Friday, April 19, 2019

going on a stroll

I'm getting to work early and leaving early so I'll have time for final prep for tonight's insanely long walk. My phone is still telling me the walk will be 57.8 km, which comes out to 35.9 miles. This may well be the longest I've ever walked; it certainly rivals the Troutdale-to-Cascade Locks walk I did as part of my larger walk in 2008. In theory, the current walk ought to be easier than the 2008 walk: I won't have a 60-pound (27 kg) pack on my back. Then again, I was eleven years younger in 2008, and these days, I'm starting to feel my age, especially in my knees, but also all up and down my torso.

As noted before, this walk ought to take less than 12 hours in theory. Nearly 60 km, at a pace of 5 kph, comes out to less than 12 hours' walking. But in reality, I'll be taking breaks along the way, and as my fatigue and pain levels go up, I'll be slowing down, too. For those reasons, I'm betting on a 19-hour walk. If I start at 9 p.m. tonight, I ought to arrive at the River House Motel sometime around 4 p.m. on Saturday. Last I checked, the weather is supposed to be great until Saturday evening, when there's a 30% chance of rain.

This will be a bare-bones trek. At most, I'll be taking 2 liters of water with me (possibly refilling along the way, if/when I pass by a convenience store), plus some personal toiletries and very little else. Since I'll be walking all night plus a good part of Saturday, the weather ought to be fairly cool at first (there'll be a low of 47℉/8.3℃ just before sunrise—jacket weather), with a high of 68℉ (20℃) during the day. I have to remember to bring along my hat and toshi for sunburn protection; we don't want a repeat of Day 2 of the 2017 walk.

I don't think I'll be writing anything more until I'm actually at my destination, so this blog entry is probably it for Friday. Strangely apropos that I'm doing this walk of pain, this via dolorosa, on Easter weekend; Easter Sunday is going to be spent in a motel bed, with me groaning in agony while my battered feet try to recuperate. I'll train back to work and limp into my office early Monday afternoon, as is my wont. I'll have lost a few kilos, and given that I'm on a strict budgetary regimen, I hope not to regain that weight too quickly. We'll see.



Happy Pesach!

Sending you all the best.


I thought of the "challahcopter" on my own, but when I searched Google, I discovered there were already 65 entries for various sorts of challahcopters. Oy gevalt.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

taking on Bernie Sanders

Jon Miller takes on hoary old Bernie Sanders and his kooky (not to mention hypocritical) socialist economic policy:






après l'incendie

A coworker points me to this NY Times article with a 3-D model to help readers understand why Notre Dame was basically a tinderbox. The animation (which is quite helpful) works best if your mouse has a scroll wheel.

Laurence Jarvik writes about some implications of the burning of Notre Dame.

I'm hesitant to frame this fire in terms of a culture war; we haven't confirmed whether the cause was arson or accident. Let's leave politics for later.






Charles, this one's for you

Bon Appetit puts out some pretty good cooking videos on YouTube. The video below features a guest baker named Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery. The dude is quietly intense, and his crisp professionalism as he works his dough and bakes his bread is almost intimidating to watch. My buddy Charles is an accomplished baker, but I'm sure that he'd say he's still constantly learning, so why not give my friend a chance to compare notes with a fellow baker? Of course, the video is such that anyone can enjoy it. Even non-bakers like me can appreciate the thought and action that go into making good bread.






burrito prep

These turned out to be some ugly-ass burritos. I think I made ten of them, and they're all twisted and misbegotten. In my defense, I've had loose-and-floppy burritos at the Old Post Office Pavilion's food court in downtown DC. That said, I do need to work on my wrapping game in order to form actual cylinders. Most burritos look as if they could be shot from a spud gun. Mine look as if they could be laid out as bases on a baseball diamond.

Anyway, aesthetic issues aside, the burritos were fairly simple, but a few things had to be prepped. For the beef filling, I browned some ground beef and added green bell peppers plus corn to bulk up the final product. The sauce binding everything together also got plenty of dried onion, powdered garlic, paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt, pepper, and the now-sacred-to-me chipotle powder. God, that stuff is addictive. I could unscrew the bottle cap and stand in my kitchenette all day long, just sniffing the redolent contents. Along with the ground beef were the refried beans. Alas, I used frijoles negros when I should have used pinto beans in order to arrive at that familiar brown color. My refried beans taste fine, but they look fairly evil. They got a shot of Tabasco, along with onion flakes, fresh ground garlic, salt, and pepper. A third component was the Mexican rice (a.k.a. arroz rojo, i.e., red rice). I watched a few videos on how to make this familiar side dish, which proved fairly easy to make with passata di pomodoro (tomato purée), a bit of garlic, minced chiles, and some other seasonings.

I piled the three components on tortillas and added shredded cheese. The goal was to make something freezable and then microwaveable, which is why I added no guacamole, sour cream, or fresh vegetables. It's now too late for me to buy any of those additions, so I'm stuck with the burritos I have. What follows are the photos from the burrito-making process. Enjoy.

A wide shot of all the burrito components:


A closeup of the ground beef, which tasted marvelous:


The Mexican rice (with Korean rice substituting for Mexican arroz):


My evil-looking refried beans:


Shredded cheese, up close:


The foot-diameter flour tortillas:


Assembly begins:


With cheese added:


A little sriracha for some kick:


And the ridiculously shaped burritos in all their awkward glory:


I do a taste test of everything I make, and while these burritos don't look very good, I guarantee they're fucking deliciosos. Can't wait to chow down on them later this month. I made ten, with the purpose of eating two per meal, thus giving me five burrito meals over the course of a month. Mmmm.



more humor via Bill

This gave me a chuckle:


And this one shows a thought experiment that the right often has to engage in:


Not sure why, but this one makes me laugh the more I look at it:


I just received this one:


And this last one has a sad-but-true vibe to it:


Imagine living in a place like San Francisco, where there are apps to help you avoid the areas of town with high concentrations of human feces. Talk about a city literally going to shit. L.A. doesn't seem to be far behind, and the same goes for places like Paris and Stockholm as well.



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Austerity Day 1: empty pockets

Off to work, I was halfway down the hallway to the elevator when I realized I had forgotten my keys, handkerchief, and wallet. I paused, realized that I didn't need my wallet, and walked to the elevator with a smile. It was actually quite liberating to go wallet-free, and my day of austerity was only beginning.

Truth be told, it wasn't that bad. Maybe it's because the reality of what I'm doing hasn't sunk in yet, or maybe this really won't be a bad month. I did do a poor job of controlling myself regarding snacks: in preparation for the month of hardship, I had bought "fun size" packs of M&Ms and Twix bars (I inadvertently got the new gingerbread-flavor Twixes; they're surprisingly good), and they proved impossible to resist. I had bought enough to have one M&M pack or one Twix per day, but I blew through several of each at the office, then ate another couple of them at home. Oops.

But I drank no soda, and while I might be jinxing myself when I say this, I can't say that I missed it. (Again, I may be singing a different tune as the month wears on.) Hooray for my blood sugar, I guess. Now, all I have to do is rein in the snack consumption, and the only carbs I'll be getting will be with my one-meal-a-day lunches: ramyeon with my budae-jjigae, rice with my chicken/shrimp curry, oatmeal with my oatmeal, etc. Anyway, I had only a single Mason jar of tea with sugar and Splenda; aside from that I drank only water. I have an infinite supply of water at home thanks to my Brita pitcher/filter, and we've got a slow-ass water dispenser down the hall where I work. It's a bit of a step down, that dispenser: our previous one also dispensed ice, which I now sorely miss.

