Sunday, September 30, 2018

sympathy card from John: GB Shaw

In a spirit of commiseration over my recent encounter with our dunderheaded custodian, John Mac sends me an image of the great playwright and committed socialist George Bernard Shaw, who may or may not have said the following:

(In the image, I had to change a comma into a semicolon to avoid a comma splice.)

The fact that the dickheaded fool of a custodian is now blaming me for the throwing-away of my own utensils is a reflection of (1) the Korean inability to take responsibility for one's own actions, and (2) how people with low-to-average IQs tend to think.

catching on

Styx is my personal prophet, my very own Hari Seldon; much of what he talks about turns out to be right and/or to be prescient. He's been beating the "moral panic" drum for a while, now, noting the cultural signs and clues that indicate we are indeed in the midst of mass hysteria. To echo John McCrarey, I'm glad to be outside of America right now; while I think I'm eventually going to end up back in the States near the end of my life, I'll wait for a later decade to go back, thanks. Anyway, it's amusing to watch more mainstream people finally catch up to Styx's prognostications. Cute, pixie-ish Ashe Schow has finally caught up regarding the "moral panic" thing: she's just written an article titled "5 Signs You’re In The Midst Of A Moral Panic." Here are her five signs:

1. Due Process Goes Out The Window

Due process has become "dude process," i.e., run the dude through a meat grinder.

2. “Believe The Victim”

As Schow writes:

This may be the biggest tell of a moral panic. An accusation, we’re told, is sufficient enough. With due process being considered anathema to victims, accusations are all the evidence needed.

3. Misleading And Faulty Statistics

Lies, damned lies...

Saying wild-eyed things like "1 in 5 college women have experienced on-campus sexual harassment or assault," a bullshit figure if ever there was one, merely contributes to the frenetic, enstupidated atmosphere.

4. Evidence, Schmevidence

Schow says:

As due process goes out the window, so does the need for evidence. During these times of mass hysteria, things that would otherwise be considered evidence that a crime was not committed or that an accuser is lying in any other situation are dismissed as evidence of the crime itself.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead" is relevant here.

5. Pseudo-Scientific Theories About Memory Reign Supreme

I hadn't thought about this one. But:

The science of memories always pops up during moral panics. During the Satanic Panic, child psychologists claimed children who didn’t remember the sexual abuse were repressing those memories. The psychologists simply needed to coax those memories out, but in the process they actually implanted false memories into the children by inadvertently bullying them into making outrageous claims.

In the Ingram case in Washington, even Paul Ingram was made to believe he was repressing memories — both of the abuse he committed and childhood abuse committed against him.

On college campuses, therapists, friends, and school administrators help corrupt accuser’s memories (which are often foggy due to alcohol) by telling them that a drunken hook-up was actually sexual assault. Once the idea is implanted, an accuser fills in the gaps in their memory with the idea that they must have been sexually assaulted, and interpret consensual acts in that way.

We also now see trauma “experts” insisting that everything is evidence of trauma and making claims that contradict other claims. We’re told that trauma makes memories more vivid, or that it can block out certain memories. We’re told that the closer to an event, the better someone remembers, while also being told that memories become clearer long after an event occurred.

In reality, none of this can be used to guarantee whether an accuser is being truthful or making a 100% accurate claim.

We are indeed in the grip of a moral panic. I have no idea when it will end, but I won't feel comfortable back in the States until people pull their self-righteous heads out of their asses and calm the fuck down.

While we're on the topic of self-righteousness: "Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother's eye." If you're a man who has hurt women in the past through verbal abuse, through physical abuse, through cheating on your spouse, through abandoning your family, or through whatever way in which you've hurt women, I don't want to hear a single goddamn word out of your sanctimonious yap since you're in no moral position to make declarations about what's good or not good for women. I refuse to be lectured to by such people.

ADDENDUM: Styx has read the article, and he weighs in:

more work. hooray.

Boogersnot and sore throats be damned. I'm not in the greatest of moods, especially since last night's encounter with the custodian, and it doesn't help that I've now got some sort of cold. I don't know whether my cold somehow ties in with my recent allergy symptoms (I ended up getting 24-hour allergy capsules from the local pharmacy; they work, but not for the advertised 24 hours), but one way or another, I started off cold-free Saturday morning, then ended up sniffling and sore of throat by late Saturday night.

I was at the office, yesterday, from 11 a.m. to a bit past midnight. I'm in the office for a full Sunday session today, too, as I'm trying to get a massive project done by the end of the first week of October. Not my ideal way to spend a weekend, but I consider this the racking-up of good karma before I head off to France a bit before mid-October (my travel dates are the 11th through the 27th, so I need some comp time, anyway).

Well... back to blowing my nose, taking multi-symptom cold meds, downing allergy caps, and slogging through this project. May your Sunday be a fun-filled one.

2 from Styx on Kavanaugh

Styx makes a point that I arrived at on my own: Democrats are howling that Republicans are somehow "ignoring the victim," but the Dems are assuming there actually is a victim. According to the rules of evidence, there—is—no—victim. No concrete evidence has been provided. Nothing. All the histrionics in the world wouldn't move me the way Jeff Flake was apparently moved when some women accosted him in an elevator, yelling, "You're telling women they don't matter!" What utter shit.

Rules of evidence, people. Show me the evidence, and I'm nothing but compassionate. Show me nothing, and I have nothing to go on. I might be convinced that you believe something bad happened to you, but that's as far as my compassion can go. This makes your claim no better than the claim of a UFO abductee.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

I do love me some one-hit knockouts

Long live the glass jaw!

For my money, the most beautiful knockout in this collection comes around 5:14: Uriah Hall vs. Adam Cella. It's a magnificently executed reverse turning kick that whips up to the guy's blind side and clocks him about as cleanly as it's possible to be clocked. Amazing.

The knockout right after that one is pretty damn good, too. Note, in both cases, that the kick comes in on the fighter's blind side: the fighter isn't even expecting it. The point that Jesse makes about "not telegraphing" is, despite the humorous nature of his videos, quite an important one. For something like a reverse turning kick, which actually takes some time to execute, the best way not to telegraph the kick is to use some subterfuge.

By the way, above-the-waist kicks really aren't recommended in an actual fight. If you're not an expert, and you don't know how good your opponent is, don't risk a kick above the waist. In fact, don't risk kicking at all unless you've beaten your opponent senseless. If he's on his knees and wavering drunkenly, too weak to put his arms up in a guard, then at that point, a kick to finish him is just fine.

dumb fucks

One of my major character flaws is that I don't suffer fools gladly, and that applies equally to the out-and-out stupid as well as those utterly lacking in common sense. Most of these folks are gentle-hearted creatures who undoubtedly mean well, but they annoy the living fuck out of me whenever they mess up seemingly simple tasks. I doubt I'm alone in this; if I were, then the battle cry "You had ONE job!" wouldn't be so popular.

