Archive for July, 2013

Way Down Yonder

July 27, 2013

Gunfire at the Suntsar Corral — just another day in Baluchistan or the start of something more?

Gunmen attacked a coastguard checkpoint in … the Suntsar area of Gwadar district [Pakistan] early on Saturday.  “Around 24 gunmen armed with rockets and heavy weapons, attacked the checkpost and killed seven coastguard officials,” said provincial home secretary Akbar Hussain Durrani.  Local tribal police official Muhammad Ali confirmed the attack and casualties, and said the identity of the attackers was not immediately known.

Suntsar_20130727

In Baluchistan it could be anybody with a grudge, which means just about everyone. Or someone who didn’t have the EZPass transponder to pass smoothly through the roadside toll gate. Could have been the boys from Bakri, or maybe even Jīwanī.  But probably not anyone from that Godforsaken hellhole Ganz. [Cue the flaming internet trolls:  if you’re gonna bombard Lunghu with angry comments, you’ll have to use a Roman characterset if you want him to actually read your insults and threats.]

Suntsar_map

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Labour Party Conference

July 22, 2013

With due apologies to Thailand’s laws forbidding lèse majesté, Lunghu is fundamentally opposed to the institution of monarchy for several reasons.  The absurd expense of funds on pomp and ceremony is merely one of them.  Furthermore, Lunghu’s Hibernian heritage does not dispose him to view the English or their monarch with particular esteem.  Au contraire.  But since Irish bookmakers are offering odds on the name of William and Kate‘s newborn, and because Lunghu’s had a bit of success in that line  earlier in the year, why not bend a little with the gusty wind of popular opinion?  Here’s Lunghu’s view:

Boy or girl? They’re yearning for a king, but please give those pommy poofs another Queen.  They (usually) last longer, and thus the exchequer has more time to recoup the enormous outlay required for the next coronation ceremony.  However, if the Yoruba gods ignore Lunghu’s plea and permit a male heir to issue forth from Kate’s loins, let him be christened Phillip [33:1] Alexander [8:1] Windsor.  It’s a nod toward that Macedonian bloodline to which all conquerers aspire.  A two-fer named Francis [25:1] is far too pacific and not at all likely.

Corona_2013

Lunghu would prefer a girl.  With a longshot name, to make the bet worthwhile.  Among the punters’ top choices, Lunghu loves the name Charlotte and, at 7:1, so does much of England (apparently).  Only Alexandra [11:4] and Victoria [11:2] have lower odds.  Some of Lunghu’s personal favorites are Phoebe [80:1], Caroline [50:1], and Marina [80:1], but none of those names are destined to be in the cards at the House of Windsor.  The most regal name of all doesn’t even appear on Paddy Power’s list, so the odds must be completely off the charts, but in this case it’s still Lunghu’s unlikely choice:  Olivia.  Too bad she’ll have to endure life as a princess before she can become queen.

 

Annoyed Complaint:

This post was supposed to go up at 10:30 EDT.  Imagine Lunghu’s dismay when he saw it in his WordPress dashboard as a draft at 2125 EDT.  Oh well.

Edict of Nantes

July 7, 2013

Maybe not merely a tragic accident.  There’s always the possibility of sabotage.

Bear in mind that early reports of any exceptional incident are always filled with low-quality information and/or outright disinformation.  Statements from a guy seeking to minimize the inevitable (massive) tort liability have a certain inherent bias, but …

How did this happen?Joseph R. McGonigle [vice-president of marketing for The Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway] asked. “There are many fail-safe modes.  How this happened is just beyond us.”
Security mechanisms [were] in place to prevent anyone from tampering with the [equipment], and the proper checks were done by the conductor before he left the train. No one except him or another employee of the company should have been able to set it in motion.  The locomotive portion of the 73-car train actually detached half a mile outside of Lac Mégantic, but the cars carrying the oil kept on rolling. “It travelled under its own inertia to the center of town.”

Lac_Mega-ntic

Lunghu’s topographical maps of northwest Maine/southeast Quebec are packed away somewhere, but he’s gonna venture a guess that’s it’s downhill all the way from Nantes to Coburn Gore.  That would transform this particular runaway train into a gravity-feed low-tech weapons systems targeted at a spectacularly remote US border outpost.  Sure hope the weekend shifts at CISC and NSA are already sifting through several weeks of celltower metadata to identify persons of interest.

 

Errata & Addenda (update)

  • A superficial review of available cartographic products reveals that 1] the MM&A rail line doesn’t run southward through Coburn Gore but rather east toward Jackman, ME; and 2] the terrain slopes slightly upward halfway from Lac Mégantic to the Canada/US border.  So, to make it to the next station, you’d definitely need the little engine that could.
  • In addition to the understandable media focus on human-interest dimensions of this catastrophe, it’s also gratifying to observe the all-too-predictable ‘spin’ campaign being rolled out by oil industry proponents of the Keystone pipeline and similar projects (safer than rail transport, etc.).  A conspiracy theorist might actually begin to wonder …  ‘what if?’

 

I Am (Two or More) Legends

July 3, 2013

The recent death of writer Richard Matheson (most noted as author of the apocalyptic novel “I Am Legend“) prompted me to muse about legends of another kind.  Living legends (the best kind, believe you me).  My own, specifically.  Because in at least two distinct spheres — the professional and the recreational — it seems I’m a legend.  Of sorts.  Last year I actually heard someone say they’d been told I was a legend in my field, and although I could think of several reasons why that might be so, I wasn’t quite sure which aspects of my oeuvre were in current circulation.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter:  I didn’t burden myself with any particular pressure to live up to such exalted(?) status, because if you’re a legend you don’t need to.  Still, it would be interesting (and possibly informative) to know which constitutive elements of legend were considered most significant, remarkable or fascinating.

This legend thing may run in the family — at least in the male line of the current generation.  My brother is also known as a legend in his line of work, although my sisters are not (yet?).  In my brother’s case, legendary stature was achieved through the traditional American ‘virtues’ of hard work and capital accumulation.  He raced through college to get his undergraduate degree in three years so that he could start making money as soon as possible.  Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, he actually graduated.  Maybe that’s why he’s not (yet?) a billionaire.

I don’t claim to have achieved legendhood through hard work, although sometimes work did seem difficult.  Especially the part that involved getting out of bed and actually showing up at the office … day after day, year after year.  Instead, I attribute my success to the voodoo guardians who adopted me as their special protégé.  It’s much easier to have things go your way when disembodied spiritual entities are taking care of minor obstacles from behind the scenes or passing you warnings and hints on the fringes of dreams.  So sometimes I tell people that it’s not as important whether or not you believe in voodoo as it is that voodoo believes in you.  And when you believe in each other, things progress more smoothly.  Most importantly, attributing my notable achievements (such as they are) to the assistance and collaborative effort of others seems a more suitably modest and humble perspective rather than claiming that everything sprang fully formed from my creative genius, molded into shape by my towering intellectual powers.  Let’s spread the credit around, especially where it’s due.

Oshun

On the other hand, I’m still not entirely sure what to make of how to deal with the other legend that ripples around me.  For more than a year after it began circulating, I was largely unaware of its existence.  Something was noticeably different about the way people were reacting to my presence, but I didn’t understand why.  I finally figured out what was going on when I belatedly remembered a dramatic incident that had started it all …

Since then, I’ve spent a couple of years blundering around in the altered local landscape engendered by my improbable legend.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found any guidebooks that provide helpful suggestions for interacting with this new and evolving environment.  Regardless of whether or not you originally sought legendhood — and perhaps especially if you didn’t — you’re no longer exactly who once you thought you were and so you gotta deal with it, on terms not entirely your own.  When you encounter people aware of the legend in any of its many garbled forms, ordinary everyday human interaction has the potential to be suffused with implicit expectations that some of your heedless behavior may inadvertently confirm or confound.  When you’re not sure who has heard the legend and who hasn’t, who reacts positively to its general outlines and who not, it’s pretty clear how quickly things can become complicated.  It ain’t all sunshine and roses.  But it’s much better than being hated.

After much reflection, I’ve concluded that being a living legend entails/imposes particular ethical responsibilities, which probably vary from case to case depending on the specific characteristics of the legend itself.  I’m still tediously working through some of the more intricate ethical issues, but one thing I’m pretty sure of:  legend or not, try to be nice, try to be kind.  Whenever possible.