Robots, Robin Hood, other things..


The continuing adventures of Topio the Robot: “[Please read doing your best electronic-robot voice] I am a Robot. My name is Topio. I play ping pong. I have a head, two hands and six legs. I can hit the ball, calculate a score and express feelings upon losing or winning a game. I challenge you to a game. I will crush you like a  grape. Your ass is grass. I will take you down, down to Chinatown.”


That’s Topio: Vietnam’s ping pong playing robot. I guess the inventor really likes ping pong so we won’t judge Topio as a frivolous waste of resources, time and money.  We’d probably make a robot that could drink bia hoi and some people might see that as a spectacular waste. But how we’d love to while away the pleasant Hanoian evenings in the sunshine quaffing beer, maybe getting Topio to challenge tables of boisterous men to bouts of trăm phần trăm-drinking and not leaving until the opposition was legless and under the table.  Then Topio could drive me home ever so gently into that good night.

Rob from the poor and give to the rich: Recently residents from a district in Tra Vinh province in the Mekong delta got the good news first: they were no longer poor! Huzzah! Yes, they had somehow crossed the “poverty line” or “escaped poverty” as people like to say. Then they got the bad news: that meant they weren’t getting the financial aid (Tet bonus) they had been promised. Oh and they were actually still poor, they had just “oh-so accidentally” dropped off the list of poor folk.

“There were similar stories throughout the country. According to the law each “poor person” was to be given VND200,000 ($11.7) Lists of needy families would be defined by local authorities but in Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Ha Tinh provinces there were also complaints that needy households did not receive the bonus or received less than what they should have, only VND 50,000 or VND 100,000 each. Also many rich families, who were relatives of local officials, apparently received the bonus.”

So families who are so poor that they probably have to fight each other to stay warm on a winter’s night were getting shafted for VND50k or VND100k. Read the whole story here. What would Robin Hood do about such iniquity being dished out to helpless commoners? I’d say he’d ambush the villains in the green glades of the nearest forest and joust with the leading protagonist before making merry with his merry men in a meadow, that’s what.

Veering slightly away from the heart of the matter, I just wanted to say how much I like the phrase “escape poverty” as if it’s something you flee from. Can you “narrowly avoid” or “wrong-foot” poverty? Or sell it a dummy pass?


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