A month or so ago, the custodians came into our office and threw away the garbage, but they also took away all the utensils I had spent so much money on: my 24 forks, my 25 knives, my 25 spoons, and my 25 pairs of metal chopsticks. I had spent a lot of time and money building up a restaurant-grade supply to be used and reused over the coming months and years as I did my office-wide luncheons, so naturally, I was a mixture of flabbergasted and furious. I ended up getting back everything except the damn knives when I wrote a large sign in Korean asking for everything back. The knives were gone forever, alas; that was about 25 dollars down the drain. I should've demanded my money back, but I was trying to do the compassionate thing. When the cringing custodian who had thrown everything away came back into the office with three-quarters of my utensils in hand, I told him several things, including, "If you don't know whether to throw something away, then don't throw it away." His lame justification for having thrown everything away in the first place: "It looked like something to throw away." When you've got a hammer, everything looks like a nail, and when you're trained to chuck garbage, everything looks like garbage, I guess.

My "when in doubt" advice apparently didn't sink in. Yesterday, I left out a Korean roll cake on a long plastic plate. I had wrapped the roll cake in a blue plastic garbage bag and had set a new, sharp steak knife on top of the bag to signify, "This may look like a garbage bag, but the new knife on top ought to warn you away from pitching it." The new knife wasn't enough of a warning, alas: when I came into the office today for a long Saturday session (I'll be here on Sunday, too), I found the cake, the plate, the bag, and the knife all gone—thrown away yet again. My Korean coworker meekly suggested that I write a "Don't throw away!" sign, and I asked her if she thought the custodians were so stupid that I needed to write signs every time I left something out. She's a timid twenty-something facing a 275-pound, 49-year-old American, so she held her peace and shrank into her chair. I'm not angry at her, but I'm upset by the idea that all this is somehow my fault because I need to take other people's stupidity into account. But that may be exactly what I have to do: stupid people are often reliably stupid, i.e., you can trust that they'll make the same mistakes over and over again. So maybe it is on me to leave a big fucking sign every time I leave out something that might even vaguely look like garbage.

Koreans who end up working as custodians and garbage collectors are at the low end of the intelligence/education hierarchy in this country. Still, the work they do is absolutely necessary for society to keep going, and to that extent, I really ought to be thankful. That said, it's goddamn frustrating when you tell someone not to throw away an item if he's in doubt as to whether it's garbage, and for him to throw the item away, anyway. Christ.

Yeah... maybe I'm the dumb fuck, here.

UPDATE: yup—I'm the dumb fuck. I ranted at the custodian this evening when I saw him; he insisted he had no idea where the plate, knife, and cake might have gone. After he left, I poked around the other work stations and got a clue when I saw a not-quite-empty plate with a tiny fragment of roll cake on it. That led me to the fridge, et voilà: all the missing items had been placed in the goddamn fridge, probably by a native-speaker English teacher who had stayed later than I had. Mystery solved. I sought out the custodian, because we had both barked at each other about this latest problem, and bowed while apologizing. After my threats to check out the CCTV footage, an apology was the least I could offer. While I don't think blaming the custodian was an irrational thing to do, given what had happened last time, I should have poked around first before pointing fingers. But as for the guy's level of smarts: before my apology, he tried to gather up some scraps of authority by preaching to me about how we office workers need to make their job easier by not leaving non-garbage items next to the trash can. This was, once again, his dumb attempt at justifying why he had thrown away all my other utensils, and I wasn't having it. I wasn't in any mood to be blamed for something that fucking stupid. I made the Jackie-Chan-meme gesture and asked him, a second time, how in the world he could have thought that perfectly new utensils needed to be thrown away. I got no good answer from him—just a noncommittal grunt. I then growled that I would label everything from now on since people obviously couldn't tell the difference between garbage and non-garbage. So, yeah, feelings were raw before I sought the guy out and apologized to him for my mistake this time. But I'm still sore about losing $25 worth of silverware.

another week at least

Thanks to an own-goal by Senator Jeff Flake who, true to his surname, decided at the last minute that he would both vote for the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh and push for a week-long FBI investigation of Dr. Ford's allegations, the already-cumbersome process will drag on for another week. If you're a liberal Democrat, you will, of course, say that an FBI investigation is merely the right thing to do, and that the GOP has been wrong to resist it. To some extent, I agree, but only because I think Dr. Ford ought to have brought this problem up years ago instead of waiting thirty years to begin talking about this matter with a therapist in 2012, then waiting another six years to make the matter public right as Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing is occurring. I vented a bit about this on Gab, noting that, if I take one thing away from affairs like this, it's that there ought to be a nationwide, five-year statute of limitations on claims of sexual harassment. If a victim of harassment chooses—and she does choose, so don't take her agency away and make her into a helpless, shrinking violet of a victim—to wait more than five years to report a crime done against her, well, that's on her. Sorry, ladies, but you have a duty to see that justice is done, and if you're unwilling to fulfill that duty after five years, which is a twentieth of a century, then be it on your head.

It's been noted in several articles that the president, not the Senate, is the one who must ultimately order an FBI investigation, so the buck stops at President Trump. But Jeff Flake has been wishy-washy about the Kavanaugh nomination from the start; he's considered a "moderate" Republican (although his voting record apparently shows little bipartisanship) who is also a never-Trumper. Again with the psychologizing: there's some speculation that Flake's actions are motivated by a dislike for Trump, which is why he has acquiesced to demands for an investigation. The problem, of course, is how this plays right into Democrat hands: let them get their fingertips around the edge of the door, and they rip the door right off its hinges. There are already howls that one week is not enough time for the FBI to do a thorough investigation, so there's every likelihood that the foot-dragging will continue through a good part of October.

Blowback will be a bitch, though: if Kavanaugh is confirmed, he's going to have a long, long memory of what he went through, and this will likely affect how he decides court cases as a Supreme Court justice. Also, if the Democrats succeed in toppling Kavanaugh, this will motivate Republicans to come out in droves to the voting booth come November, and the already-tenuous notion of a "blue wave" will be swamped by an even bigger red wave. Even if the Dems fail, their extravagant efforts at obstruction will be remembered. Either way, there are reasons for the GOP voter base to be fired up, and Senator Lindsey Graham's angry speech is one instantiation of that anger. This has been a dirty process; Graham was right to point that out. It's been made dirtier by the news that someone in Maxine Water's office is probably the culprit behind the doxxing of GOP senators. Maxine Waters is an idiot, but it would be wrong to underestimate her low cunning.

None of this improves my trust in government as a whole, and that's one way in which I swing right: I think government sucks. Its venality is currently on display (well, it's always on display) for all to see. Republicans still haven't learned the lesson that the Democrats are fighting for all the marbles; fools like Jeff Flake play right into this dynamic by allowing the Democrats yet another foothold. Until the GOP learns to fight as if its very existence were at stake, we can expect more fiascos like the one we're watching now.

Seen on Gab:

I'd like to give Ford the benefit of the doubt, but her inconsistencies make this hard.

Seen at John Mac's blog:

Someone had to go there.

