Monday, June 26, 2017

Heavy Metal Cats

Must be seen to be believed:






Sunday, June 25, 2017

your dose of weird

"Time for Sushi" by David Lewandowski:


The man only has three or four videos on his channel, and they're all pretty much the same thing, but if the above amused you, you might also like "Late for Meeting."

I tend to see these videos as one artist's optimistic take on demonic possession.



"Hidden Figures" and "The Founder": review

I watched two movies back to back last night: "Hidden Figures" and "The Founder." Both films are fictionalized versions of true stories; both films deal with cultural upheaval not by providing a sweepingly epic view of the upheaval itself, but by focusing on certain people "on the inside," so to speak.

Set in the early 1960s, "Hidden Figures" is the story of African-American women in the US space program. Specifically, it focuses on Katherine Goble (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), three friends and math whizzes who quietly work for NASA, making and checking spaceflight-related calculations. The story mostly focuses on Katherine, a math prodigy from childhood who works in the Space Task Group led by Al Harrison (Kevin Costner). All three women have to deal with the fact that, on the eve of the Civil Rights movement, they still must face sexism and racial prejudice, some of it subtle, but much of it overt and nasty. Katherine works as a "computer," i.e., a person whose job is to compute the figures necessary for safe spaceflight.

"Hidden Figures" hits all the right notes and isn't as preachy as I'd feared it might be. Racism and sexism are shown coming from all angles, including from within the black community local to the NASA facility. The women portrayed in the film—all of whom really exist and all of whom really went through some form of the travails depicted on screen—quickly earn the viewer's respect and admiration, not only for their smarts and talents, but also for their determination to live according to their dreams. "Hidden Figures" follows a predictable arc, one that's given away in the preview trailer, but even if we know the destination from the outset, the journey is worth it. Solid performances by all the principals anchor a good and well-paced story. Some scenes will call to mind other spaceflight-related movies like "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo Thirteen," but the scenes of church and family make this movie unique in the space-program genre.

"The Founder," by contrast, is a cheerfully dark film full of irony from the title on down. This movie focuses on Ray Kroc, the purported "founder" of the now-ubiquitous McDonald's fast-food empire that revolutionized the way the world eats. On one level, we could call this a story of winning the American dream, but that would be a fairly superficial reading.

In 1954, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) is a down-on-his-luck salesman trying to peddle milkshake dispensers from eatery to eatery. After a string of rejections, he gets a call from his secretary, who tells him that a small restaurant out in California needs to order six—no, make that eight—of his dispensers. Kroc thinks this must be a mistake, but apparently, shakes are flying out the window of this little establishment, so Kroc fulfills the order and drives to California to see this restaurant for himself. Thus does Kroc make the acquaintance of the McDonald brothers, Dick and Maurice (Nick Offerman and John Carroll, respectively), two friendly guys with a dream to make a successful restaurant. The brothers give Kroc the grand tour of their grounds, showing him how it's possible to render fast, accurate service in only a few seconds as opposed to what 50s-era drive-ins normally do: take forever to serve you your order while flubbing it in the process. Kroc sees this operation and has a massive brainstorm; he proposes that the restaurant go franchise and begin to expand nationally. The brothers are hesitant at first, but they eventually agree to a contract with Kroc. The rest of the movie is, as you might expect, about how Kroc comes to take over the McDonald's brand, including ownership of that coveted surname.

Kroc comes off as a parasite: the McDonald's concept is not his own, but he often acts as if it were. The movie's moral complexity comes from its exploration of the contrast between the earnest but fairly unambitious McDonald brothers and the big-thinking Ray Kroc. We viewers are constantly confronted with the question, At what price success? Living up to his reptilian surname, Kroc devours whatever he encounters: while he may have seemed like an unsuccessful salesman at the beginning of the movie, he had actually made a good living for himself and his wife (Laura Dern, looking sad), so he is experienced enough in the food industry to know a good thing when he sees it. He even ends up stealing Joan (Linda Cardellini), the ambitious wife of a low-key investor (Patrick Wilson) who owns a high-end restaurant. Kroc and the McDonalds clash on almost everything because Kroc is willing to make certain compromises to the original McDonald vision, e.g., using powdered milkshakes instead of real-milk milkshakes in order to save on refrigeration costs. The conflict reaches the point where Kroc does an end-run around the McDonalds, who come off looking like innocent lambs while the film focuses on the savvy, predatory bad guy.

Is Ray Kroc indeed a bad guy? The film does its damnedest to make us think so. But is he evil on the order of, say Michael Douglas's Gordon Gekko of "Wall Street"? I'd say no. Ray is portrayed as an untrustworthy deal-breaker and a ruthless expansionist, but he's also clever enough to solve some of the problems that the McDonald brothers had themselves encountered. The brothers had, for example, attempted to go franchise before Ray Kroc came along; their efforts failed because there was no standardization and no quality control. Kroc had the vision to solve this problem by finding middle-class folks with good work ethics—instead of the usual upper-class, country-club snobs—to manage the local franchises. Kroc was as interested in maintaining quality as the McDonalds were, but his notion of "quality" wasn't completely in sync with the brothers'. At the same time, the movie tells us, Kroc was neglectful of his marriage and often more concerned about the bottom line than about people in general.

In the end, both "Hidden Figures" and "The Founder" share the central themes of determination and persistence, but they explore those themes in very different ways. "Hidden Figures" is very earnest in tone; "The Founder" is very cynical. Both movies are about the pursuit of a big dream, but whereas one dream is a dream of liberty and self-fulfillment, the other dream is a dream of power and acquisition. Both movies are well made and worth your while. Watch them with my blessing.



Friday, June 23, 2017

"if you get blown away, he gets blown away with you"


Company event today. Grrrr. Gotta blow off some steam.



a beautiful woman's ridiculous death

No one wants to be killed by a reusable whipped-cream dispenser. What a way to go, though, eh? I'm reminded of the Berke Breathed comic strip (Bloom County or Outland) in which the sanctimonious health nut gets hit by a meteorite while jogging. Hilariously random, yet kinda sad. For what it's worth, various sources describe this woman, Rebecca Burger, as a kind and sharing soul, not as a self-righteous health nut.

French article here. Burger was struck in the chest by the exploding dispenser, and that provoked a cardiac arrest. Emergency surgery was unable to save her, most likely due to internal hemorrhaging.




Thursday, June 22, 2017

what if "Eat Your Kimchi" had been more like this?

Watch this interracial couple's video on the things they fight about:


While viewing the above, I found myself mentally comparing this Rachel and Jun video to the pandering garbage put out by Simon and Martina of "Eat Your Kimchi." (S&M closed up shop and moved to Japan in 2015.) The above video doesn't escape the problem of having a staged, scripted feel, but the issues discussed are real enough, and the humor is more honest than EYK's because it doesn't involve exaggerated mugging and cartoonish aegyo (a Korean term for saccharine over-cutesiness).

Jun is a trained chef with his own YouTube channel, "Jun's Kitchen." Here's a video showing what he can do. Here, too.



your daily olio

Some more takes on the Impossible Burger:

Jeremy Clarkson eats a meat burger and the Impossible Burger side by side.

Adam Savage visits a friend and has an Impossible Burger.

The program "Munchies" goes to Momofuku to do the Impossible Burger.

Today at the office, we're having a little party to celebrate my having paid off my third major debt. I suppose the party can also be a considered a sort of send-off for my coworker, who will be traveling to the Philippines (he's of Filipino ancestry) to hang with relatives for a bit more than a week. For the occasion, I cooked enchiladas. Since I ate mine last night, I'll be eating my low-carb meal for lunch today while my boss and coworker chow down on Tex-Mex.






Wednesday, June 21, 2017

graphic design: philo edition

My boss is worried that my art will give little kids nightmares. Below is an illustration that might go into the textbook I'm making. Last year, I was asked to author a textbook on philosophy for kids, and now that I've gotten other projects out of the way, I can finally focus on it. This, of course, means approaching the subject in a way that kids will find interesting, i.e., I can't just give them a boring chronological list of talking heads accompanied by a survey of each talking head's major ideas. Instead, I have to approach philosophy from the angle of interesting questions like, "Does the food in your fridge start dancing when you close the door?" or "How do you know your parents aren't robots?" or "Your little brother says he knows there's a monster under his bed. Do you believe him?"

