Thursday, August 31, 2017

eclipse roundup

Remember the recent eclipse? I blogged about it here.

Elisson's post is here.

Charles's post is here.

now ready for prime time

The Kevin's Walk 2 blog is now complete. That was several days' mindless cutting and pasting, but we now have bloggage. I may continue to do some little tweaks here and there, but the blog is ready to roll. Click on over, if you want, and enjoy.

If, by the way, you'd rather not go through all the verbiage at the beginning, start the pictorial adventure at Walk Thoughts #42.

living and loving as an expat in Japan

This article by a Japan-loving Englishman with an Australian "significant other" is interesting, and I'm still chewing it over. The comments, however, are even more interesting because they're almost universally negative. Basically, the commenters think the article's author is sexist, predatory, and not a little colonialist in his attitude toward foreign countries and those countries' women. Read the article for yourself and tell me what you think.

(h/t to ROK Drop)

for unto you is born this day...

I turn 48 today. I suppose congratulations are in order for surviving this long, so... way to go, Me. I expect to be dead in twelve years. Start the timer.

UPDATE: my boss and coworkers suddenly dimmed the office lights, brought out a cake, and sang "Happy Birthday" to me in several languages and dialects (the resident Aussie sang in what he called a "hard Aussie" dialect—heh). It was a sweet gesture, and I'm very grateful.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

today's lunch

A modest taco. One of two eaten today.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

what happened, Jeff?

I'm guessing Jeff Hodges didn't want to besmirch the family-friendly reputation of his blog. I saw the following on my feed, but it seems to have been deleted from Jeff's blog:

Not to worry, Jeff: coarseness is a matter of "coarse" on my blog!

UPDATE: Jeff's post, with a countrified spelling of le juron, is now here.

that storm

Woe unto Texas, eh?

It's very tempting to make cheap "Houston, we have a problem" jokes, but Harvey, which began life as a hurricane and was immediately downgraded to a tropical storm upon landfall, is no laughing matter. The storm has already done untold billions of dollars in property damage, and as of this writing, nine people are dead. Floating colonies of fire ants have also made the news; I wonder how many such colonies there are: that's a lot of angry biomass.

That said—and I don't mean to sound coldly Machiavellian—such a low death toll, when compared to that of Katrina (numbers vary, but a common figure is over 1800 dead) or to that of any number of storm/flood events in places like Bangladesh or Indonesia, is encouraging: over 99.9999% of the population in the region affected by the storm has survived. Houston itself has a population of around 2.3 million; the population of greater Houston is around 5 million. A handful of deaths out of five million, while tragic, is an acceptable loss when compared to how things have gone elsewhere and elsewhen. And this has happened despite the double clown act that is the Texas government and the city of Houston's mayoralty. Apparently, the Republican governor and Democrat mayor were at odds on how to handle evacuation: the governor was for evacuation of Houston and the surrounding area, but Houston's mayor advocated a shelter-in-place policy because he felt that a mass evacuation would only clog roads and create chaos. Here in Korea, we've seen the result of shelter-in-place orders thanks to the Sewol ferry disaster, which led to the deaths of around 300 people.*

At some point, the waters will recede, and Houston will have to plan on how to deal with future potential disasters. Texas's economy has taken a blow, but given how robust that economy has been (especially when compared to blue states'), I don't expect the state to be down for long. The South as a whole might not rise again, but Texas certainly will.

*Some might be tempted to cry, "Disanalogy!", but I think not. Houston isn't rife with bottlenecks like Washington, DC: it's a big, flat, sprawling area with many exit points. DC during 9/11 was a clogged madhouse, but Houston could have evacuated its people with relative ease (emphasis on relative).

the basket case

How do you take a once-proud country with one of the largest oil reserves in the world and plunge it into the shitter?

As one Venezuelan noted, though, the problem is as much with the people as it is with the dysfunctional leaders. Even if Maduro is somehow overthrown, the person taking his place will likely be just as bad, and the cycle of "shoot ourselves in the foot while blaming the capitalist pigs" will continue.

Monday, August 28, 2017


Over at ROK Drop, there's this bit of text (slightly edited):

I guess if you discount political executions, mass malnourishment of its people, gulags, military attacks on neighbors, state sponsored criminal activity, and being an international pariah, then I guess, yes, you could make a comparison between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un....

The rest of the ROK Drop post is pretty goofy as well, given the article that's quoted:

“Who would have thought that when we said ‘let cooler heads prevail,’ it would be the 33-year-old leader of the DPRK?” said Madden, referring to North Korea’s official title: the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Trump hailed Kim’s “very wise and well-reasoned decision” in a tweet Wednesday, but Town and Madden agree that Kim has come out stronger from the latest crisis. While Trump fired off a number of statements that were widely challenged at home—including the claim that he had improved the country’s nuclear arsenal and that U.S. missiles were “locked and loaded”—Kim remained largely silent and delegated his words to lower-level outlets of his government’s propaganda, allowing ample room for de-escalation. Even his strategic missile force’s Guam attack plan included language that offered North Korea a way out from actually going through with it.

“Kim has been very careful with his words as not to back himself into a corner by shooting from the hip, like the Trump administration,” Town says.

To put it mildly, this excerpt contains some wildly erroneous assumptions about Trump and his approach. Watch enough alt-media, and you'll see what I now see.

check out my walk-exclusive blog

I'm in the midst of creating and filling up Kevin's Walk 2, a blog devoted purely to the almost 240 "Walk Thoughts" I'd written before, during, and after my long walk this past spring. Check it out here if you're so inclined. My purpose in creating this blog is to be able to share my experience with my coworkers, most of whom now know that I did a Seoul-to-Busan trek a few months ago. There's always the chance that people will get bored (the way people get bored of other people's slide shows), but the nice thing about a blog is that people can skip ahead or do searches if they want. By creating a separate blog, I also keep my coworkers from finding this blog too quickly and easily. Not that I'm hiding this blog from them, but I'm also not going out of my way to tell them it exists.

Kevin's Walk 2 isn't finished yet: as of Sunday night, I've copied and pasted blog entries only up to Walk Thoughts #76. If I do about forty or fifty of these per day, I ought to be finished by the end of the coming week, at which point I'll tell my coworkers about the blog. I seriously doubt that many—or any—of them will actually take the time to read through every word and look at every photo, but the urge to share my experience remains strong, even though I know that words and images aren't enough to convey what it was like to be out there on the trail, among all that beauty.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


So I go down to the convenience store in my building to buy some drinks. I see that some small bottles of grapefruit juice are being sold as a "2+1" package, i.e., buy two, get one free. I take my goods to the counter, and as the guy is ringing me up—a guy I've met several times before—I say to him, while indicating the grapefruit juice, "These are two plus one, right?" He says yes, and then he adds: "Your Korean is improving little by little!"

I find this to be deeply insulting since I've never given any indication that I'm a beginner at Korean. At the same time, this guy and I have never exchanged more than a sentence or two with each other, so the only evidence he has that I've "improved" is that I used the English term "two plus one" with him (2+1 deals are referred to, in English, as "two plus one" by Koreans even when they're speaking Korean).

I was tempted to lecture the idiot. I was tempted to say, "It's not my speaking ability that has improved in the short time I've lived in this building: you've simply gotten used to the fact that a foreigner can speak to you in Korean." But I knew that saying such a thing wouldn't be worth the effort, and we'd both end up in a huff as we parted ways. Instead, I gave him a stupid grin and said, "Little by little, eh? Thanks." I doubt he caught the subtext.

uh... OK

When you're sick of interminable meetings, shut them down by spraying your breast milk.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

the wind changes yet again

An update on my previous rant.

good bread, good meat...

In an expensive effort to use up the rest of my chimichurri, I laid out a lunch yesterday for my coworkers: pan-fried ciabatta, pan-fried shabu beef, baby leafy greens, and sliced "paprika" peppers (they look like habaneros but aren't spicy at all). I also got some el-cheapo store-bought "Dutch" cheese that worked okay with the rest of the sandwich. Then, of course, there was the chimichurri itself, which made everything Argentinian.

