Category Archives: Anttirant

Reclaiming ‘Nerd’

Man, it’s good to be a nerd these days.

I recently had one of my pseudophilosophical meditation moments and came to think how hard it would be to have to hide or downplay a part of your personality continuously. In particular, I’ve been intrigued by the people I know who still feel the need to avoid talking about their more nerdy pastimes in order to avoid ridicule, or at least in order to believe being able to avoid ridicule.

I don’t think nerd is an all-encompassing term. It can be used to characterize a certain amount of interests, hobbies and attitudes towards things, but I fail to see how, in its present usage, it could ever include all the traditional negative meanings the word supposedly implies. I like to use nerd as a quick description of myself, and then later elaborate on as to what about me actually fits within that definition. Nerd is so loosely used nowadays that it really doesn’t mean much on its own. To some, simply knowing what a motherboard is will be proof of nerdhood, while others will require you to have been a part of the cabal and have glasses repaired with duct tape.

Personally, I’ve been extremely lucky throughout my life to always have found friends that shared some of the same hobbies and passions as I did. I was never bullied at school, and was never a recluse or even anti-social despite being a weirdo. Disclaimer: I don’t think weirdo has a negative connotation either. Partly because nobody has ever, to my knowledge, stamped the term nerd on me as a viciously negative label, to this day I utterly fail to connect it to the pool of detrimental personal traits. Again, I have been extremely lucky in this respect.

It really happens

Even as a kid, I clearly identified the things I enjoyed, and those I didn’t. Through sheer coincidence, I always received enough support around me to be able to relish my hobbies without being afraid of people not liking me. Or being able to effectively ignore those who did. Granted, I always did other things to complement the nerdy stuff. I’ve always liked sports, and immensely enjoyed football, basketball, floorball and every other team sport we played at school. This allowed me to avoid being profiled as something or other and let me fully enjoy all aspects of whatever struck my fancy.

During the France years, I don’t remember anyone ever ridiculing me over playing video games or studying, which is what I did most of the time. I liked those things, and everyone else seemed to readily accept that fact. Back in Finland in ’98, one of the first things I noticed at school were how getting good grades could get you criticized and badmouthed. This felt weird at the time; the experience at my school in France had been abundantly different. Either the shift was culture-related, an extension of Finnish jealousy, or the same thing would have happened wherever I had been at that age. “Someone is better at school, let’s make him feel uncomfortable.” That sentence did not specifically apply to me.

In the last years of primary school in Finland, I managed to gather a group of friends around me who generally enjoyed the same things as I did, something which allowed, among other things, for my general nerdy nature to flourish. We created a self-sustaining circle of people large enough to support each others’ non-conventional hobbies and shield us from the criticism of others – or at least make it less poignant. I was properly shielded. As long as there were other people who accepted what I did and liked to do, life was relatively easy.

Joona and I attended a couple of Java programming courses at the university of Helsinki at ages 14 and 15, respectively. Despite being called boy geniuses by a friend’s dad, the boy couldn’t keep up with the genius. While Joona attentively listened during lectures and passed both courses with the highest grades, I mostly slept in my seat, wrote down funny quotes from the lecturer and failed both classes. I’m pretty sure not everybody at school was pleased with us leaving two times a week during normal classes to go to the university, but I was absolutely oblivious to whatever comments may have floated around behind our backs. Sometimes it pays off to be socially as blind as a bat.

© Penny Arcade

My life in this fluffy duffy Turingian world of charm continued well beyond the age where I was old and confident enough to stand by my beliefs and fields of interest no matter what other people around thought about them. In high school, during military service or at the university, it has come as a surprise to nobody that I’m a nerd. It’s not something I shove down people’s throats, but I’m not trying to hide it either. Why? Because I’m proud of it! I have things I like, and I like liking them. Either deal with it or don’t deal with me. If someone thinks less of me because I like computers, video games and comics, they either need to be educated slightly on the issues or, if that fails, they can fuck off for all I care.

My closest group of friends still comprises mainly of the people I got to know during my primary school years. The sense of security and acceptance derived from such a close-knit group of friends allows for a very strong sense of self-esteem – even bordering on arrogance in certain situations.

As an interesting anecdote, we got a reminder a couple of years ago of how some people, especially those young and confused enough to still look for their place in society, have a tendency to interpret the word nerd as an insult.

It was probably 2008. We were playing Mölkkygolf, a Big Bang Theory-like but purely Finnish sport, in a public park, during a warm summer night. When I say night I positively mean night, not evening. After a while, a cohort of drunken teenage mutant ninja turtles girls strolled past us. While most of them were wary and preferred to keep their distance to a gang of older weirdoes who were throwing wooden blocks towards other wooden blocks in the dark, one girl was intrigued by the admittedly crazy looking game. Whether this interest was genuine or purely alcohol-induced is hard to tell. Actually it’s not hard to tell at all. The latter. Concerning the obvious questions as to what the hell we were doing in a park at this time of the night without copious amounts of alcohol (we only had a few beers), our immediate answer was that “we’re nerds, it’s what we do”. Since that one girl wanted to try the game, we quickly explained her the rules, the basics of which she never properly grasped, and thus she partook in our Mölkkygolf match for a few rounds until eventually growing tired of it.

Upon leaving with her merry friends, she shouted back in our direction: “You’re not nerds! You’re actually really nice guys!”, as though those two things were mutually exclusive.

Without a second of reflection, I retorted – and I wasn’t the only one: “Of course we’re nerds!”

Befuddled, she quipped with one last fading cry from the distance: “What!? So you want to be nerds!?”

Yes. Yes we do. That’s who we are, and we like it that way.


Not Fasth Enough

This spring has been a good spring for Finland, and me, when it comes to ice hockey. Naturally, I’ve also experienced the frustration of being on the other side of the world when all the good things have happened. Last night, the Finnish ice hockey team won the IIHF World Championship for only the second time ever, after losing finals in six different championship tournaments (Olympics and World Cup included) between 1995, year of the last championship, and 2011. In late April, HIFK, the only group of burly men I’ve ever called myself a fan of, won the Finnish championship after a 12-year drought. You had to be there. I fucking wasn’t. And as an additional bonus that only I give two shits about, we will get at least one Finn as a Stanley Cup champion in June. Sounds like a moderately good hockey year for Finland. But let’s get back to the IIHF World Championship.

After a very satisfying win over the Swedes in the final, the country erupted. A score of 6-1 helped right all wrongs that our Western neighbor had inflicted upon us in the rink during the years, and people partied all over Finland until dawn. This shows how much unparalleled joy was drawn from winning, and serves as a premise to the following rant.

Äbäwäbä näin kolmelta aamuyöstä

What really grinds my gears is that some people feel an obligation to criticize the significance of the game, of the tournament, and of the victory. They somehow feel it is important to analyze ice hockey from an international perspective, and point out how this actually means nothing and everybody should calm down and go to sleep.

It’s true that ice hockey is a relatively insignificant sport internationally. Less than a dozen countries realistically compete for the championship, which, to trivialize it even further, is held every single year. In addition to this, the best players in the world have often little interest or possibility to join the tournament. The NHL playoffs are still ongoing, with arguably the best teams and players still competing in North America. Even players whose teams never made the playoff phase are either injured or find it very difficult to find motivation to play in a yearly tournament after playing a season just short of 100 games (pre-season included). Even Teemu Selänne has stated that the reasons given when opting out of national team duty are often just excuses. These are the facts. I don’t argue against facts. I argue against idiots.

Some besserwissers, often Finnish football fans, feel the need to point out how, objectively, we should not give a fuck about the IIHF World Championship. “Why do Finns get so excited about a sport that only a few countries play?” “Stop the hype, the tournament is worthless!” “There are so many sports that we neglect and instead concentrate on stuff that nobody else in the world cares about, like ice hockey, ski jumping and javelin throw!” I remember my basketball coach 15 years ago telling me that there are more registered ballers in Spain than there are hockey players in the world. He made the statement to prove a point about basketball being meaningful, whereas hockey supposedly wasn’t. I disagree.

What's not to like? © Mika Ranta / Helsingin Sanomat

Choo choo, here comes the clue train, last stop is you

Sports are not something that people can forcibly try to enjoy just because they’re internationally popular. Might as well tell a Finn not to enjoy salmiakki (or even better, Salmiakkikossu) because nobody else in the world does either. Countries and cultures have their own traditions, games they’ve played for decades or centuries and that the locals happen to be interested in, no matter how much they are bashed on the head with ridiculous slogans to the contrary.

Should all countries strive to only play and follow the internationally important activities, like football? And how do you measure importance, anyway? By prominence per country times amount of countries? By the amount of money circulating in the major leagues? By the amount of registered players worldwide? I bet cricket and ping pong would score pretty high on the latter. I haven’t really heard anyone complain how Finns don’t concentrate more on cricket.

And let’s suppose all governments made an effort to promote sports directly relative to their worldwide notoriety. Smallish, nationally and culturally relevant but internationally obscure sports (sumo anyone?) would slowly fade, and in the end we would be left with football & pals. How exactly would this achieve anything positive?