ADDENDUM: we should note that Kavanaugh has already undergone checks from the FBI and other parties. From the above-linked article:

"Throughout this process, I've been interviewed by the FBI, I've done a number of 'background' calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday, I answered questions under oath about every topic the senators and their counsel asked me," Kavanaugh said in a statement. "I've done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate."

Then, of course, there's Joe Biden's rather unwise comment from 1991 undermining the value of FBI investigations:

"The next person that refers to an FBI report as being worth anything obviously doesn’t understand anything," Biden said. "FBI explicitly does not, in this or any other case, reach a conclusion. Period. “The reason why we cannot rely on the FBI report — you wouldn’t like it if we did, is because it is inconclusive,” he continued. “They say ‘He said, she said, and they said.’ Period. So when people are waving FBI report[s] before you, understand they do not, they do not, they do not reach conclusions. They do not make, as my friend points out, they do not make recommendations."

Significantly, this was said during the Clarence Thomas hearings. I guess all those Democrats clamoring for the FBI to do something don't understand anything, right, Joe?

Friday, September 28, 2018

just what the hell did Lindsey Graham say?

As I continue to monitor the news from the alt- end of the media spectrum, one name has been popping up, again and again, over the past 24 hours: Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina (you may also address him as Colonel Graham). I saw several articles talking about Senator Graham's statements at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is looking to take a seat on the US Supreme Court, so eventually, I got curious enough to wonder what exactly Graham had said. A partial (and flawed) transcript is here; I found it via a post by Dr. Vallicella, who professes a new respect for Graham, whom Vallicella sees as having "found his cojones."

The transcript, by the way, makes a lot more sense if you watch the video.

breaking news, but possibly premature

People on Gab are madly reposting links to the following article:

"BREAKING: We Have the Votes"

With the Senate Judiciary Committee holding a vote at 9:30 A.M. tomorrow, a Senate insider has told Townhall that Kavanaugh has the votes to make it out of committee and the votes to be confirmed on the floor for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Sens. Flake (R-AZ), Collins (R-ME), Murkowski (R-AK), and Manchin (D-WV) are expected to vote in favor of Kavanaugh. All the Republicans are voting yes. Also, in the rumor mill, several Democrats may break ranks and back Kavanaugh. That’s the ball game, folks.

It was an intense and hellacious day at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Judge Brett Kavanaugh of an attempted rape while at a high school party, told her story of her alleged sexual assault. It was intense. It was emotional. And it still lacked evidence, witnesses, and other corroborating details. It’s an unprovable allegation, which is what Democrats want; it allows them to delay and run out the clock on this nomination. The FBI investigation talking point has been beaten to death by Senate Democrats, another delay tactic that has been undercut by past remarks by none other than Joe Biden. When he chaired the committee during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, Biden famously said that FBI reports are inconclusive and should not be relied on during sexual misconduct allegations.

Brett Kavanaugh testified later this afternoon, giving an emotional and fiery defense of his character and career after it had been under a sustained assault by the Left for over a week. Kavanaugh said that the allegations—all three of them—were false and have irreparably damaged his reputation and damaged his family life. He said this process had become a national disgrace, with Democrats replacing advise and consent with search and destroy. Kavanaugh needed to come out swinging. He needed to be tough. And he did just that.

I saw a comment appended to one of many, many articles about the Kavanaugh flap that I found both charitable and rational. I can't dig the comment up or link to it because it really is buried under a pile of comment-filled articles, and I can't remember to which specific article it was appended. In essence, though, the commenter said he took away two facts from this case: (1) that Dr. Christine Ford truly had been sexually assaulted as a teen, and (2) that Judge Kavanaugh had nothing to do with it. That's approximately where I stand. Like many people forming opinions about this case, I'm basing my thoughts and feelings on a distinct lack of evidence; this is more about things like feelings and reading people. I have to do the thing I despise, which is psychologize, i.e., attempt to get inside someone's head and figure out what that person was thinking. In Dr. Ford's case, my psychologizing leads me to think that the woman would never have gone public if something hadn't happened. As things stand, half the country is already going to turn away from this affair thinking she's a damn liar. Surely, she had the common sense to know, going in, that she was in for a heap of scorn, abuse, and simple disbelief. Despite knowing that, she showed up, anyway (albeit under strict and strange cross-examination rules formulated by the Democrats), presented a written statement, and allowed herself to be questioned under oath. Dr. Ford certainly seems convinced that the man ripping at her shirt 36 years ago was none other than Brett Kavanaugh. Alas, aside from that conviction, which is based on memory and not any other sort of corroborating evidence, Ford had nothing of substance to offer. Had she presented key witnesses, she might have been more persuasive, but all we have are feelings and one person's memories and nothing else.

Someone, maybe Styx, recently observed that Anita Hill is doing fine, still doing the rounds and collecting speaker's fees as she continues to tell her own sad story—the story of how she had accused Judge Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and how that had come to nothing when Thomas became a Supreme Court justice. Dr. Christine Ford now has a similar life-trajectory ahead of her; she can go on for years, adding memories to her current testimony, providing details that didn't pop up during the Senate hearing, writing books about Kavanaugh that accuse him of this or that or the other thing. Half the country will see her as having been twice wronged—assaulted as a youth, then humiliated as a 50-some-year-old woman. And since, in America, we seem to fetishize victimhood, she stands to make a great deal of money from this experience.

When Brett Kavanaugh gave an angry, tearful defense of his honor, he was immediately pilloried by Democrats for not having the right "temperament" to be a justice on the Supreme Court. This is, of course, utter nonsense: the Democrats making such claims should have their good names dragged through the mud and then talk to us about how stoically they're able to take such constant, merciless abuse. I doubt I'd fare any better than Uncle Brett.

I thought, since early on, that Kavanaugh's confirmation was a given. That said, this did end up being a tough fight, but without any concrete evidence, it's all been much ado about nothing. It could be that the triumphant headline I linked to above is somewhat premature—people get wishy-washy at the eleventh hour—but I suspect there to be at least a 95% likelihood that Brett Kavanaugh will soon ascend to the Supreme Court.

Let the liberal riots begin! Because the left is all about civility.

a visit to Owl Cutlet

Yet another coworker is leaving us: the young Korean lady who has worked at our office as a graphic designer for the better part of a year has very suddenly been reassigned to another department. Saturday is her final day in R&D, then she'll be at a different building (the old Mido Building where I used to work) come Monday. Since most of us won't see her on Saturday (I'll be at the office tomorrow, but no one else in R&D will be), we had a small goodbye lunch today, walking about a kilometer over to a place called Owl Cutlet in English and Bueongi Donggaseu (부엉이 돈까스) in Korean. I ordered some sort of cream-sauce dish after briefly considering, and rejecting, the "volcano donggaseu" option, which is apparently fiery hot. Photo above.

