Lipstick espionage?

Iran has imprisoned people who work for Oriflame, the company that sells skin care and cosmetics products through an independent sales force.

Oriflame says ""We are a cosmetics company, we are selling direct. We are of course not involved in any political activities in the country". However, perhaps they should realize that in Iran, employing people directly as an independent sales force - consisting of women - is in itself a political, possibly even hostile act.

This reminds me of a sight that I met in China: a Tupperware store. There are no Tupperware stores elsewhere, because in most parts of the world, Tupperware is marketed through direct sales, by agents who arrange "Tupperware parties", often a gathering of women in someone's home. In China, this would create a politically unacceptable independent movement, so it is not allowed, and marketing works through stores (which are certainly luxury shops, considering the humongous price gap between Tupperware and generic plastic dishes and bowls in China). Oriflame works in the same way, and has apparently run into the same problem with Iran.


Watch out, Apple!

Across the pond, a U.S. District Judge Alan Kay has allowed a lawsuit to proceed: Craig Smallwood of Hawaii seeks $3M in damages because the game Lineage II is so addictive. This sounds like a completely frivolous lawsuit to me, but it's not the first nor the last crazy court case we hear of from the U.S.

But the aftermath? Judging by the number of Mac and iPhone users around me who appear completely addicted, they ought to be joining Cult Awaress Network and sue Apple.


I'm glad I'm not in a mine in Chile

33 miners trapped in a Chilean copper mine are suddenly, against their wishes, part of an experiment that in my opinion is more realistic than the voluntary enclosure of six men in Mission Mars, a simulated flight to Mars and back.

The difference is that if there's a true emergency, the men in a simulated Mars flight can be evacuated instantly. But with the guys in San José mine in Copiapó, there's no such luxury. If something goes wrong, there's no way out. I really wish they do get out.

The Mission Mars is like Big Brother on steroids, but without sex. Copiapó is real reality, not just a scripted show.

There's one thing I need to say about safety in mines in Chile: there are already accusations of breaking safety standards in this mine (and, hence, plans for lawsuit) but I'm pleasantly surprised by the fact that they have such high standards that shelters have been built in the mines. In most other countries (at least outside Europe and North America), a mine accident like this would have produced just 33 fatalities. Here, the miners have a room where they can wait in relative safety and comfort. We don't exactly know, but behind the collapsed tunnel and the shelter, they might even have a kilometer or two of tunnel where to move about, walk and exercise. OK, if they really have to wait until Christmas, that is a very long time. I wish the PR people of the mine company have just taken a careful stance so that if the rescue comes quicker, everyone will be pleased, and if it really takes four months, people will not be too disappointed. I, for one, will be pretty glad if the men come up alive and physically well at all.

Although the situation of the men is difficult, and such that for most of us it would be psychologically unbearable, there is one good thing for them. I don't think they will ever need to go down a mine shaft again. They'll make their living by selling autobiographies and getting royalties from movie scripts.

Consumer protection rip-off

The protection of consumers is a popular stalking-horse to protect someone's own business. The latest example is by Vuokraturva Oy, who is a rental apartment agent, and has been very visible in the media recently, possibly because they have realized how gullible journalists can be utilized for lobbying public policies (like when claiming that renting an apartment is cheaper than buying one. Yes, it is, if you don't count in that some part of the monthly mortgage payments is actually saving your own capital, while in rent there's none - cash flow isn't the bottom line).

Timo Metsola, the chairman of board, says that it should be forbidden for banks to grant mortgages to house buyers based on short-term rates, i.e. mortgages where the reference rate is 3 or 12 month Euribor. Instead, reference rates of at least 10 years should be mandatory, because this would cut down speculation and bring stability to the market.

Yeah, stability. For whom? Now, why is a rental apartment agent and owner so keen to protect the interests of consumers who are buying homes? Well, of course, there's money to be made: if those who buy their own home are forced to commit to 10-year rates - which are typically higher than short-term rates - then owning rental apartments, and the money-making chances of rental apartment agency business, are more lucrative. You see, the limitation would apply to people who buy their own homes, but it would of course not apply to investors who buy apartments for leasing out.

12 month Euribor, which is the most typical reference rate for Finnish mortgages, is currently around 1,4 %. It's been a bit lower and it's been a considerably higher, but it's almost all the time lower than the 10 year rate, which has since mid-90's been between 4% and 6 %. During this time, the 12 month Euribor has only twice peaked over 5 % but most of the time stayed below 4 %.

Now, if people who buy their own homes are not allowed to mortgage on short rates, what does it mean? It means that the investors can take the rate risk. Also, it means that the cost of investment for professional investors is lower than for people who buy their own homes. The investors can make more money. Home buyers pay more. How convenient.

So there's a good reason why the consumers should be protected: kill the competition that comes from individual home owners. Lesson to be learned: a lot of things are said to be to protect us poor consumers - and in reality, the meaning is to rip us off.


A really weird idea of totalitarianism

According to Helsingin Sanomat, Jaron Lanier warns that anonymous Internet leads to totalitarianism.

That's a weird idea. I think rather the opposite: the official tendency to require that everyone must be authenticated, everyone must be trackable - these are things I traditionally associate with totalitarian regimes. In the German Democractic Republic, typewriters needed to be registered. Not just typists. Now some seem to be willing to have a system where you give your fingerprint or iris scan or a DNA sample before you can log in. The fingerprint could then be compared against the prints collected for biometric passports (which were, when making the law require them when applying for passports, never ever going to be given away to police use.)

Is Jaron Lanier a bit nuts, or is he just being seriously misrepresented by HS? I suspect the latter.


Newsweek, PISA and Finnish schools

Newsweek ranks Finland as the best country in the world based on assessment of education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment, and this is all the rage in Finnish news. There's a lot of hot air around.

I'm a bit surprised by the outcome, considering that Finland's score in health isn't so great - if not abysmal, either. Finland is only 17th among the group of 100 countries. Still, in total score, Finland beats Switzerland, although the Swiss outperform in 3 out of 5 categories, and in health by a large margin (elsewhere, differences are minor).

The Newsweek study seems to put an awful lot of weight on education here. Anyway, good result for Finland. The PISA result, which is such a dominant factor, in turn of course results from the priorities set in determining PISA results: it's not important that you have some good students and the system make the jewels shine; it's important that the weakest students get some useful education.

There's no piece of news without a good conspiracy story: some say that the sudden urge to get Finland on top of a comparison like this is actually because the international capitalists need to find an American boss to replace Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo in Nokia leadership, and something has to be done so that his family won't scare off when hearing about an idea of moving to Finland.


So, the good result seems to come mostly from the schools. This reminds me of the story that BBC made in the spring: Why do Finland's schools get the best results?

As the BBC text mentions, the good thing about Finnish schools today (*) is that teachers really are quite well trained. They are also genuinely interested in helping the kids to learn (mind you, they're not doing it for big money). And the pre-school/kindergarten system isn't too bad, either, although actual school starts later for Finnish kids than e.g. in Britain. What amazes me with the British public discourse is that people dismiss qualification requirements for childcare professionals with sentences like "we don't need university degrees for people who change nappies". That's nonsense. The job and mission of a kindergarten teacher is far more than just changing nappies or pushing food to the mouths. It's much more about encouraging the children to learn. I suspect that the attitudes to school teachers may be similar.

The BBC story manages to put in a major inaccuracy, though. It says: Primary and secondary schooling is combined, so the pupils don't have to change schools at age 13. They avoid a potentially disruptive transition from one school to another. This is generally untrue. Most kids in Finland actually do have to change school at the time when they move to 7th grade at the age of around 13. There are a few "unified" schools that have all the grades 1-9 under the same roof, but they are a rare exception. And even there, the kids move from a one-teacher-for-class system to having a different teacher for each subject. In grades 1-6, only the foreign languages and sports (and sometimes music and art) lessons are by designated teachers for these subjects. After grade 7, this changes completely. Thus, what the BBC story implies here is not really true.

Finally, what of course matters for Finnish schools, and for the integrity of the Finnish society in general, is that the immigration has been on such levels that newcomers have mostly been able to adapt, and no parallel societies have been created in the style of many European cities (examples can be taken from Bradford, Paris, Malmö or others, where you have places where a fireman cannot go to put out a fire without having a police escort, and a police escort cannot go alone with just a policeman or two, you need a plan and reserves and riot equipment and stuff.)


(*) Today the situation of teachers' training is good, but it wasn't so when I was in elementary school in 1970's. Our teacher was an electrician by profession, and his major academic achievement was the rank of a captain in artillery during WWII. And I can tell you that he had a good idea of how to order us to a line and perform close order drill things like Right, FACE! and Close ranks, MARCH! ("Tahdissa, MARS!"). But teach things, except the correct V angle of your feet when standing in attention? Nope. That was left to myself.

Thankfully, today's teachers seem to be far more competent, trained and sensible, as I've witnessed when dealing with my own children's teachers.


Missing Metusalehs

Japan has been known as a nation with exceptionally long life expectancy. Now a slightly embarrassing partial explanation has been found: the exceptionally old are often not actually alive. Many 100-year-olds are missing. The person who should have been Tokyo's oldest male resident at 111 years, Sogen Kato, had been dead for about 32 years. The "oldest woman" - or so thought to be - hasn't been seen by her daughter in 20 years.

There is concern that the loss of connection between the very old and their offsprings is because of loosening family ties, traditionally important in Japan. However, there is a simpler explanation: while Sogen Kato's body was mummified in his apartment, his pension payments kept coming, and they went to the family. Strict privacy laws helped this to go on for decades.

Perhaps the inverse age pyramid problem in Japan can be relieved simply by requiring old people to show up every now and then.

Note: this can't happen in Finland. We actually can do a very reliable census without hiring lots of officials to knock on every door. Here it is enough to say something like SELECT COUNT(personid) FROM vrk WHERE alive = TRUE; and there you have it. A few people of selected minorities might cause minor inaccuracies, but it'll be insignificant.

How dumb can you be?

Sometimes you just shouldn't pursue your rights as a consumer.

At least if you were trying to purchase sexual services from a 13-year-old and want a refund.

Language recognition

This is not about recognizing what was said. It's about recognizing what language was spoken.

HS reports that a woman was raped in Helsinki, and the perpetrators were speaking either Russian or Romanian.

I'm rather suspicious of this detection of language. Of course, first of all, there is the point that reports of abductions and rapes aren't always entirely to be trusted (sometimes they are made up); secondly, there is the point that yes, women do have a right to do anything and not get raped. Women should be able to go in the middle of a night to a strange van, driven by completely unknown men speaking an unknown language, and not get raped - but still, why on earth should a woman take risks like that? I don't get it. But here my attention mainly goes to the claim that the language was Russian or Romanian. How does she know?

I claim to be rather good at languages; I find it easy - more easy than most people I know - to pick up elementaries of a language that is new to me, and understand bits and make myself understood. But as I haven't traveled in Eastern Europe, I don't stand a chance in recognizing Central and East European Slavic languages apart from each other, and telling which is which. Polish or Chech or Croatian, Slovakian or Slovenian or Serbian or Sorbian, Bulgarian or Macedonian. To me, they all resemble Russian a little bit; I do realize they're not actually Russian, but if someone speaks Ukrainian or Belarusian, I can't tell those apart from dialects of Russian, nor from Polish. From written language I can deduct more, starting from the alphabet used: Cyrillic or Latin, and how prolific it is with consonants - the Polish are poor and cannot afford vowels.

I can pick which one is Hungarian, because that is entirely different. I know a number of Hungarians and have heard them speak, and when I go to a public space like a railway station in Budapest, although I don't understand a word of what is being said around, the tone and note of speech is somehow familiar - the relationship of this Fenno-Ugric language to Finnish is somehow evident to me.

But we should realize that Romanian does not belong to the group of Slavic languages, either. It is a Romanic language and resembles French or Italian much more than Russian.

So how come the woman can say that the language spoken by rapists was Russian or Romanian? She (or the police) may of course think of Romanians because there has been so much talk about Romanian beggars and thieves in Finland, and Russians are always good suspects for anything bad here, but I'm afraid the guilt was passed far too easily. If she says Russian or Romanian, the linguistical distance between these two is fairly big and most of Europe lies in between. The men could have been speaking some other Slavic or Romanic language - like those listed above, or Romansh spoken in Switzerland, or Romani (Gypsy). Or they could have been speaking Albanian, which is also an Indo-European language (as most European languages are, except Fenno-Ugric languages and Basque). Or, who knows, Greek, as the saying in English goes that "this is all Greek to me". (When applying the same proverb, Finns refer to Hebrew).

Perhaps the only safe statement she could have made would have been that the men spoke "an European language that was strange to me", and the part about European is probably a bit uncertain, since it might just as well have been e.g. Turkish or Kurdish. Not very appropriate to pinpoint Russians or Romanians only.

Naturally, the responsibility for this is more with the newspaper and the police than the poor woman, who was probably shocked. If things happened like it was reported, she was violated, and that was wrong. But still, the linguistic method to point out who did it doesn't really work out so easily, and mostly seems to reflect currently popular prejudices.

Candy tax on mineral water

The Finnish government is bringing back the so-called "candy tax", i.e. a specific tax for sweets. However, the definition of "sweets" seems rather odd: it includes not just candy, but also things like lemonades, and any bottled water, including mineral water. Also, fruit juices will be taxed. However, other sweet (and somewhat unhealthy) things like biscuits and bakery products would be excluded.

I don't really mind the price of candy as such: sweets are today incredibly cheap if you look at historical price trends, and they put a burden on people's health. The purchasing power of children and adolescents enables them to get ridiculously large amounts of candy. But still, I feel very reluctant about guiding people's behaviour with taxes, because the side effects are often excessive and generally, I'd prefer that people are responsible for their own lives, not the state.

The food industry proposes that instead of the candy tax, there should be a sugar tax. I must admit that this makes a lot more sense than taxing mineral water as "candy".

Investigating fuel thefts

I think the Finnish police is a bit short-sighted when it announces it would not like to investigate fuel thefts, and wants petrol stations to change to an operational model used in many other countries: fuel pumps are either fully automatic card/cash machines, or you first go to the cash counter and pay, and fill your tank only after payment. In Finland, the typical way to act at a gas station is still that you just drive your car to the pump, fill your tank, walk to the counter and tell the cashier which pump number you used and pay. Some people - very few, but enough to make a nuisance to the police - skip the part about visiting cashier, and just drive away.

Fully automatic card/cash dispensers are becoming more common as well - not really because of thefts, but simply because they can be operated 24/7 without significant staff costs.

But why is the police's idea short-sighted?

1. Because it increases the perception that the police is unwilling to solve crimes and apprehend criminals. They're concentrating on easy money that can be collected with speed cameras that in Finland are often more like traps than tools for road safety (hint: the road safety message would be more credible if the speed limits were clearly marked at the location of the cameras, as is done in other countries where I've been driving, like France and Germany).

2. Because the petrol thefts are typically rather unambiguous and clear crimes to solve and doing so leads you to find people that are in danger of slipping to a career where they commit other, more serious crimes. No, I don't mean that it leads you to just some car drivers. The pattern of stealing fuel is connected with other forms of petty theft, unsocial behaviour and, of course, dangerous driving. Visiting these people early in the career just might make a difference for how they behave in the long run.

3. Because it means we're giving in to anti-social behaviour, and I dislike that.

Fuel is often stolen by people who've stolen the car as well, and are often driving under influence. If you look at the statistics and analysis of deadly road accidents (see previous post), you can see that this group is well represented in the set of drivers responsible for fatal accidents.

The same argument can be made about the speed cameras, with whom the police (at least police leadership) have fallen in love. And the same thing indeed does work to some extent: you can spot some of the reckless drivers like that, and this helps to locate them. However, there are also some differences: often the most reckless drivers don't need to care about speed cameras because they drive stolen vehicles, so someone else will bear the brunt of police investigation. They even do the extreme speeding on the wrong side of the road, because then the speed camera won't get them. On the other hand, it's fairly easy to exceed the speed limit by moderate amounts accidentally; the speed limits are these days set rather illogically and are also poorly marked (as a number of senior policemen can testify when they themselves have been caught). With minor speeding, there was no intent for crime nor harming anyone.

So, I'd recommend that the police just stops complaining and does their work.

I understand it is frustrating. Career criminals are seldom jailed, and even if they are, they're soon back out, because keeping them inside is expensive. They don't pay their fines. Still, I don't think it is fair to concentrate on minor offenses by middle-class drivers just because it is possible for the state to collect more money from them.

Finally, yes: sometimes absent-minded people really forget to pay. That has happened to me a couple times over the 25 years that I've been driving. I did notice pretty soon, and turn back and pay, before the message reached the police.


Why is it so difficult to cite sources?

Particularly, why is it so difficult for major newspapers to cite and refer to sources properly?

I ran into an example: Both The Guardian (3.8.) and Helsingin Sanomat (11.8.) mention a study by International Energy Association, about subsidies for fossile fuels. But they make absolutely sure not to link to the IEA Web resource. (HS is also a bit slow, but come on, it's barely the end of our holiday season.)

Of course, there is a good answer: if a newspaper would cite sources, it would be too obvious and easy for the readers to see how far the ready-chewed opinion offered by the paper is from the actual facts provided by the source.

This is particularly apparent with The Guardian, whose agenda was shown (in rather aggressive terms) by Tim Worstall. The Guardian article was severely misleading by comparing figures that are very much apples versus oranges.

Hey, wake up. In the Web, it increases your credibility if you link to your sources. Being a big and mighty newspaper won't carry you too far into the future.

The North Karelia Project

One of the bloggers that I follow regularly, Tim Worstall, wrote about the North Karelia Project, quoting The Guardian.

I can see his point, but I think he missed a thing when pointing out that there was nation-wide decrease in coronary heart disease at the same time with the local project. As is visible in the WHO article, the vertical line in 1977 indicates a point of time when the project in North Karelia was expanded to a nation wide activity. Thus, it is conceivable that both the local collapse and the nationwide decrease of coronary heart disease in Finland are partially due to actions adopted in the North Karelia Project. The nation-wide trend had its reasons.

Regarding Guardian, it isworth noting (though not very surprising, given that it's The Guardian) to see how the North Karelia project is used for arguing for income redistribution, when the actual findings are about something quite different. Professor Puska writing for WHO may of course want to highlight the achievements of a young MD Pekka Puska who happened to be in charge of the project, and one way to ensure funding for future projects is to preach for "equality" which means redistribution, which means taxes and related projects, which means tax money funding for his projects.

However, as far as I remember, the actual point of the North Karelia project wasn't income distribution at all; it was teaching better diet practices to people. If we start to talk about distribution of information instead of redistribution of wealth, then things start to make sense. The inequality is not about income, it is about how much people know and understand their own behaviour.

So, to get back to the WHO article, in my opinion, it goes wrong when it repeats fashionable mantras about inequality. But I think that is mostly just because the author wants to please the potential funders of expanded projects.

The North Karelia project is not without its merits: eating excessive amounts of pig fat probably might not be good for your health. And although many men in North Karelia still have an agreement with the hares (“I don’t eat your food, you don’t eat mine”), the consumption of fresh vegetables has increased.