In general, I hate the widespread football vs. ice hockey mentality going on in Finland. Unlike some, I fail to see it as a zero-sum game. Why would enjoying ice hockey somehow be detrimental to football? Football is big, but we suck at it. Ice hockey is small, but we’re good at it. Personally, I like both games. Promoting football in Finland is certainly something I’d like to see increase. However, the key to that certainly is not to cry a river over everything ice hockey.

History will be made. © Yle

I know the world is global and international, but ignoring all locality in a field such as sports is beyond ludicrous. Finns are often internally accused of trying to suck up to other, larger countries and constantly wondering how others see us. Isn’t downplaying the importance of ice hockey, to us a nation, just an extension of this sycophancy? “Let’s play what everybody else plays, then people will respect us!” How about we just keep on playing a game that others don’t care about and be proud of it. Never mind the tournament, never mind the players, in 2011 our team won!

People get emotionally involved in sports even though they’re not actually responsible for any of the events that unfold on the field. The first purpose when following sports is to draw enjoyment from something that other people achieve. Rational thinking is thrown out of the window anyway. Why should we, as a nation, feel guilty about getting excited over a world fucking championship? Oh, wrong sport. And wrong championship. And too excited. Who the fuck decides these things? Despite all its shortcomings as a sports event, winning the IIHF World Championship Tournament is not entirely without merit, and even if it were, the only thing that matters is that people care about it. Watching sports, getting excited by sports and celebrating when your team wins is not a novel concept. If you can’t accept that, just pull a hood over your head and flee to the mountains.


The author is a dead sea monkey and ice hockey enthusiast

La complainte de l’heure de pointe

Cycling produces so many stories daily that it would kill me to report them all, but what happened on Thursday alone caused me to generate enough bile to be worth mentioning. It appears that unified regional elections are coming up in Japan, something which can no longer be ignored anywhere when traveling around. This is due to the fact that Japanese live in a world torn in two: In the world of balance nobody says a thing, and in the world of ruin all communication consists of yells and grunts. The vans that drive around the city with loudspeakers repeating the name of their supported political candidate forever are part of the fucking world of ruin.

My day started on a really bad note when I got stuck in traffic behind a slow-driving bullshit-spouting van just before arriving at work. I know that after what happened in Finland a week ago it’s just a pot and kettle issue but is there seriously any merit in campaigning by only raising awareness of a candidate’s name? Especially when the method raises irritation levels accordingly. “Ooh, a name! Sounds great! I’ll vote for that name!”

The part that completely destroyed me and almost made me fall of my bike was when I ran into three campaign assistants in my neighborhood later in the evening. Again, their sole purpose was to wave, smile, and repeat the name of their candidate in keigo while riding bikes. Only, this time, there was nobody out to hear them, which made into a spectacular performance in futility.


I have alluded before to the fact that cyclists are essentially above the law in Japan, not entirely unlike Steven Seagal is in his movies. Traffic lights don’t apply to cyclists, and neither do car lanes. The pavement is essentially a no man’s land where survival of the fittest is the reigning life philosophy. While I take advantage of these characteristics all the time, I do take great pride in seeing where I’m going. I can’t stress how important this is. Many a day have I had the urge to yell at people unable to leave their goddamn mobile phones alone while cycling and who consequently swirl wildly in every direction.

Today, there was a different type of retard who just suddenly swerved from the pavement to the car lane without looking and almost run into me. The guy didn’t bother turning his head to see if there was someone coming from behind and, in addition, he had noise-cancelling earphones on. What the fuck? There are two senses needed to know what happens around you when riding a bike, vision and hearing. If you can’t bother using the former and just arbitrarily cancel the other, I am required, by law, to run you over. Why do people have to behave like tools?

Luckily, one cyclist managed to provide me with entertainment as well. As I was cycling home from my weekly Muteppou ramen dinner, I was overtaken by a policeman who was hauling ass on his bike. It was dark so obviously no front light – which is required by law – was needed. Clearly this wasn’t standard procedure, as only seconds later he burst into ongoing traffic and ran through a red light just to prove my earlier point. What I realized two minutes later was that he had caught up with a car and was reprimanding the driver about something or other. It didn’t really occur to me to pull over and ask for details.

Let’s recapitulate: He drove at the maximum speed his legs allowed with no protection or lights while breaking every imaginable traffic law within the time span, only to catch up with someone who had presumably committed a minor infraction. That’s either an incredible expression of diligence or a ridiculous attempt to exert authority. I’ll never know which, but in any case I couldn’t contain my laughter for a good while afterwards.

Update: JapanProbe also posted an article that proves I’m not alone with my opinion on the campaigning methods of Japanese politicians. One of the finest examples of drunken gaijin behavior.