Saturday, March 24, 2018

meat redux

Here: to make up for that blurry shot:

"True Detective": the binge-watch

I'm wasting my weekend by bingeing on Season 1 of HBO's "True Detective" series—the season starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. It's been pretty gripping thus far; I plan to write a review of the whole season once I'm done with it. Up to now, I see the show as primarily a character study and a format for the discussion of Big Ideas About Human Nature. I also think that its treatment of the murder that's driving the plot is far more intelligent than the nonsense we got from "Hannibal," which you'll recall I seriously disliked.

More on this show later.

red in tooth and claw

Here's one of several "fox catches squirrel" videos on YouTube:

Squirrel had it comin', turning its back on a predator like that.

Friday, March 23, 2018

let's talk about guns and marches and kids

Colion Noir is a rare creature: a black defender of the Second Amendment. Guns are his thing; much of his YouTube channel is devoted to testing, and talking about, new guns. Mr. Noir is also dead serious about social issues surrounding guns, and he's been particularly vocal ever since the recent Parkland massacre, talking about what he sees as a deeply misguided reaction by some of the high-school youths who survived that shooting, and who have since become prominent faces and voices at the national level.

The following video features several things: on-the-street interviews, a one-on-one chat with one of Colion's close friends, and Colion himself speaking directly to the camera. I found it impossible to turn away, and while I'm not sure I'm totally on board with all of Mr. Noir's agenda, I can see where he's coming from (because, thankfully, he's crystal-clear about his own position), and I can respect his logic. Some of Mr. Noir's language is exaggerated and polemical, designed more for the pro-2A crowd who already agrees with him than for the anti-gun crowd who disagrees with him. Despite the polemics, though, I ended up with a few points worth considering, which is all one can ask for when a video is about a touchy subject like gun control. I've also subscribed to Mr. Noir's YouTube channel.

I have no words.

Just wow.

(And somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm wondering whether I'm being punked by reading this. Truth is hard to find; the simulacra will eat us all eventually.)

today's luncheon

Per the threat or promise I had made to my coworkers, I served gyros for our monthly luncheon today. Most of this lunch was not homemade; the only things I made from scratch were the meat and the tzatziki, both of which I can easily do from memory. Otherwise, I pan-fried the naan I had bought earlier in the week, using a mixture of oil, butter, and powdered garlic, gently painted onto one side of each flatbread. Everything else was simply a matter of breaking down: I crumbled the feta, sliced the olives and onions (not for me: I can't stand onions on sandwiches, but I knew there were onion-eaters in the office), chopped the lettuce, and halved the teeny cherry tomatoes that I always buy when I'm feeling lazy about slicing tomatoes. Some pics of the luncheon are below; my apologies for the blurry meat.

Overhead view:

Naan, standing in for pita, but just as tasty:

Blurry meat (sorry):

A shot of my gyro:

The meat got many compliments, as did the tzatziki, for which I was grateful, given that most of my prep efforts went into the meat and the sauce. Personally, I thought the meat had dried a bit too much, but it was still tasty and edible. As I told one coworker, I regretted not being able to serve the meat straight off the pan, still sizzling: the beef-lamb mix was a thing of beauty right at the moment it was lifted from the heat, and the aroma was incredible. I need to make gyros for my personal circle of friends; the Greekwiches are guaranteed to be a hit.

On a technical note: grinding the meat in my tiny, inadequate food processor was a bit of a chore. The goal was to take meat that had already been roughly ground—lamb and beef—and to grind it down to something approaching a smooth paste, similar to the meat used by Greek-American fast-food joints. (Such meat arrives at each restaurant in frozen, rotisserie-friendly "logs" that get placed on the spit, heated until browned on the outside, then sliced and whittled down to nothing throughout the day. The reason the meat looks so solid and homogeneous is that it's a paste when it gets molded into "logs.") I thought I was only partially successful in fine-grinding the meat: after about thirty seconds in my food processor, the meat would tend to gather itself into a ball that got kicked around and around inside the processor, with very little actual grinding happening. I would have to stop the machine, tamp the meat back down so that more of it was level with the blades, then restart the grinding. Somehow, I managed to produce something that, while not quite a paste, ended up being passably smooth and homogeneous when sliced. So... yay, me. Or more precisely: yay, meat.

Oh, yeah: everyone in the office went for seconds. Always a good sign.

Styx on Stormy

Styx weighs in on "tabloid stuff":

Thursday, March 22, 2018

time to bring out the popcorn?

As I noted in my "Donald Trump, One Year On" post, President Trump currently stands accused of sexual impropriety by no fewer than nineteen women. Bill Cosby's stack of accusers puts this number to shame, but it's still cause for shame for any decent human being with a conscience. I don't know what the status is of those various accusations against Trump, but they don't seem to be making much news these days, despite the gravity of the claims against him. Viewed in this way—call it the "Teflon perspective"—the upcoming Stormy Daniels interview on CBS is merely one more log on an already-large woodpile.

Stormy Daniels is a porn star who claims to have had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. Ten years later, in 2016, Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 as part of a nondisclosure agreement to keep the affair hushed up. In January of this year, this payment was reported in the Wall Street Journal. There is an implication that the payment, given the closeness (to Trump) of the people involved and the timing of the payment itself, may represent a violation of campaign-finance law. Daniels is scheduled to air a purportedly tell-all interview with CBS on Sunday, March 25.

Trump supporters no doubt dismiss Daniels out of hand, already sure of what she's going to say, and confident that nothing she'll say will rise to the level of a provable, damning assertion. But is such dismissiveness warranted? At the very least, if I were Trump and his team of lawyers, I'd be worried that Daniels might reveal physical details about Trump that only Melania Trump can confirm ("Yup, he does have a mole right there, and his semen does, in fact, taste like rosewater"). This, at least, would establish that an affair really happened. Add to that any confirmatory paperwork ("We stayed at hotel X on night Y; here are the receipts"), and the makings of a narrative begin to emerge—a narrative whose details can be independently verified. For Trump, I'd say, caution is paramount.

At the same time, we can look at how a mountain of evidence against Bill Clinton failed to bring that president down. In Clinton's case, there was even a semen-stained dress, which I suppose helped nudge the lecher to the grudging admission of an "inappropriate relationship" with Monica Lewinsky. Clinton, to be sure, was impeached for lying under oath, not for a sexual dalliance that was—until Lewinsky changed her story very recently—considered consensual. Trump and his legal team have apparently been trying to strong-arm Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford), a fact that can be used against them. At the same time, Trump—perhaps aware of the Streisand Effect—hasn't been at his most aggressive in trying to suppress Daniels's testimony; it looks as though the CBS interview is going to go full steam ahead.

I'm withholding any further judgment until after the interview has aired and been analyzed by some of the talking heads. Trump's womanizing ways are already well known, so there's a chance that his randy reputation will preemptively blunt the impact of this scandal. At the same time, I'm pretty sure his enemies across the ideological aisle will watch the interview with relish, looking for clues that, yes, this time, Trump will be cast down, and his downfall will come at the hands of a woman. YouTube will soon be filled with interview-analysis videos, some of which I'll watch. That said, I often think the left is like Charlie Brown running at that football, forever hopeful that this time, it's going to be different. Trump, meanwhile, is like Lucy, yanking the football away again and again. In truth, we won't know the fallout of the Daniels interview until a couple months from now. If it's serious, then it might have implications for the midterm elections in November. If it's not, then that's another strike against the "blue wave."

meat in da heat

I've got a beef-lamb mixture baking in my oven right now, in preparation for tomorrow's gyrofest. I'm regretting doing this, though, because when I slice the baked loaves of meat, they're not going to slice smoothly,* despite my having attempted a fine grind of the meat in my teeny food processor. In retrospect, what I should've done was to knead the meat, herbs, spices, and seasonings, then freeze the whole thing, then shave off slices to pan-fry, thus obviating the need for baking at all. Ah, well. Live and learn. On the bright side: it's still gonna taste good when we all sit down to eat.

Also made a huge batch of tzatziki with Greek yogurt. Not bad, I must say, and probably even better now, as the sauce has had a chance to marry its many fresh flavors overnight. Expect photos of gyro-ness tomorrow.

*UPDATE, 10:06PM: the meat, now cooled, does slice smoothly. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

on Dune

Frank Herbert published the science-fiction novel Dune in 1965. During the 1970s, Alejandro Jodorowsky tried and failed to put together his own version of Dune, an effort that was recently recounted in the documentary "Jodorowsky's Dune." David Lynch released his controversial filmic interpretation of Dune in 1984. Years later, after a devastating critical panning, Lynch released a director's cut that did much to plug some major story holes in the original theatrical release. The SyFy channel, meanwhile, released a three-part TV-movie adaptation of "Dune" in 2000 (with "Children of Dune" being released in 2003). And now... Denis Villeneuve, coming off the artistic triumphs of "Arrival" and "Blade Runner 2049" (a critical hit but a financial failure), will be scripting and helming a new adaptation of Herbert's Dune, a version that Villeneuve says will be faithful to the original novel.

Here's Villeneuve talking a bit (cagily) about his approach to "Dune":

And here's an interview with Frank Herbert before Lynch's "Dune" came out:

It's just my opinion, but Herbert sure looks a lot like an older Robin Williams while sounding a bit like George RR Martin. I'm actually eager to see Villeneuve's version of Dune; the novel contains many Villeneuve-friendly elements like philosophy, religion, and major events that build to some sort of shattering fulfillment. Will Villeneuve include a massive battle at the end of the story, the way Lynch did? (The novel ends with the same sandworm assault depicted in Lynch's movie.) Will he go on to make sequels based on Herbert's other novels, or will "Dune" be a one-off production? No matter how you cut it, a Villeneuve version of "Dune" ought to be visually spectacular and heavily thought-provoking.

Ave, ROK Drop!

Very interesting post over at ROK Drop: an embedded tweet with a before/after composite photo of a North Korean reforestation project showing some impressive arboreal growth—apparently part of a reforestation project.

If there's one metric in which North Korea beats South Korea, it's lack of pollution. True, the relative cleanliness of North Korea has much to do with the inhumanly repressive government and economy: poor people aren't likely to own contraptions that sully the atmosphere or fill the night sky with light pollution. But I have to wonder to what extent regular North Korean citizens—when they're not worrying about surviving in that hellhole from day to day—have a sense of duty toward the environment and are sensitive to how human activity can affect the soil, the water, and the air. If the two Koreas were to unify, would northerners bring with them a more acute eco-consciousness than southerners possess? This makes for an interesting question. I suspect that North Korea's cleanliness is more like an unintended side-effect of its government's repressive policies than the result of a proactive eco-sensibility, but it's also possible that a severely oppressed people might develop a poignant aesthetic sense when it comes to the preservation of natural surroundings: in the midst of all the terror, it's important to cling to whatever beauty one can find.

If North Koreans are, in fact, acutely eco-conscious—and consequently appreciative of their clean roads, unlittered cities, and unpolluted night skies—it might behoove South Koreans to employ North Koreans, post-reunification, in jobs that involve repairing all the damage that South Koreans have done to their own land. But are there North Koreans who have a background in environmental science? And would they feel at all motivated to help save their southern brothers from themselves?

Now I'm interested in finding out what literature exists on the topic of North Korea and environmentalism. There must be some papers or monographs out there, right?

NB: the ROK Drop post links to this well-researched article that answers some, but by no means all, of my questions.

building a life-sized Vader

If I ever bought one of these collectibles, I'd never be able to look at myself in the mirror again: nothing would justify such an extravagant expense, no matter how much I might like the Star Wars franchise. But I'll admit that watching these dudes assemble their purchase did give me a certain measure of vicarious satisfaction—like Schadenfreude, but positive. Call it Auspackenfreude. Yeah, I just made that up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

the killer robots have arrived

A driverless car in the service of Uber has, in a global first, killed a woman in Tempe, Arizona. The woman had been crossing the street at night when she was hit. Uber has since suspended its driverless-car service pending an investigation into the causes of the crash.

The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that there were about 5,984 pedestrian fatalities in 2017, and none have been publicly linked to an autonomous vehicle, but crash-reporting standards for incidents involving autonomous vehicles are still evolving.

There was a vehicle operator in the car but no passengers at the time of the accident, according to Tempe police, which responded to the scene at around 10 p.m. on Sunday. The 49-year-old victim died after being transported to a local hospital, police said.

What must it have been like to be the vehicle operator when the accident occurred? If the person is being described as an "operator," does this mean he or she could have done something to stop the marauding car? I have nothing but questions.

This is, of course, not the first time that people have been killed by unthinking machines. Accidents occur in factories all the time, and we hear the occasional tragic story about some homeowner who gets skull-bashed by the garage door. And even before cars went driverless, we've had incidents (I think with Audis) in which cars have revved up seemingly on their own and struck people in the driveway. So yes, this is a new era in which an "autonomous" machine has mowed someone down, but at the same time, this is the same old business of risking one's life when working with large, dangerous machines.

One of my worries is about how hackable a driverless car might be. Imagine a terrorist's glee at knowing he won't have to sacrifice his own life if all he has to do is hack, and then remote-pilot, a driverless car into an unsuspecting crowd. Scary.

Monday, March 19, 2018

eef you speakah zee Fraintch, zen zees eez pweetee fawnee

Seen at Costco.

excellent nerd adventure

The punchline of this hilariously nerdy video comes at the end when you see who directed it:

And just in case you missed this other tribute to Stephen Hawking:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

tyke versus trolley

Here's a hilarious video titled "A Two-year-old's Solution to the Trolley Problem":

You'll recall that the "Trolley Problem" is a fairly standard hypothetical when discussing ethics: a trolley is barreling down a track that will soon fork two ways, A and B. Down Fork A is a group of people milling about on the track, unaware of the danger. Down Fork B is a single person, also on the track and unable to move off. As the switch controller, you must make a choice as to which track the trolley will roll onto—the one with a group of people, or the one with a single person. Making this choice—especially if you believe even a single human life is precious—is painful. The nature of the choice, and one's reasons for making it, can lead to a deeper discussion: is it more ethical to save a greater number of people, and if so, does this mean the worth of human lives can be discussed in terms of numbers?

Other versions of the trolley problem pit one unfamiliar person versus your own pet, a group of important scientists versus your mother, and so on.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

emotional vampires

Throughout high school and college, I met a lot of women who revealed themselves to be emotional vampires: they fed on the validation they received from the opposite sex, and they defined themselves according to the level of that validation. A vampiric woman adored by many guys is happy to the extent that she has options, socially speaking. Such women lead charmed lives, never once earning their social status through strength of character or through achievements that hint at hard work and deeply held values.

The problem, of course, is that when you define yourself by what others think of you,* you become dependent—a slave to others' opinions. I have no respect for such people. At my most compassionate, I pity them, for they seem unable to see the marionette strings that force them into their puppet-dance. At my least compassionate, I simply despise folks who define themselves only in terms of others.

If you want to live an authentic life, don't be a slave to the thoughts, opinions, adoration, adulation, and validation of other people. I'm not saying you should become a chest-beating egomaniac, but at the very least, develop the ability to function independently. Don't say, "I'm nothing without someone else." That's bullshit. Then, having developed a foundation of confident independence, if you do meet someone and decide to become life-partners, the person you meet will respect your inner strength and autonomy, and you'll respect that person's in return. That's the healthiest sort of relationship: a bond between two strong people who, if need be, can function perfectly well alone and apart.

Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

—Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Love is born of strength, not weakness—of independence, not slavish dependence. First function alone and find your strength. It's when you stop seeking in a needy way that the right person will come along. Got that, lady vampires (and guy vampires, too)? You can't coast through life on charm and beauty; these things don't last. Orient yourself to what does last, and you'll lead a deeper, more fulfilling life.

Oh, and Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

*Here in Korea, this is how millions of Koreans live their lives: defined and confined by others' opinions. I can't tell you how many young, beautiful, talented female TV stars have committed suicide because they got swamped by a wave of online hate after making some moral mistake like cheating on a boyfriend or engaging in a racy photo shoot. In theory, such successful women ought to hold enormous social power, but instead they see themselves as prisoners of public opinion. And because a Korean sees him- or herself as a nexus of relationships and not as a monadic individual, once cut out of the network of relationships, that Korean is cast adrift and has nothing to live for. Reduced to nothing by social rejection, a Korean is left desolate, unmoored, and unable to find purpose or self-affirmation. This is what leads to suicide. Otto Rank and one of his disciples, Ernest Becker, theorized that suicide is the result of losing the conviction that you are the hero of your own personal life-narrative. All it takes, for a Korean, to lose that heroic status is to suffer mass rejection—or even just the rejection of immediate family: look at high-school students who throw themselves off apartment-building balconies in despair because they're convinced they've done poorly on a college-entrance exam. Allowing oneself to be so weak and dependent is the royal road to crafting a fragile life, one that is easily shattered, wasted, and lost.

Friday, March 16, 2018

don't try this at home

Last week (from Sunday, March 4, to Friday, March 9), I ate almost no solid food as a response to my shock at how much weight I've regained. I lost a few kilos, but apparently, I ate and drank so much over the weekend—when I was making my seitan gyros—that I canceled out whatever weight loss I had incurred. This week, from Sunday the 11th to this very morning (Friday the 16th), I doubled down and starved myself pretty much wholesale. Whereas I cheated a bit on the "no solid food" rule last week (I had yogurt one day and ice cream on another—technically not solid food, but not exactly full-on liquid, either*), I had nothing but non-sugary drinks this week and absolutely no food that was even remotely solid.

The experience wasn't bad at first. There was some hunger at the beginning, and I spent a lot of my time torturing myself by watching YouTube videos about hamburgers and pizzas (there's a "Chicago's Best" series that might be to your liking). Otherwise, everything was fine: as I reported the previous week, I actually felt more energetic and more mentally focused as a result of not taking in the usual toxins—mostly sugar and other carbs—that are part of my regular, not-so-disciplined diet.

Then came the crash. This started Thursday evening, while I was still at the office. I began to feel sick, and I ended up going home about an hour early. That night, as I was taking a handful of my pills, my gag reflex kicked in, and I almost didn't get the pills down. That's never happened to me before, and I took note of the peristaltic hitch. This morning, i.e., Friday morning, was even worse: when I woke up, I had zero energy, and my mind was muddled and cloudy, such that the mere act of thinking felt like navigating through a thick fog. That, too, was clinically interesting, but it was also somewhat alarming. I knew I'd be seeing the doctor later that morning, after which I planned to break my fast and get some nutrition into my body. The need to do that suddenly seemed more acute, given my physical weakness and muzzy-headedness.

Showering and dressing proved to be a chore. My shoulders ached from the mere act of lifting my arms up, and I found myself out of breath after every exertion—after toweling myself off, after putting on my clothes, and even after shouldering my shoulder bag. In every case, I'd make an exertion, then pause, then cautiously move on to the next activity. I began to wonder whether I'd even be able to make it to the doctor's office without fainting. I walked down the hallway to the elevators, got down to the lobby, and ended up taking a cab to the Mido building, which is where my doctor's office is. Weak and lethargic, I thanked the cabbie and somehow slid out of the car, then managed to walk across the street and up to the doctor's office without collapsing in a breathless heap. This was not the condition in which I wanted to see the doc: I had wanted to be alert and chipper, and to see some much-improved numbers thanks to all the fasting I had done.

Well, the numbers turned out to be a mixed bag. My blood-sugar test—one of those quickie diabetes things where they prick your finger and use a tiny device—came back with a result of 150, which isn't horrible for a pre-diabetic. My HbA1c level, however, was still frighteningly high at 8.3: this reading represents your blood-glucose level over the course of a month, so two weeks of fasting didn't do much to reduce that number. My blood pressure wasn't bad at 130/80 (although I hear that that level is now considered hypertensive, as the medical community recently readjusted its standards), and I no longer suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency (I took extra supplements). I do, however, have high cholesterol, so the doc tweaked my meds slightly, explaining what he was doing as he tapped away at his keyboard. I nodded tiredly, vaguely surprised the doc didn't notice my lethargy. Either I'm a great actor, or the doc needs to be more observant. Revised prescription in hand, I left the second-floor office to go to the first-floor pharmacy, where I picked up my $90 of medication—two months' worth.

After getting my new batch of meds, I groaned at the thought of walking the ten-minute stretch from the Mido building to the Cheongshil building, where I currently work. Somehow, I managed to do the walk despite being weak and dizzy. Along the way, I stopped by a Paris Baguette and got myself a salad, a bit of bread, and two tiny-but-expensive bottles of designer juice. I schlepped the rest of the way to the office and retreated to my work station. After a few minutes, I pulled out my food and, very unwisely, decided to start by eating some salad.

Bad move. I should have started with the juice, as it turned out: my stomach must have shrunk or something over the course of the week, and the moment I stuck chunks of chicken and cherry tomato into my mouth, my gag reflex awoke, and I nearly vomited right then and there. I held myself perfectly still for the next five or ten minutes, desperately wondering what was going to happen next. I was sweating; my breath was coming in shallow, quiet gasps, and my mind frantically planned what to do should I actually need to vomit. The plastic Paris Baguette bag was next to me, so I resolved to grab it and use it as a barf bag if necessary. Several minutes later, though, I felt a spasm in my stomach, which was followed by a belch... and that was it. The nausea went away, and I began to sip at one of my bottles of juice. With the juice in my stomach, it was now safe to begin eating, but I didn't—couldn't—gobble. Over the course of the next three hours, I slowly, slowly ate my meal. A coworker of mine, who had told me about a new sandwich that the local bakery was selling, came by my work station and handed me the sandwich in question, which was very thoughtful. I couldn't eat it at first, though; I had to wait an hour or two before that was possible. It proved quite tasty.

When the boss came in, he could see right away that something was wrong with me. After he arrived, I got up and went down to the basement grocery to get more juice, which proved to be the best thing for me. I also bought some dried fruit and some mixed nuts, and these went down without triggering the gag reflex. I ended up leaving work four hours early (using some of my comp hours to do so), and once I got home, I had a session on the loo, then I slipped into bed and didn't move for several hours. Now here I am, awake and typing this entry, and I'm feeling much better, given all the nutrition now coursing through my veins.

I once did a hard-core fast in high school. Can't remember the reason. I ate zilch for a week, coming out of the ordeal a bit tired, but otherwise okay. Now that I'm almost 49, I can say that repeating such an experience, at my age, isn't a good idea at all. Sure, you can lose weight like a wrestler trying to move down a weight class, but the process fucks with your brain and body. Not recommended. Or if you do fast, don't do it for more than 72 hours. You really don't want to be where I was on Friday morning.

*I'm speaking dietetically, not in terms of the technical definition of a liquid.

from 126 to 118.6

I dropped a lot of weight this week thanks to my starvation regimen. On Sunday, I was right around 126 kg after my seitan-gyro fest (despite having fasted during the week before the fest); this morning, my scale tells me I'm at 118.6 kg, for a loss of a little over 7 kilos (mostly water, I'm sure). I've paid a price for this, though: I'm weak and fairly dizzy, and I'm wondering whether I'm going to faint after I take my blood-pressure meds this morning. We'll see, I suppose, but the good news is that, once my doctor's checkup is done, I'll go back to eating later today. I had originally thought of pigging out, but I'm in such a delicate condition that I think I'm going to start with something modest like fruit, yogurt, and some juice.

More news later.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Paris au fil des années

Here's a fascinating video showing the evolution of Paris from ancient times through the 1800s, when the Eiffel Tower's construction began. I'd embed the video if I could, but embedding of this video is forbidden, hélas. So go old school, cliquez, and enjoy.

what if the DNA test doesn't even matter?

Here's John Pepple on the question of Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren—who claims American Indian heritage, but without any real evidence—and that damn DNA test that she refuses to take. It could be that the test is irrelevant.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

seen on Gab

Here's how the media will spin Hillary Clinton's recent stumble (she stumbled twice, as you'll see if you watch the video) while walking down some steps in India:

In the video, Clinton's left foot seems to skitter out from under her as she's gingerly making her way down the steps. That looks to me like a nerve that's firing on its own when it shouldn't be firing. Something's definitely going on in her brain.


Physicist Stephen Hawking, popularizer of black-hole science and cosmology, author of A Brief History of Time, and a voice of caution regarding intelligent alien life, has died at the age of 76. While his ALS deprived him of much of a physical life, Hawking enjoyed an immensely rich inner life, often expressed in his many publications. I've read A Brief History of Time at least twice, but I can't claim to understand it, this despite Hawking's best efforts to keep math out of his explanations of cosmology. I think the phrase "thermodynamic arrow" makes an appearance in the book, and the concept is used in conjunction with the notion of why time (and cause-effect along with it) flows in a particular direction. Beyond that, I recall having a feeling that the ideas in History were simultaneously too big and too subtle for me to grasp.

Hawking was more than a scientist: he was a pop-culture icon. I fondly recall Hawking's brief appearance as himself during a holodeck scene involving poker in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (here's the scene in question). I remember watching Eddie Redmayne's performance as Hawking in "The Theory of Everything," which offered some insights into the man's personal life. Hawking's passing is a real blow; the world is a bit dimmer today. I offer my condolences to Hawking's loved ones and inner circle, and I wish the good professor godspeed as he takes his place in the firmament of great scientific minds.

RIP, Dr. Hawking.

attempt 2 coming soon

This weekend, I have to be in the office to finish up a project whose deadline is fast approaching, but for at least part of my Saturday, I'm going to shop for the components I'll need to make gyros for my coworkers. Some of this shopping will, alas, take me into Itaewon: High Street Market sells ground lamb, which I'll be combining with ground beef to make that lurvely, funky meat. If I'm lazy, I'll also try to find and buy naan somewhere in Itaewon (sometimes High Street has it, but sometimes High Street doesn't, so I may have to go strolling around le quartier). If I'm not lazy, I'll find a naan or pita recipe online and try to make my own. I normally use naan in place of pita because it's hard to find the exact Greek pita that Greek-American fast-food joints use when serving their gyros (the pita I want looks like this and doesn't flare into pockets). I don't want the "pocket bread" that has the thin sides; I'm looking for something thick, soft, and robust for rib-sticking gyros.

Meanwhile, I've ordered liquid smoke and liquid aminos, both of which will likely arrive either late this week or early next week. Once I have those magical reagents in hand, I'll try a different seitan lamb recipe, and if it works out, I might spring it on my unsuspecting colleagues. If it tastes or smells funny, though, I'll eat it all myself as punishment.

Speaking of punishment: I ate the rest of my first batch of seitan, which was a less-than-ideal experience. Once it was buried inside a gyro, it was somewhat palatable, but it still suffered from a certain wrongness that was initially hard to pinpoint. I did, however, finally figure out what was wrong with the previous batch of seitan. I was washing dishes the other night when the thought occurred to me: my seitan smelled just like dog food. Apparently, the herb/spice/seasoning combo I had used in my first attempt at seitan—which was close to what I usually use when making beef/lamb gyro meat—was exactly the wrong combination to use with vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast. Given how funky that yeast is, I might also dial down the yeast/gluten proportion in future recipes. We'll see how that goes. I'm by no means finished with exploring the possibilities of seitan: I'll be attempting fake chicken, fake pepperoni, and those amazing-looking barbecue ribs sometime in the near future.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

the England flap

Some videos on the recent detention by London authorities of three right-leaning public figures. I doubt you're hearing much about this on the mainstream news.


Paul Joseph Watson:

Phil DeFranco (just the first few minutes of this video):

Asian Americans who vote Democrat

"Why do Asian Americans continue to support liberal candidates and policies?" asks Dr. V. The answer, according to an article by a conservative Chinese-American woman to whom Dr. V links, is threefold: (1) Asians tend to congregate in big cities, which already skew ambiently liberal; (2) Confucian values lead Asians to look at the state as a benevolent, paternalistic entity; and (3) Democrats have done a better job of spinning their party as the "big tent," whereas Republicans have marketed poorly, when they pay attention to Asians at all.

It's an interesting article. I'm still digesting it. I, too, have often wondered why so many Asian Americans vote Democrat. You'd think the Republican/conservative message of hard work and being the captain of your own future would resonate with Asians, but maybe point (3) above is correct, and the GOP has done a poor job of marketing itself to that demographic. It could also be that first-generation Asians, coming from a more collectivist cultural mentality, find appeal in liberal identity politics and the emphasis on systems, not individuals. Here in Korea, society tends to shy away from any notions of personal responsibility; the only time someone shoulders blame and apologizes is when he or she has been caught red-handed, thus besmirching his or her "honor"—a notion tied to shame (a public emotion, as opposed to guilt) and having nothing to do with internal integrity.

But what do I know? I haven't studied the issue in any depth.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Brexit, straight from the horse's mouth

Here's Nigel Farage, explaining Brexit:

My Brexit-related posts are here.

faux-lamb alternatives

I'm not satisfied with how my vegan lamb ended up tasting. Luckily, there are other seitan-lamb recipes out there on YouTube. Alas, I have enough vital wheat gluten to make only one of the following two recipes, so I'll probably have to order more gluten from iHerb. Feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments after you watch both videos. Which do you think I should try? Or do you know of a different—and better—recipe?

This one includes curry, which would make it pretty savory, but possibly a bit weird:

This one includes dill, which feels right to me if you're going for a lamb-y taste. I don't know how the liquid aminos will affect the taste, though:

Buddhism: religion of peace?

No religion is inherently anything. Religions are as they are practiced, which makes violent Buddhism, like peaceful Islam, possible.

Hong Kong (AFP) - Buddhism may be touted in the West as an inherently peaceful philosophy, but a surge in violent rhetoric from small but increasingly influential groups of hardline monks in parts of Asia is upending the religion's tolerant image.

Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka last week led anti-Muslim riots that left at least three dead and more than 200 Muslim-owned establishments in ruins, just the latest bout of communal violence there stoked by Buddhist nationalists.

In Myanmar, ultra-nationalist monks led by firebrand preacher Wirathu have poured vitriol on the country's small Muslim population, cheering a military crackdown forcing nearly 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh.

And in neighbouring Thailand, a prominent monk found himself in hot water for calling on followers to burn down mosques.

What has prompted this surge in aggressive rhetoric from followers of a faith that is so often equated, rightly or wrongly, with non-violence?

For many in the West, schooled in Buddhism via the beatniks, Hollywood, meditation classes, tropical holidays and inspirational Dalai Lama quotes, the visceral response of these monks can be a shock.

But Michael Jerryson, an expert on religion at Youngstown State University who has just completed a book exploring Buddhism and violence, says throughout history some Buddhists -- like any faith -- have used religion to justify violence.

"There's a common mindset, whether it's Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand... that Buddhism is somehow under threat," he said, describing the latest incarnation of violent Buddhist rhetoric.

"Each area has its own history, its own causes and instigators, but these instigators are also interlinked."

Take a guess what the "threat" is in some of these countries.

mysterious (love?) note

the view inside my piggy bank

On my desk at work, I have a blue-plastic piggy bank shaped like a giant Lego cube. This morning, I set my phone on the piggy bank while the camera was still on and saw this rather interesting closeup view of the piggy bank's interior. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I snapped a pic while the camera still rested on the piggy bank, et voilà.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Styx on WaPo on gun control

A good history lesson here (ignore the chest hair and focus on the content):

While we're at it, here's Colion Noir on stopping school shootings:

okey dokey

The "I, Tonya" review is up. Enjoy.

while U wait

While you wait for my "I, Tonya" review, here's video of Joe Rogan demonstrating some ostensibly taekwondo-ish kicks to an embarrassingly fawning cameraman:

Back in my 20s, I could kinda do some of those kicks—same technique, with the same height and maybe a similar force (because even then I doubtless weighed more than Rogan), but not with Rogan's speed, balance, and precision. Alas, the only photographic evidence I have for this claim is here, so you'll just have to make do with a roundhouse kick.

"I, Tonya": review

Often funny, always satirical, and sometimes very hard to watch, 2017's "I, Tonya" is the maybe-sort-of-true story of the notorious Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), who was peripherally involved in a 1994 incident in which her friend and rival, fellow Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver), was attacked by Shane Stant (Ricky Russert). Stant struck Kerrigan with an extendable baton, injuring Kerrigan's knee and prompting the skater's famously plaintive exclamation of "Why? Why?" to the cameras as the world watched.

The story of "I, Tonya" begins early in Harding's life, back when she is a little girl (Mckenna Grace) who is in love with skating, but who must labor under an incredibly abusive harridan of a mother named LaVona Golden (Allison Janney, who won the Oscar for this role). Tonya's father leaves the picture early in the girl's life, leaving her in her mother's clutches. LaVona verbally and physically abuses Tonya who, as a teen, eventually meets Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and begins a life away from her mother. The movie follows Tonya's rocky relationship with Gillooly, who is also physically abusive, and his dealings with shady friends like the fat and stupid Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser), whom the movie portrays as the oafish, self-deluded mastermind behind the attack on Nancy Kerrigan. The movie takes us from Tonya's early career on the ice and through her first and second Olympic competitions. We witness her downfall as the Kerrigan scandal erupts around her, and we see something of the aftermath as Tonya is banned for life from competitive skating, only to take up celebrity boxing and, eventually, to become a mother herself.

"I, Tonya" has the obvious agenda of making Tonya Harding sympathetic—a victim of circumstance who didn't ask to be born into a hardscrabble, white-trash existence, and who careened from an abusive mother to an abusive boyfriend and husband. Personally, I wasn't moved by this attempt at manipulation; the real-life Harding has all the appeal of a rotting fish. I did appreciate the director and screenwriter's choice to turn the movie into a narrative told from three distinct and fundamentally contradictory points of view: Tonya's, LaVona's, and Jeff's. The film is peppered with Scorsese-style fourth-wall breaks à la Henry Hill in "Goodfellas," and we can never be sure whose tale is closest to the truth. Like life, the film's story is a jumbled, incommensurate mess, but it's clear that Harding's life is far messier than most people's lives. I ended the film feeling thankful that, for all the drama I've been through in my own life, none of it holds a candle to the horror the film portrays.

Along with the direction and the screenwriting, the actors all carry the film. Allison Janney is marvelous as the hateful, selfish, twisted, and even devious LaVona Golden; Janney deserved her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Margot Robbie does an incredible job of portraying Tonya's attempts at gathering up the scraps of her dignity in a precious, competitive world little different from that of ballerinas. Robbie looks nothing like the real Harding, which means she has to work all the harder to sell this performance. I got the impression that Robbie did much of her own skating, except for those crucial triple-axel scenes, so she gets credit for that as well. Sebastian Stan is also impressive as Jeff Gillooly, who alternates between being hilariously stupid and being frighteningly abusive. When I said, earlier, that this movie was "hard to watch," I was referring to the physical abuse that Gillooly deals out to Tonya. Fists to the face, open-hand blows to the face... at one point, Jeff grabs Tonya's head and smashes it against a glass-covered picture on the wall. Much of this abuse comes out of nowhere, a reflection of Jeff's sudden and unbridled fury. It's Jeff, in a way, who either controls or is a reflection of the movie's tone as a whole: "I, Tonya" is alternately funny and frightening, allowing us a glimpse into a world that most of us, with our comfortable lives, would be hard-pressed to imagine. Paul Walter Hauser also deserves a shout-out for his performance as dim-bulb Shawn Eckhardt, who lives a slob's life with his parents, but tells an interviewer he's an expert in international counterterrorism.

The movie contends that Jeff Gillooly simply wanted to scare Nancy Kerrigan as a way of psyching her out and disturbing her competitive focus, but it was Shawn Eckhardt who took Gillooly's plan and turned it, for whatever reason, into an actual attack on Kerrigan—one that was easily traced back to Shane Stant, whom Eckhardt hired, and then back to Eckhardt and Gillooly themselves. Where things get murky is in how much Tonya knew about the plan to attack Kerrigan. The movie implies that she knew Gillooly wanted to send Kerrigan anonymous threatening letters, but nothing else.

All in all, "I, Tonya" is a well-directed film filled with ace performances by a stable of talented actors. Its crazy tone and fractured, obfuscatory narrative structure reflect the brokenness of the lives of the people whose story we're watching. The film shows us a world I'm glad and thankful not to live in, but it does fail in its mission to make Tonya Harding, a truly unsavory person, into someone sympathetic. That flaw notwithstanding, I think the film makes for worthwhile viewing. You'll laugh, you'll cringe, and every time Jeff Gillooly's fist smashes into Tonya's face, you'll wince and die a little inside.