Saturday, September 30, 2017

another cousin's wedding

I have a ton of Korean cousins. We don't hang out at all, and to be honest, I don't mind. We have little to nothing in common, and everyone is living his own life, so we only ever see each other on special occasions—like today's wedding. (I often avoid the relatives at Chuseok and Lunar New Year.) This was the marriage of my cousin Jae-yeol; his big brother Gi-yeol got married almost two years ago and is now a proud dad. Both brothers moved to and lived in Germany; Gi-yeol moved back to Korea after a couple years. Meanwhile, Jae-yeol, the younger brother, chose to stay and make a life in Deutschland. He is now nearly perfectly fluent in German, and he rakes in the dough working for BMW. He's also attending grad school (all in German), from what I understand, but I don't know what he's studying.

Here are a few pics from today. First up is elder brother Gi-yeol, who is a professional singer. Gi-yeol rounded up the best singers from the church choir; they gave us some amazing singing while Gi-yeol conducted with his usual extroverted élan. In the pic below, the ceremony is over, and Gi-yeol is putting away songbooks. Sorry for the lack of focus. I suck at photos.

Next comes a shot of the happy couple with the minister (we were at Geumho Presbyterian Church, which is where my cousin's parents have gone for the past several decades):

In the photo below, I note with amusement that Jae-yeol's dad (who is also my mother's cousin, which explains my connection to my relatives) didn't bother to dye his hair this time, the way he did for Gi-yeol's wedding.

While I met several cousins and other relatives today, none offered to take a pic of me, so I took the following selfie while inside the cab on the way back to my place:

My hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) earned me many stares while I was walking down the street. The traditional shoes that I had bought were hell on my feet; I was impatient to take the damn things off. I tried, before leaving, to relearn how to tie the traditional knot that closes up the main garment, but I couldn't do it, so I said "Fuck it" and tied a shoestring-style bow. While walking down the street toward the church in Geumho-dong, I felt a tug on my sleeve. A lady briskly said, "Ajeossi! You've tied it wrong! I work at a hanbok store. Here—let me help you." Thirty seconds later: problem solved. My knot was now tied correctly. I bowed, thanked the lady, and limped* on my way to the church.

All in all, a small and simple ceremony for my cousin, but it was a good wedding with a good vibe. Jae-yeol's bride, Hee-gyeong, was a better sport about the wedding than Gi-yeol's bride had been: Hee-gyeong smiled radiantly and laughed often. She shed a few tears when the time came to bow to and hug her parents, but she was otherwise a perfect angel, poised and cheerfully dignified. I left the wedding not long after it ended; you know I'm not the type to hang around big social occasions.

And now I need to focus on my own adventure, which starts on Monday.

*I had done a five-plus-hour, 40,000-step megawalk the previous night, so my feet were already a bit achy. Putting on those traditional shoes didn't help matters.

Friday, September 29, 2017

last day of work for a while

Chuseok break begins tomorrow for us proles. It continues into next week and lasts through Thursday, October 5. We work a single day, on Friday, and then we have a three-day weekend thanks to Hangeul Day on the following Monday, October 9. Many of us are miffed that the company is doing this: ideally, we ought to have Friday the 6th off as well so as to have a solid block of ten days off. But the word from on high is that we have to come in on the 6th, so we'll drag ourselves to the office and have ourselves an unproductive day.

Tonight, I do a standard creekside walk. Tomorrow (9/30), I'll be attending my cousin's wedding. I've withdrawn W300,000 that I'll be stuffing into a white envelope and gifting to the happy couple. After the wedding, I'll be back at my place and girded for a megawalk to practice for my Incheon walk. That'll be a good five hours' schlepping. On Sunday, I'll be resting. On Monday, I'll sling on my backpack, slide on my toshi, don my bandanna and hat, take up my trekking pole, and start west for Day One of a four-day walk out to the Ara Seohae Gapmun Injeung Senteo, i.e., the Ara West Sea Lock Registration Center, out at land's end. I'll be picking up stamps along the way, even before I reach the sea.

I noticed, in looking at the map, that Day 2 of my walk is going to be a bear: there are no motels close to the water, so I have to backtrack 7 km inland to find a place to sleep. But what seems like a disadvantage on Day 2 becomes an advantage on Day 3, as my walk that day will be a few kilometers shorter. Day 4, by contrast, will be the same as Day 1.

It's nice to have Chuseok plans for once. I normally spend the big Korean holidays avoiding my relatives, but this year, I've got an actual reason to avoid them.

I wonder whether a winter walk is possible. That may be asking a lot, though.

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Hugh Hefner—the Hef, founder of Playboy—has died at the ripe old age of 91.

the Reaper said to Hugh,
"Your time is nigh, 'tis true,
"you've come in scads of virgin twats,
"but now, I come in you."

ol' Hefner gave a smile:
"I've waited quite a while;
"if Death intends to fuck my ass,
"may He do so in style!"

RIP, Hugh Hefner. May your crotch sprout thirty dicks in heaven, and may there be a nubile young thang sitting atop every one of them, pumping and grinding avidly forever.

ADDENDUM: a sober and humorless take on Hef's demise can be found here.

seen on Gab

On Gab, you have to filter through an incredible amount of racist, antisemitic garbage, but there are some gems hidden in the sludge. I just saw this today: a pic of Hillary Clinton with actress Chloe Moretz:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

this is a joke, right?

Hirsute Irish biologist, 26, gets raped by an orangutan in the jungles of Borneo:

Kalimantan: an ecologist's dream to watch orangutans in their natural habitat quickly turned into his worst nightmare after [he was] savagely attacked and raped by a 400-pound orangutan in the jungle of Borneo.

Zack O’Reilly, a young 26-year-old from Ireland, who is presently studying biology at Dublin city University and has been a Greenpeace activist for the past three years, had always dreamed of seeing orangutans in their natural habitat and was a strong advocate against the palm oil industry, which is a great threat to the endangered species.

"He always dreamed of seeing orangutans in the jungle. I used to tease him, saying he looked like one and that he’d find his soulmate in the jungle. Never would I have thought he would be sexually assaulted by one."
– Kelly O’Reilly, mother

The young man was quickly brought back to a missionary hospital near Kalimantan, where he lay unconscious for many hours and where doctors found traces of internal bleeding.

Familiar traits

Kekbek Mahlouiak, one of the tour guides present on the dramatic trip, says he has warned various tourists to be careful around the animals.

"I specifically told him to wear a hat and hide his orange hair, that it could entice the orangutans. I'm not surprised of what has happened; I warned him many times. He did not listen," he told local reporters.

"It is very dangerous for people with orange hair; the males get very excited. A male followed us deep into the jungle many kilometers; he was very aggressive. There is nothing I could do," he added.

An isolated incident

A spokeswoman for the Borneo Tourism Board said it is the first time an orangutan has physically assaulted a tourist on one of their jungle treks.

"We are deeply horrified and saddened by the whole affair. We have offered the young victim a free tour if he ever wishes to come back again and will provide increased security for our travelers in the future," she added.

"We have offered the young victim a free tour." Wow.

Do you think this is an Onion-style joke? It kinda' reads like one.

the struggle back down to 116 kg

As you'll recall, I went from 126 kg to 116 kg during my trek earlier this year: a ten-kilo loss, or 22 pounds in 26 days—almost a pound a day. In the intervening months, I've somehow managed to keep from instantly regaining all that weight: until recently, I'd been hovering around 119 kg, i.e., a three-kilo gain. While I'm not happy about regaining any weight, I'm glad the situation isn't worse.

Lately, I've been back to creekside walking—my old 14-staircase routine, not the new, badass, 28-staircase workout. I had to take a week off, two weeks ago, when I fell ill, but I'm back outside and walking despite a lingering cough and mucus-y rattle. I'll return to 28 staircases once I shake this cold or whatever it is, but in the meantime, I think I've trained enough for my upcoming walk to Incheon and back.

Because I'm now walking the creekside almost every single day, and because I'm also cutting back a bit on what I gobble for lunch and dinner, my weight is slipping down again. Tonight, post-walk, I weighed myself and got a result of 117.5 kg, which puts me 1.5 kg away from my current goal weight of 116 kg exactly. I'm supposed to be attending a cousin's wedding this coming Saturday, so I want to be down to my post-trek weight by then. I think this is doable as long as I keep working out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

that traditional Korean game—the whatsits...

It's good to know enough Korean to be able to search online when you don't know what something is called. During our company retreat this past weekend, one of the games we played was a variant of a game supposedly played in Korean palaces. In this game, you are given several unfletched arrows (or just a set of skinny, 18-inch-long sticks), and your job is to "make a basket" by tossing the arrows into a two-foot-high cylinder that stands only a couple feet away from you. The game is harder than you might think because you have to factor in the arrow's rotation once it leaves your hand (the lack of fletching probably contributes to the problem). The boss tried to demonstrate, from barely two feet away, how the game was supposed to work, but he was unable to get a single arrow (ours were rubber-tipped) into the cylinder. We all had a good chuckle.

Our twist on the game was that we would pair up into teams. One person was the thrower, and the other was the shot-caller. The thrower would be blindfolded, and the un-blindfolded person would verbally guide the aim of the unseeing thrower. One team went before me; each of us had four or five tries. That team's thrower managed to bounce an arrow off the rim of the cylinder, but nothing got in. I was next, with my teammate C. She calmly directed me where to throw, but I missed the first couple. Finally, she said, "Do exactly what you did last time, but sliiiightly to the left." I took a deep breath, which caused some people to "ooh" and "aah" quietly as they realized I was using the Force... and then I gently cast my arrow forward. With a satisfying thunk, followed by loud cheering, my arrow went straight into the cylinder. I heard it, but I couldn't see it, which was too bad.

"You Zenned it!" one guy said. "Used your third eye!"

Truth is, it was a lucky shot, but I credit the lovely C with guiding my aim.

Other teams followed us, but as it turned out, I was the only one to sink an arrow.

So I got curious as to the name of the game we were playing. Today, I typed the Korean phrase "화살을 원통에 던지는 놀이" (hwasaleul weontongae deonjineun nori—"the game [where] an arrow is thrown into a cylinder"), which led to this results page, which led to the above-linked image. I now know the game is called tuho (투호) or, more fully, tuho nori (투호놀이).

Curiosity satisfied.

time to take a knee, I guess

Every damn person is writing about this whole "take a knee" flap, so I suppose it's time for me to slap up my own thoughts as well. But first, here are some others' thoughts that are worth a view or a read.

First up is Paul Joseph Watson, who as usual minces no words:

Zen teacher Lorianne offers her own opinion on the knee situation here.

Mike Rowe thinks the situation is in the hands of the fans, and he expresses disappointment in all the parties involved, from the players to the president.

Styx offers a take that is more nuanced than Paul Joseph Watson's, but his general view is that the football players are spoiled brats undeserving of sympathy:

All of the above-cited people make points that I agree with, as well as some that I disagree with (e.g., I disagree with Lorianne's blanket claim that taking a knee is a reverential gesture: it's obviously a gesture of defiance in this instance, although not, as some would say, a crass gesture of disrespect: this is what peaceful protest should look like). My basic stance is similar to that of Styx and Mike Rowe insofar as I believe the kneelers are simply taking advantage of their right to free expression. At the same time, I appreciate Rowe's point that, ultimately, the fans are the ones whose threshold of tolerance matters: if the fans get disgusted enough, they'll withdraw their business, and the NFL's owners and coaches will start to tell the players to cut out the kneeling. As Styx notes: the owners and coaches already tell the players what socks to wear onto the field; if they control the players' behavior so minutely already, what's so hard about telling the players to get their collective act together?

