants, food courts and some grocery stores not quite deserving of the name "supermarket". I buy a huge water bottle, some black tea and beer, and bring it to the hotel.

For a late lunch or early dinner I choose Xiabu-Xiabu, the only place in a certain food court that has customers. I assume that this is a Chinese version of shabu shabu, a concept I am familiar with but never actually tried.

The thing consists of a big soup saucepan and meats/vegetables/noodles one buys and puts in the kettle to cook. Turns out I am not good at catching things with chopsticks while they try to escape from me around the saucepan, but I had ordered so much food that I am quite full with the half of it. All for 41 yuan, including beer.

Later I explore the area, the side alleys, the courtyard with a lot of food stands where they sell, among other things, scorpions, and go to the Tiananmen Square.

Tiananmen square turns out to be closed for the night, but the Tiananmen gate is there, and well-lit for the viewing public.

My parents arrive in the hotel at midnight, and with two sausages.

China: the general impressions

First of all, let's start with the fact that the reason I was not in FB, Blogger or Picasa lately is that all of the above are blocked in China. I am not sure what's the deal with Gmail: it kind of works but is impossibly slow.

Skype works fine, though, and so does IRC, and ssh connections.

Another thing is that I am not sure to which extent I can quote people I came in contact with. I'll try not to quote anyone specific on anything other than neutral.

Many people have told us we need native guides everywhere in China, and we had them in every city at least for some attractions, and they were good, but not strictly necessary. I'd recommend them for visiting places where the major attractions are out of town and/or the transportation is not very good. Major cities can certainly be visited on your own.

For some reason almost everyone was concerned about us getting physically lost. In the noble art of reading a map somehow rare over there? They sure make maps.

The people speak English almost as badly as the Japanese, but seem to be a lot less stressed out about it. In general people are friendly but not very considerate.

You can't drive in China with a foreign driving license (or even a Hong Kong one), and it's for the best. The traffic is enough to drive anyone postal. The drivers, especially those of scooters and motorcyles, don't seem to be able to tell right from wrong, right from left, or red from green. Turning right on red appears to be legal; turning left on red, illegal but just as popular. This is not as terrifying as it sounds: Chinese drivers, unlike those of southern Italy, tend to do stupid things at reasonable speeds, and seem to be keenly aware that all the other drivers are likely to do similarly stupid things.

In general respect for the rules and the law is not high.

All the places where we went to appeared perfectly safe at any time of day.

For all the talk about the fake money, there was only one occasion when I felt any doubt about a bill. It was replaced by the salesperson without any trouble. Locals do check their bills though, so we did, too.

All the restaurant bills were ok, nobody tried to cheat even once.

The Chinese seem to have the same idea of private space as us (or at least as me). Every time I felt someone was entering my private space, they were doing it on purpose.

Public places have a lot of benches and other sitting space, very nice. Also toilets are widely available, and not nearly as bad as people say. Some of them have only holes, but most have at least one western-style bowl. Bring your own paper.

There are a lot of people employed as a decoration, just to stand there and smile at people or greet them or whatever.

Lots of police everywhere. They don't appear to be hunting dissidents or people who run red lights, but just stand there and guard inanimate objects that are IMO unlikely to be targeted by the enemies of PRC, such as benches, lightpoles, public toilets, etc.

The tourist information centers look, well, Soviet.

I am sure that people who know what they are doing can find whatever they are looking for, but for the first-time visitor: supermarkets are hard to find, and be sure to eat before 10 p.m., because after that it's hard to find an open restaurant. The Chinese usually have their dinner at about 6.

Shopping malls usually have some food stores, restaurants and food courts in the basement and on the top floor. Bottled water is widely available from many kinds of stores.

Decent coffee and black tea are not widely available in the cafes, but not hard to find, either.

There are many ATMs, and they work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I am back

I am back from China, and still alive.

China is big and beautiful and full of Chinese people. More details later.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Domestic violence as a disciplinary method

There is quite a lot of conversation in many places about a number of candidates saying that they think pulling children's hair as a disciplinary method should be acceptable.

Mostly it's about the morals of it, but I'll add my not-so-moral two cents: no matter what opinion one holds about organized violence's role in society, one-on-one violence is quite unpredictable and often leads to unintended outcomes. Even if the other person is considerably smaller than you, there is a serious risk that an entirely wrong person will end up getting an entirely unintended educational experience.

If the other person is a child, and you are an adult, you are bound by law, some degree of common sense, and awareness of medical consequences, whereas their understanding of all of the above might be a bit deficient.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The police is here to protect you

Last week I saw the photos of some young people trying to protect a Romanian Gypsy camp from eviction and carrying a banner saying "fuck the cops", and it made me wonder: do those people not realize that the police exists to protect them from me?

