Wednesday, May 25, 2022

good thing I've moved beyond this, I guess

Below is a video about life in a Korean goshiweon, a small, cramped, cheap living space initially meant for students studying for exams, but now used by poor folks of all ages looking for cheap housing. Years ago, when I had fewer mortal possessions, this is a lifestyle I would have at least considered, but I was lucky enough—at least at first—to be housed by the universities where I worked (starting in 2005). Before I became a prof, I did live in places like yeogwans and hasuk-jip. In fact, when I taught my first semester at Dongguk University, I had to find cheap lodging again, and I ended up in a W400,000-ish/month yeogwan close to campus. That felt like a major step backward after my having enjoyed uni-provided studio apartments. (Dongguk doesn't provide housing; you're on your own. And I don't think they gave me a housing stipend, either, the way many other universities do.)

These days, I'm out of debt, but I'm still living in a studio apartment, so I haven't risen very far. If I had a few hundred thousand dollars, I could move into a legitimately large, multi-bedroom apartment, but I don't have nearly that much saved up. Although I'm no longer eager to move back to America, given how crazy everything has gotten over there, if I did move back, I'd want a house, a yard, and some dogs (plus maybe a cat)—the whole suburban scenario, preferably in a region with mountains, rivers, and lakes, which is why I keep thinking I'd love Wyoming, what with its tiny population and huge, natural landscapes.

That said, goshiweon living is a bullet I dodged. The conditions, per the video below, sound positively awful. I'd hate to find myself in such a place.





Styx on the Texas school shooting

I think the current death toll for the recent Uvalde, Texas, school shooting is up to 22 (or 21?), but I gather it could go higher. 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, a high-school student, first shot his grandmother (she's alive but in critical condition, hence the vague death toll: she was initially thought dead), then went to nearby Robb Elementary School, where he shot at least 19 students, ranging from 2nd to 4th grade, and a couple adults. Ramos, in body armor and armed with an "AR-15-style" rifle, barricaded himself but was eventually killed by authorities. Here's Styx's commentary on the aftermath:

The usual suspects are using this situation to scream about gun control yet again, forgetting that the suspect was taken down by men with guns, most of whom arrived too late to save those kids. "When seconds count, the police are minutes away," as the saying goes. Styx notes, above, that many mass shootings happen in states that already have strict gun-control laws; making the laws stricter isn't going to stop the problem of law-ignoring criminals. Styx also notes that the mass-shooting narrative tends to shift largely as a function of the gunman's race: if he's white, then he's a racist; if he's not white, then it's the guns that are the problem. How convenient. Lastly, Styx comments on the sloppy journalistic coverage of this event as people pore over the gunman's motives.

While I think mass shootings are an embarrassing problem for Americans, (1) they make the news because, statistically speaking, they remain rare, and (2) all things considered, being armed is better than being defenseless.

Meanwhile, a recent murder in NYC gets little coverage because, well, narrative.



on vaping

Vaping is a less-unhealthy alternative to smoking, but it's not healthy in itself.





Matt Walsh on the new Ricky Gervais special

Comedian Ricky Gervais jumps into the thick of things with his new Netflix comedy special, "SuperNature." Matt Walsh, below, gives Gervais credit for being brave enough to make anti-trans jokes during his routine (many of which, Walsh notes, hit harder than Dave Chappelle's), but Walsh takes Gervais to task for pulling his punches when Gervais claims, outside the context of his comedy show, that he's actually for "trans rights," whatever that term might mean. I think Walsh has a point when he says "trans rights" should not be anything over and above good old human rights. Human rights really ought to be enough.

Walsh, in his videos, also stresses the idea that trans people are mentally ill. I part ways with him when it comes to the question of sanity and rationality: there might be mentally ill trans folks out there, but I think most trans folks are perfectly rational. Ask them to solve math problems; ask them who the current president is, what the weather is like right now, what day of the week it is, etc., and you'll get rational answers back.

If these people are feeling deep body dysphoria, though, to the point where they believe something like surgery can help rectify the problem, I don't think that's insane at all—at least in part because I have no idea what it's like to be in that headspace, so how am I to judge it?

I do agree with Walsh that it's problematic when trans people demand that you alter your speech to accommodate their feelings: your speech is rooted in your own perception of reality, and it's not at all irrational to look at a trans person and think, "Well, chromosomally, this person is still male," then use the pronouns associated with maleness. If I, out of the goodness of my heart, elect to use trans-affirming pronouns, that's my choice. Mandating, or attempting to mandate, which pronouns I use is a violation of free-speech rights.

So Walsh isn't wrong, in my opinion, to deplore the forced use of certain pronouns. But I think he's wrong to write trans people off as mentally ill.



Styx on the economy

Styx on gas prices:

Styx on whether US households are in decent financial shape:

Can't wait to see $10/gallon gas as the norm all over the US.




humorous videos

I saw that one "playing the husky" video, but I didn't realize this was a widespread thing:

Meeting the Holy Mackerel:

How to get rid of wasp nests:

Imagine that a single emotion defines your personality and your actions:



I think I've killed my computer again

It might finally be time to say goodbye to my faithful MacBook Air laptop, which has been with me for over a decade. I saw an innocent-looking update notification last night, and when I opened it, it proved to be for an OS update to Catalina. God help me, I clicked "update" despite certain misgivings. The new OS downloaded just fine, but when it was time to install the OS, that's went things went tits-up. The computer froze about a third of the way into the installation, and after a reboot, the same thing happened. I then tried rebooting my computer in "safe mode," but I can't even reach safe mode. So, basically, I'm stuck. 

As a result, I think I'm going to bite the bullet and get myself a new computer this weekend. I'm probably going to stick to Mac because I have several Mac products (Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop, MS Office for Mac, etc.) that I can simply reinstall on a new machine. 

My poor laptop has been through a lot over the years. It proved a lot tougher than my previous iMac desktop computer. That computer lasted only about four years before internal dust killed it. I think the time has finally come to drop a few thousand bucks on a new machine. I can only hope my new computer will last as long as my MacBook Air did. Meantime, at my apartment, I'll blog on my phone until the new computer arrives. Otherwise, I'll blog from my office computer, as I often do already. 

More news later. 

UPDATE: I just bought an iMac via Coupang. It arrives around June 2.



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Day 1 done


The stairs at the end were a bitch. I only belatedly realized why after I'd taken off my weight vest: I'd left 7 kg in the vest, not 5! That explained all the huffing and puffing. 

So is this exercise regimen doable every day? In theory, yes. It contains three elements of cardio, plus a few strength exercises for various parts of the body. I think this will help me to keep slimming down, and I'll periodically ratchet the effort upwards. The only real hitch tonight was, as anticipated, the shoulder press. I found something of a compromise movement that seems to work: I hold a single 10-kilo dumbbell in two hands, then do a motion that's a lot like stowing carry-on luggage in an overhead bin. I don't know why this move is relatively painless, but it is. In doing that movement, though, I can't increase weight—I can only increase reps. That'll have to do. 

So: one day down. Assuming I rest on Sundays and don't do these exercises on my long-walk Saturdays, that means I have 41 more exercise days to go before my doctor's appointment. Here's hoping I'm a bit leaner and meaner by the end. 



pray for me

Exercise starts tonight. I'm off for a walk when I leave work, then I have to run a kilometer around the path in our local park, and then I strap on my weight vest—slapping in 5 kilograms of weight—and do 14 floors up my building's stairs. I've got other exercises to do as well (planking, curls, rows, chest presses, etc.), but those cardio moments are the biggies. 

Pray for me.



another vote for "Everything, Everywhere, All at Once"

I'll have to see this movie, it seems. Apparently, it's a multiverse narrative done right:





monkeypox: not a big deal

Found this online:

Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.

So close and/or intimate contact = not a good idea. Monkeypox produces very visible white vesicles on the skin. Here's a picture:


Looks lovely, eh?

All in all, this disease seems easy to contain. I've heard that, when transmitted among humans, it's closely associated with anal sex (which doesn't mean it's exclusively a homosexual thing! back-door action is available to anybody who's willing), so just hold off on entering any warm mine shafts for a while. It's the people who lack self-control in that area who will likely contract the disease. Don't be one of them.



seen on Instapundit

I assume it's the dolphins talking:




back to the discipline

Tomorrow marks the return to dietary discipline. I've got 2 months to get myself down to 95 kg, and while I managed to get my weight down a bit before my last doctor's check-in, I've since ballooned back up to 110 or 111 kg, so this means I need to lose 15-16 kg by Moon Landing Day (i.e., July 20; my doctor's appointment is on July 21). Wish me luck. I have a series of exercises I hope to be doing daily, and my dietary routine is going to involve (1) 72-hour fasts Monday through Wednesday, (2) Newcastle-style eating on Thursday and Friday (3 chicken breasts + Paris Baguette salads or salads from the Salady restaurant up the street), (3) a smoothie on Saturday, and (4) a single keto meal (max. 1500 calories) on Sunday. There may be diet drinks to help keep me sane, but I'm going to try to minimize those in favor of straight water (the best drink) or boricha (barley tea; some brands have 0 grams of carbs and 0 calories) or fizzy water, i.e., Perrier, Trevi, or even Seagram's.

Long walks simply aren't enough for weight loss unless they include lots of hills, so I'll be doing stairs training daily, while wearing a weight vest. I'll be starting easy, with only 5 kg in the vest, and only 0.5 staircases (i.e., to the 14th floor, where I live). After two weeks, it'll be 5 kg and 1 full staircase. Another two weeks: 5 kg and 1.5 staircases. Two weeks of that, and we ratchet up to 10 kg, 1.5 staircases. That gets me to my doctor's appointment. After that, I'll work my way up to 20 kg and 1.5 staircases.

My friend Neil mentioned that he does stair work, too, but his workout involves taking 2 steps at a time. I've been hesitant to do this because of balance and mobility issues, but after my doctor's appointment in July, I want to try Neil's approach at least once, just to see how I'd do. While wearing a weight vest is one way to increase leg strength on the stairs, taking the stairs 2 at a time increases your legs' range of motion and forces your muscles to exert themselves at more oblique angles, thus making you stronger over a wider range of motion. In the end, the most badass thing to do would be to combine the weight-vest routine and the 2-steps-at-a-time routine, but I admit that that's pretty hard to imagine right now.

Other exercises I'll be doing in this regimen will be:

  • Squats
  • Knee raises
  • Planks (despite my frozen shoulder; I think I can bear the pain now)
  • Chest-press machine (next-door park)
  • Bent-over rows, 10 kg per arm
  • Biceps curls, 10 kg per arm
  • Shoulder presses, 10 kg per arm (if possible; I'm not sure about this one)
  • 1-kilometer jog, 10-min time limit (slow!)

Every 2 weeks, I'll ratchet something up, probably reps. I'll be starting with only 30 squats, but in 2 weeks, that'll be 35, and so on. With knee raises, I'll start with 60 reps (3 sets × 20 reps); I'll probably add 5 reps per set every 2 weeks. Planks will start at 30 seconds and go up 10 seconds per 2 weeks. Chest presses will start at 15 and go up by 5 every 2 weeks. Bent-over rows and biceps curls will start at 3 sets × 7 reps and go up by 1 rep every two weeks. Shoulder presses are probably going to be agony, so I'm not even sure I can do these. I'll try them, though, starting at just 5 reps and increasing by 1 rep every 2 weeks. For my 1-km jog, I'll go from a goal of 10 minutes (which I've already done, actually) to 9 minutes to 8:30. When I was in college, I jogged a 7:40 mile (mile!) once, but I think, at my age, and with my ankles, that's asking a little too much, especially with summer coming. If I do eventually do a kilometer in 8 minutes, with my stroke-y brain, I'll be proud of myself (that's a 7.5-kph pace... slow, but faster than my current 4.8-kph walk).