So now we'll be down to three, including our current temporary supervisor. This puts us R&Ders right back where we started before last July: one supervisor and two underlings. I heard a rumor that the current R&D room is to be stocked with Korean staffers from other departments so as not to waste all the empty space (we have room for eleven, plus four native-speaker English teachers). By Christmas, this office is going to look and feel very different.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

tonight, at long last, we break out the TV

For the past couple of years, I've had this 42-inch HDTV sitting in my apartment—just sitting there, unplugged and doing nothing. I had bought the TV for cheap from a former coworker. I also have, thanks to John Mac's efforts a long while back, a region-free DVD/Blu-ray player. Starved for my favorite entertainment, I recently re-ordered the Blu-ray boxed set of the entire "Battlestar Galactica" TV series, along with one of the spinoff shows, "Blood and Chrome." (This reminds me: I need to buy "Razor." No disrespect to Edward James Olmos, but I really didn't like "The Plan," a stand-alone episode that added nothing to the larger story except for more visuals of the destruction of the Twelve Colonies. UPDATE: I just bought "Razor" as an Amazon Prime video. It won't look very good on my Mac laptop, but I've got a much larger monitor screen at the office, where I can watch "Razor" after hours. Woo-hoo!)

As they say before serving on the Wall: "And now my binge-watch begins."

I may end up having to do something similar with "24."

thank you, YouTube

I'm happy that YouTube has become a repository for Vine videos ever since Vine disappeared as a service. I've been catching up on my Vine viewing ever since I realized this. Here's a funny collection below; I'll let you decide whether the reactions are scripted:

"Blade of the Immortal": review

Director Takashi Miike, who made "13 Assassins," is at it again in 2017's "Blade of the Immortal," a samurai movie in which a warrior who cannot die helps a girl bent on revenge. Manji (Takuya Kimura) kills his own lord and the lord's bodyguards when he discovers their corruption, but one of the bodyguards is the husband of Manji's sister, Machi. Machi is driven insane by the loss of her husband, and Manji feel obliged to care for her since she now has no one. On the run from bounty hunters for having killed his own lord, Manji remains in hiding but is found out by one bounty hunter in particular. In the ensuing struggle, Machi is killed, and while Manji takes out the bounty hunter and his entire crew, he is mortally wounded. With nothing more to live for, Manji wishes for death, but a strange Buddhist nun blesses or curses him with immortality when she pours eldritch "bloodworms" into his wounds. The bloodworms give Manji a Wolverine-like healing factor: should his limbs ever be amputated, the bloodworms would immediately stitch themselves, and him, right back together. Fast-forward fifty-two years, and Manji, now an immortal hermit, receives a visit from a little girl named Rin (Hana Sugisaki) who looks uncannily like his long-dead sister. Rin's family has been destroyed by the Itto-ryu, a clan that uses integrated martial arts to defeat opponents in a bid to unify all of Japan under the Itto-ryu banner. The head of the Itto-ryu is the young, arrogant, and highly skilled Kagehisa Anotsu (Sota Fukushi), whose weapon of choice is a large, mean-looking axe. Rin persuades Manji to help her in her quest for revenge, and the rest of the movie unfolds from there.

While the visuals for "Blade of the Immortal" were often lush and gorgeous, I had trouble relating to the characters. Rin's motivations seem perfectly clear at the beginning, but after she has a chance to talk with Kagehisa and discover his own sad story, Rin seems, at one point, to become unsure of what she wants. This results in some plot twists in which enemies suddenly end up fighting side by side—something I can understand in, say, "Game of Thrones," but which makes much less sense in this movie, which is apparently adapted from a manga series of the same name. In the manga, Manji is tasked with slaying one thousand evil men in order to regain his mortality; the movie completely dispenses with this mythology in favor of a smaller-scale story that can fit into a two-hour time frame. In the movie, Manji is essentially the Rooster Cogburn analogue in a Japanese version of "True Grit." The movie made me think of other movies, too, such as any number of X-Men films involving Wolverine.

Takashi Miike seems to like plucking veterans from "Tampopo" to act in his films. In "13 Assassins," Yakusho Koji played the samurai protagonist; he was originally the sexy gangster in "Tampopo." In "Blade of the Immortal," Tsutomu Yamazaki plays clan head Kensui Ibane; Yamazaki was the cowboy-like lead in "Tampopo." "Immortal" contains other intertextual echoes as well: the story in this film takes place in the same era as "13 Assassins," i.e., an era of peace in which the samurai are becoming less relevant to daily life and society at large. In "Immortal," it's the Itto-ryu who sense that the warrior spirit is draining out of Japan, but their solution to the problem is to bring in all sorts of foreign influences (in terms of weapons and fighting techniques) that fly in the face of Japanese tradition. Kagehisa's axe is one example of this; one of Kagehisa's female cohorts dresses like a Chinese warrior and carries a Chinese-style three-sectioned staff.

The film is filled with fight scenes that some reviewers have described as "balletic violence," which puts me in mind of the choreography of John Woo's films or the fights crafted by Yuen Wo Ping. I didn't find anything "balletic" about the fights: Manji is a great warrior whenever he's facing normal opponents, but every time he runs up against a superpowered opponent, he usually ends up getting chopped up. Otherwise, Manji tends to fight until he's exhausted, so he often appears not to be using brilliant techniques so much as just flailing around extravagantly. This is something I've seen in plenty of Korean historical dramas; I didn't expect to see that here.

All in all, I couldn't really connect with the characters. The movie version of Manji doesn't seem to have the explicit project of regaining his mortality, nor is the pain of his immortality explored in any depth. (There's another character, also immortal, who does give us a bit of a speech about witnessing the passing of the ages, but that's about all we hear regarding the burden of living forever. I think "Highlander," that cult classic, may have done a better job of showing what it's like to be saddled with the inability to die.) With "13 Assassins," Takashi Miike gave us the story of a samurai who had rediscovered his purpose in life once he realized there was still evil to be dealt with. Manji, by contrast, lives the life of a bored hermit who's just looking for something to do to punctuate the tedium. He helps Rin because she looks like his lost sister Machi, which amounts to a "Save Martha!" moment for me. With Rin's own intentions taking a turn for the doubtful, and with Kagehisa's helpers sometimes turning away from killing for no apparent reason, it's safe to say that character motivations are not this movie's strong point. I can't say I came away liking "Immortal" all that much, partly because of the movie's own failings, and partly because of how the movie stacks up to the far superior "13 Assassins." Watch at your own risk.

(Oh, and the bloodworm CGI wasn't all that good. And the bloodworms themselves made little sense in how they acted and in what they could do.)

the ridiculousness that is the Kavanaugh hearing

We open with Paul Joseph Watson:

We continue with some offerings from Bill Keezer:

And we continue with some choice quotes:

My conservative friends keep bringing up Bill Clinton and The Evel Knievel of Chappaquiddick, and they don’t grasp that the #MeToo movement was in *response* to that environment in the past.

People don’t understand how common sexual assault and straight-up rape is…and, yes, #MeToo…and this groundswell happens where now we’re not going to sweep it under the rug, we’re not going to let it slide with a “boys will be boys” or “she should have been more careful”.

But somehow the movement got shanghaied, first by people who diluted the meaning to “someone at work said my ankles were fat”, and now finally we’ve come to this.

DiFi’s smug little last-minute “Aha! I’ve got a ‘gotcha’ that’ll stick it to the GOP but good!” expression…its blatant politicization…is in danger of becoming the Pickett’s Charge of the #MeToo movement. Movements have backlashes and pendulums swing both ways. Thanks for f$cking it up, Diane.
Tamara Keel

1) For starters, Ford still can’t recall basic details of what she says was the most traumatic event in her life. Not where the “assault” took place — she’s not sure whose house it was, or even what street it was on. Nor when — she’s not even sure of the year, let alone the day and month.

Ford’s not certain how old she was or what grade she was in when she says an older student violently molested her. (But she doesn’t plead inebriation: She described having just “one beer” at the party.)

2) Ford concedes she told no one what happened to her at the time, not even her best friend or mother. That means she can rely on no contemporaneous witness to corroborate her story.

3) Worse, the four other people she identified as attending the party, including Kavanaugh, all deny knowledge of the gathering in question, including Leland Ingham Keyser, who she calls a “lifelong friend.”
Eight Big Problems for Christine Blasey Ford's Story

Lastly, we note the chance of severe blowback come November.

And you've probably heard that the latest accuser (she cites "gang rape") is a person who had a restraining order placed against her by an ex-boyfriend. I don't want to commit the genetic fallacy and say that her history makes her accusation false, but caution is still warranted.

ADDENDUM: Dr. Ford's insane opening statement.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

this gives me an idea

Will Smith just celebrated his 50th birthday, which is something I'll be doing next year. He celebrated with a bungee jump into the Grand Canyon while hanging from a hovering helicopter. Incredible. Give this a watch:

So I now know what I'll be doing next year.

it is accomplished

My equipment review is now up.

2 from Ryan George

Ryan George, the writer-comedian working for Screen Rant and doing those "Pitch Meeting" gag videos, is branching out into other forms of solipsistic YouTube quick-sketch comedy. I like this one about vacation, in which Ryan plays several roles, including those of Frenchmen who actually speak in rapidfire French:

When I heard Ryan's accent (his French is perfectly fluent), I thought to myself, "OK, with that accent, this guy's obviously a Québecois, probably from a big city like Quebec or Montreal, given the clarity of his French." Out of monkey curiosity, I visited Ryan's personal website and found out he lives in Montreal. While that doesn't make him a cradle montréalais, it's enough to confirm my suspicion that his French is big-city Quebecker French.

I also got a few laughs from Ryan's "If Cats Were Able to Talk" video:

Listening-comp exercise for those who want to practice their French skills: listen to what Ryan says in French, over and over if necessary, then write the transcript of what he says—yes, the transcript, not the translation—in the comments to this post. You're gonna have to learn a few alt-key codes for typing accents, I think. I'll start you off: the "e" with acute accent (é) is ALT+0233; the "e" with grave accent (è) is ALT+0232. More here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Incheon Walk 3: equipment review

NB: see an equipment review from last year here.

I just finished a nearly 130-kilometer trek to Incheon and back, so maybe the time has come to talk about the equipment that I was testing along the way. In particular, I'd like to focus on my trekking pole (which isn't new, but with which I have an evolving relationship), my new walking shoes, and of course, my new Gregory Baltoro 85 backpack.

1. Cascade Trekking Pole (Costco)

As I suspected:

That's a metal screw poking/peeking out through the bottom of my Cascade trekking pole, which I bought last year at Costco, as part of a pair, for a bit under W40,000 (i.e., under $37, US). I used the pole before my big Seoul-to-Busan walk, during that walk, and then after that walk. From about April of 2017 until now, I'd say I've racked up almost a thousand miles with that pole. Of course, the wear and tear on the foot of the pole is no commentary on the durability of the entire pole (I'm trying to avoid saying "the pole as a whole," which is both a corny rhyme and vaguely nasty-sounding); there are other factors to consider.

These Costco poles use a snap-lock system in which a swinging element is "closed" by snapping it onto the curved surface of the trekking pole. This snapping action pinches the slightly flexible metal of the pole, acting a bit like the pincer action of a bicycle's brakes, relying on friction to keep the pole at its adjusted length (the pole is actually a collapsible set of three nested poles requiring two snap locks to adjust the length; see here).

Personally, I'm more a fan of screw-lock systems (see here for a diagram of how these locks work); I usually test the strength of a locking mechanism by leaning my not-inconsiderable body weight onto the pole to see whether it collapses. Snap-lock poles, no matter how much they're tightened, usually collapse a bit under my weight, making them all untrustworthy to some degree. My one screw-lock pole, however, cost me only W5,000 when I bought it in Daegu in 2013, but it never collapses when I do the body-weight test. Next time I go on a long walk, I might bring that pole along, but only after I change out its weird plastic foot for something that offers more traction and surface area.

So these are the factors to consider when assessing a trekking pole:

1. the type of locking mechanism that holds the pole at its adjusted length; screw locks are, in my opinion, far superior
2. the type of foot the pole has: rubber, plastic, round, square, goat's-foot-shaped (like mine)
3. the type of handle the pole has, and how that handle dialogues with your hand: does it rub off little, nasty bits of rubber onto your palm as you're walking and swinging the pole? Does it react well to sweat? Does its surface abrade or chafe your hand?
4. the feel of the pole as you're walking: does it vibrate violently with each tap of the pole against the ground as you're walking? Does it have a smoother feel?
5. the pole's dollar value: the above-mentioned cheap pole was not even $5, while my Costco poles were $37 for a pair; be warned that prices vary wildly
6. the pole's primary material: carbon fiber is all the rage, but aluminum works just fine; it's a question of how light you want your pole to be

My Costco poles fail several of the above criteria: there's the snap-lock problem, and then there's the wear and tear on the foot after barely a year of use. The pole's handle used to leave bits of rubber in my hand, but over the course of hundreds of miles, the swinging motion of the pole in my hand, plus the pole/hand friction (OK, that sounds dirty), eventually rubbed the pole smooth—polished the knob, if you will. I trust my Costco pole, but only for light tasks: I'd never rely on it to help me on steep downhills or to break a fall. I did end up liking the goat's-foot design of the pole, which presented a wide surface area for ground contact. The handle, made partly of cork, was (is) molded and felt (feels) good in the hand. Overall, the pole gets a cautious thumbs-up, with the caveat that it never be used for anything heavy-duty.

NB: I see that, last year, I rated the poles as "not worth keeping." I guess I've become a bit more positive since last year.