Well, obviously in this particular situation the police is doing something they don't happen to like, and those young people don't consider me much of a threat (and rightly so, since I am not likely to do much except laugh at them here), but do they ever actually try to imagine the world without police? A place without a police force would have a lot of private security services, mostly paid for by middle-class and middle-aged people, and much more biased towards their interests than the police.

The same thought also comes to my mind every time I see some disadvantaged group rioting against the police and other state services: if you think that a security force owned by voters is bad, just wait till you see a security force owned by payers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WTF is wrong with me?

Don't seem to have any energy for anything. Bugger if I know why.

As far as I can see I am not sick, not particularly overworked, not depressed, not sad, have a normal appetite and normal libido and am sociable in a normal way... just don't seem to get anything done except work and the absolutely necessary stuff at home.

Food doesn't help, rest doesn't help, relaxation doesn't help, alcohol doesn't help, caffeine doesn't help, avoiding alcohol doesn't help, avoiding caffeine... well, is out of question...

I so need a vacation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Näkemiin, Umayya Abu-Hanna

Umayya Abu-Hanna has left Finland and lives in Amsterdam now, and many people here are saying "good riddance".

I don't really understand why. I am sure she doesn't rape neighbors in the bushes, or beat people up in sausage kiosk lines, or piss on the stairs, or do anything similarly outrageous. As far as the neighbors go, she is probably no more objectionable than an average urban 50-year-old. I might disagree with her politics, but she is a Finnish citizen and entitled to vote here, no matter where she is. And the part about her that makes most of the ill-wishers say "good riddance" - the multiculturalism-related articles that she produces with the help of various Finnish grants - well, if you think you've seen the last of that, just fucking think again. She is writing some multiculturalism-related book on some Finnish foundation's money over there.

Anyway, may she live in a place she best enjoys, I don't think it really makes a difference to anyone else. I kind of fell sorry for the woman. I normally don't like to analyze strangers' motives, and correct me if I am wrong, but I am having trouble believing that she really dislikes Finland as much as she says. Every time I read any of her articles, (I haven't read the books - maybe I should) the words "sour grapes" come to mind.

When bright young girls like herself come to a country that they don't enjoy, they tend to move elsewhere. Considering the free university education and the citizenship easily available at the time to a partner of a Finnish citizen, she could've been a doctor or an engineer in the Netherlands or in UK for more than 20 years now. Instead... well, she chose a profession that is quite amazingly Finland-specific. Very few native-born Finns have professions that are quite as Finland-specific as hers. She is a journalist and a writer who writes for and about Finns, and a Finnish politician.

And she is or was quite integrated into the Finnish society, at least the part of it that writes articles on multiculturalism and runs as Green party candidates. (Those of you who think that being a Green multiculturalist makes one a lesser Finn - I think Finland has had a rather unpleasant discussion on the topic of whether one's political opponents are lesser citizens, some 93 years ago, let's not go into it again, OK?)

It appears she didn't achieve her objectives as a politician and as a cultural diversity coordinator. Maybe she simply wasn't good enough. Maybe she was too different. Maybe she was too much of a foreigner. I don't know. What I do know is that she picked one of the few professions where being an immigrant really does make a difference. Maybe she didn't know it at the time, she was quite young.

Whatever. May she enjoy the canals and the rijsttaffel and whatever. But I think other immigrants should take this as a lesson: if you want to be accepted as a Finn in your career, don't pick a career where part of your job description is being a foreigner.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Apart from bitching about the weather, been to Berlin with on a company-sponsored trip and a mini-vacation.

This was my first time in Berlin, and I must say it was livelier and more enjoyable than any other German city I'd seen. (My experience so far had been limited to Munich, Frankfurt, Regensburg, Saarbrücken and Karlsruhe.)

A picture (or 147 of them) is worth a thousand words.

The place is a mix of rather pleasant parts of both neoclassical and post-war Vienna, the rather ugly parts (ok, they were all ugly) of Brezhnev-era St. Petersburg, Belle Époque Paris and bits and pieces of Amsterdam. It also looks like it has really nice little parks in summer.

