Sunday, December 16, 2018

beauty's inner beast

My posts about suicide tend to attract angry comments from friends and strangers alike, probably because these commenters think I'm an un-compassionate bastard who hasn't thought the matter through regarding any given incident.

Well, at the risk of pissing those people off yet again, I present to you the sad case of Fox 2 Detroit meteorologist Jessica Starr, a 35-year-old wife and mother of two who recently committed suicide by hanging a few months after having undergone Lasik surgery. Her suicide stunned her fellow Fox News coworkers, and there was an outpouring of grief and sympathy online and via other media. Starr had apparently talked publicly about a harassing, insulting letter she had received regarding how she looked after just having given birth. This letter was, it seems, not the only malicious correspondence sent her way, and Starr noted that working in the media meant having to have a thick skin.

At a guess, Starr's skin was still too thin, and at a further guess, she knew she was beautiful (well, by some standards) and put a great deal of stock in her looks. She may have felt that the Lasik surgery, which some are describing as botched, somehow ruined her looks or, at the very least, had taken away her ability to function normally, thus preventing her from working and forcing her to take an inordinate amount of time to recover.

Was this enough to drive Starr into a depression? I don't know. What could make a woman with family obligations decide it was better to leave this plane of existence, abandoning her husband and children, than to tough it out and recover, however long such a recovery might take? The problem with depression in general is that, whatever may trigger it, it's a deep dive into selfishness. Sorry, folks, but this conclusion is inevitable when you examine what depression is and does. Depression causes the mind's focus to narrow until only the self is in view, and it closes off the possibility of any positive outcomes, leaving only the possibility of suicide as an escape from pain and misery. I can see how suicide might be a viable option if one is terminally ill and unwilling to prolong suffering—one's own and that of one's caregivers—but for a beautiful wife and mother to choose suicide after a possibly botched Lasik procedure just boggles my mind.

I'm reminded of that scene in "Se7en," in which a supermodel has her face disfigured by the cruel John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who gives her the choice between rescue by emergency workers and suicide, and the woman, because of her pride in her looks, chooses suicide over a life of disfigurement. There are plenty of superficial people in the world who have just such fucked-up priorities, and I can't help wondering whether Jessica Starr was one such person.

Of course, we don't know the whole story, and I don't know whether I'll be seeing any follow-up articles (I've just set up a Google news alert to ping me, so I might provide an update sooner or later). Maybe there was a suicide note. Maybe we'll find out the poor woman was in extreme agony and couldn't live with the pain. Who knows? But get this: she got the surgery this past October, but after two months, she hadn't sued the Lasik operators for malpractice, as far as I know, which makes the "botched surgery" idea a bit suspicious. Why would a wife and mother feel she had lost everything—if that's what she did feel—just because of a surgical procedure gone wrong? Did she forget she was a married mother? That there were obligations still tying her to this earth, to this life? I simply don't understand.

You may think I lack compassion because of what I've written, but I do feel compassion—for Starr's family. Don't take the focus off them, for they're the ones who have to suffer the consequences of Starr's actions.

Styx on the possible overturning of Obamacare

Don't celebrate quite yet because this is likely going to go to the Supreme Court:

tentacular fortitude

I'm not a fan of the Huffington Post, but this HuffPo article, about scientists giving MDMA (a.k.a. the drug Ecstasy) to octopi, is hilarious—especially when the scientists talk about what happens when an octopus overdoses on Ecstasy.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

YEAH, bitches!

My credit score finally earns me an "A":

I've had a very healthy credit score in the mid-700s for years, but this is the first time my score has swung up into the "A" range (max score is 850). A credit score is determined by a large constellation of factors. Among them:

• the timeliness with which you pay your debts
• the number of outstanding debts you have
• the dollar amount of each of those outstanding debts
• the speed with which you zero out various debts

Read more about how this works here.

I normally get paid on the 16th, but because the 16th is a Sunday, I'll be paid on Monday, which means another trip to the bank to send off another $5000 to my US account. Once that money is in place, I'll pay off a $10,000 chunk of my remaining debt. I'll do that three more times throughout next year, and poof—debt gone.

What I'm really looking forward to is what happens after that: I'll be able to save like crazy, and by the time I'm in my mid-50s, I'll have a decent chunk of change to my name.

PS: for people who want to warn me that a $10,000 pay-down of my debt is going to trigger some alarm at the IRS: I did some research, and the notion is mostly bullshit. It used to be said that people would do transactions in segments of $9999 or lower to avoid the federal tripwire, but this practice is called "structuring" and is illegal. Secondly, if the IRS does flag you, what happens next is that you get quietly monitored to see whether you're engaging in any untoward activities. Me, I'm not buying a villa on the side for my mistress, nor am I involved in illegal drug trafficking, so I'd say I'm pretty safe from judgment. I'm just paying off a debt. And boy, does that feel good.

ululate! (belated edition)

It happened in November, but the news only just came out that actress Sondra Locke, a fine artist in her own right, but doomed forever to be known as "Clint Eastwood's ex-girlfriend" because of her relationship with Eastwood during the 70s and the 80s, died at the age of 74. The cause of death was a combination of breast and bone cancer that led to cardiac arrest.

I remember Locke best from a few of the movies she did with her then-beau Eastwood: "Every Which Way But Loose," "Sudden Impact," "The Outlaw Josie Wales," and some others. She could play both delicate and tough when she needed to, and she had those impossibly huge, expressive eyes long before Anne Hathaway and her enormous peepers appeared on the scene.

In poring over Locke's biographical information, I discovered she was a nerd: valedictorian at both the junior-high and the senior-high level. Sondra was born Sandra, and Locke was her stepfather's surname, which she took on as her stage name. She starred in the 1968 "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter," a performance that snagged her both a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. She dated Clint Eastwood for about thirteen or fourteen years; she was married to a gay man named Gordon Leigh Anderson, a childhood friend, during her time with Eastwood, and she was technically still legally married to Anderson when she died. Eastwood and Locke's adulterous affair took a sour turn when Eastwood later cheated on Locke; he insisted to Locke that he didn't want children (she had two abortions), then he fathered two children with another woman late in his relationship with Locke. The Locke-Eastwood separation was a nasty one, with Eastwood changing the locks on his home while Locke was away on a movie set. This was followed by a palimony suit and one or two other lawsuits initiated by Locke, including a suit against Eastwood for reasons of fraud. Locke wrote a 1997 autobiography called The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly. I can only assume that the book's title refers pointedly to Eastwood, who is undoubtedly portrayed within as "very ugly." Suffice it to say that Locke didn't have the easiest life.

I had a bit of a crush on Sondra Locke when I was a wee lad. Because of her distinctive looks, including a prominent-but-cute nose, I ended up crushing on some female classmates with similar traits. RIP, Ms. Locke.

Friday, December 14, 2018

why I don't post shirtless pics of myself on my blog

Because my man-boobs are bigger than Amy Schumer's chick-boobs:

"Origin": Season 1 review, partway in

I wrote before about the YouTube original series "Impulse," which is based on the Jumper series of novels about people with the ability to teleport by generating wormholes. I'm currently watching "Origin," another one-word-title YouTube series starring Harry Potter veterans Natalia Tena (who played Nymphadora Tonks) and Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy), along with a solid cast of regular, recurring characters. The premise is that the Origin is a spacefaring vessel somewhat similar to a generation ship* in concept: passengers are placed on board and hibernate as the ship makes a long voyage to a nearby star and its solar system—in this case, a system with an earth-like planet called Thea (Greek θεά for "goddess," possibly a nod to Gaia, one term for our world). On our future Earth, population pressure and other factors have forced people to consider the option of moving offworld; a company called Siren is advertising the Thea Project, which involves collecting volunteers to act as crew for the Origin, as well as other volunteers who will start a new life on this new world, helping to build the structures and infrastructure that will be used by future incoming humans.

But something has gone wrong, and that's how the first episode opens: one of our main point-of-view characters is Shun (Sen Mitsuji), a Yakuza who has left Earth after a life of crime that weighs heavily on his conscience. Shun is awakened inside his hibernaculum when the ship shudders and goes into emergency mode. Little does he know that most of the passengers and crew of the Origin have already launched away from the ship in lifepods while the Origin—a giant vessel composed of ten rotating rings held together by a central axle that also functions as an elevator shaft—continues to lumber blindly toward Thea along its programmed course. Shun is ejected from his hibernaculum along with Lana Pierce (Tena), a former bodyguard. The two tentatively explore the now-empty Origin, whose interior is reminiscent of the LV-426 Acheron base in "Aliens." More passengers get ejected from their capsules; no one knows anyone else, and part of the fun of the series is learning about each character's history, personality, and motives via omniscient third-person back-story narratives and through present-day dialogue.

