Tuesday, July 31, 2018

parkour vs. Légion: la revanche!

You remember the video about the parkourist who went up against the Legionnaire on the military obstacle course (le parcours du combattant)? Well, here's the video showing a sort of rematch (la revanche = "the revenge" or "the rematch"). Clément Dumais, the parkourist from the previous video, returns this time with fellow traceur Rémi Girard. No longer facing off against Major Gérald, the two civilians instead find themselves competing against two much younger soldiers, "le première classe Vadim et le Caporal Som."

As before, the advantage definitely goes to the Legionnaires, who are intimately familiar with the two obstacle courses. This time around, though, the two civilians are given three days' training, which also includes a wilderness-survival component that teaches various skills, such as how to sleep above the ground and away from biting ants and poisonous snakes. All in all, this video is more intense than the previous one, and you feel for all four competitors, military and civilian. Enjoy.


Oh, and I just saw another "rematch" video, this time taking place in an urban setting, i.e., on the parkourists' home ground. I haven't watched this video yet, but you can be sure that I will:


And this is a bit off-topic, but a huge Semper fi! to the US Marines. Way to go.

ADDENDUM: here's a spoiler for the urban-parkour video: even though, in this video, the Legionnaires actually pair up with parkourists, it's possible to do the math and figure out how well each individual did for his 200-meter stretch of the obstacle course.

Here's how it breaks down:

Corporal Bulatonic: 1:20.48
Sergeant Chief Nicolas: 1:33.66
Legionnaires' total: 174.14 seconds (2:54.14)

Clément Dumais: 1:19.49
Paul "RdB": 1:59.58
Civilians' total: 199.07 seconds (3:19.07)

So: if the Legionnaires had been paired together, they would have won! Pretty badass.



the ironies never cease

This headline gave me a chuckle:

"Liberals Called Trump Mentally Unfit, Now They're Being Treated for 'Trump Anxiety Disorder'"

ah haz teh krayzee

In 2003, the late and celebrated writer Charles Krauthammer coined the term “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” which he described as: “The acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency – nay – the very existence of George W. Bush.”

Prior to becoming one of the most respected political analysts of his time, Charles Krauthammer was Dr. Krauthammer, a psychiatrist, who treated people for various forms of mental illness. In this regard, he was a uniquely qualified observer of American politics.

Krauthammer was not a Trump supporter, but the behavior of the left after the 2016 election gave him an obvious reason to offer his diagnosis of a new disorder called “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

How else could you describe the mental state of people who organized groups to scream at the sky on the one year anniversary of Trump’s 2016 victory?

Democrats and their allies in media, as well as the left’s army of professional activists, have tried everything they can think of to reverse or invalidate the 2016 election, most notably through the seemingly never-ending Mueller investigation.

Liberals tune in to CNN and MSNBC on a nightly basis, waiting for that one shred of proof of Russian collusion that Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff of California keeps telling them is just around every corner.

[...]

Now, ...a new mental disorder is rising. According to The Hill, therapists are seeing an increase in what they’re calling “Trump Anxiety Disorder” which is simply a nicer way of describing “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Writer Avery Anapol reports that the founder of a counseling and psychotherapy center in Washington, DC described the condition as “a fear of the world ending.”

Unemployment is at a record low, America’s GDP just reached 4.1 percent and ISIS is well on its way to becoming a footnote in history, yet many on the left live in a state of constant dread.

Read the rest if you want.



Monday, July 30, 2018

my dream home


If I had all the money in the world, my desires for a dream home would be fairly modest compared to the appetites of, say, a Warren Buffett or even a James Cameron. My dream home is this house, which I've long coveted. It sits almost literally up the street from where I used to live in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few minutes' bike ride north, along the George Washington Parkway bike trail, from my family's old home at 8525 Washington Avenue. The real-estate site, with no small measure of false modesty, describes this home as "French country" in style. While there's nothing truly rustic about the architecture, the house and its property have always evoked Europe, particularly France, for me, and that's one of the major reasons why, if I had the cash, I would snap this home up in an instant. Of course, I don't have 2.7 million dollars on me at the moment (do you? care to spot me?), so this house will always and forever remain no more than a dream for me.



sae ong ji ma

One moment, you're just doing your job, then the next thing you know, you're tossed overboard into a whole new universe.




quick note about Saturday

I met an old friend and blog buddy this past Saturday: Charlie of KimcheeGI fame. He's retired from the US Army, but he can still get on base, so he treated me to dinner at Oasis, the taco/salad bar inside the Dragon Hill Lodge. Stepping on base is always a bit surreal for me: the place is so thoroughly American that it really does feel as if I've passed through a wormhole-membrane and somehow ended up Stateside. This feeling is augmented by the fact that the majority of people on the grounds are Americans; there are plenty of Koreans, to be sure, but twangy, nasal American English is what you hear around you (plus the occasional bit of Spanish). It's uncanny, and it does make you yearn for home.

The meal was great, as always; I may have disappointed Charlie by not opting to go to a different restaurant for tomahawk steaks, but I had told Charlie up-front that I'm not much of a steak guy. Conversation ranged all over, with the inevitable (these days) dip into politics. We gorged ourselves on several platefuls of food, then we parted ways, with a promise to try to get together more often (Charlie lives about an hour south of Seoul).

Before I hailed a cab, I had to take a dump (with my digestive system, every meal I eat creates the urge to poop out the previous meal), so I headed down into the bowels of Samgakji Station.* Just outside the restroom, I saw there was a coin-operated dispenser at which you could buy a pack of ass-wiping tissues; I stuck in a W1,000 bill and punched in "11" to get the big pack. I hit "enter," the metal coil whirred and spun, pushing a tissue pack forward... and then it stuck. I chuckled, despite the waste of my money, and inserted a second bill, assuming that, this time, the pack would fall down. Nope. The coil spun again, and a second pack of tissues had become wedged against the first. I laughed out loud this time, even as my ass was gibbering for sweet release. Illogically, I inserted a third bill... same result. I should have taken a picture of those three tissue packs, all impossibly wedged into each other at the top of the dispenser. Sighing, I inserted a 500-won coin and punched in the number for a smaller-sized pack of tissues. The coil whirred... and that pack got stuck, too. Motherfucker. I still found the whole situation funny, and I kept my temper, refraining from kicking the machine in the spirit of percussive persuasion.

Shrugging, I walked into the men's room... and the toilet stall had free rolls of tissue in it. I had kind of thought that might be the case, but sometimes the mind and the cosmos conspire on an unconscious level to propel you into ridiculous situations, and that's just what happened here. Note to self: check the toilet stalls first next time.

Anyway, I did my business, came back to street level, grabbed a cab, and enjoyed a nice ride back to my place, pleasantly digesting the experience—both physically and mentally.



*This was actually my second dump. I took one on base as well, so I guess this was Dump Part Two. I sometimes wonder if I suffer from IBS, partly because I often do these two-part dumps. I wish the shit left me all in one session, but for some reason, my guts balk at releasing everything in a single go. Should I be chugging prune juice? I've heard some people say that running helps make you regular. Hmmm...



"Mission: Impossible—Fallout": review

[NB: very minimal spoilers.]

With the advent of 2018's "Mission: Impossible—Fallout," I now have a theory about Mustachegate, the debacle that occurred last year when "Justice League" came out. You'll recall that, in "Justice League," Henry Cavill's scenes showed him with a very fake-looking upper lip, which turned out to have been entirely CGI. It came to light that Cavill had been filming the sixth Mission: Impossible film at around the same time, and he was contractually obligated not to shave the 'stache he had grown for his role as August Walker, the CIA's "hammer," an assassin whose job is to shadow Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) on a mission to secure some loose plutonium. My theory is that Cavill basically gave DC Comics the middle finger by choosing to accept such a contract from Skydance/Bad Robot. Perhaps following his instincts, Cavill knew that "Mission" was going to prove to be a much better film than "Justice," and that's what made him prioritize the 'stache. If that's how Cavill was betting, then I think he made the right call. "Mission" is indeed the better film.

"Fallout," directed by Chris McQuarrie (lovingly nicknamed "McQ" by an adoring cast), is the sixth film in the Mission: Impossible franchise, and the first Mission film to be directed by the same director twice. McQuarrie has partnered with Cruise on several other projects, including "Edge of Tomorrow" and "Jack Reacher." The two are good friends. "Fallout" stars Cruise, Simon Pegg, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames (in a much larger role this time around), Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris (looking less freakish thanks to a beard), Alec Baldwin, Michelle Monaghan, Vanessa Kirby, and Angela Bassett.

