Olli Toivanen's guide to ancient Mongolian history

About me

I am a shallow, self-centered, cynical person of infinite complacency, pessimism and laziness.

Happily this means I can say what I think, and people will think I am joking, and think no ill of me.

That was a joke, of course.

Olli Toivanen, this pale male of the human species, was born in the lucky year 1982 of the Common Era. He grew up in the relatively unknown village of Rautavaara in the relatively unknown realm of Finland, surrounded by a coterie of four relatives: his creators, and two annoying little brothers. The brothers have improved with time.

Some babe

He attended the local schools, and did not notice until the junior high school (ylä-aste in Finnish) that he was good at studying and bad with people. Since he wasn't too smart, he thought these two to be inexorably linked badges of honor.

Since he thus found himself with no inclination or opening for social pleasures, he turned instead to more solitary ways of keeping himself occupied; these were mostly books. He'd learned to read before he was taught; he force-learned English after being told not all of Tolkien had been translated into Finnish. (Pro tip: If you're working with high school English, do not start with The Shaping of Middle-Earth.) Of books, anything went: fantasy (Tolkien, Eddings, Dragonlance), science fiction (Asimov, Clarke, Herbert), oldies (Lovecraft, Howard, Verne), history, travel books, comics (Tintin, Transformers, Marvel, Marsupilami), encyclopedias — anything but actual literature.

He went to the local high school because he felt deep respect and affinity towards its science teacher; this might have been because the said teacher was his dad. After the standard three years, and after considerably better and more social time than in the junior high, he finished with laudatur grades (the highest, yay!) in English and mathematics and with eximias (the second highest, loser!) in German, Swedish, Finnish and Sciences. He'd also gained an affinity for heavy metal music, thanks to various classmates; the first crushes were Nightwish, Hammerfall and Rhapsody; but the first album was Blind Guardian's Nightfall in Middle-Earth, because of obvious synergies re the previous paragraph.

After consulting the ineffable wisdom of his favorite teacher / dad, he decided to go and study mathematics: after all, he was not practical or sensible enough to be trusted with sharp objects or dangerous nuclear substances. (His brothers went into physics, however; go and buy lead shielding while it's still cheap!)

Some blubber-blob

So, moving to a more ancestral ground, he entered the hollowed halls of the University of Joensuu in 2001, and quite early in the September of that year noticed the universal axiom that you never have a TV set handy when you'd want to watch it. After forming some friendships and generally enjoying the study of epsilon-deltas for one semester a particular legal duty called, and he spent the year of 2002 further north, wearing combat fatigues and swearing. It was there that he noticed his lamentophagic nature: the more others complain and suffer, the stronger he becomes. This automatically qualified him for NCO training. Since he was not built for speed (for comfort, maybe?) he left the Finnish Self-Defence Forces a NCO corporal (alikersantti) of the rifle branch, office duties.

Some creep

After 2002, he returned to university circles, finding his handling of them thoroughly disturbed by his military stint. He read, he wrote, he swore and he offered goats to the dark gods of partial differential equations, and after forming some good friendships and wisening up considerably, he graduated as a Master of Science (maisteri) early in the year 2007.

He did not happen to go under the guidance of his father's thesis advisor, Prof. L., because that would have been much too creepy. Besides, reasoned he, the poor man should not be bothered with another Toivanen after a pause of only twenty-some years.

Somewhere in between he found time to write many short stories and one novel, to tutor tens of students into his own twisted image, and to assist and fleece the department by holding interminable sessions of voluntary homework assistance (Finns: kotilaskujen ohjaus), with results that proved the assisted to be either glib, grateful or both. He enjoyed it all.

Some yo-yo

Having been thoroughly indoctrinated by the local student newspaper, he felt that there was no life after university, and promptly became a graduate student. In 2013, he became a Ph.D., and shortly after left… no, not the university, that would be madness; but for the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, in Warsaw; in the words of one local, “It's a perfect place, because it's a university except there are no students.” He knocked about around there for a few years as a post-doc; that the official title was “assistant professor” didn't hurt. He taught at the University of Warsaw, at the economic department, for its English course, about mathematics; it was convoluted.

He went for half a year to Ume&aauml;, Sweden; it was a very cold and dark place, and he really liked it.

He applied to a lot of positions --- Portugal, Germany, Iceland, Sweden, Poland --- and wouldn't have minded any, but in the end came back to Finland. It was easy; just aim at the University of Eastern Finland, and back to Joensuu!

He'd forgotten the new UEF was a combination of the universities of Joensuu and Kuopio, and ended up in Kuopio instead, at the department of applied physics.

Ah, fuck.

The writer would like to extend his three-foot-long steel-tipped apologies for the expletive; it was used solely for humourous effect, and thus a good wipe with a wire brush will probably restore the reader's eyes to their previous unsoiled state.

The applied physicists were good people; those of the teaching side certainly, as he was there to teach math, not to research physics like a pervert. And after a few years, the allure of a more permanent position drew him to the Center for Continuous Learning in the next building over, to coordinate math, physics and computer science for the open university.

Some prick

As for a physical description: He is tall, he is wide, and he is big in the third direction also. He has an insatiable appetite, he had glasses, he still has a goofy way of moving, and at the present a scraggly beard. Actually, one of his main reasons for growing a beard was that he could actually use the word 'scraggly'; again, you got to have goals, right?