I also agree with the notion (I think propounded by Styx and others) that Trump's having weighed in on the situation with his "get that son of a bitch off the field" is yet another Trumpian smoke screen designed to keep people agitated about things that don't matter while Trump quietly implements a deeper agenda. If I've learned nothing else about Trump since the election, it's that Trump is as much a media guy as he is a real-estate guy, and he knows how to manipulate. The smoke-screen theory isn't kooky at all, from my perspective. People are also noting (this was from the PJW video) that the kneelers are basically playing into Trump's hands, politically speaking: the public gesture will solidify resentment on the right and ensure that Trump's voting bloc remains solid through the midterm elections and beyond. When 2020 rolls around, and all the left has to work with are the usual accusations of bigotry/racism, sexism, and general crassness (along with claims of insanity and stupidity), Trump's voter base is going to steamroller over this utter lack of a platform and win Trump a second term. Whether you cheer this or fear this is up to you, of course.

ADDENDUM: David French, a conservative writer at National Review, cautions righties to beware the hypocrisy of trumpeting free speech only when it suits them:

Now, with that as a backdrop, which is the greater danger to the ideals embodied by the American flag, a few football players’ taking a knee at the national anthem or the most powerful man in the world’s demanding that they be fired and their livelihoods destroyed for engaging in speech he doesn’t like?

As my colleague Jim Geraghty notes this morning, too many in our polarized nation have lately developed a disturbing habit of zealously defending the free speech of people they like while working overtime to find reasons to justify censoring their ideological enemies. How many leftists who were yelling “free speech” yesterday are only too happy to sic the government on the tiny few bakers or florists who don’t want to use their artistic talents to celebrate events they find offensive? How many progressives who celebrated the First Amendment on Sunday sympathize with college students who chant “speech is violence” and seek to block conservatives from college campuses?

The hypocrisy runs the other way, too. I was startled to see many conservatives who decried Google’s termination of a young, dissenting software engineer work overtime yesterday to argue that Trump was somehow in the right. Yet Google is a private corporation and Trump is the most powerful government official in the land. The First Amendment applies to Trump, not Google, and his demands for reprisals are ultimately far more ominous, given his job, than even the actions of the largest corporations.

InstaPundit commenters vociferously disagree with David French. See here.

ADDENDUM 2: Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is now apologizing for having stood during the national anthem while all of his teammates took a knee. Villanueva is a former Army Ranger; I'd have thought he'd have more of a spine.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Justin's "Day of Grub"

Some awesome foodblogging over at Justin's blog. Be sure to watch the short videos of kebabs being made by an expert.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

the dust settles

The aftermath.

never seen a faucet quite like this

At the yeogwan I stayed in last night and this morning:

my boss's hapkido master's compound (+1)

The first seven pics below are from my boss's hapkido master's compound, where we had a company retreat. The eighth picture is from close to Anseong's main bus terminal, which is a 13-kilometer walk from the compound. Many of these pics show the same sort of orb weaver I encountered at almost the same time last year; this type of spider is apparently ubiquitous in South Korea. Sorry, once again, for my cell cam's inability to focus on the spider itself.

I have video of a whole community of spiders here.

Ave, Charles!

Charles gives us the grand tour of his new place, weird feng shui and all.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

the burdened student

Below: an illustration that I did for one of my colleagues. He and I are working on a textbook, and my coworker said he wanted certain illustrations. I provided him with three; here's one.

Friday, September 22, 2017

too funny

Paul Joseph Watson's recent take on Hillary's character and mental state (punctuated by clips of Donald Trump sniffing) is hilariously edited:

two men face each other. dust and tumbleweeds.

A showdown is brewing.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Morgan, Morgan, Morgan

Why do the stars I love seem so hell-bent on beclowning themselves? And why is the left so intent on plumping the "war with Russia" narrative? Just who are the warmongers, again?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Puerto Rico better watch its ass

Things aren't looking good for Puerto Rico (the Spanish way to say "Richport"). As if severe economic problems weren't enough, Hurricane Maria is heading straight for the tiny territory. Apparently, the hurricane is a Category 5, and there's no chance it will weaken before striking the island. Here's hoping the PR doesn't end up 95% destroyed like the tiny island of Barbuda when Irma passed overhead like an avenging angel.

Batten down those hatches, guys, and good luck. You have nowhere to flee to now.

why God invented sniper rifles

There's a Mad Pooper in Colorado.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

quesadillas: a hit at the office today

Today, I served shrimp-and-chorizo quesadillas—the dish I wasn't able to bring this past Friday. Sorry about the lack of pictures: the staff loved them, and I soon ran out. I didn't eat a quesadilla myself (some folks had seconds), but I still have plenty of ingredients to make more quesadillas at my apartment.

The comments I got today were weird but positive. My Aussie coworker joked that, thanks to my cooking, he wished he were more "curious," i.e., he'd consider a relationship with me because I can cook. There were several pleasurable moans of "Sooooo good," and one prim staffer, who never swears, said the quesadillas were "expletive-level delicious."

