Archive for April, 2011

Cradle memoirs (fiction)

April 30, 2011

“Earth is the cradle of mankind”, Tsiolkovsky said; “but no man can stay in his cradle forever.”

On this anniversary of the cradle’s overturning, I would like to say a word or two.

Take the fact we celebrate an anniversary; a fixed number of years. But what are years to us? They were fixed in the cradle; they were the movement of that brightest ball over the blue nursery wall. What we call a year is subtly different: an astrogator’s year of exactly 365.25 days, each of 86,400 seconds. That is a mathematical unit; not an empirical one.

The word itself, anniversary, meant “the turning of a year”, or close enough. The wheel of seasons turned, the wheel of temperature and precipitation; the wheel that was the planet turned round the spoke of the sun; time turned, ever returning to the same place.

Such stagnation is not for us. It is the death of the mind; and the death of the mind is the death of the body.

Time goes forward: it does not loop back, and it does not come to a crashing halt. Time goes forward, forever: so we, too, must go forward with it, unless our cradle be overturned again, and we, too, be lost along with it.

On behalf of us all, I light this small candle in the darkness between stars, in memory of the larger one that illuminated us out of our cradle Earth.

I light this candle to the memory of all those who have gone before, and those lost to that dreadful light; because if we do not have memory, we will fall into legend, myth, superstition, madness, a spiral and a circle… and become children again, and perish.

I light this candle to reveal what is behind us… what choices are to the sides of us… what lies ahead of us.

Wild lands not fit for children, limitless skies, all of time and space.

(Remarks by Inf. G. Zhao of the Colony Third Million, on the occasion of the three thousandth anniversary (astgt.) of Betelgeuse Nova.)

* * *

(From the Autobiography of Cmdr. Ilja Vassalsky, Navy; pub. 52 a post E., 2948 years (astgt.) earlier.)

How do you shield yourself when one half of the sky decides to kill you?

The answer is, you don’t bother shielding yourself; you run for cover, or die. A largish moon, a planet, whether gas or rock, a star: anything will do that is solid enough to stand between you and that awful brilliance for the week the supernova glows. If you step into its light, you will be sterilized into a crisp, so better hide: but mind you, there’s no more than a week’s warning from that first hiccup to the coming of the wavefront. Those are the numbers: you have a week to run for cover; you have to stay there for a week: if you fail in one, you die.

I stayed behind Jupiter with Putan; we were as safe and snug as anyone can be when the end of the world is roaring past a few thousand kilometers away.

All the while, I was most worried about Io. There were three ships — Nikita, Leonid and Yuri — with seven hundred people, hiding behind Io; because of the angle of the nova, just in such a spot they could not get behind Jupiter itself. They were going around Jupiter in Io’s shadow, round us every forty-two hours; and we were sure they could not keep it up. We were so sure their engines would slip; their navigation would slip; Io itself would turn and, aggrieved, spit at them because they were huddled so close to its spiteful surface, trying to stay safe. But they survived, all of them.

Maybe I felt so strongly about Io because I knew they had a chance; because there were only seven hundred of them.

How am I supposed to feel about a planet with ten billion people on it, told that in a week one half of their skies will turn into searing flame, and they have nowhere to run?

That in a week, one half of the planet will feel the touch and wither, irradiated, burned, blasted, boiled into dust… and with each minute after that, the planet will continue its turning, bringing new countries and continents under those lethal skies?

That this will go on for seven rotations of the planet round its axis, so that at the end of it, everything will be dead to the depth of a kilometer, reduced to ash, slag and roiling lifeless mist?

That there were flying machines that stayed up on the dark side for a few days, before running out of fuel, or being caught by the winds from the temporarily cooling inferno below… and then there was nothing.

I thank the stars I was behind Jupiter. Not behind Earth, watching the lights go out, watching every scow attempt orbit and fail… or rise, and then drift towards the ring of light, without the fuel to stand in place. They would struggle, be buffeted by the debris and particles that streamed scoured off the sides of Earth’s face… and they would fly past the limb, and vanish in a scream and a flash of light.

