Airport Security and its Misadventures

A tragi-comedy of greek proportions seems to have played out at Bratislava airport this Wednesday:

In what no doubt seemed like a good idea at the time, Slovak officials decided to test airport security in Slovakia on Saturday by concealing plastic explosives in eight suitcases and waiting to see what happened next.

Here’s what happened next: airport security workers intercepted seven of the suitcases but failed to detect 96 grams of the plastic explosive RDX loaded into one bag, which belonged to a Slovak electrician who lives in Ireland and had no idea his luggage had been tampered with. The man boarded his flight to Dublin, retrieved his bag and went home to his apartment.

The man then unpacked but, The Irish Times reports, “the explosives had been concealed so well that he did not find them.”

Three days later, on Tuesday, it apparently occurred to someone in Slovakia that the fact that one of the explosive-packed bags had gone missing was a problem and Slovakian airport authorities contacted their counterparts in Dublin to ask for help.

On Tuesday morning, the Irish Army’s bomb squad paid a visit to the apartment of the Slovak electrician in Dublin and secured the explosives. (NYT)

Spiritual & Financial Guidance for the Penniless but Pure at Heart

The beginning of the New Year can be a time of changes and a time of re-assessment of life’s decisions. In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, BB tells his daughter:

For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

While the movie was a tad longer than necessary, what was nice and sincere about it was that that it makes you look at the concept of time differently, because instead of getting older like everybody else,  Benjamin keeps getting younger. For most of us, as we get older we get a vaguely uncomfortable feeling that somehow, time is running out. Actually, time is just the way it always has been. What’s really running out is you. And with this comes that inevitable realisation that you want to do something meaningful before you get run out or run over.

Winter School 2009 & the Buttered Cat Paradox

Winter School 2009 took place last weekend in the national park of the Karkonosze Mountains, Poland. The First Years and anybody else who chose to attend, were put up in two huts, Samotnia and Strzecha, located 500 metres from each other, with the nearest city of Karpacz situated a good 1.5 hour walk through the snow-covered mountains. Given the circumstance, making a quick and painless get-away from the place is near impossible. The logic then for the remote choice of location, as explained by Poldi, is somewhat tautological: Making a quick and painless get away from the Winter School is near impossible. The resulting corollary is that everyone must spend all their time with each other. If you have any doubts about such a model of integration, of forced companionship amongst poor, unsuspecting students from all possible backgrounds, the Winter School is the place to be. Surprisingly enough, the model works.

Walking in Karkonosze

Successfully into its Second Year, the School continues to be a place of great learning alongside intellectual and physical stimulation for its participants. Informally however, it has has been in existence for a much longer time. A strong indicator of its continuing popularity is the fact that students and teachers alike have unabashedly fallen in love with the place, expressing ardent wishes for a continued association with it: these range widely from wanting to be buried there to wanting to be married in the hallowed precincts of Samotnia. Although wry bystanders have marked there might not be much difference between the two.

We are rubbish


Great Garbage Patch

I caught the segment above on an Australian current affairs program called Hungry Beast about a month ago, and it’s stuck with me since. It features the work of photographer Chris Jordan, photographs he took at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The patch, a swirling mass of  debris in the Pacific, is the size of Queensland (but to internationalise things it has also been said to be double the size of Texas).  The pictures are the undisturbed remains of baby albatrosses, their stomachs bursting with bright plastic junk from the patch. Everyday we’re confronted with stories and facts about our impacts on the environment, and what I found so striking about this is there’s no message being rammed down our throats – the images do the talking.

A Video, And My Two Bits, on Afghanistan

Check out this video of Gurkha soldiers in Afghanistan bonding with the locals over Hindi/Urdu and Bollywood.

The situation in Aghanistan and Pakistan is often perceived in terms of the US involvement there- the “Just War’, “Obama’s War” or, more ominously, as another Vietnam. Such tired terminology ignores the fact that the Afghanistan war is more of a regional problem, in which the South Asian nation states of India and Pakistan have great stakes.  The Obama administration certainly recognizes this, but has so far failed to get India and Pakistan, the two states with most to lose from a deteriorating Afghan situation, to join the effort in stabilizing the country.

All P*mped Up!!

Globalistan has been a little dormant the past few days since we were reworking blog design and adding some new features. More shall be told about the latter when the time is ripe, but we are still working on things so expect some changes.

Hats off to Teresa for the awesome header. And to Ben, who reworked the design for us.

Let us know what you think of the design. Is there anything in the reworking that you see missing or different? Opinions shall greatly help us as we work on the design. The soul of a blog, after all, is in his clothes.

“Some Indians Find it Tough to Go Home Again”

keeping it real in the desh
keeping it real in the desh

Blogging and general online activity has been slow since I am in Brussles nowadays looking for work, but I naturally paused and clicked when this headline from the NYT popped up on my RSS-feed.

This article talked mostly about how Indian expat-professionals found themselves disillusioned and disappointed by working culture back home . It provides interesting and entertaining caricatures of Indian bureaucracy and cultural values:

There are no shortcuts to spending lots of time working in the country, returnees say. “There are so many things that are tricky about doing business in India that it takes years to figure it out,” said Sanjay Kamlani, the co-chief executive of Pangea3, a legal outsourcing firm with offices in New York and Mumbai. Mr. Kamlani was born in Miami, where his parents emigrated from Mumbai, but he has started two businesses with Indian operations.

When Mr. Kamlani started hiring in India, he met with a completely unexpected phenomena: some new recruits would not show up for work on their first day. Then, their mothers would call and say they were sick for days in a row. They never intended to come at all, he realized, but “there’s a cultural desire to avoid confrontation,” he said.