That's going to be my last food bash for a month. I need to save money, and I also need a rest. Cooking for ten people isn't easy, especially if you do it often.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"Why Daenerys Targaryen Sucks and Jon Snow Doesn't"

An interesting "Game of Thrones" commentary that makes admittedly valid points about the TV version of Daenerys Targaryen. I don't, however, think the criticisms obtain when we turn to the book version of Dany: that Dany is much younger, arguably smarter, and more of a proactive leader who, while she does rely on crafty and powerful underlings, is nevertheless her own woman and quite capable of making her own history-altering decisions. je dis "non" à la marche

After having looked more closely at the 66-kilometer route from Anseong to my apartment in southeast Seoul, I've decided to nix the walk. At least half of the walk appears to be a major roadway, and I can't tell, from the satellite imagery, whether that roadway has sidewalks. With my spider sense tingling, I'm left with no choice but to say no to walking north from Anseong.

Out of pure stubbornness, I looked at an alternate route: walking northwest to Osan, which is practically next door to Anseong, then shooting straight north along what I had hoped would be some established bike paths. I looked at the Osan-Seoul bike route that Naver laid out for me, but while it appeared safer than the Anseong route, it also looked ugly as hell—nothing but urban blight all the way up to Seoul. So, no: I won't be walking an Anseong-Osan-Seoul route, either.

I do still plan to skedaddle from the event as soon as possible, though. This will likely mean walking into town and grabbing an inter-city bus back to Seoul.

Jon Snow at dinner

Watch and enjoy.

workshop and walking

Our boss thinks it's a good idea to have an overnight retreat for the R&D department—a way for us to get to know each other better and to figure out how we're going to be reassigned into teams. This coming Saturday, September 23, we're all going to be bussed out to the boonies in the small town of Anseong, where our boss's hapkido master has some property. I'm not looking forward to this as a social event, and in fact, I plan to leave the event as soon as I possibly can (the boss is aware of this, so don't worry: I'm not plotting behind his back). I'll stay through the workshop-y portion of the retreat, after which I'll immediately make tracks for my apartment. I asked my boss for the property's address, and using Naver Map, I discovered it's quite a healthy walk away: 66 kilometers. That's longer than my upcoming Chuseok walk to Incheon will be, and a further problem is that, if I hope to be at work on Monday, I need to finish the walk by Sunday evening. Given that I won't be starting the walk until Saturday afternoon or early evening, I'll have no choice but to walk all through the night, resting periodically to keep my feet from falling apart.

This will be the longest distance I've ever walked during a 24-hour period (longer even than my 2008 walk from Troutdale to Cascade Locks, OR), but I'd rather be putting my feet through hell than sitting through a fucking social event. (Here again, the boss is aware of my abhorrence of all reindeer games. I've done nothing to hide my opinion.)

My great worry is that this is going to be murder on my feet, even if I take frequent rest breaks. Thinking further, I'm worried that, if I mess my feet up walking from Anseong to Seoul, I'll be in no condition to do my planned Chuseok walk. I just spent a week not walking at all because I'm sick (still am sick, and that's an issue, too); this hasn't helped with my conditioning. Luckily, there won't be a huge, heavy backpack to worry about: I'll be using the same smaller backpack that I used during my makeup walk. Ultimately, I think I'll be okay as long as I take a "slow and steady wins the race" approach to this 66-kilometer hike.

The contour lines from Anseong to Seoul don't look too forbidding: it appears I'll be passing between mountains, not over them, for the most part. I do worry about how much of the path is actually just roadway, and my nightmare is that I might end up walking inside some dark tunnel or across some narrow bridge, trying to dodge traffic with almost no road shoulder to protect me. I'll comb over the map more carefully, during the next few days, to make sure I'm not setting myself up to become roadkill. This isn't the Gukto Jongju, i.e., this isn't an established bike path: the path I'll be following is simply the result of Naver Map's bike-route algorithm calculating a path for me to follow.

Much to consider this week. Cross your fingers and hope that I recover from my current malady, which seems to have reduced itself to crackling lungs (rales) and an annoying cough.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Black Dynamite": one-paragraph review

Directed by Scott Sanders and starring Michael Jai White plus a whole cohort of big-name black actors, 2009's "Black Dynamite" is a hilarious parody of 1970s-era blaxploitation films. White plays the eponymous Black Dynamite, a former CIA agent, Vietnam vet, martial-arts expert, and orphan (that last part is significant). The story gets rolling when Dynamite's brother, who was working undercover for the feds, gets killed in a gangland hit. Dynamite goes back into action to unravel the mystery of the murder, leaving a trail of broken and dead bodies along the way. It's obvious that everyone involved in the making of "Black Dynamite" has a sincere love of blaxploitation films; more than half of the movie's humor comes from the parodying of those movies' flaws—a boom mike that enters the scene from above, a six-shooter that shoots nearly twenty bullets without reloading, bad dialogue, tacky clothing and set design, and some of the best/worst over-the-top acting you'll ever see. Michael Jai White, in particular, proves both that he can act and that he has comic chops; his Black Dynamite carries the film on his muscular shoulders. And what a funny film it is: I laughed through pretty much the entire story, and I think you will, too.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tabom revisited

I met Ben (the dude from my walk—see here) in Itaewon this evening and convinced him we shouldn't be eating at Taco Bell, which is where he had initially wanted to eat. I suggested Coreanos instead, if we were really going to do Mexican food (you'll recall that we'd had a Mexican fiesta in our office the previous day, so I wasn't really keen), but as we were walking toward that restaurant, I told my acquaintance about Brazilian food and about the restaurant Tabom in particular, so as we were passing by Tabom, Ben insisted that we cancel Coreanos and head upstairs to the rodizio.

Tabom turned out not to be crowded on a Saturday night, which was great news for us: I had feared massive Saturday crowds. We sat down, and I ordered the muhan (unlimited) dinner. We also ordered some Cokes, which came out in cans. After that, it was just a matter of grabbing some plates, loading them up with items from the small-but-tasty buffet, sitting back down, and waiting for the meat to wander our way.

