Yet again Buys proves he has no clue…

** yawn ** Buys’ media whore inc.

My favourites –
‘…and “hacker” or “leet” talk – a code language commonly used by hackers. ..’
‘…The fact that an extremist Pakistani group is active in South Africa is truly worrying,” said Buys…’

Yeah, Reinhardt, I’m shitting my pants.

Here’s the article:

Political hackers target 73 SA websites

Johannesburg, May 31

In the biggest hacker attack in South Africa since 1 January 2004, hackers – suspected of having
political motives – successfully defaced more than 73 local websites at the weekend.

According to Reinhardt Buys, of IT law firm Buys Inc, even the website hack.co.za, which is famous in
the Internet underground and security community, crashed under a repeated attack, Buys said.

At 12.21am on Sunday, a hacker group referred to as “FBH” hacked into the hack.co.za website. The
home page of the site was defaced with a logo and “hacker” or “leet” talk – a code language commonly used by hackers.

The site was hosted on a Linux platform and an Apache server.

According to Zone-H, a group monitoring world wide hacking activity, “FBH” is an acronym for “Federal Bureau
of Hackers” operating from Pakistan.

On Saturday from about 7.52am, another group called “DIabOlaX” hacked into and defaced 72 South African
websites – the highest daily count since the start of the year.

All the websites ran on a Windows 2000 platform.

The group removed the home page content of the websites and replaced it with a short message in hacker talk
and what seems to be the group’s email address: cr4ck3r@linuxmail.org

“The fact that an extremist Pakistani group is active in South Africa is truly worrying,” said Buys. “FBH
seems to promote a political agenda through hacking and related activities”.

He added: “Lately there has been a visible increase in politically motivated hacks.”

[Sapa]

What Mr Buys doesn’t seem to understand is that the hackers are simply targeting a vulnerable set of websites – chances are they have no idea where South Africa even is, but they have scanned the domain and are therefore able to use those sites for their message. They aren’t “active in South Africa” – they’re active on the Internet. There is no country distinction.

Pesky fourteen-year-old file trader destroys mother’s life.

Today’s atrocities found in my mailbox include the following links, courtesy EFF:

Clear Channel Finds Another Way to Abuse Artists: Patents

And, well, this is just plain sick :

– RIAA Suits Keep Rolling (Over People)

USA Today has a sad snapshot of Tammy Lafky, a single mother
whose 14 year-old daughter downloaded music and who now faces
up to $540,000 in damages from a music industry lawsuit. An
RIAA flak points out that the suits are supposed to teach
people that file sharing is “wrong.” Not that there’s anything
wrong with bankrupting a single mother…right?
http://www.eff.org/cgi/tiny?urlID=200

This article just about proves that RIAA is wrong.

And if you’re looking for a good read, head over to http://www.freeculture.org
and download a copy of “Free Culture” by Lawrence Lessig.

The Espoo Diaries, Volume 5, 2 – 16 May 2004

Previously on The Espoo Diaries:

“…5 people to run a restaurant…”
“…gijima to the seety, not the township, one-time…”
“…atmosphere was festive and the place was packed to the brim…”
“…at least five or six incidents of unnecessary drunken behaviours in
public places…”
“…expecting to see bullets whizzing past…”
“…McDonald’s regular or the McDonald’s supersize, no ice,
flush…”
“…soothing, sultry manner in which certain young Finnish women speak…”
“…the virtues of avoiding afternoon traffic…”
“…a really gorgeous stewardess with a sweet smile to brighten the flight…”

As with all great works of literature, I thought it appropriate to begin
the second act with a poetic narration of the events thus far.

“A South African in the City of Bars,
A place where there is no need for cars,
Will he survive?
Or will he see his arse?”

Ok, maybe we should not go down that road.

The scene is set – the venue: Joburg International, attempt two.
I waved my goodbyes and boarded the lovely South African Airways
Airbus A340-600 for my flight to Frankfurt. Flying in that plane is a
real treat, as far as any long distance flight can be anyway. Here I was
afforded the chance to directly manipulate a computer system that works
within the same parameters as, and possibly is linked to, the aircraft
flight systems. A scary thought – has anyone properly
considered the security aspects involved here? “Ladies and Gentlemen,
this is your captain speaking. Would the passenger in
seat 43C please stop his denial of service attack on the flight computer
so that we may prepare for take off?” In all it was a good flight – I
far prefer the bigger planes – with the only disappointment being that I
timed my watching of a movie perfectly so that the entertainment system
would be switched off for landing right as it was reaching the climax of
the movie. Eish. (Survival Tip: #7 – Plan movie viewing to accomodate a
switch off forty minutes before landing.)