Some of the above exercises are meant to be rudimentary, and they'll give way to other, more difficult exercises. For example, the chest-press machine will give way to doing pushups on my knees, and that will eventually give way to doing full-on pushups (I hope, shoulder permitting). Biceps curls and bent-over rows will probably give way to incline pullups, then negative chinups, then full-on pullups (that's a long way off—and again, shoulder permitting). I wish our park actually had one of those pullup machines so I could start at an easy weight. I saw such machines on the walk along the Joongnang-cheon toward Uijeongbu, but I'm not going to travel across town every night just to use those machines.

I may eventually begin adding exercises to the above routine as well—resistance-band work, for example, and jump rope (which I haven't done in a while since I hurt my back last time). We'll see how that goes and what I can plausibly add over the coming months.

Anyway, by doing this simple starter routine every day, I ought to begin putting on a bit of muscle, which will increase my basal metabolic rate and have me burning more calories even when all I'm doing is sitting still. That, in turn, will help me start to shed weight, and shedding weight will positively affect my blood pressure. I don't expect to look like a weightlifter by July, but maybe I'll look distinctly slimmer by then, and I might look even better by the summer of 2023. Gotta start somewhere.

Speaking of "starting somewhere," with summer almost here, I need to take advantage of the cool nights to do my 60K crazy walk to Yangpyeong, so I'm planning to do that this coming weekend. I'll start Friday evening, probably leaving straight from work around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and arriving in Yangpyeong the following day by about noon. That's my hope, anyway. I'll get the bulk of the walk done at night, but I'll still have to endure a few hours of sunlight Saturday morning. Still, it'll be a good walk, I think. I normally do that walk in February, when the weather is a lot cooler, but I missed my February window for whatever reason, and I need to get this walk in before it's too hot even at night.

Oh, yeah—one last thing: the routine described above will be over and above the walks I'll still be doing: 140-minute walks MWF, 90-minute walks TR, and at least 18K walks on Saturday, with Sunday as my day of rest. Gonna be an interesting 50-some days.



Monday, May 23, 2022

Lauren Chen on Elon Musk and the
dirty-tricks campaign against him





how my boss compliments my food

My boss is a talkative fellow if you're talking about a subject he's comfortable with, and since he's a pretty knowledgeable guy, he's comfortable with a wide range of subjects. Alas, food isn't one of them, and normally, after he eats one of my meals, the only thing he'll grunt is, "Was good." He can't even be bothered to add an "it" to the beginning of the sentence. "Mm. Was good." On very rare occasions, my boss might grace me with a, "Mm. Was very good." That's pretty high praise, indeed. I live for those days.

Today, though, the boss showed off his New Yawk sense of humor and said, "Better than a five-star hotel... in Uganda."

"Gee," I said, "And I was about to say 'thank you.'"



I'd offer you a picture of today's lunch, but...

In my rush to gather up my food and tote it to the office, I forgot to bring my cell phone with me (I might rush back to my place to get it), so I was unable to take a photo of today's meal, in which I basically fed my boss and coworkers the leftovers from my Saturday dinner. Steak and shrimp were fresh-cooked (tail-on this time); everything else was reheated, and the vegetable, this time around, was peas, done up with butter, salt, and pepper. The asparagus soup went over well, and everyone seemed to enjoy everything.

I'm definitely a convert to the sous-vide-and-sear method. People like my buddy Mike have a good handle on a more traditional grilling method when it comes to steaks (Mike knows his way around his proteins), but for talentless idiots like me, the sous-vide-and-sear method is pretty much foolproof. And with a smokeless grill allowing me to cook steak inside my apartment without setting off fire alarms, I think I'll be doing this again sometime soon.

What's more: I can make Saturday's meal totally keto by switching out the mashed potatoes with cauliflower mash! A win for everybody!

One minor annoyance—and a reminder of why I'm generally not a steak guy—was the presence of clumps of intramuscular fat in certain parts of the filet. Again, this is a Korean cut of beef, so it's not pure muscle the way an American filet mignon is. And the fat I'm talking about isn't just marbling, with that spiderwebbed shape: I'm talking about actual chunks of fat that didn't render down during the sous-vide phase. To be sure, the Korean filets were indeed perfectly cooked, but because they were also very fatty, I think... 

I think my next challenge will be to sous vide some eye round—what Koreans call hongdukgae-sal (홍두깨살). A cut of meat considered too tough for most dishes by Western standards, eye round is routinely used in Korean cooking, as when Koreans make jangjorim. I've slow-cooked eye round before; it takes a good eight hours to soften up, but the result is good enough to make pulled beef with (as I've also done before). This time around, I want to make big, thick eye-round steaks, and a quick look at Google shows that an eye-round sous vide takes 16-24 hours to do. That's a significant time commitment (and I don't know the upper limit on my Instant Pot timer), but it's no big deal to start cooking the day before. The point of using eye round is that, even in Korea, this cut of beef has almost no fat in it. That, to me, would make for a true steak: solid meat through and through. No fat, no gristle.

I look forward to this next project.



fourth loaf

butter only this time



cutting the nuts off every adventure movie you ever loved





"the real Dune"

A very good video essay about the ins and outs of Dune—both the book(s) and the movie:





funny incident

Years ago, I worked for a company called APIC (which still exists). The big director at the time was a guy named Chris L. (can't give his last name because this story is kind of embarrassing). Chris and I were on fairly friendly terms, to the point where I could make jokes about his native Canada, and he'd respond with good humor. 