My coworkers thoughtfully responded, this time, by cobbling together a little fund, presented to me in a cookie tin, to help defray the cost of my grocery purchases for these meals. It was a nice gesture, and every bit helps, but I think my coworkers would shudder to know how much I actually spend on ingredients. Still, it was kind of everyone to pitch in.

Friday, August 25, 2017

the stupid times we live in

Do not sexually harass a fictional character, or you will be banned from Twitter.

See why I left?

Then there's this sorry example of the History-eraser Button in use.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

gotta unload

Same problem, but a different social event. I sense a theme.

the toenail is finally off

...but a new one seems to be growing in its place. Thankfully, the loss of the dead toenail was painless. It died during my long walk a few months ago, but it hung on stubbornly, leaving me to wonder whether it was really dead. Losing toenails is a common occurrence during long-distance walks, so this particular blessed event didn't come as a surprise. While the denuded toe now looks gross, the new, little toenail gives me hope for the future.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trudeau, we hardly knew ye

I disagree with the childish and un-stylish overuse of CAPITAL LETTERS for EMPHASIS in this blog entry, but the message is one I largely AGREE with.

The post quotes

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sounding the alarm on the growing flood of immigrants entering Canada.

“Canada is an opening and welcoming society, but let me be clear. We are also a country of laws,” Trudeau said in remarks after a meeting in Montreal with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

“Entering Canada irregularly is not an advantage,” the prime minister doubled down. “There are rigorous immigration and customs rules that will be followed. Make no mistake.”

Illegal border crossings to Canada spiked in July, reaching more than triple June’s 884 crossings. Most immigrants enter through Quebec.

And is this any different from Bill Clinton in the 1990s?

Hilariously, there's a comment following that post that says (edited), "Build a wall, Justin." Right after that is the response (also edited): "Get the US to pay for it."

ADDENDUM: more fuckery here. Let's sacrifice an Asian American on the altar of PC, shall we? East and South Asians are usually the easiest to sacrifice: just look at college-admissions demographics, in which affirmative action steamrollers the competent.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

...and then the ape discovered YouTube's slo-mo function

Who knew? You can vary the speed of videos on YouTube! I gather this feature has been around since forever, but tonight was the first time I tried it out. There's a gear icon at the lower-right corner of any given video screen; click the icon, and you'll see a menu that includes "Speed." Click on that, set the speed to 0.5, and enjoy a bunch of drunken slurring. I tried it with a video of myself speaking French here.

bullet: dodged... for now

For prudential reasons, I've decided to move the post that was here.

new contact

My right-side contact lens, the one that got lost a little while back, developed a rip on its edge. The rip was no more than two millimeters deep, but it was enough to cause some minor-but-annoying irritation. Luckily, the building I work in has an eyewear shop on its first floor, so it was just a matter of galumphing sweatily downstairs, explaining my problem to the guy in the store, then asking whether he sold lenses singly. I didn't want to be forced to buy a new pair of lenses for the full W60,000 to W70,000 price. The guy said he sold single lenses, and he asked how long I'd been wearing my current pair. I told him it had been about three months, so my current lenses were comparatively fresh. I gave my visual-acuity rating (-4.5), and he found a replacement lens for me rather quickly. He was kind enough to charge me only W30,000 for the single lens, and he gave me a lens case (yet another one!) and two small, 120-ml bottles of saline solution. The entire transaction took barely five minutes, and that's how eye care works in Korea. No lengthy, expensive, and mostly useless eye tests; no three-day wait for lenses. You're in and out—done and done. Simple. Easy.

solar eclipse from Casper, Wyoming

Click on the photo below to enlarge, then right-click and select "Open Image in New Tab" to see at full size:

This image came courtesy of TIME Magazine's live feed from Casper, Wyoming, with the obviously recorded voice of Jeffrey Kluger (who is he, again?) telling us that he was with us "live" from that location. The black TV screen on the left showed an image that, thankfully, wasn't cloud-obscured the way the actual event was. When the eclipse hit totality, the sky did indeed darken a bit (it had been perfectly bright despite the sun's having been almost totally occulted when I began watching the live feed), but as you see in the image, there was still a stubborn globe of brightness in the sky, even with the moon front and center. Totality—or what passed for totality—lasted for less than three minutes in that part of the world. I get the impression that Casper, Wyoming, wasn't the place to see the land go totally dark for a few minutes, which—along with the damn cloud cover—made this event a bit disappointing for those of us watching remotely in Korea. Still, I guess some eclipse is better than no eclipse.

Take a moment to ponder your smallness in the vast cosmos, but also ponder the gift of consciousness that allows us to appreciate both that smallness and that vastness.

And that's that. As my buddy Mike likes to write: carry on!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ave, Elisson!

Elisson often writes exceedingly eloquent elegies for the recently deceased, so when I saw a blog entry of his appear on my feed, I thought I was going to read his tribute to Jerry Lewis, which would undoubtedly be a thousand times better than the drivel I'd just tossed out.

Imagine my surprise.

I can only assume a proper tribute to Mr. Lewis is forthcoming.


Comedian Jerry Lewis has died at the age of 91. In terms of the multitalented comedian-singer-actors who loomed large during my childhood, Jerry Lewis was not really part of that pantheon. I have clearer recall of people like Bob Hope and Carol Burnett; I even vaguely remember folks like Bing Crosby, Dean Martin (who apparently worked closely with Lewis for a decade before a falling-out), and Sammy Davis, Jr. When I think of Jerry Lewis, I automatically associate him with those telethons, which I never watched. I understand he's considered a comedic icon who had a turbulent show-business career, but I can't point to a single Lewis production, film or otherwise, that stands out in my memory. That's a lame admission, given how much of a cultural influence Lewis exerted and embodied, but I can't lie: his passing doesn't affect me all that much. Sorry, folks.

more college bullshit

Seen on Instapundit:

The link to the Instapundit post is here.

The link to the article that the post highlights is here.

I have to agree with Styx that, as long as the left keeps up this "moral panic," as he calls it, the GOP will have an easy time during the midterm elections in 2018, and Trump will enjoy a second term come 2020.

As they say: "Want more Trump? 'Cause this is how you get more Trump."

"Trainspotting" and "T2: Trainspotting": review

The last time I'd seen "Trainspotting" was on video in the late 1990s. I had only four sketchy recollections from that film: the bedsheet full of shit, the dead baby, Ewan McGregor climbing into a toilet and swimming in a serene ocean, and young punks running gleefully/desperately down the street to avoid arrest. There was a story that went along with those four tattered memories, but I couldn't recall it. Often, when I can't remember a movie's plot, it's because the plot is so badly written as to be unmemorable. In the case of "Trainspotting," it wasn't the unmemorable nature of the film so much as it was the feebleness of my memory combined with the fact that, as a much younger man two decades ago, I didn't really appreciate what I was seeing. The film is now considered both a cult and a popular hit, ranking #10 on the British Film Institute's list of the 100 Greatest British Films of All Time.

Made in 1996, directed by Danny Boyle, and adapted from a 1993 novel by Irvine Welsh (who also cameos in the film), "Trainspotting" stars a young, skinny Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner (lately seen in "Wonder Woman," reviewed here), Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Kevin McKidd, Kelly Macdonald (debuting, and long before her days as a troubled ghost in the Harry Potter films), Eileen Nicholas, and James Cosmo (who was much less burly twenty years ago). This is Boyle's second film, made before he rose to fame with works like "Sunshine," "28 Days Later," "Slumdog Millionaire," and "127 Hours" (reviewed here).