The basic story begins with the IMF team failing to secure three plutonium cores meant to be installed inside easily portable nuclear bombs. The failure is the result of a judgment call by Ethan Hunt (Cruise), who chooses to save the life of Luther (Rhames) while letting a group known as the Apostles—formerly the Syndicate—get away with the radioactive material. The rest of the film is devoted to the recovery of the cores, and to the uncovering of a massive plot by a still-active Solomon Lane (Harris, reprising his role from the previous film) who, despite being a prisoner transferred from government to government to answer for various crimes committed all over the world, is somehow pulling the strings. In the meantime, the movie tells us a bit about what happened between Hunt and his now-ex wife Julia (Monaghan), even as Hunt's relationship with MI6 super-agent Ilsa Faust (Ferguson) warms up.

"Fallout" brings the action hard. There are, per our spoiled-viewer expectations, plenty of amazing set pieces filmed in a manner that stays away from Bourne-style shaky-cam. Unlike the previous movie, there's a return to an explicit ticking-clock dynamic that helps to ratchet up the tension, especially as the movie reaches its final half hour. And while we're on the subject of time: I can echo the praise of several critics who said that, despite its long running time (almost two-and-a-half hours), "Fallout" goes by fairly quickly, even with several scenes of quiet dialogue to change up the story's pace. McQuarrie has a keen eye for how to frame an action scene; the already-famous "restroom fight"—much promoted in the preview trailers—is memorable for just this reason. (Korean audiences will appreciate that the Asian bad guy in that fight can't be taken down by the two highly trained Western good guys.)

The movie also supplies us with familiar tropes that act as a connective tissue preserving continuity with previous Mission: Impossible films. There is, of course, the Tom Cruise On a Motorcycle trope, but there's also a rock-climbing scene toward the end that serves to remind us of the beginning of John Woo's "Mission: Impossible II." There are the ever-present masks, as well as equipment failures reminiscent of the snafus from "Ghost Protocol." Bringing back Michelle Monaghan for a minor role was a good idea, and a sign that McQuarrie and Cruise wanted to tease out the implications of a possible Julia-Ethan-Ilsa triangle. (By the end of "Fallout," this relationship is resolved to everyone's satisfaction.) Ving Rhames's expanded role as techie Luther Stickell—which includes one surprisingly sentimental monologue that reminded me of Mickey Rourke's otherworldly monologue in "The Expendables"—was also a welcome tribute to that character, who has been around since the beginning of the series. At this point, the action franchise has settled on a cast of characters that I like a lot, and I hope to see a few more films from them.

I suppose I should comment on a running joke among critics these days: the conspicuous absence of Agent Brandt, played by the affable and capable Jeremy Renner. The reason there's a running joke is that Renner was also absent from this year's "Avengers: Infinity War": in that filmic universe, he plays Hawkeye, who appears not once in "Infinity War." 2018 is, for Renner at least, a kind of gap year, and to add insult to injury, the character of Brandt isn't mentioned a single time in "Fallout." Does no one miss this guy, who was around for two movies? Perhaps Brandt will make an appearance in the next film.

I came away liking "Fallout" a lot, but I'm not as gaga over it as other critics are. Many are hailing this as the new action movie to beat, or as one of the greatest action movies of all time. Go ahead, watch the movie, and come to your own conclusions, but as much as I liked the action sequences on screen (and I loved the restroom fight which, alas, comes to a disappointingly sudden conclusion), I thought there were better sequences in previous films, such as the Burj Khalifa break-in sequence from "Ghost Protocol" and the exquisitely choreographed opera-house scene from "Rogue Nation" (not to mention the airplane stunt at the beginning of that movie, and the amazing underwater sequence in the movie's middle, which was done in a single take). Henry Cavill manages to be a fairly hulking presence in much of "Fallout," but I'm not sure his facial hair did him any favors. If anything, the mustache made him look a bit comical in some scenes.

And since we're moving into the topic of dislikes, I'd like to mention that Tom Cruise's French is horrible. He speaks some fragments of French during the Paris sequence, and it's obvious he's not even trying for anything other than heavily American-accented French. (He did a somewhat better job with German in the opening scenes of "Valkyrie.") Another negative was some positively cheesy dialogue uttered early on by Cavill's character, August Walker. That was the one part of the movie that truly fell down for me, and there was nothing Cavill could do to repair what was fundamentally a failure in screenwriting.

I couldn't help comparing Ethan Hunt, in this movie, to Jack Bauer from the series "24," which also dealt with nukes and terrorism.* "Fallout" hints at the use of torture at least twice—once in a scene in which Hunt apparently loses his temper while interrogating a suspect, and once later on when rendition and waterboarding are mentioned. "24" often went there when it came to torture; by contrast, "Fallout" pulls its punches, if you'll pardon the pun. Hunt is a softie compared to Jack Bauer; in Season 6 of "24," Bauer shoots his best friend Curtis to save the life of a terrorist that both he and Curtis hate, all because the terrorist has crucial information while Curtis simply wants to kill the man who killed the troops who had been under Curtis's command years ago. Faced with a vaguely similar dilemma in "Fallout," Hunt chooses to save the life of his friend Luther. This choice leads to the loss of the plutonium cores, but Luther proves his worth later in the film, possibly saving millions of lives. Had Hunt let Luther die, this would have been a very different film. There's also another callback to "24" later in the film: it occurs when Ilsa Faust is tied to a chair and figures out a clever way of releasing herself. Bauer used the same method years earlier on "24," so when I saw Ilsa gearing up to do something big, I knew exactly what she was going to do.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was seeing Alec Baldwin, reprising his role as IMF Secretary Alan Hunley, getting involved in physical combat. Hunley is a fairly hands-on guy, as it turns out, so he appears in hot zones and doesn't flinch from danger. The fight choreography involving Hunley is brief, but we quickly see that the secretary still remembers his combat training and isn't a total slouch when things get real.

All in all, I think you'll be thoroughly entertained by this latest addition to the Mission: Impossible franchise. Whether you'll come away thinking it's the best of the six movies is another thing, but I'm fairly sure it will rank, for you, among the top three. Chris McQuarrie's direction is assured, the acting is fine, the set-piece cinematography is soaring and brilliant (that helicopter chase!), the characters have a good rapport, and the plot moves along slickly and coherently. Like me, you might want to watch the movie again to catch the details you missed the first time around. Not a bad way to spend 147 minutes.

Oh, one last comment: the women in this movie are all unfailingly gorgeous. I've had a crush on Rebecca Ferguson since I saw her in the previous film; Michelle Monaghan, with her lopsided smile, has always been appealing to me; Vanessa Kirby, whom I've never seen before, is simply a knockout, despite looking a bit like Lady Gaga from certain angles.



*At one point in the film, Solomon Lane explicitly disavows having terrorist goals and using terror tactics. Like the villain Kurt Hendricks from "Ghost Protocol," Lane thinks the entire world simply needs to be purged as a sort of massive reset to get all of humanity back on track. I think Lane is delusional and in denial: his plan, in "Fallout," would result in a globe-spanning wave of terror.



Sunday, July 29, 2018

and there was no joy in Mudville

I just went over to Jamshil Lotte World Mall Cinemas to see the newest "Mission: Impossible" film (review coming soon). The big news is that the Hard Rock Café on the fifth floor is dead and gone, soon to be replaced by what I think will be another restaurant trying to cash in on a similar, music-themed idea: JKP, which apparently stands for the nauseating "Just K-Pop." Yeah... that'll motivate me to show up. They could serve medallions of duck-liver pâté wrapped in gently fried truffle shavings for five cents per medallion, and I still wouldn't be tempted. I'm an enemy of all music that shrinks your testicles.



credit, credit, credit

Go figure. I wake up this morning and discover that the credit limit on my modest Amazon Prime Visa credit card has doubled—from $1600 to $3200. This is welcome news, especially as I gear up to travel in the States and Europe this year. The bad news is that, for reasons I can't explain, my credit rating has dropped by almost 100 points, taking me from a letter grade of "B" or "B+" (approx. 770 points) to a solid "C" (about 680 points). What happened? I clicked on the "credit-rating factors" button, but most of the negative factors listed didn't seem to apply to my situation—things like "your account was established too recently."*

It could simply be the rash of plane-ticket purchases over the past couple of months: I racked up a pretty big bill when I purchased my tickets to the US and to France. But I thought your credit rating was, in part, a function of how fast and how timely you were in paying off your debts. I always pay at least the minimum amount of my monthly credit-card debt, and most of the time, when I rack up a debt that comes close to my card's limit, I pay the entire debt off within a month, and my credit rating never suffers; at least, it hasn't before now.