The buffet's modest selection included a Brazilian form of pico de gallo, a standard leafy salad, Korean-style shredded cabbage, an assortment of dressings, Korean-style salada mashed potatoes, a cream-sauce beef penne dish that proved quite tasty, some long-grain white rice, a huge bowl of french fries, a meat-and-cream sauce that looked a bit like a red-meat version of moqueca (it wasn't), and a steaming chafing dish filled with beautiful feijoada whose only drawback was that it contained knuckles and some gristle.

The meat swung by in waves—different types of steak cooked to different levels of doneness, sausages, pork, and chicken—the whole damn farm. The procession was glorious, but even though I had ordered the "limitless" option, I did notice that the parade of meat trickled to a stop toward the end. Not to worry: I ended up pretty full. Ben, who's an athletic guy, had a pained look on his face from all the food he had eaten. His gut was bursting, and his night wasn't over: after meeting with me, he was aiming to hook up with a group of younger friends to go bar-hopping until the wee hours of the morning.

Dinner finished with the traditional roasted pineapple covered in sugar and cinnamon. It was delicious as always—even the strangely fibrous slice of pineapple that had obviously come from a spot near the fruit's core. Because I hadn't eaten all day, I didn't end up as stuffed as Ben did, and it was kind of funny to watch poor Ben walk painfully out of the restaurant and down to the main street. We took a digestive stroll downhill past Yongsan Garrison and the Korean War Memorial, after which we parted ways: I took a cab and Ben went back into Itaewon to meet up with his buddies.

Sorry I don't have any photos of tonight's amazing dinner; I was concentrating on eating it. It was an amazing meal, though, and W31,000 pr person isn't too steep a price—by Korean standards, anyway—for that much protein. Ben says he'd like to take his friends to Tabom, but since I paid for our dinner and refused to tell him how much it cost, he might be in for the shock of his twenty-something life when he reads the menu next time.

Friday, September 15, 2017

no choice but to agree

Dr. V writes:

The human predicament has its tragic sides. One is that success is too often predicated upon inordinate self-confidence and blindness to faults.

This applies to the CEO of my company.

blurry Mexican lunch

Sorry for the blur. My phone camera sucks, and/or I suck at operating it.

Front and center, looking like a cigar: my coworker M's flauta (from the Spanish word for "flute"). A flauta is a tightly rolled-up cousin of a taquito (last time I was in the States, you could buy cheap taquitos at 7-Eleven); the difference is that taquitos are usually made with corn tortillas, and flautas are made with flour tortillas.

Foreground and right: red-sauce and green-sauce enchiladas by yours truly. One coworker declared the green-sauce enchiladas to be her favorite of all the food out there. Very nice of her. When I was making the red and green sauces this morning, I thought I had nailed it with the red sauce, which was the perfect taste for enchiladas. Later on, every single person at work raved about the green sauce, which startled me. When I had finished making the green sauce and had tasted it, I didn't have the same "Nailed it!" feeling that I'd had with the red sauce. In part, this was because I was using an approach that didn't include tomatillos: it concentrated on chili peppers, onions, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt, and pepper. The other night, I had bought a bottled version of standard salsa verde; when I smelled and tasted it, I could sense the tomatillos, but the sauce was dominated by the jalapeños, so I chose some online recipes that followed that pattern, then synthesized everything I'd learned to create my own salsa verde. Apparently, I'd gotten it right. I'm still shaking my head.

Top, at about 11 o'clock: a chunk of chicken from coworker C's amazing fajitas. The fajitas were my favorite part of today's lunch. C used chicken breast, which I also favor in chicken dishes despite all the hate that breast meat gets.* She had prepped the ingredients at home, along with an amazing and very old-school guacamole (crush the avocado flesh with a fork—don't purée!) that was one of the best guac I've ever had.

We got a bit silly when it came to toasting the tortillas for the fajitas. At first, C wanted to do the old "toast the tortillas barehanded directly over the gas-range flame" trick. A few of us tried that trick, with only R, my Aussie coworker, succeeding in toasting his tortilla until it had acquired a few small black spots. We all eventually switched to the safer "toast the tortillas on a frying pan" technique.

In the end, we all ate more than we should have. The flautas were totally destroyed; C's fajitas were about 90% gone, as were the enchiladas I had placed on the table (I'd held two baking dishes in reserve; my boss took care of one of those, and another employee took care of most of the second). Coworker J brought a mound of dessert: cake, bread, and even churros from a French(!) bakery close to where she lives. The boss brought a fluffy, Korean-style cheesecake that no one ate because there was simply too much food. But as luncheons go, this one was gloriously successful, and it left everyone in the office both full and smiling. I had planned to prep and bring quesadillas, but the time crunch this morning meant that I had to sacrifice them. I've promised the coworkers that I'll bring the quesadillas on Tuesday. Perhaps I'll have a less blurry photo to show you then.

*Critics grouse that breast meat is relatively flavorless, and it's easy to ruin: boil it too long, and it dries up. Fry or grill it too long, and it dries up. While all of this is true, I find breast meat to be, when cooked right, the part of the chicken with the absolute best texture. Its nondescript taste is, in fact, the perfect canvas upon which an imaginative cook can paint layer upon layer of flavor.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

HRC and "Game of Thrones"

Hilarious parallel, but only if you know your "Game of Thrones" lore. Seen on Instapundit:

What’s the difference between Game of Thrones character Cersei Lannister and failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton? One is an entitled narcissist who quietly supported her lecherous husband (whom she clearly loathed) when it was politically convenient, then insisted it was her turn to rule (even though it wasn’t), chose boot-lickers, ass-kissers, and elitist bankers as her advisors while alienating more competent and better-liked people who might have helped her, exacted petty vengeance on imagined enemies, escaped justice and the judgment of the people by destroying her main rival—the charismatic, income-inequality obsessed populist—with an explosive cheat, and was left confused why so many people in her country would rather be ruled by a complete political unknown who tells it like it is.

The other fucks her twin brother.

My understanding is that HRC's new book What Happened, a postmortem of the 2016 election in which Clinton apparently blames everyone but herself for her electoral loss, is as clueless as its title suggests.

Happy Birthday, David!

Having turned 40 last year, David continues to experience that "life begins at" phase of his existence. Here he is with his dog Penny:

Happy Birthday, little bro. Hugs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

saddest thing you'll read today

South Korea is a nation supposedly full of Christians, but in reality, it's a nation full of NIMBY-ites. Matt is doing good work by pointing this social problem out, but he might need to translate his post into Korean to have a real impact on the conversation.

"For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; I needed clothes, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you looked after me; I was in prison and you visited me."

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

—Matthew 25:35-40

sclerotic London

Just read. And try to digest the mind-boggling statistics. Keep in mind that a humble team of only eight people is removing 20-30 tons of this crud every day. That's a more massive task than cleaning the Augean stables.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

mōmsal (몸살)

I currently have a classic case of what Koreans call mōmsal, which refers to generalized body aches, pains, blahs, and other nasty, mind-dulling symptoms often associated with colds, flus, and so on. You can think of mōmsal as a sort of syndrome, i.e., a suite of symptoms and conditions all arising at once. In my particular case, the mōmsal is a stew of fever, a slightly (but not alarmingly) mucus-y cough, fatigue, joint ache, and a sudden wave of lower-back pain for no apparent reason. The latter pain makes it difficult for me to bend over and pick anything up off the floor, but I assume this is temporary. It's more annoying than actually debilitating, but it's sapping my will to do any exercise. I'd much rather just lie in bed, under a blanket that protects me from mosquitoes. I haven't lost the will to go to work yet, but we'll have to see just how bad the condition gets. In theory, I'll make it through the week.

I've got Comtrex-style cold medicine to combat the problem, along with aspirin and vitamins. We'll see how that goes for the next few days. It's unfortunate that this is hitting me during a week when I'm expected to produce a lot of food this coming Friday, but I have no choice but to shamble on through it.

Wish me luck as Friday approaches.

my horror-movie morning

This morning, as I sat upon the pot with my bathroom door open to the rest of my apartment (the things we do when we live alone), my gaze lit upon one of the largest mosquitoes I had ever seen, just sitting there insouciantly on the vertical surface of my bathroom door's jamb. It took me a second to register why the creature was so huge: it had obviously been sucking my blood, all night long, to its evil heart's content.

The mosquito, bloated and vulgar, seemed sated and in no mood to move, so I slowly leaned over—still sitting on the toilet—and gingerly grasped a bottle of Windex that I keep in the bathroom for just such occasions. Holding the spray bottle away from the insect so as not to startle it, I performed one or two experimental spritzes to make sure there would be no misfires. I then trained the spray nozzle on the beast and fired once.

The bastard fell instantly, stunned. It struggled feebly in the pool of Windex fluid that had dribbled down the wall and formed around it. I knew I had to confirm that this pest really had been siphoning off gallons of my precious life-force, so I slowly gathered up some toilet tissue, reached down, and attempted—gently—to pick the mosquito up.

The malefic bug burst like one of Satan's zits between my fingers, spectacularly confirming that the infernal monster had indeed been greedily downing my essence. "Fuck you and die!" I yelled belatedly, lamely. I wondered what my neighbor thought, but then I ceased to care. My adversary was dead, and I had learned that, while you can never get your blood back from the creature that took it, you can nevertheless evoke a measure of divine justice.

Sic semper culicibus.

weird ad

I'm aware that some online ads are generated by "bots" that put together an image with the ad text. Most of the time, the picture matches the text in theme and tone, but every now and then you get an ad like this:

Not sure that that works, guys.

That said, Koreans (is the young lady in the above image Korean?) are more likely to use tears in their marketing: TV commercials routinely show people biting into fried chicken with tears streaming down their faces, or somber scenes of weepy family conflict, or tears used to humorous effect. It's not the sort of thing that would work well for American audiences, who might find themselves put off, or at least made uncomfortable, when confronted with the appearance of raw emotion. But you don't come to Korea for humorous cynicism, subtle sarcasm, or snide irreverence: this is the land of earnest emotion, deep and sincere feeling, and the operatic grand geste. So don't be surprised if you find yourself watching a TV commercial in which tears are flowing. This is the Land of the Mourning Sob, after all.

Monday, September 11, 2017

ambitious food

I'm sick (was sick all weekend) and seriously thinking about not walking along the creek tonight, so I don't feel like blogging. Here, to distract you, are two videos from Binging with Babish,* a channel devoted to replicating food that appears in movies. Both of these are amazingly ambitious creations, and even though I'm a bit queasy right now, I know I'd want to devour both of these scrumptious dishes in a heartbeat were I well.

First is a survey of foods from "Game of Thrones":

Next is a glorious monstrosity called Il Timpano:

*I wish he'd spell it "Bingeing," with an "e," but "Binging" is a legitimate spelling, unfortunately, so I'm cursed to hear the word in my mind as rhyming with "ringing."

