Monday, September 25, 2017

Justin's "Day of Grub"

Some awesome foodblogging over at Justin's blog. Be sure to watch the short videos of kebabs being made by an expert.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

the dust settles

The aftermath.

never seen a faucet quite like this

At the yeogwan I stayed in last night and this morning:

my boss's hapkido master's compound (+1)

The first seven pics below are from my boss's hapkido master's compound, where we had a company retreat. The eighth picture is from close to Anseong's main bus terminal, which is a 13-kilometer walk from the compound. Many of these pics show the same sort of orb weaver I encountered at almost the same time last year; this type of spider is apparently ubiquitous in South Korea. Sorry, once again, for my cell cam's inability to focus on the spider itself.

I have video of a whole community of spiders here.

Ave, Charles!

Charles gives us the grand tour of his new place, weird feng shui and all.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

the burdened student

Below: an illustration that I did for one of my colleagues. He and I are working on a textbook, and my coworker said he wanted certain illustrations. I provided him with three; here's one.

Friday, September 22, 2017

too funny

Paul Joseph Watson's recent take on Hillary's character and mental state (punctuated by clips of Donald Trump sniffing) is hilariously edited:

two men face each other. dust and tumbleweeds.

A showdown is brewing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Morgan, Morgan, Morgan

Why do the stars I love seem so hell-bent on beclowning themselves? And why is the left so intent on plumping the "war with Russia" narrative? Just who are the warmongers, again?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Puerto Rico better watch its ass

Things aren't looking good for Puerto Rico (the Spanish way to say "Richport"). As if severe economic problems weren't enough, Hurricane Maria is heading straight for the tiny territory. Apparently, the hurricane is a Category 5, and there's no chance it will weaken before striking the island. Here's hoping the PR doesn't end up 95% destroyed like the tiny island of Barbuda when Irma passed overhead like an avenging angel.

Batten down those hatches, guys, and good luck. You have nowhere to flee to now.

why God invented sniper rifles

There's a Mad Pooper in Colorado.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

quesadillas: a hit at the office today

Today, I served shrimp-and-chorizo quesadillas—the dish I wasn't able to bring this past Friday. Sorry about the lack of pictures: the staff loved them, and I soon ran out. I didn't eat a quesadilla myself (some folks had seconds), but I still have plenty of ingredients to make more quesadillas at my apartment.

The comments I got today were weird but positive. My Aussie coworker joked that, thanks to my cooking, he wished he were more "curious," i.e., he'd consider a relationship with me because I can cook. There were several pleasurable moans of "Sooooo good," and one prim staffer, who never swears, said the quesadillas were "expletive-level delicious."

That's going to be my last food bash for a month. I need to save money, and I also need a rest. Cooking for ten people isn't easy, especially if you do it often.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"Why Daenerys Targaryen Sucks and Jon Snow Doesn't"

An interesting "Game of Thrones" commentary that makes admittedly valid points about the TV version of Daenerys Targaryen. I don't, however, think the criticisms obtain when we turn to the book version of Dany: that Dany is much younger, arguably smarter, and more of a proactive leader who, while she does rely on crafty and powerful underlings, is nevertheless her own woman and quite capable of making her own history-altering decisions. je dis "non" à la marche

After having looked more closely at the 66-kilometer route from Anseong to my apartment in southeast Seoul, I've decided to nix the walk. At least half of the walk appears to be a major roadway, and I can't tell, from the satellite imagery, whether that roadway has sidewalks. With my spider sense tingling, I'm left with no choice but to say no to walking north from Anseong.

Out of pure stubbornness, I looked at an alternate route: walking northwest to Osan, which is practically next door to Anseong, then shooting straight north along what I had hoped would be some established bike paths. I looked at the Osan-Seoul bike route that Naver laid out for me, but while it appeared safer than the Anseong route, it also looked ugly as hell—nothing but urban blight all the way up to Seoul. So, no: I won't be walking an Anseong-Osan-Seoul route, either.

I do still plan to skedaddle from the event as soon as possible, though. This will likely mean walking into town and grabbing an inter-city bus back to Seoul.

Jon Snow at dinner

Watch and enjoy.

workshop and walking

Our boss thinks it's a good idea to have an overnight retreat for the R&D department—a way for us to get to know each other better and to figure out how we're going to be reassigned into teams. This coming Saturday, September 23, we're all going to be bussed out to the boonies in the small town of Anseong, where our boss's hapkido master has some property. I'm not looking forward to this as a social event, and in fact, I plan to leave the event as soon as I possibly can (the boss is aware of this, so don't worry: I'm not plotting behind his back). I'll stay through the workshop-y portion of the retreat, after which I'll immediately make tracks for my apartment. I asked my boss for the property's address, and using Naver Map, I discovered it's quite a healthy walk away: 66 kilometers. That's longer than my upcoming Chuseok walk to Incheon will be, and a further problem is that, if I hope to be at work on Monday, I need to finish the walk by Sunday evening. Given that I won't be starting the walk until Saturday afternoon or early evening, I'll have no choice but to walk all through the night, resting periodically to keep my feet from falling apart.

This will be the longest distance I've ever walked during a 24-hour period (longer even than my 2008 walk from Troutdale to Cascade Locks, OR), but I'd rather be putting my feet through hell than sitting through a fucking social event. (Here again, the boss is aware of my abhorrence of all reindeer games. I've done nothing to hide my opinion.)

My great worry is that this is going to be murder on my feet, even if I take frequent rest breaks. Thinking further, I'm worried that, if I mess my feet up walking from Anseong to Seoul, I'll be in no condition to do my planned Chuseok walk. I just spent a week not walking at all because I'm sick (still am sick, and that's an issue, too); this hasn't helped with my conditioning. Luckily, there won't be a huge, heavy backpack to worry about: I'll be using the same smaller backpack that I used during my makeup walk. Ultimately, I think I'll be okay as long as I take a "slow and steady wins the race" approach to this 66-kilometer hike.

The contour lines from Anseong to Seoul don't look too forbidding: it appears I'll be passing between mountains, not over them, for the most part. I do worry about how much of the path is actually just roadway, and my nightmare is that I might end up walking inside some dark tunnel or across some narrow bridge, trying to dodge traffic with almost no road shoulder to protect me. I'll comb over the map more carefully, during the next few days, to make sure I'm not setting myself up to become roadkill. This isn't the Gukto Jongju, i.e., this isn't an established bike path: the path I'll be following is simply the result of Naver Map's bike-route algorithm calculating a path for me to follow.

Much to consider this week. Cross your fingers and hope that I recover from my current malady, which seems to have reduced itself to crackling lungs (rales) and an annoying cough.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Black Dynamite": one-paragraph review

Directed by Scott Sanders and starring Michael Jai White plus a whole cohort of big-name black actors, 2009's "Black Dynamite" is a hilarious parody of 1970s-era blaxploitation films. White plays the eponymous Black Dynamite, a former CIA agent, Vietnam vet, martial-arts expert, and orphan (that last part is significant). The story gets rolling when Dynamite's brother, who was working undercover for the feds, gets killed in a gangland hit. Dynamite goes back into action to unravel the mystery of the murder, leaving a trail of broken and dead bodies along the way. It's obvious that everyone involved in the making of "Black Dynamite" has a sincere love of blaxploitation films; more than half of the movie's humor comes from the parodying of those movies' flaws—a boom mike that enters the scene from above, a six-shooter that shoots nearly twenty bullets without reloading, bad dialogue, tacky clothing and set design, and some of the best/worst over-the-top acting you'll ever see. Michael Jai White, in particular, proves both that he can act and that he has comic chops; his Black Dynamite carries the film on his muscular shoulders. And what a funny film it is: I laughed through pretty much the entire story, and I think you will, too.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tabom revisited

I met Ben (the dude from my walk—see here) in Itaewon this evening and convinced him we shouldn't be eating at Taco Bell, which is where he had initially wanted to eat. I suggested Coreanos instead, if we were really going to do Mexican food (you'll recall that we'd had a Mexican fiesta in our office the previous day, so I wasn't really keen), but as we were walking toward that restaurant, I told my acquaintance about Brazilian food and about the restaurant Tabom in particular, so as we were passing by Tabom, Ben insisted that we cancel Coreanos and head upstairs to the rodizio.

Tabom turned out not to be crowded on a Saturday night, which was great news for us: I had feared massive Saturday crowds. We sat down, and I ordered the muhan (unlimited) dinner. We also ordered some Cokes, which came out in cans. After that, it was just a matter of grabbing some plates, loading them up with items from the small-but-tasty buffet, sitting back down, and waiting for the meat to wander our way.

The buffet's modest selection included a Brazilian form of pico de gallo, a standard leafy salad, Korean-style shredded cabbage, an assortment of dressings, Korean-style salada mashed potatoes, a cream-sauce beef penne dish that proved quite tasty, some long-grain white rice, a huge bowl of french fries, a meat-and-cream sauce that looked a bit like a red-meat version of moqueca (it wasn't), and a steaming chafing dish filled with beautiful feijoada whose only drawback was that it contained knuckles and some gristle.

The meat swung by in waves—different types of steak cooked to different levels of doneness, sausages, pork, and chicken—the whole damn farm. The procession was glorious, but even though I had ordered the "limitless" option, I did notice that the parade of meat trickled to a stop toward the end. Not to worry: I ended up pretty full. Ben, who's an athletic guy, had a pained look on his face from all the food he had eaten. His gut was bursting, and his night wasn't over: after meeting with me, he was aiming to hook up with a group of younger friends to go bar-hopping until the wee hours of the morning.

Dinner finished with the traditional roasted pineapple covered in sugar and cinnamon. It was delicious as always—even the strangely fibrous slice of pineapple that had obviously come from a spot near the fruit's core. Because I hadn't eaten all day, I didn't end up as stuffed as Ben did, and it was kind of funny to watch poor Ben walk painfully out of the restaurant and down to the main street. We took a digestive stroll downhill past Yongsan Garrison and the Korean War Memorial, after which we parted ways: I took a cab and Ben went back into Itaewon to meet up with his buddies.

Sorry I don't have any photos of tonight's amazing dinner; I was concentrating on eating it. It was an amazing meal, though, and W31,000 pr person isn't too steep a price—by Korean standards, anyway—for that much protein. Ben says he'd like to take his friends to Tabom, but since I paid for our dinner and refused to tell him how much it cost, he might be in for the shock of his twenty-something life when he reads the menu next time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

no choice but to agree

Dr. V writes:

The human predicament has its tragic sides. One is that success is too often predicated upon inordinate self-confidence and blindness to faults.

This applies to the CEO of my company.

blurry Mexican lunch

Sorry for the blur. My phone camera sucks, and/or I suck at operating it.

Front and center, looking like a cigar: my coworker M's flauta (from the Spanish word for "flute"). A flauta is a tightly rolled-up cousin of a taquito (last time I was in the States, you could buy cheap taquitos at 7-Eleven); the difference is that taquitos are usually made with corn tortillas, and flautas are made with flour tortillas.

Foreground and right: red-sauce and green-sauce enchiladas by yours truly. One coworker declared the green-sauce enchiladas to be her favorite of all the food out there. Very nice of her. When I was making the red and green sauces this morning, I thought I had nailed it with the red sauce, which was the perfect taste for enchiladas. Later on, every single person at work raved about the green sauce, which startled me. When I had finished making the green sauce and had tasted it, I didn't have the same "Nailed it!" feeling that I'd had with the red sauce. In part, this was because I was using an approach that didn't include tomatillos: it concentrated on chili peppers, onions, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. The other night, I had bought a bottled version of standard salsa verde; when I smelled and tasted it, I could sense the tomatillos, but the sauce was dominated by the jalapeños, so I chose some online recipes that followed that pattern, then synthesized everything I'd learned to create my own salsa verde. Apparently, I'd gotten it right. I'm still shaking my head.

Top, at about 11 o'clock: a chunk of chicken from coworker C's amazing fajitas. The fajitas were my favorite part of today's lunch. C used chicken breast, which I also favor in chicken dishes despite all the hate that breast meat gets.* She had prepped the ingredients at home, along with an amazing and very old-school guacamole (crush the avocado flesh with a fork—don't purée!) that was one of the best guac I've ever had.

We got a bit silly when it came to toasting the tortillas for the fajitas. At first, C wanted to do the old "toast the tortillas barehanded directly over the gas-range flame" trick. A few of us tried that trick, with only R, my Aussie coworker, succeeding in toasting his tortilla until it had acquired a few small black spots. We all eventually switched to the safer "toast the tortillas on a frying pan" technique.

In the end, we all ate more than we should have. The flautas were totally destroyed; C's fajitas were about 90% gone, as were the enchiladas I had placed on the table (I'd held two baking dishes in reserve; my boss took care of one of those, and another employee took care of most of the second). Coworker J brought a mound of dessert: cake, bread, and even churros from a French(!) bakery close to where she lives. The boss brought a fluffy, Korean-style cheesecake that no one ate because there was simply too much food. But as luncheons go, this one was gloriously successful, and it left everyone in the office both full and smiling. I had planned to prep and bring quesadillas, but the time crunch this morning meant that I had to sacrifice them. I've promised the coworkers that I'll bring the quesadillas on Tuesday. Perhaps I'll have a less blurry photo to show you then.

*Critics grouse that breast meat is relatively flavorless, and it's easy to ruin: boil it too long, and it dries up. Fry or grill it too long, and it dries up. While all of this is true, I find breast meat to be, when cooked right, the part of the chicken with the absolute best texture. Its nondescript taste is, in fact, the perfect canvas upon which an imaginative cook can paint layer upon layer of flavor.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

HRC and "Game of Thrones"

Hilarious parallel, but only if you know your "Game of Thrones" lore. Seen on Instapundit:

What’s the difference between Game of Thrones character Cersei Lannister and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? One is an entitled narcissist who quietly supported her lecherous husband (whom she clearly loathed) when it was politically convenient, then insisted it was her turn to rule (even though it wasn’t), chose boot-lickers, ass-kissers, and elitist bankers as her advisors while alienating more competent and better-liked people who might have helped her, exacted petty vengeance on imagined enemies, escaped justice and the judgment of the people by destroying her main rival—the charismatic, income-inequality obsessed populist—with an explosive cheat, and was left confused why so many people in her country would rather be ruled by a complete political unknown who tells it like it is.

The other fucks her twin brother.

My understanding is that HRC's new book What Happened, a postmortem of the 2016 election in which Clinton apparently blames everyone but herself for her electoral loss, is as clueless as its title suggests.

Happy Birthday, David!

Having turned 40 last year, David continues to experience that "life begins at" phase of his existence. Here he is with his dog Penny:

Happy Birthday, little bro. Hugs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

saddest thing you'll read today

South Korea is a nation supposedly full of Christians, but in reality, it's a nation full of NIMBY-ites. Matt is doing good work by pointing this social problem out, but he might need to translate his post into Korean to have a real impact on the conversation.

"For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; I needed clothes, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you looked after me; I was in prison and you visited me."

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

—Matthew 25:35-40

sclerotic London

Just read. And try to digest the mind-boggling statistics. Keep in mind that a humble team of only eight people is removing 20-30 tons of this crud every day. That's a more massive task than cleaning the Augean stables.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

mōmsal (몸살)

I currently have a classic case of what Koreans call mōmsal, which refers to generalized body aches, pains, blahs, and other nasty, mind-dulling symptoms often associated with colds, flus, and so on. You can think of mōmsal as a sort of syndrome, i.e., a suite of symptoms and conditions all arising at once. In my particular case, the mōmsal is a stew of fever, a slightly (but not alarmingly) mucus-y cough, fatigue, joint ache, and a sudden wave of lower-back pain for no apparent reason. The latter pain makes it difficult for me to bend over and pick anything up off the floor, but I assume this is temporary. It's more annoying than actually debilitating, but it's sapping my will to do any exercise. I'd much rather just lie in bed, under a blanket that protects me from mosquitoes. I haven't lost the will to go to work yet, but we'll have to see just how bad the condition gets. In theory, I'll make it through the week.

I've got Comtrex-style cold medicine to combat the problem, along with aspirin and vitamins. We'll see how that goes for the next few days. It's unfortunate that this is hitting me during a week when I'm expected to produce a lot of food this coming Friday, but I have no choice but to shamble on through it.

Wish me luck as Friday approaches.

my horror-movie morning

This morning, as I sat upon the pot with my bathroom door open to the rest of my apartment (the things we do when we live alone), my gaze lit upon one of the largest mosquitoes I had ever seen, just sitting there insouciantly on the vertical surface of my bathroom door's jamb. It took me a second to register why the creature was so huge: it had obviously been sucking my blood, all night long, to its evil heart's content.

The mosquito, bloated and vulgar, seemed sated and in no mood to move, so I slowly leaned over—still sitting on the toilet—and gingerly grasped a bottle of Windex that I keep in the bathroom for just such occasions. Holding the spray bottle away from the insect so as not to startle it, I performed one or two experimental spritzes to make sure there would be no misfires. I then trained the spray nozzle on the beast and fired once.

The bastard fell instantly, stunned. It struggled feebly in the pool of Windex fluid that had dribbled down the wall and formed around it. I knew I had to confirm that this pest really had been siphoning off gallons of my precious life-force, so I slowly gathered up some toilet tissue, reached down, and attempted—gently—to pick the mosquito up.

The malefic bug burst like one of Satan's zits between my fingers, spectacularly confirming that the infernal monster had indeed been greedily downing my essence. "Fuck you and die!" I yelled belatedly, lamely. I wondered what my neighbor thought, but then I ceased to care. My adversary was dead, and I had learned that, while you can never get your blood back from the creature that took it, you can nevertheless evoke a measure of divine justice.

Sic semper culicibus.

weird ad

I'm aware that some online ads are generated by "bots" that put together an image with the ad text. Most of the time, the picture matches the text in theme and tone, but every now and then you get an ad like this:

Not sure that that works, guys.

That said, Koreans (is the young lady in the above image Korean?) are more likely to use tears in their marketing: TV commercials routinely show people biting into fried chicken with tears streaming down their faces, or somber scenes of weepy family conflict, or tears used to humorous effect. It's not the sort of thing that would work well for American audiences, who might find themselves put off, or at least made uncomfortable, when confronted with the appearance of raw emotion. But you don't come to Korea for humorous cynicism, subtle sarcasm, or snide irreverence: this is the land of earnest emotion, deep and sincere feeling, and the operatic grand geste. So don't be surprised if you find yourself watching a TV commercial in which tears are flowing. This is the Land of the Mourning Sob, after all.