Steven Seagal to run a Russian territory bordering North Korea?

How great would this be if it really happened? Via Max Seddon, FT’s Moscow correspondent:

Steven Seagal is prepared to resolve Vladivostok’s political crisis and step in as governor. “I represent the interests of President Putin,” he says.

And here’s the linked story, after a pass through Google Translate (Vladivostok is the administrative center of the Primorsky Krai region):

Segal announced his desire to become the governor of Primorsky Krai

VLADIVOSTOK, September 26 (Itar-Tass) – RIA Novosti. The actor, businessman and special representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Russian-American humanitarian relations Stephen Sigal said that he would like to become the governor of Primorye.

“With pleasure, I represent the interests of President Putin,” the actor replied to the question of whether he wants to lead the region.

Seagal, who received Russian citizenship in November 2016, reported that his ancestors on the paternal line “from here.” “Every time I want to learn Primorski Krai, see more and become your governor,” added the American actor who arrived in Vladivostok within the framework of the international film festival of the Pacific Rim countries.

The Primorye Electoral Commission, last week, on the recommendation of the CEC of Russia, found the results of the elections of the head of the region invalid. Vrio Governor Andrei Tarasenko said that he believes the decision to cancel the election results is correct. The candidate from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Andrey Ischenko said that he will challenge the results in three territories – in Ussuriysk, Artem and Nakhodka. He noted that the lawsuits are ready, and some of them have already been filed. The date of the next elections in the region has not yet been appointed, but it is expected that the deputies can approve it until the middle of October.

“Meridians of the Quiet” – the traditional annual festival of cinema in Vladivostok, this year it is held from 21 to 27 September. The president of the festival was the director and producer Alexander Rodnyansky, the main jury included Russian director Alexei German Jr. and Filipino producer Bianca Balbuena.

Over two million people live in Primorsky Krai, which borders North Korea.

Primorsky Krai

Primorsky Krai

Disappointingly, Seagal’s agent later said the actor had been “half-joking”:

Steven Seagal was granted Russian citizenship in November 2016 under a law that allows foreigners to be naturalized in recognition of their services to Russia or their general achievements.

The actor also holds US and Serbian citizenship and thus cannot actually run for a governor’s office, according to Russian laws. While the whole statement turned out to be a “half-joke,” Russian political parties took it quite seriously.

The Communist party (KPRF) said it already has its own candidate for the post of region’s governor, yet it was ready to cooperate with Seagal. Parliamentary spokesman for the communists, Ivan Melnikov, suggested that the martial arts icon might actually have a few ideas on cultivating sports and healthy lifestyle in the region.

Liberal Democrats (LDPR), in turn, said that Seagal was an unlikely fit for the governor’s post, but might be able to lead a “popular militia” of sorts in the region instead. The party, however, was quite suspicious over the statement, and guessed correctly it was a “joke.”

System maintenance

This is what happens if you try to change your profile picture in WeChat (the Chinese version of WhatsApp):

WeChat system maintenanceHmm…. that must be some pretty intensive maintenance, there.

As it turns out, by sheer happenstance, the “maintenance” coincides with a very important event in the Chinese political calendar:

WeChat, China’s social, messaging, and do-everything mobile app, announced (in Chinese) on October 17 that its users are temporarily banned from updating their profiles until the end of the month.

“Due to system maintenance, users won’t be able to change their profile pictures, user names, and short bios until the end of this month,” the notice says. “Other functions won’t be affected. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”

Other Chinese social media platforms, including Weibo and QQ, have announced the same type of service interruptions.

“System maintenance” (系统维护 xìtǒng wéihù) is a euphemism often used by Chinese internet companies when services are suspended because of government regulations or censorship. None of the companies have stated the real reason for the suspensions: security measures for the 19th Party Congress, which formally begins on October 18 and ends on October 24.

I got the error message on October 24, by the way. I tried again today and was able to change the picture.

Clearly, this calls for a new meme:

System Maintenance - Dr Evil Air Quotes meme

Is it really that hard?

Is public wifi going out of style? I often bring my laptop to cafés and coffee shops in downtown Chicago, intending to surf the internet and work. Almost invariably, I discover one of three things:

  1. There is no wifi at the café/coffee shop in question.
  2. There is wifi, in theory, but it’s so insanely slow and dysfunctional as to be unusable. (After spending several minutes trying to get online, I’ll gripe to the server and get a reply like: “Oh yeah, the wifi is terrible here. I’ve asked the manager to look into it.” Of course, it never gets better, even months later.)
  3. Wifi is available, but you’re not “supposed” to use it, because it’s not for customers, or the network belongs to an adjacent shop. (In these cases, the server will give me the password, sometimes scribbled on a ragged scrap of paper, with a conspiratorial whisper: “Don’t tell anyone I gave you this.” I am not making this up.)

Starbucks usually has fast and reliable wifi – but not always. Any other establishment, probably not.

Now, I’m not complaining. Life is good. A dearth of public wifi is very much a First World Problem that I wouldn’t even mention, except that I’m genuinely curious as to why this would be an issue in the bustling downtown of America’s third-largest city.

Seriously, what’s the deal? Is wifi just becoming a thing of the past? Are people so fixated on their phones that they don’t use their laptops for internet browsing or social media anymore, thus obviating the need for wifi?

My observation is that the few places that do offer wifi are often teeming with people on their laptops, suggesting that establishments with crappy or nonexistent wifi are leaving money on the table.

Is the technology really that daunting? Or is there something else going on?

Just askin’…