Some observations:

- I don't like neoclassicism in general, and Berlin doesn't have the best examples of it.
- Kurfürstendamm is lovely. I heard it called the Champs-Élysées of Berlin, but it's closer to Saint-Germain in the 6th, or rue de Rivoli somewhere in Marais.
- Reichstag is huge. The museums are also so huge that you are afraid to go in, knowing that you'll die from exhaustion before even getting to impressionists, expressionists and whatever other sionists they have had in relatively recent times.
- In spite of that we went to the historical museum and had a good time,
- Food is better than elsewhere in Germany, and cheaper, too. They also have woodruff beer called Berliner Weisse.
- The hotels are weird. They think that twin beds need to be put together, don't have locks on toilet doors, and charge ridiculous sums for the internet. Park Inn had a delicious breakfast, and a shower with glass walls. Go figure.
- More people speak English in Berlin than elsewhere in Germany.
- The difference between the east and the west is still quite obvious for the most part.
- Neue Synagogue is much better from the outside than from the inside.
- Berlin has good pastries and really good hot chocolate. Vienna should drop on its collective knees and scream "we are not worthy"!
- The shadow of the wall is still impressive, where it was allowed to remain.
- The history seems to be a heavier burden there than in the rest of Germany.
- Pfannkuchen doesn't mean pancakes, as my father has always said, but donuts.

Woodruff beer was pretty good (if any Russians are reading this, think тархун: a different plant but a similar flavor), even if I was the only one who liked it.

Their handling of the history is a bit heavy on the Nazis, which is understandable but still, they did have other history too. The history museum is not so Nazi-flavored. I also liked it that they speak about the Jews in a sensible way, as "people who lived here and did this-and-that", not primarily as "people whom we killed, bad, bad us!"

Some coworkers asked me whether being in Berlin is emotional for me. At first I assumed they meant the wall, but they turned out to mean the Holocaust. I was sort of surprised - the Holocaust is an emotional topic for me but I'd never thought of it as a Berlin-specific thing.

The wall, on the other hand, is Berlin-specific (in the rest of East Germany they had even higher walls, that's why people preferred the one in Berlin). It was an emotional thing too, and I noticed that the question of what happened to the people who shot the fleeing easterners, and those who ordered to shoot, is rarely raised.

Interesting place. I guess I gotta come back in summer, for a longer time than now. I'd say "Ich komme", but I'd probably be misunderstood.

I still ain't dead

Not on vacation, either, and not even grossly overworked or madly in love. It's just that the winter got to me. Every time I tried to sit down to blog it came out as "I hate the fucking winter!", "bugger the snow!" or "the summer is never gonna come and we are all gonna die!", with a sprinkling of "today I fell again and now I have another bruise on my ass!".

And I can't even sing "esi-isät olisivat voineet valita aurinkoisemman maan", for obvious reasons. Huh.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How do you turn a conservative into a liberal?

There is an old saying that a liberal is turned into a conservative by mugging. (Yes, I know that this is abuse of the terms "liberal" and "conservative", but for the purpose of this post you can replace them with "a person who advocates milder punishments" and a "person who advocated harsher punishments".)

There is a point in this saying, and I've even seen it demonstrated. Right after getting assaulted in the street by some teenage asshole a certain ex-boyfriend of mine said the exact same things that I tend to say after a cup of tea, and before that I was thinking that the man had never listened to me at all.

The funny thing is that you can turn a conservative into a liberal just as easily. Just mention a crime - any kind of crime - that he or she is likely to commit, and you'll hear the liberal rhetoric that Amnesty International would be proud of.

People often wonder why we don't have harsher punishments for various crimes and infractions. I think that the obvious answer is that because we, collectively, don't really want to. (Well, actually to be honest the current situation in Finland is such that I think we for once do want to establish somewhat harsher punishments, and we probably will, but not nearly to the extent that many people like to advocate.)

Quite a lot of people like to advocate really harsh punishments for the kind of infractions they themselves are unlikely to commit. It's fun to watch them squirm when you suggest the same for their favorite crime, be it speeding, smoking pot, incitement against some population groups, saying naughty things about the unmentionable child-loving prophet, downloading copyright-protected stuff, etc. Suddenly all the "the rules are for everyone" and "people should obey the law" and "don't want to do the time, don't do the crime" turn into "please be reasonable" and "overly harsh punishment for such minor infractions is counterproductive", and "but I think this shouldn't be illegal!" Well, guess what: your friendly local drug dealer thinks that shouldn't be illegal, either.

I wouldn't go as far to say "we are all guilty", but with the number of various punishments being about 10% of the number of the total population, and most of us even not getting caught for whatever it is we are doing, quite a lot of us actually are. And most of those who are not know somebody who is. And the really harsh punishment is of course meant for the bad guy who stole our bicycle, not our cousin who also stole one, especially what with the cousin having been caught and the bicycle returned and no harm having been done, really.