The story focuses on a group of friends, most of whom are heroin junkies, one of whom is a raging alcoholic and brawler, and one of whom is a health nut until he succumbs to heroin and comes to a tragic end. Our protagonist is Mark Renton (McGregor), who also gives us voiceover narration, beginning with his now-famous "Choose Life" speech, which mocks an anti-drug slogan of the day. Renton's childhood mates are Sick Boy, a.k.a. Simon (Miller), who is handsome and amoral; Daniel "Spud" Murphy (Bremner), who is goofy but sincere and kindhearted; drinker/brawler Francis "Franco" Begbie (Carlyle); and Thomas "Tommy" MacKenzie (McKidd), whose veins remain untainted until he loses his girl, gets depressed, and turns to skag. These guys are "friends" insofar as they've grown up together, but the story has them all acting in such selfish, backstabbing ways that it's hard to see how they can still meaningfully be called friends as young adults. Spud is the only one who truly shows any honesty and loyalty; Renton is an aloof cynic when he's not tripping; Begbie is a violence junkie who doesn't care how the consequences of his actions affect his mates; Simon is constantly flirting with HIV/AIDS thanks to his promiscuity and needle-sharing, and none of these guys seem to care about their parents and how they feel.

I think another reason why I had trouble remembering the plot of "Trainspotting" is that the movie is more of a slice-of-life dramedy than an actual linear narrative that's supposed to culminate in something meaningful. By the end of the film—and I hope this isn't a spoiler after twenty-one years—Renton, the supposed "moral center" of the story, ends up fucking everyone over by taking almost all the money from a drug deal. In the meantime, we get—pardon the pun—a full dose of what junkie life in Scotland is like. Renton ends up having sex with a gorgeous young woman named Diane (Macdonald), who turns out to be a fifteen-year-old high-schooler. Diane blackmails Renton to force him to keep seeing her (twenty years later, in "T2: Trainspotting," Diane has become a completely different person). Sick Boy ends up losing his baby daughter out of sheer neglect: the baby dies while everyone is out of their minds on smack. When Sick Boy demands that Renton say something while they're all staring into the crib at the pitiful corpse, Renton's answer is to turn away and shoot up again.

"Trainspotting" hits the sweet spot, combining comedy and drama into a coherent whole. The movie can be taken as a kind of social commentary about the anomie and meaninglessness of a junkie's life, and having seen the film again for the first time in about two decades, I can now—as a much older man—appreciate why the film is considered a classic. I'm not sure whether the Scots would call this "the most Scottish film ever" in quite that same way that "The Commitments" has been hailed as "the most Irish film ever": who wants their country represented by junkies, after all? But "Trainspotting" is like a core sample of a particular time and place; the comedy keeps the movie from being completely gritty and realistic, but the misery and tragedy of these broken lives nevertheless keep the story grounded and relatable, even to those of us who know next to nothing about this sort of existence. "Trainspotting" is part comedy, but it's not a feel-good film in the way that "The Commitments" (another 90s movie) is. I won't be going back to it anytime soon, but I'm glad to own the movie now.

"T2: Trainspotting" came out just this year, and it's a sequel that is only partly based on Irvine Welsh's 2002 sequel novel Porno. The same ensemble cast (minus McKidd as Tommy, who died of toxoplasmosis in the first film) returns for this reprise. Twenty years have passed since the first movie, and what we learn fairly quickly is that some of our heroes have changed while others have resolutely not. Spud, still goofy, has recently lost a construction job and is estranged from his girlfriend and son. Violent Begbie, who threw a violent tantrum in the first movie after Renton's theft of the drug-deal cash, has been in jail for twenty years, and has just failed to make parole because his volatile nature is still an issue. Sick Boy has been using his perverse talents to extort people with power and authority by working with a Bulgarian prostitute named Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova), filming kinky liaisons and then blackmailing the johns for a ten-percent cut of their salaries. Mark Renton, meanwhile, comes back to Edinburgh after hiding out in Amsterdam for twenty years. He's been married for fifteen of those years, but he's now getting divorced and has nothing, socially, to fall back on.

Once again in the old neighborhood, Renton knows that his old mates won't be happy to see him, given that he betrayed all of them by stealing their drug money. (Renton did leave Spud £4000.*) He first finds Spud, who is in the midst of committing suicide—a scene that ends hilariously with Spud projectile-vomiting while wearing a plastic bag over his head. Spud resents Renton at first, but Renton's presence gives Spud a new desire to live, and Renton talks about how running has become his new addiction: the point is that Spud—who is still a junkie—doesn't need to stop being addicted: he merely needs to become addicted to something else. Renton next visits Sick Boy at Sick Boy's pub (Simon's day job, when he's not out blackmailing people, is pub owner), who flies into a rage and beats Renton before Veronika intervenes. Simon calms down when Renton, who has done fairly well for himself in legitimate business over the years, hands Simon the £4000 he should have given him twenty years earlier. He and Renton and Veronika then begin plotting to make the second floor of Sick Boy's pub into a brothel, with Veronika playing the role of madam. Veronika, ostensibly Sick Boy's girlfriend, finds herself increasingly attracted to Renton, who gives Veronika a modern, updated version of his cynical "Choose Life" rap from the first movie—one of the best movie monologues I've heard in a while. This version, directed straight at Veronika by an earnest Renton, touches the young woman deeply. The two end up having sex.

Begbie, meanwhile, has his own subplot for much of the film. He manages to escape from prison through a fairly improbable series of events, and the only thing on his mind is getting revenge on Mark Renton. He does, however, stop to see his wife and now-grown son, who is off to college to learn hotel management, a career that Begbie scoffs at. Begbie invites his son along for a breaking-and-entering caper that ends badly; the son proclaims he has no stomach for crime and just wants to go to college.

So on one side we have Renton, Sick Boy, Veronika, and eventually Spud working together to create a brothel; on the other, we have Begbie, now a fugitive, tracking down Renton. These two plot lines must eventually converge, and they do: Begbie finds Sick Boy first, and Sick Boy, who also secretly wants to hurt Renton for his long-ago betrayal, fails to tell Renton that Begbie is back. Begbie is enough of a wild card that it's impossible to know what's going to happen next, which provides the sequel with a note of suspense.

All in all, though, T2 isn't quite the film that "Trainspotting" was. It deals with several themes, including addiction and nostalgia for a checkered past (T2 shows brief clips from the previous film), but it also shifts too much of its focus toward Veronika, who comes off as both an old soul, wise beyond her years, and that classic cinematic cliché, the hooker with a heart of gold. In the end, she ends up the "winner" in this sordid game of opportunity and betrayal, having realized that, as much as she fancies Renton, he's too mired in both the past and the bad karma that his friends generate. Veronika reaches out to Spud to run off with her—not because she's suddenly romantically attracted to him, but because she can see how innocent his soul is, and how deserving he is of a better life. Spud, however, remains faithful to his friends and elects to remain in Scotland, where he will continue pursuing a passion he discovered thanks to Veronika: writing stories about his mates' misadventures.

I came away from T2 wondering whether a sequel was even necessary. The movie was watchable, and it was interesting to see, for example, that Diane (the sexually blackmailing high-school student) had grown up to become a solicitor—quite the opposite of what she used to be. Some parts of the plot were utterly ridiculous, such as when Renton and Sick Boy try to scam some partiers and end up on stage, singing an ad-libbed anti-Catholic song. I also came away unsure of what T2's message might have been. Was it that we can't escape our fundamental natures? Once a junkie, always a junkie? Twenty years of successful living in Amsterdam means nothing once you're back in Edinburgh? I felt some disappointment at how most of our antiheroes from the first film had turned out, and as I mentioned earlier, the over-focus on Veronika felt unnecessary. "Trainspotting" is a classic for many good reasons, but T2 is going to end up as little more than a cinematic footnote, I'm afraid. Not a bad film, to be sure, but also nowhere near a great one.

*I was confused by this at first: in the first movie, Renton leaves Spud a stack of bills in a locker, and that stack looks as if it's only £2000 worth of bills. The sequel, however, goes with the idea that Renton had left Spud double that amount, and no one questions this. According to the Amazon Prime Video trivia that came along with the films, this was a continuity error—perhaps the only continuity error I've heard of where the inconsistency is visible from film to film, and not from scene to scene.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

with thanks to John from Daejeon

John from Daejeon emailed me a link to this video:

It's videos like this that make me think I did the right thing by not pursuing a doctorate. What a waste that would have been, given the sorry state of American higher education these days. I can't say that what I'm currently doing, as a former English teacher now engaged in publishing, is particularly good or noble or even useful, but it sure beats being forced to toe a particular party line defined by ideology-driven goodthink and badthink, where a person who doesn't agree with the party line is not at liberty to speak his mind.

