Archive for May, 2011

Theology democracy activism

May 30, 2011

God is an enemy of democracy.

Did you vote for God to be the Supreme Ruler of All Reality? I didn’t.

Is a re-election coming along anytime soon? I don’t think so.

Not that that would be much of an election; God’s domain is a one-party state with all its opponents thoroughly (and sometimes literally) demonized. Who do you vote for, when every candidate (literally) worships the same old boss?

Does God listen to us? In the creepy secret-police way, yes, of course; but in the democratic voice-of-the-people way? Not really.

The only situation when a Pope or a Bishop might get a grudging people-pleasing revelation from on high is when God’s realm is tottering on the edge of an open revolt, like Tunisia or Egypt; only then the Popes and Bishops are allowed to admit, with supreme reverence towards their Boss, that mistakes may have been made — though God has always held the new opinion, and it has been atheist moles and provocateurs that are to blame for the excesses — and there will be changes made, in due time, so no need for the people to pay attention. (Down boy! Back to prayer, the opium of the faithful!)

That’s not democracy; that’s just the interplay of tyranny and mob rule.

How about God’s law? Is there any appeal? Shockingly, apparently, no — God’s first court is the Supreme Court, and once it makes a decision, there will be no appeals; no overturned convictions; nothing but the singularly grim punishment of Hell, indiscriminately doled out to all enemies of the regime. Murderers and rapists are thrown into the fire along with ideological opponents like gays and evolutionists, and political opponents like infidels and atheists — their crimes simply to inconvenience or to disagree with the Authority.

The process of law is as uniform as the punishments: there’s no jury in God’s court; certainly no jury of one’s peers. No defense lawyers either. The judgments come from on high, and there is no argument, no deliberation: just a proclamation, and a punishment.

There’s no Bill of Rights, no Declaration of Human Rights in the kingdom of God, no protection from divine autocracy. And if God’s law is amended, the amendments emerge from a total darkness of no oversight or process, with no explanation for their lateness, and no comment save the Orwellian bleating that this is not an amendment: God has always thought this way; it is the people who have been stupidly thinking otherwise. The dignity of the Ruler, the illusion of infallibility, must always be maintained.

There’s no vote for God down here; up there, things are not different. Those that would vote differently are in the Gulag of Hell; those that remain would not dare to vote against God even if they got a chance. (Not that it is entirely a matter of daring — indoctrination works wonders when the Ruler controls all media, and has forever to impress his will on his people.)

As for openness in God’s government… well, who has heard God’s great plan? How’s the schedule coming along — oh right, “no-one knows the day or hour”. Or indeed even the goal. (Unless it is a holocaust of fire and brimstone, an ever receding ideological endgame after which the minuscule problems of this present perfection will be all gone.)

As for the division of executive and legislative power… there is no such thing; God makes his mysterious rules, and effects his mysterious actions, all for his own personal mysterious purposes. God himself says he is all-wise, and has a great plan that excuses all the crimes and injustices — but what dictator hasn’t said that?

As for accountability — well, the Hague really wants to talk to God about such war crimes and crimes against humanity as the firebombing of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God’s role in the Amalekite genocide and the wider Canaanite ethnic cleansing, to say nothing of his use of biological and chemical weapons against Egyptian civilians during the Exodus Incident.

To put it simply: God is a war criminal. He needs to step down. God is an enemy of democracy, plain and simple. He needs to step down and answer for his actions.

Mubarak yesterday, Gaddafi today, God tomorrow!

A thousand years as one day

May 30, 2011

“One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

This verse is usually used by foolish Creationists — but I repeat myself — and other calculators of the apocalypse. But what they use is exactly the wrong part of it: the first.

The explanation of all the problems of Christianity, all the procrastination and delayed parousias, all the disappointments and silences, is contained not in the first, but in the second part: “…and a thousand years [are] as one day”.

Circa 33 AD, Easterish, Jesus was raised back into Heaven. And could you blame the guy for taking a weekend off?

A weekend is two days; that is, two thousand years.