Hence the following pic:


Yes, you got me: "Peter, come out and play" is indeed an adult joke that's meant to slip under kids' radar. Disney does this all the time.



this is making me hungry

Various meat substitutes are tested:


I admit I'm curious to try the Impossible Burger. I've heard wildly mixed reviews of it, though: in the above video, the guys conclude that the burger is impossible(!) to distinguish from real meat, whereas other committed carnivores have said the burger is obviously fake. The video also makes me curious about seitan, which I've heard about but have never tried (although I wonder whether the supposed "tofu" I had during one lunch at Dongguk University's vegetarian cafeteria wasn't, in fact, a form of seitan). Seitan is one of several meat substitutes I'd like to sample, along with Quorn. Quorn is a fungus-based product (mycoprotein), whereas seitan is made from wheat gluten.

Now, I need to research whether these products are available in Korea and/or purchasable through iHerb. (Just checked. The answer for iHerb, alas, is no to both seitan and Quorn.
There are, however, seitan recipes online.)



Philip DeFranco on Otto Warmbier

Here:


DeFranco is another YouTube discovery of mine. He's apparently been around since YouTube's beginnings, and he has since built himself a ginormous YouTube empire, giving rise to many fans and, of course, many haters. His videos are heavily edited (like Roaming Millennial's, and unlike Styx's one-take spiels), but he speaks in an entertaining, made-for-MTV manner that's easier on the ears than the voices of some of the droners I listen to. DeFranco covers trending topics from news and online; in this video, the Otto Warmbier story is only the first of several topics.





Ave, Ruth!

Bad news from the doctors.



low-carb meals

I forgot to add the chicken that I'd bought tonight (maybe I'll cook it and add it later), but what you're seeing is the huge amount of low-carb food that I've prepped for myself for the rest of this work week: stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms, beef, shrimp, and tofu. The sauce is a mildly sweet teriyaki variant, but because it's been spread out over three huge servings, there isn't much carbiness per portion. The stir-fry tastes pretty good, too. I just regret not having included any bamboo shoots to make this more American-style Chinese.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

starting up again

A friend who shall remain nameless confessed that he had dropped off his walking routine for about a month. I told him that that was the cool thing about adulthood: no one is standing over you, so you can start up again, or not, at your leisure. No thunderbolts from Zeus, no castigation from Yahweh: it's just you and your conscience.

Well, I'm in a similar position: I did a few days' Everesting last week, then I slacked off, beginning with this past weekend. I'll be taking up the routine again tomorrow morning after I prep and cook the low-carb meals I'll be eating for the next several days. It's just a matter of forgiving myself and soldiering on. It's my life to live—or waste—as I choose. Forgive the tautology, but it's liberating to realize how free I am.


Paul Joseph Watson on the latest London attack

If there's a reason to watch Paul Joseph Watson's videos, it's that he does such a good job of pointing out hypocrisy, and he does so succinctly. In this video, he talks trenchantly about who doesn't have the moral high ground in this discussion:




the sad case of Otto Warmbier

You may recall Otto Warmbier, a student who, in 2016, went to North Korea and was accused by the North Korean government of trying to steal a propaganda poster. I've seen some folks take the North Korean accusations at face value, chiding Warmbier for acting out while in such a hostile country. North Korea being North Korea, I don't think we'll ever know the truth as to why Warmbier had been detained. At a guess, his detention probably had nothing to do with what he was accused of, but the end result was that Warmbier was sentenced to fifteen years' hard labor. After serving only one-and-a-half years of his sentence, Warmbier was unceremoniously returned to the United States in a coma, having suffered what US medical experts termed "severe neurological damage." North Korea claimed the coma was the result of a combination of botulism and sleeping pills, but US doctors surmised otherwise.

And now, Otto Warmbier is dead. Someone named Stacy Berlin (@LIAgent99) tweeted the following tasteless remark:

Otto Warmbier was in a coma in North Korea and was alive. He transfers to a US hospital and dies. Is this an indictment of our health system?

I think that gets the prize for Stupidest Remark of the Day.

Warmbier's death puts me in mind of a line from one of Stephen R. Donaldson's fantasy novels. I think it occurs in The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, when Covenant's wife Joan, who divorced and abandoned Covenant when he discovered he had leprosy, is driven insane by the malevolent, diabolical force that Covenant had to fight during the First Chronicles. Covenant offers Dr. Linden Avery—who is initially there to treat Covenant but who begins to take an interest in Joan—the following depressing line, quite possibly one of the most desolate lines of literature I've ever read:

How do you hurt a man who's lost everything? Give him back something broken.

This is how Otto Warmbier's parents must feel about now. It wasn't enough that their son got involved in the nightmare of North Korean "jurisprudence": their son was sent back to the States, battered and broken, and now he's dead.

My take on this is similar to my take on the Korean Christians who heedlessly went to Afghanistan in 2007 to preach the gospel, got captured, and ended up with two of their number executed: the captors were at fault, but the victims had a choice not to be victims. When the remaining Christian hostages returned safely after the ROK government promised to withdraw its troops and to (allegedly) pay a $20 million bribe, public sentiment in Korea was decidedly against the returnees, and perhaps with good reason: you have to be all kinds of foolish to walk so blithely into the lion's den. With North Korea, there's no obvious rhyme or reason to how and why the DPRK plucks certain foreign tourists out of the line for trial and torture. Maybe the government needs a hostage as leverage in negotiations. Maybe the government needs to amp up its propaganda machine. Who knows? Whatever the reality, it should be obvious that going into Afghanistan as a missionary and going to North Korea as a tourist are foolish, dangerous things to do. Time and again, this folly is revealed as tourists get shanghaied or even shot. I know some folks who've been to North Korea and back, and personally, I wonder if they realize how lucky they are to have returned. They might say that it takes a certain savvy or a certain level of common sense to survive the experience; I say they're oblivious to (or actively ignoring and/or dismissing) the counterfactuals—the would-haves and could-haves and might-haves.

There's also the matter of why on Earth you'd want to contribute money to a regime like North Korea's. On some level, a tourist to the DPRK has to realize he or she is selling part of his or her soul just for the experience of standing on North Korean soil. Where does that money go, after all? Certainly not to the oppressed, starving, and dying citizens of the DPRK: it goes to the military and to the party cadres in Pyongyang. Read Andrew Natsios's The Great North Korean Famine for an inside look at how goods are distributed—or rather, not distributed—among North Korean citizens. Tourist dollars are going nowhere near the people who need them, and one would be naive to think otherwise.

Warmbier should have known all this before embarking on his ill-fated trip to North Korea, so to be frank, I don't have too much sympathy for Warmbier himself. I do, however, have an ocean of sympathy for Warmbier's parents, who now know what it means to lose a child—something no parent should ever have to experience.

This week is going to be Autopsy Week, I suspect. Carrie Fisher's autopsy recently made the news, and it was discovered that a combination of cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy may have been at the root of her cardiac arrest. What will we discover when Otto Warmbier is autopsied? Nothing surprising, I'll bet. Neurological damage will probably be the result of cranial trauma plus whatever other forms of physical and psychological abuse he suffered during his eighteen months in hell. In the meantime, I grieve more for Warmbier's parents than I do for the man himself. Warmbier had every chance not to stick his foot into the bear trap, but he elected to do so, anyway.

ADDENDUM: in our "Too Little, Too Late" file, we have this USA Today article: "Tour Group Says No More Americans to North Korea After Warmbier's Death."



Monday, June 19, 2017

the deed is done

Assuming no hitches, I've just submitted payment for my third of four major debts. There's a great sense of achievement and relief that goes along with this. In theory, I'll be able to check my bank account and my Wells Fargo loan account in a few days and see that the debt has been zeroed out. International wire transfers now take about 24 hours to process (compare this to the 2-3 business days they used to take a decade ago); if the timing is right, my wire transfer will go through first, then my last two Wells Fargo transactions will process through next: one for almost $250 (my regular monthly auto-pay), the other for about $5700. If the Wells Fargo transactions go through too quickly, before my wired money arrives, they'll bounce. Not a problem: I'll simply re-send them the following day, and if there's a small penalty to pay, then so be it. I doubt my credit rating will take much of a hit: that number (nearly 800, with 850 being the max) is healthy as a horse. The best news to come out of this is that I'll have freed up another $250/month. Sadly, the freed-up income will be saved and dumped into my fourth and final debt, the monster that I'll be paying off at the end of 2018. But after that, I'll be free to earn and to save like a madman.

One way or another, I'll have paid off a major debt this week, and that's something to celebrate. My boss has jokingly requested enchiladas, but this may not be a joke, as the boss has talked about enchiladas before. Enchiladas are good because I can make them at home, after which they're eminently microwaveable. I may do that this coming Friday.

PS: you may be wondering why a guy celebrating a major event is cooking the food for his own party. It's not a big deal when you love cooking.



Ave, Elisson!

A story about miracles can be found here.



Sunday, June 18, 2017

what it truly means to be red-pilled

Below is Cassie Jaye, director of the 2016 documentary "The Red Pill," which focused on men's-rights activists (MRAs). Jaye, who began crafting her documentary as a committed feminist who was also committed to an unflinching look at the truth, ended up dropping the label of "feminist" the more she discovered about MRAs and about the feminism she espoused. This short video shows a person to whom the slang term "woke" should really be applied. The video's title, "Ex-feminist Comes Clean," is misleading: to "come clean" means you're confessing after having hidden or lied about the truth. But from Jaye's speech, I gather that she was an honest person from the get-go, and it was her honesty that led her to abandon feminism once she became aware of its toxic side.






an uplifting Sunday to you

What with all the depressing goings-on in the world, I thought it might be nice to counteract the lugubriousness with two doses of YouTube.

First: look at what happens when you spin this cake.


Next: British comedian Russell Howard talks about a boy with cancer. (I can't embed this video because the thumbnail actually gives away the punchline of the entire routine. So go give YouTube some site-traffic love.)

Hope this puts a smile on your face. Happy Sunday!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

at least one 100% eval

When my marathon KMA class ended today, the damn office assistant walked in on me too fast for me to rifle through the student evals, but I did manage to see that at least one student had given me a 100%. Which is nice. Before the students left, they said they had learned a lot, and that the class (which was about online-research techniques) had been useful. I had three guys and one lady today; they were all good students, and one or more of them might come back to KMA to take other courses that I (we) teach. So I guess that's a plus.



leaving soon

One of the dubious badges of honor that come with walking long distances is the departed toenail. If you watched the movie "Wild," based on the autobiographical story by Cheryl Strayed, you may the recall the moment, at the beginning of the film, when Reese Witherspoon, playing Strayed, peels off a boot and painfully removes a toenail that was already on its way out.

I've got a toenail like that right now. The skin underneath the toenail is black and dead, but while the tissue might be necrotic, it doesn't appear to be gangrenous (no funky odor, no spread of gangrene).* The entire toenail shifted while I was gripping it with a nail clipper this evening, which indicates to me that the thing is ready to go. I'm not going to force its departure by trying to rip the nail off, mainly because I don't know whether that might end up being unnecessarily bloody and painful. But I'm also not going to do anything to keep the nail in place, especially if the nail thinks it's time to leave.



*Then again, gangrene comes in wet and dry varieties, so it could be a dry form of gangrene. Either way, wet or dry, gangrene is normally indicative of serious infection requiring immediate treatment, and I've been perfectly fine in the month since I ended my long walk. So I'm betting this isn't gangrene at all, but if something horrible does occur, and I lose my toe, you'll be among the first to know.



the most Orwellian thing I've seen all day

I may need to see what other sites have to say, but it seems Canada has taken a big step in the direction of limiting free speech.

My own take on this matter isn't something I've gone into in depth on this blog, but my gut feeling is that you can identify yourself however you please. Chromosomally, for most human beings, there are only two sexes. But gender is another matter, as that's more a social construction than a brute biological reality. I'm perfectly prepared for human sexuality to shatter, not long from now, into a kaleidoscopic chaos of different sex and gender niches, especially as we get better at manipulating our own genomes and start crafting people who are radically different, genitally speaking. Imagine what humans will look like two centuries from now: they might not even be recognizable! I'm ready for that sci-fi reality to manifest itself.

At the same time, it's unfair to expect everyone to keep up with the latest updates to the Newspeak dictionary. Criminalizing speech is always a bad idea, so I stand against this latest bit of Canadian silliness.



KMA today

I've got my first KMA gig in a while happening today. Although I've regained a few pounds since the walk, I'm still slightly slimmer than I was the last time I did a KMA gig, which means my slacks ought to fit more comfortably today. So there's that. Oh, and earning nearly half a million won today won't hurt, either.

More soon.



Friday, June 16, 2017

"Should We Blame the Left for Alexandria?"

My new alt-media discovery this evening is a young lady who goes by the moniker "Roaming Millennial" (RM). She runs several video channels and sites, but the one I discovered was her YouTube presence. RM is a half-and-half like me (she's half-Chinese, though, not half-Korean), which automatically predisposes me to liking her. Based on the three videos of hers that I've watched, I'd say she leans more rightward than leftward, but she takes a smart, nuanced stance on the issues and isn't a bloviating idiot like Alex Jones of InfoWars.

Below, I've embedded an RM video about the Alexandria shooting. What struck me about RM's stance was how close it was to my own. While she doesn't explicitly highlight the moral-agency angle the way I have, she's just as aware as I am of the dangers of being hypocritical in heedlessly blaming the left's hateful speech for causing someone like James T. Hodgkinson to snap and try to kill several Republicans. RM warns against the exact same hypocrisy I was warning against, although she does seem to be in favor of, like Ted Nugent, toning down the public rhetoric a bit.

Here's Roaming Millennial:


RM also has a video about the ongoing embarrassment at Evergreen College. The first video in which I saw her, though, was her interview/exchange with Stefan Molyneux about feminism and family, which you can view here.

ADDENDUM: up to now, I've had cosmetic issues with just about every alt-media figure I've encountered. Styxhexenhammer666, who could pass for one of the Weird Sisters, speaks in an annoying nasal drone and often appears shirtless in his vlogs, assaulting us viewers with glimpses of his sunken chest and angry nipples. I've had to adopt a "look beyond the surface" attitude in order to concentrate on the admittedly good content he's producing. Stefan Molyneux has a sharp intellect and keen wit, but his speaking style is so overdramatic that it's often hard to take him seriously—especially during the final three seconds of his vlogs, when he ends his spiels by fixing the camera with a creepy, Anthony Perkins-like stare. Paul Joseph Watson—who is, by the way, the only InfoWars personality I can stand listening to—often seems to be making kissy faces at the camera with his ridiculously swollen lips. As with Styx and Stefan, I have to avert my gaze and concentrate on the content of Watson's presentation to derive any value from the vlogging experience. With Roaming Millennial, however, I now have someone who has a smart, smooth, articulate presentation style and is easy on the eyes. Thank Cthulhu. The fact that, in the three videos of hers that I've seen, she seems to have almost the same worldview that I do means that I'll be watching her regularly from now on.

ADDENDUM 2: more RM videos:

The Myth of Cultural Appropriation
People of Color: You Are Not Oppressed



the payoff

It was supposed to happen today, but alas, it'll have to happen on Monday: the payoff of my third of four major debts. My company's finance department was especially slow in direct-depositing my salary today; the money didn't show up until after my bank had closed at 4PM. That was frustrating but not surprising; our accounting/finance department is slow as hell and staffed with stupid people who seem to be on pot.

Anyway, I'll be wiring $8000 to my US bank account on Monday. That same day, I'll log on to my Wells Fargo account, click the "pay everything off" button, and we'll be golden. $6000 will go to paying off Wells Fargo, which took over my eMax loan (that dates all the way back to 1999—eighteen fucking years of this shit). Another $1000 will go to my remaining revolving debt, and the last $1000 will go to paying down my credit card, on which I'd racked up quite a bill during my long walk, thanks to all those motels and restaurants and convenience stores. By the end of 2017, I'll have about $17,000 in the bank, roughly $10,000 of which will go, this year, to paying off my fourth and final major debt. At the end of 2018, I'll pay off that debt in its entirety, which will nearly wipe me out as it's a nearly $50,000 obligation. But after that, I'll have no major debts left, and within a year, I'll have over $30,000 cash in the bank. By the end of 2020, that figure will be over $70,000. And it only goes up from there, especially if I end up with a raise in 2018: it may be that I'm going to become a supervisor. We'll see how that goes, though; nothing is written in stone yet.



using a coin as a 7-sided die

This method doesn't result in evenly distributed probabilities, but I've found it useful all the same. I want to have a random rest-and-fasting day every week, so how can I randomly select one day out of seven to be that special day? An idea came to me: I can use a regular old coin! The coin-toss method works this way:

1. Let heads = Sunday through Wednesday (4-day range).
2. Let tails = Wednesday through Saturday (4-day range).
3. First toss (or 2 out of 3) determines which half of the week will contain the special day.
4. Second toss: let heads = first two days; let tails = second two days.
5. Third toss: let heads = the 1st of the 2 remaining days; let tails = the 2nd.

Et voilà!

How this works in a practical sense:

1. I flip the coin; it comes up heads, so I know my special day will be S, M, T, or W.
2. I flip the coin again; it comes up tails, so now I know my special day will be T or W.
3. I flip the coin a third time; it's heads, so I know my special day will be T.

And there we go. On the designated day, I'll take a break from working out, but I'll also fast.