Then again, the current miasma affects more than higher education. In my own office, I find myself surrounded by people who all share each other's political point of view, so I deem it prudent simply not to entangle myself in politicial discussions—for the sake of my own sanity. Firebrands like Stefan Molyneux would call my stance cowardly: I should be engaging and pushing back—fighting the good fight, out-shouting and out-arguing, and not letting the other side have its way. He's free to think that, of course, but my own thinking, like Sun Tzu's, is that a person should pick his battles wisely instead of uselessly beating his head against a wall that can never be broken down. There's no way that I can change hearts and minds in my office; I can already see that. Better to keep on blogging here, for my five readers.

More videos from John here:

(NB: the following video includes footage from the first video embedded above, so you might want to flip forward about five minutes.)

I feel sorry for all the kids going to college in the States right now. What a shit show.

because in this world of horrors, you need to relax

Saturday, August 19, 2017

...and thus do I walk away with another 100%

Got a perfect score from my KMA students today. Peeked at the evals again before the jogyo had a chance to come into the classroom and collect them. Lots of maeu manjok ("highly satisfactory") ratings. How long will this streak go on? Only The Shadow knows.

Today's class was interesting because I had a Brazilian guy in it—my very first Westerner at a KMA course (I taught a Frenchman for a semester back when I was at Sookmyung Women's University). He was witty and much more interactive than the other two Korean students, but everyone ended up having a good time and learning something. I'm always thankful when the students say they appreciate the class; the Brazilian chap even said he'd come back to KMA specifically to take another of my courses. (Promises, promises, eh?)

at KMA today

Friday, August 18, 2017

French news re: terror attacks in Spain

From L'Express:

Touchée ce mercredi par le terrorisme à Barcelone et à Cambrils, l'Espagne est endeuillée. Le bilan s'élève pour le moment à 13 morts et à plus d'une centaine de blessés.

La Catalogne touchée en plein coeur ce jeudi par un double attentat touchant les villes de Barcelone et de Cambrils, éloignées de seulement une centaine de kilomètres l'une de l'autre.

Tout d'abord, en fin d'après-midi, un van a fauché une centaine de piétons sur les Ramblas de Barcelone, causant 13 morts.

Un peu plus tard dans la soirée, autour de minuit, c'est la station balnéaire de Cambrils, à une centaine de kilomètres au sud de Barcelone, qui a été visée. Une Audi A3 noire avec à son bord 5 personnes a foncé sur la foule, faisant sept blessés. Les assaillants ont été abattus par les Mossos, la police catalane.

Trois suspects ont été arrêtés, dont deux à Alcanar, proche de la ville de Tarragone, où une explosion est survenue mercredi, la veille des attaques. Selon les autorités, elle serait en lien avec les attentats de Barcelone. Les occupants sont soupçonnés d'avoir tenté de fabriquer un engin explosif. Deux personnes se trouvaient dans le logement, dont une est morte.


Hit this Wednesday by terrorism in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain is in mourning. The count has risen, for the moment, to 13 dead and more than 100 injured.

Catalonia [was] hit in its very heart this Thursday by a double attack striking the cities of Barcelona and Cambrils, located only about 100 km from each other.

First of all [i.e., at the beginning of all this], at the end of the afternoon, a van ran into about a hundred pedestrians at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, causing 13 deaths.

Later in the evening, around midnight, it was the seaside resort of Cambrils, about 100 km south of Barcelona, that was targeted. A black Audi A3 holding 5 people plowed into the crowd, injuring seven. The assailants were killed by the Mossos, the Catalan police.

Three suspects have been arrested [in a residence], two of them from Alcanar, near the city of Tarragona, where an explosion occurred Wednesday on the day before the attacks. According to authorities, this is linked to the attacks in Barcelona. The occupants are suspected of having tried to put together an explosive device. Two people were in the residence, of whom one is dead.

Much more info here.

So! This is the new normal, yes?

try the riverlands

I just wandered over to ROK Drop and saw the horrific picture of Haeundae Beach, crowded as always in the summer. I have no idea what charm there is in visiting a beach that's also being visited by a million other people. My suggestion: stick to the riverlands. There's water and great natural beauty; there's often a breeze as well, and in many cases, you can just drive up to a picnic area and spend the next few hours enjoying a quiet idyll. Best of all: no massive crowds. This time of year, there might be some fishermen and campers, but not enough to keep you from finding a space and having room to breathe free.

Forget the damn beach. That's for losers.

close encounters of the international kind: cashier redux, etc.

An overseas friend writes (slightly edited, and with an alias):

Hi, Kevin,

Re: your nutty cashier who didn’t handle Korean. Some ramblings. Feel free to save and read later for when you need to handle another cranky [person] who can’t handle a foreign face, and just goes to $@’%& pieces when you show up.

Tale, the first. My American buddy and I would regularly have a weekly dinner at the same BBQ joint.

It would be a quiet night for them; the manager knew us and stood guard at the door while the waitress du jour would handle the table work. Until the one nutty waitress achieved vapor-lock when we walked in the door, and couldn’t handle it. We took our table(s) in the corner, and she finally approached. My buddy ordered in Korean, as was the case for about 8 weeks in a row at this point.

The girl got more tense as my buddy ordered. She kept uttering sounds for “What?”, “Again?”… then finally broke down and turned to walk to the manager at the cash-register by the door. She wasn’t crying, but she was on her way. “I don’t understand English!” she cried to her boss.

The manager said nicely-but-loudly (in Korean), “He’s speaking Korean. Just take the order!”

She pulled it together finally. As I recall, I had to interject myself by pointing silently at the menu and gesturing with multiple fingers to indicate “2 beers,” “3 orders of pork.”

Tale, the second. The Japan Post Bank $’@%&# wouldn’t process my money transfer.

Just a few weeks ago, I hit the local Japan Post Office to do a money transfer to the USA. Just a little bit, for some small bills. And exactly the same as I’ve done for quite a while. And PRECISELY the same as I’ve done here a few times now. But this bitch wasn’t having it.

As I walked in, I asked another clerk (without my taking a number to be served first, I just needed a blank form) for a copy of “this form I got here, I need another.” She gave me two. I spent a while filling it out, and I finally grabbed a ticket number to be served in this sleepy joint when I was ready to go.

The bitch got my form—which is the SAME as the last 10 I’ve done—and she achieved vapor-lock. She had to explain *something* in Japanese. I couldn’t quite follow. Especially since I’ve done this transaction more than her 35+ year old self has done… and I don’t work at a bank.

So I call my wife. Bitch talks with wife… poorly. I get the phone back, wife is PISSED. Teller was RUDE. Not casually rude. But $&@’% the #*$% rude. Teller wasn’t even trying to be decent.

Long(er) story, short(er)—returned with wife in tow; another teller helped us with no trouble, and we left. Last time I went back, didn’t see The Bitch.

I hope all is well.

Best regards,


re: that first story

There was a time when I snidely thought this sort of communication breakdown happened because the foreigner was speaking poorly in Korean, with a thick accent. Ha! Silly, incompetent furriners! But after hearing many more such expat stories, often from Korean-fluent people, I began to realize this was a cognitive/psychological problem on the part of the Korean interlocutors. There's a mental filter in place that causes the Korean's mind to short-circuit when Korean pours out of a foreign face. I suspect the filter is rooted in unjustifiably low expectations: Koreans, as a rule, simply don't expect foreigners to become competent in spoken or written Korean, so every instance of competency is a rude awakening (we have to make exceptions, though, for Koreans who routinely deal with Korean-competent foreigners). There's plenty of justification for low expectations because there are indeed many foreigners who make little to no effort to learn Korean despite years in country, but there are more and more foreigners—many of whom appear regularly on TV—who aren't merely competent but actually fluent in Korean.

