Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries from August 31st, 2010

Landing on Planet Mercury

August 31st, 2010 · 2 Comments

Unlike everyone’s favorite intergalactic MC, I am not bio-enhanced. And that means I must occasionally steal a day to focus on a single project, rather than multitasking as if I’d been blessed with multiple brains. Today is such a day, which means no meaningful Microkhaning ’til after the next sunrise. Apologies, and hope y’all understand. […]

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Should You Find Yourself Plummeting

August 30th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Whenever a plane I’m on is close enough to its destination that houses and cars appear, I can’t help thinking to myself: “If I fell from here, could I survive?” There is something about having a visual sense of the ground that makes a parachute-less airplane jump seem survivable. If those motor vehicles can zip […]

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Fleet Street’s Dubious Science

August 27th, 2010 · No Comments

Apologies for the late start to the day, but Microkhan Jr. decided to rob the clan of some much-needed sleep in the wee hours. Unable to get back to the Sandman’s realm once the kid had been pacified, I passed the time by catching up on The World at War. Lots of good stuff there, […]

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Off the Books

August 26th, 2010 · 4 Comments

The worst thing about this tale of a Sri Lankan maid’s suffering at the hands of her Saudi Arabian employers is that it’s completely unsurprising. Though the torture the woman endured is notable for its brutality, such abuse is evidently commonplace in Saudi Arabia—to the point that foreign workers are taught to expect beatings: The […]

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Tragic Bait and Switch

August 25th, 2010 · 5 Comments

There’s no Earthly chunk of coral that’s more deserving of good news than Bikini Atoll, which the American military infamously bombed to smithereens at the dawn of the Atomic Age. So it was heartening to learn that the island and its immediate surroundings were recently added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, a move that will […]

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There She Is, Miss Mizoram

August 24th, 2010 · No Comments

Up to the jawline with work this p.m., so please forgive the video quickie—a look back at the mid-’80s beauty pageant scene in the North-East Indian state of Mizoram. Safe for work, unless your boss objects to one-piece swimsuits. Note the judges’ archaic emphasis on body measurements—perhaps The Feminine Mystique had not yet been published […]

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Needle in the Haystack?

August 24th, 2010 · No Comments

It’s been ages since I last checked in with Hugh Rienhoff, the Bay Area biotech entrepreneur who I profiled in the February 2009 issue of Wired. For those unfortunates among you who haven’t read the piece, Rienhoff has spent much of the past six years analyzing his young daughter’s DNA, in the hopes of discovering […]

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Fortune’s Supposed Favorites

August 23rd, 2010 · 2 Comments

The morning grog is heavy today, on account of the fact that I stayed up late watching Crossing the Line, a documentary about Virginia native James Joseph Dresnok‘s 1962 defection to North Korea. Despite some clunky Christian Slater narration, it’s a stellar flick—a deeply researched portrait of a man whose tragic background made him yearn […]

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“A Smith & Wesson Beats Four Aces”

August 20th, 2010 · 7 Comments

It gives me tremendous pleasure to announce the long-awaited return of Bad Movie Friday, which has been on hiatus for a couple of weeks. I’m bringing it back after discovering a trove of utmost goodness on YouTube—namely, the collection of Andy Sidaris, previously lionized in this space as the writer-director behind the legendary Hard Ticket […]

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Demanding Satisfaction, to a Young Nation’s Detriment

August 20th, 2010 · 5 Comments

It doesn’t take much imagination to mock Kentucky’s oath of office, which contains this gloriously anachronistic bit of verbiage: I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of […]

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An Alternative to Patronymics

August 19th, 2010 · 4 Comments

A long, drunken subway ride last night gave me the chance to finish The Black Nile, Dan Morrison’s account of a harrowing trip he took from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea. There’s enough grist in this excellent travelogue to craft a dozen killer Microkhan posts, but for now I’ll just limit myself to a […]

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Interview Zero

August 18th, 2010 · 4 Comments

It’s not very often that I can boast of a warm personal connection to a recently deceased celebrity, so please let me take a moment to vouch for the key role that Sir Frank Kermode played in my development as a writer. No, I never had the privilege of studying under the lit-crit master. And […]

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Suicide in Sri Lanka

August 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment

My previous posts about suicide haven’t been particularly cheery, and not just because of the grim subject matter. Everything I’ve seen in recent years has convinced me that our current anti-suicide measures aren’t working particularly well, given the stability of America’s suicide rate over the past half-century. It’s quite discouraging to realize that innovations such […]

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The Way Back

August 16th, 2010 · No Comments

Back to world headquarters today, via the skies. Many thanks to the Grand Empress for the excellent packing job.

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Before They Were the Enemy

August 13th, 2010 · No Comments

Okay, so maybe our species doesn’t really kill 100 million sharks per year, as is so widely reported. But even if the true figure is closer to 26 million, that’s still a heckuva lot of fish—and far out of proportion to the number of humans who annually perish in shark attacks. Blame Jaws if you […]

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Tokamak Dream

August 12th, 2010 · 6 Comments

As part of Wired‘s latest cover package, I’ve got a short piece up about why, exactly, our dreams of nuclear fusion power have never come to fruition. In a nutshell, the problem is that plasma is really devious—we can get it plenty hot enough to produce fusion, in the style of the Sun and other […]

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The Joys of I-5

August 11th, 2010 · No Comments

I’m out here for work as well as pleasure, which means I’ll be spending the lion’s share of the day’s remainder on the Southern California freeways. Back tomorrow with more nukes-related polymathism, as well as (time permitting) a brief history of 19th-century Irish banditry. In the meantime, please enjoy a highlight from a World’s Fair […]

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Lessons from Vela

August 11th, 2010 · 9 Comments

Yesterday’s cross-country plane ride gave me the chance to catch up with Jon Lee Anderson’s sobering dispatch from Iran, which pretty much cements the notion that the Islamic Republic will never give up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Not that I didn’t already know that on some level—as Anderson so eloquently puts it, Iran seems […]

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In Transit

August 10th, 2010 · 6 Comments

En route to Los Angeles. Back to blogging as soon as I can reorient the brain box.

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The Journey West

August 9th, 2010 · 1 Comment

A bit hectic today, as I’m packing and prepping for a trip out to my hometown of Los Angeles. Haven’t been out there since early 2006, before I added the Grand Empress and Microkhan Jr. to the fold. Should be interesting to see how I view the city that made me through a family man’s […]

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Someday Our Prince Will Come

August 9th, 2010 · 1 Comment

It takes a hard heart indeed not to be intrigued by the intricacies of a Vanuatuan cargo cult, especially one as puzzling as the Prince Philip Movement. The small sect believes that Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, a native of Greece known primarily for his verbal gaffes, is actually a Vanuatuan spirit in disguise, and that […]

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The Leaf of Allah

August 6th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Whenever Somali Islamists have managed to carve out some measure of political influence in the Horn of Africa, one of their first legal maneuvers has been to outlaw the chewing of khat. Their stated rationale is simple: Khat causes pleasure, pleasure leads to decadence, and decadence is the enemy of piety. It is exactly the […]

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If You’re Feeling Sinister

August 5th, 2010 · 10 Comments

Last night, I finally started working my way through The World at War, which I’ve long heard is the be-all and end-all of World War II documentaries. With only a single episode under my belt, I’m not yet equipped to verify the veracity of that statement. But there’s no disputing the filmmakers’ skills at digging […]

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When Best Intentions Fall Flat

August 5th, 2010 · 1 Comment

In addition to railing against American imperialism and digging up the bones of long-deceased heroes, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has taken a keen interest in improving his nation’s literacy rate. One of his key initiatives was a $50 million-plus program to teach 1.5 million Venezuelan adults to read, primarily by providing financial and job opportunity […]

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Risk and Reward on the Gulf of Aden

August 4th, 2010 · 3 Comments

If you haven’t yet checked out the Financial Times much-discussed breakdown on the economics of Somali piracy, do yourself a favor and allocate a few minutes’ worth of reading time. The piece won my heart by using buccaneer salary estimates to convey some perspective on how the notion of “dangerous work” differs so sharply between […]

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The Khat Economy

August 4th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Where would the Ethiopian economy be without the mild, broadly illegal stimulant known as khat? Apparently in quite dire straits: Coffee and khat exports earned Ethiopia close to 737 million dollars, which was 36.9pc of the total foreign exchange of two billion dollars that the country earned in the 2009/10 fiscal year with 36.5pc, 729.1 […]

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The Small Pleasures of Camel Meat

August 3rd, 2010 · 7 Comments

Last week I chimed in about the seemingly never-ending quest to bring deposed Chadian dictator Hissène Habré to justice. To add to that sad story, it’s worth remembering how Habré first gained international notoriety: the 1974 kidnapping of French archaeologist Francoise Claustre, who was held for nearly three years before gaining her release through the […]

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Off the Canvas

August 3rd, 2010 · No Comments

Apologies for deserting you yesterday, but I was completely pancaked by what appeared to be the dreaded Osaka flu. A good night’s sleep and some orange-flavored Gatorade seems to have restored me to halfway decent health, so I’ll soon be posting anew about Chadian kidnapping, Malaysian snake control, and the challenges of increasing adult literacy […]

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