Of course, by doubling up on Wednesday, I increase the chance that Wednesday will be my "random" day (i.e., Wednesday will always make it past the first coin toss). If you can think of a better way to select randomly from among seven days with equal probability, let me know in the comments, and I might even adopt your method.



is Ted Nugent making a mistake?

I just saw this article about rocker Ted Nugent, who has promised, in the wake of the Alexandria, Virginia shootings, to dial down his own "hateful rhetoric" in the name of civility. "I will void* anything that can be interpreted as condoning or referencing violence," said Nugent on a recent New York radio show. Nugent has been guilty, in the past of telling President Obama to "suck on my machine gun," among other things.

My question is this: is Nugent making a mistake? Personally, I would defend his free-speech right to express his partisan passion as I would defend Kathy Griffin's right to express her own visceral distaste for President Trump, however inappropriate her expression might be.

In my first post on the Kathy Griffin flap, I received a comment from Richard Stefans, who wrote the following:

It's not that she is actually threatening the president, but her stunt is a threatening act in itself. Such a graphic display could certainly incite others to consider taking action themselves--maybe not even against the president. There are certain limitations to free speech and incitement to violence is one of them.

There's nothing unreasonable in what Richard says above (in fact, Richard seems a bit prophetic!), but I nevertheless disagreed with him, writing in response:

That's an interesting point, but it seems to be in the same spirit as "video games incite violence," an argument I find unpersuasive. If certain images and actions "trigger" certain people, it's because those people are predisposed to be "triggered." To say otherwise is to agree with the PC line that we must avoid being offensive because people have no control over their own actions—an argument I've heard from the left regarding, for example, cartoonists who lampoon Islam. "Drawing Islam-mocking cartoons is a sure incitement to violence," the PC crowd argues. I don't buy it. I don't buy the blame-the-victim attitude that arose after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, in which lefties basically claimed that those cartoonists deserved what they got, and what they got was inevitable. It's as if these people don't believe in human freedom and responsibility, which is the problem whenever we talk about "triggering" language at all. And I don't buy the PC line in Kathy Griffin's case, either. If someone looks at Griffin's photo and decides to behead President Trump ISIS-style, such an act is on that person's head, not on Kathy Griffin's. There is no inevitable chain of causation leading from Griffin's image to actually beheading Trump, any more than there's an inevitable chain of causation leading from drawing Muhammad parodies to the mass murder of French cartoonists. In both cases, there is choice.

The right should avoid the hypocrisy of double standards: it should not mock the left for using "triggering" language, then turn around and talk about how people might be triggered by Kathy Griffin. Either triggering is a legitimate concept, or it isn't. I say it isn't. I say that, in those moments when we get pissed off and our emotions take over, it's because we've chosen to allow that to happen. We're morally responsible for our actions, even when we're sick in the head, and even when we're overcome with rage. If we're free, then we're responsible. If there's choice, then certain actions, like violence and murder, aren't inevitable. And I'm not willing to constrain someone's free speech just because some random person might be inspired to commit a violent act. That's the PC way. No, thanks.

And lest anyone think there's some sort of contradiction in saying certain people are "predisposed to be triggered" while also saying that people have free choice, I'll note in my defense that I've long argued (especially in the context of depression and suicide) that human freedom does not disappear when mental illness (or any other cognitive/emotive force) appears on the scene. Human freedom works in and through our compulsions, which means you can't fall back on your compulsions as an excuse for your bad behavior. You're still morally responsible, even when you're sick. Saying "Kathy triggered me!" doesn't cut it. That's the same excuse as that age-old moral dodge: "The devil made me do it."

You can see why I'm wondering whether Mr. Nugent might be making a PC mistake, here. If people inflame each other, it's mainly because the inflamed choose to be inflamed. There is always choice—always. Your emotional responses aren't as automatic or as inevitable as you think. "He made me..." doesn't cut it. This goes for anyone inspired by Kathy Griffin's visuals, and it goes for anyone who might be inspired by Ted Nugent's rhetoric. Perpetrators of violence can't use Griffin and Nugent as an excuse for their own acts because that's what it means to be a moral agent.

For a dissenting opinion, listen to this ex-Secret Service agent talk about the Kathy Griffin flap. He makes valid points, mainly from the angle of statistical correlation: (1) the likelihood of violence goes up after violent rhetoric is aired, for example, and (2) as he puts it, the Secret Service "doesn't have the luxury" of not checking out verbal threats or threatening gestures against the president. These are all good points, very much in line with what Richard Stefans was saying above, but I don't think they erase moral agency. That being said, I personally would never be so stupid as to threaten the US president in even a lighthearted way, although I've been guilty of making my own beheading jokes.

For a take that's more consistent with my point of view, here's Stefan Molyneux basically nailing Kathy Griffin to the wall for her moral failures, making it clear that she has only herself to blame. But as far as I'm concerned, she and Ted Nugent have no need to soften their tone. The whole "I'm moderating my rhetoric to avoid ... condoning or referencing violence" shtick is a cave-in to the PC crowd. By that same logic, then, we would need to eliminate all violent video games, violent music videos, comedy routines that reference violence, movies with violent imagery, etc. The reductio reveals the absurdum.



*"Void" sounds awkward to me. Is this a misprint? Could it have been "avoid"?

ADDENDUM: this cartoonist also disagrees with me, but I think this argument is going to blow up in the right's face:


Upshot: I agree that there's a correlation between culture-of-violence rhetoric and actual violence, but correlation is not causation, especially when moral agency is factored in.



London update

The death toll from the recent apartment fire could exceed 100.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

ALL HAIL!

Every year on this, the 15th of June, we recount the glorious origins of your Maximum Leader.

Now hear these words...

I speak to you in my capacity as Poet Laureate of the Mike World Order. Today, fellow minions, we celebrate the holy birth of our Maximum Leader, and as you do every year on this most auspicious day, you gather outside the awe-inspiring Villainschloss, rain or shine, and listen with rapt attention as I recite vignettes from our Maximum Leader's adventurous life.

BIRTH

Your Maximum Leader was born of two great cosmic forces: Time and Struggle. He shot like a lightning bolt out of his mother's eye socket and declared, "I am prophet, sage, lover, and leader of you all." All the creatures in the cosmos sang with joy and paid the Maximum Leader obeisance, bestowing on him the Crown of Might, the Shield of Justice, the G-String of Cleverness, and the Codpiece of Eternal Glory.

But the dwarves did not do obeisance, and they brought no gifts, and for this they were cursed to be forever and roundly beaten by the Maximum Leader and all his loyal minions. In time, the dwarves repented of their stubbornness, but to this day the Maximum Leader does not forgive them their primordial transgression.


ADOLESCENCE

The Maximum Leader had been out spearhunting all day. It was during a period of rest that he happened upon a beautiful, perfectly circular lake inside a volcanic crater, and he decided to bathe. All the creatures in the cosmos were curious, for they had never seen their Maximum Leader in his majestic nakedness before. But it is forbidden for all but the Maximum Leader's betrothed to behold him in his pristine state. The creatures gathered around the lip of the crater, straining to see what no mortal had ever beheld, and when the Maximum Leader removed Codpiece and G-String, they were struck blind and overcome with mortal agony. As all the creatures writhed about in pain, they screamed,

Praise Him!
Though we be struck blind,
and unable to find our way back to our homes,
though we be likely to die horrible deaths
from starvation and simple neglect,
all praise and honor unto our Maximum Leader!
He taketh away our sight
But our loyalty remaineth steadfast!
Lo, the pink-nippled virgins sit at their lyres
a loveliness we cannot behold
singing sweet rhapsodies in honor of His blinding glory!
Praise Him!



EARLY ADULTHOOD

It was during the Maximum Leader's many hunts for wild boar (the symbol you see on the banner of Naked Villainy) that he met his friends, who in time became the Ministers of the Mike World Order.

To the Minister of Propaganda, the Maximum Leader bestowed the Horn of Naysaying and Contrariness.

To the Foreign Minister, the Maximum Leader bestowed the Righthammer.

To the Minister of Agriculture, the Maximum Leader bestowed the Cow of Plenty.

To the Air Marshal, the Maximum Leader bestowed the Missile of Priapism.

To the Poet Laureate, the Maximum Leader bestowed the Golden Anus of Chaos.

Since those glorious days, the Horn, the Hammer, the Cow, the Missile, and the Anus have stood as symbols of the munificence and magnanimity of the Maximum Leader's reign. Every child is branded with at least three of these symbols, one brand upon the sternum and two upon the buttocks. And every child's shriek is a shriek of praise for our Maximum Leader.


THE MAXIMUM LEADER BEDS HIS BETROTHED

How famous is the tale of the Maximum Leader's seduction of his woman!