As with "Game of Thrones," though, there's a menace from something radically Other: this would be the White Walkers in "Game of Thrones," but it's a strange, ill-defined alien presence in "Origin." The event that put the Origin in emergency mode was the impact of an asteroid on one of the ship's rings; the asteroid remained rammed into the impact point, but it may have brought along with it a type of parasitic alien life that, a bit like the Ceti eels in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," takes over a person's brain and causes that person to make murderous mischief (All this has happened before...). A victim of the alien will bleed from facial orifices, contort him- or herself as if demonically possessed, and cleverly lead people into traps in which the human/alien symbiote pair will grab a weapon, like a knife or a gun, and do the victim in. It's not always obvious whether the alien is doing this simply because it likes killing or because it needs a new host in order to reproduce. Thus far in the series (I'm up to about Episode 7 of ten episodes), the frightened passengers seem to be dealing with a single alien, not a spreading, contagious virus that could bring about a zombie apocalypse.

Along with Shun the Yakuza and Lana the ex-bodyguard, our main cast includes Lee the autistic ace hacker who hates to be touched (Adelayo Adedayo), Logan the stoner loser/delinquent who's nicer than he seems (Felton), Evelyn Rey the last remaining crew member (Nora Arnezeder), Dr. Henri Gasana the not-always-ethical geneticist (Fraser James), Baum Arndt the bisexual playboy/thief (Philipp Christopher), Abigail Garcia (Madalyn Horcher) the lost little teen, and Katie Devlin the winsome Irish lass (Siobhán Cullen). As the series moves forward, we find out everyone's back stories—their reasons for signing on to the Thea Project. In most cases, these people have deeply criminal histories, but in one or two instances, the passengers on the Origin have fairly uplifting and/or touching backgrounds.

"Origin" uses several techniques for maintaining suspense. Like one of my all-time favorite TV series, "24," it has no compunctions about killing off important characters, but also like "24," it imbues its top-tier main characters with enough plot armor for the viewer to know that those folks will survive to the next episode, and possibly to the very end of the series. A second technique is a combination of cinematography and set design: the Origin is portrayed as a massive, empty vessel. The blue lighting reminds one instantly of James Cameron's preferred color palette in most of his sci-fi/action movies, but there are also strong hints of the Nostromo from "Alien" and the dystopic cities of "Blade Runner." One suspense trope used far, far too often is the jump scare, which gets cheap by the second episode, but which continues shamelessly throughout the series. After a while, the viewer just rolls his eyes.

If I were to compare this show to "Impulse," I'd say it's (1) far less feminist in emphasis and (2) not nearly as well scripted. The dialogue and situations in "Impulse," their feminist slant notwithstanding, have a certain ring of authenticity and emotional power. For "Origin," the dialogue sometimes comes off as too stilted and comic-bookish. "Origin" also contains far too many predictable moments: I was almost always able to foresee, minutes ahead, which character was going to die or prove to be the baddie or fail in a certain way. True, the show has proven clever enough to throw in a few twists that I couldn't predict, but overall, the story hasn't been as suspenseful as the writers might have wanted it to be.

On a positive note, the characters are all well acted, and their interactions—which take on many permutations and combinations—create an inherent complexity that keeps the overall story interesting, if not exactly riveting. There's just enough unpredictability that I can't foresee how Season 1 is going to end: the passengers discover they are only nine days out from Thea, so... will they make planetfall in the final episode? Will the ship's AI go nuts and drive them all past the planet and into deep space? (I'm betting on planetfall, either this season or next.) Several love stories are evolving over the course of time, but given the odd number of people (and the oddness of some of the people), not everyone ends up with a squeeze. One of the best parts of the series is also one of its most formulaic elements: the relating of each main character's back story from his or her time on Earth. Once you see the first two flashbacks, you know you're in for more such reminiscences, but the memories themselves do much to flesh out the characters currently trapped aboard a damaged ship. Also likable is the way that many of the characters are multilingual; long swaths of dialogue are in fluent-sounding French, German, and Japanese. And some of the themes brought up in the series are of interest to me, such as the idea that AI is only a nudge away from the Singularity, and there are laws supposedly preventing people from enhancing their AI to the point of sentience.

The most frustrating aspect of the series, thus far, is the inconsistency of the portrayal of the alien life form. I'm seven episodes in, and I'm still not even sure whether we're dealing with just one form of alien life. Much is made, early on, of a black goo that appears soon after the asteroid impact. This goo reappears, or gets talked about, as the series goes on, but we're never told what its properties are. Is it mutagenic, i.e., should you not touch it at the risk of being transformed? Is it the vehicle for alien pathogens to enter a human host? When a dead victim of an alien undergoes a laser craniotomy, we see a vaguely insect-like structure hugging the victim's brain. Its blood seems to be that same black fluid, but this only causes more questions: is the goo circulatory fluid or an excretion? Or both? Is the alien infecting its hosts the way a virus might, or is that insect-like thing physically crawling into people's bodies and settling itself on top of the brain? Affected victims will attack another human and attempt to bleed on the victim; does this mean that human blood is a carrier of alien infection? If so, why is there almost no effort, at any time, to clean up any spilled blood? (Come to think of it, why does the lone "doc" only inconsistently exercise infection-control procedures, gloving up only at random, and even touching a living alien tendril bare-handed?) The alien is said to calcify a person's hippocampus, thus blocking deep-seated memories and causing people to forget who they are. An infected medic forgets he's a medic; an infected passenger forgets his own name but cunningly adopts another passenger's name as an alias. The alien's effect on memory causes its victims to lose time: the victims become murderous, then lapse back into their original selves. The freaky demon-possession aspect of the alien has been shown only once or twice in the first two episodes, and it hasn't been seen since. I want to see alien-possessed people galloping along on twisted limbs, torsos facing the ceiling because their spines have been bent so far backward that no other locomotion is possible!**

The series could be greatly improved by not telegraphing upcoming events, not including so many damn jump scares (which are less scary than they are silly; I expect to see mashup parodies on YouTube soon: "Every Jump Scare from Season 1 of 'Origin' Done in 90 Seconds"), and not relying on occasionally clunky dialogue. It should continue to give us decently fleshed-out characters with interesting backgrounds and conflicting motivations, and an increasingly grandiose story that will, I hope, take us to a new planet, where the setting will be much wider, with more potential for mayhem. Overall, "Origin" is watchable, but its screenwriting-related problems put it significantly below "Impulse" in terms of quality. That said, I'll watch to the end of Season 1, and I'll likely continue on with Season 2.

*A generation ship typically moves at sublight speed, whereas the Origin can, to use the "Star Wars" terminology, jump into hyperspace. In this series, passengers are placed in hibernacula, and not for a very long time. This is a major disanalogy with generation ships, in which generations of non-hibernating people are born and die as the ship makes its slow way to its destination. If I'm not mistaken, though, the Origin must move far away from any planets before it makes its jump, and that's what takes a lot of time. Same goes for arrival at Thea: the Origin drops out of hyperspace fairly far out from Thea, then uses sublight propulsion to arrive at the planet, enter orbit, and offload the passengers. At least... that's what was supposed to happen.

**I'm alluding, of course, to Regan's "spider-walk" scene from the novel The Exorcist; the scene was filmed for the movie, but it was left out of the final cut; see two versions of it here and here if you want; the scene is kind of lame, but the second version is a bit creepier and less faithful to the novel. In the novel, Regan is described as being bent so far backward that her buttocks and head are almost touching, and when she crawls down the stairs, it's on tiptoe and fingertips. Her tongue, inhumanly long, flicks out like a snake, tickling the ankles of the startled people at the bottom of the stairs. Regan's movements, during this scene, are completely, eerily silent.

eentellesteeng nyu-ju ahlticaws

Several French generals apparently formed a cohort and published an open letter to President Macron that contains the language

En décidant seul de signer ce pacte, vous ajouteriez un motif de révolte supplémentaire à la colère d’un peuple déjà malmené. Vous vous rendriez coupable d’un déni de démocratie, voire de trahison à l’égard de la nation.

In deciding, alone, to sign this pact [the UN migration pact, which tilts toward open borders], you heap yet another reason for revolt upon the anger of an already mistreated people. You render yourself guilty of a denial of democracy, and even of treason toward the nation.
[my translation]

I saw the original entry on Gab, where some commenters are wondering whether a palace coup (the French president lives in a literal palace) mightn't be far behind. Personally, I think not. It's hard to imagine a Thailand-style military coup happening in what is, despite the spreading rot, one of the great pillars of the West.

By the way, the name of the above-linked site, Riposte Laïque, gives away its bias. We use the word riposte in English, primarily as a fencing term for a type of counterstrike after a parry, but also in a metaphorical sense as a pushback against certain ideas, arguments, and movements. The term laïque is related to English words like lay, laical, laity, and laicism, all having to do with something that is non-clerical (in a church-magisterium context) and of the people. So if, at this point, you're thinking that the website overlaps with Trumpian nationalism/populism, you wouldn't be far wrong. The French-language comments beneath the article mostly look as if they could have been written by English-speaking Gabbers.

Another article I read was equally interesting, if for no other reason than that it took a surprisingly measured, balanced tone in describing the current Brexit situation. The article is by Lord Ashcroft, and it's titled "Polls Show that Voters Are Hardening Against a Brexit Compromise." An excerpt:

My latest research finds that few believe the draft Brexit deal honours the referendum result, or that it beats remaining in the EU on our current terms. And while voters overall still think, just, that Mrs May’s deal is better than no deal, Tories as a whole now disagree, as do Leavers by a wide margin.

I was able to read the full article on my phone just an hour ago, but when I tried to call the piece up on my office's desktop computer, a paywall was in effect, and when I tried again to access the article on my phone, the same paywall was there. So proceed with caution. It's often possible to circumvent paywalls by finding other, non-paywalled websites that have published the same article. Just do a search based on a sentence or two copied from the snippet that you're able to see.

A third interesting article was this one, which says that a panel studying the Parkland, Florida, shooting has concluded that it might be a good idea for teachers to have guns. While I'm not really for arming college students on campuses (too many drunken parties that could go wildly wrong with guns in the picture), I'm all for arming teachers. Wild-eyed gun-grabbers mischaracterize this scenario as one in which untrained teachers waddle around stupidly, taking dangerous potshots during a firefight with a mass killer. This is not what's being advocated. Here's what's actually being put forth:

The panel also voted to include a controversial proposal allowing classroom teachers to carry guns in schools if they go through a selection process that would include background checks and training. Such a change would require the state Legislature’s approval.

The wild-eyed criticisms, all rooted in baseless fear (and it's ironic that the other side of the aisle likes to portray the pro-gun lobby as fearful), come from the same corner that paints the NRA as a racist, Nazi organization intent on fomenting violence throughout the country, when in fact the NRA has always advocated responsible gun ownership and, as far as I know, not a single NRA member has ever proved to be a mass shooter. Anyway, yes: I think teachers who train with guns should be allowed to carry them at school. Nightmare scenarios, such as a teacher angrily whipping out a .357 upon seeing two students fighting in the hallway, have zero chance of occurring. Have a little more faith in humanity than that.

a must-view for Korean companies

This should be required viewing—not just once, but multiple times—for all Korean companies that do anything potentially dangerous. How many disasters could be prevented if people took safety culture seriously? Watching this video, I couldn't help thinking of the Seongsu Bridge disaster, the Sampoong Department Store disaster, the Daegu gas explosion, the Daegu subway fire, the Sewol ferry disaster...

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Paris Baguette likes its little jokes

Just try and guess what sandwich this is supposed to be.

fake news abounds

Another example of why you need to suspect most news reports:

I'd quibble with the language in the above Gab post because the twisted version of the sad news is not the "complete opposite" of what happened, and that's precisely the point. Fake news weaves a pernicious narrative by bending and twisting the truth.

And now, a little girl who deserves better has become fodder for the ever-churning news cycle.

probably not walking

Last night, we cell-phone owners received a shotgunned snow-and-ice warning via text message. Sure enough, it snowed this morning, and right now, as evening encroaches, temperatures are going down, and the slush and puddles are beginning to freeze. I don't know how long the water is going to be on the ground, but since I'm extremely paranoid about walking on icy surfaces, I'm canceling the planned walk this weekend (and frankly, I'd been looking for a reason to cancel). Had it remained cold and dry, I'd have done the walk, most likely. But no: Seoul is currently covered in a gentle dusting of snow. It all looks pretty, but I worry about falling on my ass and/or twisting an ankle. I also see that they're forecasting precipitation for Sunday, which would have been Day 2 of that walk. I have no desire to be cold and wet while walking in subzero temperatures.


When shutter speed and rotation rate coincide:

le marché de Noël à Strasbourg

I've been to the marché de Noël (Christmas Market) in Strasbourg, France, so I know how beautiful and festive it is. On December 11, two days ago, a radicalized Muslim man named Chérif Chekatt, already a "known wolf" to authorities, came to the periphery of the Strasbourg Christmas Market with a gun and opened fire, killing two people, leaving one brain-dead, and injuring about a dozen others. As of right now, Chekatt is still on the run from police. In the initial firefight, he was apparently wounded in the arm. In theory, that ought to make him easier to catch, but for whatever reason, he hasn't been caught yet.

France has strict gun-control laws, but as with the Bataclan nightclub massacre in 2015, we once again see that having laws on the books isn't a real deterrent to gun crime. People will always find loopholes, and most guns used in mass shootings are illegally obtained. Some will say that that's an argument for stripping the entire population of its guns, and while it's logically true that there can be no gun crime if there are no guns, the reality is that gun confiscation will only disarm law-abiding citizens. This isn't an original argument by any means, but it's a bit of common sense that seems to escape the gun-grabbers.

May the police catch this bastard soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Happy Barfday, Tom!

Today, 12/12, is my buddy Tom's birthday. The damn date always creeps up on me, catching me unawares. I just texted Tom and promised to take him out somewhere for some good eatin' sometime next week. Tom turns 49; he's a 1969er like me, so next year is the big Five-Oh for both of us. I should really plan a trip to Hawaii.

Theresa May's true nature?

A gut-busting take on Theresa May by Andy Serkis, who is probably best known for portraying Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films:

I get the feeling that Serkis himself is a Remainer. But this performance can be interpreted a few different ways, I think: Theresa May clearly comes off as scorning the will of the people, but is she scorning the will of the original Brexiteers, who voted long ago and now simply want Brexit to push forward as a clean separation with minimal damage to Great Britain, or is she scorning what may be the people's supposed desire for a re-vote? Again, if we go by Serkis's presumed political sensibilities (with few exceptions, actor = leftie), it's probably the latter, but the comedy sketch itself can be read either way.

yeesh: bad, bad bread

I shouldn't have done this, but when I left work Tuesday evening, I made a beeline for Kim Young Mo Pâtisserie, the high-end bakery just up the street from our office. The place makes decent baguettes and croissants; they're better than the bread found in almost all the other bakeries in the neighborhood. I had seen that Kim Young Mo was selling Christmas-y breads, and since I always look forward to a yearly Stollen, I decided I'd buy that plus an Italian panettone. Both were on display and available in various sizes; I went for the mini-Stollen and the half-panettone.

When I got home, I eagerly unwrapped both breads and cut myself a small slice of each.

Both were horrible beyond words.

I've eaten Stollen in Korea before, and I know that Korean bakeries can and do make decent versions of this German classic (pronounce it "shtoh-len"), so I blithely assumed that Kim Young Mo, which normally makes pretty good bread, would knock this out of the park, given that its bakers and pastry chefs are supposedly trained in Europe. So what on earth happened? I have no clue. The Stollen was simply awful, with a sickening aftertaste, and the panettone was, unbelievably, even worse. Both breads were so bad as to be inedible, so I threw both of them in the food trash, 99% uneaten. What a goddamn waste. I'm angry, too: the mini-Stollen had set me back W12,000, or a little over $10, US.

I have to wonder whether any other customers in that store have had the same experience. Both breads were below substandard. Kim Young Mo is also selling these cute little candy/gingerbread Christmas houses; they come in various sizes, and they're all hellaciously expensive. I had thought about buying a house for our office, but given what just happened, I'm now worried that this will be another case of looks good, tastes shitty.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

"This is the logical outcome of the notion that speech is violence."

One reason not to move back West is the continuing squelching of free speech.* One Russian-born comedian tasked with performing at a university's charity event (no pay for the comedian) recently tweeted about the ridiculous "Behavioral Agreement Form" he was asked to sign before he could appear on stage. Click here for the full story.

Not only is this the logical outcome of the notion that speech is violence, this is also the logical outcome of protecting people from untoward speech through the creation of ridiculous "safe spaces." If college isn't supposed to be the place where your preconceptions are challenged, then what the fuck is it supposed to be? Don't bother: I already know the answer to that.

*This in no way implies that South Korea is a free-speech haven. Read Joshua's blog for more.

why is there a gender wage gap?

Left-leaning Vox has its take.

Right-leaning (well, libertarian) Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) has its take.

I actually have trouble seeing how the above articles are contradictory. The Vox article pins the problem largely on the choices women make after giving birth:

Much of Kleven’s paper is designed to untangle what exactly happens after women have children that leads to this wage gap. He finds that women start to gravitate toward different jobs after the birth of a child, ones with fewer hours and lower wages. Ten years after childbirth, women have a 10 percentage point higher probability of public sector employment than men. These are jobs that typically offer “flexible working hours, leave days when having sick children, and a favorable view on long parental leaves.”

The above-linked FEE article takes the standard position that the wage gap can be explained purely as a function of the career choices women make. In essence, women are the cause of their own wage-gap problem. Want to earn as much as a man? Well, what's stopping you from training to be a doctor or a lawyer or a construction worker? Plenty of women are in these fields, but "plenty" doesn't mean that these fields comprise 50% women. Why is that, ladies? Could it be because biology really does matter, despite the current feminist propaganda?

34,092 steps, 24℉, -4.4℃

I had to get at least one long practice walk in, so I did that tonight (Monday night/Tuesday morning: the walk was about five hours long and took me until well past midnight). I'm planning to walk, this weekend, out to Paldang Dam and back—a trip that, Naver Map tells me, will be about 31 km, one way. This won't be another four-day walk like my trips to Incheon: I'll be hiking out to the dam on Saturday, overnighting in Hanam City (not to be confused with Hannam—two "n"s—next to Itaewon), then walking back to my place on Sunday. The first day's walk is going to be a bitch because the dam is actually about 6.5 km past the place where I'll be staying in Hanam. Luckily, that's 6.5 km that I won't have to do on the second day, which is nice. Still, the first day's walk is going to be 37.5 km long, which probably gets me up around 50,000 steps. I'm going to be one aching half-Korean come Sunday morning, and walking back home all day Sunday isn't going to help.

The reptilian part of my brain is telling me this walk is a bad idea. The weather has been relentlessly below freezing, even during the day. It may be better just to continue walking modest distances, thus saving long, ambitious walks for the spring and fall. We'll see. If the weather turns ugly—snow, sleet, ice, cold rain, etc.—I'll definitely cancel. If I end up hurting my feet during my practice walks this week, then I'll cancel. But if all goes swimmingly, then I'll very likely strike east and give ol' Paldang Dam a visit.

More news as it happens.

Monday, December 10, 2018

first big lump sum about to launch

The paying-down-in-earnest of my fourth and final major debt will begin seven days from now: on Monday, December 17, I'll have sent over $10,000 to my US-based bank account—money that will go right to Navient (my previous creditor was Sallie Mae, but I got moved over to Navient... go figure). The current Navient debt is a bit over $43,000, and that number goes down, every month, by only a tad. Just to give you an idea of the debt's rate of descent (I've been taking notes), the figure was at $44,132.29 on May 15 of this year; as of November 5, the debt had gone down to $43,150.99. So it's been going down at a snail's pace because I'm on a thirty-year plan that won't pay out until I'm a very old man. That's why I'm taking advantage of my $1000/month raise and kicking my debt's ass—several times—over the course of the next year. My original hope was to have my debt entirely paid off before I turned fifty at the end of August, but the way things have been going, that's not likely to happen (I blame the big, expensive office luncheons I've catered, which have taken a significant toll). I will, however, have paid off the debt by the end of calendar year 2019. So there's that.

civilizational collapse and the prophecy of Michael Crichton

From this article (h/t Bill Keezer for the heads-up):

Eric Cline, professor of ancient history at the George Washington University, believes the [late Bronze Age] collapse was caused not by a single factor but all of the above. Cline called it "the perfect storm" in his YouTube lecture. In the published summary of his book 1177 BC on Amazon, the précis puts it this way. "The end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, [Cline] draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries."

Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park was about the unknowable, but reliably chaotic, consequences of tinkering with forces we don't fully understand. This is a message Crichton had flogged in other books like The Andromeda Strain and Prey: Nature's a steel-toed bitch, so don't mess with her. In the sequel to Jurassic Park, titled The Lost World, Crichton's message is somewhat different: through the character Ian Malcolm, who is effectively the voice of Crichton himself, we hear the argument that species become more robust when they're allowed to evolve in isolated pockets. This separateness permits actual diversity: it's by not putting one's eggs in a single basket that collective survival and flourishing are assured. Interconnection, meanwhile, always eventually leads to massive collapse because it actively steamrollers diversity.*

I've had my disagreements with elements of the so-called HBD movement (human biodiversity), but the above is one of HBD's fundamental tenets, and overall, I agree with it. This plays into discussion of immigration today: unlimited immigration and forced integration don't guarantee a "diversity is our strength" outcome. Note that Crichton's argument doesn't oppose diversity per se; if anything, it affirms that diversity can ensure a positive outcome for a species—but it must be a true diversity, not a melting-pot one. More pluribus, less unum.

Crichton published The Lost World way back in 1995. If you haven't read it, you might want to. It's not as good as Jurassic Park, but it provides markedly different insights from those of the first book, and as I submit here, its message is relevant today.

*Long-time readers may recall that, years ago, when I was in my writing-about-religious-issues phase, I often used the phrase "steamrollering diversity," or something like it, when talking about the difference between convergent and divergent religious pluralism. Convergent pluralism is the pluralism of theologian-philosopher John Hick: all paths converge on the same summit of the mountain; religions all share a common essence. Divergent pluralism, the pluralism of people like Raimondo Panikkar or S. Mark Heim, is more the idea that every path leads up to its own mountaintop, and that ultimate reality is fractured and incommensurate. This discussion has applications in politics today: liberals tend to be more like John Hick in advocating the notion of a "common humanity," whereas conservatives, at least these days, seem more intent on emphasizing what they'd call "true diversity" by noting our various differences, and further noting that those differences matter because they're constitutive of who we are. The liberal irony is that its vision of "multiculturalism" is ultimately a heedless relativism that squashes any real diversity into a bland, milquetoast oneness that ignores details and denies humanity's true richness, a richness that is inherent in humanity's multivocality, not its univocality. While I'm not, religiously speaking, totally in the divergent camp, I do have sympathies toward it. John Hick's convergent camp has more intuitive appeal to me, but again, that's me speaking religiously, not politically. I haven't worked out the philosophical tangles for either the religious or the philosophical dimension of this discussion.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

putting your money where your mouth is re: the environment

Seen on Instapundit (click to enlarge):

the "millennial whoop"

When I was texting with Sean while he was in Paris (he's on his way back to the States, now, I think), I got a couple short videos from him (i.e., cell-phone videos that he recorded while he was on the streets of Paris) that included the sounds of police sirens. I jokingly told Sean he needed to write a cello composition based on the two notes of the siren; Sean shot back that "the Zeitgeist has already done it." The two-note combo is called "the millennial whoop," and it's all over the damn place. What's more: it does kinda sound like the French police siren.

life-wisdom from Matthew McConaughey


Know yourself. Be yourself. Do that thang. Life is short.

"Ten Signs Your Movement Is Evil"

I followed an Instapundit link to this article: "Ten Signs Your Movement Is Evil," which focuses on SJWs as a collective, but which could be applied more widely. I can especially relate to #2, which offends my inner leave-me-alone libertarian:

2. They don't respect boundaries. They block traffic, destroy property, harass and intimidate opponents in public spaces (and even at their homes), and/or gleefully humiliate others in pursuit of their aims -- or they simply refuse to condemn such tactics when they're used by others. But none of these things are okay in our current context; indeed, aside from the destruction of property, which can be justified in a declared war, I don't think these are okay in any context.

Want to get on my bad side? Then just presume you can change my thought and behavior.

Be sure to read the rest.

Styx on the Mueller probe

Is this the end for Donald Trump (they asked for the thousandth time)?

Do watch this all the way through. Note especially Styx's take on Democrat hypocrisy regarding the validity of the 2016 election (2:09): they claimed the election was inviolable until the moment Trump won, then suddenly the election was rife with Russian collusion and other forms of chicanery and corruption.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

my little bro does a Tiny Desk concert at NPR

I have to share this. My little brother Sean, a professional cellist, threw in with a group called Diane Coffee to perform at a Tiny Desk Concert—an event held at the desk of NPR "All Songs Considered" commentator Bob Boilen. I first heard of Tiny Desk Concerts a day or so ago, when my friend Justin Yoshida linked to a Wu Tang Clan concert in Boilen's office. Here's Diane Coffee, with Sean as part of the background "talent":

Right at the 2:13 mark, there's a nice, slow, loving upward pan of the camera when it's pointed at Sean, so for a few seconds, my little bro dominates the screen (and lo, it happens again around 17:20). I admit I was proud, even though I had absolutely zero to do with Sean's musical formation over the years: I have no musical talent of my own.

movies to finish out 2018

There are a few movies I'd like to see to finish out the year. Some of them might not hit Korea until next year (by which time I'll be able to buy them on home video), but it is what it is. My list, in no particular order:

1. "Creed II"
2. "Aquaman"
3. "Bohemian Rhapsody" (still #1 at the Korean box office despite being released on Halloween)
4. "Ralph Breaks the Internet"
5. "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse"
6. "Bumblebee" (the only Transformers movie I actually want to see)

Do you have any movies you're hoping to see?

Sam's chicken enchiladas with chorizo sauce/topping

I'll have to make this:

"So good that you're gonna shit your pants."

at the office: another 7-day week

I'm trying to finish up one of my two major projects, so I've come into the office for a full day today and a full day of work tomorrow. Joy. It's quiet right now; only two other teams seem to have people in their offices—ah, and one team just packed up and left. All the other teams either skedaddled before I got here or never showed up, which is unusual: Saturday is normally a work day for many employees at my company.

The highlight of today: someone, probably a stupid and/or sick kid, set fire to paper towels in the men's room, presumably with a lighter. I think the kid was still in the men's room, hiding in a cubicle when I came in to do my business—avoiding responsibility, as is often the Korean way. (It's ten minutes later, and I just checked: he's still in there, crouching like a criminal with the cubicle door slightly cracked... which is how I could see him crouching.)

Seoul is a big city, so it's an attractor, and a petri dish, for all manner of sick and twisted individuals. I'm going to check the bathroom every half-hour for the next little while, just to make sure no wisps of smoke are coming out of the restroom. I don't relish the thought of burning to death at my place of work.

UPDATE: the little firebug left the bathroom sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. My buddy Tom, who called me while I was in the office, recommended calling the non-emergency hotline to get the police over here. I had other plans, like solving the situation myself, but I admit I hadn't thought through every contingency, e.g., if the kid proved to be armed and/or truly crazy. But the kid disappeared on his own; I guess he felt he had hidden enough.

PJW on the Paris riots

PJW gets right to the point and shits all over the haughty, supercilious Emmanuel Macron:

Friday, December 07, 2018

in Paris

Incredibly, my brother Sean and his hubby Jeff are in Paris at the moment. I asked them to stay safe, given all the rioting. They seem to be having a good time. Sean began our Kakao-fueled conversation by sending me a pic of what appeared to be just ham and potatoes. When I asked him what the dish was, he said, "Choucroute!"—as if I'd recognize the dish after seeing only two of its components. "Bad angle," Sean admitted.

Here's the Arc de Triomphe, recently scrubbed clean of graffiti:

And here are Jeff and Sean (L and R, respectively):

still too damn cloudy

Tried to spot the comet from my workplace's rooftop again. While today's sky has been generally clearer than it had been over the past two days, there are still enough clouds to prevent one from seeing anything distinct. Only a few random stars were able to peek through the turbid atmosphere; in the direction of the constellation Cetus, where the comet is supposed to be, nothing at all is currently visible. I may try again tonight, while I'm doing my long walk home. It's below freezing right now: 19 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 7 Celsius), and it promises to get even colder by the time I leave this evening. But if I spot the comet (remember: it's called 46P/Wirtanen) during my walk, that'll make it all worth it.

UPDATE: frustratingly, the clouds kept blocking the part of the night sky where the comet should have been visible. It was almost as if God were deliberately tugging the clouds into my line of sight every time I stopped, during my walk, and looked upward.


This image is from an ad that appeared on my phone. As a man, I can totally relate to the adolescent obsession with buoyant, gravity-defying boobies.

the politics of "yes" and "no"

"Barton" (not his real name), an American dude who works two doors down from me, and who speaks a stratospherically high level of Korean, came into our office to ask people some grammar questions. He was putting together a video script (presumably, he would be the star of the video, speaking in both English and Korean) about the natural use of "yes" and "no" in English. He started off by talking with the native-speaker English teachers, but apparently, the nature of his questions became too abstruse, so the native speakers referred Barton over to me since I am now considered the local grammar deity.

Barton's video script showed mini-dialogues like the following (these aren't exact quotes):

A: You don't like coffee?
B: No, I don't like coffee.

A: You don't like coffee?
B: No, I do like coffee!

A: You don't like coffee?
B: Yeah, I do like coffee!

The more closely I looked at these dialogues, the more complicated I realized the situation was. Barton's basic question was whether these dialogues all sounded natural. I gave him a flat "yes" to that question: any pair of actors could read the above lines in such a way as to sound perfectly natural, indicating that the English itself was perfectly natural. But Barton also had to include in his script a thorough explanation for what was going on with the anglophone way of handling "yes" and "no."

Normally, when I explain the difference between the Korean and the anglophone way of handling "yes" and "no," I keep it simple: Koreans use "yes/no" to respond to the truth-value of the statement or question; anglophones respond to the grammatical value of the sentence. As we'll discuss in a bit, this is an oversimplification, but my terse explanation does cover a large swath of conversational situations.

The Korean Way
Teacher: You didn't do your homework?
Student: Yes, I didn't. (Yes = affirming the truth-value of the teacher's question)

The Anglophone Way
Teacher: You didn't do your homework?
Student: No, I didn't. (No = affirming the grammatical value of the teacher's question)

In both cases, the students are affirming that they didn't do their homework. So an American student answers "no" in confirmatory response to the grammatically negative "didn't" couched inside the teacher's question. A Korean student, meanwhile, takes in the entire question, evaluating it in light of its factuality, then issuing a "yes" to affirm or confirm that factuality (i.e., its truth-value).

Watching English-language movies in a Korean theater often means seeing Korean subtitles that say the seeming opposite of what the character on screen is saying.

Actual Dialogue (OK, not actually in the real movie, but you get my drift)
Pippin: We aren't going to survive this battle, are we?
Gandalf: No, Pippin, I believe we shan't. (confirmatory "no," paralleling Pippin's negative grammar)

Korean-subtitled Dialogue
Pippin: We aren't going to survive this battle, are we?
Gandalf: Yes, Pippin, I believe we shan't. (confirmatory "yes" affirming the truth that they won't survive)

It's a bit jarring to see that "yes" in subtitle form, but once you understand the basic Korean/anglophone difference discussed above, it makes sense. That said, Barton's mini-dialogues showed me that there's more to the matter of "yes" and "no" than truth-value versus grammatical value. Let's look again at Barton's dialogues:

A: You don't like coffee?
B: No, I don't like coffee.

A: You don't like coffee?
B: No, I do like coffee!

A: You don't like coffee?
B: Yeah, I do like coffee!

The first dialogue gives us a confirmatory "no." The second dialogue, however, gives us a "no" of contradiction! A simple change in the tone of one's voice is sufficient to alert the interlocutor that a denial, rebuttal, demurral, or refutation is forthcoming. This is strengthened by the phatic "do" that follows up the "no." And to make things even weirder, the third dialogue begins with a "yes" of contradiction as well, meaning that "yes" and "no" can, in certain instances, mean the same thing!

I mentioned to Barton that the French solved the "yes" problem by introducing a second way to say "yes" when contradicting someone: the word "si" (but without the acute accent that would make it the Spanish "Sí"), which is specifically a "yes" of denial/refutation. So a French dialogue would look a lot like the third dialogue above:

A: Tu n'aimes pas le café?
B: Si, si! J'aime bien le café!

A real asshole of a hair-splitter might argue that there exists a subtle, nuanced difference between the "no" in Barton's second dialogue and the "yes" in the third, but I'd say that that difference is vanishingly small. In those dialogues, "no" and "yes" respectively serve the same purpose, i.e., that of contradiction or disconfirmation, and that's the most salient fact.

So we have several species of "yes" and "no": a "yes" of confirmation/affirmation (not shown in any of the above dialogues), a "yes" of contradiction, a "no" of confirmation/affirmation, and a "no" of contradiction. Once I had made this clear to Barton (and, frankly, to myself, because my talk with Barton was making these issues clearer to me the more we explored his video script), we realized that Barton's current explanation of "yes" and "no" would need to be greatly expanded. And as I thought more about my old, simple way of explaining the differences between the use of "yes" and "no" by Koreans and anglophones, I began to realize that my explanation, too, would need some tinkering to make it more comprehensive.

It doesn't help matters that, in 2018, one of our dumber idiomatic expressions is, "Yyyyyeah, no." Years ago, I was on a train in France when I heard one teenage girl say, "Bon, 'fin, oui, 'fin, non!" She kept repeating that expression as she babbled with her friends; it was obviously an attempt at being comically quirky. But it was damn annoying, much like "Yyyyyeah, no."

another hat tip to Bill

Bill Keezer links to a very good article offering an interesting perspective on the French riots: the rioters don't seem to understand that the socialist policies they embrace are at the heart of their troubles. Some excerpts:

In recent weeks, images of “Yellow Jackets” (a reference to the reflective yellow vests, required to be carried by all French drivers, worn by protesters) have dominated media — angry French citizens rioting in the streets1, vandalizing monuments, and setting Paris aflame. To be fair, only a small percentage of the nearly 300,000 Frenchmen who have taken to the streets have engaged in violence.

And fewer still seem to appreciate the irony of these protests because, despite the anger, the French are getting exactly what they voted for: socialism.

Last year, the French elected socialist Emmanuel Macron in a 66-34 blowout over the nationalist Marine Le Pen, following that up months later by giving Macron’s La République en Marche! (LRM) party complete control of France’s government with 377 of the French National Assembly’s 577 seats.

Today, Macron’s approval rating stands at an abysmal 26%, far below that of U.S. President Donald Trump. Yet Macron has repeatedly rebuked Trump for his pro-American “nationalism.” Trump’s nationalism certainly stands in stark contrast to the globalism of world leaders like Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, who responded to criticism of migration and climate-change policies by declaring, “Countries must give up their sovereignty... in an orderly fashion, of course.”


Of course, it’s an open secret that the war to end “climate change” is really a proxy war to destroy free-market capitalism and replace it with globalist socialism while curtailing individual rights.

In 2015, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of UNIPCC (the global governing body on climate change), declared that the real goal of the “global warming” agenda is not avoiding ecological disaster but destroying capitalism. Figueres said, “This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves, which is to intentionally transform the economic development model for the first time in human history.”

If the goal was to reduce CO2 emissions, France and the world would emulate America, which has reduced CO2 output more than any other country in the last 30 years, and by a wide margin (a 14% reduction in U.S. emissions from 2005-2017 alone, versus a 21% increase for the rest of the world), despite rejecting both the Kyoto and Paris climate treaties.

But much like socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders — who owns three houses and a high-end sports car — the French people want to enjoy the feeling of moral superiority of embracing socialism (who can be against equality for all?) without actually having to deal with the consequences of socialism, which [are], and always [have] been, government oppression and widespread poverty.

Even as the French protest and riot over the increase in the gas tax, they reject proposals to cut spending in social services and welfare. As reported in The Washington Post, “A key priority for Macron’s administration has been to honor France’s European commitment to keep its budget deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product. Suspending the carbon tax will mean that billions of euros will have to be saved elsewhere, possibly in the form of spending cuts that could affect the social services that many yellow-vest protesters also cherish.... But Macron’s political opponents rejected out of hand the suggestion that social services might be cut in any way.”

Nowhere to run to, baby. Nowhere to hide.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

and then I remembered...

It occurred to me earlier this morning that, if I leave Gab as part of a larger effort to rid myself of social-media connections, I won't have quit all of the social media that I use. One medium will remain: LinkedIn.

I kind of like LinkedIn, though, and I'm not ready to abandon it. I rarely post there, but I like the fact that LinkedIn provides the user with a stripped-down, no-bullshit format that is almost purely about making connections—then doing nothing with those connections unless one suddenly wants to change jobs. Yes: LinkedIn calls one's online associates "connections," which is much more honest and businesslike than using the insincere term "friends," as on Facebook, or the vaguely humiliating term "followers" (as if the user were Jesus), as on Twitter. A person on Facebook with 35,000 friends doesn't actually have that many true friends. It's all bullshit. So fuck Facebook—right in the fucking face.

I'll drop LinkedIn if I ever hear that its security has been breached. LinkedIn, as a service, keeps a low, sleek profile that doesn't seem to interest hackers. It doesn't go out of its way to bother people, and I don't think I've ever heard any bad news about it online or elsewhere. I've certainly never received a sheepish email from LinkedIn, the way I just did from Quora, about a security breach that has compromised the personal info of millions of users.

So for the moment, I see little need to drop a service that seems safe, and which I only rarely use. LinkedIn, thou shalt remain!

"In Praise of the Gilets Jaunes"

One of the better exegeses of the gilets jaunes movement sweeping through Paris is here.

At last, a people’s revolt against the tyranny of environmentalism. Paris is burning. Not since 1968 has there been such heat and fury in the [streets. Thousands] of ‘gilets jaunes’ stormed the capital at the weekend to rage against Emmanuel Macron and his treatment of them with aloof, technocratic disdain. And yet leftists in Britain and the US have been largely silent, or at least antsy, about this people’s revolt. The same people who got so excited about the staid, static Occupy movement a few years ago—which couldn’t even [have] been arsed to march, never mind riot—seem struck dumb by the sight of tens of thousands of French people taking to the barricades against Macronism.

It isn’t hard to see why. It’s because this revolt is as much against their political orthodoxies as it is against Macron’s out-of-touch and monarchical style. Most strikingly[,] this is a people’s rebellion against the onerous consequences of climate-change policy, against the politics of environmentalism and its tendency to punish the little people for daring to live relatively modern, fossil-fuelled lives. This is new. This is unprecedented. We are witnessing perhaps the first mass uprising against eco-elitism and we should welcome it with open arms to the broader populist revolt that has been sweeping Europe for a few years now.

The ‘gilet[s] jaunes’—or yellow-vests, after the hi-vis vests they wear—are in rebellion against Macron’s hikes in fuel tax. As part of his and the EU’s commitment to cutting carbon emissions, Macron is punishing the drivers of diesel vehicles in particular, raising the tax by 7.6 cents for every litre of diesel fuel. This will badly hit the pockets of those in rural France, who need to drive, and who can’t just hop on buses as deluded Macronists living in one of the fancy arrondissements of Paris have suggested they should. These people on the periphery of French society—truck drivers, provincial plumbers, builders, deliverymen, teachers, parents—have rocked up to the centre of French society in their tens of thousands three times in recent weeks, their message the same every time: ‘Enough is enough. Stop making our lives harder.’

It is a perfect snapshot of the most important divide in 21st-century Europe: that between a blinkered elite and ordinary people who’ve had as much bossing about, tax rises, paternalism and disdain as they can take. So from his presidential palace in Paris, Macron decrees that the little people of the nation must pay a kind of penance for the eco-crime of driving diesel-fuelled cars, like a modern-day Marie Antoinette deciding with a wave of the hand what is good for the plebs. It’s little wonder that the graffiti left behind following the latest uprising in Paris at the weekend compared Macron to Louis XVI and demanded that he resign.

This leaderless, diverse revolt, packed with all sorts of people, including both leftists and right-wingers, is important for many reasons. First because it beautifully, fatally shatters the delusional faith that certain Europhiles and piners for the maintenance of the status quo have placed in Macron since his election in May 2017.

Well, I got Trump wrong, but I've gotten at least one thing right: I've been a Euroskeptic for many years. So there.

four memes (thanks, Bill)

With thanks to Bill Keezer for linking to these.

Lame excuse, heard again and again with every failure:

But—but—what about Scandinavia? See here and here and here.

I love this next one, which show's the left's Catch-22:

On the one hand, the left deplores what's been done to the American Indians, a.k.a. the Native Americans. It's ammunition for the contention that the US is a shithole founded on a lake of innocent blood. But can leftists face the fact that it was their beloved government that committed those crimes, among others? My only question—which I suppose I can resolve for myself in a few minutes by consulting Google—is whether Ford ever actually said this. Even if he didn't, the quote is a good one.

UPDATE: probably yes.

This next one goes up there with, "I'll start caring about the environment when Leonardo DiCaprio stops traveling to eco-conferences in private jets."

Some oversensitive twat is going to call this last one racist:

Ocasio-Cortez and her amazingly asinine superpowers!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

comet 46P/Wirtanen

We've got a comet entering our neighborhood; in principle, it's already visible. A link from Instapundit led me to this article about the comet, awkwardly named "46P/Wirtanen." A subsequent Google search led me to this page, which has more information. Finally, I found a chart with information from a Korean perspective as to when the comet ought to be visible in the sky; this was the page that informed me the comet is already visible (from 6:52 p.m. to 1:33 a.m.). In fact, as of this writing, the comet ought to be visible right now if you were to look toward the constellation Cetus (whichever constellation that is... Google Sky to the rescue!). A link from that page offered more specific information for today.

Happy observing.

ADDENDUM: dammit. Cloudy. I'll try again tomorrow, but we're enjoying a period of London-style weather right now, so no guarantees.

bye-bye, Quora

I knew I was never going to rise to the status of an advice god on Quora, but the privacy-breach announcement that I received from Quora HQ this morning was sufficient motivation for me to delete my Quora account. It's bad enough that Facebook and Twitter are so full of security holes that I had to abandon them; with this newest breach of my privacy and that of millions of others, it may be high time just to fuck off from all social media, possibly including Gab, which hasn't yet turned into a pleasant experience. I did enjoy writing answers to some of the questions I received, but security breaches just keep getting scarier to me, so for this paranoid old man, it's time to go. No regrets.

Big Walk 2! ...coming soon...?

I don't know what my work circumstances will be like a few months from now, but I've decided to plan for another big north-to-south walk next year, preferably before I turn 50. The big question is whether I'll be doing the same Seoul-to-Busan walk I did last year, or that east-coast walk from Gangneung(-ish) to Busan. The latter trail is over 700 kilometers long, making it a few days' walk longer than the Gukto Jongju trail with which I'm familiar. That trail took me 26 days to walk; were I to walk it this time, my waypoints would no longer be the certification centers: they'd be the various hotels, motels, and guest houses (excepting one guest house) at which I stayed last year. There's going to be a lot of, "Remember me? From two years ago?" as I book my overnights.

Knowing what I now know about trans-Korea walking, I'll be traveling significantly lighter. No fucking MREs this time—that was a fiasco. I might take along a bag of Soylent for emergencies, but Soylent is also heavy because it's a densely packed powder, so I'll have to think about whether it's worth it. As many commenters pointed out, rightly, there are places to eat at almost every stop, and at those stops where there's nothing to eat, well, I can just tough it out with water until the next day, or the day after that. That's not a big problem at all.

The walk took 26 days last time; if I start at Incheon, the walk will take at least 28 days, assuming I take the same number of extra rest days (3) as last time. I recall Day 2 of last year's big walk as being the day I got my huge blister—the one that plagued my foot for the entire rest of the walk. On the weekend of December 15, I'm going to walk east toward Paldang Dam and beyond, recapitulating the first two days of last year's walk, and possibly tempting fate by inviting another big blister. I'm thinking, though, that by walking smarter and traveling lighter, I might avoid entering the Blisterhood of the Traveling Kevins. Day 2 was also the day I got pretty sunburned; it wasn't long afterward that Charles suggested, in a comment, that I buy gear like those toshi (sleevelets, manchettes for cyclists). I ended up getting both the toshi and a hat, and that made a huge difference over the rest of the trail.

For the moment, I'm going to plan and train as if I'm doing this walk, but I don't really know whether my new boss will be amenable. It could be that, at the last moment, I'll be told that I can't take a month off. If so, so be it, and I'll find other ways to spend whatever free time I have. Ideally, my old boss, who says he is now campaigning to get his team back, will in fact get us back sometime before next spring, in which case it'll be far easier to persuade him to let me go. All of that is up in the air, so all I can say is, "We'll see."

But it's always nice to have a goal to work toward, something to live for. Agent Smith was right: it's purpose that guides us, drives us, defines us, and binds us.

ADDENDUM: great info on the east-coast bike trail here.

Ave, ZenKimchi!

James Chung, guest writer at Joe McPherson's ZenKimchi blog, posts an article about the arrival of "Nashville hot chicken" in Seoul. Chung compares two new restos: Rocka Doodle and Brave Rooster's. I found it interesting that some of the photos in the article seemed to lean toward one of the two establishments, but Chung's final judgment went totally the other way. Give the article a read, and get ready for spicy hot chicken, Nashville-style!

something to aspire to

I think "Knockout of the Year" is an exaggeration, but this is nevertheless one of the most beautiful knockouts I've seen. The video below is short; watch the whole thing for the buildup and payoff. As with many of the other knockouts I've watched on YouTube, this one is done with a type of spinning kick*—the very thing they tell you never to employ in a street situation (in fact, most experts advise not kicking at all, which is why taekwondo is generally scorned as a plausible means of self-defense). I suppose one explanation for why the kick works in this video is that kickboxing is a rule-governed sport, not a street situation. Another reason is that, if you're going to deliver a kick, do it when your opponent is tired, and in the video, the tall guy is obviously flagging: he loses his balance and falls at the 15- or 16-second mark after attempting a knee strike. I'm pretty sure this isn't Round 1,** and if the tall guy is that tired at this point, and the shorter guy is just biding his time, then it's understandable as to why the shorter guy executes that kick at the end. (Note, too, that the kick was high enough to slip over the tall guy's guard—another indication that the tall guy was tiring.)

*Technically, it's what's called a volley kick, possibly based on a similar move seen in soccer.

**I just went back and reread the video description. This was Round 5.

you think you're having a bad day?

Your day hasn't been as bad as that of the inattentive dude who fucked almost an entire warehouse with his forklift. It looks as if at least one coworker gets buried along with the luckless forklift driver himself.

And your day hasn't been as bad as that of the dude who, for shits and giggles, ordered food from the worst-rated restaurant in town—döner, French onion soup (with no cheese), garlic toast, fries, and a bizarre lobster:

pronunciations that annoy me

I don't like it when people pronounce "integral" as "in-TEH-gruhl." It's a legitimate pronunciation, I know, but it annoys the fuck out of me. What's wrong with "INNUH-gruhl" or the more Spock-like "INN-tuh-gruhl"?

Also annoying: hearing "aforementioned" pronounced incorrectly as "AFFER-mentioned." Dafuck is wrong wit' you? It's "uh-FOHR-mentioned"! Gitcher head outta yer ass.

this is why I subscribe to Sam

Enjoy this sweary, inconsistently bleeped-out video of Sam the Cooking Guy making a Buffalo Chicken Wings version of pizza. The guy is hilarious whenever he messes up, but at least he's honest enough to leave his gaffes in the final video. I don't think I'd ever be that honest if I were making a cooking video. Kudos to Sam, though, for not being me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

seen on Gab: à propos de l'émeute des "gilets jaunes"

Someone on Gab published one of those message-board theorists (they vary in trustworthiness; I recall one theorist insisting that Bill Clinton was in poor health and wouldn't live beyond 2016), and I thought I'd pass the message-board clip along, with the caveat that the author of much of the text on the right side of the image is apparently French, and apparently hates "Africans and Arabs" (continent + race? —strange). I can see singling something like that demographic out for the economic reasons cited, but had I been the author, I'd have provided some context for my anger. By simply mentioning the demographic without clarification, the guy risks sounding racist, thus perpetuating non-Gabbers' impressions of Gab as a cesspit of bigotry... which it may well be if my own experience is any indicator. Anyway, keeping that in mind, the rest of the page is a rather informative summary of events in Paris and beyond—causes, motivations, etc. Click to enlarge the image below; enlarge further by right-clicking the enlarged image and hitting "open image in new tab."

And since we're on the topic of bitterness over uncontrolled immigration (h/t Bill Keezer):

The Wikipedia entry on "the Yellow Vests Movement" (the French word gilet can mean "vest" or "jacket") includes a list of causes and goals for the current movement:
Caused by:
Increasing fuel taxes
High fuel and motor taxes
Unpopular austerity measures

Decrease of fuel and motor taxes
Improved standards of living
Resignation of President Emmanuel Macron and his government.
End to unpopular austerity measures.
Government transparency and accountability to the working and middle classes.