I thank the stars I was not on the Moon as its light side became the dark side, the dusty horizon ringed by a lunar version of that awful light; I thank the stars I did not stand there to look upwards at an Earth bathed in that awful light, dying.

* * *

(From the private memoirs of Yod Vadsinghe, first Secretary of Space post E.; written c. 98 a post E.)

Like Maedhros of old legend, we lost an arm to our shackle, but flew free. Sometimes, when my sleeping hours come, as the lights dim and I look out into the void, there rises a cold, terrible voice from within that whispers: to be free of all our calcified territorial foolishness… nothing less would have done; ours was a good bargain.

Those nights I don’t sleep all that much.

Some days I smile, looking at our children play.

Then one of them turns, sees us few remaining old ones, and gets that querulous look, that unspoken question of why we don’t smile, what oppresses us, what makes us the wrecks we are… and I remember they have no memory of Earth except as history, no concept of its circular reality except as neat stories of a foreign, crazy land.

And then they again see that no reason at all can make an old one sob and shake.

True Finns in action, muezzin imitation edition

April 28, 2011

I trust you remember me mentioning that the idiot party of True Finns (Perussuomalaiset) got 39 seats in the 200-seat parliament a little over a week ago.

It seems very likely I could do a 39-part rogues’ gallery of them; but I won’t. There’s a history of high blood pressure in my family; best to not go courting.

Instead, I present to you one of those thirty-nine: Teuvo Hakkarainen (a he), a fifty-one-year-old sawer or saw-firm-operator from some bleeding heart or burning arsehole of Finland. First term Parliament member; as for what kind of a member, a dick apparently.

Here’s a link to a news bit about him over on Helsingin Sanomat, in Finnish; the two-minute chatty bit’s title is Perussuomalaisten Teuvo Hakkaraiselle kaikki eduskunnassa oli uutta, or “To True Finns’ Teuvo Hakkarainen, everything at the Parliament is new”.

Allow me to translate.

* * *

Teuvo Hakkarainen: In the morning warmed up the sauna around four, went to sauna, then started to drive, phoned a pal a little before Helsinki and he said to turn right at Kirkkokatu street…

Voiceover: Teuvo Hakkarainen, new True Finn MP, is this first day a bit like the first day in school?

TH: Everything’s new and strange, and everything needs to be learned again here… everything’s new!

Some chatty type: Ever had this many people over at the saw mill, heh? Not… not at the same time!

TH: (some quip I can’t make out)

Some chatty type: A bank manager! (laughter)

TH: Ah, I don’t know, I’m used to always doing things, and the work has shown what has gotten done, and now… I just need to try to do what I can.

Interviewer: Is it possible that you’ll be longing for the saw mill anytime soon?

TH: I’m missing it already!

Established political character: So what’s your vocation?

TH: Sawman!

E.P.C.: Sawman? What’s… what does that mean in this connection?

TH: Circular saw business!

E.P.C.: We’re in the same vocation! I worked as one as a schoolboy!

TH: (in his room) It’s that immigration thing… that needs to be gotten in order… needs to be gotten in order, so there won’t be crooks given a living– cavort– a quick turn-back law, quickly! That has to be gotten, because… a pal’s son works at the border, says that a nigger (neekeriukko) shows up, knows just the Finnish word for “asylum”, and that’s one in straight at that. I… I don’t know, but, that’s what it’s like. All kind of Muslims cavorting around, yell and scream, just you wait there’ll be a minaret over there and a guy there screaming (low-key drunken pseudo-muezzin yell), starts at five in the morning, that’ll be nice listening…

* * *

I would so very much like to tell you this is a sick sketch of some description, possibly on the theme of “What if the Parliament really represented the average Joes?”, but no: 3371 legally adult and competent people voted for this character and now he’s in the Parliament.

Ah fiddlesticks.

(The next day (item in Finnish), Hakkarainen comments on the resulting uproar: apparently (a) he’s simple country folks and doesn’t know a thing, (b) so that’s the why if he made a teensy weensy mis-speak in some turn of phrase there somewhere, and (c) mistakes, them’s good for learning! The True Finns bossman, Timo Soini, said this: “An inexperienced new MP spoke out of turn… I hope he won’t do that again.”)

The practical science of verbal abuse?

April 27, 2011

It is well known that the British paper called Daily Mail is engaged in a brave odyssey to classify all matters known to man as either causing or curing cancer.

It is likewise common knowledge, though there is no website to track it, that the great community of Christian communities has a project to decree all acts, from genocide to gay marriage, as both sinful and okay. Not in the same church, because that would be silly; but in some branches of the great Body and Bride of Christ.

Now: there is a third subject that could do with such classifications, clarifications and collations.

If I were to speak of big “melons”, or “warm sea sausage”, or a “Sarlacc’s pit”; if I were to call you a “douchebag” or a “hair shirt puritan”, you would…

Well, you would be puzzled given I made two of those up, but you would assume they were used as circumlocutions or offensive references for something.

Now, take “Sarlacc’s pit”. To me that seems to be an anatomical reference, probably for the asshole, but I could see it used, with an undercurrent of fear, for the female pit in the front parts. “Douchebag” would not benefit from analysis: it is something unpleasant and dirty, but doesn’t really have any meaning beyond that.

I know there are dictionaries, online and offline, where euphemisms (so to say) like this are collected: but is there any study of how their euphemistic meanings overlap? Is there any systematic work done in the field of descriptive or creative fuckistics? If not, that could be mighty useful.

To see this, consider these two problems.

One: It is an unfortunate fact that many euphemisms/dysphemisms have sexist or racist baggage: as a consequence, dropping a term such as “media whore” can cause a firestorm in certain places online. It would be good to have a term that says, in a suitably derogatory manner, “an unprincipled attention-seeker” without tacking to the end of it, “in a manner which is typical of loose women”.

Indeed, what Internet needs is a whole new vocabulary of cursing, demeaning and abuse; “gay” and the like will not do no more. Since the world is not divided into swearing teenage brutes and prissy nice people, but has a third group in between — being the interesting people — that new vocabulary will come, given enough time. Maybe someone could help it along, not with deleting old words (because that is almost certain to backfire), but with encouraging the use of the new.

(Just remember that — if you ask me — going against “foul language” is a futile, destructive little crusade. As long as there are hateful people, there will be hateful words used to describe them. And most people, both the nice ones and the jerks, have plenty of situations where to find someone hateful, and need the release of describing that person as such. And for that use the new words need to be just as potent and visceral as the old; getting rid of gratuitous sexism doesn’t mean being against hard, heated, venomous abuse.)

(I’m all for hard, heated, venomous abuse! The fouler, the better! Let me be your red ears, o world of hurt — the heat sink for your overflow of anger!)

(Ahem. Continuing.)

What I guess is that the new vocabulary of abuse will not be much like the old. In a world where homosexuality is not sinful, and the concept of “sinfulness” daily becomes less meaningful, in a world where sexual promiscuity is not the mortal stain it once was; in a world where epithets based on race, ethnicity and the like are less effective because the old stereotypes are weaker; in a world where “hell” is a place seen in comic books and TV series and not a real town of torment — well, if you take religion, race and sex out of cursing, there’s not much left! And if you remove the offensiveness gained by a comparison to a bad race, of invoking a distasteful sexual act, of waving a middle finger in God’s face, you remove the potency of curse words based on those offenses.

(I’d guess that’s why “hell” and “God” are such mild words today: they don’t have the fear behind them they once had. Or am I painting all of past with the brush of Victorian prissiness?)

Slurs that indicate stupidity may keep (but remember that “retard” and similar ex-medical terms are touchy); and there may be a lot to be mined from “new vices” like selfishness, ecological irresponsibility, and being-fulla-hate. That mining just needs to discover that necessary vein of visceral disgust; cleverness alone is not enough.

Interesting, and colorful, times will be had before our curses are made anew. (Ah, you say, but our contemporary curses are durable and old — to that I say, our morals are new, and different from all those before.)

I nominate “phelps” to be used with the definition “a person of such outrageously offensive and unhinged opinions that they are enough to make him/her a celebrity”. Thus, “Michele Bachmann is such a fucking phelps.”

Two: The problem with invective is, sometimes, that it is so vague. It is fine and probably true to say that Dick Cheney is a douchebag; but that says nothing about the why. Unless we want to aggravate the proponents of “dictionary-douchebaggism”, we’d better leave that term alone: and go looking for some that is just as foul, hurtful and satisfying, and tells the listener which particular reason is, at that moment, considered for the purposes of the word.

Pharyngula, PZ Myers’s domain of atheism and science, and some other Scienceblogs blogs are splendid breeding-grounds and depositories for words like this: a heinously stupid creationist is a “creotard”, and a theist with a listening problem is a “godbotter” (bots are machine spammers). And while “quackery” is an old term for medical cheats, “sCAMmers”, found while writing this post, is news to me.

(Me, I always struggle with “creotard”, because while it is creationist plus retard, it sounds to me like creationist plus leotard, and that’s not an image to have associated with Ken Ham or Ben Stein.)

It would be kind of useful to have a dictionary for these: that way one could say “chickenhawk” instead of “douchebag”, and feel more satisfied, having better (and hopefully just as foully) uttered the emotion asking for utterance. There would be gaps in such a collection, and it would not be easy to magick up new expressions to fill them: but if one knew the gaps, the inspiration might rise quicker. What word of abuse, for example, would malign and describe a person whose ability to judge the merits of claims consists of asking who said them?

These two problems, then, the pressing need for new words of visceral hatred, and the need, sometimes, to express not only hatred but exact hatred, seem to me to point to a need for a semi-scientific research and development project into verbal abuse.

Any takers?

(This all is in no way related to the Scienceblogs-National Geographic amalgamation, and the consequent threat of “aim[ing] for a higher level of debate that is respectful and doesn’t offend in an unjustifiable way”. Yeah right, you prissy douche-clenchers, as if there’d be a way to justify a single “fucktard” to someone using such language.)

A parable-koan for a Sunday

April 24, 2011

As they were coming out of Capernaum, they were met with a donkey that was blocking the road.

Jesus said to the donkey: “Don’t be an ass!”

And the donkey was no more.

Cooking styles of the famous

April 21, 2011

Lovecraft bachelor chow style: “Do not call up, what ye can keep downe.”

Lovecraft ‘Randolph Carter takeout’ technique: “I repeat to you, gentlemen, that your ordering is fruitless. Also no anchovy, and double cheese to the gentleman in yellow.”

Conan original method: “Cooking came Conan, the Cimmerian, flour-faced, sullen-eyed, spatula in hand, a baker, a confectioneer, a pastry chef, with gigantic pies and much beefcake, to tread the raisined batter of the bread under his shovel-like hands…” (from the Nemedian Cookbook)

New Conan flair: “Crush your eggs, see them whisked before you… and hear the bakering of their omelettes!”

The Lucas motivator style: “Cook, I’m your father.”

The Bela Lugosi hint: “Ve do not trink… vine.”

The Pie of the Black Bird: “Quoth the Raven: ‘Spread evenly and bake for 20 minutes in the oven’s middle level.'”

Clark Ashton Smith “The Seven Geases of the Isle of the Torturers” style of meta-cooking: Cooking is an ordeal of recursive difficulties; order a pizza and wait.

(Maybe one tweet would have been enough; but I went and wrote a full post. Oh well.)

Oblivious, definition of

April 19, 2011

Saw this in the news today — Bill Donohue of the Catholic League of Bill Donohue’s Outrage, saying this about Lady Gaga:

She has now morphed into a caricature of herself. She is falling short. She wants to shock, does she actually believe her own BS?

Really.

This from the Donohue that began with the idea that maybe there’s still some lingering Papaphobia in America, and is now straining out a news release every few days, speaking about the “gay death style”, finding it “hard to think of anything more vile than to intentionally desecrate the Body of Christ”, and then going on (say, in the latest discharge) to explain how the Catholic Church is being unfairly persecuted and martyred because only a mere 83% of sexual abuse claims against it are substantiated and true. To quote, “False claimants should be sued for perjury and slander. Not until these ‘victims’ pay a price for their maliciousness will justice be done.”

To repeat, the above indented quote is from Bill Donohue, the man who has opined that Hollywood is a conspiracy run by secular Jews, which is why “Hollywood likes anal sex” and abortions.

Which explains, if nothing else, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Junior II: Fetal Recall.

Amnesia

April 19, 2011

I don’t know how amnesia works.

Suppose you lose your memory; lose your identity; have no idea who you are, where you came from.

Yet you still know a language: you may even know several. That tells something of you. And you don’t just know English (or Finnish): you have a certain vocabulary — you can look at a list of words and define some but not others. That then defines your (self-)education, does it not? Or does the amnesia of a nurse extend to not knowing a spatula from a speculum?

Wouldn’t you still know many meaningful things about the world round you? What’s the capital of Denmark? What does the Statue of Liberty look like? A lot of this knowledge is generic and not very helpful, but it seems to me you could probe, play ping-pong inside your head, and find which areas are more familiar to you than others: what geography? What technology? Which profession? What entertainment? Trace the frame, and you’ll learn something of the missing portrait. It’s not like the you in you is a floating thing that can be taken away without a trace, leaving a fully functional human being.

Possibly this is a problem with how movies and books portray people with amnesia: they are “blank humans”, people that talk normally and know how to order a taxicab and operate a phone, but are missing some “individual part” from within, like a computer with “My Documents” erased but Windows still running. Can it really be that simple? In stories, there will be some magic muscle memory, probably ninja skills or something; but wouldn’t the more interesting memories be those normal ones that still remain? Because it seems to me it would be very curious if there was such a thing as a “blank human”, ready for society but with no indications of personality.

Yet there are people with amnesia, people who don’t remember who they are, but function “normally”; I have no idea how that works.

I think if I ever got amnesia I would, once over the panic, be gleefully going hammer and tongs at what I remembered, and what that implied. Successfully, probably not; but gleefully. (Brings to mind a sci-fi story I read years ago, one where the vogue was a drug that gave you amnesia: the thrill was in rediscovery. I’d tell you who wrote it but… I can’t remember. Ah.)

Election 2011: the movie parallel

April 18, 2011

I’ve been trying to find a way to express how the election victory of the True Finns (who I don’t like) feels like to me: and I’ve come up with this.

Their victory was like a movie.

Let me explain.

Imagine a Hollywood movie. The trope it rides is this: “An unlikely character is elected into a public office”. Could be a backwoods hick running for the presidency; a preschooler nominated for Congress; a pink country unicorn running for the House of Representatives.

In such a movie — set in America, as it is from Hollywood — this upstart will be folksy and streetwise, and ride a sudden, unprecedented, everyone-loves-or-hates-the-hero swell into an exciting close election.

He will not be either a Democrat or a Republican, because one has to think of the feelings of the audience. His program will be one of nice platitudes and rah-rah statements similarly designed to not alienate any significant fraction of the moviegoing public, while still having zazz and pizazz in it! There will be a lot of talk about “making America great again”, probably through some magical small-town grit and work and vague common values that the elites have forgotten.

The other parties will be running insiders, cronies, corrupt rules-lawyers; and they will be baffled by the upstart’s folksy aphorisms and word choices. Expect a scene where three frazzled men in suits consult a dictionary, exclaiming that they can’t find the words in there.

