Monday, June 30

Fruit Cake - It's Not Just For Christmas (Who Knew!)

I went to my sister-in-law's wedding while on vacation in Finland. Unfortunately, I was also invited to a wedding in the UK on the same day which we were not able to attend.

So imagine my surprise that a couple days after our return, that we receive a piece of wedding fruit cake.

Now if it had been any other sort of wedding cake I would never have tasted. But since it was fruit cake, I figured that I would test the 'indestructible' reputation that it has.  So, I cut it into three pieces and I, my wife and daughter tried it. I have to say, it was pretty good. My daughter even got upset because she wanted more and there was no more to be had.  This was no ordinary fruit cake.  Hay, maybe a trip through the mail in the summer is what it needs.

Ah, the mail.  I am a little bit confused how I even got a piece of the cake.  Customs would probably have seized the cake, had I brought it back with me.  However, there was no problem mailing it to me.  How strange.


Maritime Monday 117 Posted at gCaptain

This week's edition of Maritime Monday has been posted at gCaptain.

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 67 here. (Published 16 July 2007).

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Friday, June 27

Why Obama and the Democrats Now Want FISA Passed

Simply put, they all think that Obama is going to be the next President. So giving it to Bush for six months is an acceptable price to them for then giving an Obama Administration the power to wiretap international calls without a warrant.  Plus, they can get past all of the furor now, prior to him taking office, effectively blaming Bush. (Once again.)

Keep in mind how these guys and girls act: Democrat first, American Second.


Guns aren't DC's Problem - Lack of will to Jail Criminals is

Everyone agrees that Washington, DC has a crime problem. For the past couple decades DC has blamed guns as one of the causes of the crime problem in DC. With that, they have banned legal handgun ownership. This has done nothing to reduce DC's gun crime and statistics show that gun crime in DC actually rose after guns were banned. Well, as we all know now, DC's gun ban has been declared unconstitutional in the Supreme Court's Heller decision. The city's leadership is of course in panic that they are actually going to have to permit some people, who are not committing crimes, the ability to exercise their right to own a gun.

Fenty, Nickles and Lanier emphasized that they will continue vigorously enforcing other gun-control laws that the court did not disturb—including the law that all firearms including handguns must be properly registered with the Metropolitan Police Department—and considering other ways to lessen gun violence in the District. - DC Government Press Release 'District Government Reacts to Heller Ruling'
This is their problem, enforcing gun-control laws. They don't do it well. For a city that bans guns, they have more gun crime than the two neighboring states together. (Excluding the messed-up city of Baltimore from that tally.) I had watched an interview a year or two ago concerning the car theft problem in DC. The officers of the grand theft auto task force were bitter that it was common to catch people and then catch them again the very next day, because judges released them from jail.  This of course is due to a lack of will to punish criminals as the liberals see them as victims too, and don't want them to become victims of the justice system, or 'unfairly' imprisoned because they are a minority. So, back out onto the streets they go.

Take this recent crime reported in the Police Blotter section of the DC Examiner:
Armed woman arrested after entering police HQ

A woman was arrested after she walked into the Metropolitan Police headquarters Thursday afternoon, pointed a gun at one of the armed security guards, demanded his weapon, then pulled the trigger on her handgun, according to court documents.

When the gun failed to fire, the security guard grabbed the woman, Cynthia Marlene Nixon, and wrestled her to the ground. Police found 36 rounds of ammunition and two plastic bags of marijuana. Nixon told detectives that she wanted to rob a police officer of his weapon, court documents state. - Scott McCabe, DC Examiner
So what did they charge her with?
Nixon was charged with assaulting a police officer while armed, authorities said. She was ordered held without bond by a judge yesterday in D.C. Superior Court. - Washington Post
What about attempted robbery? Illegal use of a firearm? Illegal possession of a firearm? Trespassing? Attempted Murder? How about drug charges as well? One problem why there is all this criminal activity in DC is because the criminals know that the penalties are not so bad if they get caught. This lady tried to kill an officer and is only being charged with 'assault'.

Even in the eyes of this ruling, their contempt for enforcement is showing:
MPD will establish an amnesty period during which residents who already own handguns that were not registered previously can register them without fear of criminal liability under District law.
Just why is DC going to permit the registration of illegal handguns?  How about instead offering an amnesty for turning them in, period.  Let them buy their next gun legally.  Are they really saying that they will permit registration of a gun purchased illegally on the street?  That's crazy seeing that it was those guns that were the problem in the first place.  It is almost like they are going to make sure that gun crime goes up, just to prove their point that they were right all along.


Finland Friday - Pispala Shot Tower

Here are some pictures I took of the Pispala Shot Tower, located in Tampere, Finland.

It is locally known as the haulitorni, which is Finnish for shot tower.
Pispala Shot Tower (fin."Haulitorni") in Tampere is the last shot tower left in Finland, and one of the most famous landmarks in Pispala. Pispala Shot Tower is a tower where shotgun pellets are made by dropping melted lead down a tube. The tower was built in 1908 and it's 55 meters high. The making of pellets was a well preserved secret. First lead was melted in a pot under the tower, and some arsenic was added to make the lead form drops better. Also 2 % antimony was added to the alloy to make the pellets harder. After this the lead was cast in pigs and lifted up in the tower, where they were melted again. The melted lead was poured into the tube through a sieve and it fell as drops down the tube. The upward stream of air in the tube gave the pellets their round shape. Finally the pellets were cooled down in a bowl of water. The making of pellets in Pispala Shot Tower ended in 1972. - Google 3D Warehouse

More on shot towers at Wikipedia.

Update: South Africa - Zimbabwe in Slow Motion

Here is a video on the violent farm deaths happening in South Africa that I covered earlier this year here. One expert interviewed claims that the murders are suggestive of a genocide of White farmers in South Africa. So it is not just South Africa's quiet acceptance of Zimbabwe's violence against it's people that the South African Government needs to account for, but also their treatment of their own people.


Link - Farm murders in South Africa Part 1 of 2

More than 1,500 white farmers have been murdered over the past decade of peaceful majority rule in South Africa. - BBC


Link - Farm murders in South Africa Part 2 of 2

Video was found at Theo Spark here.

Previous Post:
South Africa - Zimbabwe in Slow Motion - 23 Jan 08

Thursday, June 26

Forgotten Korean War POW Escapes - 55 Years After Being Captured!

A South Korean soldier who was captured by North Korea during the Korean War escaped earlier this month, 55 years after being captured.
By Kim Sue-young, Staff Reporter

A prisoner of war (POW) escaped from North Korea 55 years after being captured and is currently staying in China awaiting entry to South Korea, the association of abductees' family members said Tuesday.

Kim Jin-soo, 74, who fought in the Korean War (1950-53) at the age of 17, crossed the Tumen River on June 14 and is now in China, Choi Sung-yong, leader of the association, told a press conference in Seoul.

Choi said Kim was taken to the Stalinist state with a gunshot wound before the armistice was signed in July 1953. The South Korean army reported he was dead and included him in the roll of fallen soldiers.

After being dragged to the reclusive state, Kim received medical treatment in Pyongyang and was dispatched to coal mines including the Sanghatan mine in North Pyeongan Province for nearly 40 years. In the early 1990s, he did farming in North Hamgyeong Province, Choi said. - Korea Times
You would think that this would be big news. It is certainly a newsworthy event. When I was young I remember a news report about a Japanese soldier from WWII who finally after 30+ years of hiding, decided to come out and surrender. That was big news. But he was not a prisoner like this poor fellow. And yet, there is close to no coverage at all. Google News only lists the one story by the Korea Times quoted above. also covered the story with "PoW 'escapes after 55 years'" noting that:
North Korea denies holding any South Koreans against their will, though some have managed to escape and come South. -
I suspect the lack of coverage is because this guy upsets the real message in that it is President Bush who is the evil leader. Take our detention of suspected terrorists during wartime. There are currently over 14,000 news stories for "Guantanamo bay Cuba detainee" listed in Google News. Clearly, not all prisoners rights are considered equal by the press.
Coverage of this story only brings forward the fact that nobody is pushing North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il to abide by his past agreements and call him to account for his country's rogue behavior. I only found out about this story as it was covered by the Blog One Free Korea in their post "Paroled from Death, Or Worse".
The anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s invasion of South Korea is a fitting time to post about just the latest South Korean prisoner of war to return home after being held in North Korea since a 1953 Armistice agreement in it agreed to return its prisoners. - One Free Korea
I am willing to bet that there are leftists who are not happy that this guy managed to escape. You can tell that there is no excitement in celebrating his escape since he is currently trapped in China and has to beg his own country's President to help get him back home. What a joke. Just imagine the reaction in the US if an American POW all of a sudden shows up in China. And even if the US Government turned it's back on him, there would be no shortage of Korean War vets who would waste no time in getting this guy back, despite being in their 70's themselves. There seems to be no real newsworthy outcry so far from South Korea. I bet that this won't even be an agenda item in the next talks with the North. After all, they have gone as far as admit to kidnapping foreigners, and despite this admission, refuse to release all of them or even provide full details. Still, there is no shortage of useful idiots who still manage to get a seat at the negotiating table, all too willing to overlook over 50 years of criminal behavior because they are the ones who are finally going to get a workable agreement. So I guess I should say shame on us as well.

(Note: The following two paragraphs were written once before here)

If this had been the other way around (A North Korean soldier escaping from South Korea), you can surely bet that the North Koreans would openly be demanding that heads roll, in addition to demanding that the offending (responsible) person be removed from the talks, never to appear again. Too bad that the North Koreans know all too well who they are dealing with. For well over a decade, the US and other parties have been pretty soft-armed when it has come to disciplining North Korea. Another very dangerous problem is that it seems that too many people want to think that the North Koreans actually want a deal. That they are negotiating either in good faith, or at least with a goal towards betterment of their people. Well perhaps a review of the 2 minute extract from the Korean War 'Pork Chop Hill' is in order:

Video - Direct Link

The video makes a number of good points that are still relevant today. One of those is the answer to the question: what does North Korea have to lose by getting caught holding prisoners of war they agreed to release decades ago? Apparently nothing by the looks of the lack of pressure on North Korea to do anything they agreed to as part of the six-party talks. This soldier has at least gotten out of North Korea. What about the rest still trapped there?

North Korean Snipers Killing Refugees Along the Chinese Border - 24 May 08
Most Disturbing Part of North Korea-Syria Connection - 29 Apr 08
Anchor Countries - 27 Sept 07
The UN Cannot Save the North Koreans (So Stop Trying) - 1 Feb 07
Unconditional surrender – The only way to end Military Operations - 1 May 05
Seeing things in Black and white instead of in shades of gray. - 19 Dec 04


Tuesday, June 24

Maritime Monday 116 Posted at gCaptain

This week's edition of Maritime Monday has been posted at gCaptain. (Apologies for posting this notice a day late!)

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 66 here. (Published 09 July 2007).

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Back From Vacation

And back in the office.

I can't really say that I'm excited about anything much other than being home. Even then, I have two kids who are fully and completely suffering from jet-lag.

It is going to be an interesting week. At least it is Tuesday and next week is a short week as well.


Wednesday, June 18

Three Roads to Nowhere

The signs are big and the names on two of the three are long but in each case the road leads nowhere. They merely lead to other intersections with signposts. The intersection I was at I arrived to by following an equally impressive sign hoping that it would lead me to a main road.

So don't assume that road signs in Finland lead to anyplace impressive. In fact, I just came from the 'KINTUS' direction and can only assume that Kintus is the name of a much less impressive intersection than the one I have photographed here, as there was not much on the gravel road I traveled on to get here. (I was driving these back roads taking pictures. Click to enlarge.)


Monday, June 16

Maritime Monday 115 Posted at gCaptain

This week's edition of Maritime Monday has been posted at gCaptain.

You can find last week’s edition here.

You can find Maritime Monday 65 here. (Published 02 July 2007).

Previous Editions:
As linked below or click on the label ‘MaritimeMonday’:
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Finland Gets an Ugly New Presidential Yacht

It is in today's Finnish news that the President of Finland took possession of the New Presidential yacht. My first impression is that the yacht is about as ugly as they come. Really, this thing looks hideous.

These photos were found at the Finnish Talous Sanomat story here.
Tarja Halonen, the Finnish president, on Monday took delivery of Kultaranta VIII, the new presidential yacht, at a shipyard in Uusikaupunki.

The 19-metre aluminium-hulled vessel has wood fittings and large windows. Like previous presidential yachts, she is to be operated by the Finnish Navy.

The cost of the yacht is about two million euros.

Kultaranta VII was decommissioned after 22 years of service.

The presidential yachts are named after the president's summer seaside residence. - NewsRoom Finland
Just because the yacht is operated by the Finnish Navy, doesn't mean that it has to be painted Gray.

The name of the yacht is KULTARANTA VIII which translates into GOLD COAST VIII. I think the name is good for a private yacht but seeing as Finland is a 'Social Welfare' State, the Government should be ashamed for wasting a couple million Euros on this yacht, but since they did, perhaps they should think of renaming it ARVANLISÄVERO 22 after the Finnish Value Added (sales) tax of 22 percent for most items purchased in Finland. I'm wondering what sort of example the President is setting with such an elitist accessory for a country that prides itself on punishing the rich and rewarding the poor, especially when there is not enough money for the social projects. (I bet this thing is powered with tax-free fuel. Yet another example of double standard in a country where the price of fuel is approaching $8 a gallon, of which about 70% is tax.)

You can find more pictures posted on the Aamulehti site here.

You can view video of the yacht inside and out here. (It is in Finnish, but you can ignore the commentary.)

Finnish president takes delivery of new yacht - NewsRoom Finland
arvonlisävero - Wiktionary

Häijään Säästömarket

Out here in the forest of Finland, there is no real large supermarkets or even a mall nearby. But have no fear, just a short ride away is the Häijään Säästömarket.

They have not only food and beer, but also all sorts of things, kind of like a very mini Wal-mart. The prices are cheap, for Finland. Every time I come back they manage to expand in some way. A great plus for me was when they started accepting credit cards.


The Finnish 12-Beer 6 Pack

Finns are well known for being a bunch of alcoholics. Leave it to them to have 6 packs of beer that contain 12 beers. Kind of a double six pack. They are pretty cool and used to be a cheaper way to buy beer, but in all the wonder that is the Finnish Government, they outlawed discounts for bulk purchases of beer. So now a twelve pack of bottles should cost twelve times the cost of one. They say this is being done to fight alcoholism. This is somewhat idiotic because if a Finn wants to drink ten beers, he will drink until he has had enough or until he runs out of money.

This also ignores the fact that Finns travel to Germany and Estonia to import beer by the carload. But as far as the politicians are concerned, they only see that the sale of beer and alcohol in Finland has gone down, ignoring the fact that Finns are just getting their alcohol elsewhere or even making it themselves. When living here I managed to drink punch made with pure alcohol which is cheap when obtained with a doctor's prescription. I was also told how some people manage to take car window washing fluid and make it drinkable, by pouring it over a freezing cold plate where the poisonous ingredients freeze to the plate.


Microcar 'Mopoauto'

Think the Smart Car is small? I have run across a couple 'microcars' here which in Finnish are called mopoauto. A mopo in Finnish is a moped, just to give you an idea of what type of car it is. As you can see, there is an orange triangle on the back because these 'cars' are limited to a max speed of 45 kilometers an hour. (Just under 30 miles an hour)

Why would someone have such a car, especially since they cost more than other cars? Well, you can drive one as young as 15 years old. You also don't need a regular driver's license in order to drive one. So older people buy these as much as young ones, if not more.

I think your crazy to take one of these things on a Finnish road, other than in one of the cities, but apparently they do. At least due to the speed restrictions, they are kept off the few Finnish highways.

Beware of Trams

Helsinki is a city that has a number of tram lines. It is something to be aware of as in some places trams share the road with cars. In other places (as the bottom three photos show) trams have their own space on the road. The real danger is where the trams exit their protected spaces and go into the car lanes. I am aware of this danger, but still almost drove right in front of a tram as I was leaving Helsinki. Good thing that I noticed at the last second as a tram was right behind me. Almost does not count.


Thursday, June 12

Large Ferry Departing Helsinki

Here are a couple pictures I took of Viking Line's ferry VIKING XPRS departing Helsinki through the Kustaanmiekka strait past the island fortress of Suomenlinna.


Children's Messes Are Like Oil Spills

It is kind of funny to see how parents react to the messes their children make. Some let their children play and at the end go and clean the mess up. Others are of the type that clean up the messes as they are created.

I fall into that latter category. I see the messes that children create like oil spills. With that in mind I try and attack the mess immediately, because, like an oil spill, even the smallest mess will quickly grow and require a major cleanup operation.


This Year's Summer Clothing for Finland

So it's summer in Finland. How warm is it? Try 10 degrees Celsius. That's 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

So as you can see, the clothing of the day is a Patagonia fleece, fall overalls and a KP hat. Today was a couple degrees colder and wetter so we had to add gloves as well. I however was determined to wear shorts since this is my summer vacation, so I was the only one in sight wearing shorts in the City of Tampere today.


Wednesday, June 11

Before you Pack your Bags and Move to the EU...

Drudge Report recently linked to the story 'With U.S. in slump, dual citizenship in EU countries attracts Americans' about Americans hunting out citizenship in an EU Country in order to work in Europe:

The creation of the European Union and its thriving economy is very appealing for Americans in a global economy.

"With an EU passport, I can live and work in 27 countries," said Suzanne Mulvehill of Lake Worth. "With a U.S. passport, I can live and work in one."

Americans can claim citizenship in any of the 27 European countries that are in the EU based on the nationality of their parents, or in some cases, grandparents and great-grandparents. Citizenship in one of those countries allows you to live and work in any EU nation. - Palm Beach Post

Yes, it is true that as a US Citizen, you only have the right to work in the US, but what is left out is that the US is an immensely large country, while many of the EU states are toy-sized countries. Eighteen of those 27 states have a population of less than eleven million. Eleven of those have a population of under six million. This is in line with many US States. So it would be fair to say that the EU is like a United States of Europe. It is just formed with 27 states instead of 50. And there is a popular map out that equates the GDP of countries to US States with a similar GDP. (Image found at the post here)

So on the surface, the European Union and the United States are two labor markets. A US Citizen can legally work in any of the fifety states and Washington, DC and most EU Citizens can work in any of the twenty seven EU States.

"did you know that: the EU allows you to travel, live and work in any EU-country, in most cases without border controls or paperwork?"

This would seem like a great opportunity for those who can gain the right to work in both labor markets, but it is only that simple in the US.

Take the employment summary from an EU website. I would not call this completely deceptive. However, the statement does depend on where you are now as to how 'Great' this aspect of the EU is compared to your country.

Living in the US, I am living in a union of states where I have the same right. I can move to any of the 50 states (and DC) and live there for work and be equal to those that have lived there their whole lives. This mobility of the workforce is a very important part of reducing unemployment. If the population is mobile and has the freedom to move from region to region, they can move to where the work is.

In the EU, most citizens can move to wherever they want in the EU for work, or for any reason without much restriction. There was talk of restricting citizens from new member states to prevent them all from moving to the higher paying countries. But the funny thing is, the EU did not need to enact barriers to keep people from moving from one country to another, as there are already natural barriers in place.

Take language. almost each country in the EU has it's own language and I can tell you from experience, that your going to have an impossible time finding work if you don't know the language. So if your are getting Greek citizenship, you are not going to find work unless you know Greek. And forget finding work in any of the other EU countries, other than the UK, unless you plan on teaching English for work. Language matters for even trivial work. But that's just for starters. You are not in their 'system.' Not in the banking system. Not in their Social Security system. Unlike the US, you need to get yourself registered each time you move to a new EU Country.

Then there is the fact that you are in another country. You have to learn how things are done there. In the UK, they drive on the other side of the road and you'll have to buy a new car because yours has the steering wheel on the wrong side. They do not use the euro in the UK either. Nor is the Euro used in Sweden and in the new EU member-states. While now a member of one EU country, you are still not a citizen of 26 other EU countries, so you can be excluded from public sector jobs, such as policeman, etc which is a shame since the public sector is normally the biggest employer of EU States.

As for border controls, the UK still has them for internal EU citizens too, but it is a formality. However, in a number of the countries, you will have to obtain a residence permit if your going to stay. And if you just want to move there and you don't have a job, you need to prove that you have enough funds to live without assistance as well as adequate health insurance. This is setup to prevent movement of the poor (most likely from states with poor welfare to those with good welfare programs.) But if can also prevent you from moving to an EU country other than the one you obtained citizenship in.

That's one of the great things about working in the US. Sure, NY is very different from Arizona, and from Alaska, and Hawaii, but I can be confident that all the basics will be the same; The language, the currency, the social security, the tax system and Government.

Eric Hammerle, a Vero Beach resident whose father was born in Germany, said it was easy for him and his 16-year-old son Nick to become German citizens.

They acquired the necessary documents - birth, marriage and death certificates - and took them to the German consulate in Miami.

"The whole process took about 20 minutes," Hammerle said. "They read over the documents, came back and said, 'Congratulations, Germany has two new citizens.' It was a fee of $85." - Palm Beach Post

Great for him. Now he just needs to learn German and move to some part of Germany to be able to look for a job. He is probably limited to the former West Germany since unemployment is very high in the former East Germany half of the country.

I lived in Finland for three years before giving up on the country and moving back to the US. I have recently met with two Americans and an Australian who were here when I left and 'stuck it out'. The Australian had both Finnish Citizenship and could speak Finnish and it still took a couple years to get established here, and it seems she did that by starting her own company. The two Americans did not have the benefit of knowing Finnish where they could work using it. They both were on what I consider shaky ground at the time and one described the situation for a couple years as 'just treading water' as far as work was concerned. But now they are established here. I know of another American living in Germany and he is getting along by tutoring 'Business English.' They will readily admit that they can earn more in the US and pay less taxes. But they do like living here and that is why they stay. Part of me wishes that I stayed, but somehow I reached the end of my rope here and was getting phone calls from the US about working there, so when faced with no opportunities in the EU and opportunity knocking in the US (and lots of student loans coming due and a depressed Euro) I made the decision to move back. Anyone moving to the EU needs to have patience to make the move work. That was something that I was lacking. My friends did manage to make working in the EU work, but they had the benefit of being smart guys who also happened to do their MBA in the country they eventually found work in.

One way to do this is to move back for school. But that probably fits more for your children, then yourself. At any rate this news story should be viewed with great caution. It is not that easy to pick up and move to the EU like moving to another state. Notice that they didn’t interview any Americans who had already moved to Europe.

Note: I have worked in a number of EU countries both as cargo ship crew and shoreside including over three years living in Finland.

With U.S. in slump, dual citizenship in EU countries attracts Americans - PalmBeachPost

Mobility of the Workforce - "Working in the EU" - 29 Oct 05


"Which one do you plan on sinking first?"

As I mentioned in my Maritime Monday post I was going to attend the welcoming ceremony for Sweden's goodwill vessel, the Swedish Tall Ship GÖTHEBORG. While waiting for the ship to arrive, there were all these smaller tall ships parading around the harbor, so I asked a member of the cannon squad who was preparing to give a welcoming salute:
Which one do you plan on sinking first?
Let just say that it took a second to understand that I was making a joke.

I have lots of pictures of the event. I just need to get them organized and compiled in an orderly fashion.


Tuesday, June 10

Suomenlinna Shipyard, Helsinki, Finland

Here are some photos of the old shipyard located on the island fortress of Suomenlinna, off Helsinki, Finland.

This last photo is of a drydock floating gate. It appears that this is for another drydock located elsewhere given the size of it.