Friends and statesmen

Libya is all over the news, and of course a civil war in North Africa is something that interests pretty much everyone in Europe. This made me go googling around, and one just cannot help feeling that not so long ago, Gaddafi was a great friend to many statesmen in Europe and the world, even though everyone knew he's quite a dictator. Look at the parade:

Great African heroes, champions of human rights and freedom.

Silvio is chummy with Muammar. Well, they're just neighbours across the pond. And Silvio has long been a pretty divisive figure in Europe, so this is no surprise. The guys probably share the same taste regarding women, political ideals, and other things.

Tony looks a bit embarrassed but there were some good oil deals to be done. Send Mr. Al-Megrahi home and things will be smooth.

These guys surely got along just fine.

 Gordon was a not-so-bright shooting star compared to Muammar.

Obama looks quite cordial although not hugely enthusiastic.

Apparently Bill Clinton didn't meet Muammar, but here Hillary is shaking hands with Muammar's son Mutassim, to congratulate the people of Libya on their Revolution day (that is, the anniversary when Muammar took power).

But the one picture I just did not find: Muammar and George W. Bush. He seems to be the one contemporary leader (in addition to Angela Merkel) who did not go to the cameras with Muammar.


Nokia and Microsoft

Many of my friends have expressed various degrees of shock after yesterday's announcement that Nokia ramps down Symbian, gives Meego out to open source and starts to use Windows Phone 7 in its new smartphones.

Well, it is indeed a shock if you have worked for a technological gimmick for years, and then the company leadership just abandons the whole thing. Been there, done that.  I worked for Nokia and NSN from June 1, 1989 to June 1, 2009 - for 20 years and 1 day, and there were quite a number of good times and bad times during these years.

Many people in Nokia-Finland are quite devoted to the technology they work with - there's more loyalty and emotion than towards the company itself. That makes it hard to accept this change.

Now it is easy to see that this decision wasn't something that Stephen Elop came up with after he became Nokia's CEO. Clearly, this is a strategy chosen by Nokia's board, under the leadership of Jorma Ollila, and Elop was chosen to execute it.

What I'd like to say to this situation is that we shouldn't get too depressed about it. Yes, it is a big change. Many will feel that their life's work and commitment has been thrown over - and the company given to the jaws of the big, ugly, unfair, dirty Microsoft.

Indeed, I'm no fan of Microsoft. I use Windows at work, and some of the tools are pretty OK, but as the  developer tools and APIs and that kind of stuff go, I am definitely a Unix man. I write this on my home laptop that runs Linux. The amount of broken logic, weird conventions, hordes of inexplicable legacy... that's Windows. However, it's not as bad as Symbian, which as far as I ever saw - not recently, I admit - was only slightly preferable to syphilis, if you consider the damage it does to your brain, not to mention your social reputation.

But Nokia was clearly in need of change. The Ovi Store is just astonishingly unbelievingly miserable. What I ask you to notice is the time Nokia decided this change. It may be relatively late as Nokia goes - because Nokia has always been quick to react to problems - but still, Nokia did make this decision before it lost its position as the world's No. 1 mobile phone maker. The next year or two may be a bit difficult because there is not yet a load of new WP7-based smartphones, and the old Symbian base is eroding, with customers losing interest right now. That's why the share price took quite a dip: clearly there won't be that much dividends next year. But Nokia is still the largest phone maker, with an amazing machinery of production and purchasing power, and an impressive delivery chain that covers the entire world - and it intends to stay there. I think this move with Microsoft improves the possibilities.

It's a bit sad for MeeGo and the lots of bright people I know have been working there. I think there's been some internal back-stabbing that has kept Maemo/Meego from coming to phone near you sooner. Now developers and Nokia internal organizations need to adopt Windows Phone 7. There's quite a curve to learn the new environment, but I'm pretty sure that given some time, the engineering talent in Finland will be using its time better than before (with the exception of those who were working on Maemo/MeeGo, I'm afraid - I think it should have been kept as a second strategy, because dependency on Microsoft has always been a death's kiss for vendors).

What disgusts me is the schadenfreude that some commentators express in public comments and in blogs, the kind were people say that it's so nice that some of those big earners lose their jobs. Indeed, the income distribution in Finland may become more flat because of lay-offs in Nokia, and the Green "welfare metrics" will improve, but I just abhor people who say that's a good thing. Some certified idiots blame this on political parties in Finland  - as if the product and web shop strategies of Nokia were the result of policies of Kokoomus or Keskusta. Scavengers.

A particularly ugly example of this political scavenging is Paavo Arhinmäki, who claims that Nokia did this move because it is so easy to lay off people in Finland and some generous packages like those in Germany are a birthright. What utter rubbish. Does he really think that it is more difficult to reduce staff in the US, where Microsoft does their OS development, or in China or in India? High-tech jobs aren't going to be preserved by making employers more hesitant to invest, hire and train. These jobs are to be preserved - and renewed - if they are productive; if they are perceived worth the cost to the shareholders. Why doesn't Arhinmäki just go hiding under the bed like Jutta Urpilainen - wisely- does regarding the current Nokia story? The world might not be a better place, but it would at least look cleaner. There are some well-meaning but utterly, and I mean utterly clueless proposals, like Jouko Skinnari's idea of a new state company acting as a sheltered employment center. That anyone who was even a child at the time of Valco has such ideas is beyond belief.

To all the former colleagues at Nokia I wish good luck and successful change. I should remind that these are not bad times - compared to what things were in 1991-1992. I wasn't a regular employee but a trainee, had a stream of fixed-term contracts, many times continuing to work even though a new contract wasn't even signed until weeks into the new contract period. The company was truly struggling for existence. And it renewed, and it rebounded, to an extent where it literally saved the Finnish economy after the collapse of early 1990's. Look at where the company is now: yes, there is a bit of a crises, but it is still the largest phone manufacturer in the world, and it can stay so if it just keeps going ahead.

Hooligans games and gentlemen's games

There's a saying that football is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen. One would expect that when football fans arrange a demonstration, things would get really bad.

But now Inspector Gadget reports that where "intellectuals", students, make a demonstration, the actual outcome is violence and destruction, and the whole place is a wreck with weeks' work of cleaning up. When the English Defence League - basically a really scary-looking bald-headed islamophobic bunch of football hooligans - arranges a demonstration, they can be kettled and policed and, surprise, now one is injured, no one is attacked, and the place is spotless the moment the demonstrators leave.

It's all about what you want to do. The police tactics in demonstrations do not cause violence; the demonstrators do - if they are violent.

Alas, the most impressive thing about this demonstration is how quiet the mainstream media like BBC is about it. Somehow it isn't news at all that thousands of hooligans go to a march and no one gets hurt.


A nomination

Every once in a while, you learn some funny things about the English. Like this one: members of the parliament cannot resign. Actually, in the history, MPs were sometimes elected against their will - presumably there were some occupational hazards and anyway it was financially not such an attractive job as nowadays.

OK, so when an MP has disgraced himself in the expenses scandal, how do the English get rid of him? They appoint him to the job of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham. This is a ceremonial position of profit. An MP accepting an office of profit under the Crown must give up his or her seat. An MP applies for the office to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who usually then signs a warrant appointing the now former MP. And thus the MP has effectively resigned.