Circa 2033 AD, Easterish, the Heavenly Monday will come, and Jesus will be rested and actually start working again: then faith will literally move mountains, and snake-handlers will have no trouble with getting insurance. And round the Heavenly Coffee-Hour, circa 2155 AD, Jesus will mutter “Bugger this shit, I hate Mondays” — and the end will come.

A Sunday wisdom

May 29, 2011

“Life is like lemons,” the wise woman said.

“To make lemonade with?” the student asked.

“No,” the wise woman said. “To be perverted for nefarious purposes.”

60 Seconds to the Incident

May 29, 2011

A Game for Lonely People

Players: One.

Playtime: One minute.

Laws: The player decides to play. She decides that sixty seconds from that instant an Incident will happen. She observes all round her to see and to foresee with minute attention to detail and the behavior of other people the first hints of the Incident, those first pebbles before the avalanche, that suspicious person with a gun in his pocket, that shady old lady hurrying away having left the bomb behind, that head turned to witness the first volcanic glow, the arcing meteor — she will observe as if the prosecution of Charles Manson depended on her observation; as if the blunt curiosity of the police and the press would soon slaver over her testimony and memory, as if her pride and peace of mind depended on recalling, later, what had passed, what she had seen: she will observe with manic attention every sight, sound, movement and hint of those few seconds before everything goes to hell.

Scoring & End: At the end of the sixty seconds, the player wins.

Variations: Some players may feel the need to scream upon winning.

Bestsellers of the historical novel genre, from a less excited future

May 24, 2011

the Dust at Damascus

“It could have been dust dancing by the roadside that first caught his attention. If so, damn the dust — it was the dust that drew his eyes upwards to see the man he had so eagerly persecuted.”

So begins the tale of Saul of Tarsus, a jaded Pharisee: an enforcer of the High Priests’ will. What he sees is a vision of a man more than a man — and it will be the last thing he sees for a long time.

Enter the parched lands of the ancient Mediterranean, as the mysteriously blinded Saul of Tarsus tries to find out what’s afoot in the teeming godless metropolis of Damascus: Poison? Madness? Heresy? Or a greater calling, serving in the greatest secret society of all: the Holy Cross, led by the enigmatic magician Jesus the Undying, heir to three of the Orient’s greatest wizards?

the Incident at Antioch

“You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”

The words were out of his mouth before he had time to think; worse still, they were not calm and quiet — no, they were a grating yell which silenced the entire table.

And looking at the eyes of Peter the Apostle, Paul the Apostle knew there could be nothing between them ever again but hatred… and bloodshed. And the time for hatred had just passed.

Now it is him alone against the crowd: one apostle against the Twelve — and all the cunning of Saul Paul of Tarsus against the might and inquisition of the First Pope!

Return to the parched lands of the ancient Mediterranean, as Paul of Tarsus tries to hold to his life, his sanity and Jesus’s legacy — only to discover he may only have time for two!

the Pyre at Jerusalem

“I was there. I had no right to be there. I had been driven from the lands of this impious and vexatious people; even for the slightly just among them I had the blood of their leader on my hands, and they had no reason to ever forgive me.”

“But still, the moment my dear friend Josephus’s letter reached me, I dropped all and headed back: for these words I could not ignore, not if life, work and faith screamed in protest.”

The Romans are going to destroy Jerusalem, they were.”

Return yet again to the parched lands of the ancient Mediterranean, as Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, the fallen and risen grandson of Herod the Great, finds himself a stranger in the land he once called home! Jewish Zealots and Peterine Christians alike would gladly kill him; Romans would no doubt do to him as they did to his Lord, Jesus the Undying, the greatest magician of all time.

Is there anything in the burning land of Judea for the man who has burned all his bridges, save anguish and hurt? Anyone to help him, save a mysterious Gnostic girl called Sophia?

Can there be at last true love in Masada’s shadow?

Religious spam from 10 000 BC

May 20, 2011

It is well known that the Book of Ug is infallible. As for the proof of this, behold!

“This book has nothing of falsity in it. If all the jealous Christians and Muslims of the world gathered together to try to make a like of it, they could not do a single dight letter.” —Ug 1:1–2

“Read my lips, for they are soft and beautiful, for they are the lips of Ug: No errors in this book. Nothing but truth.” —Ug 2:3

“Ten out of ten leading dentists say this Book of Ug is without flaws!” —Ug 5:11

“Space unicorns could not forge the Book of Ug. How could men forge it?” —Ug 5:1

“And this Book of Ug is not a book that could be forged by any except Ug; and as Ug did not do that, this book is not forged Q.E.D.” —Ug 4:2–3

Do not ever speak anything but the truth of the Book of Ug!

It is the truth that many manikins made of brightly-colored East German machine tools have led the way to the Book of Ug, backwards in time — for the Book of Ug was the first book written, for it was written by the hand of Ug.

“There are no prophets. There are no gods. There is but the wisest human, Ug, who was the first human, and who wrote the wisest Book, which was the first book. Truly I tell you, not even fire will burn this truth; if ye harnessed mammoths to tear at this truth, the mammoths would strain in vain and die of their exertions and be lifeless, and not a letter of the Book of Ug would be changed.” —Ug 2:14–16

These were not prophets nor gods nor men, but manikins made of brightly-colored East German machine tools leading to the Book of Ug backwards in time, all: Moses and Jesus and Mohammed and Joseph Smith and Sathya Sai Baba and Sai Baibai.

“For will not there come a man, Sai Baibai, of the family of Sri Syadasti Sai Sai Baibai, who will set himself up as a living god? Believe not what he says of himself. He will be an antecursor of Ug, though he denies it. By the vehemence of his denials shall you see the fire he bears for Ug, for he alone of all men has seen the Worm Killzor.” —Ug 5:2–5

They were important b-c EG mt m:s; but do not be misled by lying wicked evil stinky deceivers who say they were something else.

“Never the followers understood, and stumbled astray: for they were not prophets nor gods nor men, but that which Ug sent to point to him, backwards in time.” —Ug 1:3

Do not believe those who say otherwise. Are you going to let a man to define what Ug is?

“It is not for man to speak of Ug; for Ug has spoken of Ug and none else can.” —Ug 2:1

“Those who do not revere the Book of Ug above all books will be eaten by the Worm Killzor!” —Ug 3:2

“The Book of Ug is indestructible!” —Ug 4:5

“The Worm Killzor is the most terrible of worms, and it will eat all those who slight Ug, or his Book, or worship false powers or principalities-to-come.” —Ug 4:4

All the other religions and sciences have their own ideologies… they have proven nothing. Only the Book of Ug remains.

“This Book will always be. All other books will not be, or being will be their unbeing, or their being’s undoing. Only the Book of Ug remains.” —Ug 5:15

“The refutation of the Book of Ug becomes a denial of Ug. And then the Worm Killzor!” —Ug 5:10

“If there be mockers and scoffers, that is according to what Ug has seen. The more mockers and scoffers there are, the righter Ug is! Also, the closer the Worm Killzor.” —Ug 2:10

“And there shall be no flesh of the mammoth to those who reject Ug; for none of them does anything except smear excrement. But that excrement shall be on themselves, in a dramatic reversal! For they do not know who they are, and they do not know Ug.” —Ug 2:9

“For the scoffers, and the mean-minded, and those that I pity for their lack of understanding of an infinitesimal part of the glory of the greatness of Ug: to them I say, there are three Worms beside Killzor, and they are all bigger.” —Ug 4:1

“None speak out against Ug except by jealousy; they are all bought to speak out against Ug. Reckless concocted calumnious false vugar crow-cawings is what they are. None speak out against Ug except by malice, because Ug is the finest human being, for is it not said in the Book of Ug, ‘Ug is the finest human being’?” —Ug 5:7-8

“Ug is the finest human being.” —Ug 5:6

For Ug, every knee shall make bending and every head bowing things! Even mammoths will all bow down to Ug, for space unicorns have bowed down to Ug.

“All men will bow to Ug. All women will bow and come to the bed of Ug. This is righteousness!” —Ug 5:12–13

“Ug is the finest human being; space unicorns bow to Ug and come to the bed of Ug.” —Ug 5:9

“Of all the human beings, there is none like Ug. There is none with the legs and hands and lips of Ug. For Ug was the first human being. This is righteousness!” —Ug 2:6–8

In the Book of Ug, is the greatest most sublime poetry ever written. Behold!

“Ug is of all the greatest! All are led to give praises at Ug! Ug is among the great ones the greatest because surely it is said everyone not that there is Ug’s equal in existence!” —Ug 3:3

“For have you seen any greater than Ug? No! For none has seen any greater than Ug, for there is no such thing.” —Ug 2:5

“Ug is Ug.” —Ug 2:2

“Hear ye! This is told of the Worm Killzor, and it is all.” —Ug 3:1

“As horses are known to be hung and immense, so is Ug. Know this and despair, ye mockers!” —Ug 1:2

No “secular” work nor any holy book can compare to the Book of Ug. Next to the Book of Ug, the Bibles and the Korans and the Books of Baibai are as if the droppings of mammoths, and the expulsions of bats.

“Next to the Book of Ug, other books are puny for they are not hammered on living rock!” —Ug 2:4

“Verily! For next to the Book of Ug, are not all other books and works as if the droppings of plagued mammoths? For next to this book, are not all other books and works as if the expulsions of rabid fruit-bats of the caves of Killzor? Verily they are.” —Ug 2:11–13

See the truth, all ye mockers and scoffers, for ye have not the truth.

“Ye have not the truth, mockers and scoffers!” —Ug 3:4

Monolatry is the future

May 20, 2011

Hmm. Pastors of all kinds will be a tad controversial, these days, if they go on too loudly about “Buddha is Satan’s friend” or anything such: it’s not polite to go on about dem infidels burning in the eternal fires of Hell, at least if you go on with a list of the religions such infidels consist of.

It is not polite to teach religions, either, along the guiding star of “this is another different religion, and this is why they are wrong!”

Finally, neither is it polite for a Christian to go around screaming that Allah doesn’t exist, or Buddha is a scam; it is not good ecumenicism to be too atheistic about other gods and whatever Buddha is.

Couldn’t our modern politeness lead, eventually, to the old pagan model of monolatry: each tribe’s god is their own god, and there is no pretense that any god is a supreme god, or the only existing god? (“Monolatry” meaning “the worship of one (god)” as opposed to “monotheism”, “(the existence of) one god”.)

* * *

“I am a Christian; what this means is I will be uplifted into Heaven, a place of great white cloud and harp music, when I die.”

“What about me?”

“Who do you worship, you uncouth foreigner?”

“Er, the Frog Idol of Ib, formerly, but I’m kind of undecided at the moment. The House of Athe, you might call me.”

“Out of my god’s jurisdiction, then. Better ask the Ibbites about relapsers and walk-outs, if they have an opinion. Or if you want, we could find a place for you, too, if our Heaven sounds nicer than the Calm Marsh.”

“Well, on the other hand according to Ib, croak, every Ibbite gets to the Calm Marsh. Don’t you have this other place, too, for everyone that isn’t a very good Christian?”

“Aw rats, no. That’s outmoded, crude, bad, evil theology; the Pope Joan III upturned it in 2412. There has been a lot of popular misunderstanding about it, but what our, um, ‘Hell’ was actually, was a short-short for ‘whatever fate befalls other people, which is not something we know anything about’. Not the domain of our God, to be meddling with those who do not believe in him; other gods will take care of their own. Now admittedly bad Christians have a spot of trouble post-mortem, but that’s only the temporary admonishment of the Purgatory and it’s not really that bad.”


“What do the Ibbites say about relapsers, by the way?”

“That the Great Stork, whose faces all other gods are, deceives them and swallows their souls whole.”

“What, all those who do not worship the Green Idol? Like, me too?”

“Uh, yes. Sorry about that.”

“Dreadfully intolerant. Why can’t he just let other people believe as they want to?”

Chain fraction: a game for mathematicians

May 19, 2011

People: Two or more teams of two persons each.

Rules: One person in each team is handed a page of mathematical exposition; a page from a journal article, or just a page full of equations. He’s the lecturer; the other, a few meters away, is the author. The lecturer’s mission is to speak out loud the formulas on his paper, while the author writes them down. The errors the author makes are, say, plus five seconds each to the team’s time. (“Wait, what time?”) After the page is done, the roles are reversed.

Goals: The team that does this the quickest wins. Whoever is judging this may deduct time for extraordinary outbursts of rage, or for the utilization of the phrase “What we had in our last paper”.

Note: Why yes, a lot of drink would help. Also, if you’re through, it would be possible though unchivalrous to yell nonsense to disturb the remaining teams. (“Nabla nabla nabla eleven blaagh!”) And the teams could be positioned in some kind of a circular crosshatch pattern not facing each other for added challenge.

As for why I’ve termed this game “chain fraction”, well, this is one:

\displaystyle \frac{6x+1}{3x^2+\frac{x^2-4}{2x+\frac{11}{-5+\ldots}-1}-x^2}

(Note: Haven’t tested this, as it was created mere minutes ago: I and a fellow graduate student noticed that some American professor had put his course of discrete mathematics up as a podcast. As in, mp3 files. What, “next we use Lemma 3 on lines (*) and (***) to get the following —“?)

The Stability of Lysa Arryn

May 18, 2011

Game of Thrones, the HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, is a magnificent, beautiful, dizzyingly complex and gloriously morally ambivalent work.

Which no doubt is why all the comment I can come up with is a joking echo.

So, to episode 5, and the scene where we first see Catelyn’s sister, Lysa Arryn, who has problems.

* * *

The Stability of Lysa Arryncopyrights HBO, GRRM, etc., not me!

My apologies to all.

A universal problem of locomotion (fiction)

May 18, 2011

“We have arrived”, the space alien said.

Seeing there was a mile-wide saucer hanging over my head, whining softly, I did not feel I could disagree.

“Do you come in peace?” I asked.

The alien swirled, like a bright red velvet dress in a transparent dryer full of Jell-O, and despite being the President of Finland, I kind of took a step back.

Then I installed, super fast, some steel in my spine with the thought that though this was an unforeseen circumstance — not only aliens landing, but landing in Helsinki and not on the White House lawn — I had a nation to represent, and a planet too; and I’d be damned if I let the opposition, the Americans, or anyone else say I wasn’t doing my job.

This might be a supermarket parking lot and not the powerhouse lawn, but this was Finland, I was the President, and I was going to give Finland’s best to this thing.

At one elbow, I could see the foreign minister, not taking any steps back; that was the paralysis of terror, or so I hoped.

At the other elbow, the speaker of the Parliament stood, nonchalant and calm in a manner which spoke of medication. He had been having a very nasty bout of flu; given that the alien was swirling in a space suit with the size and the appearance of a washing machine of crystal, I did not see a danger.

“We have come in a space ship”, the alien said. It had a synthetized voice which sounded like a nasal Stephen Hawking.

And it spoke English, of course. Rare the occasions when Finnish foreign policy can be conducted in our own sweet language, perkele.

“Yes”, I said. “But what are your intentions?”

There was a moment of silence; then the alien droned: “What is ‘intentions’?” — the last word a perfect echo of mine.

I heard a ghost of a snigger from behind me; I resolved to get rid of the parliament speaker as soon as I could, no matter the cost, cabinet harmony be damned. I had an accent, but it was out of order for everyone to complain about it all the time.

I fished out a pen and a piece of paper, wrote ‘INTENTIONS’ with big capital letters, and showed it to the alien, fighting a sudden urge to squash it against the glass washer suit, possibly screaming something.

“What is that thing?” the alien said.

Now I definitely heard a snicker.

“That’s how you spell the word.”

“What is ‘spell’?”

“It’s how you write it.”

A bit of silence; used by me to think I had not entered politics for this; used by the alien to swirl, a mass of manta rays and jellyfish in one sheetful lump, red in the faintly yellow Jell-O.

“What is ‘write’?”

With something like terror, or indigestion, I noticed the alien’s glassen suit had no squiggly alien letters on it; nothing but three pictograms incised into the transparent front of it; though ‘picture’ might be less flattering and more accurate than ‘pictogram’. The middle one was a picture of the saucer; the one to the left of it a swirl of curves that resembled the swirling thing inside the suit (though I didn’t know how all such things could not look alike); the one to the right looked like a muffin with horns.

The alien had not used a shuttle, but just floated down, with no beam of light or glow of power; just floated down in defiance to gravity like the ship had floated down into the Finnish airspace, quiet and bereft of any visible propulsion or other means of support. And it struck me that though the ship had plenty of spiky stalactites and stalagmites and sweeping jaw-like crenellated edge decorations (and was a mile wide) none of the cameras pointed at it had, as far as I knew, seen any writing on it. Or any markings at all.

Not that I was going to order any jets to buzz it to look closer; fighter jets and alien saucers are not a combination built for peaceful coexistence.

“Writing is…” I looked around, caught the eye of an astronomer that had been just rushed to the meeting, hairy like a hobo, and as excited as a hamster on speed.

Or the other way round; works that way too.

I hadn’t had time to speak to him, and maybe that was showing; I motioned him forward and hissed, in Finnish: “What the perkele is this clown all about, Esko?”

The astronomer shrugged, or rather concentrated all his jitters into one up-down movement of his shoulders, and addressed the alien in eager English; better than mine I must admit, but not by much. At least my intonation had been grave, ready for history. He sounded more zesty than anyone ought to be in a historic situation like this.

“Writing is”, he said, pointed at the paper I still held, “a way of recording words, sentences, ideas and thoughts. Each symbol represents a particular sound, and these symbols all together represent the word ‘intentions’, which means goals, desires, determinations, resolve, aims, ambitions, purposes, targets —”

Why did he have to say ‘targets’? I did not want this alien to have any targets on this Earth of mine.

“— plans, objectives… which we would like to know, what you have.” He blinked, and waited, as eager as a kid gone to see John Carter of Mars.

I was eager too, though with more gravitas.

After a while the alien swirled itself closer, the suit immobile on the tarmac, but the swirly thing inside flattening itself against it, as if to get a better look at the paper and the word.

“This ‘writing'” — the scientist’s word, echoed perfectly — “is new and exciting. How did you discover this ‘writing’?”

I recalled with rising disgust that I had ordered the National Library to come up with some sufficiently big set of encyclopedias we could give as a gift of goodwill — I recalled that, and wished I had thought to ask for a damn ABC book.

“Look”, I grunted. “What do you mean, coming here in a spaceship and not knowing about writing? How can you have a huge fucking spaceship and not know how to read? What stupid shithole of the galaxy did you come from anyway? Ah—”

That last was my gasp, caused by the scientist, the foreign minister and the blasted speaker all gently touching an appendage of mine, presumably in the case I was about to fling myself at the alien’s cube, screaming and clawing.

I resented that implication. There is a difference between a momentary lapse of words, and actual assault and battery. For one thing, the latter rarely works constructively, even in a tough negotiation like this. Rudeness, on the other hand, tends to speed things up.

The alien, all slow and unconcerned-like, drew back inside its crystal box, and said: “I do not come from the center of the galaxy.”

That much seemed obvious to me.

I shook the hands off me, adjusted my tie, and gave a charming and, as far as anyone could tell, a totally ineffectual smile. “Could we maybe speak to your parents?”

Oh, now the others took a step back. But at least there was no more snickering or grabbing.

After a bit of silence, the scientist took a step forward to stand next to me, and whispered: “You’re not qualified for this!”

I answered, also in Finnish: “Fucking hell I am qualified. I’ve spoken to retard heads of state the world over. This one is the worst, but also oblivious to courtesy. Do not disturb me.”

The alien spoke, in that creepy nasal monotone: “We is I. There is no other. That is the reason aim target I am come to here.”

“Huh?” was the best I could get out; a picture flooded into my mind, through cynicism and not telepathy, a picture of clusters, lines, stacks, looming immense cubes of those alien washer suits up-piled, each with a clueless swirly red thing inside… and I had a sudden dreadful certainty this was going to become one of those embarrassing immigration catfights once again.

I swear if the speaker had sniggered that moment, I would have throttled him to death, giggling and crying.

Happily — well, not really — the alien continued. “My ship, you will repair it.”


I was not representing humanity all that well, I knew. Your stereotypical Finn, maybe, but not the best and brightest of humanity.

“There is…” It hesitated, as much as a machine voice can, and then continued in a mish-mash of voice clips, male and female, young and old, nasal and deep and hesitant and perkily forward: very disturbing and also quite puzzling. “Hi. My. Ship. Has been. having a problem. For a few. Thousands of year! Now. Immediately. red light. Steam. Out of the vents. Do I need. do not want. New parts. All is. Melting. Am I. Hurting the engine. Don’t drive like my brother. We have time for your questions.”

“Huh?” — it was the third time, but if history was going to quote me, it could quote my innermost fucking thoughts.

The astronomer made a small choking sound and muttered, “Was that from Car Talk?

I had no idea what he was talking about; all I knew was talk of red lights and melting was usually very bad. Like, Chernobyl Fukushima bad, and that badness was hanging over my head, a mile wide.

“Do you, uh”, the scientist said, “have problems with your ship?”

“Yes!” the alien said, in a perky female voice, a sound bite of someone with not the slightest idea of a forthcoming quotation by a red thing in a transparent dishwasher-sized cube.

“You should take it to the dealer…” the scientist began, but then stopped, and continued with a maniac grin that made me take a step back and get ready for a run to the hills.

“Why don’t you just park it here, and we’ll take a look. Come back in a thousand years and we’ll tell if we’ve found anything. It could be a real risk to drive that thing around, you know.” A titter, not entirely stable, escaped him. “A wheel might fall off on the highway or something.”

“Good.” The alien was back to its monotone. “I will go out and be back in one thousand years planetary rotations around the central stellar object or thereabouts. Thank you very much.”

And then, with no flash, no sound, it disappeared.

The space ship shuddered, and slid downwards at an angle, slow and unhurried and quite unstoppable, until it touched down massively and flattened a mile of the best woodsland outside Helsinki, taking many a squirrel and fox and the like into a sudden pulpy grave.

The ship’s whine died; I exhaled; and by the sound of it, the speaker fainted and knapped his empty greasy head against the tarmac.

I felt a small surge of relief, of joy actually; and then turned to the scientist.

“What did we just do?”

“I think…”, he said, “I think Finland just got into the interstellar garage repair business. I’d better call the university at Otaniemi and get a few engineers on this.”

“Do you mean”, I said, “there’re jobs in this?”

“Millions and millions”, he said with a small smile.

“Hot diggity!” I cried.

* * *

Writer’s notes:

1) Perkele is a swear on the level of “fucking hell!”, and though originally a Finnic god means the Devil these days.

2) Otaniemi is a place next to Helsinki, the location of a modern cluster of organizational abominations that formerly were the Helsinki University of Technology (TKK, Teknillinen korkeakoulu). That’s where, I assume, one would find highly educated and smart engineers. (It’s a nice place but, applied sciences? Ewww. But enough mathematician’s scorn; no more of that.)

3) Why yes, Car Talk. And John Carter of Mars, probably current in a post-2012 world.

4) Though the bearded astronomer is called Esko, he is not exactly Esko Valtaoja because (a) I have no idea if he has even heard of Car Talk, and (b) that would be shabby of me, calling him “hairy like a hobo” (or a hamster). I’m hairy like a hobo; he is a God of Beard.

5) No, the three political figures are not expies of anyone, though by the President’s dread of immigration wrangles I’d guess he’s not a True Finn, and the Parliament speaker is.