There's something wrong with the society

We had another shootout in Finland, and this time the number of casualties is even higher: 11 dead (including the gunman). I wont try to make any excuses. The fact is that there is something wrong with the society.

The interesting thing is that all the people who have done something like this (Gerdt, Auvinen and Saari) are all people who lived through the early-nineties recession when they were young. It could be that it turned them in to what they are.

Anyway, there are tangible things that the society and the government can do to fix the problem. It wont be easy, but it will result in a better society.

Increased resources for work on mental health.

Ever since the recession in the early nineties, the resources directed at mental health have been cut back. Which is bad, since that was when they were needed the most. Finland has recovered exceptionally well from the recession, but the funding that were taken from mental health was not given back. So we have a situation where crazy people walk the streets because they do not get proper treatment in time. Hell, back in August there was a case in Kerava (pretty close to where I live) where this 18.year old (or so) guy stabbed a younger girl to death. He had seeked help for his mental problems, but he was told that due to limited resources, he could get an appointment several months away, no sooner. End-result: A stabbed girl. This is totally unacceptable.

Schools need to be given resources to employ psychologists and curators that have the time and resources to actually talk with the students. They could have a monthly talk with each student, just to check how they are doing and that everything is OK with their lives.

Also, the class-sizes should be made smaller, so teachers have adequate time and energy to give to each student. With dozens of students per class, paying attention to each student becomes harder and harder.

Increased sense of community

This is the easiest thing to do, and the hardest. This doesn't really involve any money (well, maybe a little) or anything like that, so it's easy. But it's hard because it means change in people's attitudes. Finland is a pretty introvert society in many ways. We place high value on respecting other peoples privacy. And sometimes that means that people could become isolated misantrophes and people around him wouldn't notice anything. We need to change that. We need to make people feel part of the community, as opposed to having a community of isolated individuals. People need to feel that there are people around him that can help him when needed, and we need to pay more attention to the people around us.

The three people who have done something like this in Finland were all loners and introverts. Some of them were also victims of teasing at school. We need to change this. We need to foster a sense of involvement among people and we need to have absolute zero tolerance for bullying and teasing.

Also, to increase the sense of community, we should re-think the way our schools are arranged. The change from primary to secondary education can be quite a shock, and that takes place at the age when the one thing you really need, is stability. In Finland, when you move from primary to secondary, you get a brand-new class with new classmates. Everything is mixed up. Instead of doing that, what if we try to preserve the class that existed in the primary? So even though you would be in a new school, the classmates around you would be mostly the same as before. You would then have same classmates from ages 7 to 15. If possible, the class should be preserved in high-school as well.

What NOT to do

As before, close to half of the discussion so far has been about increased gun-control. While that might seem like a quick solution to the problem, it's not. We should not waste our time talking about what tool the killer happened to use, we should be focusing our time to think WHY the killer did what he did, and how we could prevent it. Taking away the tool does not take away the desire to kill others. If he has no gun, he will use some other tool (like Gerdt did at Myyrmanni, or how the Akihibara killer did in Japan).

Not only is the talk about the tool a waste of time, it distract us from the real issue. At worst, we might have a situation where gun-control is increased, but mental-health work etc. gets no additional resources. Politicians and people would then think "there, by removing guns we removed the problem. good work everyone!". Yes, we might not have shootouts anymore. What we would get instead is stabbings, arsons, hit 'n runs etc. We are doing all of us a huge disservice when we allow ourselves to be distracted like this.

What about the politicians?

Well, communal-elections are coming up. But the thing is that there isn't really a party who has profiled itself as being focused on these issues. Well, maybe the Christian-Democrats, but I won't vote them out of principle. Voting them would bring along all that fundie-baggage that I have no desire to support. Mrs. and I actually joked that we should start a "Family Party" that focuses on issues like these, without bothering itself with religion and all that other crap.

Of course, the "Family Party" would have the risk of being perceived as a "Think of the children!"-party...

The moments in life that make you go "huh?".

Some time ago I was glancing through one of those Richard Scarry "Busytown"-books in a bookstore. It showed the animals in various situations around the town, and the picture told the names of the items they were interacting with. Like "Ladder", "a bus" etc.

One picture was about a member of the pig-family buying some groceries. The items in the grocery-store included "a ham" and "bacon"...

"We shall fight them on the balconies...."

There has been a storm in a teacup over here. What happened is that someone decided to hang a nazi-flag in his balcony in Helsinki. People noticed it, and called the police. The cops came over, inspected the situation and told the people "There's nothing we can do. It's not illegal to display a flag on your balcony". After a while, someone climbed to the balcony, and ripped the flag down, while others applauded him.

Naturally, the opinions on the matter have been divided. Some people think that the person who ripped the flag did a good thing (even though he broke the law, since balconies are considered to be part of your home, so he was guilty of trespassing and maybe theft), and that the society should ban the "ideology", and the display of nazi-symbols should also be banned.

I and several others took the exact opposite viewpoint. If we want a free society with free citizens, it means that we must tolerate ideas, symbols and viewpoints that we might not personally condone. I have no sympathy for nazis, but if we start banning opinions and ideologies, how exactly are we different from the nazis? Nazis punished people who had "wrong" opinions, and now we should do the same, all in the name of "freedom"?

It was surreal to see people who called themselves "opponents of nazism" advocate the use of exact same methods as nazis used to use. They advocated punishing people for their opinions and ideas without batting an eyelid. When I and others told them that they are in fact mimicking what nazis did, the fact totally escaped them.

It's not really a free society, if we are free to agree with one another. The measure of freedom is that we can disagree. that we can have opinions that others might not like. If we want to have freedom of opinion, it means that EVERYONE has that right, including the nazis.

At this point I was told that "of course you are free to have any kind of opinions you like, but you should not be allowed to express them just like that". For a while I had to think that was the person joking or not. But no, apparently he was being serious. Are we a free society if we are not allowed to express our ideas and opinions?

It's strange, really. So we should ban nazism and related symbols, but in the meantime we have two (or more, depending who you ask) communistic parties in Finland. We even have a big statue that glorifies communism in Helsinki that was donated by Moscow. I bet that communism has just as much victims as nazism has, maybe even more. Yet no-one is calling for the banning of that ideology, nor is anyone vandalizing the statue (although there are several people calling for it's removal). The only difference I can think of is that nazis lost the war, while communists won it.

Of course all this does not mean that nazis (for example) should be allowed to attack minorities etc. Ideology and opinion is not a "get out of jail"-card. The point is that opinions can never be considered a crime. Someone might have the opinion that "all red-headed people should be beaten up", and he should not be punished for that opinion. If he actually started beating red-headed people up, THEN he would be due for a punishment.

Yes, it was stupid to hang that flag on the balcony. But people should have the right to be stupid.

The previous post....

Well, I'm not entirely happy with it, and I would change few things in it in hindsight. But my excuse is that it was more like a stream of thought and it took me a whole 15 minutes to write it.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe....

Charles d'Albret was anxious for battle. He felt that his entire life was just preparation for this moment. On the other side of the muddy field, he could see his enemy: a band of Englishmen with hardly any knights among them. Surely that group of peasants was no match for his larger force of mounted knights and men-at-arms?

He removed his helmet, so he could get a better look of his surroundings. He rose in his stirrups to get a better look of the enemy before him, even though he already knew that he had already seen everything there is to see. But these things are expected from a commander. He then turned his ride around and looked at his men. Right behind him were hundreds of mounted knights. He could not see their faces, for they were covered with helmets. But he did not need to see them, for he knew many of them personally.

It was still early in the morning, and dew was condensing on their armour and mounts. He suddenly remembered that his loyal mount had not been milked in due time. "But that can wait until after the battle, surely. For now is the time to address the men".

Again, he rose in his stirrups. "Men, today is the day you have been waiting for! That ragged mob you see in front of you is your enemy. And they are being led by their King! If and when you win today, you will have inflicted a crushing blow to the enemy! And make no mistake, we will prevail today! For our swords are sharp, and our cows are swift! The Englishmen huddling on the other side of this field will never know what hit them! They will be pierced by our swords and trampled under our claws! Tonight we shall drink our milk for the skulls of our fallen enemies!". As soon as he finished his speech, he felt a wave of remorse engulf him. "No skulls, we are not barbarians" he thought to himself. "Disregard my last comment" he shouted to his men. His knights looked at each other and nodded in satisfaction. The idea of drinking their milk from blood-stained skulls was not appealing to them.

He turned around to face the enemy once more. He drew his sword, and few seconds later thousand men behind him drew their swords in unison. "Men! Onwards to battle!". Terrible mooing filled the air as one thousand cows slowly started their charge towards the enemy.

A nearby herd of grazing horses glanced at the spectacle indifferently. No matter what happened today, they would continue their carefree existence.

Netbooks, what are my options?

Like I mentioned a while ago, I'm in the market for a netbook. I have been charting my options for quite some time, and so far this is the situation right now:

Asus EEE

This is the granddaddy of netbooks. The computer range from 199e 700-series model with 7" screen. 512MB of RAM and 4GB Flash-HD, to 399e EEE 901, with 8.9" screen, 1GB of RAM, Intel Atom CPU, better battery and 20GB Flash-HD. There are few models between those extremes. I have been more interested of the latter model, due to better screen (7" really isn't enough), more RAM and better CPU. EEE is also famous for being easy to upgrade, just open a lid in the bottom to add more RAM or new HD.

But there are some serious drawbacks. The keyboard is tiny, and the machine looks and feels cheap (well, it IS cheap). Also, the availability of the 901 is quite limited.

Those drawbacks are enough to eliminate EEE from my selection.

MSI Wind

This is an interesting option. I haven't actually seen one in the wild yet, since availability is VERY limited. But the build-quality is apparently a lot better than on the EEE, and the keyboard is actually typeable. There are downsides as well. Like I said, availability is next to nonexistent, the price is higher (about 450e) and it uses a HD instead of flash-storage. That means that it has a lot more HD-space than EEE does (80-120GB), but I would prefer Flash. I don't have that much need for huge amount of storage. Also, upgrading the Wind is very hard. If you want to add RAM or new HD, you basically need to take the machine apart.

The lack of expandability, the price and availability makes this a no-go for me.

Acer Aspire One

If I had to buy a netbook at this very moment, this would be it. It comes in two models: a 299e model with Linux, 512MB of ram and 8GB of Flash-storage, and a 399e model with Windows XP Home (booo!), 1GB of RAM and 120GB of storage. Of the two, I would e interested in the latter. While I do not have that much need for storage-space, 8GB is quite limited (it needs to house the operating-system as well), and 512MB of RAM is cutting it short. I'm not that excited about the fact that the 399e model has a HD, but what can you do. Build-quality of this machine is a lot better than what EEE has, and availability is excellent. But there is one drawback... Apparently the cooling-fan on this machine is quite loud. I would like the machine to be as silent as possible, and this is loudest of the three I have mentioned so far. Am I nitpicking? Also, upgrading this machine is very difficult. Just like the Wind.

But there is one more contender....

Dell Inspiron Mini 9

The price of this machine is 399e (includes shipping) in the Dell's German online-store (but I can't buy it from there, due to different keyboards). For that money I would get 1GB of RAM, Intel Atom CPU and 16GB of Flash-storage. Build-quality is excellent, the keyboard is excellent, it's fanless, so it's 100% silent and it's VERY easy to upgrade the machine with more RAM or new HD.

This machine is just about perfect. So why aren't I buying it as we speak? Because it's not available here. It's available in Germany, but they have different keyboard-layout than we do.

As long as the situation stays the way it is, I'm not buying anything. And in a way, I'm relieved.

Congrats to CERN!

First tests of the LHC seem to be a success! Hopefully this initial success is just a taste of things to come!

Awkward moments in the morning

Every time I step out of the train in the morning, I need to walk this past older gentleman who hands out free newspapers in the train-station. I think he gets paid a nominal fee for the service he provides. But since I read those very same newspapers on the train, I do not need to get a newspaper from him. And that fact torments me.

When I walk past him, and not take the newspaper he offers, I feel a sting in my heart. Am I robbing him of his income? What should I do? I don't want to get a newspaper, since I have already read it. So it's better for him to hold on to the paper and give it to someone who has not read the paper yet. Should I just look at him and shake my head when he offers the paper? I have tried that, and he always seems to disappointed. I have recently tried to hasten my pace and look away, but that feels even worse.

Sometimes it seems that life is one small awkward moment after another.

It's the Google-browser!

I'm typing this post using the brand-new browser from Google: Chrome. Am I a nerd because I was actually anxious to get to work, so I could install and test the new browser? I bet I am. I couldn't test it at home since I have no Windows-machines to test it with.

I must say that Google has done a mighty fine job with this browser. It's a beta-version, so there will be some issues, but so far it's smooth sailing. I really like the tab-bar implementation and the overall look and feel of the browser. There's no menubar on the browser at all. And after using the browser for 30 minutes now, I don't really see any need for one.

This could become something big. Internet Explorer is a crappy browser, but it stays popular because Microsoft has strong brand-recognition. Chrome is a better browser, and Google has even stronger brand-recognition than Microsoft. Two years from now, IE will have under 50% of the market (as opposed to about 70+% it currently has)