The airports proved quicker and easier this time, obviously due to my
familiarity. This of course excluding the many-houred wait at Frankfurt
Airport itself. I nearly ended up being strip-searched at the European
departures terminal due to my carrying of a dangerous metallic item
throught the metal detector. Yes, my chewing gum wrapped in a silver
foil was going to cause the downfall of the civilised world by the
blatant terrorist act of, well, just imagine where I could stick a
piece of used chewing gum… Nasty! And so the silly, yank-following
Europeans let me through without checking for a bomb in my shoe, or in
my camera, or my laptop, or even asking what the small one-buttoned
device with three LED’s (which scans for wireless networks, but looks
more like a wireless detonator) was. I was ever so glad to feel safe in
the thought that tougher security measures were working well at
eliminating the terrorist threat. (Terror tip #1: Carry chewing gum for
misdirection.)

I arrived in Helsinki for one of the most beautiful, pleasant and warm
weeks that the city has ever known in the month of April. The
temperature was between 20 and 25 C, and it brought forth the revelation
that the miniskirt is heavily in fashion in Europe this season. In just
over a week it seemed as though everything had moved from grey to green
– a lot of green. With all the wetlands and nature-filled areas, the
flat outskirts of Helsinki strongly resemble the US state of Florida –
without the alligators and the “president”.

My first week back turned out to include a first Friday of the month and
so I was afforded the opportunity of attending the 2600 Hacker meeting
in Helsinki, where I made a few contacts and had a bit of tech-speak
with fellow geeks. With Miss Moneypenny missing this entire week – I
think our timing was just out of synch – I ended up back on the streets
alone later that same evening with no idea of where to go. In an odd
twist of fate, I visited “Sling In”, where I actually ran into two of
the guys I had met earlier.

One of the guys in the group turned out to be a Liberian
named Cucu who had lived in Finland for fourteen years. Our common
heritage of “Ma Afrika” forced us to ally in a battle of wits and drinks
against the Europeans. Later that evening, Cucu and myself headed off to
“Helsinki Club” – Helsinki’s trendiest, upmarket night hotspot. Its
apparently the place to be, but I don’t really think its the place for
me to be. Here the Liberian introduced me to some Nigerian connections
(Terror Tip #2) and pretty soon it was really starting to feel like
home. (Theme Tune #5: “Norah Jones – Feels like Home”, played very
faintly above the heavy techno beat of what Moneypenny classifies as
‘poser music’. )

One thing is for sure – South Africans are very highly respected by
other nationalities for the almost “violence-free” transition made to
democracy in our country. Now that’s how to be “Proudly South African” –
sharing knowledge and ideas about your country with foreigners – not
sticking logos on milk bottles and charging for the “privilege” do it.

All in all it was a good evening and I met some interesting locals too,
thanks to of all things 2600.

The rest of the weekend was spent mostly recuperating with little
excitement on offer other than a visit to a flea market where I found on
offer a huge variety of old vinyls, antiques, and more. It was actually
more of a “communal garage sale”, with the emphasis on antiques. I also
found medals and pins, grenades, mortar bombs, weapons, clothing, gas
masks, helmets, field radios and ammunition. (Terror Tip #3 – Hit the
flea market for supplies).

And so another week whizzed by. (Work? What’s that?) Walking in the
streets, it is interesting to see how many people are wearing
headphones, listening to music supplied by some or other electronic
device – usually an mp3 player. I also discovered a third good beer –
‘Karhu’ – pronounced “Car who?”, as in “Dude where’s my car?”.

Its an interesting thing this Finnish language. Take for instance the
word for cigarette lighter. Its “savukkeensytyttimen”, which is the
reason why so many Finns carry matches. Another interesting word is that
of the value “93” which goes “yhdeksankymmentakolme”. I somehow don’t
think “99 bottles of beer on the wall” is sung around these parts. I
have also yet to see a crossword puzzle in a Finnish newspaper.

The weekend of the 14th of May was upon me before I knew it. I had spent
nine weeks living in hotels, with cooked breakfast and restaurant food
every night and visiting various nighttime hotspots at random. Wow. One
of the restaurants which I visited this particular Friday accompanying
Colin, an English guy working for Ariba, and his wife, was ‘Bakers’. The
food was good, but I soon discovered that certain British people are
just way too fussy and picky. I’ll just accept it but I do not
understand. Thereafter I met Olaf and Irina, also members of our team,
and we visited “Torni” the tallest building in Helsinki – 25 floors or
so. The view of the darkening city was magnificent.

Saturday morning began with a jolting ringing sound – a phone call on
the hotel phone. It seemed such a strange and unfamiliar sound in this
world of polyphonic symphonies. At the office the company has their own
cellular base station in the building, so as soon as employees
enter the building their mobile phones switch to the local network and all
outgoing calls are diverted through the base station at no cost to
the employee. Unfortunately us mere contractors do not share this
privilege. No office telephones are therefore required, with the only
fixed-line phones being in the conference rooms.

The offender at the far end of the copper communication wire was Olaf,
or more accurately, on-a-mission-Olaf. The weather was slightly sunny
and a little bit warmer, and Olaf was determined that we should hire
bicycles to roam around the outskirts of the city on. I headed down to
breakfast and before I could ask myself ‘What the hell would I want to
ride a bike in Helsinki for?’ Olaf was there, with a bike in each hand.

We headed out on the streets, me now being a high speed South African
danger to locals. The entire area is well geared towards cyclists,
inline skaters, skateboarders and walkers – specially marked paths
accompany almost every relatively large road, even so much as having
special traffic lights in the city for people on the cycling paths. It
really was an interesting experience, and as it turns out, a very quick
and efficient way of moving around and seeing some of the countryside. I
would have preferred to be on inline skates though. After many
kilometers my legs decided that this really is not such an ‘efficient’
mode of transport, and I headed back to the hotel by a shorter route
than Olaf took. And that is when I discovered the problem with cycling
around Helsinki – although you can move quicker, you can also get
horribly lost a lot quicker.

There I was on the middle of some frikkin island with little wooden huts
all around, not a main road in sight, a bicycle with a seriously
uncomfortable seat under my ass and weather starting to look a bit
rainy.

I was ‘Lost on Lautasaari’.

Fortunately some African survival skills kicked in.
Step one – Pray to the rain gods.
Good, sunshine.
Step two – Find a metal pin and some magnetic rock, rub the rock on the
pin and float the pin on a pool of water to find North. (Ok, I didn’t
really do this…)
Aha, North is opposite of where you think it was…
Step three – Use a magnifying glass to start a fire and set off smoke
signals.
Step four – Be the foreigner, become one with the ignorance, and ask
someone for directions.

No prizes for guessing which steps I took.

I eventually reached the hotel, cursing everything from the inventor of
the bicycle to the inventor of the sunny day. From now on I’d stick to
walking.

Of course this exercise was way too healthy, and there is only one
solution for exercise – beer. Saturday evening required a visit to
‘Kaisla’, a lively pub with a wide selection of beer to sample. Of
course one cannot merely visit one location per night in the city of
bars, and so the next stop we decided on was ‘Bakers’, the restaurant
now nightclub and bar after 11pm. Fortunately for the pub-hoppers, there
was no entrance charge, just a euro or two to look after your jacket.

The rest of evening all blurred into one, with a few distinct moments in
between. For example the blonde girl on the dance floor who seemed to be
tripping on something a bit stronger than Finnish vodka. I also brushed
up on some more Finnish, learning the lyrics to a popular song – ‘Meille
vai teille?’ – ‘Your place or mine?’. I ended the evening with another
pleasant late night stroll the to the hotel, ready to face what turned
out to be a lazy Sunday ahead.

A saying was born early that Sunday morning: “You may be horribly
hungover, but its only the foolish man who skips the hotel breakfast.”

Breakfast was fortunately brightened with a smile from Moneypenny and a
pill from Paramed.

Life in Helsinki is good.

🙂
Shaun.

Next time on The Espoo Diaries…

“…Belge is not just for Belgians…”
“…Karle, what a place…”
“…Mari Koskinen versus Megan Moneypenny…”

The Espoo Diaries, Volume 4, 11 – 24 April 2004

Please note.
Due to election coverage and ‘president’ George W. Bush actually making
a speech to the US nation (his third ever) this edition of Espoo Diaries
will not be broadcast in its regular spot.

Previously on The Espoo Diaries:

“…5 people to run a restaurant…”
“…gijima to the seety, not the township, one-time…”
“…I conducted a “hotel-migration-exercise…”
“…atmosphere was festive and the place was packed to the brim…”
“…the Golden Cap index is based on a truer scale….”
“…attempt to call the two young ladies from the floor below…”
“…at least five or six incidents of unnecessary drunken behaviours in
public places…”
“…expecting to see bullets whizzing past…”

Well it has been a while since the last edition, and there’s loads to
relate, so sit back, grab a beer, a vivid imagination and a blonde, no
wait, if you have a blonde forget about this email – focus on the blonde.

Like a flush of water down a toilet bowl, these are the days of our lives…

Speaking of toilets and flushing, a very interesting observation has
revealed itself at the Radisson Seaside hotel (and in retrospect also
applied at the Scandic Espoo although I never quite got my head wrapped
around it). In the ablution facility one is presented with a choice.
Matrix fans, think blue pill vs. red pill. Or perhaps biltong vs dried
wors, or maybe even in true airline style, beef or chicken? The choice
is this, and it is your choice alone on completion of the necessary
facility usage: big flush or little flush.

A dilemma of enormous magnitude and perhaps somewhat unnecessary in this
world filled with choices, in almost every bathroom there is the option
of the generic McDonald’s regular or the McDonald’s supersize, no ice,
flush. Admirably, it is all about saving water, but I play it safe and
supersize my flushes.

The weekend of the 17th April saw me with a bit of company in the city –
Olaf, one of the other Ariba team members was staying this weekend and
proved a dandy companion in my travels and adventures.

Friday evening included a visit to a small popular Chinese restaurant.
The food was good, the beer was low alcohol, and the chairs and tables
were Chinese size, so it was my turn to feel like a Viking, but all in
all it was a good change. Thereafter we found a bigger, better cinema –
Kinopalatsi – where we watched ‘Valamiehet’ (Runaway
Jury) for a pittance at 10€. The cinema was very big though and spacious
enough to lie in your seat with legs outstretched, pretending you were
flying first class, because this is the closest you’d ever get to it.

Afterwards a crowded Molly Malone’s waylaid our path (this now a second
appearance for me), loads of really drunk Finnish people and a beer or
two later it was back to the hotel to prepare for the weekend ahead.

Saturday morning we missioned off at Olaf’s request, roaming the
suburban areas slightly outside Helsinki in search of some “really nice
place he’d heard of” which never turned up. It was however, interesting
to see numerous sculptures of modern art litter the area going out of
Helsinki. I managed to guide him carefully back to a main street to
catch a bus back to the city. Of course once in the city, the necessary
cosmopolitan atmosphere dictated that we find a coffee shop and do the
‘coffee thing’ ™. The warm atmosphere and the smell of coffee was
accompanied by the soothing, sultry manner in which certain young
Finnish women speak. The rich sound rolls off their tongue like
chocolate coated strawberries provoking your taste sensation, a
soothing, yet unintelligible trickle of playfulness to one’s ear.

It gives true meaning to the Afrikaner-ism – “You can for like to speak
deliciously”.

Olaf also wanted to visit Seurasaari, the open-air museum, but I had
already been there and I remembered seeing a ‘summer house’ on display
when it was snowing at Seurasaari and convinced him that it was not
really worth the effort.

This of course left us with little alternative for that evening’s
activities but to examine the efficient use of alcohol by the Finnish
working class. The venue to be frequented – none other than
Baarikarpanen. Baarikarpanen, who knows what it means (political
insiders seem to indicate a possible translation of “Barfly”), is a
small bar/nightclub on Mikonkatu, opposite the railway station. Miss
Moneypenny had provided me with the necessary intel on this location at
a prior date and this proved correct – the crowd was rather young and
the party only starts after eleven. Of course, with the sun only setting
at about 9 pm at this time of the year, nobody wants to go to a club
with the sun still shining. Except, ummm, well, South African foreigners
it seems. (Theme tune #4: George Michael and Elton John – “Don’t let the
sun go down on me.”)

Helsinki’s reputation as the ‘City of Bars’ was starting to prove its
mettle to my liver. (Survival tip #6: Prohep/Essentiale – import it, cos
I haven’t got a clue what you’d call it here)

On leaving, at about half past one in the morning, I walked back through
the city, seeing at least five queues of fifteen or more people queuing
to enter various clubs and bars. Unbelievable.

Sunday had me pursuing a quick stroll around töölönlahti – the lake in
the center of Helsinki, taking in the sights and sounds of the city and
the young women who jog there on Sunday afternoons. I then smsed the
local cellular service provider’s special ticket number and was able to
purchase my tram ticket using my cellphone, which I then showed to the
driver when boarding the tram. A simple and efficient way of bypassing
the coin carnage.

Later on I was treated to the wonders of hotel TV including South Park,
dubbed into German. (OH- mein Gott. Sie töteten Kenny!) While the German
channel dubs everything into their native language, the norm for the
Finnish channels is to simply place Finnish subtitles on the screen – a
much better option for the English speaker I believe. Even at the cinema
every movie has subtitles, often in both Finnish and Swedish. It is
small wonder then that when you speak to a stranger in English, often
they look at you in a strange manner, almost as if they are waiting for
the white subtitles to appear superimposed below your chin.

Further investigation shows that the PayTV system is running off a
windows application – the ‘your system is running low on virtual memory’
error was a dead giveaway. Of course, it also seems that there are ways
of subverting the pay tv, but we don’t want to break any laws now do we?

I was also ‘lucky’ enough to catch some CNN election coverage, including
ten years of democracy propaganda made available by the ANC. On election
day I actually contemplated hacking the results server where the results
where being published in real time and giving everyone a scare – it was
a lowly windows machine, largely unpatched from all appearances. I
decided that due to my return to Africa the following week it may not be
such a grand idea.

The rest of the week proved largely uneventful, with work taking
priority as the system testing phase kicked off.

On my taxi ride back to Helsinki-Vantaa airport, the driver proved a
good navigator as he told me the virtues of avoiding afternoon traffic
through the use of clever routes and taxi lanes. He also made mention
when asked about accidents, that they had recently had a tragic accident
where thirty young students on a bus to a ski resort collided with a
truck carrying paper rolls which jack-knifed on the ice, killing most of
the passengers on the bus. He also indicated that it was probably the
worst traffic accident ever in Finland, and the only bad one in many
many years.

As we carved our way through suburbia I glanced at a car park outside a
shopping centre and saw, something familiar, something spectacular, but
ultimately something completely wrong. I thought I had seen a “car
guard”, but in fact it was a construction worker with an orange vest…
Hallucinations of home were beginning to set in…

A relatively uneventful flight back to Frankfurt, except for the pilot
who fancied himself as a bit of a cowboy, and little excitement at the
airport found me back on a long-distance flight, crowded in with a bunch
of “Ja bru”‘s, heading for Sunny South Africa.

Fortunately there was a really gorgeous stewardess with a sweet smile to
brighten the flight. (Although it is her job to smile at everyone, the
smile in my direction was a bit more sweet than the rest.) Later that
evening I decided to take some initiative and followed her back to the
flight crew’s quarters at the back of the plane. I had a chat with her
and things were just starting to get interesting when suddenly the plane
shuddered over a turbulent air pocket.

I woke up. Sigh… Terrible thing this economy-class syndrome.

//END OF ACT I. Cast leaves stage.

🙂
Shaun.

Next time on The Espoo Diaries…

“…Miss Moneypenny missing…”
“…from grey to green…”
“…2600 meeting…”
“…the downfall of the civilised world…”

The Espoo Diaries, Volume 3, 29 March – 10 April 2004

Previously on The Espoo Diaries:

“…I was safe on the plane and nobody was gonna stop me now…”
“…Landing in Helsinki was amazing…”
“…that sun is just an evil ploy…”
“…5 people to run a restaurant…”
“…gijima to the seety, not the township, one-time…”
“…the train station in Helsinki had a James Bondy feel to it…”

And now, in full black and white pixelation, FrozenToe Productions is
proud to present the next installment in The Espoo Diaries:
“Espoo Reloaded”. Guest starring, in alphabetical order, Finnish
Blondes, and, ummm, me.

The evening of the 30th of March saw me making a distinct yet profound
step forward in my journey. I conducted a “hotel-migration-exercise”
which included a relocation to The Radisson Seaside Hotel, on the edge
of the city of Helsinki, about 1km from the city center, on the ocean
front. The strangest thing is that there is absolutely no smell of sea
salt in the air. (Then again, there is hardly any sea, just sea ice).
The constant sight of massive cruise liners entering and exiting the
harbour area instills a strong desire to simply board a ship and
disappear into the Finnish shipping lanes. If an update does not arrive
in the near future, you know where to not start looking.

Make no mistake this move came highly recommended and was in no part due
to any sort of incompetence of the previous hotel. Although something
that did help to make me more bitter about parting was the
extraordinarily high telephone call cost which I incurred by phoning
South Africa (the country rated as one with the most expensive telephone
calls in the world) from Finland (the country rated as having the second
most expensive phone calls in the world) from the hotel (something
insanely stupid to do, but who woulda thought?). Let me just summarise
it like this – I could have held off on the phone calls and used the
bucks to buy Peter’s Ferrari when I returned. (Survival tip #3: dna
prepaid cellphone vouchers).

Now that I was actively present in Helsinki by night, a bit of nighttime
investigation was due to take place. I shortcut the tourist traps
immediately by approaching the lovely blonde-haired waitress at the
‘Viola’ restaurant at the Radisson, who I will only mention by the
moniker ‘Miss Moneypenny.’ I would use her real name – ‘Miss
Vyaryustëërinkintumybluääis’ – but it is rather distracting. So I
commissioned Moneypenny to do a discreet background check of all active
nightlife within the Helsinki region, and the results were astounding.

In short, Friday the 2nd saw me in Helsinki, by night (in 2 degree
temperature, mind you). With hair slicked back and dancing shoes
tightened to my feet I crossed the threshold of my hotel room at about
nine pm and entered the bluster of activity in the late-night streets of
Helsinki. If it wasn’t for the darkness and the time on my cellphone one
would be forgiven for assuming it was simply a mid-afternoon in Helsinki
– it was that busy. My first way point proved to be a small fast-food
restaurant for rather bland “kebab” meat (cooked rotisserie style) on a
bed of rice. Fortunately “peri-peri” is a universal language.

On completion of the task in the alloted time, I moved on to find my
next way point, the nightclub known as ‘Lady Moon’. This was done with
relative ease – the bright neon lights outside were but a small
assistance for my excellent direction finding and detective skills.
Things seemed rather quiet at this checkpoint, so I quickly moved to
checkpoint three – the establishment known as “Molly Malone’s” and rated
as one of the top 50 Irish Pubs in Europe.

I know what you’re thinking. I flew thousands of miles to look for a
Scottish Drink at an Irish Pub in Finland. Don’t question it. Accept it.
The atmosphere was festive and the place was packed to the brim. They
even had a poker table inside where some were conducting a spot of
gambling. (The only designated non-smoking section!!)
(Theme tune #3: Anything by U2, played over and over again.)

The evening grew tired rather quickly as the Finnish Beer consumed my
motor skills (and my bank balance). The price of a pint is between 4 and
5€. Nearing the completion of my evening, I drifted slowly to the door,
assisted by two signs providing me with the further necessary means to
ensure successful completion of my mission – WC – ye good olde ‘Water
Closet’, and ‘Ulos’ – Finnish for ‘out’. (Survival Tip #4 and #5)

A grand exit was executed and suddenly, while in the process of closing
my jacket, I transitioned into a slow-motion bullet-time, sound effects
and all. I glanced around, expecting to see bullets whizzing past
through ever-increasing air-ripples, but the only thing whizzing past
was a couple of snowflakes. I found myself in an eerie state of
cold-induced instant soberness.
Disappointing is not strong enough a word.

My return to the hotel was uneventful, but an impressive sight was the
number of young people, often single females, moving through the dark
streets at a late hour without fear or concern.

Saturday saw me venture into the streets of Helsinki by day, visiting
the various department stores to get a feel for the bustling activity in
Helsinki at the weekend. I also roamed through various sights in the
city, most notably visiting the University of Helsinki, the place where
Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux Kernel – the core of the
GNU/Linux operating system – studied. Let us just say that I think I can
understand now his motivation for getting involved in such a mammoth
task – yes, the words “sheer boredom” do come to mind… As it turns
out, the University is a relatively small, four-sided building about
five storeys high. As a patron of a number of South African universities
I have to let the scoreboard slide – South Africa 1, Finland 0.

Other sites encountered on my path included a big old white building –
the Chapel, or something – plastered on each end with an “evil
all-seeing eye” symbol. The Matrix has you. Big Brother is watching. You
know the drill. Pretty creepy. Many large, old-fashioned buildings and
an excursion through giant department store Stockmann later
I headed back to prepare for weekend night two – Saturday evening in the
city.

My chosen destination this evening was to be the nightclub “Nosturi”,
less than half a kilometer from the hotel. As it turned out, a 8€ cover
charge got me in to see three live bands – (can’t remember), Melrose and
Mannhai. They were all pretty good, but somehow they all seemed to sound
the same – they all seem to work off a similar sounding guitar/keyboard
riff, and much of the headline act (Mannhai) seemed to be an attempt
to rip off Guns ‘n Roses and AC/DC. They were very interesting to watch,
and prove that good rock music is alive and well in Finland, although
the best tunes of the evening were the cover versions played. Beer
price: 4€.

The thought of these exceptionally high prices when translated into
rands turned my attention to cost-of-living comparisons, and it is here
that I came to a breakthrough revelation in currency and lifestyle
comparisons. Forget about the ‘Big-Mac’ index. A truly relative
comparison would be what I have dubbed the ‘Golden Cap’ index. Why
Golden Cap? Well, if you look at the top of a beer bottle, what is the
usual colour of the lid holding the playful, bubbly golden-brown liquid
inside?

While the Big Mac Index is based around the international comodity of a
Big Mac burger, and the assumption that almost everyone can afford a
McDonalds burger and everyone has to eat, the Golden Cap index is based
on a truer scale. There is no assumption that everyone can afford a
McDonalds meal – the fact is everyone CAN afford a beer, no matter your
financial state. In essence, this index shows that prices in Finland are
not that expensive, while South Africa is probably just as, if not more
expensive when you look at it relatively. I bought a double Johnny Red
and tried to stop myself from thinking of the
equivalently priced full bottle that lies at home.

Of course, no good evening out in a foreign country can be worthwhile
unless some diplomatic tension is introduced. I had seen a guy earlier
in the evening who was with two good-looking ladies (are there any other
kind here?) and he moved upstairs, next to where I was standing. He
then, with hands full of beer glasses, proceeded to attempt to call the
two young ladies from the floor below. I noticed his struggling
attempts, and being on the way to refill my drink at the bar downstairs,
offered to call them for him. What followed proved to be a bungling
game of cross-cultural misunderstanding and resulted in a mildly upset
Finn who happened to be about twice my size. (Viking would be a most
appropriate word). I quickly left him to ponder the subtle nuances of a
South African accent, while I found another beer, the WC and then the
‘ulos’.

Easter weekend found me pursuing various other sightseeing activities,
including visiting the Sibelius Monument (a bunch of pipes welded
together), an entire church carved out of rock with incredible acoustic
qualities – Temppeliaukion Kirkko, and Suomenlinna, the maritime
fortress just off the coast of Helsinki. Saturday evening saw me brave
the extremely cold night to witness ‘Via Crucis’ – a mock crucifixion
that takes place at Senate Square. Included in this weekend too was what
has to be the highlight of any South African’s visit to Helsinki – a
visit to Johannesbergintie, a small street with a great name.

I’ll end this mail on a poignant note. Alcohol seems to be a problem in
this country, probably more so than in SA. Drinking on the streets is
not forbidden and I have now been witness to at least five or six
incidents of unnecessary drunken behaviours in public places in the
space of this past week, including witnessing a phone being thrown at
the wall, less than two metres away from me, in the hotel restaurant
with blatant disregard for all the other patrons. Fortunately I have not
seen anyone being hurt, but everything is not roses here either.
Obviously I do not want to generalize, and I may have even been a
perpetrator of these same or similar actions at some stage in the past,
but the frequency with which I have borne witness to this is alarming. A
lot of this may have to do with Easter and the public holidays making
things a bit too festive – time will tell. Rest assured, more on my
independent evaluation of underlying problems in Finland will follow.

Happy Easter everyone.

Regards to all,

Shaun.

Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode…

Next time on The Espoo Diaries:
“…purchase my tram ticket using my cellphone…”
“…Miss Moneypenny…”
“…Baarikarpanen, who knows what it means, is a small bar/nightclub on
Mikonkatu…”
“…it was snowing at Seurasaari…”

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