This is, of course, not only because of the project: the change is also due to the introduction of refrigeration, international transport and globalized food trade to such an extent that the oranges and bananas these people see are no longer models made of porcelaine displayed in school classes, as they were for my parents’ generation. Rural Finland in 1940’s was vastly different from today.

Some researchers have argued that the significant reduction in deaths over CHD are not really due to North Karelia project and its nationwide expansion, and people eating more lettuce; it is because the generations that suffered extreme poverty and malnutrition in their childhood have passed away, and the age bracket 35-64 is now filled by people who grew up getting a daily meal at school and enjoyed a generally much better diet in their youth (“better diet” actually meaning “enough calories”) and this change was achieved already before the North Karelia project.

There was true, wide-spread hunger and undernourishment in North Karelia the first half of 20th century, and that was removed for the children of 1950’s.

Note that North Karealia of 1960's was a very different place from North Karelia of 2010, not to mention any British place of 2010. It is argued that much of the health problems that middle-agers of 1972 suffered - resulted from malnutrition and hunger experienced in their childhood, 1920's to 1940's, some of this caused by war. Malnutrition was solved, more than adequately. But that solution is irrelevant and possibly counter-productive if applied to modern British or Finnish cities, where the health problems are caused by too much pizza and carbonated sugar water - not lack of calories for children.

Starting in 1970's, the men in North Karelia also changed from back-breaking heavy forestry work (tools: a bucksaw, an axe, and if you’re wealthy, a horse with sled) to use chainsaws and tractors, and then onwards to different jobs (or unemployment benefits). And even if they stayed in forestry, they started to use advanced equipment from the likes of Ponsse ( http://www.ponsse.fi/ ) which, incidentally, is nowadays responsible for the municipality with the greatest amount of income inequality in the country – because in the small town where the company comes from, everyone is relatively poor except the one man who owns a large portion of the stock-listed corporation that he created to make these machines that have liberated thousands of forestry workers both from their jobs and from a need to eat horrific amounts of fat to produce enough energy to survive their jobs.


Michelle's vacation

Michelle Obama's rather extravagant vacation in Spain has irritated some people.

As many commentators have pointed out, America's First Lady has right to do this. But still, is it wise? Is it setting a good example during difficult (at least economically) times?

By the way, it was interesting to see that criticism of Michelle's vacation was quickly labeled as "right-wing" in the comment section. It seems that "right" and "left" and "liberal" are things which are utterly confused in the U.S. "Liberal" means something which is as far away from Adam Smith as possible.


A suitable crime category will be devised.

Stalin is quoted to have said something like "There are no innocent people, only people who have not yet been investigated thoroughly enough." I don't know if Stalin ever really said that, but his regime certainly worked based on that principle to the maximum effect.

Now the police in Turku has started to work along the same lines: first they decided that an act is a crime, and then they applied a law paragraph that is the closest match, although it doesn't quite fit.

A man in Turku was fined and sentenced to lose his camera to the state for photographing women's fannies in a public place.

Some people found the man's behaviour creepy. That is understandable.

However, I find even creepier the fact that the police did not really know which law was being broken, so they used the Criminal Law Chapter 17 § 21, "indecent behaviour" to give fines and confiscate the man's camera. I don't quite see how taking photographs in a public place is indecent. The law text doesn't fit this act. Nor does the background work as published by the parliament. To the contrary, so far it's been a human right, and the Chancellor of Justice has repeatedly issued statements where he asserts that it is permitted to take photographs in public places - also when the subject of the photo (e.g. a guard at a mall) would not like to be photographed. (Publishing the photographs is a completely different matter, but here that wasn't the issue.)