Then the big night — the election! Close calls, last minute high-jinks, and then our upstart wins! Wins big! The enemy is driven out of town, pelted with animal refuse and banana peels! Our hero beams, everyone is happy! The dead rise, the long lost daddy returns, and all is sweetness and light. Close with cheering and high spirits; no sequel.

Now, in Finland, we have the True Finns. They’re not really right-wingers, not really lefties, but draw their supporters and slogans from both. They’re the new guys; they’re been in the Parliament already, but with small numbers, mere 5 out of 200 — now they won 39 of 200, becoming the third-biggest party and three seats away from the biggest. Their leader, Mr. Timo Soini, is a shrewd man with a tendency to come up with all manner of folksy phrases and word choices that are so darn folksy they don’t even actually mean anything.

What scares me here is that this election has been like a Hollywood movie, and no doubt the True Finns see themselves as the heroes of such a “real film” — but reality doesn’t operate by Hollywood rules.

It’s not enough to be the folksy upstart come to clean the stodgy elites away. It would be kind of nice to have some actual experience, too; just being new doesn’t mean you aren’t worse than the plodding old guys.

It’s not enough to make up buzzwords and say you’re going to fix everything. It would be nice to have a realistic plan, too, one that doesn’t involve promising everything and also less taxes.

It’s not enough to be for truth, justice and the Finnish (or American, as may be) way. It would be nice to have a platform that doesn’t sound so ominous, once you think about it — one that doesn’t have all the wrong people cheering. Up with the good old ways! (Down with this artsy multicultural shit!) Finland is a Finnish place, that’s clear! (No to foreign pollution!) All for small-town values! (And if you can’t deal with them, you godless faggot, go to fucking Sweden!) Finnish money for Finnish people! (Not to those starving Africans, or financially desperate Portugal — what, me worry about world economy?) No to Euro-elites and professional political animals! (Yes to isolation and Dunning-Krugerish confidence!) This is a protest vote! (Because any derp is better than the old, as we don’t have no paradise yet!)

And so on.

And above all, unlike in the movies, it’s not enough to win. It’s not enough to stand in the headlines and say “See? The people — they like me! They really like me! The wisdom of the crowds! This is a mandate for any crazy shit I want!” — it’s not enough to smugly smile and think that all will be a cakewalk to paradise now that the election’s won. (Not that — in my barely-amateur opinion — Mr. Soini is that naive; but sweet bleeding arsehole of Christ, the rest of them.)

It would be kind of nice if I could make myself believe those winners don’t expect the credits to roll now, with snapshots of a now inevitable and quick forever bliss, with all the problems and the problematic people just gone away.

Reality doesn’t operate by Hollywood rules. Soon the True Finns and their supporters will be facing the bland realities of parliamentary democracy: and I’m not sure if this means compromises that will disillusion and break them, and marginalize the scary types; or if it will spur them on to some futile, misguided crusade while the important, subtle things go undone. Or maybe they’ll notice that it’s easy to talk big, and act little: that is, it might be the easiest to be like the stodgy opponents in that exciting Hollywood fiction.

(For an editorial not so full of grumbling and foreboding, see Helsingin Sanomat, English version.)

Over on Amazon, an understated “very unpleasant”

April 17, 2011

So: I needed to check the spelling of “speculum” for a blog post; wound then up on Amazon, staring at a review of a Trinity vibrating butt plug — because honestly, how can you not look at the reviews of such items once you realize the reviews must exist — and while staring, I ended up making soft sounds of sympathy-anguish.

This’s the reason:

On my first use, the flanges at the base broke off during intercourse, so the entire thing wound up going inside. My partner tried for an hour to get it out (very unpleasant), but it had gone completely past my sphincter. After waiting three days to try to get it out the old fashioned way (The vibe buzzing the entire time), I finally wound up going to a doctor to get it removed.

I applaud either the honesty or the comedic skill inherent in that review.

Edit: Half an hour later. For some reason I get a warm, fuzzy feeling of hope for mankind, hope for a sensible future, hope for fun and games, just seeing how many people have written polite, cheerful, informative, even updated reviews of butt plugs. Which… uh, don’t ask me to explain how that works.

