Monday, June 15, 2009

Empty tanks

Image of a roadside gas, or petrol, station in Cambodia...Dear Gentle Reader,

Feeling lethargic? Torpid? Hebetudinous?

Overwhelmed by stuporous lassitude?

Listless and dull?

You, too, could be running on an empty tank, like the gentleman in the picture, above, on the streets of Phnom Penh.

Oh, for an empty tank.

I long for such a thing.

A nipple-grazing, body-hugging belly leaped out and attacked me last week.

I have no idea where it came from, but it symbiotically attached itself to my otherwise svelte body in a near-seamless grafting procedure.

This likely happened while I slept.

I woke one morning, and there it was.

The Heroine merely laughed when I asked where this monstrosity had come from.

So the exercise regime in the gym has increased (a fancy word meaning begun) and the weekend was spent rock climbing, cliff-jumping, and swimming in the ocean all in the noble effort of both leaving the Heroine to study in peace and quiet for some upcoming exams and trying to convince the torpid belly that it had attached itself to the wrong body.

Oh, and food intake has stopped, or dramatically diminished.

If I can't work the belly off, I'll starve it off.

So, empty tank?

I know whereof I speak.

And, vaguely related, what happens if you are driving in Cambodia and run out of gas?

You pull over at the side of the road.

And buy a bottle or two. Of fuel.

You don't "fill 'er up" because that is likely not in the budget, but, you do what you can.

This is the gas stall attendant in Cambodia filling up the "tanks" which she then sells to customers.

Image of a roadside gas, or petrol, station operator in Cambodia...
As you can see, very little infrastructure is required for this gas/petrol station.

The owners of these stalls have low overheads. They don't need underground tanks or fancy pumps.

They also don't need to worry about, or plan for, environmental remediation, because they are not tied or even linked to the land that extra gas spills upon.

This attendant just fills up a Johnny Walker bottle with gasoline and sells it to a scooter or taxi driver.

The driver pours the contents into their tank, immediately, and hands back the bottle. (The driver pours the fuel in so that the driver, alone, is responsible for spilled fuel.)

The owner/attendant may put the empty into the rack to be refilled or she might hand the bottle to her infant child to sniff and play with.

(I could not bring myself to take a picture of that. Taking the bottle from the child, I even tried to explain why this was a bad idea to the stall attendant, but she spoke no French and I spoke no Khmer. And she gave the bottle back to her little girl...)

Eventually, the attendant refills her bottles, again, from her reservoir tank...

Image of a roadside gas, or petrol, stand and station operator in Cambodia...
As an aside, Cambodia has some of the best environmental laws and regulations on the planet.

I didn't draft them, but I know folks who did.

Civil society projects have helped them draft great worker safety and health standards, too.

Cambodia has some of the best environmental laws and regulations on the planet; but they aren't enforced very often.

They tend to be trotted out only when a joint-venture or foreign enterprise is making too much money and somebody wants a bigger cut.

Then infractions matter...

Of course, this cheap, private-sector provisioning of fuel is not just a health and environmental hazard.

It also puts money directly into the pocket of the stall owner so she can put food into the mouths of her children.

This cheap, private-sector provisioning of fuel is also a great way to effectively and quickly allow for increased transport and logistical provisioning in Cambodia.

Taxis and scooters get goods in and out of regions, quickly, which yields increased economic activity and better living standards, eventually, to workers.

Medical services and medical supplies are also delivered faster when roads, engines, and fuel are all available--and these service centres are cheap to set up; anyone can do it.

So what is right and what is wrong?

I'm running on empty, still, so I leave that to you to answer, but, where are the moral dichotomies in your town, this morning?



Teresa said...

Dear Chris,

I suspect your bulging belly comes from a surfeit of cheese. (Or perhaps an ingrown alien that was implanted while you overslept.)

The description of Cambodian "filling" stations was fascinating, as is the moral dilemma of "to enforce regulations or not to enforce regulations."

I'd have to say, the worst moral dichotomy in my neighborhood is the 1.6 million foreclosure filings in California during the first 5 months of this year, most of which were due to the fact that the banking lobby in the US was able to have regulations completely removed from the law books in the 1990's. So the laws no longer exist which would have required banks to lend responsibly and not overleverage themselves. As icing on the cake, the banks targeted immigrants and minorities and sold them complex loans that they still wouldn't be able to afford after teaser rates readjusted.

So it's hard to say which moral dichotomy is more tortuous, the one that makes ghost towns out of whole communities in southern California or the one that sells dripping whiskey bottles full of petrol (gasoline) to babies on the streets of Phnom Phen...

You tell me when your stomach stops growling. (Or is that Pommes demanding salmon?)


David Cranmer said...

I once pulled over to one of those gas/petrol stations you have pictured and asked for a Molotov cocktail. They didn't seem to appreciate the joke.

Jenn Jilks said...

Many around the world have 'empty tanks'. It is a sad state of affairs.

I find it sad in My Muskoka the huge disparities between those that have and those who have not. The haves can be awfully arrogant here in Cottage Country.

Travis Erwin said...

That same belly monster attacked me years ago. Too much Johnny Walker probably thought the original, not the Cambodian version.

Anonymous said...

hi chris, please won`t you give a sign for me that you are still alive in gotham. your venecian companion

Anonymous said...

your posts fascinate on so many levels!
No cheese?! Yikes!
Good luck & Aloha my (mistakenly) portly friend (and sack-o-pommes too ;-)

Heidelweiss said...

I say long live the Cambodian workers. Really. When it comes to small operations like that, my motto is, "sod the environment, save the humans". It's not in Latin and it's not very long, but it's a good motto ;). I shall now be pulled to pieces by anyone commenting after me who is slightly left of my moderate. Oh well. The humans are living and able to feed their children (even if they are high on gasoline fumes). To me, that's the most important thing.

As for that belly. Stay out of the ocean. Sharks can smell belly fat. They love it. They also love butt and thigh fat (which is why I know to give you this warning).

murat11 said...

Chris: About the aliens in your belly, I shall remain mum. I'm reckoning with my fair share: they are entirely too enamored of Tex Mex and paletas.

As for the other puzzler you provide, I was wondering if economies climb Maslow's ladder, just as, presumably, individuals do. At what point do the "right things" become economically viable for all, and not just affordable for the haves? I can appreciate Heidelweiss' sentiments, except that in this case, it is the humans who are taking a bigger hit than the environment.

simmers said...

Aaahh, the belly monster...once they 'graft' themselves to you it is impossible to get rid of it. With great effort you can make it shrink but never to zero...sort of like calculus class many years ago.

as effort->infinity, monster->zero

Clearly you need to be happy with a non-zero monster...however...
let MS = monster size
d(MS)/dt = aMS
The larger the monster is(at least in the small-medium range...first order approximation[no implicit pun intended and no offense to any 'Taylors' out there]), the faster it is capable of growing (under ideal, un-checked, lazy, cheesy conditions).
Curses! All this is making me hungry.

I'm looking forward to the post that has pictures of your climbing!

Sepiru Chris said...

Dear Teresa,

The idea of an implanted alien has me looking to the medical profession, pronto. Although I am already on their danger list. Far too many visits to far too many specialists already this year...

I hear you loud and clear about the foreclosures, and all our hearts go out to those affected and effected.

Dear David,

It could have been worse. You could have offered them a light.

Dear Jenn,

Hmm. Sometimes, especially in these times, arrogance masks fear. There is a lot of redistribution going on right now.

Dear Travis,

I would think the Cambodian version would burn off the excess belly. But, you are repeating a line that the Heroine made. She tells me that single malt has calories. I tell her that its too small to have calories. And too clear. I hope you are not siding with her.

It's one thing not eating...

Dear Venetian Companion,

Hey, We are coming to France and Switzerland for a wedding, soon. We were going on a vacation to Romania, but we may not due to recent insolvencies that you might be aware of... Maybe we can meet up in a museum, somewhere... Everything is up in the air, right now. Email...

Dear Cloudia,

More than yikes, it's the shakes...

Fromage detox...

Dear Heidelweiss,

To a strong degree, I am with you. But, survival in a truly poisoned land is not pleasant for the kids.

And kids that sniff gasoline don't finish sentences, let alone school.

Its a sentence of death handed to them by someone who, frankly, doesn't know better.

But, industrial revolutions are always pretty ugly. Its just that the toxins are, sometimes, a bit more lethal now, than before.

Dear Murat,

I considered going precisely there in this posting, actually.

And I suspect that Maslow's hierarchy of needs, or a modified version, does apply to economies and to societies.

And, as I just commented to Heidelweiss, I think that it is the people that take some pretty brutal hits here...

Dear Simmers,

My tailor wants my belly's Taylor series to approach something stable. And I would like to see it tending to zero.

No pics of the climb, though, as I swam to get to the base and at least an Amber Alert, and possibly a Red Alert rainstorm came down in the midst of the excitement.

Fortunately the rain is warm, here, and rain certainly makes some of the toe and finger holds more slick and more exciting...

(It might have momentarily lapsed into a "Red" warning level rainstorm as there were a few moments when I could not see the pooled water, underneath me, due to refraction from the raindrops surrounding me in a quasi, though moving, pool...)


Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

I just sent you an e-mail, did it reach you?
I'm not shure you got the mails I sent earlier this year? Did they get lost on the way?

If you did not get them: the venetian companions are both quite well...

Barbara Martin said...

The 'filling stations' were quite interesting, as was the rest of the post. Dieting isn't much fun but if you allow yourself one treat once per week it becomes easier.