Another thing then is that the journalist in HS are about as clueless as usual when they say things like "the police sentenced the man to lose his camera to the state". The police cannot sentence the man; it is up to a court of law. The police can issue a paper called "rangaistusvaatimus", effectively a statement of prosecution, to which you can plead guilty and agree to pay a fine, but that is not a sentence. Sentences only come out from courts.

There's a generic principle which has a fine Latin name, Nulla poena sine lege: there can be no crime committed, and no punishment meted out, without a violation of penal law as it existed at the time.

Although this is a marginal case, it's slightly worrying that the law is applied like this. The paragraph about "indecent behaviour" is meant to cover things like showing an unclothed fanny in a public place. It's not about photographing clothed fannies in a public place.

However, if we agree that photographing women's fannies in a public place really is indecent, the first one to be prosecuted shouldn't be a creep from Turku, but a journalist of Iltalehti whose main feature about the new prime minister in the country was her backside.


Wearing nappies in prison

Previously, I was wondering how someone could get just four years of youth detention for a cruel, premeditated murder in Sweden. Here's the opposite story: a 78-year old man goes to prison for assaulting a police officer, although he is so frail that he moves with a walking frame and wears a nappy and a catether. The assault incident happened at a nursing home where the man was in a confused state.

Somehow it looks to me that a young heavy offender is given an astoundingly light sentence, and an old light offender is given a heavy sentence. Why?

Perhaps the young offender is so scary that the police, courts and witnesses are afraid of him. The old man, on the other hand, is no danger to anyone, so it is safe to lock him up in a prison for an act for which he is hardly responsible. He might require some duct tape treatment at the nursing home, of course, like children at Helsinki day care (though this appears to be a universal practise).


Should bicyclists know traffic rules?

When reading on a news item where a car hit two children at a zebra crossing, I encountered several people who were saying:

"Because bicyclists do not have to go to driving school and they do not need a license, you cannot expect them to know traffic law".

This is nuts. It's a general principle that all people are supposed to know all laws that apply to them, even though they have not passed a law degree in university. Not knowing a law is no grounds for not obeying it. That is a good reason to keep legislation simple, so that all people could understand it and obeying the laws is reasonably possible.

Yes, there are lots of car drivers who don't know the rules either. Some of the Finnish traffic law is actually rather unclear and poorly formulated - like the roundabouts, which are not really covered in the law resolutions of the government; here Finland is closer to Anglo-Saxon case law, which I think is a bad thing. Or the rules regarding crossings of regular roads and bike roads, which were changed a few years back and although clear in law text, are unintuitive, and most people don't know them correctly. But many bicyclists also seem to have serious attitude problems towards traffic law.

One thing that makes this more understandable is simply the astoundingly poor design and implementation of bicycling roads, particularly in the Helsinki area. Bicyclists do not see even the road designers care about safety and legality, so that decreases their motivation to obey the rules (that they sometimes know, sometimes not).

This is going too far

Yes, child porn is bad. But now, in Sweden, one can be sentenced for possessing mere drawings, as a comics collector has found out:


I think this is going too far. Using a camera to take sexually explicit pictures of children is understandably a serious offense, and children can be hurt severely when preparing the pictures. And in any case the personal privacy of real children must not be breached by making porn pictures... but hey... we're talking about comics. These are drawings. Just drawings, made with pencils and ink, or drawing tools in a computer. No child was abused in making the picture. It's pure fantasy. Prosecuting based on this means it's purely a thought crime.

I suppose I should be careful when writing this. Anything that could be (mala fide) interpreted as being in favour of child porn is these days so bad that your messages in the Internet should be censored, you should be prosecuted, you should lose your family and children, you should lose your job... scary.

Atlantis found!

The lost city of Atlantis has been found. Or at least a grid in the bottom of Atlantic Ocean, as reported by The Telegraph.

However, there's a slight mismatch. The perfect grid looks like the city plan for Milton Keynes... but is the size of Wales. Someone isn't figuring out orders of magnitude here.

Additional edit: Telegraph also reports that the grid was an artifact of the data collection process, not real findings about the ocean floor...