Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Like many others, I've been shocked and upset by yesterday's fire in Notre Dame cathedral. I visit Paris often, really like both Paris and Notre Dame, and have been inside the cathedral many times, and climbed the towers a few times, but I still regretted every time I was there and didn't go inside. Last night in my FB feed, groups and real life there were many people who regretted that they visited Paris but haven't been inside even once, or were just planning to visit Paris for the first time this year.

Here is for them, and for the rest of us who are sorely missing the cathedral now:

During the WWI Reims Cathedral was bombed and then burned down, and look at it now! Yes, it took about 20 years to restore, but it is there again, and it's awesome. Notre Dame will get there. I'll miss it until then, but it'll get there.

In the meanwhile, while you are visiting Paris:

Look at it now! Reims Cathedral, I mean. It's beautiful, and it's within a day trip from Paris. Chartres Cathedral is also within a day trip, and even better (matter of taste, of course). Amiens. Beauvais, weird and badly built, but still beautiful and awesome. Saint-Denis, within the Paris public transportation and the oldest Gothic church in France. Bourges, if you have time for more than a day trip. Go see Sainte Chapelle, if you are not into day trips. Saint Eustache. Saint Germain De Pres.

They won't replace Notre Dame, but please remember that Notre Dame, even if restored to a great condition in reasonable time, won't replace them either. They are worth a visit in their own right.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

We don't know of any damn foreign countries, we are just the State Department!

Found this gem on the webpage of the US embassy in Finland. Not their fault, it's the whole State-Department-wide:

"Importance notice (February 6, 2019):
Please note: You cannot currently list a “Country” when completing the “Emergency Contact” section on our form filler applications available through Travel.State.Gov (DS-11 and DS-82). Please list an emergency contact in the United States."

For those who don't know, DS-11 and DS-82 are US passport application forms. And they include information on an emergency contact. Without a country, because the damn forms don't have a field for a country.

For fuck's sake! This is our State motherfucking Department. They should fucking know that there are such things as foreign countries, and that addresses should include a fucking field for a fucking country. This is our foreign ministry, meant to conduct our international relations (the ones that don't involve drones, anyway), to run embassies, to provide services to Americans travelling or living abroad and they are either a) not capable of adding a field to a form, or b) not capable of sending an international snail mail if there is a field for the country.

Incidentally, there is no field for email there, either. The form does not predate email, though, because there is an email field for the applicant, just not for the emergency contact. Because snail mail is just what you want to use when you want to contact someone in an emergency. There is a field for a phone number, thank God for small favors. With luck you should be able to fit the country code in there.

The embassy encourages (but does not require anymore, luckily) everyone who can apply for a passport by mail (that's everyone over 16 whose previous passport still exists and is less than 15 years old) to do so.  There is only one unfortunate detail: you have to pay for it in person. Dollars, euros or a major credit card. Well, since I live in Helsinki that beats pankkivekseli that I had to procure the last time around (don't ask me what it is - some Finnish version of a money order - I've never heard of them before, or since.)

Well, it's still a couple of years before I need to renew my passport, so there is some hope that the embassy might get themselves a bank account or something, or figure out the local banking system. They already have an online banking transfer set up for visa applicants, so maybe, just maybe, in a couple of years they'll figure out how to do it for the citizens. OTOH, I was asking the same questions the last time, so probably not.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Britain, WTF?

To be quite sure, this is not just the UK, and this is not the first time. But this case is very public, and very blatant. The UK is trying to strip Shamima Begum of her UK citizenship.

Shamima Begum is a teenager who was born and raised in Britain, and left for Syria in 2015 at the age of 15, probably in order to enjoy her 72 virgins. Now she is 19, has had enough of war and virgins, and wishes to return to the UK with her baby.

Truth be told, I have very little sympathy for her, and if it turned out that she had been blown to bits during that war I would have muttered something like "natural death" and "Darwin award". She hasn't, though, she is alive and wishes to return to her home country, as she should have the right to, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 13 (2) ("Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.") The UK is trying to deny her this right, on account that they think she is also eligible for citizenship of Bangladesh.

She is a British citizen, born and raised. If she has been involved in terrorist acts in Syria, she belongs in a British prison, or a Syrian prison if they want to keep her there. AFAIK (the situation has been changing all the time) she has not been charged with anything, which probably means that the UK authorities don't even know whether she was really involved in terrorist activities, or whether she was just going through her 72 living virgins of some Fucking Moron Martyrs Brigade.

Yeah, I get it that if you have a case of a probable terrorist whose terrorist activities you cannot prove in a court of law, it's very-very convenient to try to dump her on another country if you can find some suckers: you get rid of her, you don't have to meet the proof standards of a criminal trial, and in case you can prove she is a terrorist your taxpayers don't have to pay for her imprisonment. The thing is, convenience isn't everything, or at least shouldn't be in a civilized country. If it were, there would be an even more convenient way to get rid of her: a nice bullet in the head, without a trial. There is a reason we don't usually do this kind of thing.

What they are doing is both an obviously racist treatment of a citizen, and very unfair to people of Bangladesh, who have so far had nothing to do with Shamima Begum, and would undoubtedly like to keep it that way. The whole idea that "it's not so bad to deprive dual citizens of their citizenship, because they have another one" can only result in countries competing with who will get to dump the undesirable dual citizen first, and indeed while I was writing this  Bangladesh has issued a statement that can be summarized as "up yours, Britain", and I gotta say that in this case I am cheering for Bangladesh.

It's doesn't take a crystal ball to see how this will go: the kind of people who have a western and a third-world citizenship will make sure to get rid of the third-world citizenship before joining the Fucking Moron Martyrs Brigade or Holy 72 Incels Regiment, the people who have two or more western citizenships wouldn't care as much, and the next time Britain wants to strip its citizenship from a dual citizen it might as well be from some UK-raised fucker with a Finnish parent. Do you want them here? Because I'd rather not.