I did a walk tonight; it was a bit over 20K steps. Got home, snuck a couple more snacks (there's no Mom around to growl at me for sneaking food, and I don't think that God is a cosmic CCTV recording my sins, yet I still get furtive and sneaky when it comes to nicking treats), and haven't had anything else to eat. I've decided that I will eat tomorrow (Thursday), but it's tuna/egg salad with celery, so it shouldn't be too voluminous. Once I finish lunch, I won't be eating again until I arrive in Yangpyeong on Saturday.

So I survived the day. Wednesday's lunch was beef with chimichurri sauce. It wasn't that good, actually: the beef fat had aged several days and acquired a strange, old-fat smell that didn't go away when I microwaved the beef for lunch. Still, I wolfed the meat down with the chimi; Dr. Atkins would have been proud (although he would also have recommended cutting back on the meat and adding lots of leafy greens).

It does feel a bit weird, though, to embark on this regimen and then interrupt it right away: I'll be spending money and eating off-script during and after my crazy-long walk this weekend, then returning to austerity on Monday. But aside from that wobble, I'll be on course with my meal plan until mid-May.

Day 1 is done, and the project doesn't feel impossible. That's a good sign.



PJW strikes back at fake news

The twattery from fake-news services like BuzzFeed continues...


I enjoy BuzzFeed's food-related videos, but the channel is otherwise useless.



Ave, Lorianne!

Zen teacher Lorianne writes a meditation on the death of her cat Bobbi.

Whatever comfort I find in the aftermath of another pet death lies not in an imagined future but in this stone-sure truth: for a brief and precious time, Bobbi knew moments of pleasure and peace: the bliss of a head-scratch, the delights of a sunny windowsill. Forever and ever, amen, such simple pleasures will be–must be–amply and abundantly enough.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

...and now my watch begins

My final expense, tonight, was an iHerb order for psyllium-husk tablets—easily enough to last me a month. Starting midnight tonight, and going on to May 16 (my next payday), I'll be on a no-expenditures regime: not a single won to be spent. Pas un seul sou. I've got one more batch of food to cook up (breakfast sausage, to be eaten with oatmeal and scrambled eggses), and then my food calendar kicks in. The calendar isn't accurate, though: I'd forgotten to account for my upcoming three-day trial of terror, i.e., my 60-kilometer walk that will start this coming Friday and end sometime Saturday evening. I'll be staying two nights at the River House Motel, and since I won't be lugging along any of my home-cooked food, I'll have no choice but to shell out for both the motel and whatever food and drinks I consume while away from Seoul. I won't be eating on Thursday, and I probably won't eat anything on Friday, either, so I ought to have a thoroughly empty stomach by the time I start the walk around 9 p.m. Friday night. Upshot: no food Thursday or Friday, nothing home-cooked on Saturday and Sunday, which already wrecks four days of my thirty-day meal plan. Not to worry, though; I'll improvise, adapt, and overcome. I'm looking forward to seeing whether I really can get through the next thirty days spending almost nothing. I'm wiring $3200 to my US account tomorrow, which will leave me with a few hundred bucks in my Korean account—just enough in case of emergencies. But for the moment, it's simply a matter of buckling down and powering through this austerity: night gathers, and now my watch begins.



something you can really blame America for

I normally think of Google and its ironically un-self-aware motto "Don't Be Evil" (which, I heard, was quietly taken down last year) when I ponder the question of US companies helping China repress its own citizens. But the laundry list of companies is far longer than I ever imagined, and this China Uncensored video functions as a public-service announcement to all the people who are dying to look for reasons to hate the United States:


And we're not merely helping China censor its own people: we're censoring ourselves!






avoiding "Game of Thrones"

Ever since I became an inveterate YouTube-watcher, I've found it exceedingly difficult to avoid spoilers for shows I plan to view after everyone else has seen them. The problem is that YouTube's algorithm, which knows me better than I know myself, keeps suggesting review/commentary videos for me to watch. The videos' titles are visible to me even before I have a chance to click "not interested," and those titles can themselves be spoilers. Season 8 of "Game of Thrones" just started, and while I'm doing my best to avoid spoilers, I've already seen two or three, simply by glancing at video titles before I dismiss those videos. The same goes for io9 commentaries whose links appear as suggested reads on my cell phone. Any day now, I'm going to see some io9 article title like "Why Jon Snow's Death Early in Season 8 Doesn't Affect the Overall Plot" before I have a chance to look away.

I tried signing up for HBO via Amazon Prime, but Amazon is claiming that the service isn't available in my country. I might try subscribing again at home via my VPN (I'll make Amazon think I live in California), but most likely, I'll just wait for the series to be done in six weeks, then wait an extra couple of months for the season to come out on home video, at which point I'll add the final season of "Game of Thrones" to my Amazon Prime Video collection. In the meantime, I have to navigate the dense minefield of spoilers lying in wait for me out there.



Notre Dame en flammes


The first news I had that the cathedral of Notre Dame was burning was a text from my buddy Mike very early this morning. From what I can tell, the cause of the fire may or may not be related to electrical work that was part of a larger renovation project going on at the cathedral. While it was no surprise that items inside the cathedral might have been flammable, it was a shock to see how much of the cathedral itself was vulnerable to fire. I can only imagine that the renovation project was supposed to be finished in time for Easter, which would at least partly explain the timing of the fire. It was easy to think, reflexively, that this was a terrorist act of some sort, but initial reports aren't leaning that way. We'll see; if some group does end up taking responsibility for the fire, that might give the event a more sinister cast.

As for where we go from here, with the chance that France has lost a number of national treasures (along with the treasure of the edifice itself, or not) in the fire: my feeling is that France will rebuild. Cathedrals burn all the time; treasures are lost all the time. I might feel a greater pang if I were a historian, but I'd bet that every single treasure inside Notre Dame has been logged and recorded and digitally rendered many times over. The objects themselves might have been lost, but their memory will remain. If I seem a bit unsentimental, it may be because I live in a country where beautiful Buddhist temples have a history of repeatedly burning down and being rebuilt. Life goes on, and lucky for us, no one seems to have been killed in this fire. That's far more important than the irrevocable loss of a few material things.



Monday, April 15, 2019

grammar quiz

I just saw this text on a banner-style meme:

Julian Assange is not a journalist, he's an anarchist.

Correct the comma splice. I can think of at least two ways.



Maloney's: a chance to practice my Fraintch

Our R&D team, a group of four, went out to Itaewon (well, to Gyeongnidan, next to Itaewon) at the suggestion of one of our number. We went to a vaguely Irish-themed bar called Maloney's whose interior décor was utterly Amurrican, and whose bartender, at least tonight, was French. My coworker had told me that two of the staffers were French—a man and a woman. The man came in, at one point, and sat at the customers' side of the bar for a bit before leaving. The Frenchwoman bustled about, handling everything visible to us and leaving the cooking to the Pakistani chef in the back. Our coworker had recommended that we come on a Monday night because Monday was calzone night. No standard calzones, though: our choices were steak or chicken. Like on an airplane.