And (oh, this is so tedious) on the mental side, he is a scientific freethinking futilistic humorist — that is, he views life as entertainment, death as a joke, and himself as a comma in a pointless but interesting tale, and he intends to keep you laughing as he goes. He values beauty, clarity and truth, and has many other excellent qualities which a faint sense of decorum (and an inability to lie smoothly) prevents the narrator from listing here.

Those that wish, on the basis of the preceding, to donate him large sums of money or Iron Maiden records, may write to wishful dot thinking at sigh dot fi.

Finally, he considers the high points of his life so far as being: swimming in a flooded underground sauna when a child, reading Tolkien (strangly, again in a sauna, though unheated) when slightly older, discovering heavy metal by the way of the excellent Blind Guardian while in high school, getting a nosebleed during the high school final exams (ylioppilaskirjoitukset) and causing the exam-evaluator probable distress, writing a shortish but finished novel-length humor piece when 24, finally, showing up to receive a good-boy M.Sc. award somethat underdressed only to notice that he was the only one of some ten award-receivers to actually be present, visiting Malbork Castle, being given a mug and some cookies by his students after a course (and unconnected to grading), and generally being himself.

That's who, but what are you?

I am a person more active inside my head than outside it. If you so will to know, I am all of these —

I am a science-minded fellow; Hilbert said wir müssen wissen, wir werden wissen (We must know, we will know); and I'm willing to sign in under that slogan, even understanding Gödel and the philosophical provisionality of all scientific understanding. I like social sciences and the humanities just as much as the natural sciences; I just don't understand them as much. It is always better to know and to understand, even if it hurts; what can be destroy by understanding should be. (Other slogans available at request.) I inhale trivia like candy: lost flight recorders, UFO stories, other weird lies and mistakes, true crime; nothing is too trivial if it interests me.

I am humor-minded, too; I can laugh at anything and usually do. Some people think there are Serious and Important things that must not be taken lightly; I don't like those people. Lacking a wide, tough sense of humor is a serious failing in a person; failing to see the world as a place whose tragedy and drama is always tinged at least with the absurd and the ludicrous is to… wait, pomposity alert, abort! Anyway, the world will make you either laugh or cry. I prefer the first.

But, however, there's a time and a place for everything, and especially for necrophilia jokes. One must be mindful of not using humor as a tool of hurt and oppression. “Haw haw! I have mentioned a hurtful stereotype and this is hilarious to all of us who are not in this disadvantaged group!” — it doesn't matter if this is about race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, body type, dangly bits, nationality, hobby or whatever, there are endless always not funny jokes which basically reduce to slapping someone in the face and laughing. A lot of the people who don't find a joke funny are usually sour morons; but some have very good reasons and disregarding them makes the joker the sour moron and worse. One has to have sensitivity and finesse; the funnier your joke is, the more you can get away with, and there are some subjects and situations where it is too difficult to be funny enough.

I am, I think, a skeptically minded person, too. Which means that if you have something you wish to be taken as true, good intentions and firm personal convictions don't count; either show some evidence, or shut up.

Now there are levels in skepticism, levels of just what one is willing to be skeptical about; I'm there in the pretty demanding end. Of ghosts, homeopathy, God and love exactly four are acceptable targets for skeptical inquiry, and exactly one has been proven to be a real thing. That's love — it's a biochemical state whose existence is ludicrously easy to show: just give me a newly married couple, a lot of wires and electrodes, and a doctor with no ethics and a skull drill. Love is a part of the material process which is the human mind, a thing all inside a cranium. Love feels nice, isn't yet all understood and is of great value and immense personal goodness, one of the things which make life worth living, but that's no excuse for making some kind of a mystical thing of it. The other three above are bunkum; either shown to not work, or not shown to work. Their proponents have had the time; until they come up with better, which I don't think they will, I gladly moon them whenever Irespectfully ignore them.

I like mathematics; that's what I know the most about. Some days I love math; other days I'd throttle Gottfried Leibniz could I get my hands round his scrawny chicken neck. The problem with mathematics is that it is beautiful, and yet so fscking difficult to understand at times; elegant, and willing to be understood, yet not prone to giving too many hints or warnings. Some people had stormy romances. I had maths. It's enough of a moody French lover for anyone with the taste.

Politically I am disgruntled. I am, I guess, a leftie; I at least am less horrified by what the left says than by what the right does. Whatever I am, I am not a conservative or a nationalist of any kind; those people tend to be not nice, and can be very much not nice. Neither am I a libertarian; though I guess I am a liberal. I'm all for secularism, equality, feminism, blasphemy, nudity and wild sex out on the streets. (Er, I mean all for allowing that, not requiring it. Finnish winters are cold, you know.)

My political ideal is the good old “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” — but I'm not an anarchist (I think); just willing to allow everything which does not infringe on the same right of others. In other words, do-what-thou-wilt-see-footnote.

(Also note this is a commandment that focuses on individuals — I don't think communities, cultures or other intangibles should have any rights. Injuring a man is a crime; injuring God, public morals or the spirit of a nation aren't harmful to anyone. Basically, if someone wants to wipe his arse on the flag on public TV, I have nothing against it. Things that ain't real people don't have no human rights. Neither do fetii or dead people, if you ask me. People usually don't.)

I want a state that takes care of people, pays their schools, misfortunes and medicine, but does not rule them; essentially I want the state to be an eunuch nanny. (Or Sweden; that works too. I hear Sweden's nice.)