Despite my quarrels with the conclusion, the writing was as crisp and clever as I've come to expect from Neal Stephenson. My favorite piece -- that made me laugh aloud -- was this (p. 148):
The operations were conceptually simple. Incisions were made along lines that had been drawn along the lines that had been drawn on the patients' shaven heads.It builds so nicely. It's not just a debacle, he's not just personally ashamed. The text crescendos.
"It was a debacle. I am personally ashamed. I will never do anything like that again. The level of incompetence makes me physically ill. I may shoot myself," Dr. Radhakrishnan was saying.
This post's theme word, pong, colloquially, can mean, "a strong, unpleasant smell; a stink." I heard it used thusly in the phrase, "a bestial and pongoid fashion." I think. Otherwise, I've no idea what "pongoid" means. The OED also has "pong" as derisive slang for a person of Asian descent.