It’s Just Offal

October 8, 2019

Self-penalty in the Year of the Boar is sometimes manifest in mysterious and unexpected ways, as well as in relatively obscure locales:

Ce samedi 5 octobre, un chauffeur de poids lourd meurt, peu avant midi, enseveli sous son chargement de restes de porc de l’abattoir de Kermené, à Saint-Jacut-du-Mené, près de Loudéac (Côtes-d’Armor).

Selon des raisons encore inconnues, l’homme aurait heurté la ridelle de son camion benne en la manipulant, s’effondrant violemment au sol, et tout ou une partie des restes de porc de l’abattoir de Kermené, lui serait tombé dessus.

Malgré l’intervention des pompiers et du Samu, le chauffeur n’a pas survécu. Une autopsie est prévue lundi pour déterminer les causes exactes de son décès.

Lunghu’s free translation:

On Saturday, October 5, a truck driver aged 61 died shortly before noon, buried under his cargo –a load of hog offal [literal translation = ‘pig remains’] from the Kermené slaughterhouse, in Saint-Jacut-du-Mené, near Loudéac (Côtes-d’Armor).  For reasons still unknown, the man appears to have somehow manipulated the side of his dump truck, causing it to suddenly collapse.  Most of load spilled from the truck and fell on him.  Despite the efforts of firefighters and [EMTs], the driver did not survive.  An autopsy is scheduled for Monday to determine the exact cause of his death.

mené mené tekel upharsin    In case you haven’t thought about it, the industrial commerce in ‘pig remains’ provides a vital feedstock admixture for manufacturers of cat and dog food, poultry feed … and perhaps fish farms as well.  Zoos and traveling circuses are another (though smaller) customer base.  If you eat cold cuts or sausages, you’re getting a piece of the action too.  Kanzler Bismark (might have) had something to say about that.

48.2812 N/ 2.4824 E

My heart goes out to les pauvres gilets jaunes who had to clean up this putrid mess on an otherwise tranquil Saturday afternoon in deepest Brittany.


Dyslexic Boar

September 29, 2019

We should always remember that when Tai Sui is casting his gaze upon the seething mass of humanity that has foolishly exceeded the bounds of cosmic propriety, insignificant matters like minor variations in English-language spelling will not deflect the unerring path of his punitive wrath.  And when it comes to offending “against the year,” the Boar is liable to incur self-penalty at any time in 2019, not merely during the Hog Month.  Here’s a brief list of scrambled Hog chitterlings, in alphabetical (dis)order.

  • Arob — vowels aren’t spelled out in written Arabic
  • Abro — prefix is ABN?
  • Bora — double trouble in Îles de la Société
  • Baro — rapidly falling barometer = hurricane approaching
  • Obra — you know who I mean
  • Orba — the ‘Z’ is silent in Greece
  • Raob — No trick-nor-treat for England’s ForMin
  • Roba — Justice denied

family honor is an especially delicate and sensitive matter when a son is involved …

Major General Abdul Aziz al-Fagham, the long-time personal bodyguard of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, was shot dead by an acquaintance while at a private residence in the western city of Jeddah, in what the state broadcaster described as “a personal dispute.” [Police said that] Fagham had a verbal exchange with Mamdouh bin Meshaal Al Ali, a man described as his friend, who then retrieved a firearm from outside [the house], returned and opened fire.


Yesterday’s/today’s new moon means that the Dog Month has only just begun.  Boar self-penalty can be expected to intensify during the course of the next sixty days.



September 27, 2019

Three-score years ago, when Americans could still revel in fading-but-nostalgic memories of a major war our military had actually won, comedic treatment of war’s absurdity was a propaganda staple of the Hollywood media machine.  Films and television series portrayed German soldiers of the World War II era as unimaginative, obedient automatons who goose-stepped through western Europe while commanding (“Kommen sie hier!“), demanding (“Auswiess, bitte!“) … and deriding their (temporarily) captive Anglo-Franco-American foes as “schweinhunden.”  The implicit subtext was that the Rooskies were no different, and that we would beat them, too.  As an indoctrination campaign, it was highly successful in molding the new generation of cannon fodder … until our next set of adversaries turned out to be wily, inscrutable, and mysteriously Asian: Vietnamese (who?!?) that Hollywood had not prepared us to encounter, let alone defeat.