Election time 2011

April 17, 2011

In Finland, in the parliamentary elections for 2011, the people have spoken.

And largely they have spoken “hurrr durr derp”.

Which is not a Finnish phrase of special profundity, but Internet-speech for serious mental disability.

Seems a full fifth of Finns have voted for the odious pricks of the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset), apparently eager to show the world that the true Finn is as legend has him: a contrarian xenophobe full of distrust of anyone and anything educated, cultured or foreign. (For a fuller despairing screaming rant on the subject, see a previous post.)

The results will be something like this (95% of the votes counted), with the number of seats and the change from 2007 —

  1. Coalition/Kokoomus — 43 seats, down 7
  2. Social Democratic/SDP — 42 seats, down 3
  3. True Finns/PS — 39 seats, up 34 (what the hell, Finland?)
  4. Center/Keskusta — 35 seats, down 16
  5. Left Alliance/Vasemmistoliitto — 15 seats, down 2
  6. Greens/Vihreät — 10 seats, down 5
  7. Swedes/RKP — 9 seats, the same
  8. Christian Democrats/KD — 6 seats, down 1

There are 200 seats in the Parliament (we Finns do with just one, no Senate/House division), all of which are open for election every single time, every four years. The seats are… erm, I should redirect you to Wikipedia, but let me try to explain the d’Hondt method to you.

Finland’s divided into 15 electoral districts. Each sends a fixed number of MPs to Helsinki, the number depending on the population: The district of Helsinki sends 21; the district of Lapland which is a gazillion times bigger but mostly inhabited by moose, sends seven.

In each district, each party may field as many prospective MPs as they want; at times more than they can actually get elected in that district. (I think; am not 100% sure there isn’t an upper limit.) The reason is the way the votes are counted.

Each voter has one vote, and it is cast for a prospective MP of the voter’s own choice. (This is where the derp factor comes in.)

Next, the votes each party got are summed up, and each party’s that prospective who got the most votes is tagged with that number. The next-to-best gets one half of that number, the third one-third, and so on. When each prospective of each party has a tag like this, those with the biggest tags are picked, until there are enough chosen: 21 in Helsinki, 7 in Lapland, and so on.

So if we take three purely imaginary parties, the Pure Shits, the Sad Dicks and the Kacks, and let each field three prospectives in a three-seat district, and get these results:

  • PS: 1000, 500, 400 (sum: 1900)
  • SD: 800, 700, 510 (sum: 2010)
  • Kak: 4000, 2, 1 (sum: 4003)

— then the tags for each prospective, in the same order, will be:

  • PS: 1900, 950, 633
  • SD: 2010, 1005, 670
  • Kak: 4003, 2001, 1334

This then would mean that Kak #1, SD #1 and Kak #2 would be elected. Note that this grossly imbalanced example reveals a funny feature in the system: the second Kack prospective got elected despite getting only two votes! Similarly, the elected SD prospective was not as successful as the top PS prospective: but as SD got more votes overall, it was more successful.

This all makes voting a very delicate business; I don’t really understand all of it, but I admire the mathematics of the mechanism. (It’s either a feature or a bug that the system means the parties profit if the pad their lists with university students, immigrants and other minorities unlike to be elected: the boost in overall votes will help the big guns score better.)

Footnote: Åland is a special district. Also, there can be district-wide alliances, in which two parties merge for the purposes and the duration of this tag-assigning. See Wikipedia.

And now: seems some 40 of those 200 seats will be filled by the True Finns, eager, disunited and scary like a toddler with a detonator. I just hope inexperience will foil them until the lures of politics fracture them.

I’m not altogether certain who gets to be the prospective prime minister, and try forming a cabinet with a majority stout enough to stand on. It will be interesting, I think: with four parties each at slightly below 20%, it would take three of them to effect something stable (I think). (Or two, and a rapacious grab at near every of the small parties.)