This is actually kind of disturbing. I just went to Chase.com and selected the option to pay off my entire current credit-card debt, so I hope this repairs my credit rating. Sometime in August, I'll check my rating again and see whether I'm back in the "B" range. And of course, when I'll have finished paying off my final major debt next year, I'll check my rating again and see whether I am, at long last, in the "A" range.



*Now that I think about it, the "too recently" could be a reference to the extension of my credit line—which, by the way, I hadn't requested: it was simply given to me. The last time I checked my credit rating was a few months ago, and in terms of significant changes, that extension would constitute a major—and very recent—change. I wonder if other people have noticed dips in their credit ratings that coincide with credit-line increases. Another thing to consider is that such dips have occurred before, but I haven't noticed them because I check my credit rating so infrequently (i.e., once every few months).



gumbo redux

Here's a shot of reconstituted gumbo:


What's different this time around? Well, this particular batch of gumbo was left over from when I served gumbo at the office much earlier this month. All that was left, from the original service, was about two liters of broth that contained a few proteins and bits of vegetable—some chunks of chicken, some homemade andouille, some shrimp, and some fragments of green bell pepper. The broth had been frozen for the past few weeks. Tonight, I added the John Cook andouille I had hunted down a few days ago (I somehow failed to blog about my John Cook adventure, it seems; I'll get on that soon), a fresh pile of frozen chicken breast, and a fresh bag of jumbo shrimp.* Also different this time around: I added the gumbo filé powder that I didn't have last time (ordered via GMarket**).

Result: wow, what a difference! This gumbo isn't just good—it's fuckin' good. Real andouille, a heaping tablespoon of filé powder, and the subtle influence of the passage of time all conspired to produce some truly incredible gumbo. Call me a believer: from now on, I'll be using filé in future gumbos.

This isn't to say that the pre-filé'd gumbo was bad: it smelled amazing as the frozen broth melted and then boiled. It smelled so good, in fact, that I was almost convinced that adding the filé powder would ruin the Gestalt. I needn't have worried: nothing was ruined. To the contrary, flavors were enhanced, and per everything I had read, the filé powder did its job and thickened the broth a bit.

What I now have is an amazing batch of gumbo that no longer has any veggie content: no large quantities of the Holy Trinity (celery, onion, green pepper), no okra, nothing. But the echoes of those vegetables are still reverberating throughout the stew, and the final product really is something else. I'm going to enjoy downing this, with rice, over the next few days. Fuck, yeah.



*I never understood why some people think the term "jumbo shrimp" is an oxymoron (and, further, that it's somehow witty to point this out). "Shrimp" is the name of the animal, not a description of its size, even though it's true that the Old English scrimman, from which the modern word is derived, does mean "to shrink." Also true: the word "shrimp" can be used as a noun to describe a puny person, but keep in mind that the noun, in this case, represents a human being, not a crustacean. Besides, not all shrimp are tiny.

**GMarket carries a surprising range of hard-to-find goods for Westerners who are jonesing for Western food and other products. It often carries items that I can't find on iHerb.com, the popular-among-expats delivery service from which foreigners tend to buy non-Korean spices, seasonings, and esoteric foods, among other things.



free at last

Here—stare lovingly at the toenail of my right-middle toe:


This blackened horror has been hanging off my foot since that walk I took to Incheon and back this past spring. At first, the bruising underneath the toenail—actually two toenails—didn't look at that bad, but it got darker over time, which made me think the nails were both going to come off eventually. I never showed my toes to my doctor because I was sure he was going to lecture me about diabetes again and claim that my subungual hematomata (doctor-speak for under-the-nail bruises) were actually incipient gangrene brought on by poor circulation in my feet. The departure of my toenail, and the timing of the original bruising, shows that this has nothing to do with diabetes. So there, Doc.

And now, like the man waiting for the other shoe to drop, I have to wait for the second toenail to fall off. I don't want to rip the nail out for fear that I'll cause unnecessary bleeding that might lead to infection. I have faith, though, that Nail #2's day will come.



Venezuela's new low

Styx on Venezuela's nosedive as its inflation rate flirts with 1,000,000%—and on why command economies don't work (and why you can't look to Scandinavia as a "good" example):


In that spirit, here's Federalist.com commentator Robert Tracinski on "The Top 5 Forms of Socialism Denial." A quick overview:

1. "But Communists Oppose Fascism"
2. "Whataboutism" (e.g., "What about capitalism's poverty problem?")
3. "But Denmark" (i.e, "Scandinavia makes it work!")
4. "Literacy in Cuba"
5. "No True Socialist"

I like that Tracinski notes that (2) and (5) are examples of the tu quoque and No True Scotsman fallacies, respectively. Point out fallacies wherever you see them.

Both Styx and Tracinski make the same point about using Scandinavia as your pro-socialist rebuttal to the old "socialism always results in disaster" argument: in Scandinavia, what you've really got are strong market economies with redistributive elements. Scandinavian countries like Sweden rate arguably higher on indexes of entrepreneurship than the US does (probably because US businesses are hamstrung by some of the worst tax rates—corporate or otherwise—in the world: the US is by no means a free-market economy in the fullest sense of the term). Arguing for socialism's beneficence on the basis of Scandinavian economies isn't particularly convincing; such arguments fail to consider Scandinavian economies as actual wholes.



Saturday, July 28, 2018

drive-by darting (yo, McCrarey!)

This was way more fun than I thought it would be:






Friday, July 27, 2018

pics from today's luncheon

And here you go: pics from a very ambitious luncheon that took me all week to prepare.

To orient the troops on their luncheon adventure, I gave the Korean and expat staffers a rundown of what was on the menu and how they could obtain their food. Here's the menu first, slapped onto the side of the office fridge:


Next, a pic of Station 1, where the adventure begins. First, pick up a plate and/or bowl. Even though I just bought twenty-five perfectly good bowls, they're too huge for use in this meal. A chili bowl isn't normally as large as a soup bowl. For this meal, I bought paper bowls:


Also at Station 1: the bread—


My coworker A volunteered to run the burger station. He did a great job, too; everyone liked the burgers, which was a relief: I thought they'd be dry.


[NB: above, coworker A is not pressing the juice out of the burgers: the patties ended up a bit cup-shaped when I cooked them last night, so A is pressing them down just hard enough to put the meat in contact with the surface of the warm pan.]

The burgers were Station 2A; below is my work station, which became Station 2B, the spot to get chili dogs, kraut dogs, and chili bowls. Not too many Koreans favored the chili dogs; that seemed to be more of a Western thing. A surprising number of Koreans went for the Germanic stuff: the Bratwurst and Frankfurter (the latter of which I started calling "sort-of French" because of its very vague resemblance to a chipolata).


And here are the sausages at my station, fresh from a boil and still piping hot:


After you get your proteins, you move across the room to Station 3 for toppings, trimmings, and condiments. Note the twin bottles of my pride and joy—homemade Shack Sauce (and try to ignore the ridiculously huge pile of onions that I asked my coworker to slice up for me):


Here's the other side of Station 3, which primarily shows off the toppings and trimmings for kraut dogs. Kraut dogs were unexpectedly popular.


Below, Station 4: the sides and some of the drinks. You see potato chips (Kirkland ripple-cut sea-salt chips), corn salad, and baked beans. The corn salad, which I made early in the week, and to which I had added some chili peppers, became unwontedly spicy over the course of the week while it sat and meditated in the office fridge. To counteract the heat, I added a few blobs of sour cream. This didn't help much, but one of my coworkers said the spiciness level was fine, at least for him. The lone Korean staffer in R&D said she loved the corn salad; she ended up taking a large Ziploc bag of it home with her, along with a bag of baked beans.


Two of my coworkers were kind enough to go across the street to the nearby branch of Subway, where the little elves were selling large packs of store-baked cookies. This was apparently a 36-pack. I downed two cookies at the end of lunch; they were quite good.


Cornbread! While I personally didn't find this cornbread all that memorable (see below), I did enjoy the rougher, more rustic texture it had acquired thanks to the polenta I'd used when baking it. To my chagrin, I forgot to give the bread a final honey drizzle. Ah, well.


And to finish this photo essay off, a final, blurry shot of the burger I put together. What I had really wanted to do was show off the homemade Shack Sauce in the assembled burger, but I don't think you can actually see any sauce. That said, it was a good burger. I liked how the patty was wider than the bun: one thing I hate is a burger in which the bread is wider than the meat. Such a look screams Inadequate! Scrawny! Too bready! to me.


It's almost midnight, and I'm still at the office. Time to go home, Poison Girls.



San Francisco: 2 views

Here's a peppy video highlighting some of the positives of San Francisco:


And here's Paul Joseph Watson's brutal take on the San Fran of today:


A shame to see PJW shilling for nostrums at the ends of his videos these days.



all over but the dishwashing

In terms of actual office work, I accomplished precisely zero today: I finished cooking around 5:30 a.m., got maybe three-and-a-half hours' sleep, then lugged the rest of my food to the office. I spent the next couple hours prepping. Then came the massive food service, which went well because I divided our R&D room into various "stations," with large-print signs showing people the order in which to obtain their food: get your plate/bowl and bread here, go here for burgers or here for chili dogs, go here for condiments and trimmings, and go here for sides and drinks. There was a bit of confused milling about, but overall, people figured out what to do and where to go in the end. I didn't eat until I was sure everyone had eaten first; the chili bowl was amazing: my modified version of Chef John's chili is pretty fuckin' good.

The day wouldn't have gone nearly so well without the help of the rest of the R&D staff, who brought chairs over from the nearby conference room, provided drinks and desserts, and helped me with various aspects of food prep, including the slicing of a mountain of onions that made certain coworkers cry. One staffer gamely manned the burger station, reheating my burgers on a low flame and topping the patties with cheese; the Korean staffers seemed more interested in the burgers than in the hot dogs, although some staffers did come to the sausage station (which I manned). Almost none of the Koreans were interested in chili dogs; a few of them asked for the kraut dogs (sauerkraut courtesy of my boss). The chili itself, however, was a hit, and after all was said and done, I went from about two gallons of chili to only a couple cups of it. Not bad.

Members of the Korean "ipshi" team came up to me afterward to thank me for the lunch and to say the food tasted great (the team also helped wash all the dishes). That's what I live for, so I was happy to receive the compliments. One of our own staff members, the lone Korean lady in an all-foreigner department, said she wanted the remaining pile of raw, sliced onions because she could make a Korean stew with them. I was happy to give all the onions away. Other coworkers skipped away with bagfuls of cornbread, corn salad, and baked beans. In our office fridge, we have a ton of leftover hot dogs, American cheese, and various trimmings and condiments like pickles and sour cream. I think we'll plow through these leftovers over the course of next week.

I did take some photos; expect those to be up sometime this weekend. Right now, I'm exhausted. I have to wash a bunch of dishes, then tote a pile of containers back to my place, then wash those containers. At some point, I also need to talk about why I was up until 5 a.m. cooking burgers and toasting buns.



slow cooker

I'm about halfway through my burgers; haven't even started on the damn buns. At this rate, I think it's safe to say Fuck the sesame seeds and just stick to toasting the damn buns.

I plan to go to sleep around 4 a.m., wake up around 9, and be at the office around 10.

Oy gevalt.



Ozzy Man Reviews: Trumpy vs. Queen

How did I miss this back when it happened?






Thursday, July 26, 2018

the deep breath before the plunge

After coming back from the immigration office, I gathered up the hot dogs (cooked last night) and the final set of toppings and condiments to the office. Tonight, I cook up the final two things left to cook: the burger patties and the burger buns. With the buns, I'm wavering over whether to take the time to give them a sesame-seed topping: right now, the bread is bare. If the goal is to simulate something close to a Shake Shack burger, though, then I need the sesame seeds. At the same time, I'm using square buns, so I'm already in violation of the Shake Shack Way of Doing Things, which in turn means I don't need to stick on the sesame seeds. In the end, I'm going to work on the beef patties first, then gauge my energy levels to see whether I have it in me to seed up the buns. Since I have to toast the buns as well, there's a good chance I won't have the energy, late at night, to do any bun-seeding.

I bought an extra gas burner for tomorrow. My work station is starting to look, comically, like a kitchen. But it's all good: I think I have a plan in place; it's now just a matter of executing it. With three burners, I can keep the burgers, dogs, and chili warm; the baked beans will get warmed first, then I'll just rely on residual heat to keep them palatable. If worse comes to worst, the diners can take their food to the microwave for a little warming. Meanwhile, the corn salad won't make an appearance until just before it's time to eat: I don't want it warming up too much. My cornbread will also need to be microwaved just before service, but I think, overall, that this is going to be doable. I'm going to be one tired Kevin by the end of all this, but it will have been worth it. I think.

At least, I won't have too much to tote over tomorrow: most of the food is already here.



water and life

A huge lake of actual liquid water* has been discovered on Mars:


Meanwhile, NASA is about to engage in a new effort to search for life on Europa.

Researchers therefore regard Europa as one of the solar system's best bets to harbor alien life. Europa is also a geologically active world, so samples of the buried ocean may routinely make it to the surface — via localized upwelling of the ocean itself, for example, and/or through geyser-like outgassing, evidence of which has been spotted multiple times by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. [Photos: Europa, Mysterious Icy Moon of Jupiter]

NASA aims to hunt for such samples in the not-too-distant future. The agency is developing a flyby mission called Europa Clipper, which is scheduled to launch in the early 2020s. Clipper will study Europa up close during dozens of flybys, some of which might be able to zoom through the moon's suspected water-vapor plumes. And NASA is also working on a possible post-Clipper lander mission that would search for evidence of life at or near the Europan surface.

The universe is unfathomably huge, but even if you scale your thinking down to just our solar system, well, that in itself is also pretty damn huge. I wonder what life, if any, we might find right here, in our own neighborhood.



*The video is at pains to note that this might not be a "lake" in the classical sense: it might actually be water mixed with dirt (i.e., it's mud) and other elements/chemicals, etc.



good for another three years

I got just back from a trip out to the Mokdong-based Seoul Immigration Office, where I was pleasantly surprised to get my F-4 visa quickly renewed (well, they say "extended") for another three years—all without having to leave my residence card and come back for it days or weeks later. I was doubly surprised that the office didn't print me out a whole new card: instead, the staff merely printed the new validity dates on the current card's back.

Having the F-4 is a liberating thing: I have most of the rights of a Korean citizen. I consider it my mother's final gift to me because the F-4 is specifically a visa for people of provably Korean heritage. A little plastic card shouldn't mean so much, but it does. Thanks, Mom.



Jörg et son javelot

Fascinating:






Wednesday, July 25, 2018

the kraut

My boss is insisting on bringing a load of sauerkraut for the luncheon on Friday. He proclaims himself a traditionalist when it comes to the eating of sausages, by which he really means that he cleaves to the Teutonic way of eating them: with mustard and sauerkraut, and little else—especially, Jesus, no fucking ketchup. I told the boss that the meats I had gotten for the chili dogs were Johnsonville "Beddar Cheddar" cheese franks—exactly the wrong kind of frank for a Germanic purist. So this evening, I went up the street to the local "meatateria" (its Korean name is Seolseong Mokjang 설성목장, which I guess means something like "fertile farm"), a butcher shop that also sells a variety of John Cook products (along with pizza and other items). I was in luck: the store had honest-to-goodness Bratwurst—the white kind, which I like better than the brown/tan kind. I also espied a package of long, thin, German-style Frankfurter, so I grabbed a pack of those... and then I saw the kielbasa. It wasn't just a tiny, shrunken-dick sausage: it was an entire loop of fairly thick meat, which is quite unusual to find on the peninsula. Of course, I grabbed a pack off the rack.

This means more grillin' for yours truly tonight, but it shouldn't take too long. Oh, yeah: it occurs to me that I have an extra bottle of beer in my fridge (I bought beer for the chili-making). What I might do, then, is grill the sausages on my stovetop, then braise everything in a shallow pool of beer (sort of a reverse beer instead of a reverse sear). Ach, ja.



"Blogger blog takedown notification"

I just received an email—which may be fake, but probably isn't—notifying me of the suppression of a blog post of mine: this one here, about the face of a certain religious figure. If you click on the link and can see the post in question, then it could be that the post has simply been "made unavailable" (that's the phrase used in the email) in Pakistan, which is listed as the country "affected" by my post.

Text of the email (URLs removed in case they lead to malware):

Hello,

Google has been notified that content in your blog contains allegedly infringing content that may violate the rights of others and the laws of their country. The infringing content that has been made unavailable can be found at the end of this message. For more information about this removal and how it affects your blog, please visit https://support.google.com/blogger/bin/answer.py?l=en&answer=2402711.

The notice that we received, with any personally identifying information removed, will be posted online by a service called Lumen at https://www.lumendatabase.org. You can search for the notice associated with the removal of your content by going to the Lumen page, and entering in the URL of the blog post that was removed. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should consult your legal advisor.