Not that I think that advocating harsh punishments for a certain subset of crimes is a totally untenable position. It is quite understandable to want to punish the really outrageous crimes harshly. One does, however, have to keep the punishments in some sort of a proportion (some legislatures fail it, but one should at least try), and quite a lot of "conservatives" advocate very harsh punishments for all the crimes that they are unlikely to commit. Because, you know, when your neighbor smokes a bit of pot he is a terrible drug fiend who should be locked away forever, but when you say that all the gay people should be also locked away somewhere you are not really hurting anyone, and besides saying so shouldn't be illegal anyway. Or the other way around. (The examples above can be replaced by any other examples of crimes that people commit often, and without much thinking.)

"All the people should obey all the laws or face really severe punishment" is a position that is quite easy to argue, but I've never seen any real live person actually hold it when push comes to shove.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sandmonkey OK

Figured I'd give an update on Sandmonkey, since I wrote about his arrest, although everyone who is interested probably already knows that he'd been released on the same day.

He was driving with some friends trying to deliver medical supplies to Tahrir square when they got attacked, arrested and beaten. They were released a few hours later after being robbed of the medical supplies, their money and their phones, and Sandmonkey's car was destroyed. Hope he has good insurance.

His blog is back up.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Sandmonkey, an Egyptian blogger who has been reporting on Twitter on the current events in Egypt, just got arrested.

(Yes, he is not the only one, he is just the one I've been reading for some years now.)

Edit: witnesses say he was arrested while taking medical supplies to Tahrir square and that the police is answering his phone. And now his blog has been shut down.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Egypt, again

Despite all the misgivings I find myself wishing victory to the protesters in Egypt. Not that my wishing makes any difference.

Monday, January 31, 2011


I feel like I should say something about the events in Tunisia and Egypt, and what could I say? I don't know a fuck, and I suspect neither does anyone else. There is one thing I can say, though: you know you have become an old conservative when you hear about an uprising and your first thought is "how is it gonna affect our interests in the region?" ("Our" means the US here; I would also be concerned about Finland's interests there if Finland had any.)

First of all, Yusuf al-Qaradawi supports the revolution in Egypt, which makes me suspect that this is a bad thing. OTOH, Sandmonkey, whose opinion I respect, is out there and seems to believe that this is not about putting the Muslim Brotherhood in power. And then again, in 1979 there were quite a lot of people in Iran who didn't believe their revolution was about putting the islamists in power, and guess who is still in power over there?

Speaking about Sandmonkey: he is currently reporting (on Twitter) that there is no food or gas available, and no Internet. He is tweeting by phone through a friend in Jordan.

All the neighbors' reaction to the events in Egypt can be well summarized by the words "oh, shit!".

The US administration said that Mubarak should address the legitimate grievances of the people of Egypt, which did sound a bit silly considering that Mubarak himself is in fact the legitimate grievance of the people of Egypt, but on the other hand what could they say? "We have invested a lot of money into that motherfucker, and now we are a bit miffed that you are kicking his ass out, but we are ready to invaest the same money into the next motherfucker as long as he is not any more trouble than this one"?

There is some unrest in Jordan and Yemen, and if they start a proper revolution in Saudi Arabia, I am totally buying popcorn for the first time ever in my misspent life. Which is not really a bright idea, since I don't have a TV and don't eat popcorn either.

Oh well. Let's wait and see.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Maybe it's just a little bit deeper?

How come none of the people who claim that you can find the truth about everything if you look into your own heart never seem to find any content from the Spring 3.0 API reference manual in there?

Friday, January 07, 2011

Hourly chime

Just turned an hourly chime on my watch by accident. you know, the thing that starts beeping once an hour and then you have to google for a manual somewhere to figure out how to turn it off?

OK, I have given up complaining about unintuitive user interfaces that have you googling for manuals, but what I really want to know: what is the damn chime for? All the digital wristwatches seem to have this feature; if there a person somewhere who actually uses it?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Communists are crazy, part 452542

HS says that somebody blew up Stalin's monument in the Ukraine, in the city of Zaporozhye. My first thought was "no shit". The second thought was "what the hell was the monument doing there anyway?".

For those who don't know, Stalin has murdered millions of Ukranians.

They really should get rid of all the monuments of genocidal maniacs from the USSR time, I thought, and then read that the monument was put up last May.

WTF, really? Was it there waiting for Hitler, Che Guevara and Pol Pot, as a friend of mine suggested? Or just to scare children? Who put the damn thing up? I wanted to see the person.

Quick googling found, among other things, that the leader of Ukraine's Communist party considers Stalin to be the greatest politician of modern times. Some more quick googling found that it was Zaporozhye's Communist party committee that put the monument there in the first place.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Hope none of you are as hung over as I am.