Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Joe Duff's keto bread

I made that one loaf of keto bread a few months ago, and it was eggy as hell, along with being more of a cake than actual bread. The loaf did admittedly taste better after a couple days, but I still think of that experience as a failure. I'd been in never-again mode ever since. Along comes "diet chef" Joe Duff, who seems to like presenting his keto-recipe vids while wearing a tank top that shows off how hairy he is (definitely a turn-off when watching food videos). I assume Joe is just showing off his muscles as part of his branding (going keto = getting pumped), so I try to overlook the hirsutism and focus on the cooking.

Joe has a keto-bread recipe that still looks cake-y in terms of the crumb, but which uses only a single egg for the entire loaf (as opposed to the seven eggs that went into the recipe I tried). The other bread ingredients look conducive to making some sort of white bread, e.g., sour cream, mozzarella, and cream cheese, along with bleached almond flour (which I finally have). Joe's recipe also calls for unflavored whey-protein powder, so I've ordered the Bob's Red Mill version of that, and it'll arrive either this weekend or sometime early next week.

Anyway, I'm stoked to try making a type of keto bread that isn't as eggy as that last loaf I'd made. Watch Joe's how-to video below, or skip over to his recipe page here. Wish me luck: I'll be making Joe's bread sometime during the next seven days.

UK election predictions

How much of the UK will be motivated to vote for the Brexit Party (I capitalize the "P" in "Party" because "Brexit Party" is the party's official name!)?

Scotland has degenerated into whingeing, codependent bitchiness, so we can't count on the Scots to fight for independence (and that's a massive historical irony, given that nation's fiercely independence-loving past). Northern Ireland also doesn't seem likely to vote pro-Brexit, so I wouldn't count on the Irish to help Nigel Farage out. London and the area surrounding London voted heavily for Remain last time around, and I don't think those cowards' thinking has changed at all over the past couple of years. That leaves the rest of the UK, and I have high hopes that voters will turn out in droves and propel the Brexit party to a position of real influence.

But we'll see. The election is tomorrow, December 12. I don't pray at all these days, but I'll be keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that the good old UK will find itself again, wake from its current slumber, and recover its dignity.

terlit woes redux

Last night, I saw that my toilet had started leaking again. Goddammit.

Here's the thing: when I got back from my big walk, I waited a bit before repairing the toilet. I wanted to see whether the lazy repairman had actually gotten so far as to stop the leaking. It seemed that he had: for several days, there was no leak, so I decided not to reinvent the wheel and do a full repair, instead electing to buy sealant and to close off all the cracked-open areas around the toilet's bottom that the repairman had neglected to seal. Apparently, based on what I saw last night, the repairman had done a shitty job of repairing the toilet, so I guess I'm going to be spending the coming weekend in the warehouse district, looking for toilet-repair equipment. In theory, I could ask my HR department to contact building maintenance and have a guy come up to do the repair, but I suspect it'll be the same shitty job as last time. If you want things done right, as they say, you have to do them yourself. Besides: it'll be educational. In a bizarre way, I kind of look forward to the coming challenge.

about that Inspector General's report

Both the left and the right seem to be claiming victory now that the IG report on the Russiagate investigation has come out. But it's not really looking all that good for the left, nor is it looking good for the FBI. Read more here. I normally hesitate to link to the Victory Girls blog because the writing always strikes me as breathless and subpar, but the above-linked blog post contains some important substance, so link I must.

1988's "Die Hard" was prophetic: "You wanted miracles, Theo? I give you the F... B... I."

a surprisingly honest look at recycling

I generally like the educational videos on YouTube—the ones aimed primarily at high-schoolers—but I recognize that many of these shows (e.g., crash Course History) tend to have a distinct leftward bias. Which is why the following video came as a pleasant surprise: while it's positive about the potential benefits of recycling, it's also fairly honest about the problems with recycling as it's practiced today:

Compare the above to my previous posts on this topic, especially here and here.

AQI sucks

The air sucks in Seoul. It sucked all of Tuesday, and it's sucking right now, at 12:30 a.m.:

One of my supervisors has been talking, lately, about leaving Korea because of the air-quality problem. He's got a wife and two kids, and he doesn't want his loved ones ending up with black lung as if they were working in a coal mine. Can't say I blame him.

Leaving Korea because of the air sounds like a silly reason to leave, a made-up reason, but the problem is real. South Korea's air never quite gets as bad as it does in Beijing, where the PM2.5 air quality can often reach an insane 500, but it's bad when Seoul is pushing 200. Just for comparison's sake, Alexandria, Virginia—my hometown—has an average AQI of about 22 (it's currently 42, but still in the green "good" range). It's very clean, despite being a traffic nightmare thanks to all the VA/DC commuting. I just checked smoggy Los Angeles; it, too, is currently in the green with an AQI of 46. Central Beijing is anywhere between 250 and 370 right now. When people shake their finger at the US for having pulled out of the disastrous Paris Climate Accords, they ought to check things like relative air quality before lecturing Americans about their pollution output. (By the way, Paris, home of the accords, is currently registering a 57, i.e., it's in the yellow. So shut up, France. The US is doing a better job of keeping to the Accords—despite not being part of them—than you are.)

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

why I admire Sam the Cooking Guy

Sam isn't always the most articulate person in the world. He can't pronounce "unctuous" to save his life. His videos also tend to be about comfort food, so it might be easy for snobbier foodies to dismiss him as un-serious. But Sam is damn funny, and if there's one thing he's an absolute Jedi master at, it's cooking large hunks of meat to perfection. I've seen dozens or even hundreds of Sam's videos at this point, and it always amazes me how he's able to cook any steak or filet to just the right level of doneness. The video below, which features a porterhouse, is no exception. Watch and marvel when Sam cuts the meat open to reveal immaculate pinkness. He's a firm believer in the reverse-sear method: safely bake your steak or filet in the oven, low and slow, until you reach the right internal temperature, then pull the meat out and sear it for less than a minute per side in a ripping-hot cast-iron pan. I don't have such a pan (I've been hesitant about getting one because of the constant maintenance such pans need), and even if I did have one, I'm not sure I'd be able to sear a steak properly inside my apartment: the fire alarm would go off. So all I can do is watch Sam do his cooking thing, and until I get a cast-iron pan of my own and work up the nerve to risk tripping the fire alarm, that's where things must stand. Enjoy the video.

voices crying in the wilderness

I've been openly pondering moving to Wyoming should I ever return to the States. Virginia, my home state, seems to have become a lost cause, given its long plunge into leftism. Gun rights are about to be whisked away, and the state's finances are being handled in an increasingly centralized manner. Immigration is becoming a huge problem in Fairfax County, my home county. As much as I love the idea of moving to Front Royal, I have to wonder whether I'd be shielded from the ambient rot. I keep hoping that Virginia regain its senses, but that would require a spark of rebelliousness that doesn't seem to be forthcoming anytime soon. Then again, I just saw this:

The above photo is from this article by Paul Joseph Watson. Excerpt:

A banner warning “mass immigration turned Virginia blue” was hung over Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia by conservative activists.

The banner was reportedly hung by self-identified ‘America First’ activists, sometimes known as ‘Groypers’.

Groypers have been actively protesting against what they term ‘Conservative Inc.’ over the last 6 weeks, establishment conservatives who are accused of naively supporting legal immigration despite the fact that it is ensuring demographic replacement.

The idea of demographic replacement has been labeled by the media as a racist dog whistle for white supremacy, although it’s apparently acceptable for leftists to discuss the idea, so long as they’re in favor of it.

As we highlighted last week, during a recent Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights event, civil rights lawyer and racial justice advocate Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the George Soros-funded Advancement Project, openly admitted that less white people in America means more power for Democrats.

“When we get to 2042 or 2045, whatever you wanna use, we actually will not be suffering from what other countries like South Africa have which is having the numbers but not having the power,” said Dianis.

“People say that demographics aren’t destiny, well we are trying to make it destiny,” she added.

Immigration, per se, is neither good nor bad. Accepting illegal immigrants who have no wish to assimilate, though: that's double-plus ungood.

Here's Tim Pool on immigration along the southern border:

Pool wonders: why do African migrants go through countries like Mexico and Brazil on their way to the States? Why not just stop in Mexico and Brazil? These are perfectly fine countries. "You are taking advantage of our hospitality," Pool says. I agree.

Pat Condell on Brexit

Vote for the pro-Brexit party! The election is on December 12.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Larry Elder on Trump on ol' Uncle Maxine

I actually think that, of all the forms of bigotry that Trump is accused of, the charge of sexism—not racism—is the one most likely to stick. Donald Trump used to own the Miss USA pageant, for example, so he's obviously used to thinking of women as commodities, and this impression is reinforced by his series of trophy wives—most of whom did (and do) have brains and personalities of their own (Melania speaks several languages, as has been widely pointed out), but who were also undeniably trophies in terms of their looks. Trump's insulting "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?" regarding Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, back during the 2016 debates, is another very public example of Trump's lack of hesitancy when it comes to instantly judging a woman's looks (or, rather, judging a woman by her looks). It also doesn't help matters that two dozen women still stand at the ready to accuse Trump of varying degrees of sexual harassment and assault—a matter that probably won't resolve itself until after Trump's second term, when he'll be around 78 years old (assuming he lives that long, of course)—as feeble and doddering as Ronald Reagan at the end of his tenure.

Meanwhile, there is no direct, concrete evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. The evidence, in fact, seems to show otherwise. Lately, black and Latino unemployment figures are at record lows. Is that something a racist would push for? Photos of Trump with the likes of Al Sharpton, Muhammad Ali, and Rosa Parks are in the public domain, easily accessible to anyone open-minded enough to seek them out. Would a racist receive an award, alongside Ali and Parks, for promoting racial harmony? Calling Maxine Waters an idiot doesn't make Trump racist. Maxine Waters is an idiot, and that has nothing to do with the color of her skin. Idiots come in all shapes and sizes. Telling members of "the Squad" that they ought to return to the lands of their births, solve the problems there, then come back and teach the rest of us how to solve problems in this country—that's not racist, either. To claim that Trump was racist because the four women of the Squad are women "of color," as the parlance goes, is to psychologize, i.e., to claim to read Trump's mind. You think you know what Trump intended when he targeted those women? You're telepathic? Well, what's your evidence that the alternative explanation isn't true: that Trump was calling these women out for having been vocally disloyal—each in her own slimy, slithery way—to the United States despite holding seats in Congress? You have no such evidence, which makes you as much of an idiot as Maxine Waters. Granted: the only member of the Squad actually born outside the US is Ilhan Omar, so if you think Trump is an idiot for telling the other three women to go back to their supposed homelands, I'm not going to argue with you. It was an idiotic way to phrase whatever he was trying to say. Trump is no wordsmith; we need only consult his cringe-inducing record on Twitter to confirm that. (And unlike Styx, I don't buy into the theory that Trump is actually a competent writer who is deliberately misspelling and flubbing the grammar of his tweets as a way to make people pay attention to them. This isn't 4-D chess; it's D-level English.)

You want to convince me that Trump is a racist? Then provide direct evidence of his racism. Present to me an audio recording of Trump saying "nigger" or declaring that whites built America, own America, and will always rule this land. Present to me some Wikileaks emails from Trump in which he talks about "the master race." Give me something real. All the rabid left has provided, thus far, is "evidence" that must be interpreted a certain way to be considered evidence at all. Trump said, during the 2016 campaign, that Mexicans are bringing crime, drugs, and rape into the US. That must be racist, right? Well, it's not. The word "Mexican" doesn't denote a race, fool. Plus, there are facts to back up the idea that crime, drugs, and rape tend to rise in areas where illegal border crossings are happening. (And if you want more data than US data, look at Sweden. Or France. Or England. Or... you get the picture.) Or what about when Trump said that US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel might have a conflict of interest in the Trump University case because of his "Mexican heritage"? Do you think that was racist? Once again: the word "Mexican" doesn't—denote—a—race. Get that through your thick skull. And besides, Trump may have had good reason to question Judge Curiel's objectivity. What about when Trump supposedly said, during the Charlottesville incident, that there were "good people on both sides"? Was he giving a pass to white supremacists? No, and shame on you for believing fake news. These bits of so-called "evidence" of Trump's racism are worth absolutely nothing. Give me direct, concrete, material evidence, though, and I'll get on my knees and apologize to you for having been so mistaken about Trump. But I don't think you can ever provide such evidence because such evidence doesn't exist. As Styx says: Trump doesn't have a racist bone in his body.

In short: Larry Elder makes good points, and the people accusing Trump of racism are hypocrites with their heads rammed firmly up their asses. But as far as I'm concerned, if you want to accuse Trump of sexism, there's plenty of direct evidence for that accusation.


Actor René Auberjonois—known for playing the rifle-toting pastor in Mel Gibson's "The Patriot" and, perhaps more famously, the shape-shifting Odo on TV's "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"—died yesterday, December 8, at the age of 79. Grandson of a Swiss post-Impressionist painter of the same name, Auberjonois enjoyed a distinguished family heritage that reached back to Napoleonic France and to Russian nobility. The man always had something of a stiff, regal bearing, as well as one of the most correct ways of enunciating English that I have ever heard. His pronunciation was sharp enough to perform surgery with. Always an impressive screen presence, and constitutionally incapable of playing undignified roles (can one of my readers cite a role in which Auberjonois played, say, a drunken homeless person or an inarticulate loser with a gambling addiction?), Auberjonois died of metastatic lung cancer. He was at his home at the time of his passing. Despite being as American as apple pie, Auberjonois had the sort of stately poise that would have allowed him to blend in seamlessly with the cast of "Downton Abbey." While I can't say I've seen much of his TV and cinematic filmography, I can say he was always a memorable presence, gifted not only with dignity but also with a precise sense of comic timing. He will be missed.

some topical online humor

veterans react to military movies

The following vid features Mat Best of Black Rifle Coffee fame. Best sits down with two other vets to watch some old war movies starring iconic actors like John Wayne, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I just finished reading Best's humorous and insightful autobiography, Thank You for My Service. Will be posting a review soon.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Arnold does Clint

Another funny Deepfake video with Ah-nold as Dirty Harry:

The Arnold impersonator was hilarious, and the Deepfake quality was okay, but only as long as we had a full-frontal shot of Harry's face. Any time Harry angled his head, we'd be back to seeing Clint. Keep workin' on that software, Deepfakers!

hell is hardcore

Over at Michael Gilleland's Laudator Temporis Acti, some grim meditations on the Christian hell. Here's one excerpt:

St. Teresa says that she found the entrance into Hell filled with these venomous insects. If you cannot bear the sight of ugly vermin and creeping things on the earth, will you be content with the sight of the venomous things in Hell, which are a million times worse? The bite or the pricking of one insect on the earth sometimes keeps you awake, and torments you for hours. How will you feel in Hell, when millions of them make their dwelling-place in your mouth, and ears, and eyes, and creep all over you, and sting you with their deadly stings through all eternity? You will not then be able to help yourself or send them away because you cannot stir hand or foot.
As I said: grim.

more on the Dunning-Kruger effect

When incompetent people rate themselves as competent, that's an example of a cognitive bias called the Dunning-Kruger effect. This bias isn't necessarily a function of being smart or stupid; as the video below argues, the effect can be seen across the spectrum in people of both sexes. It could well be that all of us suffer, to some extent, from this bias. I normally tell people, for example, that I'm pretty fluent in French, but that I'm only middling in my Korean-language proficiency. Is this an accurate self-assessment?