UPDATE ON TOMATILLOS: the boss has relented on his obsession with green sauce, so I'm now free to re-create the enchiladas from before, with standard red sauce. This comes as a great relief, as red tomatoes are far easier to find than tomatillos.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

this week: a culinary quest

My boss is talking about our upcoming Mexican-themed luncheon this Friday the 16th. I had made enchiladas before, at his insistence, as you'll see here. That batch was made with red sauce, but for whatever reason, the boss is now saying he'd like enchiladas with green sauce, which is a much harder request to fulfill because green sauce requires tomatillos, i.e., green tomatoes with husks (you remove the husks before cooking and eating... unless you love heavy-duty fiber in your meals). I have no clue where I might find either green tomatoes or true tomatillos. Perhaps Garak Market will have some; I have a couple days to find out.

This luncheon won't be just my show: we've got a couple other volunteer cooks bringing dishes, potluck-style. One will be doing fajitas; another will be contributing flautas. Both of these cooks are concerned about the need to reheat their food before serving it, so they'll likely be using my gas range and frying pan.

The R&D department is also acquiring a new staffer this week, and I believe we'll be taking on yet another staffer the following week. The boss has said that he plans to group us into teams, with three of us older guys as the team leaders, after which he'll be assigning us textbook-related projects that will likely occupy us through the end of this year and beyond. Parties, from here on out, will be interesting, and all of us cooks will be cooking for two more mouths.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

journalists need to learn how to write

O journalists: please stop writing sentences like this:

Compared with people who ate the lowest 20 percent of carbohydrates, those who ate the highest 20 percent had a 28 percent increased risk of death.

Sorry, but all humans labor under a 100% chance of death. Perhaps you meant "early death," but that only raises the question of what is meant by "early." For the love of Cthulhu, try to be precise in what you mean, especially when writing about science.

27 staircases

I haven't done a five-hour megawalk in a while (I might do one today), but last night, I finally did a half-length walk in which I went up and down all staircases (well, almost all) twice: once while walking west, and once while walking back east to where I live. It proved not to be an impossible task, and since my earlier 14-staircase walk is no longer benefiting me that much, the doubling-up of staircases is a good thing.

Walking double the number of staircases provides you with a few interesting insights. First, it doesn't radically increase your step count or your time walked: last night's walk was about 19,500 steps, which was disappointing because I normally prefer to get in at least 20K steps when I'm walking the creek. Second, the increased number of staircases means that the walk goes from a cardio workout to a cardio-plus-strength workout: your legs definitely feel it by the time you're at Staircase #20. Third, you're reminded that, while the staircases shrink as you walk west (going from roughly 70 steps per staircase to about 55 steps by Staircase #14), they grow on your way back, which can be a bit demoralizing if you let defeatist thoughts creep into your head. Best thing to do, in that case, is the same thing you do when trudging in rain: just lower your head and push through it.

Even though I've been back on my creekside walk for the past few weeks, I've been gaining weight in recent days despite the exercise and the improved cardio. I think this means my body has acclimated itself to a certain level of activity, and the time has come to ratchet up the difficulty. So: from now on, we hit twenty-eight staircases, not fourteen. Not a huge change in terms of time, step count, and distance, but a significant change in terms of both cardio and strength. As the weather cools, I'll still be sweating.

Alas, I cheated last night and skipped the 28th staircase on my way back to my apartment, but I won't be skipping again in future.

ADDENDUM: oh, yeah—there's an ulterior motive for all this exercise: another of my Korean cousins is getting married this coming September 30, and I need to show up at the wedding looking as if I've just finished my cross-country walk. Heh.

Friday, September 08, 2017

frittata redux

Two frittatas done, one in the oven.


Currently making frittatas to serve at the office along with my Korean porridge.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

the boxing gym

There's a boxing gym called Golden Boxing (or "Golden Boxing Diet" if you look at the sign inside the building) that's located in the complex right across from where I now work. I went and visited the place tonight, peeking shyly through the glass door to see what was going on. I didn't see a trainer or anyone else I could talk to about training hours, membership rates, etc., so I walked out, looked at the brightly lit sign hanging off the outside of the building, and took down the gym's phone number. I then found a bench, sat down, and gave the gym a call.

A man's voice answered. He was hard to hear, given the noise inside the gym, but I was able to ask him some quick questions. First off, the man noted that the gym wasn't open on weekends. He then told me that a one-month membership would cost a whopping W250,000 (that's basic membership, glove rental, and heavy-bag use). A three-month membership was a slightly more reasonable—but still expensive—W450,000, all services included. Lastly, he said the gym opened at 3PM on weekdays, closing at 11PM. Very disappointing, that: I'd been hoping the gym would open early—say, around 6AM, so that I could go in and train when things were relatively sparse and quiet. Alas, it was not to be.

So all in all, I think this gym is a no-go for me. It's expensive, and the hours are all wrong. It's also not open on weekends, which is inconvenient. Too bad, really: I'd been hoping to whomp on a heavy bag for the first time in years.

building fire

There was apparently a fire in my apartment building around 4AM this morning. My coworkers, most of whom are also housed in Daecheong Tower, told me about it. They said there was an alarm wailing inside, and there were fire trucks and ambulances outside. The fire broke out on the seventh floor, which is the floor above me. The room in question wasn't anywhere near my side of the building, though, and I slept through the entire incident. This morning, while I was still mostly asleep, there may or may not have been a knock on my door. If the knocking did happen, it's possible that this was related to the night's fire.

Anyway, everyone's alive and well. I don't know what happens next. At a guess, there's no need to relocate, so I think things will go back to normal, except for whatever repairs will need to be made on the seventh floor. Was it a major fire? A minor one? How extensive is the damage? No idea. I'll find out more tonight when I talk to the lobby guards.


Sorry about the lack of a Wednesday blog entry. Life intervened, and I guess I didn't have time to write anything. Will try not to let that happen again.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

how long can this last?

It's been mercifully cool, with low humidity, over the past week or so here in Seoul. I suspect the other shoe is going to drop, and we'll be back to oppressive heat before long. September is normally a hot month, and things don't truly cool down until about mid-October. So I don't think we're experiencing the leading edge of fall; this is more like some cool front that's hanging over us, but which will eventually move on, allowing summer to return in all her wrath. Then again, if this really is a bizarrely early fall, I welcome it. Korean autumn is normally so brief, which is a sad thing, given how beautiful it usually is.

at Star Super food court

They call it La Diabola, the she-devil.

The pizza was good, but there was nothing diabolical about it. If anything, the pizza seemed more like an innocent virgin, ready for the sacrifice, than a devilish temptress filled with fire.

a terrifying love letter to the French language

Watch and cringe as Chef Ben shows the world how little French he actually knows:

I don't know why it was billed as a "battle," given that it was more like a rout. Not even a rout, really: the idea was that the French chef would call out instructions to Ben in French, so this wasn't about two chefs each making their own version of a French dish. For my money, the most cringe-inducing moments came whenever Ben would mis-hear the verb cuire (cook) as the noun cuillère (spoon). Ben also had trouble with poivron rouge, i.e., a red bell pepper; in addition, he couldn't figure out un plat rond (a round baking dish). Work on your French, Ben! The guy was speaking very slowly and clearly. (One final nitpick: the video's thumbnail, as you see above, says "Le Ultime" when it should say "L'ultime." Hélas. Then again, since illiteracy in French was part of the comedy, the "le ultime" might have been deliberate.)

Monday, September 04, 2017

Joerg Sprave can't get a break

More YouTube-related bullshit here. Background: Joerg Sprave, burly German curator of The Slingshot Channel on YouTube, had recently uploaded a video (now made private) that explored the plausibility of killing another human being with a pencil, per Keanu Reeves's rampage in "John Wick: Chapter 2" (reviewed here). In his video, Herr Sprave simulates the three kills that appear in the movie—a pencil up the nose and into the brain, a pencil through the ear and into the brain, and a pencil through the foramen magnum and into the brain—by using a combination of ballistics gel (to simulate human flesh) and plywood (to simulate the thin bone barriers that might impede a pencil's progress into someone's head). Sprave definitively shows that it is indeed possible to kill someone with a pencil in the ways portrayed in the movie, and further, that the pencil itself might go through the experience suffering little to no damage. Sprave's video contains no actual footage from the movie: instead, he has hand-drawn and animated the scenes in question. Despite these precautions, Sprave's video has been age-restricted and demonetized, which is part of YouTube's larger trend in curtailing freedom of speech, even for harmless YouTubers like our Teutonic slingshoteer.

People will soon be migrating off YouTube to seek greener, freer pastures. This coincides with the rise of what is being termed "alt-tech," i.e., sites and services where free speech is a cherished value. is an example of the alt-tech revolution in progress, as it styles itself a freer alternative to Twitter (where free-speech problems are also rampant). This trend will only continue: you can't start off with a rip-roaringly good capitalist model, then scale back to something less capitalistic and more oppressive without expecting to lose a lot of business.

Charles's favorite scholar

Here, for Charles's delectation, is a whole episode of Crash Course exploring the ideas of comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell:

One thing I noted, while watching this video, was Mike Rugnetta's strong emphasis on the notion of universals, which is a refreshingly anti-PoMo stance to take. Postmodernism is famously anti-universalistic, shunning so-called "totalizing metanarratives" that are aimed at describing large swaths of humanity by noting certain broad principles of thought and behavior. It's not obvious from the video whether Rugnetta himself buys into the Campbellian monomyth (there are, in fact, moments where Rugnetta is at pains to note certain scholarly disagreements with Campbell), but he at least sees it as a useful jumping-off point from which to think about heroic narratives. Good for him.

(If you missed CC's videos on tricksters, look here, here, and here.)

Sunday, September 03, 2017

what to do with extra rice

Make juk (Korean porridge)!

I had a ton of rice from July, which I'd kept in the office fridge's freezer to keep it from rotting. It was a whole bucketful (look at the dark-brown rectangular bucket in the first picture below), so I thought to myself: why not make a porridge?

My own style of juk has more ingredients than most normal Korean versions do. Mine has carrots and shiitake mushrooms (pyogo in Korean) and onions, like regular porridges, but I've also added red bell peppers and chili peppers for color and flavor, as well as squash for texture. Instead of green onions, I've thrown in a mess of chives (buchu in Korean), which were admirably pungent when I minced them: they made me want to stick them on a baked potato with butter and sour cream. I attempted to create some "egg paper" and was partially successful; I elected not to chiffonade the eggs since it seemed simple enough to slice them into strips. After looking at my handiwork later on, I regret not having minced the eggs more finely. They're a bit distracting thanks to their stringiness.

I boiled water, threw in the rice first, then threw in the fried vegetables, shrimp, egg, and chives. I added soy sauce for its saltiness, plus sesame oil for a layer of umami (savoriness, depth of flavor). Oh, I also added ground garlic—perhaps a bit too much. With my second batch of porridge, I toned the garlic way down because I intend to mix the first and second batches. Aside from the garlic issue, the first batch of porridge tasted fine. I still have leftover fried vegetables and shrimp; I'm thinking of creating a frittata with those ingredients (plus some thick-cut bacon).

Enjoy the pics below.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

a tale of two Kevins

You really can see it, can't you. I only just thought to do this comparison:

Look at those faces: these really are two different men. The first guy has that stupid, dunno-wut's-comin' look on his mug. By contrast, the other guy has the air of a man who's seen it all and been annealed by the experience. I don't want that guy to go away; I really don't. But he's gonna slip away if he remains trapped in an office—that I guarantee.

your dose of beauty for today

Friday, September 01, 2017

insane training video

Crazy... but weirdly inspirational: