Friday, August 27, 2010

Diverse, Diverse India

I have been writing a lot about China lately, but Asia has two billion-person behemoth countries, not one. Maybe it is time to even that score up just a little. After all, it isn't just that India has a bunch of languages. India has significant speakers in four major language families. Twenty-nine languages are spoken by a million or more people. That's crazy.

Anyway, India was also an English colony for roughly 90 years, and under very significant influence for a few hundred years before that. Part of that influence is, well, "fraternization." At one point this resulted in something like 300,000 to 500,000 people of mixed descent known as the Anglo-Indians. The community is defined in the Indian Constitution and has two members in the Indian Lower House. It is also dying off. Historically the Anglo-Indians were English in their speech and in many of their tastes. However, most of them were natives of India and had never been to Britain. However, they generally considered themselves (or were considered) socially inferior to Brits, but socially superior to Indians. This meant that they were substantially isolated once the country became independent. Now many of them have emigrated, and many of the remaining Anglo-Indians have intermarried with Indians and now speak Indian languages instead of English. Those who have maintained their Anglo-Englishness may have an advantage in being employed by multinationals, but without more Brits coming to India this strange, half-in-half-out community seems destined to simply be overwhelmed by the greater Indian culture.

Interestingly, most of the Anglo-Indians are Christian. This is partly interesting because to be Anglo-Indian you have to have English blood through your paternal line. Generally, this would imply that the children got their religion from their fathers. The opposite of the matrilineal tradition in the Jewish community. However, India also has a native Christian tradition. Among others there is the Malankara Indian Orthodox Church, which also has a church in West Sayville, New York. It is a former Dutch Reformed church, which is ironic, considering how . . . plain . . . the Calvinists were and how exuberant the Indians apparently are. Apparently the Assumption Day procession is something to behold. What is even more interesting is that even ignoring the European-influenced Christians from the colonial period, India has a Christian tradition going back to the Apostle Thomas (aka Doubting Thomas). The people are called the Saint Thomas Christians, and have a Christian tradition a thousand years (or so) longer than Russia, Germany, or Scandinavia.

How's that for diverse? No word on the longest traffic jam in India.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maybe I Don't Want To Chinese After All

A few weeks ago I blogged about China. Actually, I "tied together" two totally unrelated items that both had "China" in the name and pretended it was a coherent post. It's what I do.

Anyway, in retrospect I have decided that I don't want to be Chinese after all. Let me explain. Last week L was in Urbana-Champaign for a few days. On the way down she got caught in this. Because we live in America, and we had roads before the interstate, L was able to exit I-57, travel south on U.S. 45, and get back on I-57 south of Kankakee. It took her over seven hours to get to C-U instead of two and change, but she got there.

Had she been in China she could apparently expect to be on the road another couple of weeks. Northwest of Beijing there is a traffic jam that extends for 60 miles, and has already been there for 10 days. The road is full of trucks carrying illegally mined coal from Inner Mongolia. We use a lot of coal in America too, but we mostly keep it off the roads. Anyway, this article says that the jam moves at roughly 1/3 of a mile per day, and that the police are trying to reroute some shipments of essentials off the road. The entire jam is caused by (a) too many trucks, (b) construction (apparently the orange cone is the national summer tree of China too), and (c) a few breakdowns etc. In other words, the same things that cause traffic jams everywhere. Except this one will last three more weeks.

A few things to ponder. How long will this jam last once the trucks start running out of gas? I say forever, but I may be proven wrong. How long can you live in a truck moving 1/3 of a mile a day? Wouldn't it make sense to drive in shifts? The people in the first 1/3 of the jam could drive from midnight to 8 a.m. The second third from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and the last 1/3 from 4 p.m. to midnight. Then they could do their 1/3 of a mile all at once, instead of a few inches at a time. And we won't talk about the fumes, the garbage, the excrement, and all the other foulness sure to be on the side of the road when this is over.

By the way, in German a traffic jam is called a "Stau" and there is a show called . . . the Stauschau (Stau Show). The best part of the Stauschau? It is a show about traffic jams, and their three webcams cover . . . their studios. Wouldn't want to show me the Autobahn, would you? Here are some actual traffic cams for the curious.

UPDATE: At least one source says that they had reporters drive the Chinese highway in question today and the traffic jam is . . . gone. MSNBC had the same experience. The thing is, I can't decide if it is scarier to live somewhere that can have multi-week traffic jams, or somewhere that 60 KM worth of trucks can "disappear" overnight.

Friday, August 13, 2010

And So It Might Begin

I have been thoroughly unconvinced about Twitter. What little I had seen of it consisted mostly of the types of posts some my middle-aged friends posted in their early Facebook statuses . "At the store," "feeling tired," or "waiting for the L." Frankly, I could not understand why I would ever want to follow these people. I did not get it.

Notwithstanding not getting it, I keep giving Twitter more chances because . . . well . . . it seems popular and I can't figure out why. Of course, I could say the same of country music, and I have been comfortable with my rejection of that.

Anyway, I signed up for a Twitter account last week. Thus far I have been using it basically as an RSS feed for some news web pages. I have not ever posted anything. What I can't decide is (a) whether to start tweeting, and (b) if I do, what to tweet about. Work? Hilarity? Deep thought? Some specific idea? I don't know.

Feel free to comment. If I decide to start posting I'll say what it is here.