To be fair, I've caught myself suffering from the same cognitive problem while back in the States: there have been times when, in talking to a foreigner or a fellow citizen of foreign extraction, I've automatically (and unjustifiably) assumed that the person couldn't speak well, so when s/he said something clear and obvious, my mind would unnecessarily scramble the utterance so that it became unintelligible, thus forcing me into a "What?/Again?" situation. So it's possible to enter a conversation while already primed to expect mistakes, and this expectation of mistakes is, at least in part, what leads to breakdowns in communication.

Now, I have a router. Ho. Ho. Ho.

Yesterday, I bought a router from the electronics store in my office building. Like many Korean routers, this one hooks me up with the "iptime" network. It took a bit of tinkering—and squinting at installation instructions in Korean—to figure out things like how to configure for passwords and how to rename the router so that it isn't listed simply as "iptime." I have now renamed my device "bighominid," and things seem to be running perfectly smoothly.

I had been using my MacBook Air laptop as a Wi-Fi hub for the past few years, but I think the laptop is starting to get old, and the Wi-Fi connection has lately become unstable. I used to be able to watch YouTube videos on my phone thanks to my laptop's Wi-Fi signal, but lately, the signal has been crapping out, which forces my phone to default to its standard LTE connection. Since video streaming easily piles on the gigabytes (and I've allotted only 3 GB to myself per month), I can't afford to watch videos while on LTE—ever. So I knew I needed a stable Wi-Fi connection, and the obvious solution was to buy a router.

Koreans refer to routers by the hangeulized name ra-u-teo (pronounce the "eo" somewhere between "aw" and "uh"), or by the pure-Korean designation gongyu-gi, i.e., a sharing device (cf. the English term "data sharing"). To set the router up, you need to type the router's IP address into your browser, then follow the step-by-step setup prompts from the "router wizard." I more or less managed to do that, and I can now unplug my laptop and watch YouTube from any part of my apartment.

My phone is also connected to "bighominid," so we're stable and in business. My laptop, meanwhile, is starting to show its age, so it won't be long before I have to start looking for a replacement. I'd actually like to expand a bit, with a blazing-fast desktop computer for my, uh, desktop, and another laptop to be able to tote around. But those aren't purchases I'll be making just yet—not until I've paid off my final major debt.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

and then there were... fewer

At work, one of our number has bailed on us: he did a runner sometime over the past two or three days, leaving Korea quite suddenly and with almost no advance warning. I didn't know anything was wrong until a different coworker sent me a text yesterday morning asking me to check up on our man, who hadn't been responding to calls and texts over the weekend. I'm pretty sure everyone was having nightmare visions of this dude lying in his bed, dead and slowly rotting, the foam from his final seizure drying on his lips and cheeks. I went up to the seventh floor, knocked on my coworker's door three times, and got no answer. I then slid open his hallway-side window—like a criminal—to peek inside his apartment.

No one was there, and the place was empty.

I took a cell-phone pic of the situation and texted it to the coworker who had asked me to check on our runner. Based on the cleared-out look of the apartment, I immediately assumed the guy had skedaddled, and I relayed this suspicion to the office. Later on, I discovered that the runner had emailed our boss a day or two ago to apologize for bailing and to explain how depressed and homesick he had been while living in Korea.

While I think it's a sign of immaturity to cut and run with little advance notice, thus leaving one's boss and coworkers in the lurch, I can understand how some expats in Korea come to feel the need to bolt. Korea elicits strong reactions; many expats plunge into the culture fairly deeply, finding it hard to pull away even when they do manage to leave. Plenty of expats come back here; I'm no exception, having zigzagged between Korea and the US for years. Other expats stay until they've had their fill of perceived nonsense, then they leave on a note of "Fuck this, and fuck Korea." It's probably better that they do leave: there are other expats who, for some mysterious reason, hate living in Korea, complain constantly about the country, yet never leave. I don't understand these miserable bastards at all, but if I had to guess, they remain in Korea out of fear of change, laziness, and the never-admitted knowledge that they can't hack it back in their home country. (Or maybe they just lack the money for a plane ticket out of the badlands. The lack of money is probably the result of fear and laziness, too.)

Anyway, we're in the midst of hiring for two open slots, and now we suddenly have a third position to fill. Luckily, we already have a pile of résumés in our applicant pool, so we may be reconsidering some of the people who applied but, for whatever reason, failed to make the grade the first time. Not all of these people are duds; it's just that other applicants were better.

By the way, this coworker who ran is the same guy who complimented my Middle Eastern chicken, proclaiming it legitimately Middle Eastern. When I did my second in-office luncheon, he called my food "five-star." For that selfish reason, if for no other, I'm sad to see him go: I've lost a fan of my cooking.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville: 3 voices

Here are Phil DeFranco, Roaming Millennial, and Stefan Molyneux on Charlottesville:

Molyneux's spiel is by far the rantiest, especially in its latter half. He seems to undermine his point about the need for civil, rational discourse when he starts shouting at the camera. Molyneux does, however, point out early on that the police:demonstrator ratio was 2:1, which means that law enforcement and the maintenance of order should have been easy (excepting, of course, unforeseeable events like the helicopter crash that killed two police officers and James Fields's mowing-down of leftie demonstrators, resulting in one death).

"Split": review

"Split" is a 2016 film that represents the victorious comeback of much-maligned director M. Night Shyamalan. It stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, and Betty Buckley. There's a cameo by Shyamalan himself (he usually appears briefly in his own films), as well as an uncredited cameo by Bruce Willis as David Dunn, the protagonist of Shyamalan's 2000 film "Unbreakable." As with the 2000 film, Shyamalan is intent on exploring the world of superheroes and superpowers, but in "Split," this is done primarily through the lens of psychotherapy. And like Luc Besson's "Lucy," a major theme in "Split" is the power of the human mind over matter.

The plot of "Split" is almost absurdly simple: three high-school girls get in a car, expecting the father of one of the girls to drive the three to their respective homes. Instead, a creepy man named Kevin Wendell Crumb (what's with all the movies about crazy people named Kevin?) slips into the driver's seat, renders the girls unconscious with a spray, then drives them to an undisclosed location, locking them seemingly deep underground. Kevin turns out to be a victim of DID: dissociative identity disorder, which until recently used to be known as multiple-personality disorder. We come to learn that Kevin is inhabited by at least twenty-three distinct personalities, one of which is seriously diabetic and in need of insulin shots. There is a rumored twenty-fourth personality, a demonic one known only as The Beast, which apparently requires the sacrifice of young girls and promises to be a liberating force for the other twenty-three personalities. The Beast's arrival is foretold by several of Kevin's personalities. In the meantime, the other twenty-three personalities take turns "in the light," i.e., acting as the dominant personality inside Kevin. Among these personalities is Dennis, who is all business and physically threatening. There's also Boston-accented Barry, who claims to control who gets to be in the light. Next is lispy nine-year-old Hedwig, who is something of a trickster. The last major personality we meet is prim, proper, British-accented Patricia. Kevin makes it easy for the viewer to know which personality is in the light by constantly changing clothes to match the personality. In the end, we never meet more than a handful of the twenty-three identities in residence.

The girls, meanwhile, begin their captivity locked in the same room together, but subsequent escape attempts force Kevin to place the girls in separate rooms. We see most of this trauma through the eyes of Casey (Taylor-Joy), who is something of an outcast. The other two girls resent Casey's apparent aloofness, not realizing that one reason for Casey's detachment is that she had been sexually abused by her uncle (Brad William Henke) during one or several family hunting trips in the woods. We see Casey's past in flashbacks.

Kevin, while manifesting Barry, regularly visits a psychiatrist named Karen Fletcher (Buckley). Fletcher is fascinated by the interplay between and among Kevin's personalities, and she also suspects that each personality somehow makes the person different in very real ways: physical stature and strength, handwriting, body chemistry (which is why only one personality needs insulin). Fletcher digs into deeper and more dangerous territory as she comes to realize that Barry, although he claims to be the executive personality deciding who gets to step into the light, is actually second fiddle to Dennis, who is not merely the executive but also the herald announcing the arrival of The Beast.