2. Shoes

The shoes I wore on this walk were my spanking-new New Balance TechRide 410v5 walking/running shoes, size 11.5 4E (American system), also known as "MT410LB5," according to the tag inside the shoe. Footwear is one of your most important considerations when you go distance walking, so you really have to get it right when buying a shoe. I've been a fan of New Balance for years, not because I think NB is a superior company, but rather because New Balance shoes almost always reliably fit my foot. Every human foot is uniquely shaped, so finding the right shoe isn't merely a matter of checking the outermost dimensions—length and width—but also of checking how the shoe pulls on, pushes on, tugs on, and rubs against your foot over time. If you've never gone shoe-shopping for distance walks before, you might end up misfiring and buying the wrong shoe. This isn't your fault; it's merely part of the learning process, and what I've learned is that it does seem to come down to brand: certain shoe companies machine their shoes to be a certain shape, and that shape happens to be what works best with my foot. This means that, while I love New Balance for my feet, I can't honestly recommend NB for yours: your experience is your own, so good luck exploring.

It's been said that the whole concept of "breaking in" a shoe is now, at least in theory, a thing of the past because modern shoes are made with materials that are much easier on the foot, and the shoes are computer-shaped to be orthotically perfect on the first fit. This is at least partially true: the reason New Balances work for me is that I almost instantly feel comfortable in them, and that comfort lasts for the life of the pair of shoes. That said, even modern shoes will respond to the stresses of daily walking by loosening up and changing their shape in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, so "breaking in" is, from that point of view, still an inevitable reality. I guess the point is that it's now easier to find shoes that are comfortable on the first try; we no longer live in the era of one-shape-fits-all leather work boots that don't get comfortable until after years of use and abuse. In my case, I started off by purchasing a pair of NBs that were size 11, which had been my normal, go-to size up to now. The 11s that I bought proved to be too short, probably because my feet have increased in size over the past year, thanks to all the walking I've done. Having stupidly lost the receipt for the 11s, I couldn't exchange them, so I went back to the local JC Penney and bought the same pair of shoes, but half a size larger: 11.5 instead of 11. That seemed to make all the difference.

Before the latest Incheon walk, I took my new pair of shoes on many creekside walks that were over 20,000 steps in length, both as part of my conditioning for the big walk and as a way to see how the new shoes would perform on long sessions. While my soles would ache a bit on some of the longer walks, there was never any intolerable pain. You'll recall that my longest test walk, before this trip, was 30,000 steps, and I think I'd made a good decision to walk for that step count. In the cosmic scheme of things, it's not a big leap from 30,000 steps (about 5 hours' walking) to 45,000 steps (7.5 hours' walking). By the time a person hits the five-hour mark, all the problems associated with distance walking have arisen and made themselves known: achy soles, achy ankles, swollen hands, twinge-y nerves, abrasions, sensitivity of the skin, sunburn, general fatigue, etc. Adding 2.5 hours to a 5-hour walk doesn't change that picture very much, and it turned out that I was justified: training for a 45,000-step walk by going a maximum of 30,000 steps—some of that on staircases—makes for a perfectly fine way to train: it's a good rehearsal.

So the shoes performed well during the big walk. If my feet hurt like a bitch on the fourth day, that was less about the shoes and more about the natural accumulation of aches and pains over time. To talk about this in corny, math-like terms, I might find myself at pain level 3 by the end of Day 1, pain level 4 by the end of Day 2, pain level 5 by the end of Day 3, and pain level 6 by the end of Day 4. Better shoes won't help with that.

The big question is how these shoes might perform during a long walk next year, whether I do the 720-kilometer coastal walk for the first time or redo the 550-kilometer Seoul-Busan Gukto Jongju walk. And I think the answer is: I'm going to need a new pair of shoes by next year: this pair will have worn down significantly by then. The New Balance TechRides do feel ever so slightly thinner-soled than my previous walking shoes: those were walking/hiking shoes while the new ones are walking/running shoes. Next year, if I do buy another pair of shoes, I'll probably aim for walking/hiking shoes so as to have slightly thicker, more cushiony soles. If, however, I'm somehow left with no choice but to buy something like these TechRides, I won't consider that tragic. These have proved to be good shoes; they do go the distance.

3. Backpack

Ah, yes: the all-important backpack. Hiking guru Colin Fletcher calls the backpack "the house on your back," which clues you in as to how seriously to take your backpack: it's essentially the thing tasked with keeping you alive in all sorts of weather and hiking/walking/survival situations. Fletcher's The Complete Walker books discuss the backpack's parts by referring to those parts as if they were rooms in your house, e.g., "the bedroom" refers to things like your tent, sleeping bag, tent footprint, weather fly, tent poles and stakes (if you're using a tent and not a bivy sack). My old Gregory Whitney 95 died after last year's trip, so I decided to get a new Gregory while I was in the States this past August. I ended up buying a Gregory Baltoro 85 from Amazon for about $100 less than a Baltoro 75 from REI.

I've slapped up a lot of loving photos of my new Gregory below, so let's lead off with the obvious: I like this backpack. I'm not completely uncritical about it, but the new backpack contains features that I find useful and well-nigh essential.

Let's go through the pics, shall we?

Below is a wide shot of the whole pack as seen from the back. Gregory still has the separate top compartment, which I'd complained about in my review of the old Whitney 95. Now, however, that compartment has been divided into two smaller compartments (hence the two diagonal zippers that you see). I wasn't too happy about that at first, but I got used to it. You may recall my previous complaint that the top compartment on the Gregory Whitney 95 allowed items to slide around inside it, causing the compartment to lean one way or the other. By bifurcating the compartment, Gregory minimizes the slide-around factor. The downside is that I can no long store something like a toiletry bag in the top compartment.

Below, we see a side pocket and some strappage. All the straps on a backpack are there for a reason, and I like the Baltoro 85's strap architecture, which looks a bit like a crisscross design that redistributes and redirects various forces acting on the backpack along diagonal vectors. Very smart. The side pockets weren't so visible when I looked at the backpack on Amazon, but I was delighted to see that they were indeed there when I visited REI to look at the backpack up close. One problem with the new side pockets, though, is that they don't allow you access into the backpack's main compartment, so there goes my side access. One thing I'm a big believer in is: the more angles by which you can access your pack's main compartment, the better. This new sealed pocket is, in my opinion, a step backward. That said, I quit my internal moaning and learned to grin and bear it, and while I mourn the loss of my side access, I made it quickly enough to the "acceptance" phase in the stages of grief.

Now, we begin our examination of one of the most important parts of any internal-frame backpack: the hip-belt assembly. Below is a view of the right side (from the hiker's point of view) of the hip belt, which features a belt pocket that I didn't end up using, but which I imagine could be useful on a much longer trek. You'll also notice what appears to be a regular old belt (with holes!) sticking out from the assembly. We'll talk about that soon.

A closer look at the top compartment and its two zippers. On this trip, I stuck wet wipes on one side and dry, regular tissues on the other. Both came in handy whenever I had to take a shit in a restroom with no toilet paper (some Korean restrooms sport a huge toilet-paper roll outside all the toilet cubicles, so you have to grab your paper before you enter your stall and release your brown destruction).