Cleverly hiding his manhood inside a bouquet of flowers, the Maximum Leader invited his loved one to choose her favorite from among them. Of course, she chose the largest and veiniest purple flower in the bunch, struck by its strangeness. "It has a terrible aspect," she whispered, "I shall pluck it and keep it in my chambers as a symbol of the changing fortunes of this world." But she proved unable to pluck the flower, no matter how she tried, and the flower grew larger and larger still with each successive attempt.

Soon the ruse could no longer be sustained, and the bouquet was destroyed by the flower's sheer massiveness. And because she was the chosen of the Maximum Leader, she was not blinded by the sight of it, but instead rode it for all it was worth. Her words during her moment of climax have been preserved for all time:

"FILL ME UP, YOU MAGNIFICENT BASTARD!"

And these are the sacred words we recite in prayer before every breakfast and every supper, to remind us that indeed we are all filled with the Maximum Leader's goodness and beneficence.


THE MAXIMUM LEADER HEARS THE CRIES OF HIS PEOPLE

It was in the aftermath of one of the worst storms to strike the realm that the Maximum Leader stood upon the highest parapet of the Villainschloss and surveyed the plight of his people with the eyes of an eagle. Maddened with grief by what he beheld, he threw several dozen dwarves off the tower, and they fell to their doom, shouting, "Praise Him!" all the while.

The Maximum Leader was too impatient to allow his many able-bodied minions to assist in reparations. Straightaway, he ran down the parapet, Codpiece glinting in the torchlight, and burst out the front gates of the Villainschloss to assist his stricken people in any way he could.

One woman, whose young son was trapped beneath an overturned carriage, cried, "Save my child!" With a single flex of his mighty buttocks, the intrepid Maximum Leader forced the carriage off the child, then claimed the child as his own and took him forthwith to the Villainschloss.

On that day, the Maximum Leader saved over twenty thousand of his people through various buttock-flexes, penis-pushups, and cleverly applied cunnilingus-- the latter technique producing the loudest cries of "Praise Him!"

But the Other Kingdom saw the realm's strife as an opportunity to attack. While the Maximum Leader's people busied themselves with repairs and rebuilding, the soldiers of the Other Kingdom stormed into our glorious realm. None of our fighting men were ready to defend hearth and home.

And in truth, all would have been lost that day, had it not been for the Maximum Leader, who faced that evil horde with only his Ministers at his side. With a great cry, the Maximum Leader charged forward. He and his loyal Ministers were only six against an army of fifty thousand, and yet they prevailed.

The silver-tongued Minister of Propaganda duped whole battalions of the enemy army into believing that there was no real danger, that this was not, in truth, a war. As they sat docilely, the Minister of Agriculture came upon them with his fierce and noble Cow of Plenty, who inundated the battalions with a horrifying torrent of equal parts milk and dung.

The Foreign Minister stood his ground, and with every blow he smashed dozens upon dozens of the enemy with the Righthammer, which always knocked opponents to the left of the wielder. The Foreign Minister waded through the army, granting a quick and merciful death to all who came too close.

The Air Marshal summoned flying steeds and rained death onto the armies from above, his Missile of Priapism causing massive arousal-- and subsequent immobility-- in the army of the enemy. His flying steeds dropped clusters of screaming, explosives-laden dwarves, decimating untold numbers of soldiers.

The Poet Laureate leapt, spun and dodged among the enemy, his Golden Anus of Chaos sowing confusion and disgust in an ever-widening circle of death. A single clench of that golden sphincter imploded the heads of the enemy army's generals, and the path was then clear for the Maximum Leader to challenge the King of the Other Kingdom to a one-on-one duel, for the King himself was leading the battle against our realm.

The ensuing combat was terrible to behold. At several points the loyal Ministers begged to come to their Maximum Leader's aid, but with a scowl and a stern warning, the Maximum Leader commanded his Ministers to stay back. The battle lasted seven days. The earth trembled, demons fled, and smoke rose from great fissures that suddenly appeared in the ground. But the outcome was never in doubt. The Maximum Leader fought with all the cleverness of his G-String, all the might of his Crown, all the justice of his shield, and all the glory of his Codpiece. In the end, the King of the Other Kingdom was beaten. He dropped to his knees, and the Maximum Leader yelled, "Close your eyes!" to his faithful Ministers, whereupon he beheaded the King with a single swipe of his ponderous manhood. Only I, your Poet Laureate, refused to close my eyes, and I beheld the terrible event by staring at the shadows on the ground. The evil King's head rolled to a stop in front of me and recited its death poem:

Felled was I by phallus-foe
My soul now flees to realms below
Truly hast thou beaten me
Hang my body on a tree
Leave me there for all to point
With my blood your folk anoint
Be at peace, this realm divine
What was my Kingdom, now is THINE!


A cry arose from the people, and they rejoiced at this great victory. I tell you, many a dwarf was beaten in celebration that evening.

And from that day to this, the realm has enjoyed boundless peace and limitless prosperity. That is why, on this day, this auspicious Day of All Days, we gather in celebration of our Maximum Leader's birth-- child of Time and Struggle, Protector of the Realm, Vanquisher of the Other Kingdom.

Praise Him!


And now: a photo of your Maximum Leader being born from his mother's eye socket as was recounted in the holy scriptures!





Heeeeeey, that's not an eye socket!




Everesting, Day 4: some improvement and some changes in the works

Well! Today was a stairwell day. I made it up from B1 to 26 once, then I went down and huffed my way up to the third floor. Keep in mind that, in my building, the first five floors are generally taller than all the remaining floors going up. So here are the numbers:

Everest's height: 8848 m

Distance climbed today: 100.57 m

Altitude reached today: 329.5 m

Height remaining: 8848 m - 329.5 m = 8518.5 m

I've come to realize that doing my long creekside walk on the same day that I'm going to the gym is stupid: since my staircase ascents are so brief, by comparison, it's better to move my gym days over to my staircase days to balance out my schedule. This will allow me to wake up an hour later on my creekside days. God knows I need the sleep: I still have trouble going to sleep early, and now that I'm forcing myself to wake up so early, I'm losing sleep because I still go to sleep well after midnight.

So, for now: the new schedule will be gym + staircase on Tuesdays and Thursdays (TR), with a third gym day on Saturday; creekside walks will remain on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Jump rope will remain a weekend thing, although bodyweight/calisthenics might lose its Saturday time slot, leaving only Sunday. Hmmm. As summer continues, I'll switch to a nighttime schedule, which will also mean switching my lone meal to breakfast instead of lunch, which is what I currently eat.

A commenter suggested removing some of the weight from my weight vest as a way to prevent potential injury and keep myself from overdoing this exercise. I'm pondering taking that advice, as Everesting can technically be done with as little as 10 kg of weight in the vest without sacrificing the vérité element (the Everest guy wrote that climbers carry 20-30 pounds; 10 kg is 22 lbs.). I'm attached to my current 16 kg, though, because that accurately simulates my backpack's weight from my recent cross-country walk.

The disanalogy, however, is that my long walk was mostly on flat ground: I'd say it was 80%-90% level (a term that includes "negligibly hilly"). What I'm doing now is nothing like my long walk, so there's no reason to cling to that image, no reason to be attached to a particular backpack weight. So, yeah... I'm slowly convincing myself that I should reduce the vest's weight to 10 kilos... which is what my building's concierge also suggested when he told me I'd gotten my weight-vest shipment.

One last thought: I did 29 floors today, but when I stopped, I stopped deliberately, before I was actually exhausted. I could have continued, at least to the sixth floor (where I live), so that may be what I do next time. Eventually, I'll be up to ascending my building's staircase twice, then maybe even three times. Right now, though, that feels like a distant goal because, with the weight vest on, this is as much a strength exercise as it is a cardio one. I haven't added a leg day to my gym workouts for that very reason: every single step up my building's staircase feels like a miniature leg press. I realize I'm not getting full range of motion, so I'll be adding squats to my repertoire, but I'm not feeling any urgent need to do squats.*



*Yes, I realize that squats work more than the legs. Run along, now, child.



London aftermath: preliminary insights

Regarding the west London apartment fire, I was right to quote the Grenfell Action Group's blog post, as the focus on the causes of the disaster is now falling on both the apartment building's management (KCTMO) and the people who tried to modernize the building two years ago by adding "external cladding" (some explanation in this article). Will this play out like the Sewol disaster in Korea? Will all the right heads roll?

The death toll remains un-finalized; a dozen deaths are confirmed, but as the tally is still being taken, I'm seeing articles tossing around vague figures like "dozens" and "scores" dead. We won't have a final count for a while, especially given the labyrinthine nature of the wreckage. There'll be more to say as inspectors and authorities do their jobs.



thoughts on the Alexandria shootings and beyond

My hometown, ah, my hometown makes the international news. On the map at last!

Here's Styx's commentary on the shootings.

Here's Paul Joseph Watson's.

Here's Milo Yiannopoulos's.

You'll note they're all basically saying the same thing: coming hard on the heels of Kathy Griffin's fiasco, the Shakespeare in the Park kerfuffle, the Antifa-fueled riots at Berkeley and other campuses, and numerous other sly or overt invitations to and incitements of what is euphemistically called "resistance," it has become obvious that the left has a violence problem that it's not admitting to, and that it's been projecting, for quite a while now, its own base tendencies onto the right, whom it accuses of preaching violence, bigotry, and hatred.

My personal take, now that I've been on Gab.ai for a while, and now that I'm more likely to watch alt-media (such as the folks listed above) as opposed to the mainstream garbage, is this: saner people on the left aren't wrong to point out that there are elements on the right that do indeed preach violence, some form of rightie revolution, racial/ethnic cleansing, and other forms of bigotry and hatred. I see this crap all over Gab in a way that I never saw on Twitter, and it's deeply disturbing. I often think leftists, with their unthinking sympathy for Palestine and general support of Muslim causes, are more guilty of antisemitism than people on the right, but at Gab.ai, I see plenty of rightie "Gabbers" who would love to finish what Hitler started. So, no, lefties: you're not paranoid, and you're not wrong to sniff dangerous scents emanating from the right.

In fact, let me do you guys the courtesy of showing you a prime example of what I mean: here's a link to a video of Stefan Molyneux grilling a Jew on the question of Jewish hypocrisy regarding immigration. In the video, Molyneux takes his Jewish interlocutor to task for having a double standard when it comes to immigration: let the Muslims into Western countries, but don't let them into Israel! I think Molyneux is right to call his interlocutor out on this hypocrisy, but the video isn't the point: scroll down and look at the comments beneath the video. Some of them are positively horrifying, and these are from right-leaning people who are, in their own perverse way, trying to voice agreement with Molyneux. Let me display some of the choicest quotes:

"Israel is just a hide-out for Jewish international swindling, scamming and general criminality that seems to be inherent to the Jews."
"America has been taken over and corrupted by the synagogue of Satan."
"Jews are the people who won't be blamed for anything."
"Ignore the tens of millions of Christians killed during the 'Russian Revolution ' which was actually genuine & not a deplorable lie propped up by Hollyweird.The mans silence in this video speaks volumes!" (so the Holocaust is a "deplorable lie"?)
"The answer is quite easy. The Jews are pushing for immigration into European countries because the Jews wants to destroy Western civilisation. I'm sorry that Hitler failed to exterminate these parasites!"

Are you nauseated yet? I mean, this shit goes on and on... and these are, at least presumably, the righties who agree with Molyneux's basic stance.

And herein lies the difficulty: there are indeed plenty of mind-poisoned righties out there who beat this bigoted drum. Then again, there are people like Molyneux himself who are deep, rigorous thinkers who have taken a certain stance that is not congenial to current leftist ideology. Molyneux gets polemical all the time, but you'll never hear him say or imply anything approaching what I quoted above. People like Molyneux are the reasonable ones; people like the commenters are the real problem.

Having conceded all this about the ugliness associated with the right, let me now turn the spotlight uncomfortably on the left. Guys: you've got a problem.

But let me back up. I know there are plenty of cool-headed, reasonable lefties out there; I knew quite a few on Twitter, and I know some who comment here, on this blog. I got unfollowed by the overly dramatic snowflakes (including an old college roommate) who couldn't stand to read my tweets, but I still had plenty of leftie followers who, while disagreeing with me politically, nevertheless continued following because they appreciated my humor, realized I wasn't a Nazi, etc. So let me grant from the get-go that there are plenty of leftie moderates who do their side credit. These are people who uphold traditional leftist values of tolerance, free speech (for everyone, not just for the left), and sincere pluralism—not the hypocritical "tolerance" of campus lefties who think "diversity" means "having ideas that match ours." These lefties that I know have been unfailingly civil and honest, calling me out when they disagree but never falling into frothing rages or spewing hatred. They're a pleasure to interact with. With such people, an exchange of ideas is at least possible, even if we end up not persuading each other.

Those folks aren't the problem. It's the rest of the assholes who are the problem. There is indeed a culture of violence and hatred being cultivated by people on the left, and this strain of the left has not been shy about acting on its bellicose impulses. The mainstream media, biased though they be, have had no choice but to record instance after instance of this violence. Sure, news outlets have tried to spin the mayhem as something better and nobler than what it is, but the wreckage and carnage are there for all to see, and in this way, the left is pretty much guaranteeing that Donald Trump will be reelected in 2020.

Is the right correct to blame the current leftist culture of violence for the Alexandria shooting? I'd say yes and no. Yes, insofar as the culture of violence does exist—admit it or not—and there are indeed weak-minded nutjobs who can be easily influenced to go over the edge and collect some Republican scalps. No, insofar as the individual who did this was, whatever his mental illness (if he was indeed mentally ill), a free moral agent whose agency should never be reduced or denied. James T. Hodgkinson, the shooter, is ultimately to blame for what he did, whatever the environmental factors surrounding him. Lucky for us, he was old and proved to be a terrible shot because no one except Hodgkinson is reported to have been killed: according to reports, he was taken down by a combination of Representative Scalise's security team and local law enforcement.

Let me end this by giving Styx and Milo the last word. I've already linked to Styx above, but if you have a short attention span or just can't bring yourself to hear a lengthy, divergent opinion, at least click here and listen to what I think is a vitally important point.

As for Milo: Milo's post contains this quote, supposedly from Noam Chomsky:

When we move to the arena of violence, the most brutal guys win—and that’s not us.

That, by the way, is a point I've heard whispered, but now said with increasing loudness, by some people on the right. Some folks within my blog ambit have been muttering darkly about a coming "civil war" in America; I didn't want to believe this, but with the upsurge in leftist violence, I'm beginning to think that there are people on the left who sincerely believe they're already at literal war with the right. The above Chomsky quote is relevant, though, because the uncomfortable fact of the matter is that, if parts of the right do finally snap and decide to respond with their own violence, they won't merely respond in kind. Lefties, you've got to remember that the right is the side with all the guns. Any "civil war" will be bloody and brief, and I for one won't be happy that the gun-toting, Jew-hating Gabbers will have won.

But what can we do so that it doesn't come to war? Is war inevitable?

ADDENDUM: there's an article titled "HuffPo Pulls Article Calling for 'Ultimate Punishment' of Trump." Another stone in the mosaic that is the left's culture of violence. HuffPo's pulling of the article was wise, but in a sense, the damage has already been done. Here's an excerpt from the cached page of the article, because nothing online ever disappears forever:

Draining the swamp means not only ejecting Trump from the presidency, but also bringing himself and everyone assisting in his agenda up on charges of treason. They must be convicted (there is little room to doubt their guilt). And then — upon receiving guilty verdicts — they must all be executed under the law. Anything less than capital punishment — or at least life imprisonment without parole in a maximum security detention facility — would send yet another message to the world that America has lost its moral compass. In order for America’s morality and leadership to be restored, it must rebuke Donald Trump, his entire administration, and his legislative agenda in the strongest manner possible. And nothing would do more than to convict them of the highest offense defined by our Constitution, and then to deliver the ultimate punishment. Donald Trump deserves nothing less. [emphasis in original]

ADDENDUM 2: "8 Times Artists Tried to 'Kill' Presidents Bush, Trump"

ADDENDUM 3: more on the climate of hate here.



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

sigh...

A politician is shot (but not killed) in my hometown of Alexandria, VA.

This is why it doesn't pay to keep reading the news. So damn depressing.



bad happenings in Korea

You may already have heard about the parcel bomb that exploded and injured a Yonsei University professor. Shades of the Unabomber and Professor David Gelernter. A graduate student has been arrested.

My boss also told me about an incident that happened here: a building-painter was hanging outside an apartment building, listening to music blaring from his cell phone while he worked. A disgruntled resident apparently became so angry about the loud music that he went up to the building's roof, found the rope from which the painter was hanging, and cut the rope. The painter, naturally, fell to his death. I was astonished when I heard this, and I sincerely hope the angry resident burns in hell for what he did. Am currently trying to track down a news article about this. Ah—here we are.

ADDENDUM: was the murder victim in the middle of painting, or was he applying sealant?



another hiking path to think about

I've walked the roughly 550-kilometer-long Gukto Jongju route from Seoul to Busan, but now I'm interested in the much-longer path (about 720 km) that follows the peninsula's east coast: the Donghae-an Jajeongeo-gil, or East Sea Coastal Bike Path, named for the Donghae, or East Sea (call it "the Sea of Japan" at your peril!). Even if you can't read Korean, you might find this site, with its lovely photos of that path, interesting.* A commenter recently informed me that the path, which previously didn't go all the way south, is now done, and it stretches all the way down to Busan. I had seen several contradictory maps showing both complete and incomplete versions of the path. Now I'm curious as to what's out there.

The problem, though, is that I'd need more than a calendar month to walk this path, and there's no guarantee that I can take off that much time. I could do the old "break the path up into segments" thing, but that would feel like cheating: walk the whole way in one go, or don't do it at all, I say. We'll see: there may be a way to wangle vacation time for this. (It might involve getting back into university teaching again!)



*A note about the above-linked site: you'll see it describes the path as being only 200-some kilometers long, with the 720-km distance being tagged with a gongsa-jung ("under construction") note. This information dates back to 2015, so it's not up to date.



massive apartment-building fire in London

I learned of this only just now, but around 1AM, London time (it's close to 8AM there now), a 27-story apartment building named Grenfell Tower caught on fire and became engulfed in a massive conflagration. Eyewitness reports are, understandably, scattered and confused. There's no death toll yet, nor an injury count, nor any in-depth speculation as to the cause of the fire (I know what some will speculate, and I advise caution before jumping to conclusions). I am, of course, as curious to know the death and injury toll as much as anyone else, but what I'd really like to know is how fast the fire spread. An activist organization called the Grenfell Action Group posted an eerily prescient article last year, accusing the apartment's management of ruling over a fire trap. From that article:

It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO, and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.

Though written in an angry tone, the article seems utterly apropos, given this disaster, and cannot be dismissed as wild-eyed sputtering.

Keep on watching the news for more updates. It'll probably be a few days before we have solid numbers, reliable eye-witness testimony, and a coherent narrative.

ADDENDUM: "It went up in 15 minutes," according to one witness. The article, which is being updated frequently, currently says "scores feared dead." Depressing.

ADDENDUM 2: Grenfell Tower is located 2 km northwest of Kensington Palace, west London.



Everesting, Day 3: 16/29

Went to the gym this morning for my first serious workout. Can't lift my arms. Can barely type this, even though several hours have passed. Went out for my creekside walk after taking a breather, post-gym. Could barely use my arms during the walk.

Did an extra staircase during the creekside walk today, bringing me up to 16 out of 29 staircases. The vest again weighed heavily on my shoulders, causing my neck to ache after 90 minutes; I may have to think about padding. So here are the Everesting numbers:

Everest's height: 8848 m

Distance climbed today: 149.78 m

Altitude reached today: 378.71 m

Height remaining: 8848 m - 378.71 = 8469.29 m

As the Korean summer waxes hotter, I may have to switch to nighttime walking: my creekside walks are currently happening between 8AM and 11AM. Since I've been trying to keep my lone mealtime as far away from exercise as possible, this will mean switching from lunch to breakfast. (I currently eat lunch because, by skipping dinner, I have plenty of time to digest and poop before the next morning's exercise.)

To be clear about my current schedule (which is still subject to change):

MWF: gym, creekside walk
TR: staircase walk
Sa/Su: jump rope, bodyweight/calisthenics workout

As long as my ass is fat, there will be no rest for the reary.



"Islamophobia is racism"

A nice takedown of a stupid concept here:


The video even mentions my old friend Edward Said.



Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ave, Gord!

Gord Sellar writes a touching post about receiving, from his sister, a book about his father's life and adventures in the wild.

There are a few stories in this book that I remember hearing many times, often with different emphases or embellishments—chance encounters with leopards that he somehow survived; a midnight visit (complete with drugged smoke) from a secret society member, which he combatted by having a local witch doctor ostentatiously inscribe a magic circle around his house to scare the society members from repeating the visit; and the horror story of my parents’ first date, with some details swapped: in the version I knew, my Mum was left in a stuck jeep with a rifle, but in the version in the book, it’s in a tent in the bush with the radio on, while my dad went to get help from the local villagers.

Yes, folks, on my parents’ first date, my dad had to walk through the jungle to a village to get help, while my mum was left provisioned against lion attack. It’s a wonder my sisters [and I] were ever born, a fact that’s driven home by other anecdotes in the book: fishing trips gone wrong that skirted dangerously close to crocodile attacks, brushes with all sorts of horrible tropical diseases, and run-ins with a government that was insane in the typical way of post-colonial sub-Saharan African dictatorships.

[...]

...I don’t read the book sorrowfully. I’ve missed [my father] for a long time, and missing him has become part of life, a wound one learns to live with. This book doesn’t fill the wound, but it does salve it; it feels like receiving back a small part of him that I’d thought lost to the howling winds and the rain that falls into the ocean.



Everesting, Day 2

Everest's height: 8848 m

Distance climbed today: 87.48 m

Altitude reached today: 228.93 m

Height remaining: 8848 m - 228.93 = 8619.07 m

I managed to get up my building's staircase, from B1 to the 26th floor, exactly once before I declared defeat. Walking three times up the staircase unencumbered is one thing; it's a whole different universe when you've got 16 kg on your shoulders. Hats off to army guys everywhere, in all nations, for lugging 120-pound rucksacks up steep mountain paths as part of training. I almost felt as if I were going to have a heart attack by the time I reached the 26th floor. I did briefly entertain the thought of going back down and trying a second ascent, but the rest of my brain shouted down the cavalier part of my brain.

So, just as reaching 29 creekside staircases is now a goal to aspire to, reaching the three-ascent mark for my building's staircase is a similar goal. In both cases, I'll work my way, bit by bit, to my objectives. Everesting might end in the fall, but maybe that's for the best: it'll be much cooler then, which will make for a pleasant end.



Monday, June 12, 2017

re-confessing a prejudice

I'm not going to make any Chinese friends by saying this, but it's something I've confessed before on this blog: I think written Chinese is among the most beautiful scripts on Earth, but spoken Chinese is among the butt-ugliest languages, except when it's spoken by certain Chinese or Chinese-speaking movie stars (like Chow Yun-fat or Michelle Yeoh). It doesn't help that the Chinese renderings of foreign words often sound nothing like the original words—a linguistic tendency that reinforces the often-hermetic nature of Chinese culture.* But yeah: spoken Chinese makes me want to plug my ears with its annoyingly yowling, singsong intonation and a nasality that eclipses even American English, which is plenty nasal.

By way of evidence for my claim that Chinese distorts foreign words far more than other languages do, I present to you this YouTube video: "The World of DAVE." Watch as an American, a Korean, a young Japanese lady, and a young Chinese man all take a whack at saying certain words and phrases that are foreign to everyone except, perhaps, the American guy hosting the video segment (Dave himself, who seems to speak Korean quite well, but with a strong American accent). Notice how the Korean and Japanese renderings of the original phrase are more or less faithful to it, whereas the Chinese guy's rendering is from another planet. True, there are some moments when the Japanese girl's pronunciation comes under fire, but it's mostly the Chinese guy in the crosshairs.

(By the way, the joke about the Chinese pronunciation of "Spain"—shibaya—is that it sounds like the Korean ssibal or ssibaliya (씨발이야!), which I guess can be translated as "fuck" or "fucking" depending on context, although ssibaliya is more of a sentence than an interjection. And one joke that comes up twice in the video—with the words "chicken" and "jersey"—has to do with renderings that sound like jaji, one of several Korean words for "penis." That's why everyone is giggling so much.)



*Back when I was a professional tutor in northern Virginia, I had an excellent Chinese student who knew absolutely nothing about "Tank Man," who was recently celebrated this past June 5, right around the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre—a blot that the Chinese government has been at pains to erase from history. So, yes: Chinese culture is modern and somewhat globalized, but it is also quite, quite hermetic.

All this reminds me of a hilarious theory I heard once while working in Seoul. It was a theory about British linguistic imperialism that explained why the Brits seem to have such trouble pronouncing anything in Korean. The theory is this: it's not that the Brits can't pronounce Korean words—it's that they refuse to pronounce them correctly, putting an ear-bleedingly nasal spin on Korean vowels and taking a sledgehammer to Korean consonants as a way to assert British dominance over Koreans and their language. True enough, I had one English coworker at Sookmyung Women's University who had positively godawful Korean pronunciation, and I once met a British-sounding Australian chap at Woosong University who had trouble saying even the most basic of Korean words properly. Anyway, the idea is that the Brits deliberately mispronounce Korean as a way of, verbally speaking, planting a flag on the language. To be clear, I find this theory risible as there are far too many Korean-fluent Brits on the peninsula, but I do find the notion hilarious, and a dark part of my brain wonders whether the Chinese tendency to distort foreign words so extremely might have something to do with Chinese linguistic imperialism. Of course, the natural reply to such cynicism is to note that Chinese, by its very nature, makes it exceedingly difficult to render foreign words with any level of fidelity. (Here's an article on whether "Coca Cola," rendered in Chinese characters, actually means—per the legend—"Bite the wax tadpole.")