A couple years ago, back when R&D was using a language-competency test designed by both me and my now-former boss to determine whom to hire, we had a lady come in to take the test. She proudly claimed, after I had explained that the test would assess her writing ability as well as more technical things like grammatical competence, that "my friends all know me to be a grammar Nazi." So I handed her the test and proctored her for almost an hour. By the end of the test, the woman could no longer even look me in the eye. "Take it," she said dejectedly, handing me the test while staring down at her desk. She ended up scoring a 78%; we had lowered our pass/fail standard from 80% to 70%, so she easily passed. But her self-perception had taken a hit below the waterline, I think. Good. Before and after this lady came to us, we had a slew of linguistic idiots who all thought of themselves as pretty competent. Some of them, despite having seemingly impressive résumés, were too idiotic to understand how poorly they had fared on our test; others, like the unwisely overconfident woman, were fairly rattled by their encounter with reality.

This is why honesty and humility are virtues while egotism and overconfidence are not.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

how the walk to Hanam City played out

Saturday's walk to Hanam City, which I did with my buddy JW at his behest, went well. It was about 36,000 steps, according to my pedometer, and it took a solid five hours to go about 25 kilometers. I had originally plotted Hanam City Hall as our destination, but JW suddenly realized he had visited Starfield—a huge mall—in Hanam before, and he knew there was a nice food court there, so we switched destinations and headed to Starfield, which I had never heard of (I may have seen the sign for the mall in passing several times, without ever once realizing it was a mall), but which is apparently well known in Korea, or at least in the Seoul area. When I asked JW whether Starfield was like eMart or Lotte Mart, he laughed and said, "Those stores could fit inside Starfield!"

The walk began at JW's apartment building, which is close to Samsung Central Station and only a few blocks away from the Tan Creek path, right where the creek meets the Han River. I took a cab to JW's place; the vehicle was a nifty little electric cab, and I had never ridden in an electric car before. The lack of a vibration from the motor was almost disturbing at first, but as I quickly discovered, one gets used to the preternatural smoothness of the ride right away. The cab dropped me off at Samsung Central Station; I walked the short distance to JW's apartment complex, texted him that I was outside his building, and waited. JW appeared a minute later, decked out in a powder-blue winter coat and fluorescent-green shoes; he handed me my "breakfast": an apple wrapped in a plastic bag, and a small can of V-8, which is one of my least favorite drinks. I accepted both food items with a wry thank-you, and off we went.

The walk to the Tan Creek was a straight shot east, and we came out only a hundred or so meters away from the Tan/Han confluence. It was just a matter of crossing the creek to reach the Han, which we followed east for almost the entire walk.

Below are some pics from our trek. It actually snowed while we were walking; I'm not sure whether the photos in this essay capture that fact. We had to stay off the pedestrian path and walk in the bike lanes because the pedestrian paths, being painted over, accumulated snow more quickly and became slippery, in part thanks to their painted surfaces.

The first pic shows something neither of us had anticipated: a marathon. Two huge groups of runners had decided to brave the below-freezing weather to run their guts out on Pearl Harbor Day (December 7 is meaningless to Koreans, but I wish a mindful Pearl Harbor Day to my fellow Yanks). The runners wore clothing that ranged from bundled-up to nearly naked. One awkward, hulking, long-haired dude with an 80s-era sweatband around his head had a jersey on that said "JERRY" on the back; JW and I automatically started rooting for him for no particular reason. Later on, when we saw the runners doubling back, we made an effort to look out for Jerry, but we never saw him again. Either we missed him, or he may have given up and gone home. In the meantime, I noticed that many of the female runners were gorgeous; with some of them wrapped up against the winter chill, I joked to JW that the pink-faced little ladies reminded me of photos I've seen of Mongolian women out on the gelid steppes. JW noticed that the markers for the run indicated that runners had the option of running different distances: both a full marathon and a half-marathon.

Racers racing:

JW griped that he had hoped to have a nice, quiet walk. He pronounced himself annoyed by the runners, so at one point, we shifted to a path that was down an embankment and slightly closer to the river so as to avoid the crowds and noise. But the runners ended up disappearing after several minutes, and all was quiet soon enough. Near Jamshil Bridge, we popped into a convenience store to buy 500-milliliter bottles of water—one for each of us.

JW gives me a look:

For dedicated followers of my adventures, this obligatory shot of the Jamshil Bridge ought to be a very familiar sight:

Below, a shot of some ladies tending to a refreshment station for the runners:

When I took the above photo, one of the ladies saw me and challenged me with a rude, "Wae?" ("Why [did you do that]?") Instead of taking her to task for impolitely using the low, informal form of speech with someone who was older than her, I asked whether I had done something wrong by taking a photo. She smiled and shook her head, then bade the other ladies gather 'round so I could take a group photo:

My shwimteo (rest area) fetish continues. Below, a shwimteo that appears to be in the middle of some kind of renovation. Normally, there should be benches underneath the pergola-like structure, but none are to be found:

And so JW and I walked and talked. I was wearing my tee shirt, the one I had designed for the big walk, and I showed it to JW when we were talking about print-on-demand artwork for tee shirts. JW had some nutty idea about creating art, putting it onto tees via some local facility, and selling the tees at one of those informal markets, like the old Freedom Market and Hope Market over at Hongik University, where I had once tried (and largely failed) to sell my brush-art images. Eventually, we neared the official border for Hanam City, so I snapped the following pic of JW as he approached the threshold:

I was fascinated by the freezing-over of a creek that ran parallel to the Han River, so I took the photo you see below:

JW was similarly inspired:

Your selfie for the day:

As we began the final leg of our trek, JW expressed amusement at and admiration for the artfully made "sleeves" that were wrapped around a number of trees. I said the effect looked a lot like a hug; we both guessed that the "sleeves" were there to protect the trees from cold-weather insects, like the grass versions that I've seen in the neighborhood close to my office. Here's a closeup of one of the very first ones we saw:

And here's a wide shot of many, many decorated trees:

I finally took a pic of the two-kilometer-long motorboat raceway. It's empty of water now, but in warmer weather, I imagine it's got plenty of boats zipping along its surface:

You might have to enlarge the following pic to see it, but Starfield, that mall, is distantly visible in the image below (look for a red-cursive sign on a large, beige building). I snapped this shot, not for Starfield, but because it's an area I'd like to explore later on, maybe in the spring. There seems to be a network of walking paths, as well as wide-open spaces where a person might fly a drone or a remote-controlled aircraft. So I took the following picture as a way to remind myself to go exploring sometime:

By the time I took the next pic, we had left the path in order to cross into town. I've photographed this tower before, so it ought to look familiar to some readers:

The shot below is of a corner of the imposing Starfield, which is indeed a huge mall:

You'll have noticed, in the above photo, the steep embankment. JW, impatient to get up to the mall, decided that we needed to climb the embankment so as to enter the mall more quickly. Naver Map had plotted a course that took us around the mall to its front entrance, but JW was having none of that. So—up the embankment he went, impatiently beckoning for me to follow him. I sighed and did, pulling myself up the steep incline by grabbing on to skinny trees. Soon enough, we were at the mall's street level, and the attendants standing near the mall's rear entrance said nothing about our manner of arrival.

What follows are some interior shots of Starfield. First up: a wide shot to give you an impression of the place's interior design, which is reminiscent of just about any large mall in the US, with its hospital-white walls and ceiling, its all-English storefronts, and its use of vaulted space. The aesthetic of the 1970s-era Springfield Mall in Springfield, Virginia—with its dark recesses, muted lighting, and pit-style circular rest areas—is long gone. Nowadays, everything looks like a fusion of modern airports and the Mac Store:

A photo can't capture the smell of the mall, alas, but I can say that it's a smell any American would recognize: when we first entered the Shinsegae department store via the mall's rear entrance, we were bombarded by the odor of hundreds of styles of perfume. The setup is meant to be a pleasant way for the store to "greet" the customer, I think. How pleasant all that perfume is, though, is completely up to the individual. Your mileage may vary.