Next up: the left side of the hip-belt assembly, featuring Mr. Incongruous Belt Buckle. There's another zippered pocket on the hip belt, as you see; this is good for symmetry, as well as good for providing the walker with more storage space for small, quick-access items.

Below: a glimpse of my backpack's ass. Moving across your field of view, on an east-west axis, is the pack-wide bottom-access zipper, a design feature that I'm glad is still on a Gregory pack. I may be missing my side access, but the pack still has top, back, and bottom access. (This is where you're supposed to shout, "Like my girlfriend!")

The "vertical" straps that are perpendicular to the zipper can be loosened widely enough to hold a foam roll on the outside of the pack. I took my foam roll along this trip, but only to fill out the pack's interior and keep the pack from looking collapsed and empty while I walked. It worked: several people must have thought I was on a cross-country hike because they shouted "Fighting!" and other expressions of encouragement. A foam roll is light as a feather, but it takes up a lot of room, even when rolled up. This time around, it was used mainly as a prop, but it made my backpack into something akin to a conversation piece—a reason for people to believe I was on a serious journey of hundreds of kilometers.

For your prurient delectation: here's my backpack, below, in a submissive porn-movie posture, its private regions all on proud display. You see the hip-belt assembly, as well as the shoulder straps and a few other features. I have to give Gregory credit for improving the ergonomics of their shoulder straps; you may recall how agonizing my Whitney 95 was in that regard: the Whitney's straps were so hard and painful that I had to fold up a washcloth and a handkerchief, then stuff those pieces of cloth under the straps to keep them from biting into my shoulders and pinching nerves and blood vessels. The new shoulder straps are distinctly wider and softer, distributing pressure over a larger surface area. Smart design.

Also somewhat visible in this picture is the dreaded chest strap, which didn't pop off this time around. I'm almost—almost—lulled into a false sense of security regarding that strap, but in the back of my mind, I expect it to fail during a subsequent hike. The Baltoro strap's design is exactly the same as the Whitney's; nothing has changed since 2008, which is surprising: I doubt I'm the only person ever to experience strap failure, so you'd think someone would have complained about it by now. I don't know... maybe Gregory did improve something about the chest strap, which is why it didn't fail on me this time. Maybe. In any event, I carried my spare chest strap along just in case. To be honest, I'm kind of glad I didn't need it.

Okay, so now it's time to talk about why there's a normal belt threaded through the backpack's hip-belt assembly. The reason is the same as last time: the belt part of the Gregory's hip-belt assembly sucks. There's no way around this: it sucks. The plastic buckle is stupid; the belt made of smooth and slippery synthetic fabric is even stupider. It also doesn't help that the belt that comes with the backpack is too short for a fatty like me, so... regular belt to the rescue!

I didn't want to buy just any belt, though: I wanted one that could take punishment and that wouldn't fail on me the way my leather belt did last year. That belt, the leather one, was excellent except for the goddamn buckle, which contained an unnecessary moving part that proved to be a major structural weakness.

To review: I needed a belt that was (1) long enough to accommodate my girth; (2) tough enough to survive a long, brutal trip; and (3) designed not to slip and loosen while I was walking. The only way to satisfy criterion (3) was to find a belt with a standard frame-and-prong buckle plus holes. I looked around for "cargo weave" belts online, then went to Itaewon's big-and-tall stores to search for similar belts. The belt I got seemed to fit the bill. More on that in a second. Here's a pic of the buckle end of my belt:

And here's the hole-y end of the belt:

Here's the belt buckled around an invisible Kevin:

And here, at last, is a pic showing why I may have made a bad purchase: as you see below, there's damage around the grommets from where the belt's prong was pressing against them. I started off by buckling my belt to the third hole; after a day or two, I was suddenly able to buckle the belt down to the fourth hole. While this tightened the entire hip-belt assembly enough to take almost all the pressure off my shoulders, it apparently put a lot of strain on the metal grommets reinforcing those holes. If you look closely at the damage, you can see that it gives you an idea of how the belt had been made: the grommet looks to have been stamped through the material, thereby shearing the cargo weave and weakening the belt's structure wherever there's a hole. That's really unfortunate.

Conclusion: while cargo weave is super strong, it's not nearly as strong once you damage it in this way. I'd actually rather go back to my tough leather belt, but I need to find someone who can change out the current, flawed buckle for one that's a single, solid piece of metal. Once that gets changed, the leather belt will be invincible.

Let me note again that, once I cinched my belt down to the fourth hole, the whole assembly hugged me tightly enough to take almost all the pressure of the pack off my shoulders. This is what a hip-belt assembly is designed for. In theory, you can carry a very heavy load on your back as long as your hip belt is tight enough because all the pressure of the load is being driven into your hips, with almost none of it weighing down your shoulders and compressing your spine. For two days, I labored under some minor back pain because my hip belt wasn't tight enough, but I didn't try the fourth-hole option then because I didn't think I'd be able to cinch the belt that tightly. By Day 3, however, I had actually lost enough weight to cinch the belt more tightly with no effort, and voilà.

Belt damage:

One feature I've always enjoyed, and it's found on most backpacks no matter the brand, is the grip strap at the top of the pack. This allows a person to grab the pack "by the scruff of the neck," if you will, and toss it or carry it as need be.

Also of note, on either side of the grip strap, are the two straps that adjust how tightly your backpack will "hug" you up top. I found that I don't need my pack to hug me that closely, so I loosened those straps to allow the pack to ride even more fully on my hip belt. As I said: every strap is there for a reason. Don't begrudge a single one of them.

Next: a nifty feature—the underside pocket of the top compartment. I found this useful as a storage place for my electronic items. While the pack's material isn't waterproof, that pocket benefits from the protection of the top compartment that rides above it. When that top compartment is filled with travel items, those items add to the protection factor against rain. It might still be advisable to store your electronics inside Ziploc bags, if for no other reason than to protect them from humidity, but I found that this hidden pocket served me well during a short hike that was relatively rain-free, and that took place in a low-humidity time of year.

Below: a view of the top-access part of the pack's main compartment. This has always traditionally been a drawstring-closure aperture—on Gregory packs, at least. I'm still trying to figure out how the little plastic component tightens and loosens to allow you to close and open the top, but I'm beginning to understand it. You can see the tube from my hydration system sneaking out of the top. More on that in a bit.

The strap-and-buckle assembly that goes over the top-access opening of the pack is another essential feature, another way to keep the items inside your pack from shifting around while you walk. You might think that slight shifting isn't a big problem, and it isn't if you're walking short distances under, say, five miles. But when you're going several tens of thousands of steps per day, those slight shifts get multiplied tens of thousands of times (same goes for repetitive-stress-related discomfort), so a minor inconvenience can eventually turn into a major one. As I said above: don't begrudge your straps.

Next: a shot of the back compartment that sits atop the pack's main compartment. This is a convenient feature that's meant for the storage of quick-access items, whatever those might be for you: a first-aid kit, some sterilizing wipes, a quick snack, or something else.