I'm tempted to call this a rightie/anti-globalist movement, but the above message-board theorists seem convinced that the riots are, at this point, something of a jumbled, mixed bag—an amalgam of people from many different parts of the political spectrum who have simply had enough of top-down government. It's tempting to see this is an example of the right's own capacity for violence, but if the movement truly is a mixed bag, then it'd be wrong to characterize the current chaos as purely rightie-fueled. Will President Macron resign as a result of this? I doubt it. He's probably gambling on the violence dying down by Christmas. France will come out of this mess perhaps a couple billion euros poorer.

And now, I need to go read up on the mai '68 riots, to which the current riots are being compared. But if I'm not mistaken, the '68 riots were clearly leftist in origin, nature, and goals.

awesome! but no, thanks

Below is a Chef Steps video that shows how to make awesome brisket at home. The problem is that the procedure shown is a mite complex and very time-consumptive, and it requires sous-vide equipment, which I haven't bought (yet), although I'd really love a Joule for Christmas because God knows I'd love to start sous vide-ing anything and everything, if for no other reason than to practice my reverse sear.

Beware—this video gets painfully corny at the end.

No, thanks, Chef Steps. I'll be doing brisket with these recipes:

Slow-cooker Brisket
Oven Brisket

Monday, December 03, 2018

"Impulse": Season 1 review

I got sidetracked this weekend when I discovered a new YouTube Premium series called "Impulse," which is primarily the story of a teenaged girl named Henrietta—"Henry" for short—who discovers she has the power to teleport by generating little wormholes. In the ten-episode first season of "Impulse," Henrietta discovers and begins to harness her strange power. The series has been renewed, so there will be a second season at some point. As I watched chapter after chapter of this story, I began to wonder whether the entire premise was a ripoff of the 2008 movie "Jumper," starring Hayden Christensen and Samuel L. Jackson. That movie also featured people able to teleport, and those people were also being chased by nameless-yet-nefarious parties. As it turns out, "Impulse" is based on the third novel of the Jumper series of novels, and a further connection is that Doug Liman, who directed "Jumper" (along with other movies you may know, such as "The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith," and "Edge of Tomorrow"), is the executive producer of "Impulse," thus once again putting him behind the wheel, creatively speaking.

Seven out of ten episodes of "Impulse" were directed by women. This fact is important because "Impulse" is science fiction for the #MeToo generation. The core trope in this series is sexual assault, which happens in the pilot episode and has repercussions throughout the season. Masculinity is generally portrayed as toxic, and "good" male characters are all submissive, quiet, physically weak, stupid or feckless in various ways—oh, and closely attentive to feminine needs. On the other hand, the female characters tend to be dimensional and diverse: all of them are flawed, and some have greater strength of character than others. Suffice it to say that "Impulse" is a thoroughly feminist show. If you can get past that, you can enjoy the story for what it is. Me, I binge-watched the entire first season over the weekend. Despite its often-distasteful politics, the series weaves a compelling drama about familial dysfunction, dynastic hubris, and malicious intent.

Henrietta "Henry" Coles (Maddie Hasson) is the daughter of Cleo Coles (Missi Pyle). With the mysterious departure of Henry's father, the two women have spent years moving from place to place, with Cleo hooking up with boyfriend after boyfriend. For the moment, they've settled in the small town of Reston, New York, and Cleo seems to have found a more-stable-than-most boyfriend, Thomas Hope (Matt Gordon), who has a daughter the same age as Henry named Jenna (Sarah Desjardins). Cleo and Henry live with Thomas and Jenna. Cleo works as a waitress at a local diner, and Thomas works at a bowling alley that sits on the property of arrogant local car magnate Bill Boone (David James Elliott, of "JAG" fame), protector of the Boone family name and proud father of Clay (Tanner Stine) and Lucas (Craig Arnold, doing a convincing Aaron Paul impression). Clay is Reston High School's athlete-stud-in-residence, the can-do-no-wrong golden boy with a bright future. Lucas works in the auto shop at the Boone Family Motors car dealership, and Bill, who is divorced, sleeps around with prostitutes and—important detail—engages in drug smuggling across the US/Canada border, partnering with a rogue group of Mennonites led by the quietly sinister Jeremiah Miller (Shawn Doyle). Sniffing out all the wisps of malfeasance in this small town is Deputy Sheriff Anna Hulce (Enuka Okuma, and it's pronounced "hull-chay"), who is a new arrival to the town but a veteran policewoman who has served in the NYPD.

Those are the main characters in the series's "A" story. The "B" story is more directly about the fact that Henry is not alone: there are other teleporters like her, and they're being hunted down by some mysterious organization whose face on the show is Nikolai (the awesome Callum Keith Rennie, whom I first saw on "Battlestar Galactica" as the show's craziest, most religious Cylon). We first meet Nikolai as he's tracking down a French-speaking family, some or all of whom seem to have the ability to teleport. The father, Dominick (Keon Alexander), desperately searches for a way out of this predicament: he's sick of being hunted, and all he wants for his family is to live in peace, but Nikolai is relentless. As you might guess, Henry eventually appears on Nikolai's radar.

Henry is prone to having seizures, which worsen throughout the pilot episode. She gets inappropriately manhandled by one of her teachers after she publicly insults him, which triggers a seizure, right there in class, that in turn causes a telekinetic event: students' pens and binders all begin moving toward Henry while she's seizing. Later on, when Henry is in an SUV with sports stud Clay Boone, Clay begins amorously pawing at and violently choking Henry, causing another seizure—but this time, the telekinesis is more intense, as if Henry were a black hole attracting everything toward her, causing the SUV to implode. Right as the SUV crunches down into a crumpled mass, Henry disappears and reappears safely in her bedroom, along with a chunk of Clay's SUV. Clay himself remains trapped in the vehicle; a few episodes later, we discover the incident has broken his back and left him paralyzed. Clay purports not to remember "the crash" that crippled him, nor the events leading up to it.

So the show interweaves several plot lines: Henry's interactions with family and classmates, the looming presence of the violence-prone Boone family, the police investigation of the Boones' dealings and of Clay's "accident," Henry and Jenna's blossoming sexuality, Henry's increasing understanding of and control over her power, and the closing-in of Nikolai and his mysterious agency, which seems intent on capturing and experimenting on teleporters. The through-line is Clay's sexual assault on Henry. While it's not quite a rape, it is a full-on attack, and the show is vague as to how much of the incident Clay himself remembers. This frustrates Henry to no end because she wants, more than anything, for Clay to confess his transgression and show remorse. Clay, an inheritor of the Boone family's signature arrogance, refuses to do any such thing. Definite shades of #MeToo and #BelieveAllWomen, here.

Henrietta isn't the most likable character. As someone with a painful and checkered past, she lives her life in stereotypically angry-teen fashion, fighting with her mother and with Jenna, and generally pushing away the people who most want to help her. Actress Maddie Hasson, as Henry, has an awesome resting bitch face, and with her strong jaw and bristling beetle brows, she channels anger and sarcasm like nobody's business. While the character might not be likable, I have a lot of respect for Hasson's talent at making me dislike her on screen. Henry might almost be described as an anti-hero, given how consistently she makes poor life-choices throughout the series, all while maintaining an aura of self-righteousness. Over time, though, as she comes into her power, Henry begins to mature and to become a bit more tolerable.

For my money, though, the real revelation is David James Elliott, who spent years playing a nice guy on "JAG." Elliott's Bill Boone is, despite his good looks and charm, a thoroughly evil man, and he exudes a level of malice that is almost on the order of Joe Pesci's Tommy in "Goodfellas." Boone has webs of influence all through the town of Reston, but his drug-trafficking racket creates problems for him that prove hard to solve cleanly and diplomatically. His love for his sons is sincere, even if Lucas, the elder son, seems to be the only Boone with an actual conscience, which often puts him at odds with his father. But even that love has a sinister cast to it: Bill Boone's attitude that "you'd do anything for family" has more than a whiff of the mafioso about it.

So, yes: overall, "Impulse" has proved to be a compelling series. It definitely has a feminist agenda, and for some of my more conservative readers, that's going to get in the way of enjoying the story as it unfolds. But take comfort, guys: the women in the story are flawed and often make stupid mistakes, so it's not as though the screenwriters are putting women on some untouchable pedestal. And while teleportation stories have been done to death, especially in recent years (the show actually has a moment that I take to be a bloody tribute to the Harry Potter concept of splinching, i.e., getting injured during teleportation, called Apparition in JK Rowling's world), the rest of the series's dramatic elements more than make up for the unoriginality of the sci-fi. I found the series very watchable, and you might, too.