Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Troubled Waters

Judging from the lack of response to yesterday's abstruse blog, I'm guessing everyone out there was either too busy taking advantage of the "One Day Sale" at Bealls Department Store, saving an amazing 40% off of items marked up 60% -OR- tow serious math blogs in a row was just too much for the average person to take much interest in.

Although I can read, write, and do mathematics at any hour of any day even neglecting personal hygiene to do so if need be, to expect others to share the enthusiasm and stamina for such unrelenting, gratuitous subject matter is a bit unrealistic. Nevermind the fact that next year's students will be subject not just to two consecutive days of math, but FIVE days in a row . . . each week, as we move to a 7 period day.

Until then, though, I guess I should pace myself with the math and stick to dispensing the recondite commentary on infinity is small, periodic doses. So what can today's blog be about? What else is there besides mathematics?

Perhaps I can write about the recent acts of piracy taking place off the coast of Somalia?

Gone are the days of swashbuckling, wooden legs, and pet parrots. The modern day pirates are simply well-armed terrorists looking for much more than a way to express their desire to download free music. Although we all like our free Britney Spears music (who wants to actually pay for that?), today's pirates are looking for tens of millions of dollars in ransom money to take back to their direly poor nation in order to purchase more weapons, repay Taliban loans, or because they don't have Bealls One-Day-Sales back home. You just can't shake a stick at these violent predators, unless there's about $35 million attached to the end of that stick, in which case, they'd probably take the stick too, and hold if for additional ransom of a few cents.

Most recently, they failed in their attempt to seize a U.S. flagged vessel traveling more than 400 miles off the coast of Africa, well outside their usual radius of operation, taking the captain as an elective hostage on the ships lifeboat. As U.S. warships fled to the area, the 4 pirates were sitting ducks in the water, out of fuel, out of options, and running out of time. As risky as the international pirating, kidnapping, and extortion business is, these comrades found themselves facing the most powerful Navy in the world. Finally after 5 days, with the "go ahead" from our new Commander-In-Chief, Captain Phillips was freed as snipers efficiently took out 3 of 4 pirates, which was enough to encourage the 4th one to surrender.

At least this incident had a happy ending . . . for America anyway. With the ship reaching its port under armed escort, and the Captain escaping unharmed, we can all take a collective sigh of relief and cheer the bravery of the crew, the courage of the captain, and the strength of the U.S. Navy. We can also expect some fallout from this event. Rest assured, now that the U.S. has been involved, the rules have changed. Obama has vowed to step up defense and protection against such acts of piracy, while the pirates themselves are now vowing to make the U.S. regret having drawn "First Blood." The television industry is already determined to produce the "made for TV" movie of the whole ordeal, casting Dan Akroyd as Captain Richard Phillips.

Who's who?

But in an age of technology and heightened awareness of terrorism, it's shocking that modern day piracy on the high seas is even possible. Perhaps it's because of my pragmatic predisposition, entrepreneurial naivete, or just my upbringing, but if I was a poor and hungry and living on a coast, piracy wouldn't be on my list of "sustainable" ways to provide myself with food, shelter, clothing, and internet access. The audacity and complete lack of morality, if not the desperation combined with a cache of high-powered firearms, it must take for these pirates to do what they do. Certainly if this is a solution to a problem, in their eyes, it is a myopic, short-termed one that cannot and will not last. It's not a business you can pass down to your son or grandson. Especially when you're messing with the United States, be it under Truman, W., or Obama.

Private companies who have to navigate the waters, put their crews and products at risk, and who have to pay the ultimate ransoms are not going to do so without taking measures and fighting back. Powerful nations will get involved, as the U.S. now has. Which begs the question: are these acts of piracy simply the work of desperate Somalis simply exercising Chutzpah and bad judgment, are are they part of a larger network of terrorists trying to fund a bigger cause and bait the U.S. into an imbroglio? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, ships will continue their passage through the Indian Ocean, taking wider and less direct routes to safely reach their ports, Bealls will continue to offer artificial value to unsuspecting customers, and Britney Spears will continue to make bad music that people will be illicitly obtaining off the Internet.


bob s said...

To state the obvious the only reason this was such a big event was that an American ship with an American crew was attacked. This early in his term Obama could not ignore the attack as the European leaders (except perhaps France)have so far done with their ships. The real question is what next? Will we take the necessary steps to end the piracy or hope that the problem goes away?
On another point are the word verifications getting longer or is just me? I'm sure there is an interesting stats problem somewhere in there. How many letters does it take to reduce the probability of being hacked to an acceptable level?

kwkorpi said...

Ha! You stated what I guess I only alluded to, "Don't Mess with the US!"

I've noticed the verifications getting longer and more complicated, now involving spaces and apostrophes. I'm guess the computer programs that are designed to leave random spam comments on blog are becoming increasingly clever, or at least the junk-mailers writing the program. Perhaps we can send a couple of US snipers to Spam Central.

SK said...

Aaarghhh! I spent my lunch break at Bealls Storewide Sale - bought you a pair of pants. They're the wrong size, but the price was too good to pass up.

LC said...

My word verifications don't have spaces or apostrophes. It must be you, BOB.

There are interesting stats problems everywhere.

I will definitely have 2 stats classes next year -- maybe 3.

kwkorpi said...

get this. I have 24 next year in BC and 50 in AB, that's 2 sections of AB. I haven't had that since someone, aheeeemmm, make Statistics so popular.

Unfortunately, it looks like there will only be one section of Stat next year.

LC said...

WOW -- congrats on your numbers for next year. Too bad about stats.

I will definitely have 2, possibly 3, sections of stats next year.