Terms of Service: https://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/
Content Policy: https://www.blogger.com/content.g

The Google Team

Urls affected:
http://bighominid.blogspot.com/2012/10/no-depicting-prophet.html

Countries affected:
Pakistan

When I hover my cursor over the various URLs listed, the sites all seem to check out, so there's a good chance they're legit. The email's content, as you see, leads me to believe this is a region-specific blockage that has come about thanks to local laws (I did, in fact, visit the first URL in the email, which leads one to a site explaining country-specific blockage). Well, if superstitious folk wish to remain inside their bubble, who am I to stop them? As long as the post hasn't been outright removed by Google, I guess I'm OK with countries that want to repress themselves.



the pre-luncheon tour

I asked aloud whether anyone in the office wanted to "take a tour" of the food I had already brought to the office, and—almost like a scene from a movie—everyone got up and came with me to our faux kitchenette to see the goods. Apologies for some blurriness in a couple of the photos. First up: dog buns in the freezer—


Next, a look at how much space my food is taking up:


And then it was time to open the containers to give everyone a look/whiff. "What's that?" exclaimed one coworker, standing a bit too far away to see. Why, my dear, 'tis the chili:


Next up: the baked beans:


Finally, the corn salad, which seems to be holding up okay after three days:


I also showed off the cornbread, but since you've seen that already, I'm not showing it here.

Remarks from my coworkers:

"I think we should try some of this now to make sure it's fit to eat."
"I just wanna stick my whole head into the baked beans."
"I'm running off with the cornbread! Mine!"

As I mentioned earlier, I've grilled the hot dogs, so everything is now ready to go except the burger patties, the vegetable trimmings (onions and tomatoes and lettuce; pickles are pre-sliced and from the bottle), and the burger buns. There's going to be a hell of a lot of desperate cooking tomorrow night and, possibly, Friday morning. Luckily, I've carted over about 65-70% of the food at this point, so I won't have too much to lug over on Friday. What I'd like to do is come into the office a couple hours earlier than usual so I can focus on prep. I hope I can rouse myself at an ungodly, single-digit hour to do just that. I guarantee I'll be sleeping in late on Saturday, but I can't rest all day: I'll be meeting up with Charlie, formerly of KimcheeGI fame, to have a nice, relaxing meal on base. Sunday, then, will be the true day of rest.



VDH on collective derangement

With thanks to Dr. V: an essay by Victor Davis Hanson on the US left's Trump-derangement problem: "Just How Far Will the Left Go?"

The Left lost what it thought was a sure-thing election. There is now no assured 16-year Obama-Clinton regnum that would complete what the Obamas had called the final “fundamental transformation” of the United States. It cannot accept that it blew certain victory. A huge fundraising advantage, a toady media, massive defections of Republican establishment intellectuals and pundits, the lack of prior military or political experience of candidate Donald Trump, and a popular vote plurality all proved for naught. The unimaginable then became all too real.

And fantasy was substituted for reality as smears, slurs, and denials ensued. Think of the 2000 election cubed.

Trump is not a George H.W. Bush or Mitt Romney. He knows no etiquette. He is no gentleman. He is a bruiser, brawler, exaggerator, and performer. What created President Trump was not just “The Apprentice” or the Manhattan real estate market (such a résumé only honed his pugilist skills).

Rather, half the country was tired of Republicans grimacing as they were portrayed as throwing grandmothers off cliffs. They were tired of seeing political commercials of bodies of the murdered dragged behind trucks, or charges that Republicans cruelly put their pets on their car roof. They were tired of the anti-Semitic and racist Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a presidential candidate’s personal pastor, being off limits, but not the supposed senility of John McCain who in 2008 was pilloried as a doddering multi-millionaire who forgot how many houses he had owned. In 2012, it was Mitt Romney’s wife whose sins were wearing equestrian clothes.

Given the growing furor over half the country as demonized clingers, deplorables, and crazies, if Trump did not exist, a don’t-tread-on-me street fighter would have had to be invented. Progressives have gone ballistic that any opponent would reply to them in kind. Think of “Caddyshack,” when uncouth Rodney Dangerfield burst into smug Ted Knight’s country club.

The Left did not just lose the 2016 election, it lost the Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court. And it lost them all to a rash, uncouth Queens-accented Manhattan billionaire reality TV star, who systematically planned to dismantle eight years of Obama Administration executive-orders. And unlike almost all prior politicians Trump when in office kept his promises and systematically went about to halt the supposed progressive future. Think of a liberal nightmare something akin to Sarah Palin as president in 2012.

As for "lost the Congress," well... I guess we'll see what happens in November.

ADDENDUM: a very close friend of mine, and a dedicated liberal, has decided he's no longer my friend, and that I'm no longer welcome in his foyer. His reasons? A hilariously bad misreading of this post, which he took to mean that I'm actually eager for a coming civil war. Completely ignoring the "Princess Bride" quote that I attached as a way of reframing the warmongering prose in a sadly ironic light, my friend thinks I want to see "[his] brains on the sidewalk." Talk about derangement—this is derangement in the extreme, and when the reality-distortion filter dominates a person's perspective to that extent, well... it's sad, but maybe the time has indeed come to part ways. All I can say is that I was the one who was tolerant of differences in thought (it would never have occurred to me to repudiate my friend just because we fundamentally disagree about politics), and he's the one who's cutting off all chances for discussion. For a guy with a doctorate in English, he's a bit of a moron.



dogs ready to launch

I failed to find the griddle I wanted, but I already have a largish grill pan, so I used that to grill fifteen hot dogs at a time on my stovetop. Luckily, hot dogs are easy to pack:


These are going in the fridge, and on Friday, I'll probably warm them up by dunking them in boiling water (or as we say down south: bawlin' wudda') for a while. Because this particular cook is so huge, I might have to recruit someone to dole out the hot dogs.

I've been pondering the question of just how many portable gas stoves I need (I have two at my desk, with cans). I think I can get by with only one, but more likely, I'm going to need two: one devoted to keeping the chili warm (and constantly stirred), and another for reheating the burger patties and dogs. I can reduce the strain on the second burner by the above-mentioned method of keeping the dogs in hot water: once lunch begins, the dogs merely need to sit in the water, off the stove, and they'll be good for the duration of lunch. By doing that, I can use the second stove exclusively for reheating burger patties (which will be necessary if I want the cheese on the patties to melt). My kingdom for a chafing dish or three!

The one thing I want to avoid is forcing the diners to crowd around the microwave to heat up their burgers and dogs. If each person needs 30-45 seconds to heat one burger, and about the same amount of time to heat up a hot dog, then multiply 30-45 seconds by two to account for each protein, then by twenty-five to account for twenty-five diners. See the problem? People will become disgruntled because they have to wait to use the lone microwave. Far better to have everything hot and ready and on the table.

So the plan is: create separate stations in the room for potato chips, drinks, and dessert. Keep together at the main prep table: corn salad, baked beans (which I'll heat up, containerize, and serve while warm), burger and hot-dog buns, proteins, burger trimmings, chili, corn chips, and cheese. That's a lot to keep on one small table, but I think I can manage. If something needs to be at a separate table, it'll probably be the burger trimmings. We'll see how it all works out; I think that, on Friday, everything will coalesce of itself, and meal service will achieve a smooth, organic flow.

That's what I'm hoping for, anyway.



Tuesday, July 24, 2018

tonight's mission: the cheolpan

I'm on a mission to buy a cheolpan (rhymes, roughly, with "skull pond" pronounced the American way) this evening. The word, divided up, means "iron" (cheol) + "plate" (pan), and together, the syllables form a word meaning something like "griddle." In reality, cheolpan come in a variety of shapes and sizes: they can be round or rectangular, large or smallish; their surfaces can be flat or patterned (the latter of which I find annoying and inconvenient, especially when it's time to slip a spatula underneath, say, cooking fish); they can even vary somewhat in color, although most are a serious-looking dark gray. They can have non-stick coated surfaces or go commando. In my case, what I'm looking for is a cheolpan that'll make it much easier for me to cook several burgers at once. I really don't relish the thought of using a single pan to cook only one or maybe two burgers at a time.

The problem is that my new kitchenette's gas range has the burners set too close together: I'd like to be able to place two large pans on it, but a single large pan crowds out the other. As things stand, I can cook with one regular- or large-sized pot or pan on one burner, or with two very small pots/pans on both burners. Not convenient. A griddle would solve this problem, at least when it comes to flipping burgers or, say, to making pancakes. I measured the rectangular space that defines where both of my burners are; it's about 27 cm wide and 40 cm long. The question is: can I find a two-burner-wide griddle?

So tonight, I'm on the hunt for the perfect griddle. I'll try Lotte Mart at Jamshil first, then lumber over to the nearby Home Plus if I come up empty at Lotte. Wish me luck.



the reaming of James Gunn

We live in an era in which jokes from your long-gone former self will come back to haunt you, paraded around by a moral-panic PC lynch mob intent on sacrificing you on the altar of social justice. Director James Gunn, the talented guy behind two "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies, and no one's idea of a conservative, is the latest victim of the mob. Gunn apparently went through a phase, roughly a decade ago, during which he tweeted a barrage of off-color jokes, many having to do with pedophilia. Recently, Mike Cernovich, an alt-right personality and apparent tattle-tale, unearthed Gunn's old tweets, leading to a predictable wave of mob outrage, which in turn led to Disney's decision to fire Gunn, who has been working on "Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3." There's a campaign going on right now to have Gunn rehired; in brief, I'm very much for rehiring the man.

In a recent video, Styx took the bizarre position of affirming Gunn's freedom of speech while condemning Gunn for tweeting non-family-friendly material while working for Disney, a family-friendly company. Was Gunn, in fact, working for Disney at the time? Disney purchased Marvel in 2009, so it's arguable that Gunn's tweets from that era could have been made while he was not under the mouse's umbrella. The rest of the commentariat is assuming Gunn was a Disney prole by that point, so maybe Styx is right. That being said, I think it's rich for anyone on the right to revert to a schoolmarm's huffiness after years of preaching the doctrine of free speech in opposition to leftist prudishness (by which I mean: the PC tendency to stifle humor that might be even vaguely offensive to certain people and groups). Whatever the specifics of Gunn's case may be, he's being dumped on by both the right and the left, even as certain Marvel loyalists are lobbying to get him back in the director's chair.

Let's make this personal. I have long been a fan of off-color humor. The dirtiest and funniest joke I've ever heard has pedophilia as a sick punchline. I don't care; I laugh all the same. Now, your reaction to what I just wrote will probably fall along one of two major lines:

1. You can't separate reality from unreality, so you think that my laughter at a pedo joke makes me some sort of crypto-pedo myself, a notion that is offensive and repellent to you.

2. You can separate reality from unreality, so you understand that, while I might laugh at the filthy content of a pedo joke, this has no bearing whatsoever on my own sexual proclivities or on my sense of morality.

While we're at it, here's another thing I found hilarious: a soccer-related commercial (apparently banned) for the Manchester-based sporting-goods company Umbro with the helpful French caption, "réalisé avec trucage," i.e., "made with special effects." The commercial shows a young man tempting a small dog by holding a dog treat aloft. When the dog jumps for the treat, the young man deftly scoop-kicks the dog, who flies across the street with a comical yelp, splatting against the Plexiglas backing of a bus-stop shelter in which sits a startled lady. The dog does a cartoonish slide down the glass while the lady leaps up, horrified. Smash cut back to the young man, who does a victorious fist-pump after scoring his "goal."

Again, two likely reactions that say much about you:

1. If you're an animal lover who can't separate reality from unreality (i.e., you're unable to read this as humor and can only read it as animal cruelty), you'll be offended.

2. If you're able to separate reality from unreality, you'll enjoy the commercial for what it is: a goofy way of evoking soccer that is self-aware enough to deliberately tweak delicate sensibilities. This is what humor does: it runs across the line, flicks your nose, then runs back.

A female coworker of mine, back around 2006, was mightily offended when I showed her the above-linked commercial (to be honest, I'm surprised it's still enshrined on YouTube). She was an animal lover, and unable to see the humor inherent in the commercial. I'm not questioning her right to be offended, mind you; what I question is her grasp on reality.

People largely seem to fall into these types which, by the way, shouldn't be thought of as utterly separate categories: people can, at different points in their lives, shift back and forth between them, and folks may even incarnate a mixture of attitudes, being super-sensitive about some matters but raunchily relaxed about others. (I myself found it hard to listen to any kind of cancer-related humor right after Mom died. At times, it's still difficult for me, but as a mental and moral exercise, I force myself to realize it's only humor, and people are free to say what they like.)

As you might guess, my overall feeling is that James Gunn was reamed. So what if he was virulently anti-Trump? That simply makes him yet another Hollywood stooge—no surprises there. If you're not liberal, you need to get used to the fact that most entertainment is brought to you by liberals, like it or not. I looked over a collection of Gunn's filthy tweets from the past (don't click that link if you're too delicate), and some of what I saw made me chuckle, and other things made me go, "Bleh... who cares?" Conservatives who are getting huffy about Gunn right now are doing so mainly because the man is anti-Trump, and if they're upset because of the lurid content of his tweets, well, they can join hands across the aisle with the PMRC-loving Tipper Gore crowd on the left.

Meanwhile, I think stripping Gunn of his ability to work on his labor of love is a cruel gesture, and Gunn should be reinstated pronto. And while we wait and hope for Gunn to return to the helm, people need to respect freedom of speech and prepare to be offended; that's part of what free speech is all about.



cornbread

I've heard that cracks are often a sign that you're doing something wrong. Or maybe that's just when it comes to cheesecake. Anyway, this cornbread is from an AllRecipes.com recipe:


I didn't have true cornmeal; all I had was polenta (which some people call "cornmeal," but based on some reading/looking around, it's obvious that not everyone agrees on the nomenclature). I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 and was able to make one large cake-pan-ful and two small cake-pan-fuls of cornbread. Since I've made these rather early in the week, I plan to tip them out and wrap them in cling film, then store them in airtight Ziploc bags until the appointed hour. On Friday, I'll likely reheat them a bit in the microwave and ask a coworker to use a basting brush to paint them with melted butter. You know—to make them healthier.

As you see, I cut out a piece and tried it with butter. It wasn't particularly memorable, but it certainly wasn't bad. Next time around, I'll add a bit more sugar and butter to the mix, and maybe another egg. The top of the bread is quite suntanned, but nothing's been burned. I won't win any points on aesthetics, but I think the crowd will munch the bread down (preferably with chili) all the same.



Monday, July 23, 2018

changement de plan

Dammit. A hot-dog-sized monkey wrench has been thrown into the works, but I think I can recover. I went to the No Brand store during my lunch hour, in search of my favorite pork franks. Alas, the store had nothing like that in stock: instead, it was selling these packages of extremely skinny Wurst. While such a sausage might be better than nothing, when it comes to making chili dogs, I want the best. Of course, when you come up empty and can't buy the best, you have little choice but to settle for the second-best. For me, that meant schlepping back to my office building's basement grocery and buying up their stock of Johnsonville "Beddar Cheddar" dogs. I think these dogs actually come in a natural casing, which means I won't want to boil them the way I'd boil a typically "naked" (i.e., uncased) frank. Instead, I'll pan-fry these fuckers tonight, pile them into a plastic container, then take them to the office later this week, possibly even Friday.

While I'm at it, let me bitch and moan about the food I lugged over today: I hauled about 18 kg (weighed it) of food from my place to the office, taking a taxi to span most of that distance. In my Costco bag—which has been suffering much abuse at my hands, what with all the heavy loads I carry in it—I had packed the corn salad, the baked beans, the chili, the Shack Sauce, a bottle of BBQ sauce, two blocks of sliced American cheese, a bag of Kirkland shredded Tex-Mex cheese, a bottle of sliced pickles, two large packs of hot-dog buns, and two large bags of chips—Fritos corn chips and Kirkland sea-salt, ripple-cut potato chips. I was able to lug the bag one-handed, but my back complained the entire time.

I also ordered my "milk buns" today; they'll arrive at the office building's basement grocery on Thursday. Once they arrive, I'll take them home, slice them into halves, toast their insides, then maybe turn them into sesame rolls if I have the time and energy. If not, no biggie.

Tonight's mission, which may bleed into tomorrow's mission, will be to bake enough cornbread for everyone to have at least two pieces. That's about 50 pieces total.

And once this massive cook is finished, and I'm slumped over my desk in exhaustion, I'm going to have to ponder whether it's worth it for me to continue doing these luncheons as a once-a-month thing. If I do them as every-other-month events, while still rotating the teams that we invite to eat with us R&Ders, then those teams will no longer be coming to our office at a rate of once every three months: the rotation will change to once every six months, i.e., only twice a year. While doing these luncheons isn't financially ruinous to me, I'm sensing some cracks in my normally unsinkable budget. And in terms of sheer effort, well, this is a hell of a lot of cooking. As a cook, I'm slow to begin with, and whenever I plan out and serve what is essentially an entire meal (usually with the exception of drinks and dessert, which I farm out to other coworkers), prep normally takes days, requiring careful planning. It's like a one-man version of Robert Irvine's show, "Dinner Impossible." I'm beginning to appreciate the herculean effort my mother put into the large-scale meals she had served at Korean events and at my brother Sean's cello concerts. She would feed literally hundreds, cooking everything in our humble kitchen, and it's only now that I'm beginning to understand the sheer scale of what she used to do. Here I am, complaining about feeding twenty-five people, but from a Mom-scale perspective, feeding two dozen hungry people is nothing. It's a humbling thought.

ADDENDUM: un autre changement de plan: I had listed cole slaw as something to make. Gonna nix that. I think corn salad/slaw, baked beans, and corn bread really ought to be enough. A man can go only so insane.



whew

All weekend long, I'd had this nightmare that the new plastic plates I had bought, ten-inchers, would be too wide to fit inside our office's lone microwave, thus making it impossible for people to warm up their hamburgers this coming Friday. Today at the office, I grabbed a plate, rushed over to the microwave, and slipped the flatware inside.

No problem. Perfect fit.

Thank Cthulhu.

But is the plastic microwave-safe?

Fuck.



Shawn is now of the dead

Did I mention that the new No Brand store, just up the street from where I work, occupies the space vacated by the awful Shawn's American Grill? You may vaguely recall my negative experience the one time I went to Shawn's; I vowed never to return. The place opened in 2016, and now it's already gone. Well, good. Restaurants anywhere are always a risky proposition, given their inherently slim profit margins, but they make things harder for themselves when they get the ambiance right while producing shite food. Bad quality = bad karma.

Anyway, Shawn's demise has worked out in my favor: I'll be heading over to the No Brand store later today to pick up a mess of hot dogs, thus bringing me that much closer to finishing up my meal prep for Friday.



4 out of 6 ain't bad

Of my six list items, I managed to do four (in red):

1. Hot dogs, and by "prep," all I mean is "buy"; true prep will be super-simple.
2. Shack Sauce: this will be from a recipe by Kenji López-Alt.
3. Chili: pretty much self-explanatory. Con carne, with beans.
4. Corn salad: a medley of corn, bell peppers, chili peppers, and onion.
5. Baked beans: beans, bacon, hot dogs, BBQ sauce, brown sugar, and a bit of mustard.
6. Corn bread + butter: to go with the chili.

I'm not too worried about the hot dogs; I can buy them at any time up to Thursday. I am, however, worried that I bought the hot-dog buns too early. If they're mold-spotted by Thursday, I'll have no choice but to buy more on Thursday night or Friday morning, bright and early (on weekdays, Costco opens at 8 a.m. locally). That would be a waste.* I'm hoping that the "milk buns" will be available to order next week: they had been on display for two or three days last week, but by last Thursday, they had disappeared.

I haven't baked the corn bread, but I look forward to doing so Monday night. I've made cornbread from scratch before; it's about the only bread-like thing I've ever baked, unless you count cakes from pre-packaged cake mixes.

Around Wednesday, I'll buy the fresh vegetables needed for the hamburger's trimmings: lettuce and tomatoes. I've got some onions that can be quickly cut up and packaged, and I've got a bottle of sliced pickles that I'll be toting to work, probably tomorrow, as a way to lighten my load come Friday morning.

A few words about the things I did make:

1. The corn salad—think of it as a sort of slaw—may be among the best corn salads I've ever made. I added some chili flakes to it to give it some kick, and all the ingredients work wonderfully together. As I've said before, ever since I realized that the slaw's dressing doesn't need to be overthought, I haven't overthought it. The base is simply a fusion of mayonnaise and pickle juice, which sounds gross, but which tastes quite delicious. Add some black pepper and toss with the main ingredients: corn, minced green bell peppers, minced red bell peppers, minced chili peppers, and dried-onion flakes. No salt: the vinegar in the mayo is enough to initiate a slight pickling process; salt would accelerate that, and by Friday, I'd be looking at a Ziploc bag full of limp vegetables and foul, whitish liquid. (I had wanted to end this paragraph on a positive, appetizing note. I don't know what happened.)

2. Shack Sauce: God bless Kenji López-Alt for that recipe! I've never been to a Shake Shack, and I can't say how close KLA's reverse-engineered Shack Sauce recipe is to the real thing, but I don't fucking care—it's an amazing sauce, and I can already tell it's meant to be slapped on a burger. One hitch, in making the sauce, was that the recipe called for dill pickles, which are hard to find in Korea. I ended up using sweet cornichons, but I added a few shakes of dried dill before blitzing all the ingredients together. That made a world of difference; I could taste the dill after everything had been mixed, and it was glorious. I think this sauce is going to be a hit, but just in case, I'm hedging my bets with some extra leftover barbecue sauce from when I did the pulled-pork sliders.

3. Baked beans: I must say, I've learned a lot about Canadian Great Northern beans over the course of the past 24 hours. First, they drink up water like crazy. Second, contrary to what some recipes recommend, they don't need anything near a full hour's boil after an overnight soak: 40 minutes ought to be plenty. My beans, after nearly an hour of boiling, were getting on the soft side, but they still held their shape. I noticed, too, that they tasted good with only salt (in the water) as a seasoning. Duly noted. I had planned to add those beans to my chili this evening; instead, they all went into the baked-beans side dish, along with a few cans of pre-made baked beans. The canned beans were pintos, so the resulting combination of beans provided a bit of variety in size, texture, color, and maybe even taste. I made a sauce that began with a base of ketchup and brown sugar, then I built upward from there with some dried-onion flakes, powdered garlic, a glop of BBQ sauce, a blot of mustard... and I think that's about it. No Worcestershire sauce; no whiskey. Wasn't necessary. The beans tasted incredible, especially after I added the crispy remains of a one-pound package of bacon (probably reduced by more than half as it sizzled away). I had wanted to add chopped-up hot dogs to the side dish, but I think I might leave it as it is. The beans are on the sweet side—I have a sweet tooth, but if you eat them along with the corn salad, you can't go wrong.

4. Chili: as I did when I served chili dawgs to my friends last year, I relied on my variation of YouTuber Chef John's chili recipe. It came out well—in fact, it's cooling off right as I'm typing this, and it'll be containerized soon. There must be a couple gallons of chili in my new, huge, stainless-steel pot; luckily, I've got plastic containers big enough to handle such a load. The catering service continues to grow.

While I'm frustrated not to have accomplished all six of my to-do items, I don't consider myself behind schedule. The hot dogs and corn bread can both be taken care of by the time I go to bed Monday night (or, more likely, sometime around dawn on Tuesday morning!). The rest of my to-dos can all be done on the original schedule. As I mentioned before, my biggest concern is how to handle the burgers, but I think I've got a strategy for that. The only other worrisome variable is the milk buns: if I don't get them by Wednesday, that means another trip to Costco to get their hamburger buns, which are okay, but nothing to write home about.

Things are good. Much accomplished. No stress thus far.



*To forestall rotting, I normally refrigerate or freeze my bread, but I currently have no room in my fridge, and the office fridge is similarly full. I'm keeping the buns in a closet right now, but I don't know if that's the best solution for them.



Sunday, July 22, 2018

great Styx rant

Styx gets his rant on re: the left's supposed "tolerance" and the actual intolerant reality, plus why it's impossible to trust the mainstream media, which promotes distortions of the truth along with fearmongering:


Part of what Styx talks about is a man-on-the-street interview conducted by Lauren Southern (a Canadian conservative and prominent alt-media YouTuber—and she's so damn young!). You've already read my caveats about the value of such interviews, but in this case, I don't think Southern—who was apparently in Australia—has discovered anything different from what other interviewers have discovered while on American university campuses: the thinking is utterly brainwashed and, with very few exceptions, utterly univocal. This is the zombie apocalypse, in my opinion: diversity of thought is pretty much gone from the one place where it most ought to be flourishing.

This is not a discussion anymore; it's just a screaming match. So, lads, it's sad to say, but let's all suit up and get ready for the much-ballyhooed civil war. The ones with the most guns will win, I think, and fairly quickly, too. Time to crack some skulls.

You mean...
you'll put down your rock,
and I'll put down my sword,
and we'll try and kill each other
like civilized people?

—Man in Black, "The Princess Bride"



another shopping spree, then meal prep

My back is killing me, and I don't know why. I think it may be because of the super-heavy load I dragged to my apartment from Costco last night, but I've lugged heavier without suffering this problem. Anyway, I'm taking aspirin to combat the pain, and it's helping a bit. (Too much aspirin, and I start bleeding out of the wrong holes.) I can also move around, albeit slowly and delicately, so I'm good to go with today's shopping and the beginning of today's cooking.

I plotted it out last night: I've got six things to make ready today, and if I don't get them all done, I can work on the remainder tomorrow without destroying my schedule. The six thing to prep today are:

1. Hot dogs, and by "prep," all I mean is "buy"; true prep will be super-simple.
2. Shack Sauce: this will be from a recipe by Kenji López-Alt.
3. Chili: pretty much self-explanatory. Con carne, with beans.*
4. Corn salad: a medley of corn, bell peppers, chili peppers, and onion.
5. Baked beans: beans, bacon, hot dogs, BBQ sauce, brown sugar, and a bit of mustard.
6. Corn bread + butter: to go with the chili.

So: I'm off to visit, for the first time ever, John Cook Deli Meats near Apgujeong Station to pick up some andouille so I can finish off my gumbo broth (to which I'll be adding some filé powder, which recently came in the mail). After that, I'm going to another local grocery to get most of the remaining items on my shopping list: my own building's grocery is closed today per the stupid, anti-capitalist regulation that big-brand stores must close every 2nd and 4th Sunday to give littler stores a chance to compete. I would be off to the local No Brand store (yay! one just opened up a couple weeks ago in the Daechi neighborhood!) to buy hot dogs, but No Brand is part of E-Mart, so it's closed today as well.



*In a stroke of awesome luck, I discovered that my downstairs grocery is selling 750-gram plastic bottles of Canadian Great Northern beans, which go well with chili. I started soaking a batch last night; unlike chickpeas, Great Northern beans absorb water at a shockingly fast rate (but the two beans' absorptive capacity is about the same). Adding them to the chili ought to be great fun. Oh, yeah: the reason why I went hunting for dried beans in the first place is that I needed four cans of baked beans for my chili recipe, but the grocery had only three, which caused me to go into MacGyver mode and root around for beany alternatives. Stumbling upon Great Northerns was a huge stroke of luck: these beans are often used alongside of, and can be used in place of, the more classically Tex-Mex pinto beans. (I'd have to travel to Itaewon to find cans of kidney beans, and I can't be arsed to do that.)



your dose of Sunday entertainment

If you're not familiar with Ozzy Man Reviews, this is a YouTube channel on which an Ozzy man (i.e., an Aussie, i.e., an Australian bloke) overlays his own wacky narration onto popular (and sometimes not-so-popular) YouTube videos. In many cases, his unhinged comedy raises the quality of the original video by an order of magnitude. Here's a typical vid in which the Ozzy Man offers commentary about a "homewrecker penguin":


Meanwhile, Jesse of Voto Studios has come out with a hilarious video on Mexican muay thai. I'm beginning to realize that his channel is some sort of oblique tribute to the music and culture of the 1980s. Listen for the Edward James Olmos "finger man" quote from that scene in "Stand and Deliver" when Jaime Escalante shows a student how to use ten fingers to do the nine-times table. You can also watch the scene here.


If you've been following Jesse's recent updates, you know that, several episodes ago, he tried to kill his cousin Flaco (I had to look up flaco in the dictionary; it means "skinny"), but everything now seems to be more or less back on track.

Finally, we've got the continuation of the giant-metal-dart obsession shared by the Aussie guys of the How Ridiculous channel. In this episode from a while back, the giant dart is pitted against an old, dead refrigerator. Since the dart—a gift from a viewer—weighs in at a good and deadly 15 kg, I think you can guess what will happen, but that's not going to stop you from looking on in morbid fascination.






Saturday, July 21, 2018

one reason to love the internet: purchasing tickets from afar

With the internet, I no longer have to go to a travel agency to find a decent deal on a flight. And since I know French, I can traipse on over to the SNCF website (SNCF = Société nationale des chemins de fer = France's state-owned railroad company) to get train tickets without having to deal with surly employees au comptoir (at the counter). I had been trying to buy un aller-retour (round-trip) ticket from Paris to and from the town of Niort, which is only a few kilometers from my buddy Dominique's B&B; the aller part wasn't a problem, but I kept getting a "train non ouvert" message ("train not open") every time I tried to select a train for the retour to Paris. In the end, I gave up and bought just the aller-simple. I'll worry about the retour once I'm there. And since I'm going to be on vacation, I said "fuck it" and bought a first-class ticket, which was only a few euros more expensive than deuxième classe.

It'll be a bit of a race to get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to La Gare de Montparnasse, but I've given myself almost a two-hour window to do it: arrival at Roissy (Charles de Gaulle Airport) at 6:30 p.m., TGV from Gare de Montparnasse departing at 8:22 p.m. Since I won't have any checked baggage, I can spare myself the hassle of waiting at the baggage claim and can simply proceed past passport control and out into France itself, into the wilds of the Paris Metro, which has doubtless evolved over the intervening years.

Dominique and I have been emailing furiously back and forth over the past 24 hours, and he tells me not to bother taking a cab from Niort to Le Vanneau-Irleau: he'll simply drive to Niort to pick me up. So I've got dat goin' for me. Which is nice.

In case you're having trouble picturing Dominique and his lovely family, here's a pic from January of this year.



my biggest stunt yet

I've got a burgers-and-chili-dawgs luncheon coming up on Friday the 27th. Today's a major shopping day for many of the things I'll need, but not for everything. For example, it makes no sense to buy cabbage for cole slaw right now: if I made cole slaw over the weekend, it would be wilted and nasty by Friday. Same goes for the beef patties: buying the beef right now is a bit premature: the beef needs to be fresh, so I'll likely buy it Wednesday night and cook it up late Friday morning.

I've been trying to parse out this enormous task, breaking it down into smaller tasks. I think I've solved the bread problem: I had originally wanted to bake my own buns based on a recipe I saw from Korean YouTuber Maangchi, but then I encountered these fantastic "milk buns" being sold at the grocery in the basement of my building. They're the same consistency as Maangchi's bread. I can buy the milk buns, halve them, lightly toast the insides with butter, and voilà—bread done! I still need to make the Shake Shack-style "special sauce," but I think I have most of the ingredients for that. Chili, which is a major feature of the meal, will be made this weekend. Baked beans, with chopped-up hot dog, will also be made in the next 36 hours. Slaw will have to wait until Wednesday or so. The hot dogs are the easiest part: buy them in mass quantities, then begin gently boiling them on Friday morning. They need at least two hours to get to where I want them. Hot-dog buns are a Costco thing: Costco sells large boxes of buns, and any extra buns can be bought at the local "meatateria," which sells a good bit more than regular meat. (Or I can just buy a second box of hot-dog buns from Costco.)

For the meal, I'm offering nothing healthy:

• smash burgers (trimmings of lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion + special sauce)
• chili dawgs
• chili bowl (dogless, burgerless chili w/cheese and jalapeños)
• corn bread (for the chili-bowl option)
• chips (potato and corn, the latter for the chili if desired)
• baked beans
• cole slaw
• corn salad

...that ought to be enough, right?

The group that's coming to the luncheon, the "ipshi team," is by far the largest team in our department: they've got fifteen people, and our R&D team has eight members. That's going to be quite a crowd. Since I already have two folding tables from Costco, we can seat twelve guests with no problem. The three remaining guests can sit at empty work stations, and we R&Ders will sit at our own work stations, too.

One thing that's puzzled me is how to handle the smash burgers. Cooking them on Monday, then storing them in the fridge or freezer, presents the practical problem of having to reheat all that meat on Friday; plus, a lot of the juice might flow out of the meat, leaving you with bad burgers. Cooking the burgers at any time presents the practical problem of smoke: smash burgers are supposed to be made on a ripping-hot pan, with about 45 seconds of searing/cooking per side. That's the whole point of a smash burger: if you sear two small patties that add up to one regular-sized patty, you're doubling the seared surface area and amping up flavor, which is the essence of the charm of a place like Shake Shack (or so they say; I've never been there). I might be able to circumvent the smoke problem with my my new, fairly powerful range-hood fan plus my stand-alone electric fan. I also have to figure out where to insert cheese into the burger-making process. What I think I'm going to do is this: cook up all the burgers (60 small patties) early Friday morning, throw the burgers into a plastic container where they can keep each other warm for an hour or two, cart the whole thing over to work, slap cheese onto the patties as the burgers are being served, and instruct the diners to use the next-door microwave to finish the cooking off: 30-45 seconds ought to be enough time to melt the cheese and significantly reheat the burgers, at least around the edges. The diners can then come back and top their burgers off with trimmings. If I cook and pile up the burgers too early in the morning, I can store them in my oven, at low heat, until it's time to pack them up and transport them.

There's much more to think about, but you get the idea: this luncheon will be the biggest catering project I've ever done. Wish me luck.