Here's JW, wearily seated:

JW beckoned me to join him on the couch, so I did. We let our weariness take over for a few moments while we people-watched and talked about the death of big malls in the US, a trend that JW had apparently read about.

It wasn't long before hunger overcame the weariness, and we were on our feet again to look for the fabled food court that JW had talked about while we were still on the trail. The food court turned out to have the Konglishy name "Eatopia" because Koreans, for some reason, have a penchant for overusing the "-pia" in "utopia" as a way of indicating the manifestation of some idealized reality. An online resource on Buddhism, for example, might be called a "Buddhapia." I saw over at ROK Drop that the city of Daejeon is casting about for nicknames and slogans, one of which is apparently "Sciencepia Daejeon" or some such nonsense. So, yes: "Eatopia" is par for the course... although, to be honest, I think "Eatopia" isn't nearly as bad as most of the other "-pia"s I've heard or read.

Behold the escalators:

We wandered around Eatopia, looking for both a restaurant to feed us and a free table at which to plant ourselves. JW ended up leading us to Lee Kimbap, a simple bunshik (street food) place that sold kimbap (rice, vegetables, and meat in seaweed rolls—a sort-of cousin of Japanese sushi*), various soups, and other types of street food. I told JW that I would have whatever he was having; he decided to order a little of everything so that we could share, which is how Koreans typically approach mealtimes. JW ended up ordering a pretty standard spread: beef and tuna kimbap, two bowls of eggy ramyeon, and a bowl of some very sweet ddeokbokgi. Stare at the pic below to see what that looked like:

It was simple food, but very good. The tuna kimbap had a hell of a lot of mayonnaise in it, but I didn't mind. Mayo is Atkins-friendly, after all! The ddeokbokgi had a super-sweet chili sauce and little, hard-boiled quail eggs in it; I scooped a few out with a spoon. The beef kimbap was nothing special, but I ate half of that roll, anyway, despite its ordinariness. The ramyeon may have been the best part of the meal; my bowl had a scrambled egg on top, infused with minced green onion. JW and I, both ravenous, ate and drank our way to the bottoms of our respective bowls. Koreans normally eat the solids in a soup and don't bother finishing the broth; that didn't happen with us. We consumed every last morsel and drop.

Below is a shot of the frustratingly filled tables adjacent to the restaurants in the food court. I had the impression that I was looking at an airport's gateside waiting area:

We didn't find a table before our food came out, but we found one pretty quickly once we'd gotten our food. The crowd was unbelievable, for a couple reasons: (1) it was past 3 o'clock, which means most Koreans have finished their meals and have moved on to other things; (2) we were in Hanam City, not Seoul, so you'd think there wouldn't be such crowds. But I guess the quality of the food in Eatopia spoke for itself, hence the hungry hordes at the wrong time of day. Anyway, we ate and talked in a tired, desultory way about this and that. I had checked the map to see how far away the intercity bus station was; it was only a kilometer away, so we heaved ourselves up from our hard-won table, put our trays away in the "Tray Return" room off to the side of the dining area, and lumbered back out into the cold to reach the terminal. We ended up coming within sight of the terminal, but JW noticed a bus stop along the way, so we checked the bus stop's chart and decided to wait right there for our bus, Number 9303 to both Jamshil (my stop) and Jonghap Sports Complex (JW's stop).

A coworker of mine had advised me that there was a samgyeopsal restaurant called Hanam Pig House (Hanam Dwaeji-jip) that, by her reckoning, was awesome. I had originally suggested to JW that we eat there, but once JW caught sight of Starfield in the distance, those plans went out the window. Funnily enough, the bus stop where we had chosen to wait for 9303 was only twenty meters away from Hanam Pig House:

9303 took its sweet time coming. We probably waited close to half an hour before the bus finally showed up. Here's JW, caught in the act of waiting:

And our final picture is of the bus schedule. If you can magnify the image, and if you can read Korean, you can see the details for 9303's route:

All in all, it was a good walk. I congratulated JW on becoming a veteran distance walker; at this point, we've done three or four long walks together, although all of our walks have been on the short side, i.e., 25K or less. I told JW that I'd be willing to do the long walk from Hanam to Yangpyeong with him (35K) if he wanted to try that; he didn't say yes, but he didn't say no, either. JW did have a tiny bit of trouble with his shoes; footwear has been a recurrent problem for him, and while he hasn't complained of any blisters, I do have to wonder whether his current shoes might actually work against him should we decide to do the Yangpyeong walk. JW, meanwhile, wants to do a long walk on New Year's Day, and I groaned at the thought of doing that. I told him that, quite frankly, New Year's Day is normally a day when I prefer to sleep in, but I also said I'd think over his idea.

JW has mellowed out in recent years. It used to be that hanging with him meant enduring fat jokes at my expense and other macho bullshit, but ever since he and his family came back from four years in India, he's been a changed man, and he's much more pleasant to be around. Today's trek to Hanam City was in that vein: JW was a good walking companion, even if he did have a tendency to walk diagonally such that I was forced to slow down and get behind him in order not to be run off the path. But asking a Korean to walk in a straight line may be asking too much: this isn't a country that prioritizes linearity. You see it in how Koreans drive, in how they think and interact, and yes—in how they walk.

*I could go on at length about why kimbap most decidedly isn't sushi, but this isn't the place to do that. A post for another time, perhaps.

walking to Hanam City

In about six hours, I'll be awake and prepping for a long walk out to Hanam City. It's gonna be cold, but it should also be fun, as my Korean buddy JW will be accompanying me. The walk to City Hall is about 23K from JW's place; the walk to the bus station is almost another 2K, so it'll be at least a 25K day, in all. Wish us luck. There might even be pictures.

Friday, December 06, 2019

Commas, Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 4 of our series on commas deals with marking or separating items on a list. Let me signal right now that I'm very pro-Oxford when it comes to Oxford commas. The Brits generally are not, despite the name "Oxford." Now that you know my bias, let's move on to the lesson, which will include—as you'll see below—an explanation of Oxford commas.

When we list items off in writing, we separate the items with commas:

Ingredients: flour, sugar, water, eggs, vanilla
The above is a brute list, but we also list things off in sentence/prose form, and in that situation, when we reach the end of the list, we mark the final item off by using an "and." But do we use a comma right before the "and" or not?
We need flour, sugar, water, eggs, and vanilla. (comma before "and")
We need flour, sugar, water, eggs and vanilla. (no comma before "and")
The comma just before that final "and" is the aforementioned Oxford comma. While there's some debate over whether the Oxford comma is necessary when writing lists, the general consensus seems increasingly to be that with or without is okay. However, the pedant/curmudgeon set will argue—and I wholeheartedly agree with this argument—that including the Oxford comma eliminates certain ambiguities. Here's an example:
(1) I'd like to thank my parents, God and Satan.
(2) I'd like to thank my parents, God, and Satan.
In (1) above, there's no Oxford comma, and you might read the sentence as saying that God and Satan are my parents, as if the phrase "God and Satan" were an appositive modifying "parents." That's probably not what the writer intended, so to eliminate the ambiguity, the writer should use an Oxford comma, as we see in (2) above.

(NB: I've written about Oxford commas before.)

Since we're talking about list items, though, we also have to mention semicolons. Again, I've written about this elsewhere, but let's go over one specific aspect of semicolons when it comes to lists:
If your list items already have commas, then use semicolons as "super-commas."
Let's say you're inviting the following people to a party:
· Leslie, the town slut
· Bob, the village idiot
· Ted, of "Vaseline chicken" fame
· Big Maria, Ted's wife

Each of the above list items has a comma in it, so to write out the list, you need to use semicolons to separate the items, like so:
I'm inviting Leslie, the town slut; Bob, the village idiot; Ted, of "Vaseline chicken" fame; and Big Maria, Ted's wife.
Conclusion: we use commas to mark or separate list items. The Oxford comma is arguably useful, but I'd submit that it's better to include it than to leave it out. Finally, we use semicolons as a kind of "super-comma" when our list items already have commas in them.

Ready for a quiz?

Insert commas and/or semicolons as needed in the sentences below. For some sentences, more than one answer may be possible depending on how the sentence is interpreted. Check your answers by highlighting the hidden text between the brackets at the end of the quiz.

1. During the safari, we saw giraffes elephants and a sac-like animal called a sqo'ro'toom.
2. The Ingwatu demon comes at night to feast upon your eyes which you use to see the world your soul which houses your life and mind and your hot younger sister who happens to have a nice, round, firm ass.
3. "Spectacles testicles wallet watch," barked Santa before he mounted the sleigh.
4. Over the years, I've owned (or was it fucked?) a dachshund a falcon a lynx and a retard.
5. For our team, we're picking Mike Mike's wife Maggot Merlin the wizard and Fido.

1. During the safari, we saw giraffes, elephants, and a sac-like animal called a sqo'ro'toom.
(Oxford comma optional but recommended.)
2. The Ingwatu demon comes at night to feast upon your eyes, which you use to see the world; your soul, which houses your life and mind; and your hot younger sister, who happens to have a nice, round, firm ass.
3. "Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch," barked Santa before he mounted the sleigh.
(Note that what Santa calls out is a brute list with no "and," so use commas for ALL items.)
4. Over the years, I've owned (or was it fucked?) a dachshund, a falcon, a lynx, and a retard.
(Oxford comma optional but recommended.)
5. NB: for Sentence 5, many answers are possible. Here are some, each with a different nuance:
For our team, we're picking Mike, Mike's wife Maggot, Merlin the wizard, and Fido.
For our team, we're picking Mike, Mike's wife, Maggot, Merlin, the wizard, and Fido.
For our team, we're picking Mike, Mike's wife Maggot, Merlin, the wizard, and Fido.
For our team, we're picking Mike, Mike's wife, Maggot, Merlin the wizard, and Fido.
For our team, we're picking Mike, Mike's wife Maggot, Merlin, the wizard and Fido.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

geography quiz redux: bodies of water

Click here and take the quiz. I suck at geography, but I surprised myself with a 73% when taking this quiz for the first time. I know I shouldn't be proud of a 73% (which is a D+ according to the old Fairfax County, Virginia, grade standards), but there we are. I'll keep re-taking the quiz until I get a 100% every time.

As you'll see, though, the quiz doesn't include very many bodies of water, e.g., the Adriatic and Aegean Seas are conspicuously missing.


Tim Pool: furious about Dem corruption

"Journalism has truly died in this country."

Commas, Part 3

My friend John McCrarey—veteran distance walker, dog owner, and dedicated drinker of San Miguel Light—seems to think he's actually improved in his use of commas, but I suspect the Dunning-Kruger Effect is at work in his mind. From where I stand, my previous two posts on commas have produced no significant change in the quality of his punctuation, and as I've said in a general way before, I suspect the problem is that John still hasn't made the effort to internalize what clauses are, how to find them in sentences, and how to distinguish them from each other. Were he to do these three things, he'd be on his way to true mastery.

Today's post is Part 3 of a 12-part series on commas (12 parts for the moment, but the series might grow). Before we tackle today's topic, though, let's do a quick review of Parts 1 and 2. Part 1 was about introductory expressions and separating independent clauses. Some examples of commas with introductory expressions:

Around forty years ago, my very first pube appeared.
Later today, we shall dine on candied dog balls.
Despite her stoic demeanor, Sister Catherine looked ridiculous naked.
Unfortunately for you, time is a glory hole, not a flat circle.
As for separating independent clauses, use a comma plus a coordinating conjunction from the FANBOYS list (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so):
Sister Catherine stared hungrily at the cactus, for she was horny.
Bruce had a degree in philosophy, and he was perpetually constipated.
Tulsi isn't particularly sane on immigration, nor is she a fan of the Second Amendment.
90% of John's difficulties would be resolved if only he could internalize Part 1!

Part 2 was about separating clauses in complex sentences (independent + dependent clause). Remember that you use a comma only when the dependent clause comes first. If it comes last, then there's no comma.
If you flick my scrote again, I'll shove my foot up your ass and kick out your teeth.
Because the weather was looking dodgy, the farm-animal orgy was canceled.
You're going to lose an eye if you keep staring at me while I'm pissing.
They fucked until their parts looked as shredded as sea anemones dipped in red paint.
Anyway, on to Part 3.

Today, the topic is comma splices. A comma splice is a mistake in which a person uses a comma when he should be using a semicolon to separate two independent clauses. Again, it's important to know what clauses are and to understand the two different types of clauses covered thus far: independent and dependent (or subordinate) clauses. You'll recall that an independent clause stands alone because it expresses a complete thought. A dependent clause cannot stand alone; it depends on something else to form a complete thought.

A semicolon separates two independent clauses. DO NOT use it with dependent clauses.

WRONG: If you build it; they will come all over you.
("if" clause = dependent clause introduced by subordinating conjunction "if")
RIGHT: If you build it, they will come all over you.

And here's your comma splice:

WRONG: Sir Wendell was beat, it had been a long day of prisoner-flaying. (splice!)
RIGHT: Sir Wendell was beat; it had been a long day of prisoner-flaying.

See how that works? In another post, I noted that famed author George RR Martin is notoriously bad when it comes to comma splices. If you're in Dunning-Kruger mode (i.e., being bad while thinking you're good), you'll comfort yourself by saying, "Well, at least I'm in lofty company." That's not the path to self-improvement, though, so learn to flay and excoriate yourself when you make mistakes. Try actually caring about the quality of your written output. As a teacher, I need to see evidence of care. If this means pausing every third word because you're now afraid to make any mistakes, well, good! That's precisely the level of care you need in order to improve. Most of us are fucking lazy, though, so we don't ratchet up our level of care; we can't be bothered to pursue perfection. Real improvement comes through effort: mental effort, in this case. Per ardua ad astra: through effort to the stars.

Let me recycle just one of Martin's many, many comma splices:
Khal Drogo has a thousand horses, tonight he looks for a different sort of mount.
Properly punctuated:
Khal Drogo has a thousand horses; tonight, he looks for a different sort of mount.
Famed Harry Potter author JK Rowling is just as bad when it comes to comma splices. Let me steal some snatches of text from this fine blog post at Nitpicker's Nook, which agrees with my assessment of Rowling. First, the poorly punctuated text:
Nobody in my family’s magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard—I’ve learned all our course books by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough—I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?
And here's the rewrite (which I approve):
Nobody in my family’s magic at all, so it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter. I was ever so pleased, of course; I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard. I’ve learned all our course books by heart, of course, but I just hope it will be enough. I’m Hermione Granger, by the way; who are you?
Much, much better.* As the above-linked post's author, Katie May, points out, there are several fixes for comma splices, so as you see in the above corrected text, you're not confined to using semicolons. Break clauses/sentences up with periods if you want; use a comma-conjunction to link clauses if you want. You have several options.

So the moral of the story is: avoid comma splices. Use semicolons properly (study this 2014 post on semicolons to learn more about them), and don't replace your semicolons with commas. And now, it's time for some exercises.

Comma splice or not? Read the following sentences and decide, then check your answers by highlighting the invisible text between the brackets below.

1. We pray to the god Plerfuss, he grants us clairvoyant buttocks.
2. I'd eat your pussy for another hour, but I have to say Mass in ten minutes.
3. The day Miracle Matt hit puberty, stock prices went through the roof.
4. A man rules outside the house, a woman rules inside her mind.
5. If you think you have it hard, you should imagine what it's like to be Neil Diamond.

[ANSWERS: (1) comma splice; (2) no splice; (3) no splice; (4) comma splice; (5) no splice]

Punctuate the following sentences correctly. Use commas and/or semicolons. Other corrections may be possible, but stick with commas and semicolons.

1. Claire liked driving over her husband it gave her such a sense of power.
2. Unless you're reliving your teen years there's no reason to sport your boner so publicly.
3. In two hours the bomb will explode so you can say goodbye to Fluffy the butt-gerbil.
4. One dick in your mouth means you're a whore two dicks mean you're just hungry.
5. Harry was staring at Hermione's chest when he blurted out the Engorgio spell.

1. Claire liked driving over her husband; it gave her such a sense of power.
2. Unless you're reliving your teen years, there's no reason to sport your boner so publicly.
3. In two hours, the bomb will explode, so you can say goodbye to Fluffy the butt-gerbil.
4. One dick in your mouth means you're a whore; two dicks mean you're just hungry.
5. Harry was staring at Hermione's chest when he blurted out the Engorgio spell.

*If this excerpt were the only example of bad punctuation in Rowling's books, you might argue that she meant to write a run-on sentence to indicate Hermione Granger's breathless nerdiness when she first meets Harry and Ron. But once you read the series and come to understand the true number of these gaffes, you'll think otherwise.

Sad Turd Day walk

My Korean buddy JW has been wanting to do another long walk, so I proposed, a few weeks back, that we do either the Tan Creek walk or the Seoul-Hanam walk. JW chose the latter; I don't think he's as interested in quiet creeks as he is in walking along rivers. Can't say I blame him; Korea's riverlands are something to behold. I wonder whether I can persuade JW to walk with me all the way to Yangpyeong. We could either start in Hanam or try to do the whole 60K stretch from Seoul, with a possible overnight stop in Hanam.

Anyway, JW and I are meeting at 9 p.m. this Saturday to do a 23K walk from his place to Hanam City Hall. We'll either eat lunch in town or take a bus back to Seoul, then eat lunch once we're back. The Hanam bus terminal isn't far from City Hall. This ought to be fun; the weather has been getting steadily colder. Winter has come.

"Rambo: Last Blood": review

It's practically a palindromic 28/82 split, but as you see above, the "enthusiasm gap" over at review site Rotten Tomatoes once again shows the disconnect between liberal journalists and a far more centrist public. "Rambo: Last Blood" has been lambasted by professional reviewers for its supposed racism and xenophobia. As these critics point out, the movie features not a single frame that is a positive portrayal of Mexico, which is where much of the movie is set. My take is that the American public isn't so stupid as to take the movie to be some sort of bigoted condemnation of the troubled nation that lies south of the US border: by that logic, season 1 of "True Detective" ought to be condemned as a bigoted look at Louisiana—a place full of hicks, weirdos, Jesus freaks, perverts, and murderers. I thoroughly enjoyed "True Detective," and while I wasn't as enthusiastic about "Last Blood," I enjoyed that movie, too.

2019's "Rambo: Last Blood" is directed by Adrian Grünberg and stars Sylvester Stallone as the aging (and now pill-popping!) Vietnam veteran John Rambo, a man who has, over four previous movies, shown himself to be an unstoppable killing machine. Rambo has come home to his father's horse ranch, and he has more or less settled into the life of a ranchero. The light of his life is his friend Maria's granddaughter Gabriela, a bright seventeen-year-old who enjoys riding horses with Rambo, who has assumed the role of an adoptive dad because Gabi's real father, Miguel, abandoned her in Mexico years ago. But things take a grim turn when Gabi conceives a desire to return to the mean streets of Mexico because a "friend" of hers has discovered her biological father's location.

Despite Rambo's warnings and her grandmother's strident demands that Gabi stay put, the girl sneaks away and crosses the border. She finds her father, learns the awful truth that Miguel wants nothing to do with her (Gabi's mom died of cancer years earlier; Miguel was indifferent to her suffering), and gets nabbed by a local cartel that drugs Gabi up and tosses her into a human-trafficking ring. Rambo eventually learns what has become of Gabi; his first attempt at rescuing her ends with him getting beaten to a pulp by the much younger gangsters, who now vow to treat Gabi even worse because of this attempt at rescue.

Rambo recovers with the help of a sympathetic Mexican journalist (OK, the one good thing about Mexico that the movie shows) who lost a sister to the same cartel, which is run by the Martinez brothers. Armed with a hammer like Joaquin Phoenix in "You Were Never Really Here," Rambo goes back to the cartel's HQ, kills a few henchmen and one of the brothers, then absconds with Gabi back across the border to his ranch in Arizona. Alas, Gabi dies along the way, so Rambo is once again plunged into the nightmare hell-world of revenge. The cartel also wants revenge, given that Rambo has stolen Gabi and killed one of its two leaders. This leads us to the film's bloody climax, in which Rambo, having shooed away Maria and his beloved horses, rigs his now-empty ranch with all manner of booby traps. The ranch is shot through with tunnels, and Rambo uses these to his advantage when the attackers arrive.

It's a dead-simple plot, really, and the bloodiest violence is concentrated within the final twenty minutes of the movie. Most of the film is buildup, with Rambo at times channeling both the brutal interrogation style of Jack Bauer and the knife-throwing prowess of John Wick. This isn't a pleasant Rambo to watch: when he meets Gabi's "friend" Gizelle, the woman who told Gabi her dad's location, Rambo abuses her and threatens her with a bullet to the brain if she doesn't help him find his adoptive daughter. It may be strange, but I liked this Rambo, who clicked over into a machine with a single-minded purpose the moment he realized Gabi had gone missing. Such a man would be ruthless, even to young women like Gizelle (who is, truth be told, a nasty piece of work, so I didn't have much sympathy for her).

As a revenge tale, "Last Blood" works just fine. Many critics took the film to task for its scripting, but I've sat through far, far worse. "Highlander II" comes to mind when I think of cinematic turds. The final reel of "Last Blood" will satisfy the bloodlust of bloodlustful viewers. Rambo's rigging of his ranch will inspire all the usual "Home Alone" jokes ("Skyfall" had this same issue), and the way Rambo vindictively fires rounds into the corpses of already-dead enemies will have some viewers scratching their heads. The movie doesn't do a very good job of conveying the size of the cartel force arrayed against Rambo; we simply trust that, when Rambo radios Martinez to tell him that all of his henchmen are dead, Rambo isn't lying.

Some will take this movie in the goofy 1980s-era spirit in which it's intended. Others will see it as another example of Trump's America—a xenophobic screed about those dirty Mexicans. As we see from the above-mentioned enthusiasm gap, though, the public obviously thinks one thing while the cringing critics think another. I would say that this iteration of Rambo is brutal and will satisfy the killhounds. Don't watch this movie for philosophical depth, Oscar-level acting, or Pulitzer-level screenwriting. Author David Morrell, who wrote the novel First Blood, has effectively disowned the on-screen version of his creation; he wants nothing to do with this incarnation of his character. That's his right, and I respect his decision and even his distaste. All the same, "Last Blood," despite the corny title, will be entertaining for the action-movie set, and while I'm not exactly motivated to rewatch it any time soon, I thought the film was entertaining during its brief, 90-minute run time.

TRIVIA: Wikipedia notes that one Mexican movie reviewer found it risible that the cast included a bunch of Spanish actors attempting to affect Mexican accents. While I did catch on to the idea that the Mexicans' pronunciation seemed strange, I don't know enough Spanish to distinguish accents that way. I found the reviewer's observation amusing.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

movie trailers

In spite of myself, I thought the following movie trailers looked interesting:

Why "in spite of myself"? With the James Bond movie, it's because Sam Mendes directed two previous Bond films: "Skyfall" and "Spectre," both of which I found dull and boring. As I've contended several times, I think Mendes is absolutely the wrong choice to direct action films. He killed the franchise for me. Mendes is excellent with long, cerebral, slow-burn plots; he's got a lot in common with Denis Villeneuve in that respect (cf. Mendes's excellent work in "Road to Perdition" starring Tom Hanks and Jude Law). But I think he's the ultimate buzzkill when it comes to James Bond, and both "Skyfall" and "Spectre" were glacially paced, unmemorable snoozefests. Why not bring back the excellent Martin Campbell, who directed Daniel Craig in "Casino Royale"? Well, this time around, "No Time to Die" is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the dude who directed the first (and most awesome) season of "True Detective" (reviewed here). And judging by the scenes in the preview above, Fukunaga has a much more kinetic sensibility that befits the Bond subgenre. So, yes: in spite of myself, hope for the franchise is rekindled, even if this is supposedly Daniel Craig's final outing as 007.

Why "in spite of myself" regarding Black Widow? Because I believe I've already declared myself shut of most subsequent Marvel movies. I honestly have no interest in Marvel's plans to take Phase IV into the cosmic realm; I really couldn't care less about planet-eating colossi like Galactus (did he get snapped in Thanos's Snapture?). I might want to follow the further adventures of Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, and I'll definitely want to watch the third "Guardians of the Galaxy," but Black Widow only barely registers in my consciousness, and I can't think of any other Marvel heroes whose adventures I'd like to continue to follow. Surely not Ant-Man who, despite being amiably played by Paul Rudd, inhabits a universe of entirely bullshit physics (true: all Marvel films feature Hollywood physics, but the Ant-Man films are particularly bad in that area). I agree with the critics who have griped for years that Black Widow should have gotten her own film a long time ago—certainly before grrrl-power superhero films like "Captain Marvel" and DC's "Wonder Woman." I expect this new film to be better than "Captain Marvel" because, let's face it, just about all the female-superhero films are better than "Captain Marvel."

Colion Noir, en fuego

As a Virginian who has watched his state get slowly swallowed up by the Borg collective over the decades, I feel particularly shamed and chastened by Colion Noir who, in the excellent video below, rants about how Virginia is now, sadly, a bellwether for what can happen in other seemingly (and formerly) conservative-leaning states.

Note Noir's point, repeated everywhere in the rightie blogosphere, that lefties abandon their leftie states after those states have been ruined, but the escapees bring their voting habits with them, settle into rightie states, then turn those states into shit, too, by voting in all the policies that caused them to flee bastions of leftism in the first place. Same goes for people who flee oppressive countries: as Noir observes, those people also tend to vote for oppressive policies once they reach our shores. And our interest in hosting such people is what, exactly?

Seems to be little point in moving back to Virginia now. Wyoming, here I come!

glad that shit is over

I know I don't have the character of a saint because I'm willing to bitch and moan on this blog about shit that happens at work. A saint would be positive in demeanor and wouldn't feel cheated out of six hours of his life if he had to endure the workshop I just went through.

My presentation, which happened early and ran for about thirty minutes, was well received. My supervisor, who was there while I was presenting, told me later that he thought I was "a natural" at such presentations, then he joked that I should become R&D's official presenter whenever we have to interact with other departments. At the very end of the workshop, the leader of our branch of the company—a young twenty-something who is the daughter of the company's CEO and not really deserving of her position—asked all the people who had presented during the workshop to come to the front to be recognized, thanked, and photographed. I stayed where I was. She didn't notice, and as far as I know, neither did anyone else except for my R&D coworkers.

As usually happens when I'm forced to sit through six hours of bullshit, I left the workshop thoroughly pissed off, and because I'm not a saint, I don't mind confessing this fact to you. Call me a big baby if you want; tell me how much worse it is in other companies, where people have to endure far more egregious corporate nonsense. I accept your criticism even before you make it: I recognize that things could have been far worse. That doesn't make me happy about attending these sorts of meetings, though.

The best thing I can say about today is that the workshop is fucking over. A pizza is on its way over to my place. Yeah, yeah—another bad life-choice, but you know what?

Right now, I want a goddamn pizza.

Tim Pool on the continuing impeachment backfire

"The Democrats in the House are actually sabotaging their 2020 Democratic counterparts."

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

work sucks

Last month, we were told there'd be a meeting of our branch of the Golden Goose—a kind of workshop. Initially, we were told that the meeting would last only two hours, and all of us were suspicious of that number because meetings in our company tend to be long-winded and stultifying. Sure enough: a few weeks later, we were told that (1) the date for the meeting had been changed, and (2) the meeting, which had originally been scheduled from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., was now to take place from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. That sounded more like a typical meeting. Just today, a day before the workshop is scheduled to happen, we were told that the event's time had been changed: it would now be from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. This change didn't mean much to me since I normally leave the office around 9 p.m., anyway, but it was a huge annoyance for my coworkers who normally go home around 5 p.m. Not only did we go through these changes in meeting date and time, but we also went from being told that "our department wouldn't have to participate" to "Kevin needs to put together a 25-minute presentation to explain how our 5th-grade workshop is supposed to go." Other R&D staffers would also have to present.

Lack of long-range planning and sudden changes in medias res are part and parcel of life in South Korea, one of the most nonlinear countries in the world. Never assume that things will go the way people say they will; promises mean nothing, and the same goes for schedules, contracts, and everything else that a Westerner relies on for matters of trust and truth. Normally, life in R&D isn't all that bad, but occasionally, like now, things become extremely annoying. Going from a non-participant at a two-hour meeting to a full-on presenter at a six-hour meeting is one example of how life in Korea can turn on a dime. It's amazing to me that anything rational actually gets done in this country.

No matter. I've prepped a PowerPoint presentation, and I'm pretty sure that 25 minutes will go by fairly quickly. After my presentation, which happens fairly early during the meeting, I'll have the privilege of sitting through five more hours of boring fucking shit. Yay. But at least they're paying me, right?

seen on Instapundit


Here's my opinion on Joe Biden's public nibbling of his wife's finger: a man can nibble his wife's finger as a sign of affection if he wants to, so I can't really fault Biden for being publicly affectionate toward his wife. That said, Biden has been made aware, at this point, that he has a creepiness problem that is eroding his optics. Nuzzling women, massaging them, fondling their hair, drawing up close to them—these all appear to be examples of inappropriate intimacy, even if Biden's intentions weren't in any way salacious (and, truth be told, I seriously doubt that Biden meant to be salacious at all, in any of those instances). Innocent intentions notwithstanding, Biden really ought to know better by now.

But the left has painted itself into a corner because it insists that the truth of a situation can only be uttered by the victims: if a woman feels she's been harassed, then she's been harassed, and the supposed harasser's post-hoc declaration of his intentions doesn't matter. (Ask Brett Kavanaugh how this toxic, perverse dynamic works.) A person's guilt or innocence is completely up to the judgment of the supposed victim. By those standards, many of the women that Biden has inappropriately approached over the years have looked distinctly uncomfortable, so by the left's own reckoning, Biden ought to be formally censured for having discomfited so many women. Luckily for Biden, though, the left has double standards, so the old man is in the clear. As Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit likes to say: if it weren't for double standards, the left would have no standards at all.

Thought experiment: imagine that Joe Biden is a Republican. Do you think the press, and women everywhere, would have a field day then? You betcha'.

walking the 720K path

My new supervisor (yup—we got a new supervisor at the office while I was out on my walk) had an interesting suggestion for me: since my contract is up in 2021, and that would most likely be the year I decide to do another big walk, why not do the walk between contracts?

This assumes that I plan to renew my contract with the Golden Goose, and right now, there's no guarantee that I'll be doing that. If anything, I've been pondering a move back to the States once my contract is up: I'll have saved plenty of money—enough to buy a house somewhere that property values are fairly cheap—and I might have enough money left over to get comfortable in my new abode and tide me over until I'm settled in a new line of work, whatever that might be.

But let's assume I don't leave Korea and elect to hang on for one more year at the Golden Goose. If that's the path I take, then doing the big walk between contracts is a plausible option. My company would love for me to do that because it wouldn't be a paid vacation: I'd be doing the walk entirely on my own dime, and the Golden Goose would pay nothing during my hiatus. Employees at my company have done such a thing before; there are some popular teachers and staffers who have re-signed with the company after enjoying a "gap" between contracts. I don't know how beloved I am; I tend not to stay for the entirety of long meetings, and some higher-ups have noticed. I've also been fairly vocal about not feeling any particular loyalty to a company I find rather dysfunctional, and I'm sure that word of my attitude has reached all the wrong ears. So: if I were to propose a two-month gap between contracts, would the proposal be accepted? I have no clue. My supervisor seems to think it wouldn't be a problem, but we'll see. At the very least, I can ask the HR department about my options.

In any event, it's definite that, once this current contract ends in 2021, I'll be hiking the 720-kilometer seaside bike trail—yet another of several Gukto Jongju crossing South Korea. 720 kilometers is about 90 kilometers longer than the path I've now walked twice. I'd have to study up on the new route, but that's not a problem: I have nearly two whole years to prepare. Whether I end up leaving Korea or not, I've got another wonderful walk to look forward to, even as I edge deeper into old-fart status: I'll be 52 in 2021.

32K versus 25K: what happened?

Back in September, I did my first-ever practice walk along the Tan Creek as part of my preparation for this year's big walk. This past Saturday, I walked the same route again, from my apartment building by Daecheong Station all the way down to the Bundang region and Jeongja Station. The first time I did the walk, I noted that my step count was 32,000 steps. This past Saturday, my step count was a little over 25,000 steps. As I pondered why there was such a huge difference in step counts, it occurred to me that, on September 13, I had been walking with full gear. Having a pack on my back definitely reduced both my speed and my stride length, resulting in a larger step count. Mystery solved.

Monday, December 02, 2019

busting a voting myth

Another dragon that deserves to be slain—the myth of voter suppression:

"Rick and Morty": review


I had somehow managed to avoid the cultural phenomenon known as "Rick and Morty" for a long time. The brainchild of Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland (Roiland voices both Rick and Morty), "Rick and Morty" is a sitcom-style sci-fi cartoon chronicling the cosmic/comic misadventures of mad-scientist Rick Sanchez and his feckless grandson Morty. These escapades routinely involve other planets, other universes, and other multiverse versions of Ricks and Mortys. Rick, the lone Sanchez in the family, is the father of insecure daughter Beth Smith, who is a horse surgeon. A hundred times more insecure than Beth is her husband Jerry Smith, a loser who often seems to find himself unemployed. Their two children are fourteen-year-old Morty and seventeen-year-old Summer. Morty accompanies Rick on his wild adventures; Summer often wishes she could come along, and she occasionally does. Morty, despite being eternally stressed out by the moral implications of Rick's callous immorality, retains a certain nebbishy optimism through it all. Summer grows as a character over the course of the four current seasons, and Jerry and Beth's marriage suffers through many trials as everyone works through his or her anxieties and insecurities.

Because "Rick and Morty" is a cartoon, the episodes often push the limits when it comes to high-concept sci-fi, often with the purpose of skewering more self-serious sci-fi and other TV and movie genres. Fart jokes abound, and most of the aliens that Rick and Morty encounter are Freudian in nature, with body parts that often look like sopping-wet scrotums or weeping vaginas with fangs. Much like "The Simpsons," "Rick and Morty" has managed to attract a number of big-name guest stars including Keith David, Joel McHale, Danny Trejo, Peter Serafinowicz, Susan Sarandon, Alfred Molina, Patton Oswalt, Stephen Colbert, Nathan Fillion, James Callis, and Tricia Helfer (the latter two of "Battlestar Galactica" fame).

I tend to think the style of the show's humor is similar to the humor found in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels of Douglas Adams: it's all ridiculous, all the time. One theme of the show is that science trumps pseudoscience and spirituality (which doesn't explain the Season 4 appearance of the god Hephaestus), and yet the "science" on display in each episode is definitely of the magical/nonsensical variety. The series is self-conscious enough to allow for fourth-wall breaks, usually by Rick, who seems to understand that his existence is limited to the confines of a TV show. There is also little attempt to anchor the viewer in a "home" reality that would keep everything centered: in one episode, Rick and Morty end up "Cronenberging" (i.e., horrifically mutating) the entire population of Earth, which necessitates a move to a neighboring parallel universe in which everyone is still normal. From that point on, this new Earth becomes the base for Rick and Morty's further adventures, and only one mention is ever made, in later episodes, of their home dimension. The show unsentimentally brunts its way forward; another theme of "Rick and Morty" is No regrets; never look back.

The existence of an infinite number of parallel universes, with parallel versions of the show's characters (including non-human iterations of those characters), hints at a kind of ultimate meaninglessness: why bother doing anything if some version of you, somewhere, is already doing it? I've written about the metaphysical messiness of "frothing" multiverse narratives before, but "Rick and Morty" may well be a show that fully embraces that ontological jumble, using the multiverse as a playground for all sorts of twisted narratives. Rick, who is a constantly belching alcoholic, is fully aware of the nihilistic nature of reality, but this seems to give him little comfort, as he is also given to occasional bouts of depression. And when he isn't depressed, his boredom with being the smartest man in the universe drives him to give himself odd challenges, e.g., transmogrifying himself into a pickle in the Season 3 "Pickle Rick" episode to see whether he can manage to survive as a seemingly immobile pickle and eventually get himself back into human form.

The various episodes are constant and consistent in their zaniness, but wildly inconsistent in their ambitions. Some episodes, like a recent Season 4 one parodying heist movies, are content merely to lampoon cinematic genres. Other episodes, like Season 2's "Auto-erotic Assimilation," deal with heady topics like unity versus diversity in a way that I found philosophically meaty, surprisingly balanced, and arguably more substantive than when the same issues are dealt with in, say, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." ("Assimilation" is, in fact, my favorite episode from Season 2.)

Along with Justin Roiland as both Rick and Morty, the voice cast includes Spencer Grammer (yes: daughter of Kelsey) as Summer, the lovely Sarah Chalke as Beth, and Chris Parnell as the always-put-upon Jerry. Everyone seems to be having a rollicking good time making each show, and some episodes even feature recordings of actual improv. Justin Roiland infamously got drunk to record a segment in which the character Rick was drunk (there may be video of this on YouTube), and Keith David—whose name you might not recognize immediately, but whose distinctive voice you'll automatically know the moment you hear it—pops up voicing several different characters, including the US president.

All in all, I've had a hell of a time catching up on "Rick and Morty" via binge-watching. This is one of the few comedies that has actually managed to get me laughing out loud—not just once, but many, many times. The show has no compunction about going there: it features plenty of blood, guts, and goo, not to mention a torrent of politically incorrect humor, for which I'm grateful. As science fiction, it's definitely in the absurdist British camp (I've written before about how the Brits may be masters of the fantasy genre, but their notions of science fiction often tend toward the silly and sloppily imagined*), but there's more than a hint of a good ol' Yankee love of adventure as well.

The visual premise for "Rick and Morty" is that it's loosely based on the dynamic, found in "Back to the Future," between crazy old Doc Brown and his perpetually astonished neighbor/friend/co-adventurer/sounding board Marty McFly. And that's pretty much where the parallel ends. Beyond that basic look, "Rick and Morty" is very much its own show, and it's some of the best escapist TV out there right now. If you're not busting a gut after a few episodes, then I'm sorry, but you have no sense of humor.

PS: does anyone else think that Mr. Poopy Butthole is this show's analogue for Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo on "South Park"?

*That's not to say that American science fiction is somehow scientifically rigorous. It isn't. But it's often drawn along neater, more well-defined lines than British sci-fi will ever be. Look at the hot mess that is "The World's End" to see what I mean.