Let's rewind the narrative a bit. We left our office and arrived a teensy bit before 6 p.m., which is when Maloney's officially opens. But we saw that there were patrons already inside; the only hitch was that the chef wasn't opening the kitchen until 6 on the nose, so we ordered drinks—a Coke for yours truly, a Corona for our gyopo coworker (who said he has a whole Costco crate of Corona in his flat), and something a bit harder for my other two coworkers. When we finally did order, we all got the steak calzone. While we waited (and waited...), I recalled that there might be French people working here, and the lady bartender had an accent, but I didn't want to come right out and ask her whether she was French.

When the food finally came out (one by one, almost grudgingly, with 6-7 minutes between each dish's arrival), I thanked the demoiselle in French, to which she replied automatically in French, perhaps not even noticing that we were suddenly speaking French. As the dinner proceeded, I spoke to her a bit more and more in French, and she was wowed by what she considered my perfect pronunciation. I told her, in all truth, that I had lost a lot of my French, but she gave me a politely skeptical look that said she knew I was the real deal.

Of course, if we step back from the moment and view it objectively, I know full well that this lady is well versed in making people feel welcome, so it's an open question as to how sincere she really was. At one point, though, she did ask me flat-out whether I was French (the very question I had failed to ask her!), which I took as an ego-boosting compliment that whisked me back to the days when my French was a lot more spot-on, and I was receiving all sorts of compliments for sounding perfectly French (one person even said I could have been a spy). Those days are gone, alas, and while I still consider myself fluent, I no longer bill myself as "near-native fluent." Last October's trip to France was fairly humbling in that regard: it was a chance to see how rotten my language skills had become.

Anyway, you're not here to read about conversations with pretty young Frenchwomen. You're here to see the calzone I ordered, and here it is, in all its greasy, unconventional-looking glory:



I ordered mine without onions; everyone else got onions in theirs. The calzone didn't look like any calzone I'd ever eaten before; it looked less like a calzone and more like a chimichanga. As for why the chef wrapped the calzone that way, I have no idea. I heard he was Pakistani, but maybe he was Pakistani by way of Mexico. Normally, calzones look a lot like Cornish pasties. What we got looked fairly Tex-Mex.

But the calzone was great. It came with a spicy pink mayo that was partway toward becoming a bona fide remoulade. The grease on the calzone was probably butter—or more likely, a mixture of butter and oil—because the calzone was redolent of butter. I could tell that the greasiness was no mistake: this was part of the cook's signature style, and I could appreciate it on that level. I told my coworkers that the meal was perfect comfort food. It all seemed vaguely familiar, and I belatedly realized that the calzone tasted exactly like a cheesesteak—which is not a dig at the chef's work. My only real complaint is that the thing was too small. (A dietitian would disagree and insist the portion size was just right for a person of my size.) Small or not, the meal was a good one.

I don't normally go to bars, but even a bar-avoider like me could appreciate the way Maloney's did its best to be open, relaxed, and welcoming—much like how the French are, actually. Many Americans think the French are assholes, but that's most likely because they haven't met any French folks—by which I really mean French folks from the towns and villages, not the big cities. But I digress. It was a fine, fine meal, and I was happy to have the chance to practice a few sentences of French avec une vraie Française. Kudos to my coworker for suggesting Maloney's. When I left the bar (I abandoned my coworkers, who appeared to want to sit and drink for a while longer), the lady told me to come on back so we could keep speaking French. Maybe I will. Who knows?



sorry, but...

I've put comment-thread word verification back on. The stream of spam never became a torrent, but I've been getting spam comments at a rate of 1-2 per hour, so it's becoming a lot like Chinese water torture. I'm sorry that word verification means an inconvenience for my two regular commenters, but do recall that it's also an inconvenience for me: despite Blogger's claim that a blog admin doesn't have to deal with word verification on his own blog, I do, in fact, have to click all the squares that show crosswalks, traffic lights, bicycles, cars, buses, and trucks—as well as the "I'm not a robot" check box.

Suffer one way or suffer another.



a month of no spending

So I've thought about how to approach this month of austerity, which will last from April 17 (the day after payday) to May 16—and possibly beyond, if this new lifestyle proves bearable. I won't be starving myself by adhering to a W100,000 budget; I realized fairly quickly that that would be insane, and like any addict, I'd find a way to cheat, anyway. Better to take a temet nosce approach ("know thyself") and cook a month's worth of food in advance, then live only that food during the month between paydays. I'm almost done cooking everything up; tonight, I cook the second-to-last dish, which is burritos. Here's the menu thus far, with a number in parentheses representing approximately the number of days I can eat the item in question.

• chorizo with rice and beans (5)
• chicken/shrimp curry (4) with rice
• beef burritos (5), including Mexican rice
budae-jjigae (6)
• beef with chimichurri (1)—this one will die early
• oatmeal/egg/sausage breakfast (5)
• spaghetti bolognese (4)
• tuna/egg salad (3)
• Soylent, to fill the gaps (5)

The idea will be to adhere to an intermittent-fasting regimen of one largish (but not over-largish) meal per day. No further food shopping during the month; I have to complete my shopping before the period begins (i.e., by the end of Tuesday the 16th). I will also save money by walking both to and from work (I normally walk home from work, but I'll begin walking to work to save on cab/subway fare). I will also not order any new movies via Amazon Prime or iTunes (I have a ton of movies in both my queues, anyway), and as I mentioned earlier, I won't be prepping any more giant office luncheons for the foreseeable future. The idea is to spend as close to literally nothing as possible from April 17 to May 16.

There will be some cheat days this month, though. "Avengers: Endgame" comes out at the end of April, so I'll definitely be spending money to watch that (probably with my Korean buddy and his son), although I may try walking out to the local cinema and back (it's only 80 minutes one way). I'm also doing my insane 60-kilometer walk this coming weekend (Easter weekend), which roughly marks the two-year anniversary of when I began my trans-Korea walk in 2017 (I actually began the walk on April 22 that year). I'll have to spend money to stay for two nights at that River House motel in Yangpyeong.

Buying the food for a month of eating was expensive. My bill is probably over W300,000, but it's still less than I'd spend on snacks and eating out (plus actual meals) over a normal month. If I try to do another no-expenses month after this one, I'll need a week or so to spend a few hundred bucks to buy ingredients and prep meals. The point of this exercise isn't so much about getting my life in order (although there's a bit of a self-improvement component, too) as it is about being able to send exactly $3000/month to my US bank account to dump directly into my Navient scholastic debt. If I'm able to send $6000/month every other month until the end of the year, then I'll be debt-free by the end of the year. If, for whatever reason, I can't hold to this budget, then I'll just have to zero out my debt in early 2020. That's not ideal, but better late than never.

My great fear is that, given my luck and the fact that the cosmos tends to work against me, I'll zero out my debt and suddenly discover I've got testicular cancer or some bullshit like that. My mother's luck ran much the same way: she survived the trauma of the Korean war, had a stressful time raising us three boys, reconciled late in life with her abusive older sister, then got brain cancer right as the contractors were about to finish renovating her house. She didn't even have the chance to enjoy her newly refurbished home. And as superstitious as it might sound, I do fear that my own fate is going to follow Mom's trajectory. There are problems in my life that I know are completely my fault—things I've done to myself through stupidity or arrogance or laziness. But there are also problems that I've had to cope with that stem from circumstances beyond my control, and it's those things that frustrate me the most and make me feel constantly thwarted by the cosmos. A good Buddhist attitude would accept that life never goes straight from A to B, but I'm not a good Buddhist.

Anyway... baby steps. No catastrophe has happened yet, and I'm still on the road to being debt-free. We'll see how things pan out in another eight-ish months. And won't you be happy that, sometime next year, I'll stop writing about my goddamn debt?



Sunday, April 14, 2019

Happy Palm Sunday

Holy Week begins for us Christians.


I suspect that history would have gone much, much differently had Jesus ridden into Jerusalem on the back of a trained velociraptor.



Trump unleashed

Tim Pool thinks Donald Trump is on his way to a Reagan-style landslide victory for his second term. The left seems utterly unable to un-crazy itself; the economy, while still buried under trillions in debt, is doing substantially better than it did under Obama, and the US's geopolitical position is shifting away from global laughingstock to Power to be Viewed Cautiously. What do the Democrats have, really? Not a single viable candidate has emerged—yet—unless you count Joe Biden, who as of this writing still isn't officially running.

So Trump is getting a second term, which makes him, for the moment, the opposite of a lame duck. Others have sensed this, too, which is why The Epoch Times has written an article titled "Now You Will Finally See Trump Fully Unleashed." Here's the lede:

Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his final report to Attorney General William Barr, stating he and his crack team of investigators discovered no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government to influence the 2016 election, a key page has been turned in the story of Donald Trump’s presidency.

It was expected by many—especially in the Fake News media—that Mueller’s final report would prove devastating to Trump and would come with a slew of long-expected and hoped-for indictments of members of his inner circle.

But it was not to be. Not only would there be no further indictments by the special counsel, but Barr also informed Congress in a summary letter that Mueller had found no evidence of collusion by any U.S. citizen—affiliated with the Trump campaign or not.

Until now, due to the mainstream media feeding fake news to the American public for more than two years about the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, the president has essentially been governing with one arm tied behind his back.

[...]

And now, it’s over. Whatever stories the media may want to write about Trump going forward, they won’t be basing them on supposed anonymous sources “close to the Mueller team,” spinning vivid fantasies about forthcoming indictments of key Trump associates that are based on lots of Russian collusion evidence Mueller supposedly is collecting.

While Democrats and the DNC Media Complex struggle to cope with the fallout from the Mueller report, Trump will move forward quickly and press his advantage.

Trump’s other arm is now free. And he’ll quickly begin using it, especially on immigration.

Trump is now fighting for sane immigration and border policies with both hands instead of just one. That’s why he’s suddenly talking about closing the southern border along with withdrawing aid from countries that won’t stop sending illegal immigrant caravans.

The article strikes me as too triumphalist, though, when it crows:

Lee Smith wrote in Tablet Magazine that this exposure of the Trump-Russia election collusion hoax is an “extinction level event” for the Fake News media, and he’s right. The release of Mueller’s report will only be the beginning of the extinction event, however.

The Fake News media is going to spend the next several weeks desperately trying to spin why they fell for the Trump-Russia hoax. I expect Trump will fulfill his vow to declassify of all the FISA documents, catching them in their own lies. That’s because the truth is that many of these news outlets didn’t “fall” for the hoax, they were willing participants in creating and spreading it.

The Fake News media’s present spin cycle is loudly complaining that Mueller’s final report is being “hidden” from them and demanding access to it, while simultaneously asserting that Trump and Attorney General William Barr are trying to purge damaging information from it.

They’ve been set up.

That’s because the Mueller report is going to fully expose just how much of a fraud the Trump-Russia election collusion hoax really was. Far from finding anything that could be used against the president, the entire Trump-Russia narrative is going to be exposed as a farce.

I can see how the Trump-Russia narrative is a farce, but exposing it as a farce isn't likely to turn aside the tsunami of stupidity that's been heading the right's way for a while. We live in an era of shamelessness, in which hate-crime hoaxer Jussie Smollett can have a mountain of evidence against him yet still walk free. Evidence means nothing. Exposure means nothing. Minds simply cannot be changed, these days, because we're long past the time when people could be persuaded by facts and logic.

As for Trump's exoneration by the Mueller report being an "extinction-level event" for the mainstream "fake news" media: again, nah. The article correctly points out that the media are already desperately re-spinning the Mueller report and rewriting history such that leftist journalists don't look like a bunch of dupes, but these days, all journalists have to do is petulantly insist, against all evidence, that they're right, that they're seekers of the truth, and a large sector of the gullible public will give them a pass.

I agree with the article's basic thesis that Trump now has more room to breathe and to act. As to whether recent events have somehow crushed the news media, I seriously doubt it. It's true that about half the country mistrusts the media as things stand, but I don't see that fraction growing anytime soon because trust and mistrust are, these days, functions of political ideology, which is one short step away from saying they're religious points of view.



Milo does Ilhan

Brutally un-PC, Milo Yiannopoulos does a sustained impression of freshman Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who broadcasts her antisemitism with impunity before a prostrate Congress. The best response to such threats is always humor:






going to McDonald's in style

This looks like a hell of a lot of fun:






"A Vigilante": review

[WARNING: I spoil the ending to be able to discuss a major story point.]

I've been sitting on this review for about a week, mulling over how best to approach this movie. It's been very tempting, given the spate of grrrl power movies that have come out in recent years, to compare 2019's "A Vigilante"—which stars Olivia Wilde (who played Thirteen on "House") and is directed by first-timer Sarah Daggar-Nickson—to films like "Wonder Woman" and "Captain Marvel." But I'm not sure that such a comparison does justice to Daggar-Nickson's movie. Or maybe it does, but only if we consider "A Vigilante" to be an actioner like the other films. Here's the iTunes blurb for "A Vigilante":

Give her a call, and she'll give you justice. After escaping her violent husband, Sadie (Olivia Wilde) makes it her life's mission to help free others in danger. Now, after months of rigorous training in survival skills, boxing, and lethal martial arts, Sadie is back with a vengeance in this fight-packed action-thriller.

That has to be one of the most misleading blurbs ever written. "A Vigilante" is 180 degrees away from being a "fight-packed action-thriller." The movie moves at a glacially slow pace; it uses a quirky music soundtrack very sparingly to convey the buildup from quiet thoughtfulness to raw emotion; from what I saw, there are only a few instances in which we see Sadie actually land blows. The movie isn't about the violence; this isn't a retread of Jennifer López's 2002 "Enough." The focus is almost entirely on the state of Sadie's mind, which gives us viewers some insight into what it means to become a vigilante.

The story cuts back and forth between (1) group-therapy sessions in which Sadie generally just sits quietly, not volunteering anything, and (2) the work Sadie does as a vigilante. It takes a while to understand that the group sessions happened in the past; they aren't happening in parallel to her righteous work. This is important because our understanding affects how we see the therapy: is Sadie hiding the fact that she's a secret vigilante from the group, or are those sessions a kind of catalyst, driving her to become a vigilante? It turns out that the latter is the case: therapy empowers her to take on the mantle of a woman who abandons passivity, gathers up her courage, and turns the tables on violent men.

Sadie's past is filled with demons. Her abusive husband killed their young son, then he went on the run and still hasn't been caught. Sadie knows the man is a survivalist, and she knows, in a general way, that he'll be out hiding in the Adirondacks, biding his time and living off the grid. Sadie eventually tells her therapy group that her husband would drive the whole family out to the mountains to practice survival skills; whenever her son wasn't looking, her husband would deliberately break one or more of Sadie's bones, ostensibly as a way to "train" her in wilderness first aid. On the day Sadie decided to leave her husband, she and her son managed to get a couple hundred yards before he caught her, slashed her dozens of times with a knife, and then killed their boy. Sadie is filled with self-loathing because she thinks that taking her son with her to flee was what got him killed. At the same time, she is filled with fury about the monster who is her husband.

The movie first takes us episodically through a few instances of Sadie's vigilante work. The women who call her use a code phrase to indicate they're seeking her special sort of help. The first man we see her deal with gets a well-aimed strike to the throat when he jumps up in fury after Sadie commands him to leave his family. We then cut to a quiet scene in which the man, thoroughly subdued and with trembling, bloody fingers, signs away most of his money, then signs certain papers relinquishing ownership of family property. We never see what happens between that first throat strike and the paper-signing, but we can tell that Sadie has worked the man over, probably torturing him into submission. Sadie helps a few other men before the focus of the story turns to the unresolved issue of Sadie's husband.

Sadie's hunt for her husband signals a shift in the movie's tone. First came the righteous anger that powered Sadie through her various encounters with violent husbands who abused their families. In this second half of the film, the focus is now on Sadie's desire to kill her husband despite still being terrified of him. We don't learn much about the man, except that his name is Mitch. We do learn that he's mentally unstable—possibly schizophrenic, possibly psychotic—and this manifests in his cruel and twisted point of view, in which he sees Sadie as the reason their son is dead. It's no spoiler to say that Sadie eventually tracks her man down, but I'm going to have to spoil the movie's conclusion because that's the only way I can talk about my ambivalence toward the film.

Sadie finds her husband's hiding place: a cabin out in the wintry wild, which is empty when she finds it. Her husband somehow tracks Sadie back to her current hotel, and in the movie's only jump-scare moment, knocks her out. Sadie wakes up tied to a chair in her husband's cabin; when he leaves to go hunting, Sadie manages to free herself, but when her husband comes back, all her new-found fighting skills prove useless against what I assume to be his military combat training. Having subdued Sadie, Mitch commands her to place her forearm over a piece of firewood on the floor. She does so, and Mitch stamps on her arm, breaking it. Sadie is now reliving all those terrifying family excursions out in the mountains. She manages to escape Mitch, and she runs to an empty ski lodge that looks as if it's either been abandoned or is in the early stages of being renovated. She rushes inside the building, blocking the main door, then uses various items to create a splint for her broken arm. All she can do now is wait for Mitch's inevitable arrival while she tries to figure out how to take him out.

After a brief cat-and-mouse scene in which Mitch quietly tracks Sadie, Sadie abandons the element of surprise and simply confronts Mitch in a well-lit swimming-pool area. They exchange words as they circle each other, and Sadie promises to kill Mitch for killing their son. We cut to a scene in which Sadie's group-therapy leader reads a letter from Sadie that talks about how she now has the courage to fight for abused women; Sadie advises the group leader to burn the letter, which the leader does. Cut back to the present, and to the swimming pool: Sadie has killed her husband, and she lies beside his staring corpse. Later, in a nighttime scene, we see Sadie's truck from behind, crawling along a forested path. Sadie stops the truck and appears, opening the truck's back hatch and struggling to lug out something heavy: Mitch's naked body, only barely wrapped in a heavy black tarp. Sadie unceremoniously drops the body onto the road, leaving it uncovered. She gets back in her truck and drives away. The epilogue tells us that the police found Mitch's body but found no evidence of who might have done the crime. In the meantime, Mitch's life insurance will now pay out to Sadie—something that hadn't been possible while Mitch was still alive and running from the law. Now having seen a certain measure of justice done, Sadie returns to her work, and to an uncertain future, as a vigilante who fights for abused women.

The movie's quiet, smoldering ambiance doesn't encourage you to cheer for Sadie, although there are opportunities to feel a sort of grim satisfaction whenever she fucks a nasty man up. The story is clear that each of these men deserves what's coming to him, but I didn't take the film to be some general commentary on "toxic masculinity," a dangerously nebulous concept that's currently very much in vogue. If the film showcases some sort of feminist agenda, that agenda arises organically as a function of the story. I don't think the screenplay was written top-down, with writers in a room saying, "Let's make a kickass feminist tale and flesh out the details later." From what I saw, Sadie comes first, in all of her battered humanity. Olivia Wilde does an excellent job of taking us through the range of Sadie's emotions. Sadie's life is a haunting tragedy, and for much of the film, the specter of her husband—who is somewhere out there—hovers nearby. The viewer is free to explore the question of how a person becomes a vigilante, and I guess that, in some ways, "A Vigilante" does vaguely share some traits with a superhero origin story, as long as the superhero in question is one with a tragic past that motivates his or her current actions.

What frustrated me, though, was Sarah Daggar-Nickson's constant turning-away from violence. I assume there's a good reason why she did this. At a guess, she was trying to emphasize something I'd written above, to wit: violence isn't the point of this story. But in Sadie's final confrontation with Mitch, Sadie—despite a broken arm, and despite having been twice outfought and overpowered by her husband—somehow gets the upper hand and kills him. It would be nice to see how this happens, not because I'm slavering to watch a good beating, but because, up to that point, we viewers are made to see Mitch as crazy but physically superior in every way. In other words, after a narrative that is nine-tenths plausible in how it plays out, we suddenly do a hard left turn into fantasy. From what I could see, there was simply no way Sadie could ever have gotten the upper hand against her husband. Fighting him should have been like fighting, unarmed, against a bear.

I mentioned plausibility. We see Sadie basically training herself to fight. She never takes classes; she never spars with anyone else: at the domestic-violence center, she nicks a book on the Israeli military martial art of krav maga and does what she can to internalize the fighting principles that the manual teaches. Sadie has access to a punching bag somewhere; we never learn where, and I found those punching-bag sequences a bit confusing because, as she goes on her missions, Sadie tends to stay at random hotels. Does she keep the bag in her car's trunk? The movie never explains this. But the movie realistically shows that, while Sadie can acquit herself one on one with an unsuspecting male opponent, she has trouble fighting multiple male opponents (she takes down three drunk guys outside a bar, but with difficulty*), and—at least initially—she can't do a thing against her expertly trained husband. Sadie isn't made out to be a krav maga superwoman the way Jennifer López's character was in "Enough." We feel Sadie's terror at the prospect of physically confronting Mitch, so it's a major letdown when we aren't allowed to witness the actual takedown.

Daggar-Nickson's directorial choice not to show Sadie's violence is a huge flaw in the narrative because it actually causes a narrative problem. Sadie's takedown of her husband comes off as contrived, which is disappointing given how realistic the movie had been up to that point. But the movie also has so much going for it, mainly thanks to Wilde's deeply empathetic performance and Daggar-Nickson's ability to build tension. "A Vigilante" isn't an action-thriller; there's actually very little action in it. It is, however, a most excellent character study about a woman who has had everything taken away from her. And in the end, I have to give the film kudos, despite the violence-lacunae, because we're rooting for Sadie to find some measure of peace in her life. And a bit like the way Batman suffered a single tragedy that he relives every time he takes down yet another criminal, we comes to understand that peace, for Sadie, can only come by living her new, chosen life.



*Interestingly, this scene actually showed the violence, but perhaps in a way that was meant to reveal that Sadie, despite having studied about fighting, is no robotic fighting machine.

NB: I think "A Vigilante" was released in theaters, but it was simultaneously made available for rent on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video. Customer reviewers on Amazon (where the movie currently has 3 stars) are giving this film a lot of hate, probably because the renters went in expecting an action-thriller, as I did. Can't say I blame them for feeling betrayed, but if you take the movie on its own terms and ignore the stupid marketing, it's a worthwhile way to spend 90 minutes. I saw some complaints about "story holes" and about Olivia Wilde crying and panting too much, but I think those complainers missed the point of those scenes, or they simply felt no sympathy for Wilde's character.



Saturday, April 13, 2019

apologies if I accidentally deleted your comment just now

I had a whole cluster of spam comments in my comment queue just now, and without checking the entire list to see whether there were any legitimate comments in there, I clicked "select all comments" and deleted the entire crop. If you left a comment, and it hasn't appeared by now (check this post's date/time stamp to verify when "now" is), I apologize for the accidental deletion, and I'm afraid you'll have to rewrite your comment. I always find such situations psychologically interesting because they force the commenter to get self-critical and decide whether the lost comment is worth rewriting. I've been in situations where I've written a long comment, suffered an accidental deletion, and decided not to rewrite because fuck that.



mission: down-dorans

I bought that lovely Cuisinart food processor a short while ago, but it's got a US plug, and it's a 110-volt device, so I need to hook it up to a proper transformer so as not to fry the Cuisinart when I plug it in and use it.

I have a so-called down-dorans (a Konglish-y term for a transformer that converts "downward" from 220 volts to 110 volts), but it's already hard at work far away from my kitchen, and I don't want to have to unplug and move the transformer every time I need to use the food processor. Solution: buy a second transformer. So that's my mission for today: I'll be leaving soon to hit the hardware district downtown (roughly, the Jongno 3-ga/Euljiro 3-ga neighborhoods) to buy myself a new transformer. These things are a bit smaller than a shoebox, and they weigh several pounds. Once I've got the device in hand, life in my kitchen ought to become much, much easier.

So long as I don't splash sink water onto the thing while I'm washing dishes.

Here's what a down-dorans looks like:


In fact, the above photo is of almost exactly the same transformer currently chugging away in my apartment (mine is rated "1KVA," and it has vents on top). It may be a small detail, but one of the things I love most about this transformer is that it's got three-hole sockets. This obviates the need to buy a three-to-two adapter. (Actually, I do have one of those, but still...)



Because Science tackles the "Thanus" meme

Among the nerdy, for-kids science videos that I watch is the YouTube channel Because Science, a show that often deals with questions prompted by scenes from movies and TV shows. Ever since "Avengers: Infinity War," one particular meme has been floating around the internet: the idea that Ant-Man has the power to defeat Thanos, the Mad Titan, by flying into Thanos's anus (hence the "Thanus" meme) and expanding either to human size or to Giant Man size, thereby exploding Thanos from within. People grossed out by this scenario have suggested "you should've gone for the head" strategies like flying into Thanos's ear or nose and performing the same trick. One reply to the intestinal-invasion idea has been that, as we saw in "Infinity War," Thanos is naturally impervious to most Earth-based weaponry, like bombs and grenades, not to mention mountain-sized chunks of debris from lost civilizations. This means there's no guarantee that Ant-Man, when he expands inside Thanos's ass, would actually be able to explode the Titan from the inside because Thanos's viscera would be orders of magnitude tougher than a human's.

Because Science now has a video exploring the question with more mathematical precision than I could ever muster. Prepare yourself for a slew of ass-related puns:






memes seen on YouTube

What a strange place to find memes.








shout-out to lesbian drama

Some graffiti artist decided to pay tribute to a French lesbian-themed drama from 2013: "Blue is the Warmest Colour."






Friday, April 12, 2019

Tim Pool at his most agitated

There are parts of the following video that don't sit well with me (e.g., I think it's actually okay to point out that Bernie Sanders flashes his socialist cred while also owning three large properties), but Pool ends the vid with an angry-but-uplifting tirade about the need to fight against the narrative of helplessness, hopelessness, indolence, passivity, and victimhood. He talks with passion about what he thinks "the American dream" is, what "American greatness" means, and he repeats the refrain that, with hard work, "You can do it." If you're not fired up by the end, you're either a zombie or a psychopath... or an introvert who sneers at the notion of getting caught up in a wave of feeling just because others happen to feel that way.

I don't think I've ever seen Pool this agitated before, and I've seen enough of his videos to know he has more than a whiff of the liberal crusader about him. This video is somewhat special, I think—perhaps because the issue hits close to home for Pool.






Veritasium on the black-hole photo

The following video by Veritasium talks about the Messier 87 black-hole photo, but it also talks about our attempts to get an image of Sagittarius A* (pronounced "A-star"), the supermassive black hole at the center of our own galaxy, answering the question in my previous post about why we can't see our own monstrous consumer of stars. As it turns out, and as you'll see in the video, we do have an image of our galaxy's black hole, presumably published at about the same time as the Messier 87 image. The whole thing is mind-blowing. All hail Einstein and his general relativity.






random pics, maybe with explanations

Behold—a collection of random pics!

There's a load-bearing column on the fourth floor of our office building that's painted gray, and some amorous female student decided to give it a belipsticked kiss. I had to take a pic before an angry janitor came along and wiped the column clean. Here you go:


The downstairs grocery in my building has been selling bagels. I'd give the bagels about a 7 out of 10; the texture is correct, but the outer surface could've used a bit more of a boil-and bake to make for a browner, firmer surface. Anyway, my grocery was also selling cream cheese and smoked salmon, and once I realized this, I suddenly found myself in a Jewish-deli mood. I bought the necessaries and made some lox and schmear (with leftover capers):


I had toted the leftover bagels to the office, and lo and behold: a coworker had left a jar of homemade jam on my desk. Once I finished up my lox-and-schmear bagels, I finished the evening with bagels topped with cream cheese and homemade jam:


Below is the final pic. I've been cooking up a storm in preparation for a month of not spending a dime (except for paying the rent and other monthly bills). Thus far, I've prepped spaghetti bolognese sauce, chicken/shrimp curry, budae-jjigae, shabu beef for chimichurri, and—just tonight—chorizo with rice and frijoles negros. Had a sample, and it's pretty fuckin' good:


I cooked the rice in the leftover broth I had from making my briskets. That broth was packed with flavor from the BBQ dry rub, the drippings from the beef, and the chicken-broth base. Once the rice was nearly done and the chorizo went in, the fat from the chorizo rendered out and made everything make sense. The rice and beans are now so saturated with chorizo flavor that I almost don't miss the sausage. (But if I ever do this again, I'll peel off the chorizo casings and crumble the meat.)

There's no more room in my freezer to store things. I'm worried that some of the food in the fridge might rot over the coming weeks. I may have to tote some of the food to the communal fridge in our new building. That fridge stinks, but there's some freezer space left in it.



more Candace for those who love her

The title of the video makes it sound as if Candace Owens spoke to Congress to forcefully as to silence the entire legislative body, but that's not what the video actually shows. Instead, what we see is Candace Owens getting catechized by a friendly interlocutor, Congressman Ken Buck (R) of Colorado, who gives Candace the space, through his questions, to express her views in a fairly comprehensive manner (if five minutes of video can be called comprehensive). Anyway, here's Candace Owens in her own words:






Thursday, April 11, 2019

Tim Pool on Julian Assange's arrest(!!!)

Wow.


This is fresh, fresh news, and I'm still processing this. I view Julian Assange as—per the D&D terminology—chaotic neutral. He was a darling of the left, but lately, he's been a darling of the right, which says more about the collectively fickle nature of the American public than about Assange himself.

ADDENDUM: Styx's reaction:






life is never boring when the police interrogate you

My friend Young, author of The Accidental Citizen-soldier, just wrote a blog entry about being interrogated by the police for a crime he didn't commit. Lots of tension and frustration, and from what I gather, the affair isn't over yet. Oy.



keto-friendly fried chicken using this one weird trick!

This is pretty funky. I'm tempted to try this at some point.






the abyss looks into you

Creepy, awesome, yet seemingly simple: take a look at what scientists are calling the first-ever real photo of an actual black hole. The image doesn't look like much. In fact, it looks like something I could crank out with Photoshop. But if the boffins are to be trusted, this is our first real look at a phenomenon that, up to now, has been strongly implied by the mathematics of Albert Einstein and a host of other great minds. Seeing a black hole, as opposed to merely imagining one, is a moment of mysterium tremendum et fascinans for me. The apodictic Platonism of math declared something to be true about the material world; an abstractum boomed, "Let there be a concrētum!"* And there was, and it was a monster. Behold:


Here's the Guardian's take:

Astronomers have captured the first image of a black hole, heralding a revolution in our understanding of the universe’s most enigmatic objects.

The picture shows a halo of dust and gas, tracing the outline of a colossal black hole, at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55m light years from Earth.

The black hole itself – a cosmic trapdoor from which neither light nor matter can escape – is unseeable. But the latest observations take astronomers right to its threshold for the first time, illuminating the event horizon beyond which all known physical laws collapse.

The breakthrough image was captured by the Event Horizon telescope (EHT), a network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations from Antarctica to Spain and Chile, in an effort involving more than 200 scientists.

Sheperd Doeleman, EHT director and Harvard University senior research fellow said: “Black holes are the most mysterious objects in the universe. We have seen what we thought was unseeable. We have taken a picture of a black hole.”

Our galaxy is only 100,000 light years across; you'd think we'd be able to see the Milky Way's own supermassive black hole (which is the reason why our spiral galaxy looks as if its stars were all circling a drain... because, in a sense, they are), but I guess we can't do that yet because we're staring straight through the galaxy's ecliptic. Were the earth positioned directly above the galactic hub, it might be a different story. In the meantime, we'll have to make do with Messier 87's voracious omphalos, which sits in judgment of our puny planet and its puny human affairs. Carl Sagan wrote eloquently about our smallness in an oft-quoted passage from his Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. Here's an apt excerpt:

That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Gargantuan black holes are a brute reminder that there is such a thing as raw power, and whatever we humans consider power is in fact a paltry, gossamer travesty of nature's true might. It's good to be shown, now and then, where we sit in the grand scheme of things.




*Put more simply: the math predicted such a creature, and now we've seen it.



maybe Vlad has a point

Via Bill Keezer:






Jon Miller re: attempt by Ted Lieu to sabotage Candace Owens

Jesus Christ, is Ted Lieu fucking stupid.


There's a primitive part of me that would love to go around kneecapping some of these lie-spewing pieces of shit. Yet I remain civil and civilized.

But for how much longer?



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

go ahead—poke holes in this

Presented without comment:

"Nolte: Scientists Prove Man-made Global Warming Is a Hoax"



Ryan George takes us back to the beginning

This comes with a strong "Dr. Strange and Dormammu in a tightly closed time loop" flavor:


I'm not sure why the title is about writing fiction when the whole thing is verbal.



"Outlaws: Billy the Kid and Clyde Barrow" by Bonnie Parker

I saw this poem, supposedly written by Bonnie Parker (the distaff half of the Bonnie and Clyde of 1930s fame), and I had to appreciate Parker's crooked sense of rhythm and the haunting lyricism of her imagery. It's a dark, grim poem, in which the world of the dead is as bleak as the world of the living; Parker apparently knew she was on a deathward trajectory, so most of her poems were in this vein. I still need to confirm that the following poem was indeed written by Parker, but whether it was or not, it kind of gave me the willies.

Billy rode on a pinto horse
Billy the Kid I mean
And he met Clyde Barrow riding
In a little gray machine

Billy drew his bridle rein
And Barrow stopped his car
And the dead man talked to the living man
Under the morning star

Billy said to the Barrow boy
Is this the way you ride
In a car that does its ninety per
Machine guns at each side?

I only had my pinto horse
And my six-gun tried and true
I could shoot but they got me
And someday they will get you!

For the men who live like you and me
Are playing a losing game
And the way we shoot, or the way we ride
Is all about the same

And the like of us may never hope
For death to set us free
For the living are always after you
And the dead are after me

Then out of the East arose the sound
Of hoof-beats with the dawn
And Billy pulled his rein and said
I must be moving on

And out of the West came the glare of a light
And the drone of a motor's song
And Barrow set his foot on the gas
And shouted back, 'So long'

So into the East, Clyde Barrow rode
And Billy, into the West
The living man who can know no peace
And the dead who can know no rest

—found here

And while we're on the spooky subject of foreordained death: do you know what one definition of barrow is? The man's death was written in his surname. I've got Bonnie and Clyde on the brain after reading that Netflix released a movie called "The Highwaymen," starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, which tells the Bonnie-and-Clyde story from the point of view of the cops who hunted them. It also appears that, long before Joan Jett performed "I Hate Myself for Loving You," those iconic words had been written by Bonnie Parker.



the weather outside sucks

It's cold and nasty outside—unnaturally so, in my opinion. But I have to admit that Seoul's air quality has probably never been better. Here's how things are in Daechi-dong, the district where I work (click to enlarge):


That's slightly better than the average (about 22) in northern Virginia.



go, Candace!

Candace Owens recently gave a statement at a House hearing about hate crimes and white supremacy. Below are two videos: one is her actual statement, and the other is a reaction video by Anthony Brian Logan, who appears to be a black conservative. (I haven't watched any other videos by Logan, so I don't know his actual political leanings.)




Representative Ted Lieu (D-California) apparently played audio of Candace Owens making some sort of statement about Hitler. Owens blasted Lieu for taking her out of context, as so many of these stupid monkeys do. Tim Pool is, as you can imagine, on the case:






old-school cherry cola

It's not as good as Cherry Coke, but it's not horrible, either:






Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Viet lunch + butt goat

Some pics from our team's excursion to the Vietnamese restaurant, plus a shot of a local clutch of cherry blossoms. The first pic gives us the resto's name: Pho M3, whatever that means. You can also see a teeny, tiny teacup:


Next: our team leader's pho. This bucket-sized portion was billed as a small:


The meat in the soup was ghostly white. I didn't taste my team leader's food, but based on looks alone, I think the other restaurant's chadolbagi gukbap was far, far better.

Below, we have some sides, many of which are Korean-style:


My chicken pad thai (not pictured: my shrimp "crackers," i.e., deep-fried panko shrimp that has little to nothing to do with Vietnam... neither does the pad thai, come to think of it):


The small bowl of broth that came with my pad thai:


And finally, some local cherry blossoms, right before the rain started up:






AOC is losing her luster among constituents

If you're a New York liberal, and if you're concerned about the havoc that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been wreaking in your part of the world since she became a Congresscritter, I strongly advise you to watch this Tim Pool video about how AOC—who may very well be a darling of the extreme socialist left—isn't polling so well among her original peeps in New York. Required viewing.






Monday, April 08, 2019

gitchoo in da mood for GOT

"Game of Thrones," Season 8, is starting in a week or so, so the time has come for a quick recap of where we are in the story. To that end, I found this nifty animation that does a good job of summing things up, although the guy pronounces "Gendry" wrong:


And here's a dude (Pete Buttigieg?) playing the GOT opening theme and apparently channeling Ennio Morricone on his git-tahr:






the long-ish walk

It took me a bit longer than five hours to schlep from Yeouido back to my apartment next to Daecheong Station. I started off at the National Assembly building on the extreme west side of the island because that's where a website said the springtime flower festival was happening. I think I wandered through parts of that festival, but to be honest, the site wasn't nearly as crowded as I thought it would be. You'll see what I mean in the photos below. All the same, Yeouido was crowded enough to motivate me to walk the hell out of there as quickly as I could. The people began to thin out once I left the island and kept heading east along the Han River bike path. The rest of the path looked to have about the normal amount of foot and bike traffic for a beautiful Sunday in spring.

I recall how sparse the traffic was during my 2017 walk, except whenever I neared a major city. Much of that walk was quiet, with only intermittent bikers whizzing by. Sunday's walk was much more noisy, with tent cities having sprung up—as if the place had suddenly become Portland or San Francisco, but without the drugs, dung, theft, and rape—in all the available park space along the Yeouido segment of the bike path. I saw young women with flower garlands in their hair, and soon enough, I stumbled upon an impromptu garland-selling station that had been set up along the bike path. I wanted to take a shot of the garland-laden table and the girls selling the cute decorations (fake plastic flowers, all), but I think I stood still too long when composing my shot because one of the girls saw me and gave me a big, glowing smile, which I captured quite by accident. That may be my favorite photo in this collection. Thank you, O Serendipity.

The pics below are all large (about 640 pixels in width on a 72-dpi screen), but you can click on the landscape ones to enlarge further (1500 pixels). Actually, you can click on all the pics, portrait or landscape, but the portrait pics won't enlarge any further than 600 pixels if you click on them because 600 px is their original size.

First shot: this is where I got out of the cab and began the uphill walk to the street that led to the National Assembly. Traffic was fine until we were within about two kilometers of Yeouido. We skirted around the main exit to the island, drove a bit farther along the expressway, then took a direct exit to the National Assembly. I told the cabbie to let me off when we were within walking distance of South Korea's version of the US Congress (except that, in Korea, the National Assembly is a unicameral body, not bicameral like in the States).

Cherry trees were everywhere; there was no avoiding them:


I think this marked one boundary of the flower festival:


See what I mean about how the place wasn't that crowded? We're at the lawn in front of the National Assembly building. Several events were scheduled to happen there around 2 p.m.; I arrived around 1:45, and I didn't stick around for anything, not wanting to be deluged in booming voices from giant speakers.

Behold the lack of crowd density:


I saw these ajummas, perhaps part of some performance troupe, and couldn't resist taking a picture as one of the ladies walked in a stately manner toward where I was standing:


A fountain that I had somehow never noticed before, with eternally vomiting lions:


The National Assembly building, with a slice of the fountain:


The National Assembly building, front and center:


A young YTN reporter, prepping with her crew, her shirt fashionably untucked except for at the front—a move that only a cute chick can get away with:


Below: cherry trees a-blooming. The Korean term for "cherry blossom(s)" sounds like butt-goat, so that's what they are in my mind. Welcome, then, to the butt-goat festival.


I tried to get an angle that would produce an "avenue" effect, showing off the line of cherry trees heading east along the street:


Getting closer to my target: the Han River bike path. The sign below is pointing to some sort of art market, which I think I passed through. There wasn't much there; the market turned out to be a few hastily put-together stalls selling very little that looked worthwhile.


Next to the art-market sign was this silly photo-op threshold:


In the shot below, I'm by the river, but I've trained my camera on a shallow pool in which kids and adults are playing. This is obviously a family-oriented day: lots of fathers are taking pics of their kids as the kids whiz by on bikes, skates, or their little feeties. In a bit, you'll see the tent cities, filled with couples and families who staked out a small patch of ground on which to sit all day... not very entertaining, in my opinion. I've done something similar during July 4th events on the DC Capitol grounds, and I can't say I enjoyed the crowds, nor did I enjoy the long, long wait for the evening festivities to begin.

The pool:


Here's one shot of the tents:


I'm still in Yeouido at this point, so the paths are all crowded. I don't suffer from agoraphobia, as far as I know, but I don't like spending long periods among too many of my kind. So I kept up a steady walking pace and chugged my way eastward, eager to get where it was quieter:


And here we are, at my favorite moment of the day. I wasn't very slick in my attempt to snap a secret pic of the flower girls selling their garlands. One of the young ladies noticed me and flashed her pearly whites:


Tents were placed in every available space:


I'm leaving Yeouido now. Near the east side of the island, the bike path goes under some long overpasses, so this part of the walk is in the shade. That was a relief: the day had been sunny, and I regretted not having worn my toshi sleevelets to protect my forearms from burning. In the end, I didn't end up burned, but the sun was warm wherever I received direct sunlight. Being under those roadways allowed me to enjoy some soothing coolness. Note that the cherry trees almost seem to be following us, like that drunk friend who tugs on your shirt and drool-drawls, "Hey, don't go yet! We can do a few more rounds!"


I noticed some stairs and a weird, complicated metal structure that looked and felt a bit steampunkish, so I took the following photo. I think the complicated whatever-it-was was a group of electrical boxes for the wiring in that neighborhood, but I can't be sure. It all looked very artistically rusted.

Note the colorfully painted bleachers, where people can sit and cheer the river while it flows:


Fast-forward a few hours, and I'm nearly done with the walk. I didn't bother to photograph the other parts of the route because I've already done that several times for you, and I didn't want to bore you. I took the following shot, though, because of the blossoming cherry tree:


When the cabbie picked me up, and I asked him to take me to the National Assembly building, he laughed and said, "You're going to the festival, right?" I said yes, and he gestured around my neighborhood: "But you've got cherry trees all around here!" I nodded and didn't argue. I suppose I could've said, "Good God, man! What was I thinking?"—and gotten out of the cab.

As you see below, there are indeed many cherry trees close to where I live. This path converted itself very nicely into a sort of lovers' lane:


And this final shot, which will probably look more impressive when you click and enlarge it, shows the Jamshil Lotte World Tower rising phallically above a horizon of cherry trees by my apartment building. Sick of cherry trees yet?


And that's the end of that photo essay. Happy springtime to you all. May buxom Oestre bless you with her ponderous bosom of wonders, filling your veins with elixir vitae.

ADDENDUM: I didn't stop to rest, and I drank nothing along the way. By the end of the walk, my feet were achy, but there were no blisters and no firecrotch, luckily, so all is well. I think I lost three kilos during the walk, which is normal; all of that is water weight and not anything substantial. I'll regain it all shortly. I'm not sure how advisable it is to walk five hours without drinking anything, especially given how sweaty I am, but I survived with little more than a very dry mouth. Once I was near my apartment, I ducked into a convenience store and loaded up on drinks. Long walks make me more thirsty than hungry. Once home, I ended up being too tired to do any shopping or cooking, but I did do my laundry, then I sat down and watched "A Vigilante" with Olivia Wilde, which I'll be reviewing soon.