Fast-forward/jump cut to October 2019.  Year of the Hog/Month of the Dog in the Sinosphere.  Schweinhund, in the German language.  That’s right: Lunghu has composed another feng shui allegory and folded it into a blogpost.

This year’s Dog Month is characterized by a Yang Wood [ jiǎ 甲 ] celestial stem above the Dog’s Yang Earth [ 戌 ] terrestrial branch.  Overall, the Boar-Pig-Hog Year has been characterized by yin earth [ 己 ] celestial stem above the Boar’s yin water [ hài 亥 ] terrestrial branch.  If this alignment were to be represented in a crude two-dimensional schematic, it might look something like this diagram:

yin earth and yin water evoke the image of a swamp and stagnant stream.  I’ve previously noted that yin earth above yin water alludes to simultaneous, dynamic processes of obstruction and erosion.  Yang Wood above Yang Earth suggests the contrasting image of a vast mountain forest … or perhaps, with literary license, of “Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane hill is come.”

The Boar Year’s 己 and hài 亥 are a pairing of Chinese words meaning ‘self’ (but derived from a character depicting threads on a loom) with an exclamation of surprise & alarm.  In the English language literary tradition, this combination of these elements might well evoke memories of a famous cautionary quotation: “O, what a tangled web we weave/ when first we practice to deceive.

The Dog Month offers us jiǎ 甲 together with 戌; a word meaning ‘shell’ or ‘carapace’ paired with one composed of the spear radical [ ] and the phonetic, meaning to ‘predict’ or ‘foretell.’  Does this predict that a radical spear will pierce Macbeth’s protective shell?  Difficult to say.  Perhaps.  What does seem relatively clear is that feng shui elements of the Dog Month interact with those of the Boar Year in a complementary manner: Yang Earth (branch) of the Dog Month supports the yin earth (stem) of the Boar Year, while the year’s yin water (branch) nourishes the month’s Yang Wood (stem). These kinds of reciprocal relationships are what the Tao is supposed to be all about: this would seem to augur well for the month of October.

Thus and therefore, let us prepare for the Festival of Nine-Nine (October 7th) in a spirit of harmonious magnaminity.  Whatever else awaits us in the Year of the Boar can be deferred until November, when the Boar’s self-penalty will come into full effect.


August 25, 2019

Superstitious sailors have two paramount rules (among many other lesser ones) that apply to ocean passage-making:

  • Never anticipate the date and time that you’re going to arrive at your destination, and definitely don’t talk about it during the voyage.
  • Never complain about how little wind you’re getting, or how slowly you’re sailing.

Why not?  Because your presumption and hubris will offend (and perhaps enrage) the Ocean God(ess), who will then inevitably show you who’s really in charge.  Too little wind?  Maybe you’d prefer a hurricane!  Planning to paint the town red on Thursday night?  Maybe next week … if at all.  Neptune, Oceanus, Tethys, Yemaya, whoever –you’ll soon be begging for a chance to beg forgiveness.

Here’s why I raise the topic:  as of Sunday evening, Malizia II was sailing on port tack at 43N 61W, making 15+ kts in fresh NE breezes, broad reaching on a course approximately SSW.  About 600 nautical miles crow-flight to New York.  That’s the good news.  Meanwhile, further South, a 40-knot nor’easter gale is heading due North … directly across Cap’n Boris’ track:

424 PM EDT Sun Aug 25 2019
A developing low pressure system is near 37N 63W, East of the Central and North mid Atlantic waters. This low pressure will move North … while strengthening with gale force winds East of New England offshore waters on Monday.

Elsewhere, a low pressure system early [Sunday] afternoon was near 30N 77W which National Hurricane Center predicts has a 70 percent chance to develop into a tropical or subtropical cyclone within the next 48 hours. This system is predicted to track NE over the outer waters of the South and Central mid Atlantic waters Sunday night and Monday, then into the central and North [mid Atlantic] waters by Wednesday night, then passing near or East of Georges Bank Thursday and Thursday night.

What should a prudent mariner do in circumstances like these?  Is his boat fast enough to sprint to the west and outrun Storm Number One as well as Storm Number Two?  Or should he immediately head for a harbor of refuge … like Yarmouth, Nova Scotia?

When your vessel is short on crew and long on passengers, the long and the short of it is that the Acadians will be thrilled and delighted you’ve come to visit.  We’ll see what Cap’n Boris decides to do.

Low Pressure Sails

August 22, 2019

Lo, as has been foretold, Malizia II has temporarily run out of fair winds and is currently(;) bucking the flow of the Gulf Stream’s meandering eastern branch.  Net speed at 42 N 42 W: approximately 2.1 knots as of 1330 UTC 22 Aug 2019.

However, some girls have all the luck, because just over the southwestern horizon, there’s a tantalizing prospect of fresher breezes –Tropical Depression Chantal.  Chantal is centered at 39 N 46 W, and predicted to move slowly on a southeasterly direction over the next few days before she’s absorbed by two vast high pressure systems to her NE and SW.  If Captain Boris can get close enough, the easterly winds (~25 kts) along Chantal’s northern rim might be enough to boost Malizia II westward into the region of southerly/southwesterly winds near 50 W longitude. From there, it’s broad reach sailing and a long bumpy ride across/against the Gulf Stream toward Sandy Hook and New York Harbor.  Without a boost from Chantal, Malizia II could actually end up going backwards: no wind plus contrary current means a slow, slow flow to the east.

But it’s better to be becalmed than carrion.

Latitude Adjustment

August 18, 2019

The Thunberg party are all at sea upon the bounding main, and I’m mildly disappointed that Boris Herrmann opted to take the Azores milkrun route rather than the far-north Viking path to the New World.  But I’m not surprised: there’s a major gale raging north of Scotland and for a while the storm-tossed seas were exceeding 6 meters in height.  When you’re looking at the prospect of a 984-millibar low pressure system, it’s a good idea to go in another direction.

For now, Malizia II is reaping the benefit of 21st-century satellite weather routing: the boat is positioned about 100 miles north of a row of weak low pressure systems strung out along 40 N latitude just north and west of the Azores.  A high pressure system currently centered about 48 N 42 W is providing fresh breezes on the starboard beam, pushing their track on a close reach toward the easterly flows circulating around the chain of low pressure centers to the southwest.  Things look good for the next three days or so: Malizia II may be able to sail downwind on the easterlies in relatively calm seas … as long as as the pattern holds.  Eventually, though, a succession of high pressure systems will head offshore from the North American continent and consolidate around Bermuda: the wind direction will change and its strength may diminish.  Then what?  That’s a question for transatlantic weather tacticians to answer.

Making Greta Gain America

August 1, 2019

This year, the onset of August coincides with the beginning of the Monkey Month.  In North America at least, the seventh new moon falls on July 31, marking the close of the Sheep/Goat Month in the Year of the Boar.  Be warned: the Monkey is a foe of the Boar, so trouble can be expected.  2019’s edition of the Monkey features a Yang Water celestial stem above the Monkey’s Yang Metal earthly branch. In the feng-shui creative/generative cycle of inter-element relationships, this is a relatively positive pairing because metal creates water (via condensation from a humid Chinese atmosphere).  What’s not quite so positive is the double yang stem and branch –we’re in a yin earth year which is now entering its yin phase, as the days become shorter following the summer solstice.  The overall yang energy of the month is out of step with the times.

And then there’s that timeless Monkey-Boar clash/struggle looming over everything…  The source of this long-standing cosmic enmity is lost in the hazy mists of legend, fable, myth and time, but at least part of it can be explained by the fact that these two are located 90 degrees away from each other on the circumference of the Chinese zodiac, and thus always imagine that they see a jealous rival just out of reach.  Whatever.  There’s no love lost between the two, and that’s bad news for the Monkey when it’s the Boar’s year.  The Boar’s element is yin water, while the Monkey’s is Yang Metal.  Water above metal again, but the yin is above and the Yang is below.  A further sign of trouble in a conventionally patriarchal Confucian world.

What kinds of trouble?  Well, Yang Water is the mighty ocean —or perhaps the Great Lakes on various continents.  Yang Metal denotes iron, steel, and their alloy kinfolk such as cobalt, manganese, titanium, nickel, etc.  The negative aspects of ocean water above steel might tend to suggest shipwreck of large ocean-going vessels or … marine disaster affecting deepwater petroleum-production platforms.  A city overwhelmed by tsunami ain’t totally out of the question either.  But maybe it’s just a warning to stay away from the Atlantic City Steel Pier now that Miss America has left town.

Which brings us to Greta Thunberg.

Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg will travel from Britain to the United States in mid-August on the Malizia II, a racing boat fitted with solar panels and underwater turbines that produce electricity onboard.  Thunberg’s transatlantic trip is expected to take about two weeks.  Once she arrives, Thunberg plans to speak at a climate action summit hosted by the United Nations [secretary general] in New York City on Sept. 23.

Some folks like to scoff at the irony of protesting climate change by traveling 3000 miles in a vessel constructed from hydrocarbon byproducts.  Others are probably raising their eyebrows at the fact that the boat’s owner ‘earns’ his living by catering to the whims –and laundering the money– of luxury-loving petro-despots from the Persian Gulf.  Rather than take the low –or high– road, Lunghu is gonna adopt the middle ground of concentrating his attention on the fundamentals: how to get from there to here.

As anyone from John William Norie to Donald M. Street can tell you, sailing from England to New York is not a Point-A-to-Point-B beeline journey. To start with, the most direct Great Circle route (from Land’s End to Nantucket Shoals) is:

  • dead upwind into prevailing westerly winds;
  • against the 3 knot current of the mighty Gulf Stream;
  • directly on the storm track of the many low pressure weather systems that spin out of the New York Bight on their way to Europe.

These are aspects of global climate that haven’t changed in thousands of years –at least, not much.  So if you want to sail from east to west across the North Atlantic, you basically have two options (neither one very good).  The easiest –and thus most popular– route is to sail southward to the west coast of Africa and then ride the easterly tradewinds straight downwind to the Caribbean, westward into the Gulf of Mexico, and then loop north and east past Cuba through the Florida Strait, where you can ride the Gulf Stream up to the Hudson Canyon. There are two big drawbacks to this route:

  • it’s a very indirect, roundabout route and takes a long time;
  • and, in mid-August, it’s directly in the path of every wannabe hurricane leaving West Africa on its way to the Caribbean.

Therefore, not a good idea to Monkey with.  If you want to arrive in New York in time for a late September climate conference (or maybe arrive at all), your only reasonable option is the counter-clockwise, northern, Viking route.  It’s an ancestral journey that Swedes like the Thunbergs should feel comfortable making.  This route steers north of Scotland, the Shetlands and Orkneys, heads northwest toward the Faroe Islands, then west-northwest toward Iceland before curving back to the southwest toward Greenland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Cape Cod and Nantucket.  Vinland voyagers hope to ride the easterly winds that spin off the northern side of those eastbound low pressure systems further south, while avoiding the Gulf Stream’s ‘foul’ current.  But because there’s no such thing as a free launch, the northern route has its own drawbacks:

  • although the daylight hours are long, it’s cold, cloudy and foggy most of the time;
  • the sea is often quite rough, with waves exceeding 5 meters high;
  • random icebergs (Titanic, remember?);
  • the easterly winds are fickle, varying from mild breezes of five to fifteen knots to howling gales of fifty knots or more;
  • an off-track low pressure system too far north can block your course for up to a week.

Thus, because of the fogs and clouds, you can’t rely exclusively on solar power to generate electricity, but a windvane or towed generator might help … as long as the wind holds out.  Feng-shui means wind and water: Greta will be seeing quite a bit of both on her way to New York during the Monkey Month.  I think the experience is likely to give her an entirely new perspective on the deep meaning of global climate.

Khan of Cons

July 23, 2019

This could almost be my new hero.  Remember, I said almost.

One finger plugging his ear against a flood of lies, the other miming a response.

Going Back … Way Back

July 17, 2019

I sometimes wish that I could go back to that broken, crime-infested place my ancestors came from.  It’s a beautiful, endless green meadow sloping down to the beach-fringed sea.  Horses, cattle and sheep graze in the many pastures cleft by ancient roads that meander through the countryside.  There’s one big problem, though: the only jobs in town (and there aren’t many of ’em) are at a big golf course perched on a sandy bluff above the gnawing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.  My distant cousins earn their keep spraying alternate doses of pesticides and fertilizers on the greens and fairways.  Callaways and Titleists are now the only things grazing this carefully manicured grass.

Four hundred years ago or so, settler colonists and absentee landlords imposed their rule –and their religion– at the point of the sword and musket barrel.  The settlers defined their crimes as the law of the land, and ours as treason –punished by hanging or summary execution before the firing squad.  One hundred years ago, at rifle-point, they were driven back to a far corner of the island.  They remain there —por ahora— to this day.  These days, we have a new absentee landlord in our tiny western hamlet: a German immigrant whose ancestor founded his family’s fortune on the unholy trinity of horsemeat, whores and gambling.  Artful dealing ensured that the house always won the poker game.

Have you guessed where I came from?  Do you know where my ancestors were before that?  And before that?  Do you understand why I (probably) won’t go back?


Два капитана II … + V

July 3, 2019

Just barely in under the wire at the very end of the Horse Month, and the news definitely counts as Yang Metal [gēng 庚] above Yang Fire [ 午] … under the Boar’s yin water branch [hài 亥]:

A fire aboard a Russian navy research submersible has killed 14 crew members, the Russian defense ministry has reported.  The crew was poisoned by toxic fumes as the vessel was “taking measurements in Russian territorial waters” on Monday.  President Putin said that of the 14 dead, seven held the rank of captain first class, and two were holders of the Hero of Russia award.  The ministry gave no details about the type of vessel, but Russian media reports say it was [the AS-12 Losharik,] a nuclear mini-submarine used for special operations.  The submarine is now at Severomorsk, the main base of the Russian Northern Fleet.

Here are the feng shui aspects of this tragedy, clearly revealed in the luminous glare of 20-20 hindsight:

  • the Horse month is characterized by a Yang Metal celestial stem and a Yang Fire earthly branch: (ferrous) metal over (blazing) fire.  Fire within/beneath steel structures can be expected (e.g., Philadelphia Energy Solutions).
  • 2019 is a yin earth [jǐ 己] year characterized by the Boar’s yin water [hài 亥] earthly branch.  Yin is cool/cold.  Yin upon yin, cold upon cold. The Arctic Ocean (even in June) is some of the coldest water on earth: the yin-est of yin water.
  • The Severomorsk littoral is located in the north-northwest sector of the Russian Federation.  Exactly the sort of place that Tai Sui is keeping a very close eye on during the Year of the Boar.  Perhaps something he saw from his celestial throne offended the Duke of Heaven’s sense of propriety.

AS-12 Losharik is designated for research, rescue and special military operations and is operated by the Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research, reporting to the military intelligence agency GRU.  The nickname “лошарик” “Losharik” comes from the vessel’s multi-spherical hull construction and was taken from a Russian cartoon character Losharik, a toy horse consisting of small spheres -–the name losharik is a [mashup] of “лошадь” (“loshad“) –horse and “шарик” (“sharik“) –small sphere.


You may have noticed that “Losharik” is also an anagram for the English term “shark oil.”  Just a coincidence, I’m sure.  Just as it’s surely a coincidence that the horse is the emblem of Russian tech giant Yandex, also recently in the news during the Horse Month.  Perhaps it’s worth noting that the Yandex name itself is a punning reference to the yang-yin dyad: the Russian word for “index” is … yindex.  How cool is that!?

Booby-trapped dummy cable tap as a honeypot lure? That would take some imaginatively devious thinking.