Saturday, March 28, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Campanology - bell ringing
Yes I know they aren't really very similar, but the thing that links them in my brain is that I can never remember either of the words when I'm trying to.
I watched a few episodes of Big Love when it started, but found it a bit boring - but I presumed that it was stretching fact to make good fiction. The only polygamists I had heard about were the really crazy ones like Warren Jeffs who married 80 women, lived in a 'compound' and was wanted by the Feds (he got caught and got 10 to life). But FOOC went to Utah (and watch the film clip at the top) where possibly 40,000 people are living in polygamist families. And they're not in the slightest bit shy about explaining how and why they break the law. Nor does the law seem very bothered about trying to stop them, seeming to take the position that there are simply too many of them to prosecute (it hasn't ever stopped the US govt. from trying to prosecute, say, drug users). The polygamists are campaigning to have polygamy legalised - FOOC quotes one sympathetic politician, Ric Cantrell (who appears to be "Chief Deputy of the Utah State Senate"), a Republican, saying:
"Your patriotism is unquestionable"... "and your faith inspiring. You have no hesitation to put God's law above the law of the state with a propensity toward civil disobedience and I find that very American."Would it be so American if they were Muslim or Sikh or Jewish?
Monday, March 23, 2009
You don't get more loony fringe than Tammi - who may or may not have been a neo-Nazi, communist, fireman, KGB spy, wife beater, entrepreneur and captain in the Red Army. And if that isn't an interesting enough life, now he most definitely is the leader of the tiny Finnish Islamic Party. The FIP aren't solely white converts, but they do seem to make up the majority of the party. The Finnish Muslims I know from more traditional immigrant backgrounds seem to treat them with polite scepticism at best.
Tammi along with some other FIP guys were protesting today outside of the Helsingin Sanomat offices in Helsinki - but it wasn't their protest. Oh no. They were there with the "Nashi", the Russian, pro-Putin and sort of ultranationalist youth outfit - more famous for chasing and harrassing ambassadors in Moscow from countries they don't like, such Estonia and the UK. Now the Nashi don't really seem to be mad at Finland, their fire is directed at Estonia, but for reasons you need to read the news story to see if you can work out (because I'm not sure if I fully do), it was more convenient to protest here.
The jist of it seems to be that those who criticise the Soviet Union are really just criticising the Russia of today, and they are doing this because they are fascists. All the breakaway states from the USSR - like Estonia - are full of Russia-hating fascists. It's a rather silly argument, but then the Nashi are a populist youth movement so perhaps expecting much more would also be silly. But anything to do with Russia can bring the 'interesting characters' out of the woodwork in Finland - Johan Bäckman being one such. He appears to think that the anti-Russian sentiments prevalent in the Baltics are being imported to Finland. This strikes me as odd as you really don't have to dig very far to find Finnish anti-Russian sentiments. Why they would need to be imported from Estonia escapes me. Bäckman is a member (founder member I think) of the Finnish antifascist committee that seems to be more interested in criticising the Baltic "apartheid regimes" and supporting Russia than the more normal sort of Antifa activities like rucking with skinheads. All very odd.
What Tammi is doing there is anyone guess (beyond the stated protesting for better recognition of Muslims in Estonia - if I was an Estonian Muslim [or should the be the Estonian Muslim], I'd be running in the opposite direction from Tammi's 'support'). I suppose he couldn't get much more weird in the eyes of the Finnish public. But for a man who has praised bin Laden, turning up at a Nashi protest, an organisation that lionises Putin - the destroyer of Grozny, is strange to say the least.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
January when I last climbed the route. It felt pretty ok to solo, the ice not being too layered.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Riding into Helsinki from the outer edges of the city, as you get closer to the centre you see some other cyclists out and about, but the further out into suburbia you go, the quieter the cycle paths get. And this brings me to the phenomenon of the boys on the black bikes. My thesis is that winter cycle commuting in Helsinki appeals to a rather limited class of cyclists - identifiable by age, gender, bike preference, and probably socio-economic and educational background.