As part of my undergrad work, I took courses in general psychology and abnormal psychology, and some of the more disturbing things I recall seeing, in a psych textbook that I still own, were photos of so-called "stigmata" and about fourteen handwriting samples taken from the same person manifesting different personalities. The "stigmata" were brought about through hypnosis: the patient was taken back to a time in his or her life when s/he had been tightly bound and confined in a basement. The evocation of that time period caused the actual rope imprints to appear on the patient's wrists, redness and all. The picture showing the handwriting samples was just as disturbing: as they say, it's actually quite hard to "fake" handwriting in such a way that the fake sample looks nothing like one's normal penmanship. People usually leave traces of themselves in their attempts at fakery, but the fourteen writing samples in my textbook all convincingly looked as if they had come from completely different people. "Split" attempts to take the idea of mind-over-matter even further, suggesting that the mind can change one's body chemistry and even give a person what are effectively superpowers, like the acquisition of a hulking muscularity or the ability to climb walls in a spider-like way. This is obviously fiction, but Shyamalan does a good job of keeping the proceedings from seeming totally implausible.

That being said, "Split" was something of a mixed bag for me. The story was coherent, and the acting was fine, but the plot was rather predictable. For example, the moment I saw Karen Fletcher, the psychotherapist, I knew she had death written all over her. Fletcher was our guide and gateway into a scarier universe, but there was no doubt in my mind that, in the end, The Beast would require her life. The latter third of the movie follows a fairly standard "final girl" horror-movie template, although the dénouement is, admittedly, somewhat unexpected. Another problem was that, despite the film's slow pace and talky script, we never really got to know the other two girls in any depth, which made it obvious they were just cannon fodder.

The appearance of Bruce Willis's David Dunn means that The Beast and Dunn exist in the same filmic universe, and since I've heard of "Unbreakable" being referred to as "the first movie in an 'Unbreakable' series," I suppose this makes sense. Perhaps we'll see The Beast go up against David Dunn in a future film (assuming the film is made before Willis is too old for the role). You'll recall that Dunn's superpowers are enormous strength, inhuman physical toughness, and the ability to form psychic connections with people he touches.

Despite the predictability of "Split," Shyamalan does a good job with suspense and atmospherics, and James McAvoy gives a bravura performance as Kevin. The film was rated PG-13 in the States, so the viewer needn't worry about things becoming too gory and gruesome. Overall, I can cautiously recommend "Split." Watch it mainly for McAvoy's performance, but do expect to know the outcome well before the story is over.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

today's only meal

Pancakes, bacon, and pale scrambled eggs:

I used a different store-bought pancake mix this time, and it turned out a lot better. As for why the eggs are pale: it's the milk, baby. But they still tasted like eggs.

adieu, O backpack

I had to put down my ailing Gregory Whitney 95 backpack today. The poor thing has been shedding flecks of faux leather since even before my big walk in April. The parting was fairly unceremonious: I took my backpack down to the B1 garage level, which is where we residents throw out our bagged garbage and recycling. When you throw away items that are out of the ordinary and a bit cumbersome, like worn-out desks and couches and standing lamps and computers, you have to pay the parking-garage guard a fee. In my case, that fee was W3,000, or just under three dollars. With that, I simply laid the backpack against a pile of garbage, turned, and walked away without a spoken goodbye. But inside, it felt as if I had abandoned a faithful travel companion. That pack, purchased in 2008, had been with me to Europe and back; it was the pack I used during my 600-mile hike in 2008, and it traveled to and from Korea with me several times. The April-May walk across South Korea was its last hurrah; when I used it recently during my abortive attempt to walk to Incheon in soul-crushing heat, the pack's hole allowed a water bottle to slip through, and at that point, I knew the old boy was done. It was only a matter of dropping the pack off at the basement dump, something I hadn't wanted to do since coming back from the failed walk on August 5. But today, I finally took a breath and did the deed, and I feel all the emptier for it.

From here, though, we have to look toward the future. I'm still brand-loyal to Gregory, and I see on Amazon that Gregory has a new, sleek pack: the Gregory Denali 100. This might be a great replacement for my defunct Whitney 95. It costs a lot more, but part of that is probably because of improved tech since 2008. I'll give it a look and see how I like it.

The walk goes on.

problem finally(?) solved

Another week has gone by. The electricians came by yesterday (Monday) to reinstall my circuit breaker, which has been hanging out of my wall for the better part of a month. All the internal leaking has dried up. I asked the repairmen how bad the problem was, and they reiterated that the leak had begun two floors up, on the eighth floor. All the necessary construction work has been done—presumably on the floors above me.

In a sense, I was lucky: almost a month ago, the electricians had pulled my circuit breaker out of my wall to keep it out of the way of the leaking. Once that had been done, I was told simply not to touch the breaker panel, and that I could otherwise operate all my electrical appliances normally—my A/C, my fans, etc. In other words, the problem didn't affect me too deeply, which is one reason why I'm not ranting about it. Last week, when the electrician called and said, with some hesitation, that the problem would take another week to solve, I laughed and replied, "I've waited weeks already, so what's another week?" It really was no skin off my nose. I also told the guys that the most important thing was safety, so they needed to take their time and do things right. Here's hoping that they have.

Happy Gwangbokjeol

Today is VJ Day in the States and Liberation Day in South Korea. Koreans rarely use this day to thank their liberators; there seems, alas, to be a push to act as if Korea somehow liberated itself. Whatever speech President Moon gives today, it probably won't mention—much less offer thanks to—the countries that helped liberate Korea from Japanese occupation. That said, it's a national holiday, and we proles are off work today, so it's not all bad.

(If Moon breaks with tradition and does thank the US and its allies, I'll eat my hat. You will eventually be able to go here to see the English transcript of the president's speech for yourself. It's not up yet, so please be patient.)

Monday, August 14, 2017

tricksters: round 3

Over at YouTube's Crash Course Mythology series, Mike Rugnetta puts out his third (and I think final) video on trickster figures, which I've embedded here:

The first trickster video is here; the second is here.

Roger L. Simon on Charlottesville

You may have heard about how an initially peaceful "white nationalist" demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned into a riot and ended, on the second day, with at least one death when an angry driver, James Fields, rammed into a crowd of demonstrators. Fields turned out not to be someone of the left, but rather someone of the far right. The demonstration featured rhetoric expressing a desire to preserve white culture, but also featured swastikas and Nazi salutes. The violent group Antifa ("anti-fascists," supposedly, but the group uses fascist tactics) showed up, and that's when the fighting started and the local police failed to do their duty. Ed Driscoll's take is here. Fields's act of vehicular manslaughter was, in a sense, just the icing on the violence-cake.

Roger Simon, in this PJ Media article, writes that what we're seeing isn't a reflection of the country at large, given how small a slice of the population consists of white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, etc. This is an important point that will be forgotten in the furor.

Meanwhile, since the 1920s, our population has more than tripled to some 325 million. Using the figure of 100,000 white supremacists (not many of whom made it to Charlottesville fortunately), this puts the percentage of white supremacists in the U.S. at a puny 0.03%. Terrible people, yes, but no epidemic by any stretch of the imagination. By way of comparison, an estimated 3 billion pizzas are sold every year in the U.S. There's an epidemic.

More to the point, are there more of these white supremacists than members of the equally violent and disgusting Antifa movement? Again statistics are hard to come by. (Both sides like to wear masks.) But I tend to doubt it. If anything, Antifa has been far more active, until Saturday.

Obviously, none of this is to exonerate in the slightest the human excrement that descended on Charlottesville. It's just to put them in perspective. For the next week or two -- assuming we're not at war with North Korea -- we will hear non-stop geschreiing from our media about what a racist nation we are, how we have to come together, rend our shirts, investigate this and that and endlessly discuss how bad we are until we're finally forgiven at some undetermined point in an ever vanishing future that seems never to arrive.

Neither the left nor the right came out looking angelic in this latest incident. The right certainly isn't advancing its cause by allowing swastikas and Nazi salutes to gain free air time. The left, of course, resorts to violence far more than the right does by several orders of magnitude these days; Antifa is a prime example of that. But now there's James Fields, and while I understand Roger Simon's desire to minimize the significance of a Charlottesville-style incident, I do have to wonder whether Fields's act is the first of many retaliatory acts to come as the right's patience finally cracks. The specter of civil war is always looming in the background. Can large-scale disaster be averted?

Styx sees all this as primarily the biased media's fault:

ADDENDUM: more Antifa violence in Seattle.

ADDENDUM 2: the right, at least on, isn't distinguishing itself when it uploads morbid humor like this:

That's one sample of many such posts that I see on Gab. People are cheering the death of the woman who got mowed down by Fields. I'd love to say that we're talking about only a small minority, but the preponderance of such images and posts on Gab isn't reassuring. There's a very large, very angry group of people that is beginning to feel it's been pushed around enough, which is why I fear this kind of incident is merely a foretaste of what's in store.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

dinner at Julio's

I met my buddy Tom for dinner in Jongno this evening. I had been holding his six packages of books for the past few weeks; he had been in the Philippines, and he brought me back four bars of Gillette armpit deodorant that he was able to buy for half the cost of the same product here. We traded items and went to the local galmaegi-sal restaurant, but that place was closed, so Tom suggested we hit a spot called Julio's, another Tex-Mex joint thankfully outside of Itaewon. The place reminded me of how Dos Tacos used to be before that place began to wither and shrivel. I suggested we share a quesadilla as an appetizer; for his main course, Tom chose tacos (pictured below, albeit blurrily). For my part, I got the Nachos Grande, which proved not to be too grande, but was filling all the same. The "bacon" in the quesadilla turned out to be the thick pork-belly cut that Koreans use when making samgyeopsal. The pork was startlingly smoky, and it was easily the most memorable part of my meal. The nachos were fine, and Tom's tacos came out of the kitchen looking bigger than they had looked in the menu's photos. A good meal, all in all, followed up by our ritual ice-cream session over at the local Baskin Robbins. Below are two photos of the meal: Tom's tacos and my nachos (plus part of the quesadilla). The "bacon" wasn't at all crispy, the way we Yanks like it, but the smokiness of the meat more than made up for the lack of texture.

Julio's was good enough to make me want to go back and try out other parts of its extensive menu, so I might be making a trip out there again soon.

gender is only in the mind (or something)

Funniest thing I've read all day, and it's 1:05AM.

I have more to say on trans/gender issues, but not yet. This is a complex topic, and while some of the ethical and social issues arising from it are easy enough to form positions on, other issues require a measure of nuance, sophistication, and—dare I say it?—compassion. I'm still fumbling my way through all this, so please bear with me. More later.

fixed it

In case you missed it, I fixed the eleven errors in my philosophy book's sample chapter. Click this link to take a look at the now-improved chapter if you want.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joshua vs. Styx on North Korea

Joshua Stanton thinks it's a bad idea for the US to ramp up its threatening rhetoric against North Korea. Styx, meanwhile, thinks Trump's rhetoric is apropos for East Asian-style diplomacy. As Joshua writes:

I’m already on record on the topic of threatening war against North Korea: it scares our friends more than our enemies (who assume, correctly I hope, that we’re bluffing). If we want to threaten the thing our enemies fear most, threaten to sow the seeds of the revolution that the people of North Korea desperately need. Nukes aren’t much good in that kind of war, and China would never tolerate their use so close to its borders. If we can’t resist threatening to bomb someone, at least threaten to bomb the person who is responsible for this crisis, and deliver those threats privately. The people of North Korea didn’t elect Kim Jong-Un. At least Americans had a choice, sort of.

The people of North Korea don’t make policy, can’t criticize their government’s policies, and often don’t even agree with those policies. They’d rather eat than have missiles. So I really wish we would not play directly into the hands of Kim Jong-Un’s propaganda by threatening the very people we’ll need to befriend, support, and empower to verifiably disarm His Porcine Majesty.

Styx, by contrast, says this in his video (linked above):

There is a difference between the way in which diplomacy is conducted in the European style, and the way in which diplomacy is typically conducted in an East Asian style, with regards to, you know, a threatening or aggressive situation.


In East Asian politics, the two sides basically size one another up, tell each other, "Hey—I'm big and bad. I'm gonna annihilate you if you get involved. Back the fuck down." And neither one is supposed to back down! It's like the posturing of bears. Bears, when they don't want to actually physically fight with one another, they exchange some warning roars, and they make themselves look big and burly, and they do a few fake charges. And the idea is that they both sort of retire from battle having not fought out their differences. It's a strategy of actual avoidance of warfare.

When North Korea says that it has drawn up concrete plans awaiting Kim Jeong-eun's orders to fire four missiles into Guam's territorial waters, it's probably a bluff. Now, Obama never realized this. Obama would see a situation like that and say, "Oh, we call for calm. We will defend our allies," blah—[he] may issue a few vague statements and ultimately do nothing. That's how you get disrespect. There is a reason why, late in his presidency, when Obama went to Beijing the last time, they didn't roll out the carpet; nobody was there to meet him. They saw him as a joke. Because in their culture, that's a sign of weakness. It's a sign that he's impotent—that he doesn't have any balls. Trump has chosen the correct strategy to deal with the situation in Korea: he's saying, "Hey—make my day. Go ahead and fire your fuckin' missiles. We'll fire something way, way worse at North Korea." That'll probably back them down and avoid conflict."

So here are two foreign-policy stances for you to mull over today. Which one do you think hews more closely to reality? (Males being males, I expect someone to come along in the comments and proclaim, "Neither!" Because it's somehow always a sign of wisdom to defy or shatter dichotomies. Heh.)

In my more whimsical moments, I think it'd be a hoot for us to fly drones all over North Korean airspace, and then to play "missile tennis" by launching warhead-less missiles from ships or subs on either side of the peninsula, back and forth to the east and west, from ocean to ocean, just to show what we can do.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Edward James Asshole?

One of my new coworkers used to work in the film industry, and she studied film, too. One time, her class had Edward James Olmos as a guest speaker, and according to her, Olmos—whom I greatly admire as an actor—turned out to be a raging asshole. He insisted that none of the students take notes while he talked, and he apparently went ballistic when one student clickity-clacked on a laptop. He told people not to take any photos of him, either, even threatening others by saying something like, "If you post any pics online, I will find you!" He also allegedly harangued a student while unironically referring to himself in his Bill Adama role from "Battlestar Galactica," roaring, "Don't fuck with a commander!"

This news came as a shock and a disappointment to me, but upon reflection, I think there were signs. Olmos has had a history of playing morally upright authority figures, and there's doubtless a feedback loop between his self-righteousness and the roles he gets. In one of the DVD extras that came with my copy of "Battlestar Galactica: The Plan," which Olmos directed, we see Olmos seated at a table with his actors, giving some sort of grave motivational speech intended to get the actors in the correct frame of mind for the upcoming scenes. The man obviously takes himself seriously. In another clip, Olmos talks about how relieved he is that "Battlestar Galactica" is a sci-fi show with no aliens. I don't remember his exact words, but at one moment he said, roughly, "If they ever put aliens on the show, I've already warned the crew that, when the alien appears, I'm going faint, drop to the floor, and not move again. Then I'm going to walk out. They can do whatever they want with that footage." While this can be interpreted as an example of Olmos's artistic integrity, it's also of a piece with the arrogance and instability that my coworker talked about (she called Olmos "insane"). Very disappointing to learn this ugly truth about one of my cinematic idols.

the philosophy book: take a peek at Unit 1

I've been charged with creating a textbook on philosophy for elementary schoolers, so I've been creating the content, making design elements, and fashioning layout. Here's a link to a draft of Unit 1, which of course begins with the question, "What is philosophy?" Thus far, I've had near-total freedom to create the content and the look as I please, but Unit 1 is soon going to be reviewed by several teachers (Koreans, most likely) who will offer their input as to how easy or difficult the material is, and/or how appealing the design is. The boss is pretty sure that the teachers will think the material is a bit too difficult for their kids; I'm inclined to agree, so I'm already anticipating having to redo most or all of what you see. As for other critiques, the boss thinks that the "listening" dialogue on page 7 needs to be removed so the students can't read along. I agree: I placed the dialogue there more as a filler than as actual content for the students. In the final version, the dialogue will likely be gone, and only the listening-exercise instructions will remain. Otherwise, the boss declared himself pleased with the unit's overall look, and he doesn't think the reading passage is too difficult (given that I was at pains to explain many new terms within the passage itself), but he's still fairly sure that the unit will need to be redone after the teachers have had their say.

Creating the content was easy and straightforward, but doing the art and layout took a long, long time. In the future, when I get back to working on this textbook, I've been told that I should concentrate solely on creating content. I hope this doesn't mean that other people will be brought in to do the design work (this has become my baby, after all), but that may be the only way to produce the book faster. My own thought is that I can radically reduce the number of illustrations I do per unit, which will speed production up nicely.

ADDENDUM: Dammit. I'm still finding mistakes in this draft. For my own purposes (because I'll need to go back to the original files, clean up the errors, then create new PDFs and hard-copy printouts), I'll list the gaffes here.

1. Page 3: need a closed quotation mark after "dead" in question 5.
2. Page 4: "analyze" is a verb, not a noun.
3. Page 4: for #4, "wisdom" = awkward phrase "a deep sense of about how to live life..."
4. Page 7: Prof. Jones's line, second utterance from the bottom: close up the space in the phrase "an animal that can use reason or logic."
5. Page 7: close up spaces after all ellipses (consistency).
6. Page 7: Prof. Jones's final line: close up space in the phrase "human beings are unique."
7. Page 11, section 1, question 2: delete "has."
8. Page 12: close up spaces after ellipses.
9. Page 14, section 2: switch "by" and "come to" to reflect proper order of patterns.
10. Page 16, section 1: change "6-line" to "4-line."
11. Page 17, #3: add the line, "Print out your paragraph and bring it to class."

ADDENDUM 2: corrections made. I'm breathing easier, now.

another successful office lunch

These office lunches have become hugely expensive affairs, but despite how tiring and wallet-draining they are, they can be fun. I had insane amounts of leftover chimichurri, pesto, Thai peanut sauce, and hummus, so I prepped the following for today:

1. Thai chicken satay with peanut sauce
2. Hummus with Indian roti flatbread
3. Pesto chicken-and-mushroom fusilli pasta
4. Shabu beef plus chimichurri

As before, the staffers destroyed anything chicken-related. There's still a ton of hummus left, but the hummus got plenty of compliments. This was my first time tasting Indian roti, which turns out to be much more savory than a standard naan. A coworker discovered that the roti actually goes very well with the Thai peanut sauce, which makes sense, given that roti is South Asian and Thai peanut sauce is Southeast Asian—two flavor profiles that aren't too far apart. One staffer said that he thought today's lunch was even better than the last one.

And that's it for August. I'll be doing another luncheon in September.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

"...thus proving Damore's point."

The James Damore fiasco continues. As Philip DeFranco noted (link in previous post), Julian Assange of Wikileaks has publicly offered Damore a job, and I suspect that other companies will be doing the same. In the meantime, triggered women at Google are now skipping work because they've been made to feel uncomfortable by Damore's ten-page screed (which, along with being called both a "diversity memo" and an "anti-diversity memo," has also been called a manifesto, probably because of its length). As this article points out, the disgruntled women's action essentially confirms what Damore says in his piece regarding feminine emotionality.

In the document, Damore suggested that "women on average are more cooperative" and "more prone to anxiety," and that this often involves a search "for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average."

What could demonstrate these arguments more clearly than women staying home (focusing on life over work and accepting a cut in status) in solidarity with other women (more cooperative) and feeling "uncomfortable" going back to work (more prone to anxiety)?

Indeed, NPR quoted [software engineer Kelly] Ellis as a sympathetic source, noting that "she left Google in 2014 after she was sexually harassed." Ellis also reported feeling traumatized by seeing "similar language when I was at Google being shared on internal message boards and other different internal forums."

Here's the thing: Ellis refused to report the verbal sexual harassment she received at the time, posting it on Twitter only after she had left the company, and acknowledging she had no evidence to support her claims. She said Google "reprimanded me instead of him," despite the fact she hadn't reported the incident. Nowhere does Damore's document dismiss sexual harassment or support the idea that women should be objectified.


The manifesto was very fair, presenting the virtues of the Left biases and the Right biases, but warning against the dangers of imbalance. Damore was not arguing for Google to become a conservative company — he was arguing that it should have more intellectual diversity, correcting blind spots and maximizing value for everyone concerned.

The women employees at Google, by reacting the way they did, underscored his general points about men and women. Again, Damore only said that gender stereotypes explain the difference between the average man and the average woman — many men and women overlap on the spectrum.

In general, women focus more on empathy, work-life balance, and cooperation, while men focus more on leadership, things and ideas, and competition. "Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail," Damore argued.

Rather than just focusing on why women are less frequently in top leadership positions, he explained that "the same forces that lead men into high pay/his stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths."

Men did not ditch work on Monday, even though many of them undoubtedly were disturbed to see a memo questioning their basic assumptions. Women did, and the reporting focused on them as victims, proving both of Damore's points that women tend to be less competitive and that society tends to be protective of women.

Damore was not denouncing either of these trends as bad, but insisting that social sciences and companies like Google need to acknowledge them. Unfortunately, this reaction suggests both that Damore's analysis was accurate and that it will fall on deaf ears.

The "thus proving Damore's point" notion has become a meme, of sorts, over the past week as this kerfuffle has attracted public attention. Google is now a ponderous company that often seems blind to many ironies, e.g., the contrast between its "Don't Be Evil" motto and its collusion with China in helping to reinforce China's Great Firewall, which suppresses information that the Chinese government doesn't want its citizens to see. And now we see the irony that Google, supposedly pro-diversity, actually wants employees to march in lockstep and hew to a specific ideological line. Google owns YouTube, so this ties into my earlier post re: the continuing constriction of free speech on that platform.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

PJW on the Google-memo controversy

Stefan Molyneux will happily talk your ear off for an hour, but you can always count on Paul Joseph Watson to have a brief, acerbic take on the issues of the day. In the video embedded below, Watson gives his perspective on the recent controversy surrounding the now-fired Google employee James Damore, who wrote and sent around what has been variously called a "diversity memo" and an "anti-diversity memo." Damore's memo dares to mention possible hard-wired differences between the sexes; he also notes that, for Google, ethnic/cultural/racial diversity might be important, but diversity of opinion/perspective is not. For this thoughtcrime, Damore has been pilloried, fired from his job, and even doxxed.

Take it away, PJW:

ADDENDUM: my good-natured ribbing of the prolix and vociferous Stefan Molyneux aside, it's interesting to note that Molyneux actually scored an interview with James Damore himself. You can watch that 45-minute exchange here.

ADDENDUM 2: Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit posts:

CONOR FRIEDERSDORF: The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo: Many headlines labeled the document “anti-diversity,” misleading readers about its actual contents. They wanted a white-male hate object, even if they had to invent one.

True. If you've seen any part of the actual memo, then you know full well that it affirms various types of diversity, including the racial/ethnic/cultural (and sexual) kind.

ADDENDUM 3: Philip DeFranco opines, with lengthy quotes from the document, here.

armed but unarmed


What's your excuse? indeed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

some kid has his head on straight

I might be seeing things, but I'm pretty sure some impetuous kid carved "Kim Jeong Eun [is an] idiot" into a local tree. Look at the unaltered tree first, then scroll down, look at the enhanced picture, and decide for yourself.