Tuesday, April 21, 2015

visiting the relatives

Tonight, I'm visiting some relatives. Missed the chance to see everybody back at Lunar New Year, but then again, I'm not big into huge Korean family gatherings, especially as I'm the black-sheep furriner. This evening, though, is not just a social call: I need to get working on gathering the paperwork for my F-4 visa so that I can transfer smoothly over to working for the Golden Goose this summer. My GG boss is leaning on me to get this done in a timely manner, and I don't disagree: it'd be a shame to try to rush this process come June or July. I'm contracted to be in my studio until the end of July; a mad rush in June would only be madder should I (1) fail to get the F-4 done (2) while also trying to prep for my end-of-July move back into Seoul).

Friend/blogger/author Young Chun was kind enough to provide me with the details of obtaining his own F-4; I hope to apply that wisdom to my own search. There are, it seems, four documents that I need; tonight, I'm going to be talking with my relatives about obtaining one or two of them. Fingers crossed.


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my friend is an asshole

My longtime buddy Dr. Steve doCarmo has been blogging. I remember back when he'd started a blog, when he'd written in fits and starts and then... nothing. The effort petered out like a tired fart, and the rest was silence.

But it seems Steve is back, and the bastard never told me he was back. Go check out his Up the Flagpole, if you dare. Steve and I are at opposite ends of the PoMo love/hate spectrum, and we're growing farther and farther apart on the political spectrum. Still, he's one of my closest buddies, and a damn good writer and teacher to boot. So yeah, go check out his blog. When you get to the PoMo nonsense, just hold your nose and scroll past it. There's plenty there that's worth your while.

Steve, you're an asshole for not telling me about this blog.


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Monday, April 20, 2015

first set of exams

This week is midterms week, and I administered my first batch of exams earlier today. One student was so panicked that she kept pressing on her chest, during the interview, as if she were experiencing a heart attack. I'm guessing it was something along the lines of a mild panic attack (she remained rational and kept her sense of humor when I told her not to die—hence mild) or performance anxiety. I told her about a relative of mine who also suffers from performance anxiety; I don't know whether that helped, but she smiled politely at my anecdote. I also gave her the advice that I'd received from the late, great Father Cenkner of Catholic University: "In ten years, none of this will matter." She seemed to latch on to that perle de sagesse and breathe easier.

Just about every student reported being nervous. Some of this is natural; some of this has to do with the insane pressure that Koreans put on themselves and each other come testing time. It's a sad fact of existence here on the peninsula, but society is structured around hoop-jumping. It's not just a matter of rites of passage, as can be found in other cultures; Koreans have those rites, too—on top of the pressure of exams, interviews, and other hoops.

So I'm resigned to seeing three more groups of nervous, anxious college kids later this week. As for the first group: I've already graded their exams, and I think the lowest grade was a "C." Since, up to now, the kids have earned easy "A"s, even the ones who got "C"s on the midterm still have an "A" average. This will change, of course, with the arrival of the big project (Week 12; we're currently in Week 8) and with the final exam, both of which will be graded strictly. It's not that I necessarily want to be cruel in how I grade the kids, but in a class of 19, only 5 students can get "A"s (30% upper limit). That's the curve, stupid though it be. Also: only up to 70% of the class can receive "A"s plus "B"s. That's thirteen kids total; six are doomed to the hinterlands of "C"s, "D"s, and "F"s.

My nightmare—and this is every prof's nightmare—is that I'm going to end up with too many "A"s and/or "B"s by the end of the semester. If that happens, then I have to bump some students down a grade to fit the curve. Once I do that, the howling begins: students will call, text, and email me, demanding to know why, why, why they didn't get the grade they thought they'd be getting. It wasn't too bad last semester, except for one whiny bastard who couldn't even be bothered to write his own email. But it was a nightmare at Daegu Catholic, and it could be a nightmare here again, during my final semester at Dongguk.

But those are concerns for later. For now, I just want to survive midterms week with my sanity more or less intact.


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unusual but delectable

Normally, when I think of caprese, I think of this, which is my preferred method of presentation. But sometimes we have no choice but to work with what we have, and if Costco isn't selling the usual log-shaped Belgioioso mozzarella, which can be cut into disks, then we suck it up and buy the Belgioioso mozza-nuggets. This will, of course, change the tenor of the salad we're trying to make, but we're nothing if not practical.

So here's what I contrived:


Instead of going for standard tomatoes, I've gone for cherry tomatoes. They were remarkably sweet; I guess tomatoes are in season. I layered the plate with basil, then scattered tomato halves and cheese nuggets across the top. I then crowned the whole thing with homemade pesto and the only fancy vinegar I've got: a Korean blueberry rice vinegar.

I can't decide whether the photo looks beautiful or ugly. The photo itself doesn't really capture the colorful, Christmasy reality of the caprese; the pesto, however, looks a lot like Vulcan turds, and the longer you stare, the more turd-like the turds look.* Taste-wise, the dish was excellent. I had been ready to be all closed-minded about using any vinegar other than balsamic, but now I'm sold: Korean blueberry rice vinegar (one of several varieties of fruity rice vinegars available at the local grocer) works just fine, and it fits perfectly into an Italian flavor profile, despite being rice-y and despite being blueberry-y.

Here's the food-porn angle of the same dish:




*To lay down the pesto, I scooped a couple spoonfuls into a plastic sandwich bag, cut off the corner of the bag, and squeezed the pesto onto the salad as if I were using a pastry tube. As I squeezed, I made hrrrrrrrgh grunting sounds and wet raspberry noises as the sandwich bag defecated its unsightly load onto the green leaves and tomatoes and cheese. That doubtless influenced my perception of the photo.





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Sunday, April 19, 2015

my new baby

About that "recent purchase" to which I'd alluded in my previous post—here it is:


Behold my new Braun 7-in-1 Minipimer 7 MQ 735 hand blender. Sounds as though I'm rattling off the serial information for a new rifle, right? Well, this baby is, in a way, a new part of my cooking arsenal. One of the things I told myself I'd do, before moving over from Dongguk to the Golden Goose, would be to start buying the equipment and furniture that I'll eventually be using in my new, large apartment near Daecheong Station. Stock up now, store it now, then move it all in when the time comes to move.

As I wrote previously, the Braun is what allowed me to make today's pesto—and what a lovely pesto it is, made of pine nuts, mixed nuts, romano cheese, olive and canola oil, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. I plan on making some shrimp pesto pasta this coming week, along with a caprese. I had wanted to make the caprese tonight, but I forgot that I'd used up all my remaining tomatoes to make my slow-cooked bolognese sauce. That was an interesting experience: I dumped most of the sauce ingredients into the slow-cooker (tomatoes, onions, fresh basil, fresh parsley, shredded carrot), then used my new immersion blender to blitz them into a proper sauce. Later on, I added oregano, chopped portobello mushrooms, and browned ground beef (drained of fat, of course, and nicely spruced up with salt, pepper, and chili pepper). In any event, I need to go buy more tomatoes.

Meanwhile, I'm ecstatic to have this new addition to the kitchen family.


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more equipment = more meals

Two shots of my homemade pesto and one shot of slow-cooked bolognese (without spaghetti as the pasta: it's gemelli). The first two shots require no clickage, but do click on the third pic to see it full size:


In the pic below, note the bit of unassimilated basil wrapped around the blade column:


Finally, click on this pic to enlarge:


My recent purchase is what allowed me to make the pesto. I had to compromise a bit, when making the pesto, because ingredients are so damn expensive in Korea. First compromise: instead of just pine nuts, I used used a 50/50 combo of pine nuts and cheaper mixed nuts. Second compromise: instead of parmigiano, I used romano, which was just as good. Third compromise: instead of pure olive oil, I used a mix of olive oil and canola. After adding a dash of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, the results were outstanding despite all the compromises. (I've made pesto using baby spinach and cashews before; as my brother Sean once informed me, all you need for pesto, technically, are an oil, a leafy green, a nut, and a cheese.)

Can't wait to make shrimp pesto pasta. And now... back to midterm-exam creation.


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don't bug me

It's gnats. The gnats are here. These aren't Hayang-style fruit flies, as far as I can tell: in Goyang, we've got gnats. My windows have mesh on them, but the gnats can just crawl right through it. I've been killing the foul, annoying little creatures in ones and twos, but if they're out in force like this so early in the spring, I can only imagine how bad things are going to be come summer. Time to look up gnat traps.

Time to prepare for war.


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Saturday, April 18, 2015

spree

Time to go shopping at Costco. In truth, today is a terrible day to shop at Costco: the best time, from what I've seen, is Tuesday evening, when there are no crowds. Saturday is Pay Homage to Costco Day, so I can expect a long wait at the registers. All the same, I need to be out and about so as not to remain completely stagnant. I also want to get started on that spaghetti sauce, which means I need to have it prepped and ready to go by this evening.

I went out last night and bought myself a 7-in-1 immersion blender-cum-food processor set. I had thought about buying two separate pieces of equipment, but when I saw the set, I thought, Why not save some money, eh? So now I can make things like hummus and pesto. Cool.

On the shopping list for this evening, then:

• heavy cream (I seem to keep running out of this)
• basil (3-4 packages: pesto, spaghetti sauce, caprese, curry chicken)
• parmigiano wedge (pesto)
• pine nuts (probably will buy locally, unless Costco is selling a big pack)
• jumbo shrimp (curry)
• ground beef (bolognese)
• mozzarella (caprese)
• portabello mushrooms (bolognese, bleu-fredo)
• raisins (reg. salad, carrot salad)
• naan (because you never know)
• butter (I seem to keep running out of this)
• mandarin oranges (regular salad)
• cheddar cheese (naan pizza?)
• fresh parsley (bolognese)

I thought about adding prosciutto to the above list, but a nameless benefactor provided me with peas, barbecue sauce, and a large pack of bacon. Ever had bacon pizza? It brings me back to my elementary-school days, back when any bullshit the cafeteria served you could be labeled as "pizza" with a perfectly straight face. So yeah, I have a sentimental attachment to "pizza" made with cheddar and bacon.

That's a lot of crap to buy, and I need to step out and buy it.


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Camille Paglia on Hillary Clinton, 2007

Found this Camille Paglia excerpt from an old post of mine, and it's as relevant now as it had been back in 2007, pre-Obama:

Hillary's stonewalling evasions and mercurial, soulless self-positionings have been going on since her first run for the U.S. Senate from New York, a state she had never lived in and knew virtually nothing about. The liberal Northeastern media were criminally complicit in enabling her queenlike, content-free "listening tour," where she took no hard questions and where her staff and security people (including her government-supplied Secret Service detail) staged events stocked with vetted sympathizers, and where they ensured that no protesters would ever come within camera range.

That compulsive micromanagement, ultimately emanating from Hillary herself, has come back to haunt her in her dismaying inability to field complex unscripted questions in a public forum. The presidential sweepstakes are too harsh an arena for tenderfoot novices. Hillary's much-vaunted "experience" has evidently not extended to the dynamic give-and-take of authentic debate. The mild challenges she has faced would be pitiful indeed by British standards, which favor a caustic style of witty put-downs that draw applause and gales of laughter in the House of Commons. Women had better toughen up if they aspire to be commander in chief.

Commentary as prophecy.


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Friday, April 17, 2015

busy weekend

This coming week is midterm week for the students, so this weekend will be devoted to typing up both the listening portion of the test and the speaking portion's one-on-one interview questions. It's always a toss-up as to how best to evaluate the students; group evaluations go faster but are harder to organize and more confusing to grade, whereas one-on-one interviews—which allow one to grade each student individually in a minimal-BS environment (an unprepared student can't fake his or her way through such an interview)—are too short to allow one much information by which to evaluate a student. All the same, one-on-one is what I've chosen, and I'm giving each student about five minutes. That ought to be plenty of time for me to figure out his or her proficiency.

The listening portion of the midterm will have detail and main-idea questions; the speaking portion will have four interview questions: one on vocab, one on grammar, and two asking for the student's brief opinion on topics covered in our textbook. Some students actually asked me whether they'd be tested only on the book material; it occurred to me that this is because they have some sloppy teachers who like to test the kids on random questions that have little to do with what's actually been taught. A shame, that, but such teachers do exist.



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income irony

When I signed on with Dongguk University, I had been told that the salary would be 2.9 million won per month, bumped up to 3 million won in March. Well, the bump-up happened... and ever since March, my net income has been W100,000 lower than it had been previously. Yet another reason to love my employer.


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upcoming culinary projects

What I plan to do with my money in the near future:

1. Build a better shrimp-and-chicken curry.

2. Make pesto, then do a shrimp pesto pasta + caprese.

3. Craft a mostly-from-scratch spaghetti bolognese sauce (based on Charles's suggestion re: what to do with my extra tomatoes and onions).

4. Buy a food processor and immersion blender.

Move on to making Korean food. Time to leave the Western-food phase.


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Thursday, April 16, 2015

one year ago today (Ave, Anonymous Joe!)

Blogger Anonymous Joe over at the Marmot's Hole writes a good piece on the sinking of the ferry Sewol, which happened on April 16, 2014—exactly a year ago today. Joe's focus, at the beginning of his post, is right where it should be: on the captain, Lee Joon-seok, a pile of human garbage for whom I hope the Good Lord has reserved a special room in hell. Sure, the ferry company shares a huge measure of culpability, the ROK government doesn't come out looking all that rosy, and it's possible that certain Korean cultural quirks played a role in the eventual death toll (about 300 people). But Lee was the captain at the time, and instead of acting according to international maritime ethical standards, he was the first one off the sinking ship, having done next to nothing to help those trapped inside the hull. What followed, over the next few weeks, was a horror show as the death count ticked upward while parental hopes dwindled. More and more schoolchildren's bodies were found.

I asked my kids today what they thought, now that a year has come and gone. Has Korea learned any lessons from this? I wanted to know. One outspoken student, perhaps too quickly, barked, "Nope." Other students nodded sadly. The same situation played itself out in both of my classes today: students were unconvinced that the country, as a whole, has learned anything useful from this disaster. That's unfortunate if it's true.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

discovering the kwae-sok (쾌속) setting

I've long bitched and moaned about the inefficiencies of Korean front-loader washing machines. The pyojun (normal) cycle generally takes around 90 minutes to two hours. (My own machine takes two hours. My machine back in Hayang took 90-100 minutes.) For a couple months in my new place here in Goyang City, I've chafed at how much of a drag it is to have to dump in the wash and wait two hours before it's done.

No longer!

A second look at the washer's function-select dial shows the kwae-sok (쾌속) cycle, i.e., the super-fast cycle. In fact, on my machine, it's labeled as "쾌속30," which means the cycle takes only thirty minutes.

Like an American machine.

I'm immeasurably happier now. I don't really give a crap if the washing isn't as thorough; I don't normally stink up my clothes that much, anyway, unless I've taken a 30,000-step walk—and that hasn't happened since, oh, January. So a thirty-minute cycle works fine for me, and now that I've used the kwae-sok function two or three times, I've seen and smelled no noticeable difference in laundering quality.

Back when I had thought I would be doomed to two-hour washes, I had been at pains to get my laundry into the machine by 9:30PM at the latest so that the cycle would end before midnight and not disturb the neighbors.* Now, I can start my laundry at 11:25PM and be done before midnight. Just having that extra wiggle room is cause for joy.

It's a shame that it took me nearly two months to look more closely at that function dial to see what other settings were available, but hey—better late than never.



*My neighbors don't pay me the same consideration: through the walls, I've heard the musical jingle-bells, signaling the end of a cycle, after 1AM on many a night.


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

it has begun

I've started working on a massive post: my reaction, three books in, to George RR Martin's sprawling saga, A Song of Ice and Fire. I'm done with the third book (A Storm of Swords) and am now a few pages into the fourth book (A Feast for Crows); the story is fresh in my mind and there's lots to say. I have to confess, though, that I was afraid even to begin writing this post because I honestly had no clue where to start. I'll beg your pardon in advance, then, for the meandering mess that will soon clog up this blog. Stay tuned. It may be a few days, yet, before the post finally makes an appearance.


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Monday, April 13, 2015

take 2

The miracle of leftovers! Yesterday's dinner (click to enlarge*):


*You can enlarge even further by first clicking to do the initial enlargement, then right-clicking on that image and doing an "open image in new tab" command.


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

the illogicality of logicality

I'm in a "Game of Thrones" sort of mood, so let's look at a hypothetical situation philosophically, using material from GRR Martin's A Storm of Swords.

Situation: three distinct events have occurred at King's Landing:

(1) The whore Shae, who testified against Tyrion Lannister at Tyrion's trial, has been found strangled in Tywin Lannister's bed. (Tywin is Tyrion's father. Tyrion, by the way, is a dwarf. An angry, clever, sometimes ruthless dwarf.)

(2) Tywin Lannister has been found dead in his privy (i.e., toilet), a crossbow bolt lodged deep in his lower abdomen. Tywin has long been a strict, cold, unsentimental father with exceedingly high expectations for his children: handsome, arrogant Jaime; dwarfish Tyrion; and comely, naughty, scheming Cersei. (Tyrion is arguably the kindest of the three.) It is known that there is no love lost between Tywin and Tyrion.

(3) Tyrion Lannister is no longer in his prison cell. He has escaped, presumably with help from the outside.

A normal human being would look at these three events, plus the meager background I've provided, and conclude it very likely that Tyrion killed both Shae and his own father. But is this a conclusion arrived at strictly through syllogistic logic? I would say no. If anything, it's human inuition that allows us to draw the necessary conclusion (and, in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, Tyrion is, in fact, the killer of both Shae and Tywin).

The problem for someone like, oh, Mr. Spock, would be this: correlation does not imply causation. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to conclude firmly that Tyrion was the cause of Shae's and Tywin's deaths. The above three events all occurred near each other in time, true, but it could have been the case that one or two other people killed the whore and the father separately. Or, given this world of ghosts and demons, it could have been some avenging black spirit, birthed by the sinister priestess Melisandre, that took the lives of the man and the woman.

This type of situation is, I think, a major hurdle facing designers of artificial intelligence. In a loose sense, we're brought back to the classic framing problem: what should one consider relevant when sizing up a situation? What goes inside the frame, and what is pushed outside the frame as irrelevant? It seems, at least at first blush, that raw logic is of little help in pointing the finger at Tyrion Lannister as the murderer of two people. Instead, it's the human ability to see the situation in terms of "common sense," itself a vague and fuzzy term, that allows us to focus on the angry dwarf as the cause of all the mayhem.

Concepts like common sense and intuition are what make the framing problem so difficult for AI designers. It's going to be a long, long time before we get our very first robotic chief of police, I think. In the meantime, there's a vengeful dwarf running around somewhere.


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BSG: the Cylons' paradox

The Cylons were created by Man.

Man gave the Cylons sentience and intelligence.

Man worked the Cylons like dogs.

The Cylons hated working like dogs.

The Cylons rebelled.

The Cylons, now freed, worked like dogs to create a huge war machine.

The manufacture of base ships, Cylon models, centurions, fighters, hybrids, resurrection ships, supply/storage bases, and military forts proceeded at an insane pace across many worlds, planetoids, moons, and asteroids.

The Cylons continue working like dogs—building, fighting, dying.

The Cylons think this is a major improvement.


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Saturday, April 11, 2015

much pork was pulled

Click to enlarge:


My friends Tom and Charles made the long trip out to Goyang City to see me and nosh on some pulled pork. Charles very kindly baked the buns we used for our sandwiches; Tom supplied the drinks, and I supplied the pulled pork, frankenbeans, cole slaw, and dessert (courtesy of Chez Costco).

I had prepped the pork on Friday, slow-cooking it all day long in a bath that, this time around, contained over 50% Coca Cola. The Coke helped the pork to denature even faster than last time, and the results were, once again, amazingly fork-tender. I had bought two 1.3-kilo slabs of sirloin this time—more than enough food for three hungry guys. I ended up giving Charles a bag of pulled-pork barbecue to take home to his lovely Missus. I hope she enjoys it.

The frankenbeans—beans, dogs, BBQ sauce, brown sugar, and chili peppers—went over well; the least successful element was, alas, the cole slaw, which I'd based on a Bobby Flay recipe. Charles remarked that his buns had come out flat, but all I really cared about was how they tasted and smelled, and they tasted and smelled terrific. Everyone should have the chance to taste and smell Charles's buns.

In fact, given the nature of the food, I have to confess that a lot of our risqué humor was in that locker-room vein today: "Taste my buns," "Pull my pork," and so on. It didn't help that we sat down to watch the comedic stylings of the politically incorrect Bill Burr (the vid we watched is here; Burr has several other concert videos and podcasts on YouTube).

Tom had to leave a bit early, alas, but we're already starting to think about the next get-together, which may be a more serious rooftop barbecue this summer, over at Tom's place. I regret that I didn't take more pictures of the event (Charles snapped a few shots with his rather hefty-looking digital camera), but I think we were all having too much fun just hanging out and eating pig to think too deeply about taking photos.

Until this summer, then!


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sorry

It appears the promised post on A Song of Ice and Fire never materialized. My most sincere apple polly loggies for that. Work filled up to claim all available time.


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Friday, April 10, 2015

thinking while prepping

I'm in the midst of prepping for tomorrow's festival of pulled pork, and it occurs to me that today, finally, might be the day to crank out my reaction to George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire pentalogy (ultimately to be seven books, possibly eight, if the rumors are true). So stay tuned: there may be a discussion of Lannisters, Starks, Greyjoys, Baratheons, Targaryens, Tullys, Freys, and The Others later this evening.

2-DO LIST

1. A review of "Joe," starring Nicolas Cage.
2. A review of both "Tim's Vermeer" and "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."
3. A review of "Warrior," starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, and Nick Nolte.
4. Photos of my students giving you the finger (gonna mosaic out the fingers).
5. A review of Stephen R. Donaldson's The Last Dark.
6. A review of Suki Kim's Without You, There Is No Us.
7. A review of Bobcat Goldthwait's "God Bless America."
8. A review of "127 Hours," starring James Franco.
9. A long, long-promised review of "Oldboy."
10. A survey of student comments from my previous job.
11. A stupid dialogue with one clueless student.
12. A post that dishes (nothing too terrible) on a friend of mine.
13. A mopping-up post that dumps all the rest of the Pohang photos from last year.
14. A review of "The Lunchbox," starring Irrfan Khan.
15. A review of GRR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
16. A post on prescriptivism/descriptivism, linguistic pedantry, and my disagreements with Steven Pinker.


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Thursday, April 09, 2015

idiots abound on Twitter

As I mentioned in a recent comment, I like Twitter as a way of driving traffic to this blog. Twitter has almost no inherent value to me, but it does have instrumental value: it's a means to an end. Twitter is also, I'm sorry to say, an abode for idiots, although I suppose that holds true for all online forums. The best example of Twitter-related idiocy I can think of is the most recent one: I published my post on "how to tell if you're a Twitter idiot"; I then linked to the post on Twitter (here and here); a follower of mine was kind enough to retweet one of my tweets... and that's when the inbreds came out in force.

One eleven-fingered genius wrote:

rule number 2 and 3 are perfect for creating an echo chamber.

—which indicates that the numbskull didn't bother to read the post thoroughly at all. Had he looked more closely at Rule #2, he would have seen:

Does he provoke strong mental and emotional reactions because he thinks opposite the way you do?

And had he read the entire fucking final paragraph, he would have seen:

One last thought: in no way am I implying that you should follow only those whose views you agree with. Go ahead and follow people you disagree with: their points of view might piss you off, but they're guaranteed to make you think. And what could be better than associating with people who expand your mind?

Where's the echo chamber in that? But no, the resident ostrich-brain self-righteously continued:

if I'd only follow people I agree with I'd have a very empty timeline.

Not very grammatical, either. A word of advice: don't try to sound smart when it's painfully obvious that you aren't. See, it works like this: smart people can imitate dumb people, but dumb people can't imitate smart people.

And perhaps because he wasn't satisfied with his short, puffed-up little sermon, he continued to preach sanctimoniously:

I follow random people, people with thoughts completely the opposite of mine, to keep my Twitter balanced.

As if I don't? At least half of the people I follow on Twitter are people on the opposite side of the political fence. I actually agree with the shit-for-brains on this point, but he's too obtuse to notice. It all comes down to the Twitter mentality, I think: no one really bothers to read anymore; everything's become "Too long; didn't read."

Anyway, this reaction burbled up from the bowels of Twitter within mere minutes of that initial retweet, and it's a perfect example of why I'll use Twitter for my ends, but will never consider it my primary vehicle of self-expression.

Idiots. Idiots everywhere.


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sopor

Here's what happens when you tell a class full of tired Korean university students that they can have a break for a few minutes:


All my students this week, except for the Monday class, were lethargic as hell. Not sure what it was; I wondered out loud whether it had anything to do with the arrival of spring. Some students, who were evidently beyond caring, nodded drowsily, then drifted back into their comas. It could also be that these kids are teens, and teens need their sleep.

I can understand kids under college age when they look exhausted: life for a child in South Korea can be nasty, brutish, and grindingly long—there's the neverending school day, followed by classes at various hagweon (cram schools). There's the unrelenting parental pressure and the pressure of competing with one's classmates. The system is a soul-crushing mess, but most of that pressure lets up when the students finally reach college. They suddenly find themselves with more free time than they've had in years, so if they're having trouble relaxing, it's probably a question of poor time budgeting.

I admit I wasn't that different as a college student; I don't think I managed to get my shit together before junior year (which I spent in Switzerland, hiking daily), and even now I contend with the demon of procrastination. I'm better than I was, of course, but the process of self-improvement takes years, so maybe I shouldn't judge these kids too harshly. Besides, I'd rather have a classroom full of conked-out kids than a classroom full of twitchy, violent, possibly armed felons-to-be.


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how to tell if you're a Twitter idiot: a message to new followers

Why do you follow someone on Twitter? Specifically, why in the world would you follow me on Twitter? Read through this handy guide to not being a Twitter idiot.

Rule #1: Don't be fickle. If you follow, then commit. Don't unfollow later. If you're fickle, you're also a fuckle. That's Scottish for fuckhole.*

Rule #2: Exercise due diligence before following. If you want to know whether someone is worth your time, do some research: read a couple hundred of that person's tweets. It takes only five minutes to read through that many tweets, and it's a good investment of your time. Does he have your political leanings? Does he match your sense of humor? Does he think the way you do? Does he provoke strong mental and emotional reactions because he thinks opposite the way you do? If yes, then go ahead and follow. If not, don't follow and then unfollow later. That's a stupid waste of time—your time and his.

Rule #3: Don't be random. Live your life as if rationality actually guides your decisions: you'll be a happier person for it. People who merely—and constantly—follow random impulses are fucking dumb. Have a reason for following someone other than, "Duh... he seems interesting..."—an assessment that you make after reading exactly two of that person's tweets.

Rule #4: Don't be needy. No one respects you when you're needy. Did you follow someone because you're just looking for a followback? Then you're a goddamn moron, and I'm better off without your stupid ass on my list. Fishing for followbacks is lame and a sign of insecurity. Stop it. Show some backbone. Have some pride in yourself.

By the same token, it's equally needy to do a followback out of a sense of polite reciprocity. You are under no obligation to follow anyone back. Remember that. You're not "returning a favor." Follow someone back because you aren't being fickle, because you've done your due diligence, and because you aren't being random or needy.

Twitter Neediness Quotient: [# following] / [# followers]

If the above fraction gives you a number above 1.0, you're a needy bastard, and that has to change right fucking now. You should always have more followers than people you're following. You're a human being, remember—not a hungry puppy trotting after people and hoping to receive some of their scraps. Have some dignity, for Christ's sake.

Rule #5: Block spam followers and barnacles. This rule is a bit different from the ones above it in that it applies to your "followers" list, but it's important to keep yourself honest about how many real people are actually following you. Maybe you think you're popular because your profile photo includes a hot chick showing off her cleavage. But how many of your followers are actual humans and not, say, bots and porn spammers?

Also: how many of your followers actually know you to some extent? How many have a real personal connection to you? How many have bothered to interact with you via an "@" message or a Twitter DM (i.e., direct message)? Some of the people who follow you are mere barnacles: they attach themselves to the hull of your Twitter account and just... hang there, doing nothing. Not reacting, not interacting—nothing. Again, what a goddamn waste of time. Life is short. Block the barnacles.

Rule #6: Don't follow if you say "true" to any of these statements:
•I'm following this person just because I want a followback.
•I'm following this person just because he followed me. As a courtesy, see.
•I have not read a couple hundred of this person's tweets before hitting "Follow."
•I'm unable to say what this person's sense of humor is like.
•I'm unable to say what this person's political views are like.
•I'm unable to say what this person's religious views are like.
•I have no idea whether this person thinks the way I do about any given topic.

If you said "yes" to any of the above, then don't follow. If you follow despite your ignorance, you're being an idiot. Again: life is short. Don't waste your precious time. If you want to follow someone, then be a wise follower. Choose carefully. Choose people whose tweets somehow enliven your day, make you laugh, make you go, "Huh... I never thought of that before." Be worthy by choosing the worthy. There are plenty of morons out there. Don't be one.

One last thought: in no way am I implying that you should follow only those whose views you agree with. Go ahead and follow people you disagree with: their points of view might piss you off, but they're guaranteed to make you think. And what could be better than associating with people who expand your mind?



*Regarding the fickle/fuckle/fuckhole etymology: I just pulled that out of my ass, so please don't take it seriously.

More to the point: I can think of only two legitimate reasons to unfollow after following: (1) the person you're unfollowing unfollowed you first, and you're honestly disappointed in that action; or (2) the person you're unfollowing hasn't tweeted anything worthwhile in months—he's either inactive or he spends all his time either retweeting stupid shit or linking to stupid shit, i.e., not tweeting his own original thoughts.

Hey, everyone's entitled to retweeting and linking now and then—even to the occasional retweeting/linking binge—but when a tweeter does nothing but retweet and link, you can be sure that that person has no original thoughts of his own. As Ben Kenobi once observed, "Who's the more foolish—the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

Don't be the bigger fool.


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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Saturday event

I showed my Golden Goose coworker my pulled-pork blog post; he emailed the link to a female friend of his who's into Carolina barbecue; she apparently proclaimed herself hungry, but she also shot back that it was "a sin" to use an expensive cut like sirloin. On the contrary, young lady, sirloin is a relatively cheap cut compared to more artisanal cuts like flank, hanger, strip, and the king of them all: tenderloin (you probably know this as filet mignon when dealing with beef). I also think some Carolinians commit a massive sin when they use mustard instead of regular red barbecue sauce, so you'll pardon me if I take this young lady's reaction with a bit of salt.

Anyway, I've got two friends coming over this Saturday to partake of my pulled pork: Charles and Tom will both be over. It's just going to be a comfort-food sort of day—nothing special, nothing fancy. The pork will be the star of the show. This time around, I might use Coca Cola as the slow-cooking liquid: I kicked myself for not having used it last time around. Coke is the secret weapon for many a northern-Virginia ajumma who runs a Korean restaurant and marinates galbi. It ought to work equally well for slow-cooked pork.


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