Independence Day repost

The following is a repost from my old blog, originally written one year ago.

As I start to write this, it’s the last minute of my country’s 87th birthday (the Finnish Independence Day). It got me thinking about nation-states and independence and whatnot. And I came to a threefold conclusion:

First, there is some value in independence. Getting rid of the status of a Grand Duchy in personal union with Russia was certainly a good step for Finland, in light of the rough road the Russians themselves have since travelled. For the same reason, the two wars Finland fought against the USSR were quite worthwhile. Similarly, if Finland were to be threatened by a neighbour again, armed defense would certainly be justifiable.

Second, there is no intrinsic value in independence. If a humanly life (including freedom and local government) can be guaranteed even if there is no Finnish state in itself, I see no reason to hold on to the old-fashioned concept of a nation state.

Third, I am in favour, as a long-term goal, of a world government. Of course, a single government becomes a single point of failure in case of a coup, for example, but if the global state is arranged properly, the danger of a successful coup is minimal. On the other hand, a world government is in far better position to institute necessary policies to combat the global problems of poverty, climate change and other such issues than the current system of competing and cooperating nation-states. In the current system, the big issues are easily put aside in name of local opportunism. Finland is by no means immune to that problem.

The great crises of the 20th Century were its devastating wars. Fortunately, we have overcome them to a sufficient degree. The great crisis of the 21st Century is not terrorism – though it is a symptom. The great crisis is caused by the limits of growth, and we are already feeling quite concretely the nearness of those limits. If something is not done, our current civilization will crash spectacularly. The human race will probably survive – but do we really want to live through another Dark Age?

Long Live the Earth!

Strange sounds

It’s ten past nine on a Monday morning. I am usually at work at this time, but not today. Tomorrow’s the Independence Day, and I’m, as usual, staying home for the single work day that this generates.

Suddenly, I hear a very powerful growling sound. It lasts about ten seconds. It is so powerful that everyone in the neighbourhood ought to hear it.

About twenty seconds later, there are a series of equally powerful electric but almost otherworldly jingle sounds. They last about ten seconds.

About twenty seconds later, the general alarm is sounded: a continuous siren first raising the pitch then lowering. It stops after one “wave”.

A relief: it is a test of the general alarm system.

I had read about the sound-based remote control of the general alarm system, but this was the first time I observed it in use. Had I not already surmised that this was going on from the start, I would have been seriously frightened by the strange sounds.

About a minute or two later, while I was already composing this, I heard very faint jingling, followed by a very faint general alarm. Obviously, the system was being tested elsewhere.

Small purgatories and minuscule pleasures

The worst possible condition of a walkway is created as follows:

  1. Let snow fall on it
  2. Use a snowplough to clear it up
  3. Rinse, repeat.
  4. Pack the remaining snow tight
  5. Let the temperature be a few degrees above zero Celsius, then let it fall slightly to negative degrees
  6. Let it rain water.

The result: smooth, wet ice. What we call ‘skull condition roads’ here in Finland. We had that, minus the final rain, and it was very slippery. I was careful, and didn’t fall (but that’s just luck).

In other news, chinese cabbage is very juicy indeed.

I won

Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho has won National Novel Writing Month in 2005 with his novel THE MAIL SHIP

I won. I completed 50,000 words in time. Of course, only about 13,000 words are directly usable if and when I end up editing the story, the rest will have to be removed – they were imposed by the strict timetable and the explicit leave to lower one’s standards.

But, bottom line:

I WON!

Ps. Please don’t ask to see the manuscript. It’s not that good 🙂

Pps. My mother won, too. Conga rats!

Crime and punishment

This essay is part of my Finnish criminal justice series. See the introductory essay for more information and an overview of the Finnish criminal court system.

In this essay I will be presenting an overview of the Finnish penal code – the principles, and the measurement of punishments. I will write separate essays on the actual crimes recognized by the penal code.

As always: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice.
Continue reading “Crime and punishment”

John Ringo: Ghost

John Ringo is known for writing military science fiction. I therefore was a little surprised to find out about Ghost, which, according to what I knew at the time, is a James Bond story, set roughly in the real world. Well, I’ve always liked “special agent” stories, so I read this book.

First impressions: Interesting stories; it was more a collection of connected novellas than a novel. Certainly not for everyone: there is a lot of explicit BDSM (read: very rough but consensual sex) and even an explicit aggravated rape scene. Single agent overpowering multiple terrorists. Nuclear explosions (I’ve said it before, a book which depicts a nuclear explosion, cannot be all bad). More than one miracle recovery. A protagonist who certainly is not a good person. An overall first impression was of a former military guy writing out a fantasy, sort of literary self-satisfaction. I didn’t think much good of this book at that time.

I later found out that this book was intended to start a new series. Now, I had actually heard of a follow-up book, but I had figured it was more of the same, and I wasn’t interested. Instead, the tone shifts a lot. The Ghost becomes a significant part of the main character’s backstory, but that’s all that it is: backstory. I have now read a part of the sequel, and it has changed my prespective on Ghost.

As a standalone book, Ghost is a horrible book, and I would not recommend it, because the brutality in it has no meaning. But as the prequel to a different series, it gets meaning; it becomes a sort of character study of a man who has vicious demons inside him and is barely able to control them, and channel them for doing good (and once loses control of them).

So, Mike Harmon is an ex-SEAL, discharged on medical grounds, who is a conservative jerk according to his fellow history undergrads. He likes to stalk young coeds, and one day, as he is doing so, he accidentally witnesses a kidnapping. He follows, and discovers a terrorist plot. He kills the bad guys (most of them, anyway), and follows up on the trail of other, already kidnapped women. He hitches a ride on a plane and ends up … well, I don’t want to spoil it for you.

I’ll rate this book 8/10, with the warning that the book contains explicit descriptions of extreme sex and even rape, in addition to the usual jamesbondesque explosions and stuff.

Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane

There’s a reason why I’m going through Baen’s pile of published books. He is the only publisher I know who gets ebooks, I mean really gets them. (Virtually?) all of his catalogue is available in ebook form – with no Digital Restrictions Management! – for a reasonable price, and quite a few are available for free in the Baen Free Library. You can read these books on the browser, or download them to your PDA, whatever works for you. Naturally, you can always buy a dead-tree version, instead. I figure, this publisher is worth the money I pour at him, and hence I pour it in quantity. This is my explanation for having expended six euros for the following ebook.

Cally’s War by John Ringo and Julie Cochrane is a sequel to a four-book trilogy by the first author. The trilogy is heavy-duty military science fiction, telling an excellent version of the “aliens invade Earth” story. Cally’s War is set forty years later, and features a minor supporting character from the trilogy as the main character. By the start of the book, Cally is an assassin working for a secret society which wages a secret war against the galactic domination of the Darhel species.

The plot of the book revolves around the threat of the secret society being exposed to the opposition, and Cally’s mission in this book is basic counterintelligence: find out the mole and destroy it. However, it would be wrong to think that this book tells an espionage story, or that the counterintelligence plot is integral to the book: the plot is weak, mainly serving as a thin connector between episodes involving Cally’s personal life, or the lack of it, and her sex life (from whose lack she does not suffer).

This book, however, seems to suffer from the lack of an editor. There are good ideas, and the storytelling is okay, but to make a really good book, the authors should have regarded this version as the first draft to be thrown away – and rewritten the book completely. There is really no unity in the story, and several good themes worthy of exploration are just skimmed.

It is obvious that Ringo did not contribute much prose to this book: the bad politics rants are conspicuosly absent. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had Ringo actually written more of the book, even if it meant suffering through new pro-Bush rhetorics.

I suppose this book could work standalone, that is, it does not depend on the reader having read the previous books. On the other hand, there is very little that speaks for reading this book at all, except that it continues the story started in the four-book trilogy. I appreciated the story as a continuation of Cally’s arc, and some of the sex scenes were fun to read, but otherwise it left me wanting.

I rate this book 4/10.