When you are searching for a new bike you quickly realise that all the companies are making very similar models to appeal to certain parts of the market. I wanted a flat bar 700c 'sports hybrid'. I wasn't bothered by suspension but wanted disc brakes. I ended up getting a Felt, but it was by no means the only possibility and other makes made similar at around the same price point. And oddly, in 2008, many of them were also black. And what I have noticed through this winter is the a very large proportion of the cyclists I have seen who are obviously commuting distance by bike are men, in their 30s and 40s, riding black hybrids. I've seen Inseras, Crescents, Treks, Nishikis, Canondale Badboys, Focuses and a dude this morning who I think was on a Kona - plus of course, me on a Felt. And they're all black. Weird. The only exception to this rule is blokes in their 30s and 40s who are riding cyclocross bikes. These are normally Focus Mares which are predominantly black!
So how to account for this odd socio-cycling phenomenon? Here are my hypotheses. Cycling in winter any distance requires studded tyres - this naturally cuts down on bike selection (many road bikes don't have enough clearance), but if you're cycling say 15+ kms each way for your commute, 700cc wheels on hybrid beat 26inchers of mountain bikes for speed, particularly on a clear cycle path. Secondly if you are going to cycle longish distance regularly, you are probably willing to invest in a decent bike. We're talking the EUR 600-1000 sort of price range, to get a decent frame and maybe hydraulic disc brakes and a Deore groupset. This might push this market niche towards middle class professionals, who have both the social capital to want to exercise, and also the financial capital to invest in a bike. Hence one reason for it being 30 something blokes.
But why bother? Cycling in the Finnish winter is in many ways a hassle - you need to layer up to stay warm. If the temperatures are below -5 oC I tend to wear three layers on my legs, waterproof socks, cycling shoes and neoprene overboots for my feet, various baselayers and jacket combinations on my body, different hats and face protectors that all have to fit under a helmet, etc. etc. Basically you need ten minutes to dress before you can even get on your bike, and more time at the other end to shower and change into normal clothes. It is also slower - both studded tyres and snow slow you down. In summer I can just about beat the time it takes the bus and tram to do the same distance, but in winter it's slower by bike. So you have to really want to do the exercise. So the factor that has to be what makes it appeal to men in their 30s and 40s must be children. Between having little kids and work there normally isn't that much time left in the day, or at least not the reasonably civilised times of the day when you don't want to collapse in front of the TV with a beer. I used to get home from work and maybe go out XC skiing, or go to the climbing wall, or even just go running. With kids this just doesn't seem to work.
But everyone (well, most) people have to commute, and that is often sort of 'dead' time - you can read a bit if you use public transport but not much else. But if you can exercise and commute at the same time you're being efficient. Plus of course having kids is the normal reason for moving out to a boring suburb rather than living downtown where all the action is in the first place. So for any blokes in their late twenties who like skiing or running or even just going to the gym, but who think their girlfriend is getting 'that' feeling - I'm warning you. Give it about five years, and you'll find yourself on black hybrid bike cruising into town from the suburbs on a snowy winter morning, studded tyres chattering on the ice, wondering why the few other people riding bikes look suspiciously like you.
Friday, March 20, 2009
But if all these countries fear that recognition sets a precedent leading to other breakaway movements - why wasn't the UK in the slightest bit concerned that recognition could set a precedent for a Scottish unilateral declaration of independence? The UK strongly supported recognition from early on. I'm tempted to say it is because the UK is a mature and stable democracy and we (both Scots and and non-Scots) just don't do that sort of civil war mongering, but are we really that much more mature than the Spanish? So there must be another reason - is it something to do with the Scottish nationalism being more of the French-citizen type than the Germanic blood-and-soil type? Answers on a postcard please to the normal address (the comments box).
It's midnight and I'm just back from some ice climbing. The climbing itself was nowt special but nice enough and not too far from home, but the night sky was wonderful: no moon, no town lights, seven degrees of frost and just stars and stars and a thousand more stars. I wish I knew how to take good photos of skies like that. It's something to put on my ridiculously long list of "things I really must learn". But you'll just have to trust me - it was great.
Anyway, here's what happens when you try some one handed filming with a camera phone, whilst half way up an ice climb solo - not much really...
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I got to the point where I just started writing down my favourite phrases. Readers will have to decide what they think the consultant meant by them, I will offer what came to my mind when I heard them. Resulting speculations on the state of my mind are not welcome.
- Firstly we have “stakeholders”. I was willing to let this one fly at first because I do see a use for the term, but it came up again and again (plus its usage is criticised in the article linked above). By the end of the day I came to the conclusion that the word stakeholder should from now on only be used by people who build fences or who are vampire-slayers.
- Next – “breakout groups”. Presumably a breakout group is subdivision of mass prison escape attempt. Think The Great Escape (“Let me come with you. I can see. I can see perfectly…”).
- Then “concrete action points”. These are presumably those big concrete lumps you see in Baghdad that GIs can use to return fire from behind when targeted by insurgent snipers.
- And finally – “collective internalisation”. This is clearly something that should only be attempted by experienced and highly paid porn-stars.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Yesterday had been perfect – bright sun, a cloudless sky, the deep snowpack in the forest soaked but gleaming in the sunlight. We had stumbled down into a steep-sided and shaded valley and found fat ice against a steep little cliff. It was soft in the above freezing temperatures and easy to climb, yielding to first time swings of the ice tools. The birds chirped in the trees, enjoying the warm sun as much as we were. But Sunday is dawning damp and miserable.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The corner window of Stockmann, next to the Aleksanterinkatu tram stop, is famous as the site of the annual Christmas display - something people bring their kids to come and see. But currently it is a display for Nike - under the slogan "V is for Victory". Behind mannequins wearing classic Nike tracksuit tops, are three giant photos of some footy player wearing the same top and giving the "V for victory" sign. Or at least I suspect this is what the marketing department thought he was doing.
But unfortunately he isn't, rather Stockmann has presented the good people of Helsinki with three large photos of a young, shaven headed, man giving them the "two fingered salute", which to all Brits, Irish, Aussies and Kiwis is basically the equivalent of telling them to "fuck off".
I wish I could say I was shocked, insulted and upset - perhaps enough for Stockmann to send me a gift voucher to help me recover from my mental pain and anguish. But actually it's the funniest thing I've seen in ages, and completely made my Monday morning.
So thank you Stockmann for inadvertently brighting my day and one other thing...
Monday, March 09, 2009
After a reasonably competent display on the previous route, I decided to pretend I was a real climber, man-up and 'ave it. I blasted up the first vert section to the ledge without stopping to place screws. So far, so Tim Emmett. From the comfort of the ledge I placed a couple of screws and clipped the ropes in. Now all that was left to do was to blast up the top vertical section to the sunshine and glory.
It was steep but featured and after a couple of metres I managed to get another screw in. This gave me the confidence to keep going despite my pathetic arms already starting to feel the vert. When that screw was below my feet, the top now looked easier to reach than any down climb, so up seemed logical. I decided to place another screw before going for glory. My left arm was wilting badly as it took most of my body weight as I fought to get the screw in with my right. Normally when climbing with leashes I have no problem holding on with my left whilst placing a screw, but then normally I can get some weight on to my feet. This route was so steep that this was hard, and a number of times I had to stop placing the screw so that I could grab my other tool with my right and relax my grip on my left tool for a seconds rest, before going back to battling the screw in. Clipping the rope into the screw was a huge relief, and I thought about just giving up at that point and lowering off. Why I didn't I'm not sure, ego probably - although it is a rather sad and self-obsessed type of ego because any half decent ice climber would piss up the route. But anyway a few more moves and my feet were once again above the screw and I had one axe insecurely in the easier angled ice of the top out. My forearms were burning out totally. My shoulders and biceps still had enough juice to swing my other tool desperately - but my forearm was so pumped I couldn't grip it hard enough to stop it twisting and deflecting. So for all the wild flailing, I was achieving exactly nothing besides wasting the few seconds I had left before the fight ended and I took flight. Much swearing, self-hate, whimpering, and pleading followed. Desperately trying to not find out how good that last ice screw was, I ended up hooking my right tool over the left and hoping like hell. This was enough to take a few breaths, and work out a better place for my feet, so that they could take some weight. Then a few desperate swings got my right tool stuck in the frozen turf at the top of the cliff and I hauled myself back onto the horizontal, arms burning.
They're still hurting now, 36 hours later.
There isn't really a moral to this story, besides perhaps - if you're going to go down, go down swinging.
This (from YLE) is possibly the weirdest news story I've read in ages, and somewhat disturbing on many different levels:
Tarja of Dreams Is Pragmatic
published yesterday 05:13 PM, updated yesterday 08:03 PM
President Tarja Halonen tends to appear in people's dreams as a sensible, down-to-earth figure. Since Independence Day last December, citizens have been able to submit descriptions of their president-inspired dreams to artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen.
The dreams venture is part of a communal artwork project about Finns’ relationship to the president.
The 60 dreams that have been reported to the project to date all relate to the down-to-earth nature of the president. Dreams include Halonen drinking coffee in a hut, giving advice at a market square and sitting back and relaxing on a sofa.
If you are dreaming about the President in other ways, you're unlikely to write it down and send it to some artists are you?!?
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Don't just watch the vid, read Jonathan Rugman's report as well. Also if this is your type of thing, check the Jamestown report that Rugman mentions, on the various stories of western Somalis who have gone back to fight - Americans, British, Canadians, Swedes and possibly Norwegians - but no Finns mentioned. I wonder if any young Somalis have gone back to fight for any of the other groups besides the Jihadists? The answer could be no - in which case it leads to the question why not? Why aren't, say, Puntland nationalists or Les éradicateurs of the TFG as an attractive a cause for a kid in a western city as wack-job jihadism? It sort of makes Olivier Roy's globalised Islam point for him. Alternatively, the answer could be that Somalis have gone back to fight for other groups - their clan militia, the TFG etc. and we just haven't heard about it because it's not then part of the 'terrorism-link' game the media and some analysts like to play. If British Tamil kids go and get themselves blown up in Jafna fighting for the Tigers, frankly who in the media gives a shit? I hope MI5 do, but it's not going to make Channel 4 News, let alone the front page of Sun*.
Apropros to nothing and probably only of interest to those who have similar research/geeky interests to me; I note the Jamestown report is written by James Brandon. I was at a seminar with James last year, and because he was at from the Centre for Social Cohesion, I was a little bit suspicious of where he was coming from. So I noticed with interest he's now at the Quilliam Foundation. Hmm.... I think: "from the outwardly neoconservative, to the group just called neoconservative by it's critics... interesting", but looking just a wee bit further into it, I found this quite amazing op-ed by James in CiF. Well said, Mr. Brandon. If you ever need to write a resignation letter, it would be good to do it with the honesty and clarity of James' piece.
*And just as a side note, the Sun has been caught making up nasty-Muslim stories. Again. The victim of the Sun's lies is thirty grand richer, and good for him, but at Pickled Politics they have a few suggestions of how to make a paper really think twice before running this sort of shit.
Monday, March 02, 2009
I have a bit of a thing about border fences, maybe it is coming from an island nation. Politics is ultimately just a series of mental acts, land is land and always will be, even when we're all gone. Trying to put our mental acts onto the land often turns out to be just plain weird, and that's what border fences are. Where borders meet the sea, it just illustrates the strangeness of the fence. Look at how they have tried to fence the sea. It's so half hearted, like they know it is ultimately futile.