Chris occasionally tended, as I did, to stay late at the office. I was stationed in a tall-walled cubicle near the geographic center of our national office—right by the open space with the elevators and the spot for the secretary/receptionist/greeter. Chris's big-boss office, a corner office, was down at one end of the building's floor, so late at night, he and I would never really see each other, although we might randomly cross paths if we had to walk from one place to another for whatever reason.

One night, a primal urge took me out of my cubicle and toward Chris's end of the floor. I was heading toward our office's private bathroom, but as I got closer, I saw that the door was open. When I was right at the bathroom's door, I heard someone inside, and I knew it could only be Chris because, that night, it was just him and me. I think he didn't realize that I was still in the office that night—so, relaxed, he had decided to have himself a nice dump with the bathroom door hanging wide open. 

Chris had been shuffling about a bit as I approached, but once I stopped right at the bathroom door, he went totally silent, so I knew he'd heard my footsteps. Our floor was carpeted, but late at night, with no one around, you become sensitive to even the smallest noises.

So, for a few seconds, Chris and I were trapped in an awkward tableau: he was stuck on the toilet, probably in mid-dump, petrified that I might walk the rest of the way into the bathroom (the toilet itself was shielded from immediate view by a little wall that created a niche). I was stock still outside the bathroom, slowly realizing that it might be a good idea to give poor Chris his space. That realization took a few seconds to blossom, but when it finally did, I beat a hasty retreat back to my cubicle (no, I never saw Chris) and decided to call it a night. 

I can only hope Chris learned a lesson, that night, about letting down your guard without first confirming you're alone. No open-door dumps!



Sunday, May 22, 2022

in the aftermath

I'm still reeling from yesterday's effort, but I'll be repeating the effort tomorrow, albeit on a smaller scale, when I take my food to the office to serve to the troops. Some food will be reheated; some will be fresh-cooked. And by the time tomorrow is done, my fridge and freezer will be back to being nearly empty.

I'll be serving filet mignon—the last two steaks I have. I'll get up early in the morning, and the steaks will be properly sous-vided and seared at my place, then I'll let them rest during the trip to work, and I'll slice them up and fan them out for presentation at the office, topped with bacon crumbles and pan sauce. Accompanying the beef will be fresh-cooked shrimp (cooked on site) in butter-garlic sauce, and the veggies will be my remaining mashed potatoes plus peas. There will also be a fresh loaf of bread. I think we have some butter at the office, and I know we have a small bottle of jam. I'll also be bringing along the chimichurri and more garlic butter as dipping sauces for the proteins. Lastly, after discovering how awesome it was to put ranch dressing on my bread, then sprinkle bacon on top, I'll be bringing along my ranch dressing as well so that others might experience the glory.

The asparagus soup I'd made for yesterday was, sadly, forgotten, and two of my three guests wouldn't have eaten it, anyway, so no big loss. I'll be taking the soup with me tomorrow. I tasted it today to make sure it hadn't gone bad (I've had bad luck on that score before); it was fine, but I re-boiled it anyway, just to be sure, and then I got the bright idea of amping the soup up a bit: I had three leftover potatoes plus plenty of crumbled bacon, so I added a tablespoon of bacon to the soup, then I peeled, cubed up, and boiled the potatoes before adding them to the soup as well. So now, it's an asparagus-potato-bacon soup with a creamy, chunky texture, and it's gonna be awesome (or so I hope).

I had wanted to present tomorrow's meal on elongated, rectangular plates, but I have only two of those, so I guess we'll just make do with my normal, heavy-duty, restaurant-grade plastic plates—the kind they use when you go to a place like Kimbap Cheon-guk (Kimbap Heaven).

Tomorrow's meal ought to be almost as good as Saturday's. And after that second orgy of food, I'll really have to get back on my dietary regime! Am feeling pretty bloated.



bread dough: proofing

Another loaf is on the way. That is all.



the food-truck situation in South Korea

While I'm not really serious about ever opening my own food truck, I did get curious about the food-truck situation in South Korea. A quick Google search later, and I discovered that Wikipedia has a whole article, written in Konglishy English, about the topic. The article claims that "the number of food trucks reported in Seoul totaled 424,000 in late March [year?]." That's a lot of food trucks. The article shows a photo of what is presumably a typical food truck, and I realized this sort of thing looked familiar:

I saw the above pic and thought, You know, I've seen plenty of these around. I just never associated them with food trucks because, in my American brain, food trucks look like this:

The Wikipedia article makes it sound as if owning a food truck in Korea is a regulatory nightmare, and the article frankly states that a lot of food trucks have trouble keeping their heads above water (this is true with the food business in general), so I doubt I'll be applying for a food-vendor's license anytime soon.

That said, I do wonder, sometimes, what it might be like to run an eatery.



still digesting

That was quite an orgy of food yesterday, and it's left me flat on my back today. I don't normally fast on Sundays, but I'm seriously thinking about doing that today. Either that, or I'll just keep my eating to a minimum. Right now, I'm like the python that swallowed a goat: all I want to do is lie still and digest. So I guess it's going to be a pretty lazy Sunday for me.

Unfortunately, I can't spend all day in bed: I'm taking a lot of leftovers to the office tomorrow, and by "leftovers," I mean both things uneaten from yesterday, like extra mashed potatoes and bacon, as well as things not prepped yesterday, like my final two filets, a second package of shrimp that's still in the freezer, and another loaf of bread.

So I might rest a few more hours, but I'm going to have to get my ass up later today and do some prep work for tomorrow—except for the filets, which I'll prep by waking up and sous-vide-ing early tomorrow morning (sous vide is a nearly 4-hour process when you include the initial heating of the water at the beginning, before the steaks go in the bath) and searing to juicy perfection right before I go to work. 

I'd really rather just lie in bed.



Saturday, May 21, 2022

scenes from a dinner

table for 3, when I thought I'd have only two guests

There were originally three guests, but one guest canceled; my buddy Tom then told me
at the last minute that he'd be bringing his son, so I set a place for myself on my bed.

fresh out of a 3-hour sous vide, the steaks begin their steaking (i.e., final sear)

In turning the steaks over, I saw that the griddle's hot spot was in the center,
so I began switching the filets' positions to ensure even heating.

It's a bit messy, but here's the plated meal. Not as artistic as a steakhouse might do it, but everything was edible. The pan sauce turned out to be incredible. All it needed was extra time for the flavors to marry.

food-porn angle; asparagus and taters barely visible; pan sauce in evidence
—and BACON!!!

a closeup of the dipping options for the steak: chimichurri and garlic butter

another loving angle; asparagus more visible (and pretty nicely cooked)

Tom with his boy (L); my walking buddy JW (R)
Special note: JW came from a company golfing session to be with us, and he was not sober. I was apprehensive at first, but JW is actually a sentimental drunk, and he took to Tom's son immediately. The two spent most of their time talking to each other—JW and the boy. This was incredible to me because Tom's son, when I've met him before, has never said much, but with JW, he opened up and spoke in torrents.

the cake, cross section

The story of my cake is both sad and hilarious. After failing at making my chocolate cake, and having run out of cocoa powder to attempt a second chocolate cake, I went online and found a simple "white cake" recipe. It used ingredients I had readily available, so I went with it. The yield wasn't nearly as much as I'd hoped for, though, and all I had was a large baking pan into which to pour the batter. So, quite unintentionally, I ended up making something like a thin sheet cake. The oven now sits on a table that has a slight dip in its surface, meaning the oven is slightly tilted. This resulted in a skewed-looking cake (see above). I tried to compensate for this by rotating the top layer so as to even out the very top of the cake, but the overall effect still ended up looking hunched and monstrous, just like my two previous chocolate cakes. I really need to learn some cake basics if I'm going to continue baking homemade cakes. Still, the cake proved to be edible, although Tom's son didn't care for the super-sweet frosting.

Dinner was, despite the difficulties, a success. Both Tom and JW again told me I need to quit working in the EFL business so I can open a restaurant. It's a nice compliment, but I'm nowhere near at that level. That said, today's effort (well, this week's effort) was above and beyond the usual comfort-food level I normally aim for; this was an attempt at something steakhouse-y. I don't think I was quite there; I was very disorganized toward the end as I kept realizing I had failed to do this, that, and the other thing. It all came together, though. The pan sauce was a goddamn revelation. Unfortunately, I arrived at that pan sauce via a random and complex process that I'll never again be able to duplicate, so I still haven't really mastered pan sauces. (I'll keep trying, though.)

The steaks were nicely done, just like during my test run. I really love my new Instant Pot and its sous-vide function. I also really love my new smokeless grill, which once again did not trip any fire alarms despite the presence of four steaks on its surface. The shrimp were done to perfection, and while the salmon came out a tiny bit overcooked, salmon is—as Adam Ragusea notes—a very forgiving fish; you can somewhat undercook it or overcook it, and the results are still generally good. The asparagus came out right at the balance between resistant/fibrous and tender; they were the vegetal version of al dente. The mushrooms, well... how do you fuck up mushrooms, right? It's almost impossible.

The dipping sauces were also a fine complement to the meal. Chimichurri was created by God expressly for use with beef and shrimp, and you can't go wrong with garlic butter, either. Both of these also served as dips for my homemade bread, which made its third appearance to much praise. For my money, though, the best complement for the bread turned out to be the pan sauce. That, friends, is a match made in heaven.

the spice must flow...

I have enough leftovers that I'll be doing steaks for the office crew on Monday. I'll prep some shrimp and salmon as well, along with mashed potatoes (oh, yeah—those were quite good today) and a slew of sauces. As for the asparagus and mushrooms... I think they're all used up, and I don't plan on buying anything more. I do have some frozen peas I could use, though... and then, there's the remainder of my chocolate-frosted white cake. I think I'll be lugging a pretty heavy bag to the office on Monday.

Final note: Tom showed his appreciation for the meal by doing most of my dishes. Very nice of him, and it took a lot of the after-party workload off my shoulders. JW, still inebriated by the end and babbling about how we all needed to get together and go camping, decided he would take some of my food home with him; instead of grabbing a cab, he elected to walk home. (He lives a 30-minute walk away, which is barely a minor stroll for us distance walkers.)

ADDENDUM: my bread + bacon sprinkles + homemade ranch dressing = sandwich idea

ADDENDUM 2: a late-night text came from JW's son, who ended up eating the leftovers that JW took home with him. "I luv it! Soooo delicious! Much better than Outback Steakhouse!" said the short series of messages. Maybe I should look into starting a food truck. I don't think Korea has much of a food-truck culture, so perhaps I could be the vanguard—the innovator and initiator.



it's coming together

A few random shots as I come to the end of prep for today's glorious meal:

another deformed cake (white cake this time)

bread makes an appearance

pan sauce contemplates its fate

asparagus soup at the ready

veggies waiting to be pan-fried

filet mignon, counting down





cake update

I'll be attempting to make a yellow cake with a different recipe (since I used up the last of my cocoa powder with the failed chocolate cake). We'll see how that goes. 



cake fail

I tried something different with my cake: I poured the batter into three cake pans and baked each cake individually. This turned out to be a huge mistake: the cakes all ended up burned. They didn't smell burned, which is why I cooked all three cakes the same way, and they looked edible when I brought them out of the oven one at a time. Once they cooled, though, and I had a chance to taste them, it was obvious there would be no rescuing them.

Still, I have my frosting, so I might go to our building's Paris Baguette, buy some castellas, then frost them up and serve them. We'll see.



food prep: where things stand

One of our number will not be joining us for the Saturday meal, which just means more food for the rest of us. The problem, though, is that of the two people who remain, one refuses to eat vegetables, and the other just warned me he can't eat too much because he's trying to diet before a doctor's appointment (a strategy I'm familiar with; my own appointment's in July). All the money and prep that went into this meal... and I'm probably going to feed most of it to my boss and coworkers at the office on Monday.

Anyway, there's little left to do in terms of prep. I'm baking a loaf of bread, now, and I've baked three small, humble layers of a chocolate cake that I'll frost in the morning (the same chocolate cake I've served twice before). The filet-mignon steaks will need to bathe in the sous vide for three hours (they're starting off frozen), but everything else ought to come together pretty quickly. I'll have the pan sauce, mashed potatoes, and asparagus soup either in slow cookers, where they can stay warm, or in the oven, which will be at a low temperature. The steaks, salmon, shrimp, asparagus, and mushrooms will all come together just before we all sit down to eat. This is going to be an interesting experience, trying to get the timing right. We'll see how everything goes. Expect photos.



PJW on monkeypox

Monkeypox! The new "in" thing! I don't think monkeypox is going to be anywhere near as big a problem as COVID, but it does seem to be spreading all over the globe. Once again, being an introverted creature of habit is going to prove to be a saving grace. Good luck to all you needy fuckers who just have to hang around others. You can keep your social diseases.





Friday, May 20, 2022

"the open social murder of citizens in one of the world’s wealthiest countries"

Canada is killing people who can't afford to live.  This is horrible if true. An excerpt:

When the family of a 35-year-old disabled man who resorted to euthanasia arrived at the care home where he lived, they encountered ‘urine on the floor… spots where there was feces on the floor… spots where your feet were just sticking. Like, if you stood at his bedside and when you went to walk away, your foot was literally stuck.’ According to the Canadian government, the assisted suicide law is about ‘prioritis[ing] the individual autonomy of Canadians’; one may wonder how much autonomy a disabled man lying in his own filth had in weighing death over life.

So much for Canada's being oh-so-much better than America.


Musk-skepticism doesn't always pay

Instapundit likes to put up news about Elon Musk, especially now, as Musk seems to be acting like a red-pilled leftie who's wising up to the virtues of a more right-leaning point of view. I remain skeptical, given that Musk has, up to now, donated significantly more to Democrats than to Republicans. He is also an advocate for Universal Basic Income, which is insane, especially for someone as financially astute as Musk. Lastly, Musk has Tesla facilities in China: a plant in Shanghai, and a showroom in Xinjiang (where the Uyghur concentration camps are). So you'll pardon me if I don't see how Musk can suddenly be a conservative golden boy. I periodically voice my skepticism about Musk on the boards at Instapundit, and people are normally polite even if they don't agree with me, but once in a while, a rude asshole comes along. Here's a recent example. I posted the following:

I like what Musk is doing and how he's thinking, especially lately, but if I'm really to respect him, he'll pull entirely out of Shanghai and Xinjiang. His presence in China cheapens whatever moral authority he's trying to cultivate.

A couple responses to this were fairly tepid. One person wrote:

He isn't all that he is made out to be.. I don't think he is actually worried about moral authority.. as long as it's profitable for him, he will continue to deal with the Chicoms

Another responded:

To me, that's his biggest weak spot. He should never have built anything in China. He won't be able to leave on his terms, and the CCP will just steal all his tech when they kick him out (as if they aren't already stealing everything).

Then came the following reaction:

It's a pity that people will make assertions without doing their homework. He's not trying to cultivate any moral authority, he's trying to build the infrastructure to help humanity become multi-planetary. Each of his companies supports a necessary technology in that endeavor and makes a profit besides. His Tesla company in China is one of the few, if not the only, foreign company that the CCP doesn't have any part of the ownership, which should tell you something about the power dynamic there. The Chinese are supposed to be oriented to the "long game", but Musk is truly playing the long game, and if profits from a Chinese company can help make humans multi-planetary he'll take them.

Tesla and SpaceX are not successful because of any seekrit high tech, they are successful because Elon has fostered an innovative, driven engineering organization. The top two jobs sought by the best engineering graduates are SpaceX and Tesla. SpaceX's "test-first" approach is drawn from the current best practices in software engineering, as well over 100 successful returns of the Falcon 9 booster (something that space "experts" said was impossible) will attest. China, unlike our dinosaur space companies, has seen the light; have you been keeping up with their space-related activities like the space station they've put up?

That pissed me off, so I wrote the following response:

Not an assertion at all—a fact. Musk called the banning of Trump from Twitter "a morally bad decision" (exact quote). If that's not an evocation of morals, I don't know what is.

By your own reckoning, Musk wants us to become an interplanetary species. Why? For totally amoral reasons, or maybe because he's interested in humanity's survival? There's no moral component to that?

And why is "test first" a value at all? Is that totally unrelated to morals, or possibly related to making sure people don't die during the developmental phase of any given project? You don't see a moral stance hidden in any of that?

Musk's announcement that he's planning to vote Republican comes from a moral evaluation of the Democrats whom, up to now, he's funded more than Republicans. (You knew this, of course, because you've done your homework, just as you knew Musk had made the moral pronouncement I quoted above.) According to Musk, the Democrats have become the party of "division and hate." (Another exact quote—more homework!) Division and hate sound like axiological terms to me!

Morality suffuses everything Musk is doing, like it or not—and whether Musk knows it or not—so my question is: how seriously do we take any of his decisions as long as he's got facilities in China, the land of slave labor and slow ethnic cleansing?

I'm not pointing this out because I hate Musk. I'm merely saying he'd be easier to take seriously if he didn't rely on a malicious power to aid him in his success. I'd like to see him address this China issue head-on (oh, maybe he has—guess I'll do my homework!), and it's a good one for conservatives to point out—the ones who aren't enthusiastically fellating Musk because they've misidentified him as a fellow conservative, anyway.

You know who I'm talking about: the righties who immediately rush to Musk's defense when someone merely expresses light skepticism.

Personally, I think there's cause for circumspection. Musk bears a burden of proof, and his conduct over time will reveal much. Big truths about human character usually take time to reveal themselves. But if you're happy in your romantic haze, then by all means, suck away!

Of course, I'm merely venting, and this comment is a waste of time. I know I'm not changing any minds. Bye.

I don't suffer fools gladly, and the guy's response pissed me off on several levels. Despite accusing me of not having done my "homework," the guy offers no evidence in the form of links or exact quotes in his own comment. Even as he's accusing me of making assertions, he's busily asserting. That's not merely vexatious—it's downright obtuse. 

So I felt justified in calling the guy a Musk-fellater. I know that that doesn't make me look like a saint, but I'm not too concerned about my public image.

Instapundit commenters come in all shapes and sizes. Overall, they're a polite group, but there are some who, like the lefties they purportedly despise, have hair-trigger tempers and are always waiting for a reason to be offended. Idiots and hypocrites, all.



Styx on Musk

Elon Musk says he's going to vote GOP for the first time, but does that mean he's now a conservative? I have my doubts. More on that in a subsequent post.



global warming and why we shouldn't worry

This is more the sketch of an argument than an actual argument, but it's worth listening to:

I'm totally with the greens if their main contention is that humanity is doing bad things to the environment. We are, without a doubt, belching noxious fumes into the air, dumping chemicals into our waterways, allowing microparticles of plastic to end up inside aquatic life, and clogging our rivers with plastic bottles. All of that is undeniable, and it's a great shame whether we think of ourselves as stewards of this earth (as Christians might) or simply as an integral part of the processual swirl of reality (as Buddhists and Taoists might). And there's plenty we could be doing to change the situation. 

Where I part ways with the greens is when they say, with absolute conviction, that global warming is almost all anthropogenic. I think there's room for discussion on this point. I also part ways with them when they make wild-eyed predictions about how the earth will be a decade from now. The greens don't help their own cause when they engage in stupid rhetoric. This is not how you persuade people.

Subjectively speaking, I seem to remember Seoul being much colder in the wintertime. I recall the same about my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia. When was the last time I ever saw the Potomac River frozen over? When was the last time Seoul was engulfed in a deep, icy chill, with subzero winds? Maybe in the 90s? So I suspect there might be something climatic going on, but I don't think we're anywhere near diagnosing the problem properly. I admit I could be wrong, but that's my feeling. Meanwhile, no island nations have sunk beneath the waves, the North Pole's ice cap is still in place (and the South pole's ice cap often grows!), and there's no chance in hell the world will effectively end in a decade, pace AOC. Surely, there's room in this discussion for climate-moderates like me.

As I've said before, I think we ought to concentrate on the obviously visible problems first, in the style of Rudy Giuliani's broken-windows policy, but writ large. Unclog the rivers that are clogged with plastic, for starters. Harvest trash floating on the surface of the sea and drifting in its depths. Keep working on green energy, but make sure it's economically viable (e.g., electric cars do horribly in cold-weather states because cold is the enemy of batteries, so figure out how to combat that problem). Keep hammering away at fusion, and if possible, look into things like raw mass-energy conversion: I'd love for there to be a real Mr. Fusion into which you could throw literally anything to make fuel, even though I now know such a device is implausible at best, at least with today's science.

Meanwhile, we shouldn't stress when the far left screams the world is about to end. We humans might kill each other, granted, but as George Carlin noted, the planet's going to do just fine, with or without us. If only the lefties could hear themselves—hear how much they sound like apocalyptic Christian fundamentalists.



Thursday, May 19, 2022

I've finally popped my scones cherry

My first time ever eating scones with clotted cream:

To be clear, I've eaten scones before—both good and bad (looking at you, Starbucks)—but never the proper way, i.e., with jam and clotted cream. Well, as I mentioned once before, the store downstairs in the building where I work is, bizarrely, selling jars of clotted cream. My Korean coworker got scones from the Kim Young Mo Bakery in his neighborhood. He tried to share them with me this past Tuesday, when I was fasting, and I had to turn down his offer. He went to the Kim Young Mo up the street today to try again, and in doing so, he confirmed my suspicion that every branch of Kim Young Mo is currently selling scones.

Starbucks (here's a pic of a copycat Starbucks scone) could learn a thing or two about making proper scones from Kim Young Mo, which is a high-quality bakery that generally does a very good job with Western breads* from all over, especially the French stuff like baguettes and croissants. Ideally, scones are crumbly and fugly-looking. Despite the difference in ingredients, scones should look a lot like American drop biscuits—lumpy and a bit trollish. They're unwieldy and, depending on how much clotted cream and jam you use, messy. This qualifies them as comfort food. Starbucks scones have that machine-made, sleek, assembly-line look, and they're not that flavorful, although the chain tries to amp up the flavor by adding bits of blueberries and other nonsense.

Having now eaten a Kim Young Mo scone, I hereby give it the Hominid Seal of Approval. Twas a good scone, properly made, and since my coworker gave me two more, I'll eat those tomorrow. I have to say, though, that clotted cream is something of an acquired taste. Not horrible, but I guess I'm so thoroughly American that I think I prefer good ol' butter.

__________

*That said, I'm not a fan of their Christmastime breads, the German Stollen and the Italian panettone. Finding good Stollen in Seoul has proven to be more difficult than expected. Kim Young Mo's panettone is just awful. I don't know what they're doing wrong. Maybe I need to try real, Italian-made panettone to see whether I like the original.

ADDENDUM: in the comments, Charles described the scone I ate as "smooth," but I'm not seeing it. Here's an uneaten scone:

If you look up scones on Google, you get these results. Really all that different? (Then again, I see a lot of "classic" scones have something like a Death Star trench running around their perimeters. Is that what makes them classic? I mean, if that's a major test for a valid scone [not sure I agree], then by that standard, Kim Young Mo Bakery has failed. I don't know; it could simply be that my standards for a good scone are far lower than Charles's.)



unintentional irony

 Dr. V writes:

Hey Wokester!

You won't teach your students grammar, but you will 'teach' them the 'right' pronouns?

The irony is that Dr. V forgot his vocative comma ("Hey, Wokester!"). Or maybe that's not ironic: forgetting a comma might be considered a mechanics error, not a grammatical one.*

Then again, some errors straddle categories. If you forget a comma in an if-conditional sentence, for example, that could be construed as both a mechanical and a grammatical error.

BAD: If you do that again I'll kill you.
GUD: If you do that again, I'll kill you.

__________

*Grammar has to do with things like sentence structure, verb conjugation, etc. Mechanics has to do with spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Diction has to do with word choice, and style has to do with near-intangibles like the register you write in (formal/informal), etc.



seen at Instapundit



with November's approach comes... clarity?

The Disinformation Governance Board, in existence for only three weeks, has been "paused," according to sources. This could well mean the American version of MiniTrue is, in fact, dead. If it has indeed been killed, I suspect this is because at least one clear-eyed Democrat had the sanity to note that the establishment of a Ministry of Truth was not going to go over well with the majority of the populace. Doubling down on crazy in an election year is never a good strategy. At least, I'm charitably assuming that that's what's going on.



some walk images

The springtime flowerpots are out.


nighttime rose under bright lights

my apartment's on-again, off-again fountain



Wednesday, May 18, 2022

zee booke eez ded

I think I may have sold my last book on Amazon. Think Like a Teacher hasn't sold a single copy in several weeks—nearly a month, in fact. I admit I didn't market the book very aggressively, but I honestly thought there'd be more interest, given how en vogue homeschooling is these days.

A few more people on Instapundit, when I flogged the book there, echoed John McCrarey's sentiment that the word "teacher" is off-putting to righties, given how teachers are so out of favor. I might try retitling the book and selling it again. Rebranding is a thing, after all. Maybe I need to mail free copies of the book to certain YouTube personalities.

More updates later, but the news is pretty somber right now.

UPDATE: the problem with renaming the book is that I'm going to have to waste two more of my ISBNs. Every title change requires a different ISBN, and I paid a lot of money for my batch of ten, so you can understand why I might not be motivated to change the title.



a generation of socially retarded kids

I've heard this a lot: little kids growing up in an environment where everyone is masked are unable to latch onto the visual cues provided by facial expressions, and this is severely retarding their social growth. PJW has more:

Of course, social retardation has other causes as well: look at all of us addictively glued to our smartphones and computers, unlearning the social skills we might have learned long ago.

ADDENDUM: as I privately explained to a friend via email, when it comes to kids who are actually mentally challenged, I tend to be more PC with my language. I normally use "retarded" in situations where I'm expressing scorn or derision, both of which I think are warranted in this case.



dammit

The A/C still smells. Not as bad as before, but there's still a moldy odor. I paid W100,000 for a shoddy clean-up job. Well—back to looking up YouTube vids on A/C maintenance. If you want to do something right, you need to do it yourself. Shit.



the pain

You know what sucks?

Cooking bacon on a fasting day.



bacon, bacon grease, pan sauce, and gravy

Disaster after disaster this evening as I tried my hand at a couple different sauces: a red-wine-reduction pan sauce made from bacon fond, and a white gravy made with bacon grease. Neither worked out very well, but the pan sauce was... passable. Not ready for prime time, but I'll keep it and use it for something. Meantime, I've thrown out the bacon-grease gravy and will focus on making a more legitimate pan sauce with better ingredients Wednesday evening—something I can reheat right before Saturday's meal and pour onto plates. Wednesday evening, then, I'll try again.



Word Salad 2: The Revenge

You thought Kamala Harris was bad with her word salad? Get a load of the lady who's taken over for Jen Psaki: Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

She's unprepared and out of her depth, but I will say she's way cuter than Psaki, so at least she'll be easy on the eyes even while she's fucking up.



Tuesday, May 17, 2022

A/C's demons now exorcised

A repair guy came by to take care of my air conditioner, which has been producing an unpleasant, moldy odor for a while. Sure enough, the guy called me over to the A/C and shined his flashlight inside the guts to show me that the innards were all covered in mold. He gave the unit a thorough cleaning and was done in about an hour.

The guy was supposed to arrive at 2 p.m., but he didn't get here until 2:40. This was an awkward time for a visit, so I went in to work early this morning to put a few hours in before returning to my place to greet my guest. Now that the guy is gone and my A/C is drying itself, I'll be heading back to the office to finish my work day, almost $100 poorer. The dude said, in parting, that I need to have the unit cleaned every two years. It took way less than a year for the A/C to get that filthy, so I'm going to look into buying an air purifier to work on whatever dust, mold, and other microorganisms might be floating around in my domicile.

But at least I'm going to have decent A/C for this coming Saturday!



respecting others' sovereignty more than your own