Everesting, Day 1

Everest's height: 8848 m

Distance climbed today: 141.45 m

Altitude reached today: 141.45 m

Height remaining: 8848 m - 141.45 = 8706.55 m



15/29

I managed only 15 of my planned 29 staircases, having realized partway through that I had bitten off way, way more than I could chew. So, change of plan: 29 staircases now becomes a goal to work toward, and it's going to mean that my Everesting will probably last until the fall instead of being done in early July. I suspect I'm going to discover, tomorrow, that walking three times up my building's staircase will be impossible with a 16-kilo weight vest on. If I can make it up twice, that'll be a minor triumph, given what I discovered about myself today.

I was assaulted by all manner of problems today: my right ankle started to hurt, as did my left knee (which is a new thing; I had no knee problems during the recent walk). I found myself out of breath about seven or eight staircases in, and I was mildly dizzy by Staircase #13. Choosing safety over pride, I decided it would be no use to push myself harder. But here's what I discovered: if and when I do finally reach 29 creekside staircases, I'll be doing a workout that's substantially more difficult than anything I did during my cross-country hike. I may even have to start bringing water (which will add more weight to the adventure), given how dry my mouth is right now.

After tomorrow, I'll recalculate the numbers and give you a more realistic idea as to how long this Everesting project is going to take. Whew.



pussy

Just got back from my first official gym session. Today was all about establishing baselines, and to be honest, I'm still not done doing so.

I had said to myself that I'd get to the gym exactly when it opened at 6AM. I ended up getting there at 6:30AM, by which time the gym was already quite full. I headed over to the dumbbell station to get a baseline on that, fighting an ego-driven desire to start heavy so as to impress people. I needn't have worried: I'm too weak to start heavy with any resistance exercise.

My baseline is the weight at which I can do three sets of eight reps with a modicum of difficulty. Here's what I discovered today:

ARMS
dumbbell curls, standard: 12 kg
dumbbell curls, hammer: 12 kg
dumbbell triceps extension: 14 kg
triceps pulldown machine: N/A (no such machine in this gym!)

SHOULDERS
dumbbell raises: 9 kg
shoulder press: 30 kg

CHEST
bench press, machine: N/A (no such machine!)
incline press, machine: N/A (no such machine!)

CORE/UPPER BODY
seated row, machine: 32 kg
lat pulldown bar, machine: 55 kg

Shameful numbers, but that's where I'm starting. Here's the funny thing: if you look at the exercises that got an "N/A" above, you'll see that they can all be solved by doing pushups: I can work the triceps and the pectorals at the same time. It's a shame that my gym doesn't have a bench-press machine; all it has is a free-weight station, so I guess I'll be plunging into free weights when it comes to benching.

And rest assured, the exercises you see listed above aren't the whole list: I'll be adding as I go, and a finalized list will eventually appear as a spreadsheet, the way my pre-walk workout did. Biggest self-respect goals for this year: being able to do a single pullup, and being able to do twenty decent pushups. (I should probably set some crunch/plank/core goals as well.)

Righto... I'm off to do my morning walk: 29 staircases with the weight vest on. Lovely.



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ave, Jeff!

Jeff Hodges has been written up after publishing a book of poems titled Radiant Snow which, as far as I know, has nothing to do with glowing cocaine.



ululate!

Adam West has died at the ripe old age of 88. He was, as the cliché goes, a fixture from my childhood thanks to his role as Batman in the campy 1960s TV series. I can't say that I followed West's career much after "Batman," but I'm aware he plunged into hilarious self-parody when he landed the much-beloved role of Mayor West on "Family Guy." I was actually surprised that West had been given such pride of place in Seth MacFarlane's show, given that "Family Guy" so brutally targets and skewers just about everyone (look at how merciless the show was when it came to mocking Robin Williams). Someone like Adam West would have been ripe for abuse, but instead, MacFarlane took West in and set him him up in his own weird, quirky little niche. Mayor West was a man of strange appetites and stranger words, walking the razor's edge between utter detachment from reality and an oddly organic relevance, but the character somehow worked in the larger universe of the show. I can only give West credit for being a good enough sport to play this bizarre, fictionalized version of himself, and it's sad to know that he's no longer around to bring more smiles to the world.

RIP, Mr. West.



weight vest

I had to learn the Korean term for "weight vest" in order to shop for this online (after which I discovered that you can shop online on GMarket in English). The two most common terms are "중량 조끼" (joongnyang jokki) and "무게 조끼" (mugae jokki), both of which will result in pics of weight vests when you type them into a search window.

I ordered the 20-kilo vest you see below, and it's pretty heavy when you insert all twenty of the 1-kilo weights into it. As you see, the vest came as two separate packages: one light box was the vest itself; the other heavy box contained the weights, which look like huge metal slugs that could punch a big hole in an elephant if launched fast enough.

I'm not crazy enough to wear all 20 kilos: instead, I'll be wearing 16. I had originally wanted to do 15 kilos, but because of how the vest's pockets are arranged, 15 kilos would have made the vest lopsided.

The pain begins on Monday. 






Saturday, June 10, 2017

this is CNN

Why I no longer consume news from the mainstream media:

CNN Axes Reza Aslan (who is a certified asshole; he had this coming)

CNN's War on Trump is Going Swimmingly

Crude News Network

And on a more humorous note:

CNN to Launch Real-news Spinoff Site

Here's Styx on cutting off your MSM consumption. Forgive his use of "overarcing" when he means "overarching."



weekend agenda

This weekend's agenda is very simple:

1. Learn how to work my JEFit app, then finalize my weightlifting routine, which starts Monday morning, bright and early, at 6AM.

2. Learn how to crawl into my weight vest, which is proving to be awkward and unwieldy.

3. Clean my apartment's floor, which is getting scary.

I also have to email an updated version of my course material for KMA. I've got a KMA gig this coming June 17, which is nice. I can start making up the money I spent during my long walk, as well as sending home the cash I'll need to pay off—at long last—my third of four major debts. That's going to be a huge relief, but the fourth debt is by far the biggest, so I'll immediately begin saving up for that one so I can pay it off at the end of next year. (I may, in fact, pay off $10,000 of that debt this year, just to take advantage of my bank's $50,000/year wire-transfer limit.)



Friday, June 09, 2017

po' boy


Today's office lunch was chicken po' boys. There was very little prep: lettuce and tomatoes were provided by God, so there was little to do but slice them up; the bread (faux ciabatta) came from one of our building's bakeries; the pickles were store-bought; the fried chicken was ordered from the local branch of BBQ Chicken. About the only thing I really had to prep was the spicy Cajun remoulade, which turned out great.

Cajun remoulade, a red/pink sauce, is loosely based on a French remoulade, which is a white sauce. Recipes for Cajun remoulade are as varied as the people who make the sauce, but in almost every case, the recipes will call for dumping in everything but the kitchen sink. My remoulade is no different: start with a sriracha-and-mayo base, then pile on chili powder, cayenne, paprika, black pepper, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, pickle juice, minced pickles, caper juice, minced capers, powdered garlic, and powdered onion. It sounds absolutely disgusting, but the happy fusion of those ingredients produces an effect similar to the thing we in the West call "curry powder," a term generally not used in India. Curry is actually a mix of many, many different spices, each of which contributes its own subtle effect to the whole, but the symphony of which produces a single, unified gustatory impression. Cajun remoulade is like that. My own version has a heat that sneaks up on you and leaves the inside of your mouth at least a tiny bit on fire. Glorious.

Anyway, the po' boys were a hit with my boss and coworker; my coworker took photos of his sandwich with which to taunt his fiancée.

The ciabatta deserves special notice because it's not real ciabatta. The bread came from Stone Mill, a bakery that sprang up in our building late last year, and which has impressed me with its faithfulness to Western methods in making bread and cakes. I've enjoyed most of Stone Mill's products (especially its magnificent cookies and brownies), but I've noticed that the bakery has fallen down on a few items: baguettes are one (Stone Mill makes sourdough baguettes, which I dislike), and ciabatta is another. But even though the ciabatta isn't authentic (a real ciabatta has a hard, thick crust; Stone Mill's ciabatta is soft all around), it's nevertheless perfect if you think of it as a sort of poofy hoagie roll.

My coworker was kind enough to offer to buy the bread as a way of chipping in for lunch; that was mighty nice of him. The sandwiches turned out great.