At last, a shot of the pack's main compartment, with my foam roll nestled inside it as a filler.

And in this final photo, we have a feature that tickled the hell out of me once I realized what it was for. Some background: hydration bladders like CamelBaks have been all the rage for a while, now, and backpack designs have slowly evolved to accommodate them. Last year, I hiked most of the way down to Busan with my Baen Sendi (weird brand name, I know, but it had super-high ratings on Amazon) bladder hanging outside my backpack. That changed when my container suddenly failed and released all of its water in an instant. Luckily that day, I was close to a water source, so I was able to repair the bladder and refill it with water, but from then on, I repacked the bladder such that it was nestled inside my backpack. My old Whitney 95 was manufactured before the hydration-bladder era, so it contained no features to help a person stow a bladder inside a backpack's main compartment. My new Baltoro, however, has a couple such features, and in the photo below, you're looking at one.

You see, the problem is that your bladder comes with a drinking tube, but that drinking tube isn't infinitely long, so you have to figure out some way to store the bladder in your pack so that the bladder sits up high. In my old Whitney, I achieved height by rearranging items within the pack. With the new Baltoro, I don't have to do that because (1) the pack's main compartment contains a bladder-shaped pocket, and (2) the pack's main compartment has a strap that loops through the bladder's upper handle, preventing the bladder from sinking too low into the pocket. You can see the strap below:

That little strap was, to be frank, a godsend, and I laughed out loud once I realized what it was there for. While I find it hard to forgive Gregory's closing of its pack's side pockets, preventing side access to the main compartment, I'm very impressed with all of my new pack's new features. All in all, I'm looking forward to getting to know this new Gregory; I hope it will be a good travel companion over several thousands of miles.

So that's the equipment review this time around. Hope you didn't get too bored reading it. In sum: a functional trekking pole, good—if not perfect—shoes, and an excellent new backpack with a minimum of annoying problems.

the fallibility of memory

This might have bearing on the current Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Kavanaugh is under fire for something that supposedly happened thirty-six years ago.

Incheon Walk 3, Day 4: moi en 3 images

One last selfie, now that I'm back in my apartment:

But I'm going to have to keep wearing my bandanna because look what happened:

I'm going to be the laughingstock of the office tomorrow, but in truth, I find it funny, too, to see how my face now looks as if it's wearing a mask, the same way my tanned and sunburned hands look as though they're wearing gloves.

And finally, a look at my aching right foot. I'd been blister-free for three days, but I knew my luck wouldn't hold. That bloody patch had been there since before the walk, and it's causing me no pain. On the other hand, look at the white patch at the bottom of the ball of my foot. That son of a bitch is hurting pretty badly whenever I put weight on it. Not a problem... I've dealt with this sort of thing before. I suppose I'm lucky not to have gotten anything worse, but then again, we'll see whether the blister—which looks to be in its incipient phase—swells up into something bigger and meaner over the next 24 hours. I hope not.

NB: if the white patch turns very white, then that's pus, and this isn't a blister: it's an infection that'll probably need to be lanced. It feels like a blister, for the moment, though, so I'm not too worried. I'll keep checking it throughout the day.

Incheon Walk 3, Day 4: arriving

At this point, I'm walking along the Tan Cheon (the Tan Creek). Bikers are whizzing by. Most of them fail to greet me when I greet them with a nod. A few give a curt nod back. I'm near the end of my journey, so I'm not as exercised about whether people acknowledge my existence. Foremost on my mind are my feet, which desperately need to be propped up and kept away from the floor. They've spent all day laboring under my body weight, crunching along almost 45,000 times total: step, step, step, step, step.

This may be one of my least favorite sections of the walk. There's something dreary about this particular part, and it goes along for about a mile. I'm glad when it's over, whether I'm going toward the Han or away from it.

At this point along the path, I catch sight of my apartment building, which I'm pointing out for your benefit (you're welcome, by the way):

I have now passed the meeting-point of the Tan and Yangjae Creeks, and I'm on the final part of the Tan Creek path. By "final," I really mean the last part of the creekside path that I follow until I hit a ramp, go up, walk a few minutes, and eventually take a footbridge that leads to the road going straight over to my building.

And here's the ramp—the only challenging incline of the whole trip, and it's not challenging at all... for walkers, anyway: it's a pretty big challenge for most bikers, who tend to wimp out, dismount, and do the hill on foot. Mentally, I give a scornful Haw haw, but in truth, I don't think I could bike up that hill, either.

For the following shot, I'm standing at the southern end of the footbridge and looking WSW at my apartment building, which is just down the street. Journey's end.

Incheon Walk 3, Day 4: beyond Yeouido

Graying beard, peeling and sunburned skin...

And in the photo below, we learn that camera angle is everything.

Another photo of that long stretch of bridge under which I walk when I'm east of Yeouido. Lots of bikers and walkers and runners out in force today.

A water skier skims the filthy waters of the Han River:

My path stretches ahead...

...and I'm finally rewarded with a view of the Lotte World Tower, which is located in Jamshil, a part of town not too far from where I live:

Another glimpse of Lotte Tower, but also note that, if you track your gaze along that bridge, you'll see the mouth of the Tan Creek, along which I must walk to reach the Han. That creek mouth means I'll be at my place in about an hour, give or take a few minutes.

Incheon Walk 3, Day 4: up to and through Yeouido

I got up around 5 a.m., but dragged my feet and wasn't out of the hotel (a new one this time; I liked it) until about 6 a.m. As I walked north, I hit an intersection where I saw the following structure. I had to take a picture, of course, because the thing was marketing itself as a shwim-teo—a shaded rest area. I guess this goes to show that shwim-teo come in all shapes and sizes:

And here's your early-morning shadow selfie:

You know how, every once in a while, you run across some freakish tableau and think to yourself, "There's gotta be an interesting story behind that"? Well, look at the picture below and ask yourself: who the fuck bites a chunk out of a bar of soap? Someone hungry, I guess.

Here's the Hall of Naughty Mischief and Small-mindedness, a.k.a., the National Assembly Building, as I pass by it once again, this time on my way east. The building marks the west end of Yeouido; the 63 Building marks the east end.

There's always something under construction in Seoul:

I had to take this pic for my brother David, who loves to call me Bird as a nickname because, long ago, David saw the state of my hair when I woke up one day, and it reminded him of a bird's nest. (No, you may not call be Bird. You may never call me Bird.) Anyway, I snapped this pic and texted it to David with the accompanying message, "FLIRTY BIRDS!!" If you enlarge the image, you'll see some Korean written in a Konglishy way: the initial consonant of each syllable is written with a Roman letter while the rest of the syllable is in hangeul. The female bird is saying "Go nwae," which means "Agony," and the male bird (the one offering the flowers) is saying "Sarang," i.e., "Love!"

I saw this frizzy, bear-like sculpture hiding back a ways from the main path, so I walked over and snapped a shot:

And lastly, a side view of the 63 Building: