Friday, March 24, 2017

Walk Thoughts #16: final purchases

With thanks again to my on-base benefactor Abel Magwitch, I've got two boxes of MREs coming, along with a "map pen" for measuring distances on a map. I've also got one final round of things to buy here in Korea, and those things are:

1. a "footprint" for my bivy sack (I might make one if I can't find a cheap one to buy)
2. a standard first-aid kit, which the local Costco sells (last I checked, anyway)
3. a portable cell-phone charger and 2 cell batteries
4. a hanging scale for luggage
5. a set of reflector strips for safety

I'll stroll through the Jongno/Euljiro districts to see about that footprint. Camp stores in Korea might or might not sell footprints separately, but everything here is far more expensive than in the States. I've seen some sites offering tutorials on DIY footprints, so I might just go that route, or I might simply buy some 6-mil plastic sheeting and cut it to size.

The first-aid kit should be easy to obtain: that's a Costco purchase, unless the kits have rotated out of stock for the season. I don't think they'll have disappeared, though: I've seen trekking poles on the warehouse shelves month after month, regardless of the season, and I think the shelf-logic will extend to other camping/outdoors-related items.

The cell batteries and portable charger will be a Yongsan Jeonja Land purchase. There are apparently service centers, close to where I live, that sell the phone batteries, but I suspect Jeonja Land will be cheaper overall, especially if I buy two batteries plus the charger from the same seller. When you buy several items, negotiating the price downward is a bit easier.

I'm taking a gamble with the hanging scale, as I'm assuming that that scale store—the one that was closed when I learned about it last time—actually has what I'm looking for. I may end up walking away with an analog version of the scale.

Then there are the reflector strips. Where to buy those...? Probably the Jongno/Euljiro area again, but also any of the big stores that have a sports/outdoors section in them: E-Mart, Home Plus, etc. I won't need the strips for walking at night, although nighttime walks are possible if things go terribly awry. No, the reflector strips are more to protect myself whenever I'm inside a tunnel, as I know will happen at several points throughout the walk: some of these tunnels will be bike-only, which isn't so bad, but other tunnels will have cars going through them, and I'm not sure whether those tunnels will also have pedestrian walkways. Here's hoping they do. Or, hey: if a place is selling those nifty reflector triangles, I might slap one or more on my backpack and wear another one on my front, hanging it from a cord like a rapper with his obnoxious bling. Please don't mow me down.

I'll be engaging in this final paroxysm of shopping tomorrow, i.e., Saturday. If I do get the hanging scale, I'll be using it to weigh my fully prepped backpack, at which point I'll have a better idea as to what can stay on the walk and what must go. I'm shooting for a total pack weight of 35 pounds (15.9 kg), not including water, which can be up to another 7 or so pounds (my CamelBak ripoff holds 3.5 liters). Even with the near-gallon of water, the encumbrance is going to be much lighter than the 60 pounds (27.2 kg) I'd carried on my big walk—a reflection of hard lessons learned on the road in 2008.

"break a leg"

Hilarious news from the skating world: ex-Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi tweeted encouragement to fellow figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, ending her tweet with "break a leg," a poor choice of words given the 1994 attack on Kerrigan, in which assailant Shane Stant struck Kerrigan's knee with a police baton. The Twitterverse apparently erupted at Yamaguchi's gaffe, but Yamaguchi hasn't yet deleted her tweet, probably because she and Kerrigan are friends, and Kerrigan is sensible enough to know what Yamaguchi meant.

put your misery in perspective

Think you're having a bad day? Well, toughen up, buttercup. I guarantee that your day wasn't as bad as this poor bastard's.

Pic found here. I've put this up as much for my own benefit as for yours. Very, very little in life is as bad as having a bull's horn shoved up your πρωκτος.

dredging up bad memories

The big news coming out of South Korea is that the Chinese company Shanghai Salvage has raised the remains of the Sewol, the ferry that infamously sank in 2014, killing around 300 people, most of whom were young students. Nine people are still listed as missing from that horrible incident; there may be some hope that their remains will be found in the ship, but I'm not optimistic. The disaster occurred in April, so it's been almost three years, which is plenty of time for a body to disintegrate, especially underwater, with abundant sea life. If remains are found, though, I suppose such a finding might provide a sense of closure, however painful, for families who have waited all this time to learn the fates of their loved ones.

Personally, I'm curious as to why Korea hired out to China to get this salvage done. Does Korea not have its own equipment? Would it have been too expensive for Korea to do its own salvage? This older article talks about the hiring of Shanghai Salvage while skirting the reasons why a Chinese firm was hired in the first place. Interestingly, the article says the salvage company will "give top priority to the complete recovery of the remains of the nine missing passengers." I wish the salvage crew good luck with that.

UPDATE: a possible answer to my question can be found in this article, which notes that who would conduct the salvage was determined through a bidding process that included Korean salvage companies. Judgment criteria included the salvage tech on offer and the salvage company's asking price. Conclusion: this is nothing for me to fret about.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

test lunch 3

Dessert: granola with blueberries and milk. This tasted about as ordinary as it sounds, but I reserve special praise for whatever powdered milk it is that Mountain House uses: it didn't taste like typical powdered milk at all. There was no processed aspect that got in the way of the impression that this was simply granola, blueberries, and natural milk.

test lunch 2

Behold: chicken and noodles. It sure looks as if there's a hell of a lot of chicken, doesn't it? The chicken began life as freeze-dried meat, each chunk light as a feather, so when the hot water hit the package contents, all the chicken pieces floated to the top, obscuring the pasta. After ten minutes' waiting, the chicken-and-noodles dish was ready to go, and it tasted as good as I'd thought it would. A gravy had formed, and the chicken had reconstituted itself to the point where each chunk, when bitten into, felt like natural meat. The pasta was a bit softer than al dente after the ten-minute soak, but still hearty and good. The contours of the bag dovetailed well with my spoon, allowing me to scrape out all the little stray orts of meat and noodle and sauce. Sadly, the whole thing was gone in a few minutes, but the meal left me satiated.

test lunch 1

I have hiking food to spare, so I thought I'd test out some Mountain House freeze-dried today. The prep is easy: a pint of hot water into the chicken and noodles, then stir and seal; a half-cup of cold water into the blueberry granola, then stir and seal. Wait about ten minutes in both cases (depending on the bag, wait time can vary from 8 to 12 minutes; 10 is a good average).

If Mountain House ever asked me to be a paid shill for their food, I'd say yes in a heartbeat, for such is my belief in its quality. I like these meals a hell of a lot more than I like MREs, even though MREs are more filling (1200-1500 calories for a single MRE; about 650 calories for a 2.5-serving pack of Mountain House dinner). My only reproach is that the stated serving sizes are a joke; each 2.5-serving bag holds barely a single serving of food for a growing Kevin. It's enough to quell the hunger pangs, but not enough to put me into digestive slumber.

Each bag of food weighs a bit more or a bit less than 5 ounces (142 g), respectively—easy to carry in a backpack. Water shouldn't be an issue, although there will be many moments when the trail will either go up a mountain or pull away from whatever river it's following.

Am looking forward to lunch. As the package says, I'll be savoring the adventure.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


I guess no one caught the visual pun because no one commented on it:

Bark. Goon. Hay.

A now-ex-president.

(I wondered whether I should've used "gun" instead of "goon.")

More equally awful puns coming soon.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Walk Thoughts #15: gear

With sincere thanks to Abel Magwitch, my benefactor-on-base, for collecting my ordered items, here is the first round of hiking/camping gear that I got from Amazon and REI. Click on the pic to enlarge; right-click and "view image in new tab" to see at full size.

Let's walk through the items you're looking at. Ignore the Costco bag in the back.

Starting from the left:

Dark-grey convertible hiking pants (you can zipper off the legs to make shorts, and the pants' material doesn't darken when wet—one reason why I've long loved this particular brand of hiking pants) sit atop a bucket of scrumptious Mountain House freeze-dried meals. I'll be taking only a few of those meals with me; as you recall, I'll be eating actual, substantive, rib-sticking meals only every other day, and I'll be taking along a combination of MREs, Soylent, Survival Tabs, and Mountain House freeze-dried meals.

Moving rightward and inward:

The large, white box is full of Soylent, and those powder packs are heavy. Each pack weighs nearly a pound (15 ounces, or 425 grams). I don't see myself taking more than one of those bags along with me. Taking two would be insane, especially since MREs are going to be both heavy and bulky. In terms of prandial enjoyment, I rank Survival Tabs lowest (they taste like congealed powdered milk because they're mostly milk solids; I tried some already). Next up the flavor totem pole is Soylent, followed by MREs, which at least have the virtue of being recognizable food. At the top are the Mountain House meals, which are lightweight and, when mealtime comes around, super-easy to prepare. Survival Tabs—I'll take four tablets to replace a single meal—will be what I eat on non-meal days so that I don't simply starve. I'll be taking seven or eight Mountain House meals plus two or three MREs, plus a bag of Soylent and two bags of Survival Tabs. I definitely won't starve.

Moving on:

Next up, we've got my foam roll in the back: that'll be my camp mattress, insulating me from the cold ground, which is what spongy stuff is good for. In front of the foam roll, you see the long, cylindrical Grayl purification system, which I'm eager to try out over at the Yangjae creek in a few days. The large orange cartridges are the filtration system itself: one for the Grayl cup, one as a spare, which I probably won't need to take along with me since a single filter is supposed to last for several hundred French-pressings.* To the right of the orange Grayl filters, you see my super-simple Coleman mess kit, 75% of which I won't even really need: I bought the kit mainly for the covered mini-pot, which holds nearly a pint of water—water that I'll be boiling for my Mountain House meals. That tiny little thing tucked into the corner behind the mess kit is my backpack's rain shroud—nice and compact. My pack is fairly rain resistant, but the shroud offers more protection for when I'm camping and it's raining all night, or for those times when it's just non-stop rain all day long.


The red-and-black bundle is a compression harness holding my el-cheapo sleeping bag. I might not even need a sleeping bag if the weather in May is going to be largely warm and pleasant. The much-smaller gray bundle in front of the sleeping bag is, incredibly, my bivy bag, i.e., my shelter. Pretty tiny, ain't it. It weighs a bit under two pounds (863 grams, to be precise—almost exactly 1.9 pounds), and I can't wait to unfurl it and test it out in the park next door to my building (assuming the crotchety ajeossis who might or might not be supervising the park say it's OK to set up camp for a few minutes). The grayish packet between the sleeping bag and the shelter contains my Survival Tabs. Lastly, the bright-blue box is a box of alcohol wipes, which I'll probably repack into a Ziploc bag for the trail.

Now I need to tally up which of my ordered items have arrived and which haven't. I also need to go out and buy (1) a first-aid kit (which Costco sells), (2) a hanging scale (which I'm hoping that scale shop in Jongno will sell), and (3) cell-phone batteries plus a portable charger (which I'll buy in Yongsan's Jeonja Land, the huge electronic-products complex).

At this point, the heaviest thing in my backpack is looking to be the food. I'm going to have to figure out how I'll be packing that.

And that's all for now. More walk-related thoughts to come.

*There's also the matter of actually, physically obtaining water. I'll be walking close to rivers pretty much the whole time I'm out on the trail, except perhaps for the Saejae section. That said, there's no reason to assume that I'll be able simply to walk up to the riverbank and dip my Grayl into the flowing water. The bank may be much higher than the water; it may be lined with treacherously uneven rocks; there could be other problems that make accessing the water a less-than-straightforward task. I'm thinking the simplest solution to this problem would be something like a gallon jug with the top cut off so that the jug is almost a scoop, with a long cord tied to the jug's handle so that the jug can be thrown or lowered into hard-to-reach water. Dip the jug in, pull a few liters of water out, then run it through the Grayl. It does occur to me that the Saejae part of the trail will require a bit more planning than the other parts, since it's the part most likely to run up and over the Baekdu Daegan range, taking me away from water sources like rivers. There might be creeks or rills along the way uphill, but it's better to trust in Murphy's Law and assume there won't be any convenient succor from Mother Nature.

my hat is off to Ernesto Rodriguez

Here's an inspiring story about a retired US Army veteran, Ernesto Rodriguez. He's walking a symbolic 2200 miles across the mainland US for the sake of suicidal veterans, who kill themselves at the depressing rate of 22 per day. Rodriguez walks 16-20 miles per day with a 60-pound pack on his back and an American flag. He asks for nothing more than a meal and lodging for the night, and he wants no money. Any contributions go straight to the cause of suicidal vets. I wish him a good journey, and I hope he raises awareness of his chosen cause, which is a good one.

NB: other vets have been doing similar walks. See here.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them": one-paragraph review

Directed by David Yates (who directed the final four Harry Potter films) and starring Eddie Redmayne, 2016's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is a spinoff movie that, like "Rogue One," does much to expand a fictional cinematic universe. The story takes place in Prohibition-era New York, with British magizoologist (JK Rowling's term for a cryptozoologist) Newt Scamander coming to Ellis Island, magical suitcase in hand, with the intention of releasing one of his stored creatures in Arizona. Mayhem ensues when some creatures escape from Scamander's suitcase, and this occurs at a time when Muggle New Yorkers—called "No-Maj"es (no magic) in Yankee parlance—are becoming increasingly aware of the presence of witches and wizards and supernatural powers among them. Scamander's misadventures land him with aspiring baker Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and recently demoted MACUSA Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston at her most winsome).* Meanwhile, a group of "New Salemers," fundamentalist witch-hunters led by Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton in yet another creepy role) is doing what it can to hunt down witchcraft. One MACUSA director, Percival Graves (Colin Farrell in fine form), suspects that one of Barebones's adopted children is possessed by a powerful Obscurus, a malevolent force that manifests itself in magical folk who try to suppress their magical potential to pass for normal. Graves has secretly enlisted the help of another of Barebones's adoptees, Credence (Ezra Miller), to find the possessed child. Most children who develop an Obscurus die before the age of ten; Graves is looking to find an Obscurus and weaponize it—mainly because Graves is not who he says he is. In a side subplot, Kowalski is wowed by his exposure to Scamander's magical world but is even more wowed by Goldstein's sultry younger sister Queenie, who is also attracted to Kowalski. In the backdrop of all this action, the evil wizard Gellert Grindelwald has disappeared from Europe and has not resurfaced. "Fantastic Beasts" looks and feels consistent with the Potterverse of the previous eight movies, mainly thanks to Yates's capable direction and familiar style. The plot is sufficiently intricate to keep adults interested, and I imagine the creature effects will entertain kids. My problem, though, was that the special effects, which were fairly bog-standard CGI, tended to take me out of the film (the lone exception was Ron Perlman's hilarious bit part: the physically huge Perlman plays a stumpy, deep-voiced goblin running a magical speakeasy). The movie's resolution also felt like a combination of the endings of the 1970s movies "Superman" and "Superman II"; watch "Fantastic Beasts," and you'll know what I mean. Dan Fogler proved to be a revelation for me, though: I knew him mostly as the guy who did a running Sam Kinison impression in "Good Luck Chuck," but he turned out to be a talented, emotional actor who gets what is arguably the movie's most touching scene. The film's various plot strands aren't always tightly intertwined, but somehow, the story coheres better than it has any right to. It's too bad the special effects ended up being such a turn-off for me; had they been more understated, I'd have wanted to recommend this film more strongly. That said, you won't be bored. Just try not to think too hard about the illogicality of magic, e.g., why Scamander arrived in New York by boat and not via magical teleportation (a.k.a. Apparition).

*"MACUSA" stands for "Magical Congress of the United States of America," the US's version of the British Ministry of Magic.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Walk Thoughts #14: I have to walk on that

Weirdly, my left foot hurts just as much but is showing no blistering or purpling. I'm able to walk without limping too overtly, but I don't think I'll be doing my creek walk tonight. Will more likely switch to building-staircase work.

I've had blisters like this before, and I've found the best thing to do is simply to walk on through them. There's a lot of nonsense literature out there about moleskin and so on, but I find that Mother Nature is enough of a self-correcting system that you can just keep on walking whether the blisters pop or not. If they pop, just don't mess with them.

Had you asked me yesterday afternoon whether I'd be able to stand 20-some days in a row of hiking that might produce such blisters, I'd have been tempted to say, "Hell, no." Today, after a day's rest, I can answer in the tentatively affirmative. I might be limping slowly by the end of each day, and a projected six-hour walk might stretch into ten hours (of walking plus taking breaks), but as long as I can rest for most of a day between walks, I think I'll do just fine, and my feet might even toughen up as we go along.

Brian had floated the idea of wearing walking sandals yesterday; it's a thought, especially for my pinky toes, but I'd be concerned about all the grit getting under my feet while on a dirt path (a few stretches, yesterday, were dirt paths); pebbles and grit can produce a much more distracting pain than blisters can.

One project for this week: get my shoes stretched—both my New Balances and my Rockports.

UPDATE, 9PM: I'm walking more or less normally, despite the nasty fellow in the above picture. You can indeed get used to the pain, which dovetails with what I remember from my 900-kilometer walk in 2008.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Walk Thoughts #13: today's long walk

Some estimated stats:

Walk time: approx. 4.75 hours
Walk distance: approx. 14.25 miles/23 km
Total steps: approx. 28,500

Damage report:
      • blisters on the balls of both feet
      • blister on right pinky toe
      • achy feet in general
      • achy lower back
      • raw, sensitive crotch

Things learned:
1. This was a good shakedown cruise during which I learned some of the ins and outs of my CamelBak-knockoff water bladder (a prettier term is hydration system).
2. I absolutely need a new battery for my cell phone: my current ancient battery is in the midst of a cascade failure. I was supposed to go out and buy batteries and a portable charger today, but I collapsed and went to sleep instead.
3. My awesome New Balance walking shoes are perfect for two-hour walks, but they get tight in the toes as my feet swell during longer-than-two-hour walks.
4. We didn't make seven hours today, which had been my goal, but nearly five hours turned out to be quite enough.
5. If my lower back is responding this way to a light encumbrance, I need to be cautious about how I handle heavier encumbrance (35 lbs., 16 kg).
6. For long walks, I definitely need to get back to wearing my Spandex biker shorts to avoid the constant chafing of the inner thighs and nethers.

I began sincerely to wonder whether I'd even have the pain tolerance to withstand 20-some days in a row of this sort of walking. It's funny, too, because today's walk was largely on level ground: hills that stymied me on a bike were barely perceptible as hills when on foot. I suspect I'm going to have to reorient my training program to account for the need to toughen up my feet, and I may have to take my shoes to a shoe guy to get them stretched. Shoe stretching is apparently common and easy to do; there are, in fact, plenty of in-home methods for doing it, but I'd rather get a pro to reshape my footwear.

Brian and I met this morning at National Assembly Station way out in Yeouido, the same station where I get off to do my KMA gigs. My travel companion was as athletic as I expected him to be; I was the slowpoke during our walk, but he politely restrained himself from walking at what I'd guess is close to a natural pace of 4.5 or 5 miles per hour (I mosey along at a human-standard 3 mph, unlike most Koreans, who walk at Brian's speed).

We began at 7AM by walking toward the National Assembly building; the guards there let us through so we could walk across the property and out the back in order to swing by one of those bike-path "certification centers." Sure enough, we found it:

The term "center" seems a bit pretentious for a one-square-meter patch of ground that contains little more than a seedy, phone-booth-like structure. Still, it made for an interesting landmark, after which we continued east along the Han. Brian's vigorous-yet-restrained pace kept him slightly ahead and me slightly out of breath, but it was a good workout. While my phone had power—which came and went the entire hike—I pinged our location a few times to provide some idea of our pace.

Ultimately, as we approached the Jamshil area and my apartment, we decided to change plans and head to my place for a fried-rice lunch (Brian ended up kindly giving me his lunch as well: a Paris Baguette chicken sandwich). I had thought we might eat lunch, then head out and check out the Yangjae-cheon, i.e., my creekside route, but we both ended up too achy and unmotivated to continue. For a flat walk, the experience seemed unwontedly harsh on my feet, which is an indication of which body parts actually require more serious training.

Brian turned out to be a great font of information and an excellent conversationalist, so while we had some moments of silence along the path, there was also plenty of banter. I learned a few things about the local flora and fauna; we both had a chance to look with distaste upon a garbage-strewn grassy area being cleaned by a woefully understaffed team of men, but we also passed by plenty of clean, well-groomed areas. I learned some things about Brian's wife and son; his family leads an interesting life. Here's pic of Brian:

All in all, this was a fun—if exhausting—day. It was good to meet someone that I had known for years only through blogging, and I do believe we'll be meeting up again.

a change in plans

We're going from here back to my place for lunch, then we'll do a bit of my creek walk and call it a day.

Check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22Yz5cgx7 or Don't have offline maps? Download here:


Hey, check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22YziAL_a or Don't have offline maps? Download here:

here we are

Hey, check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22YysTbzK or Don't have offline maps? Download here:

a long walk (scheduled post)

If all has gone well, this post will appear at 6:30AM on Sunday, March 19. I will have gotten up around 5:15AM and skedaddled at 6:00AM, a bit before the time this post ought to be appearing. I'll be meeting teacher and blogger Brian Dean, whom I've "known" for years through blogs and comments, but have never met in the flesh. We're doing a 7-hour walk starting in Yeouido, near one of those TARDIS-like "certification" centers for bikers who are marking their progress along Korea's major bike trails.

Brian, having lived an athletic life, is in far better shape than I am, so I suspect this walk will be easy for him. I've done enough five-hour walks to know what I feel like at the end of those treks; I'm usually tired, parched, and a little achy. Brian and I will be walking east along the Han, essentially following the same path I took during my bike trip last week (my ass-bones still ache slightly, but I'm mostly recovered), going out for about 3.5 hours, eating a simple lunch, then doubling back for a 3.5-hour return walk. This promises to be a great opportunity to meet face-to-face and talk for a few hours.

I doubt we'll get as far out as I did when biking, especially since we'll be starting much farther to the west of where I began my bike ride. It would have been nice to walk all the way out to the Paldang Dam, the first major landmark on my upcoming walk, but I guess that's a feat for another day. (I may rent a bike again and try for the damn dam.)

There may be photos today. Or not. We'll see. I may also ping-and-blog our location periodically, but I won't be doing a pedometer's step count because my phone will be off for most of the walk, given my battery-power issues. (That reminds me... once I'm back from the walk around 2 or 3PM, I need to go get phone batteries and a portable charger.)

Righto... have a good Sunday. More soon.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

PDF: how the French feel about their own safety these days

Here's a link to a PDF of a survey by IFOP-Fiducial that shows the current French mindset and does much to explain why Marine Le Pen is currently so popular.

Of special note: page 8, which shows what the French think about whether the security situation in France has improved or deteriorated: 71% say it has deteriorated; 19% say it has improved; 10% think nothing has changed. Page 10 shows that the French have an overwhelmingly positive view of their own law-enforcement officers; page 13 shows that most French people think Marine Le Pen is, by far, the one most capable of the best security-related solutions or measures.

A summary/interpretation of the data begins on page 18 for those who read French.

"the eyes are dead"

In which I write about ugly double standards and rectal bleeding.

seen on Gab

My buddy Mike suggested I follow a comedian on Gab AI named Bob Kostic (he goes by @causticbob). Kostic churns out tons of short jokes, some of which I've heard before (i.e., they're not original to him), some of which are repeats, some of which are duds. But plenty of Kostic's jokes are funny. Here's one (edited—the man sorely needs a proofreader):

My wife had a go at me asking how come, if a man has sex with a lot of women, he's a legend, yet if a woman has sex with a lot of men, she's a slut.

I told her if a lock gets opened by a lot of keys, it's a shit lock, but if a key opens a lot of locks, it's a master key.

That sounds more like a joke that's been around than a newly minted original, but no matter the provenance, it gave me a chuckle.

Friday, March 17, 2017


An interesting three days at KMA, but I might have to write a "frank" post about it. You know where to look. Right now... I'm off on a creekside walk. Later.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

"Moana": one-paragraph review

"Moana" is a 2016 Disney animated musical-comedy-adventure directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, with a heavily rewritten screenplay by a whole team of writers (Jared Bush gets sole credit for the final draft), and starring Auli'i Cravalho as Polynesian chieftain's daughter Moana, with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as the shape-shifting trickster demigod Maui. The story kicks off with the retelling of a primordial legend: the world begins as water, then the goddess Te Fiti bestows life on the world. Maui steals a magical stone that lies in Te Fiti's heart, intending—like Prometheus—to pass along its powers to humanity. The theft causes a plague of darkness to dominate the earth, and Maui is attacked by a demonic laval being named Te Ka. During the fight, Maui loses both the stone and his giant magical weapon, a god-wrought fish hook. Fast-forward a millennium, and little Moana is in love with the ocean. The ocean loves Moana back, as is evidenced by the playful water-tentacles that prod, pat, and carry Moana to and fro along the shore. But Moana, like the rest of the island's people, is forbidden by her chieftain father (Temuera Morrison) from ever swimming or sailing beyond the reef; later in the film, we find out why. The creeping darkness reaches the island and begins killing off the plant life and shooing away the fish, and soon Moana must choose between keeping tradition—she's the next chieftain—or following her "inner voice" to sail afar, find Maui, and take the sacred stone, "the heart of Te Fiti," back to where it belongs. With songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (of "Hamilton" fame), "Moana" bumps and bops along with stunning visuals, its own brand of feminism, and plenty of Polynesian mythology. I found some of the lyrics unintentionally funny, such as the generally non-rhyming song the islanders sing to explain their own way of life, but other songs proved deeply, and surprisingly, touching. The death of one character hit me a little too close to home for me not to feel a tightening in the throat. One interesting bit of trivia is that, in keeping with the feminist themes, there's an action sequence involving piratical coconuts that is supposed to be a homage to "Mad Max: Fury Road." The Rock, meanwhile, proves capable of holding a tune, and he sings one of the more memorable songs: "You're Welcome," Maui's arrogantly self-directed hymn of praise. The movie features a self-aware joke about Disney princesses and their goofy sidekicks, as well as a gross-by-implication joke about pissing in the water. I was fascinated by all the religious tropes, even though I know next to nothing about Polynesian mythology. I couldn't help thinking, though, that Disney would never dare make a movie like this involving one of the Big Three Abrahamic faiths.* And that's too bad. All in all, "Moana," despite some uncomfortable parallels with "Tangled," is a sprightly tale told briskly. Auli'i Cravalho, with her Hawaiian-Portuguese name, her enormous talent, and her mere sixteen or so years on this earth, is probably set to follow Hailee Steinfeld on a successful career path; it's hard to believe this is Cravalho's cinematic debut.

*Then again, there's "Prince of Egypt." But that's Dreamworks.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

fried rice: finished product

Late last week, I went into a fugue state while standing in front of my open fridge. Nothing happened for a while until several things suddenly collided in my mind, and I realized that I had most of the ingredients for fried rice in my fridge. All I needed were eggs and shiitake mushrooms (called pyogo in Korean).

I began building the fried rice last night, but despite how simple a concept fried rice is, it requires a hell of a lot of chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing. I didn't finish prep last night, and I was dead tired, so when I woke up early this morning, I continued prep and began cooking, but had to stop cooking once 11AM rolled around, as it was time to get ready for work: my 2PM gig at KMA. Once I got back from KMA, I continued cooking, and now you may behold the fruits (or the meat, starch, and vegetables) of my labor.

Ingredients, in no particular order:

sesame oil
canola oil
powdered garlic
fresh garlic
green chili peppers (gochu)
red and yellow bell peppers
shiitake mushrooms
white onion
jumbo shrimp

This should probably be named "Ironic Fried Rice" because everything except the rice got pan-fried. I have no rice cooker, so I make rice the old-fashioned way: 4 parts water, 3 parts rice in a thick-bottomed pot; bring to a boil, then immediately take to a simmer and leave for twenty minutes. Some nurungji (crispy, burned bottom layer of rice) is possible with this method, but there was almost none in this case. I simply tossed the rice into that giant metal bowl with all the other ingredients, then mixed the hell out of everything. Perfection.

fried rice: the final proteins

Shrimp enter the fray.

fried rice: under construction

Beautiful colors, eh? I have a horizontal version of this pic that might end up becoming my new desktop wallpaper on the office computer. (Those feta-like lumps? Scrambled eggs.)

coming up: 20 hours of KMA

After suffering KMA cancellations twice already this year, I was overjoyed when KMA called and offered me a three-day-long gig totaling twenty hours. I'll be teaching a presentation class—something I've already done many times before, so even though this won't be my own material, it'll be familiar to me. I do four hours on Wednesday, then eight hours each on Thursday and Friday. My boss at the Golden Goose okayed this weeks ago, so we're cool on that front. The end result will be an extra 1.35 million won in the bank for yours truly, which helps to make up for the W780,000 being ripped away from me by the damn tax man. I've got another 1.4 million won coming to me... but I'm not sure I can talk about that too openly here. (Not that the income is illegal or anything, but its provenance may prove a bit awkward if announced. I might have to write a "frank post" about this particular turn of events.)

Earthling Cinema!

The Hidden Meaning of "Dr. Strange"!

I wish I could say this contained religiously astute commentary, but a single reference to a common trope in Hinduism isn't going to cut it. That said, I liked the commentary's focus on time as a theme... although the movie itself kind of clobbers you over the head with temporal imagery. Let's just cut through the bullshit and declare Strange a Timelord.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"Manchester by the Sea": one (two?)-paragraph review

There must be some rule in Hollywood declaring that any film based in modern Boston must include a screenplay filled with Boston Banter: witty and not-so-witty Irish-American repartee that is a mixture of cheerful sarcasm, over-the-top insults, and a good measure of actual venom, all in that classic, much-parodied accent. "Manchester by the Sea," a family drama directed by Kenneth Lonergan, does little to dispel the notion that Boston is a minority-free city filled with quippy Irish-Americans. The film stars native Falmouthian Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler. Somewhat confusingly, it also stars Kyle Chandler as Joe Chandler, Lee's not-so-old older brother, whose life is seen through flashbacks because Joe has died of congestive heart failure. The story is told in a fractured, time-jumping, nonlinear style—albeit not quite as aggressively nonlinear as "Pulp Fiction," so it's possible to put all the pieces together without too much brain strain. With Joe gone, Lee—a janitor and handyman with little income—finds himself taking care of Joe's son Patrick, who has grown into a sullen, smartass teen (Lee is no charmer himself, but it takes the movie some time to show us why) who is popular at his school, involved in many extracurriculars, and dating two girls at once. On top of dealing with his older brother's death and the fallout from that loss, Lee must deal with his own demons as we discover that his negligence caused the deaths of his children in a fire, leading to a bitter divorce. "Manchester by the Sea" is a drama on a small scale; there are no world-threatening problems to contend with. People deal with death, with life, and with each other. There were times when I wanted to punch teenage Patrick's head inside-out for his constant insolence, but that's a testament to actor Lucas Hedges's ability to portray a teen dealing with a father's death in his own way. Hedges (who seems to be channeling young Matt Damon from "Good Will Hunting") and Affleck are standouts in this film, and Michelle Williams, who plays Lee's remarried ex-wife, gets one amazing scene near the end of the film that proves just how talented she is.* I also give the movie credit for not taking the easy route and showing Lee and Patrick punching each other out in paroxysms of maladjusted rage. Both men have a violent streak, but they take out their frustrations on others outside the family, never on each other. The movie comes to no profound conclusions, no emotional crescendos; it merely ends in the everyday, and there's something very Zen about that that appeals to me. Interweaving mordant humor, dysfunction, and tragedy, "Manchester by the Sea" isn't an easy watch, but it's worth your while. Oh, and wait'll you see which actor plays Patrick's ex-alkie mother's second husband. I laughed out loud when he appeared.

*I'm still turning that scene over in my head because something doesn't quite add up. Michelle Williams's Randi ends up tearfully apologizing to Affleck's Lee for the horrible things she said after the children had died, but the movie shows none of this, none of her bitterness and anger toward Lee, so we have no proper context for her guilty feelings. For me as the viewer, it seems that Randi has nothing to apologize for: Lee, through his fatal negligence, is the clear cause of their children's deaths. If anyone had needed to apologize, it should have been Lee. Instead, he's shown providing awkward comfort and even forgiveness in the face of his wife's misery. I'm not saying Randi's misery doesn't make sense; what I'm trying to say is that the cosmic scales of justice are clearly tipped in her favor, and Lee is the one who ought to be on his knees and blubbering, begging Randi for her forgiveness. It's almost as if the movie were making a conscious effort not to give us those emotional peaks found in most other films. Oh, there's screaming and punching and plenty of bile, but never at the most dramatically crucial junctures, and I find that interesting.

one election to rule them all

So it seems the upcoming snap election in May will be to decide a new president—period—and not a president pro tempore to serve out the remaining few months of Park Geun-hye's term. This means I was misled by my own bad sources, and Korea won't be facing two elections this year: there will be only the upcoming election in May. My understanding, from the above-linked Wikipedia article, is that the current acting president, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, will serve out the remainder of Park's term, so the new president will assume his duties next February, per the tradition established with the advent of South Korean democracy.

Korea has proven to be admirable in terms of peaceful demonstrations that have led to a peaceful transfer of power occurring somewhat outside the normal procedures. The United States' tantrum-throwing, campus-trashing left could definitely take several lessons from how a people ought to conduct itself when faced with unsatisfactory political conditions. As momentous as this shift in power has been, I find it nearly miraculous that things haven't been worse in South Korea. While it's unfortunate that the current shift will be away from a hardline stance toward North Korea, one can hope that the next presidential administration will bring with it less historical baggage, less spiritual weirdness, and far less corruption. 2016 and 2017 have proven to be years in which the people's trust in their own electoral systems was badly shaken. May South Korea's next leader prove to be much more trustworthy. It's too much to ask any modern politician to restore honor to politics—we passed that point of no return long ago—so in my case, I'll simply settle for someone less corrupt.

Monday, March 13, 2017

"Hacksaw Ridge": one-paragraph review

"Hacksaw Ridge" is a World War II movie directed by Mel Gibson and starring British-American Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who, paradoxically, signs up for a US Army combat unit but refuses, because of his religious beliefs, to pick up a rifle, whether in self-defense or in defense of his fellow soldiers. The real Desmond Doss died in 2006; Gibson includes footage of him, his brother Hal, and some other grunts and officers who experienced the hell of Hacksaw Ridge, a Japanese-occupied piece of real estate that the Japanese did not easily give up. As Gibson tells it, the story follows a predictable arc. We get a sequence of scenes from Doss's life: a childhood with an abusive war-vet father (Hugo Weaving), the moment when Desmond realizes he will renounce violence forever, falling in love, enlisting, being rejected by his platoon and the training camp's officers, then proving his bravery on the field of battle by rescuing 75 out of 100 men who had been stranded up on Hacksaw Ridge after the call to retreat, lowering them down a cliff until his hands were bloody. Despite the movie's paint-by-numbers approach to Doss's life, that 75-out-of-100 figure is nothing to sneeze at.* The movie shows several characters telling Doss they were wrong about him, but at film's end, Doss himself says the most rewarding moment during the whole Hacksaw Ridge campaign was when one soldier smiled at him after Doss came to rescue him. Gibson's film often feels as formulaic as a TV movie, but one with "Saving Private Ryan" levels of blood and guts. As a result, I find myself in the strange position of being torn between admiration for Doss himself and discomfiture at Gibson's ham-handed hagiography (watch that very last scene with Andrew Garfield being lowered to the medical tent to see what I mean). The movie is worth watching for the story it tells and the man whose story this is, but Gibson isn't one for subtlety, and you'll immediately feel that, too.

*The exact number rescued is unknown, but 75 is considered a good estimate.

God damn that Joe for tempting us this way

Joe McPherson tells me he's designing a menu for a pub in Seoul. I don't think I'm at liberty to disclose the pub's name—not until Joe's menu is ready to go.

For now, all I can say is... I see sausages.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Walk Thoughts #12: visualized

Not very far, it seems, but here's the path I biked. I took a slightly different way back, but it came out to about the same distance. As you see, if you double the distance, I got tantalizingly close to 30 miles.

Walk Thoughts #11: lessons

So what did I learn during my bike ride yesterday?

I learned that the Paldang Dam, one of the first major landmarks on the trail, is within biking distance if we assume a pain-free biking trip. It would have been nice to make it all the way out to the dam to see what sort of camping facilities might be around it, but I learned enough to know that, once one gets past the densest part of Hanam City, there are plenty of places along the riverside where a tired traveler can plop down, set up a tent, and rest his weary legs. That's important because, depending on the time of day, I might have to do just that: plop down wherever I am and simply set up camp.

Despite my earlier griping about how hilly the trail was, the inclines won't be bad when I'm on foot. I suspect that the first third or half of the trail won't be too much trouble; it's when I reach the Baekdu Daegan mountain range that things will get dicey. By then, though, I'll have eaten my way through about half of my food supplies, so my pack ought to be slightly lighter.

A quick aside about food: I've decided to order everything—all the foods I covered in Walk Thoughts #1. I'll be using a combination of foods—maybe two MREs, seven or eight Mountain House food packs, a bag of Soylent, and several packs' worth of Survival tabs. Most crucial will be water, of course, but I'll be moving alongside rivers for most of the walk—with a Grayl purification system, no less—so this ought not to be a problem. Upshot: I ought to be able to eat something every day of the walk, even if it's just a handful of Survival Tabs.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sweaty McSweatington

leaving Seoul and entering Hanam

my faithful steed

Sorry I put my sweaty crotch on you.

Walk Thoughts #10: biked 30 miles; felt like 60

I've seen dedicated bikers on YouTube who easily cover 140 km (87 miles) in a day. My hat is off to them. I haven't biked in about ten years, and today, I think I biked more in one session than I've ever biked before. Despite all that, my distance apparently wasn't all that impressive: according to Google Maps's distance-measuring ruler, I barely biked 30 miles, total, in about 4 hours. I took a lot of breaks, hence the slow pace—but the breaks weren't because I was winded: they were to alleviate the screaming pain in my ass that came from that long-forgotten demon: saddle sores. In fact, there's a lot about biking that I had forgotten, including Murphy's Law of Cycling: the wind will always be against you.

My damn phone ran out of battery power right as I reached my U-turn point, thirty minutes short of Paldang Dam, so I wasn't able to blog my position. Then, hilariously, when I was two-thirds of the way back to my place, my battery power miraculously measured 19%, so I could take a selfie... but I still couldn't blog my position. That's another thing I'll need to take care of: getting a couple new phone batteries plus a portable charger. My current battery is the one that came with the phone back in 2013, so it's old and needs constant charging.

I unwisely wore a coat today; it was probably in the 50s (10-13º C), so I was sweating and dripping snot out of my nose as I groaned along. I hadn't brought anything with me in terms of toiletries—no saline solution for dusty, irritating contacts; no tissue for a runny nose; no bottles of water to sip from—nothing—so I felt kind of guilty when I brought the bike back to the rental place, knowing that those handlebars were now coated in loads of my DNA and bodily flora thanks to my constant face-wiping. You're welcome, guys.

The bike rental is a story in itself. I had seen an expat site that listed a bunch of bike-rental spots, but none seemed close to where I lived, and the website itself seemed a bit old and out of date. So I walked up the street to the bike guy I had spoken with a few weeks ago and asked him where I might rent a bike. He pointed me back down the street to a bike shop that I had passed many times when walking home from Jamshil, but to which I had paid little heed up to now. "Tell them I sent you, and they'll give you a discount" my bike dude said. I thanked him and left, then walked up the street to the other bike shop, whose name turned out to be GoGo. Rental for an hour was something like 6,000 won; 3 hours was around W15,000, and a 24-hour rental was W30,000. I knew I'd be needing the bike for more than three hours, so I steeled myself to pay the full thirty thousand.

A little over four hours later, I brought the bike back, my hair all windblown and frozen in place thanks to dried sweat. The guy who took my bike back—the same guy who greeted me when I came in to rent a bike—did indeed give me a W5,000 discount since I hadn't gone anywhere near twenty-four hours. When I thanked him and left the shop, he ran out after me and told me I could rent for several days at a much steeper discount. In return, I asked him if it would be all right for me to come back and talk about what to expect on those bike paths, given my upcoming cross-country walk. He said that would be fine.

So my saddle sores are killing me right now; the crotch-bones are screaming, and I'm dead tired. Biking at my current weight is more of a chore than a pleasure; gravity's downward vector is, like the wind, always against me. Even a slight rise is enough to kill all forward momentum and force me to pump desperately just to move ahead at a crawl. Depending on what stretch I was on, my estimated speed varied from a measly 6-9 miles per hour to perhaps 15 miles per hour on an easy downhill. I found myself grumbling at the ground's unevenness, given that the path was always close to the river: ideally, a river-bank path ought to be as flat as the river water itself. But no.

I have a selfie that I'll slap up soon, but I'm too tired even to think about tonight's exercises—which in theory ought to include jump rope as cardio. I think I may have done enough cardio for one day. I'm beat. Still, it's embarrassing that this was only 30 miles; it felt like 60.

Hey, check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22Y-XVxGM or Don't have offline maps? Download here:

Hey, check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22Y84ssuu or Don't have offline maps? Download here:

on the path

Late start, but...

Hey, check out my current location in MAPS.ME! ge0://s22Yzz_sCW or Don't have offline maps? Download here: