Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Auto-Tune dog

There's a whole subgenre of YouTube videos devoted to pet sounds that have been run through Auto-Tune to make them more musical. I kind of like this one:






Pat Condell on pre-Brexit dithering

Pat Condell has the angry-old-man shtick down pat (ha), but he's been uploading far less frequently than he used to. The video below is an impassioned cri de coeur against corruption in Parliament, the "sewer that has to be hosed clean." He sees the current time as a "watershed moment," with democracy possibly withering on the vine, and with Brexit having been turned into a slow-as-molasses transition by politicians who hope the people will ultimately change their minds. The time is now to vote out the scum and vote in the people who won't dither when it comes to effecting positive change in Great Britain and, quite possibly, in greater Europe. As Condell argues, current politicians have forgotten they are the servants, not the masters, and they need to be loudly, forcefully reminded of the actual reality.


As one commenter said: vote UKIP. If I were a Brit, I would.



Monday, April 29, 2019

just saw this on Instapundit






funniest thing I've seen all day

When a guy brings his Asian girlfriend home to his unreconstructed Mexican mom:


(This is apparently a series.)



this kid

Full respect to this brainy kid for his principles, his clarity, his video-making skills, and his charm. I might just have to subscribe to his channel.


And good for him, putting the blame for city squalor squarely on the shoulders of Democrat management. Pretty much every shitty major city in the US has been Democrat-run for decades and decades. Real shame about Portland and Seattle, though; I liked those cities a lot when I walked through them in 2008. Hell, I stayed in Portland for two weeks.

By the way, I'm quietly putting together a list of black conservatives and/or #Walkaway/#Blexit folks. If there's one racist lie I'd like to do my part to combat, it's that black folks somehow all belong on the liberal/Democrat plantation. And while I'm at it, I'd love to see Candace Owens run for president in 2024.*



*Owens is 29 now, so she might not be eligible for a 2024 run. True, she's not a politician, but with a brain like hers, I think she'd be quick on her feet.



Sunday, April 28, 2019

dammit

I was on my way to racking up a 30,000-step evening when my phone conked out at around the 24K-step mark. I didn't think it was cold enough to suck out the battery power, but 50℉ (10℃) is apparently enough to do just that. I had started the walk with about 74% battery power. By the time I reached Jamshil Bridge, my turnaround point, I had already done 16,000 steps. 2,400 of those steps came from doing two kilometer-long loops around local parks; I hadn't planned on doing the same loops on the way back, so my walk should have totaled 29,600 steps. The phone died at 24,885 steps and 180 minutes of walking, which means I must've been walking way faster than I normally do. My usual step rate is about 100 steps per minute, but 24.9K steps per 180 minutes is a step rate of 138.25 steps/minute. I must've been especially agitated or something. Anyway, at that rate, I might have gone past the 30K-step mark, but now we'll never know because the fucking phone crapped out on me. Dammit.

I'll bring a spare battery next time, but that's no guarantee because, when your phone dies, it dies quietly in your pocket. By the time you notice the phone is dead, you have no idea how much time has passed since its passing. Perhaps the best strategy is to check the phone's battery power regularly, then switch out batteries at around the 10%-power mark. And if it's cold out, keep the phone close to your body, not in the thigh pocket of your cargo pants.



"Cobra Kai," Season 2: review


[NB: spoilers.]

I just noticed that my review of "Cobra Kai," Season 1 came out almost exactly a year ago. This seems to mean that YouTube Premium is pushing this series out at a rate of one season per year, which makes me worry about how long the series can really last. Both Ralph Macchio (Daniel Larusso) and William Zabka (Johnny Lawrence) are in their fifties; they're not getting any younger. By the time we hit Season 5 or 6, our leads are going to be in or near their sixties—far from decrepit, but also far from spry. We'll see what the future holds, I suppose; in the meantime, we'll simply enjoy each season as it arrives.

Season 2 of "Cobra Kai" picks up where the end of Season 1 let off: with the return of mean old sensei John Kreese (Martin Kove). Kreese is no longer the loud, angry man he was back in the 1980s: he's older, time-weathered, softer-spoken, and arguably cleverer and subtler. ("Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made."—Gen. 3:1, KJV) Along with Johnny's real father (Ed Asner), Kreese is an abusive paternal figure from Johnny's past, and his arrival stirs up strong emotions in Johnny. Over the course of Season 2, the Johnny-Kreese arc focuses on Johnny's own struggle to gain perspective and realize that Kreese's presence in Johnny's dojo can't bode well. Johnny is trying to take Cobra Kai in a new and arguably better direction, away from the nasty Strike First, Strike Hard, No Mercy doctrine written in large letters on the dojo's walls. Johnny genuinely cares, in his own gruff way, for his students' welfare, and he is sincerely trying to put them on a path of good moral conduct and success. Kreese, who wants to insinuate himself into Johnny's project by repeatedly noting that he's the one who founded Cobra Kai, moves slowly but surely in on Johnny's territory, breaking through the layers of Johnny's caution until he's finally in a position to take the dojo back from Johnny.

Johnny's relationship with Daniel goes through much the same roller coaster as in Season 1. Season 2 features a different sort of bonding moment between the two, but the harmony is shattered in the final episode when something happens involving the kids. I felt that Season 1 did a very good job of balancing our sympathies between Johnny and Daniel; it was easy to want to root for both them. Season 2, though, seems to depict Johnny more sympathetically than it does Daniel, who comes off as an imperceptive asshole incapable of seeing anything deeply. We see the human side of Johnny, who gets a couple crying moments this season—first when he's telling his best student Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) about how much he regrets abandoning his son Robby (Tanner Buchanan), and next when he's standing outside Miguel's hospital room when Miguel has been injured in a high-school brawl. Daniel's own sense of competitiveness is part of what leads him to create a dojo where he teaches Miyagi-do karate for free, and because he has set his dojo up as a rival to Cobra Kai's, it's only natural that his students and Johnny's students will carry that rivalry into their own lives. Daniel's obsession over creating and maintaining his new dojo is even affecting his marriage and his job performance: his wife Amanda (Courtney Henggeler) is increasingly frustrated with how Daniel has been abandoning his duties at the car dealership (where the Larussos have lost one of their best employees), and she's not happy with how all this karate mania in the San Fernando Valley is happening alongside a spike in teenage violence.

In fact, one of the things Season 2 does well is to question the very idea that learning a martial art can be beneficial. By the time we hit Episode 10, things literally get bloody. When a school-wide fight breaks out between students from the two rival schools, and both Daniel's daughter Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Johnny's student Miguel get seriously injured, the situation has turned grim. Episode 10 ends with no clue as to what the real-world consequences of the brawl will be; in the real world, assault with a deadly weapon is a jailable offense (a Cobra Kai girl named Tory assaults Sam with a bracelet covered in short blades), and Robby's enraged sucker attack on Miguel could be seen as attempted murder. I have no idea whether season 3 will soft-pedal the violence; I'm actually kind of hoping that the dramedy will aim for legal realism, here, but I'm not holding my breath. What the episode does show, however, is how the women in Daniel's and Johnny's lives reject all karate in the aftermath of the in-school violence: Amanda tells Daniel, "No more karate!" and Johnny's potential girlfriend, Miguel's mother Carmen (Vanessa Rubio), tearfully tells Johnny she never wants to see him again because of the way she thinks he has poisoned her son's mind.

Season 2 is as good as Season 1 when it comes to weaving a very tangled web of relationships. The drama is often soap-operatic, what with Sam and Miguel still having feelings for each other despite Sam's having recently fallen for Robby (who has moved into the Larussos' home). The introduction of tough, bitchy Tory gives Miguel someone else to pay attention to, but Tory quickly turns out to be bad news, and she's very partial to the harder-core instruction being given by Master Kreese because she sees life as a struggle in which the under-privileged have to fight for everything they want. Miguel is still basically a decent kid, but a bit like Sam in Season 1, he tends to hang with the wrong crowd, and all those toxic personalities are going to have a bad influence on him.

One of the climactic fights in Episode 10 is between Johnny and Daniel. I'd say, given the choreography, that Johnny arguably whoops Daniel's ass this time, but Daniel is still standing and still seething with anger: he goes nuts when he discovers that his daughter, drunk after a wild party, has ended up spending the night at Johnny's place. (Sam insisted on not going home because she didn't want her parents to see her in her current drunken state; Robby obligingly took her to his father's apartment.) Daniel discovers his daughter's whereabouts when he traces Sam's iPhone all the way to Johnny's apartment, and when Johnny refuses to let the furious Daniel in, Daniel kicks in the front door, and the two end up fighting. Johnny has every right to defend himself in his own domicile, and there's no way to read this scene other than to say Daniel is utterly in the wrong. We could perhaps justify Daniel's wildness by observing that this is about his daughter's welfare, but it's Daniel's own fault that he doesn't even try to assess the situation rationally. All he sees is that his daughter is being kept by his enemy. Johnny actually tells Daniel to "calm down" before Daniel kicks in the door. Ultimately, both Robby and Sam run out from the back bedroom and beg the two adults to stop fighting. The way the scene is written and shot is consistent with my view that Season 2 is generally more sympathetic to Johnny. Daniel comes off as a hothead who is often the cause of his own troubles. Already convinced that Miyagi-do is the superior way, Daniel is buoyed through life by an underlying arrogance about his own rightness/righteousness. Without the calming, rational influence of his wife Amanda, Daniel would easily spin out of control. This aspect of Daniel's character might be interesting to explore in Season 3 because Season 2's running joke is that Daniel thinks he has mastered Mr. Miyagi's principles for leading a "balanced" life. The issue of balance is treated both sincerely and ironically in Season 2, with Daniel mostly unaware of just how unbalanced he really is.

One huge shocker was seeing Johnny reunite with his old cycle gang from the first movie. The series brings back Bobby, Tommy, and Jimmy, with the angriest and most violent of Johnny's minions, Dutch, conspicuously absent. (Dutch is apparently doing time.) Tommy—the twerp who famously shouted "Get him a body bag! Yeah!" during the finals of the All Valley Karate Tournament in 1984—is now dying of cancer. The gang spirits him out of the hospital for one last Harley joyride; the group ends up at a bar, and the mood darkens when Johnny reveals he's restarted Cobra Kai. Long past their bully-boy years, the rest of the group thinks this isn't the greatest idea. Bobby, now a bald Protestant minister (you'll recall he was the one whom Kreese ordered to injure Daniel's leg in '84), is particularly grim. The conversation ends when a bar fight breaks out, and the group of old men—yes, including the dying Tommy—bring forth their barely remembered karate skills to kick some ass. The group rides out into the woods for an overnight camp, and the next morning, Tommy is found dead while Queen's "The Show Must Go On" plays. Tommy, who shouted the line about the body bag, is shown being zipped into a body bag—a fitting, poetic end for his character.

"Cobra Kai" seems intent on bringing back as many old stars from the movies as possible. There are plenty more characters out there to choose from, and as it turns out, Ali (Elisabeth Shue) is likely to appear in Season 3, so I was wrong in my prediction that the showrunners would never get Ali onto the show. We shouldn't forget that mean old Kreese has a war buddy, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who appeared in "The Karate Kid, Part III" as a co-founder of Cobra Kai. There's also Chozen, Daniel's rival from "The Karate Kid, Part II" (Yuji Okumoto), and Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), the student of Terry Silver.

Overall, Season 2 gets a thumbs-up from me, but after tilting so obviously in favor of Johnny this round, I hope the series will tilt the other way and be a bit more sympathetic to Daniel, who spends much of this season coming off as a temperamental idiot in constant need of correction. Daniel is written smartly enough to have a good side, though; he proves to be a warm and competent teacher even for kids who seem to have zero aptitude for karate, and he even refuses to have a video of one of his fights uploaded to YouTube to promote his dojo.* That said, the focus this time is primarily on Johnny's arc. He's realizing that teaching his kids to be "badass," as he puts it, doesn't mean they need to learn to fight dirty. He wants to teach his kids to fight with both bravery and honor, and by the end of the season, he is openly questioning the six-word Cobra Kai motto, claiming that it's the royal route to becoming an asshole. Johnny is more in the right than he is in the wrong, here, and despite having to deal with his own demons, he's obviously struggling to become a better person. So score one for Johnny this time around. I'll be interested to see how the story evolves come next season.



*Robby, who had gone in search of Amanda Larusso's missing wallet, which had been stolen at a beachfront party, had placed a cell phone in a location to expose the thieves who had taken Amanda's wallet plus a bunch of other wallets. When Robby's attempt to apprehend the thieves on video went wrong, Daniel suddenly appeared and intervened, taking out the three toughs. This exploit got caught on video, and Robby later asked permission to upload the vid to YouTube. Daniel refused, saying that Miyagi-do karate wasn't about taking credit.



Saturday, April 27, 2019

hilarious "Endgame" review from Jeremy Jahns

Jeremy Jahns did a non-spoilery review of "Avengers: Endgame" and then, like other online reviewers, he waited a few days and put up an extended spoilery review in which he got into the nitty-gritty of the movie. Jahns is normally pretty funny, but his spoilery "Endgame" review had me busting a gut at several points. So go watch "Endgame," then come back here and watch Jahns's hilarious review:






more memes and toons via Bill

A few more memes and toons have come my way thanks to Bill Keezer:


When I wrote my previous post touching on assimilation, I was actually thinking about Representative Ilhan Omar, whom I increasingly consider a very toxic presence in the US Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is an object of ridicule largely because her ideas are so out there that at least half the country will dismiss them outright. AOC doesn't help her case by sounding like a braying idiot. I don't see her as all that much of a danger. With Omar, it's different. She strikes me at the devil's foot in the door toward America's turning into Europe. No one (well, not no one, but you get what I'm saying) has the courage to question her openly, and she relies on the current vogue of intersectionality (she's of Somali descent and a woman) to protect her from serious criticism, thus allowing her to get away with making subtle and egregious anti-Israel, antisemitic, anti-Jewish statements. The right has been (futilely, in my opinion) hammering Omar for her lack of gratitude for having come to America from war-torn Somalia. Omar has made several statements critical of the United States, and has infamously soft-pedaled Islamic terror attacks, like the one on 9/11/01, by blithely saying "some people did something." Is that her answer to what just happened in Sri Lanka over Easter?

Anyway, the woman deserves criticism. Her presence in an already corrupt and troubled Congress only worsens matters because the PC mindset makes it impossible for certain people to question her positions openly and aggressively. I can only hope she gets voted out within the next two years. She currently represents Minnesota's 5th Congressional District. May those people wake up and undo what they've done by voting her into Congress.

Below, a cartoon by Branco, who is my least-favorite cartoonist on Patriot Humor. I don't like his drawing style, and I don't think his humor is particularly clever or funny, but every once in a while, he gets it right. Sure, the glass-house metaphor is heavy-handed, but Hillary merits every bit of heavy-handedness we can give her:


Perhaps an Islamic solution may be the only one for Creepy Uncle Joe:


And yet more Hillary hypocrisy. Her lack of self-reflection is stunning:






I almost forgot myself

When my coworkers asked me their usual ritual Friday question—"What're you doing this weekend?"—I blurted out that I'd be training back to Yangpyeong to get some more of that amazing tangsuyuk I'd had last week. But after saying that, I realized I was back to my austerity program, in which I try to live thirty days without spending anything, so I knew I wouldn't be able to take the subway anywhere. Dejected, I updated my weekend plans, telling my coworkers I'd be out walking locally. Which is not a bad thing, given how much I enjoy walking. I'm stepping out in a few minutes, in fact, to walk out to the Jamshil Bridge and back.

I had mentioned, when I started the austerity, that it was liberating to realize I didn't need to have my wallet along with me. (I've since revised that thought because I've come to understand that there are, in fact, scenarios in which having a wallet—with all those ID cards and other items—can actually be helpful. So after a day of prancing around walletlessly, I went back to keeping my wallet in my pocket.) This is the flip side of austerity: it may be liberating not to rely on one's wallet, but it's also restricting insofar as you can't make impulse purchases, use cabs or public transportation, or do anything that requires being plugged into the economy. I'm feeling the pinch right now because I just ran out of Kleenex in the office. Unable to purchase a new box of Kleenex, I'm obliged to come home, grab an extra box there, and bring it to the office, praying that I don't now run out of Kleenex at home.

Anyway, I'm stuck in my austerity program for another twenty days. Once I get to payday on May 16, I'll probably do this austerity thing again, taking a few days to purchase material for meals, training out to Yangpyeong for some deliciousness, then living out the rest of the pay period without spending anything. It's going to be the only way to ensure I can send $3500 home every month until the end of this year, assuming the plan is still to zero out my major debt by this coming December.



Friday, April 26, 2019

expecting assimilation

If you come to my country to live there long-term, you will:
- learn to speak, read, and write—at a passable level—the language spoken by the majority,
- accept or at least understand and tolerate my country's core values,
- abide by my country's laws and jurisprudence, and
- never seek to impose your morality or cultural sensibilities on my country as a whole.

You have the right to complain about perceived injustices and things that appear nonsensical in my country. You have the right to work constructively toward the reparation of those injustices. If, however, you lose your basic gratitude for what my country provides you (food, clothing, money, shelter) and proceed to attack my country in a sustained manner, then you are free to leave. I'll happily pack your bags.

With all that in mind:

Those who want to immigrate to France must adjust themselves to French society, and not the other way around. To the chagrin of our supposedly liberal media, this should also hold true for the rest of Europe and Israel as well.
—from here

America’s most important politico-cultural virtue, though, has been the insistence to its current—and especially potential—citizens that they assimilate to a certain view of justice embodied in the Declaration of Independence and safeguarded by our state and national political institutions, first and foremost the U.S. Constitution. E pluribus unum (“out of many, one”), America’s motto, means that assimilation has always been in our national DNA.
—found here

already halfway through

I'm already through Episode 5 of "Cobra Kai," Season 2. Just five more episodes to go. So far, the season seems to be upholding the standards set by Season 1. The plot has unfolded in an enjoyable way, and I'm curious to see how the season will finish up. That's a mark of good screenwriting, but credit also has to go to the actors and to the rest of the crew who are making this series happen. Martin Kove, who returns as mean old Sensei Kreese, seems to be something like a Satan-figure this season, a whispering tempter, yet not exactly: there are moments when we almost sympathize with him because, despite his bluster, he's really more of a broken old man than anything else. I'll be curious to see how his pathology evolves over the rest of this season and in the upcoming seasons.

Expect a Season 2 review once I'm done binge-watching.



cute, mean, and hilarious

Some will complain that parents shouldn't use their cute little kids to make political statements (coughObama-praising children's choircough), but I can't bring myself to care. Watch this little meanie work her anti-AOC magic:


And if you haven't seen this now-already-classic AOC parody, lookee here:






"Cobra Kai" hanja lesson

Season 2 of "Cobra Kai" is now available for YouTube Premium members, so I am, of course, binge-watching all ten episodes. Episode 1 of the new season features a flashback to "The Karate Kid, Part II," in which Daniel finds himself inside Miyagi's old family dojo in Okinawa. On one wall of the dojo are two maxims done up in kanji (Kor. hanja), i.e., Sino-Japanese characters. In the movie, Miyagi translates the characters this way: the right-hand maxim says, "Rule Number One: karate is for defense only." And, humorously, the left-hand maxim says, "Rule Number Two: first learn Rule Number One."


What the right-hand maxim actually says is (with Korean pronunciation noted):

空 empty (gong)
手 hand (su)
無 no (mu)
先 first (seon)
手 hand (su)

Miyagi roughly translates this as "Karate is for defense only." The term empty hand is Japanese/Okinawan shorthand for karate (which also means "empty hand"). The "no first hand" can be interpreted to mean something along the lines of "never strikes first." So: karate (i.e., the [true] karateka) never strikes first. This principle is the antithesis of the Cobra Kai motto: "Strike first, strike hard, no mercy."

The left-hand maxim reads:

先 first (seon)
正 align (jeong)
其 that (gi)
心 mind (shim)

Miyagi translates this as "First learn Rule Number One." It's more literally something like, "First align yourself with that frame of mind."

Conclusion: Miyagi's translations of the kanji are pretty rough, but they get the point across.



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Sewol: watch if you're a masochist

I don't know why I put myself through this, but I watched a documentary about the Sewol ferry disaster from 2014. I've embedded the video below. Hard to believe that the incident occurred five years ago. Sometimes, the feeling is still raw. Like the rest of South Korea, when the ferry sank, I recall waiting and waiting as the body count ticked upward, ever upward, over the following days. The concatenation of errors that led to so many deaths would almost be funny if it weren't so damn tragic. All those kids. Jesus, all those kids.


I don't do much that's religious these days, but sometime before this beautiful spring is over, I need to make my way over to the Sewol memorial, get on my knees, and tell those dead souls how sorry we all are—in every sense of "sorry" you can think of.



Bon Appétit takes on pizza dough

The chefs at Bon Appétit have set themselves the project of making the "perfect" pizza. They're aware that the project is doomed to failure, but as one of their number says, they should at least make the attempt. There's an intro video, which I'm not linking here, and then there's Episode 1, below, which is all about pizza dough:


One of the most interesting pieces of advice from the video is "Don't treat your pizza dough like bread dough." (And of course I like this video because my girlfriend Claire is in it.)



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"Avengers: Endgame": two-paragraph review (no spoilers)

[NB: I'm going to write a deeper review of both "Infinity War" and "Endgame" sometime soon. There's a lot to discuss that can't be discussed in a spoiler-free review.]

2019's "Avengers: Endgame" gets its title from lines uttered by both Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) and Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who use the term "endgame" in somewhat different contexts. For Stark in "Age of Ultron," the "endgame" referred to what he saw as the coming extraterrestrial invasion, now that Earth had been made aware that it was merely one planet in a galaxy awash with often-hostile alien life. For Strange in "Infinity War," the "endgame" was more specific: the final phase of the fight against Thanos—a Titan who embodied all of Tony Stark's nightmares about how impotent Earth would be against technologically superior alien forces. "Avengers: Endgame," directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is both the immediate sequel to "Avengers: Infinity War" and the capstone/swan song for the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Phases 1 through 3. When last we left our heroes, Thanos the purple giant (Josh Brolin) had used the six Infinity Stones to wipe out half of all life in the universe. His mission accomplished, Thanos retired to an idyllic jungle/garden planet to bask in his victory, and in what he saw as a new era of peace and prosperity for all living things. Our heroes—those who have survived—are in varying stages of moving on or dealing with this new, post-genocide reality. Thanks to the reappearance of Ant-Man, the remaining heroes learn they can use time travel to go back to a point in history before the Stones have been assembled into a single weapon (I mean the Infinity Stones, not the Rolling Stones), and that's the basic jumping-off point for the movie.

"Endgame" clocked in at a full three hours, and I have to say that it was tedious at points. As I'd written earlier, I found "Infinity War" to be very well paced, but for "Endgame," the pacing was uneven. There was a lot of dramatic talkiness before we got to see any action; some critics have been praising this as "character moments," but I think those moments were a case of too little, too late. There were also some huge plot holes that left me scratching my head, and certain prominent characters whom I'd expected to appear never appeared, which was a bummer. As before, the Infinity Stones struck me as more of a do-what-the-plot-demands device than anything meaningful, and because time travel basically makes death into a trivial problem instead of something terrible and final, the film didn't have quite the emotional impact it should have had. Oh, to be sure, "Endgame" went for those heartstrings, and it was even somewhat touching toward the end, but what dominated my attention was the fact that this movie tried to squeeze goddamn everybody into its story, which meant that no one held center stage for very long, not even the leaders like Captain America and Iron Man. Sure, sure: "Endgame" brought the spectacle; it was watchable on that level, and I could appreciate the mighty effort that went into making the film look good. I might even see the movie a second time just to try to de-confuse myself about certain seemingly illogical plot points and to enjoy all the special-effects havoc, but that second viewing would be more for academic reasons than for reasons of simple enjoyment. Poor pacing, an overstuffed cast, a rather subdued Thanos, the tired rehashing and repetition of events that had occurred in the previous movie, and a ponderously cliché, Peter Jackson-style battle at the end that features a flying horse—all of these factors added up to a rather flaccid and disappointing followup to "Infinity War." Perhaps if this movie had been split into two movies, things might have been better, although ending Phase 3 after twenty-three movies instead of twenty-two might have been asking too much of MCU fans. I can't and don't heartily recommend "Avengers: Endgame," but you're probably going to see it no matter what I say, so try to see the good in the movie and ignore the bad... which includes many horrific scenes of Thor as a weepy fat man. That's not a joke: in Marvel's theology, gods can gain weight and turn into slobs, just as Valkyries, who are almost goddesses, can apparently get drunk off too much alcohol. Comic-book mythology is as nonsensical as real-world mythology, but logical sense isn't Marvel's primary goal. For Marvel, the maxim is always Turn your brain off.



Ave, Charles!

Charles bakes a loaf in a Dutch oven, and at the end, he shows off his wife's seafood stew. Both the bread and the stew look delicious, and I'm once again left to wonder why Charles failed to invite me to dinner. This is not how a friend treats a friend. So now we are enemies.



Jeremy Jahns reviews "Avengers: Endgame" (no spoilers)

I'll say this: Jeremy liked the movie way more than I did.






the wait is over

I'm a gullible creature, easily susceptible to the suasion of market forces. And while I can be a snob about some things, my tastes are generally not very highbrow, especially when it comes to the movies I like to watch.

I'm not much of an art-film guy, mainly because artsy filmmakers annoy me. And to my mind, there's a difference between pseudo-deep artsy pretentiousness and artful profundity. Many of the movies I like are artfully deep: definitely within the range of the tastes of the hoi polloi, but sparking interesting thoughts all the same. I may even have written (or tried to write) some of them down in some of my reviews.

Which leads me to where I am now, and what I'm doing. I'm blogging this entry at the Lotte World Mall, and I'm here because I have a ticket for a matinee showing of "Avengers: Endgame," which comes out in East Asia on the 24th, and in the US on the 26th. So yes, I'm a sucker for all the hype, and like the millions (billions?) who saw "Avengers: Infinity War," I'm monkey-curious as to how the story ends. I'll know that ending by the time I make my way to work today.

I have several problems with "Infinity War," which I still haven't discussed in a spoilery review. But I own the movie on iTunes and have watched it many times, and I have to admit it's grown on me. I have to respect the way the writers handled the complex story structure; the film has good pacing. The dialogue and action are snappy and energetic, and I can't say that the film really drags at any point. The actors all hit their marks, and while I think Thanos's plan is stupid as hell when viewed through the lens of population dynamics, I really love James Brolin's burly performance as Thanos, a villain who forces us to reconsider whether the color purple can be dismissed as merely frou-frou.

The movie spawned endless speculation as to which hero would die (everyone's betting on Captain America because actor Chris Evans is at the end of his Marvel contract), how the team would defeat Thanos (with time travel as the most likely solution), and what nifty new hero-to-hero interactions we'd see (Rocket and Black Widow?). This movie also marks the end of the so-called "Phase 3" timeline; Phase 4 will begin with movies featuring familiar heroes but will eventually go super-cosmic to include some of Marvel's grander celestial beings.

I'm honestly not sure how interested I'll be in Phase 4 and beyond. "Endgame" promises to end with a bang, and I might very well be all Marveled out by that point. I suppose we'll see, though. I've been a sucker for marketing before, and I doubtless will be again.

ADDENDUM: according to the nifty Population Calculator, if we assume a 2000-era global-population growth rate of 1.2%, and a 2018 global population of 7.6 billion people, we know that Thanos's snap would reduce Earth to 3.8 billion. At the aforementioned growth rate, we'd be back to 7.6 billion people by the year 2076. Thanos would have "solved" our planet's overcrowding problem for less than 60 years.



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

HRC humor, via Bill Keezer

Hee.






NZ/Sri Lanka: false equivalence

Roger Simon writes on why the cases of New Zealand (with its recent mass shooting by a left-leaning ecoterrorist with bizarrely white-nationalist pretensions) and Sri Lanka (where a coordinated spate of Eastertide bombings by Muslims has killed around 300 innocent people, mostly or entirely Christians) are far from the same beast:

The seemingly unlimited supply of virtue-signalers who dominate our culture have assured us emphatically the recent terror attacks in New Zealand and Sri Lanka are equivalent, a kind of quid pro [quo] between races and religions.

Other than the fact that, tragically, a great many people died in both—more in Sri Lanka, but the numbers are horrific enough in NZ—this is utter nonsense. They couldn't be more different.

New Zealand was the act of one aberrant or evil (call him either or both) racist individual motivated by rage against immigrants—Muslim "invaders"—he thought were ruining his country. Sri Lanka was a planned attack on multiple targets by a local militant group, likely with the aid of a yet larger group or groups (possibly ISIS) from outside the country, acting under the dicta of a highly-evolved ideology euphemistically referred to as fundamentalist Islam or Islamism.

That ideology—that seeks to take over the world—has hundreds of millions of adherents and sympathizers across the globe, vastly more than Nazism at its height. Whether active or not, they consider themselves at war with Judaism and Christianity as well as all other religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) and seek to eradicate these others from the earth.

Read the rest.



Ave, John Mac!

John McCrarey had been talking about Easter Mountain over the course of several posts. He knew it was an upcoming climb (as in a literal climb, i.e., using hands along with feet to scale the slope), and he'd been expressing doubts about whether he could/would make it to the top when the time came to do the Hash. Well, it turns out he did the climb successfully, so he deserves a tip of the hat for a job well done. His reward for making it back to the foot of Easter Mountain (apparently a post-Easter Hash tradition) was an actual earthquake—perhaps also a reflection of that long-ago day when Jesus died, and an earthquake sundered buildings and tore the Temple veil in two. Or maybe it was more like the earth's affirmation of John's achievement, the way the ground shook when the Buddha touched the earth at the moment of his enlightenment. John modestly describes this moment as "rock and roll."



gateway into horror

I normally enjoy watching Almazan Kitchen because it's self-conscious food porn in an idyllic, wooded setting. Very relaxing, and I do pick up some cooking techniques here and there. I believe the chef is a Serbian guy named Boki, and he's pretty good at what he does. However, he's not perfect, and I've discussed Boki's fondue failure here. That said, there's a galaxy's difference between not perfect and horrifying. As I was watching the following video a few months ago, I could sense that something was very wrong, and if you're any sort of cook, you'll sense it, too. While it'll be tempting for you to fast-forward to 11:51, when the true horror is revealed, I'd recommend that you sit through the buildup and feel the mounting tension as you watch, powerless to avert the coming disaster. This was a major, major fail on Boki's part, and I'd say that over 90% of his comments section is shrieking about the same thing. I'm actually surprised that Boki thought the video was worth uploading. Maybe the cameraman he employs is contractually obligated to edit and upload all videos. Personally, I think this should never have seen the light of day. I've watched chefs who allow us to see their cooking fails before, but the problem here is that Boki plays it all straight, as if no fail had occurred. That just makes the whole thing even grosser.

Anyway, watch and cringe.


A couple vids later, Boki had a similar fail, but there's no need to show you that one since it's the same type of failure. Just wow.



potentially unnecessary art therapy

I had my issues with "The Dark Knight Rises," but Ryan George's Pitch Meeting take on the movie is hilariously cruel.






Monday, April 22, 2019

hey, California!

We still use plastic straws here in South Korea. So suck on that.






it's official

Distance from Daecheong Tower to River House Motel: 57.72 km according to Naver Map.

Distance from River House to Hoya Chicken/CU convenience store and back to motel (i.e., a short round trip): 1.124 km.

Total distance walked before flopping onto a bed: 58.844 km.

So: not quite 59 km. Well, darn.

Naver Map's reckoning of the distance from the River House Motel to the CU convenience store by the rotary = 562 meters one way, or 1.124 km round trip as written above:




Sunday, April 21, 2019

via dolorosa

Ladies and gents, this was an adventure. I'm thrilled to be done with it, and I'll probably never do anything like this again, but I'm proud that I managed to walk almost 60 kilometers in a single walking session. Admittedly, I took a few 5- and 10-minute breaks along the way, but that's what I'd do on a normal long-distance walk, anyway.

I'm not sure what my actual distance was. I arrived at the River House Motel and snapped that selfie, but I kept on walking to find lunch and grab drinks from a local convenience store. That definitely added some distance to the walk, maybe even pushing me beyond 59 kilometers. Anyway, I'll verify distances when I'm at my office desktop and can use the ruler function on Naver Map to get some idea of how many more meters to tack on.

My step count is pretty much what you saw in the earlier post, plus about 8900 steps to reflect the walking I did between 10:22 p.m. and midnight Friday night. 89 minutes comes out to about 8900 steps, assuming my normal rate of 100 steps per minute. That puts my total frustratingly close to 90,000 steps. It's also frustrating that my pedometer automatically resets to zero at midnight, but I don't think I'll ever walk 60 km from early morning to late night just to get an unbroken step count on the app.

The walk answered a few questions for me. A practical one was: will I end up with blisters? As it turned out, I didn't. This was part luck and part skill. I could feel some unpleasant friction happening inside my shoes, but I tried practicing a kind of "mindful walking" that meant looking where I stepped and placing my feet carefully on the ground in such a way as not to produce undue pressure or rubbing. This actually seemed to work, and there were times when I could do the thing without too much conscious thought. But the lack of blisters also had to be luck because that was literally tens of thousands of footfalls.

Another serious question I had was about pain levels. I had wondered whether the pain of doing twice my usual maximum distance would build up until it became intolerable, or whether the pain would build to a still-tolerable level and plateau there. As it turned out, fortunately, the latter was true. The pain never rose above the levels I've experienced while on previous walks.

Having said that, I hurt pretty much everywhere, including in places that didn't have much to do during the walk, like my arms. My left calf keeps wanting to charley-horse on me, but I won't let it. My left middle finger went into spasm Saturday evening, contorting itself weirdly but painlessly as I stared at it. Trying to move into a sitting position after lying in bed for a while is still a groan-inducing chore, but that may have more to do with age and lack of fitness than with the walk. I groan upon awakening pretty much every day, and every day, the first word out of my mouth is usually "Fuck." I hate doing things.

Yet another question was about recovery. Would I be in any condition to walk come Sunday, or would I be a mass of paralyzing aches and shooting pains? As it turns out, I'm more or less fine once I'm vertical. During my walks around town this afternoon and evening (I did over 10K steps), my soles were problem-free. I had expected them to recommence their screaming, but they took me everywhere I wanted to go with nary a complaint.

As for the pains I experienced during my walk: I think you can imagine what most walking-related pain might be: aching feet and ankles, aching hip joints, and in my case, an aching lumbar/sacral region (i.e., the small of my back), probably due to my gut. I had 2 liters of bottled water with me; I carried two of my four water bottles in the pockets of my cargo pants to minimize pressure on my shoulders from my day pack, which was too small to have a pressure-relieving hip-belt assembly. I also had two bottles of trail mix, although I regretted not carrying only one. I did snack on some trail mix during the walk, but my fear of needing to poop in the middle of nowhere kept me from eating too much.

The walk itself started off pleasantly. The night was initially cool but not cold. That lasted until about 1 a.m., when the temperature dropped about ten degrees Fahrenheit. I had anticipated this, so I broke out my jacket. The near-constant river wind, though, made hiking through the night rather uncomfortable. I hunkered into myself and simply endured; I often drop into a sort of This too shall pass mode when I'm in the midst of some temporary hardship.

Lighting was almost never a problem during the night. Seoul produces a ton of light pollution, and Friday night, an incredibly bright moon was out such that, even when I was away from most artificial lighting on my side of the river, I was still casting a remarkably sharp shadow on the ground because of the moon's intensity.

I passed the hours the way I usually do on such walks: by talking out loud to myself and hoping like hell that I wouldn't pass by some quietly squatting stranger who now thinks I'm a lunatic. I talk to myself in English, French, and Korean. In the case of the latter two languages, the self-talk is often just a way to get in some language practice. When I talk to myself in English, I sometimes imagine my best friends walking alongside me (although I know that, in reality, not one of them would be interested in accompanying me on one of these long walks). Or sometimes I imagine some chick I know and like. Or sometimes, it's just me and God.

As I joked to my buddy Tom last night on the phone, I did find myself, around 4:45 a.m., asking God to hurry up with the sunrise and the warmth. I was getting pretty cold, even with my jacket, and quite in spite of the effort of walking. Sunrise did eventually come, and that was sometime after I had crossed the Hanam City border and made it all the way to the Paldang Bridge. It felt weird not to stop in Hanam for the night; in fact, there was a little voice in my head (which returned repeatedly throughout the walk) that whispered I should pussy out now, just give up and call it a day because there's always next time. Somehow, I ignored that voice as I passed by Hanam without stopping.

Farm dogs barked at me as I skirted Hanam and got to the Paldang Bridge. I admired their sense of duty, but I wished they'd calm down. Crossing the bridge was a windy and cold experience, but the sky was lightening, which was a relief. I was pretty tired by that point, and after I crossed the Paldang Bridge and checked Naver Map, I saw I had another thirty kilometers to go. Still, the daybreak was somehow energizing, so I pushed on.

I realized that I was now basically recapitulating the previous two times I had walked to Yangpyeong from Hanam. In both previous cases, I had started my trek a bit after 5 a.m. This time, the difference was that I hadn't stopped to sleep. That's a trivial realization, but it felt significant as the implication sank in: I was now doing Day 2 of a two-day walk, but without having given my body a chance to rest and recuperate. The true test was now beginning.

I resolved to simply take everything in stride, if you'll forgive the walker's pun. I had a finite number of kilometers to cover, and I had a rough ETA: about 4 p.m. From that moment on, I knew I'd be measuring all time and distance against what I knew of my diminishing speed and that ETA.

I never shat along the trail, but diabetic that I am, I did have to piss. For the most part, I managed to take drink breaks at intervals that allowed me to reach rest facilities well before I'd feel ready to explode. I'm not sure how I managed that bit of timing, but the drink-and-piss choreography went almost perfectly. I had to void my bladder out in nature only once or twice.

As morning crept on, temps did become warmer. I eventually took my jacket off and put on my toshi to protect my forearms. The day was gorgeous, going from warm to hot, and it was a relief every time I passed through one of the ten or twelve tunnels along my path. I did end up with a sunburned face and hands, but hey: my forearms, which had been forewarned and protected, were unscathed.

The aches in my body built up. I had to bend over several times while walking, in an effort to decompress my sacral vertebrae. The temptation to quit also never left me; that voice would whisper things like, "You're passing a train station now. Why not just hop on and train the rest of the way to Yangpyeong? No one'll be the wiser." I'd like to report that I muttered "Get thee behind me!" to my inner Satan, but all I did was ignore the voice. I'll have to think about why I find it easier to ignore temptation while I'm walking than while I'm sitting in my office, staring at a bag of M&Ms, and contemplating opening it. Maybe it really is true that life simplifies itself when you walk.

When I got to the point where Naver was telling me I had under twenty kilometers to go, I found that encouraging, and I could finally admit to myself that this thing was doable. That, friends, was a good feeling. "20K and counting" proved to be an excellent psychological milestone. From that point until the end of the walk, every kilometer covered felt like its own victory. As morning bled into afternoon, I was startled to realize that I might actually arrive earlier than anticipated, despite having begun the walk 82 minutes later than scheduled.

I began mentally anticipating when I'd see such-and-such a landmark as the walk drew to a close, and once I walked past a particular church, I knew, without consulting my smartphone, that I had only a couple kilometers to go. I pushed myself to walk faster, risking blisters, after hours of dragging my feet.

The final stretch found me muttering in frustration about why the hell I had chosen a motel at the extreme edge of town. I had passed several motels along the way, and the Satan-voice silkily cooed that I could stop now if I wanted to. I ignored the voice one last time, marched up to the River House Motel, took my selfie at exactly 3 p.m., then tiredly went in search of lunch and drinks. (By the way: did I mention that I stank? You know it's bad when you can smell waves of body odor coming off your person.) Got lunch at Hoya Chicken again; the lady remembered me from last time. Bought a ton of drinks at the nearby convenience store, got my motel room, and took a load off my screaming feet.

As I wrote earlier, I doubt I'll ever do this again, although an athletic coworker of mine excitedly suggests that I make this a yearly thing. Right now, I think I'd rather spend nearly a month walking across Korea, with proper rest stops, than repeating what I just did. Walking nearly 60 km while burning about 6500 calories (two days' worth of food for me) in 16.6 hours is achievement enough.

There might be more thoughts later, but I need to wash some clothes, sleep the sleep of the victorious, then head to work in the morning.

Fucking work. God, I hate doing things.



mostly Sunday images

Aside from the selfie of my exhausted face, I took only one other pic yesterday, and that was only because I knew my friend Bill Keezer is into flower pics. These were some pinker-than-usual cherry blossoms:


And here's my pinker-than-usual face, all sunburned except for my forehead, which was protected by my bandanna. I think this looks pretty funny:


My "gloves" started coming back as well:


Online correspondent Daeguowl (Paul Carver) politely insisted that the Yangpyeong Art Museum Cycling Certification Center was around by the museum, so I decided to put Paul's claim to the test. After lazily lounging until the early afternoon, I hiked around town and went over to where the modern-art museum was. Spiraling inward so as not to miss anything this time, I did eventually find the center's red telephone booth, as you see in the photos below:






It was a moment of grim victory to finally find that fucking center, but it was also frustrating. I'd circled that goddamn building several times in 2017 and somehow managed not to find it. Naver Map kept shifting the position of the center around, pulling me in fruitless circles.

I've walked back to Yangpyeong twice since 2017, so I think I've earned my stripes. Some weekend soon, I'll train back here with my Moleskine and add the certification stamp to my collection. I've been wanting to do that since 2017. Many thanks to Paul for the location tip.

The Buddha's birthday, called Seokga Tanshin-il or Bucheonim Oshin-nal in Korean (Vesak in Hindi), is the second week of May this year (it's always April 8 on the lunar calendar, which means the date always shifts on the solar calendar). The lanterns are already out:


I thought it might be best to get a shot of this building, which appears to be Yangpyeong's tallest landmark:


Not far from the above building and the train station was this spiffy couple, forever frozen in a posture of waiting:


Finding that cert center had been my big mission of the day. I was hungry for some Chinese for whatever reason, so I went searching for somewhere local. I found a place called In Hwa Ban Jeom. That place served some of the best damn tangsuyuk (sweet-and-sour pork) that I've ever had. Granted, their fried mandu was pretty standard, but the tangsuyuk was memorable. Take a look:


And here's the mandu:


A few things made the tangsuyuk amazing. First, the crunch. I've gotten so used to the declining quality of Chinese food in Seoul that I sometimes forget what it's like to taste sweet-and-sour pork that's actually crunchy. Second, the sauce. Lightly fruity but smooth and not gooey, the sauce did what it was supposed to do, i.e., play second fiddle to the fried pork. Third, the fruits and vegetables in the sauce. These were all a hell of a lot fresher than what I'm used to. I plucked out all the onions, but the cucumber, pineapple, and lychee all had some pop to them. Wonderful.

The lady running the restaurant proved to be very nice. I also could hear that half of her staff was actually Chinese. I wonder whether that had anything to do with quality control. I thanked the lady for a great meal and complimented her on her flavorful, crunchy tangsuyuk.

Pics of the resto's signage, in both Chinese and Korean:



And lastly, my usual motel's-eye-view pic of the river from my window (Room 302):


I might not come back to this motel. First, they charged me W65,000 for Saturday (a lot of places up their room rates because Saturday is often a high-traffic day, even for quieter motels like River House), although they did under-charge me for Sunday (W35,000 instead of the usual W45,000 for a river-view room). Second, the girl at the front desk today was a bit bitchy. "You're 302, right?" she asked brusquely as I was on my way out for my afternoon walk. I said yes. "Did you pay?" she then asked. I found that to be an insultingly stupid question. How the fuck else did I get my room key if not by paying? I stepped out and dumped a bagful of trash into a receptacle not far from the motel's main entrance, and the girl came running out when she heard the noise. "You can just put your bag of trash in front of your door, and we'll pick it up," she said. True, she could have worded that in a bitchier way, but this still felt like micromanagement. I smiled tightly, told her I'd do that next time (i.e., never, since I'd be leaving the following morning), and lumbered off to have a day, muttering angrily to myself. Third, when I came back from my walk, my room's door was hanging open. I knew I'd locked it, so the only immediate explanation was that a cleaning staffer had come in, then neglected to close the door after finishing cleanup. While I doubt this is a high-theft area, I was severely annoyed to come back to an open door. Complaining about the problem is useless now: as mentioned, I'm leaving tomorrow morning. There's no opportunity for the staff to do a do-over and redress the lapse in security. It's better just to take my business elsewhere.

Anyway, that's a brief narrative in pictures. I'll write a separate post soon about the adventure itself. Stay tuned.



Happy Easter







Saturday, April 20, 2019

arrived 3 p.m.

I was on the phone with my buddy Tom yesterday evening, about three hours before I was to embark on my long walk. "No disrespect," said Tom, fully intending to disrespect me, "but do you still think you have it in you?"

I had told Tom about my 2008 Troutdale-to-Cascade Locks walk, which was about 36 miles. I had done that walk with a 60-pound pack on my back, and I was eleven years younger when I did it. Well, today, Tom's question got answered:


I arrived at the River House Motel at exactly 3 p.m. on Holy Saturday, an hour earlier than predicted. The pic's filename is basically a date/time stamp, for anyone who might be a doubting Thomas (see what I did there!? Easter humor and Tom humor!).

I also started late on Friday night: 10:22 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. So instead of walking an anticipated 19 hours (estimating 9 p.m. to 4 p.m.), I walked only 16 hours and 38 minutes.

But what I'm proudest of is this:


I walked 98 minutes before midnight last night, so you need to mentally add 9800 steps to the above total. Adding steps or not, the Saturday step total alone was enough for the pedometer to announce I had made a new record, which won't be broken anytime soon.

I'd love to say more about the walk, but I'm dead tired, my feet are screaming, and I'm barely able to see straight, so I'm going to wrap things up for now and continue tomorrow, when I'm more coherent.



Friday, April 19, 2019

going on a stroll

I'm getting to work early and leaving early so I'll have time for final prep for tonight's insanely long walk. My phone is still telling me the walk will be 57.8 km, which comes out to 35.9 miles. This may well be the longest I've ever walked; it certainly rivals the Troutdale-to-Cascade Locks walk I did as part of my larger walk in 2008. In theory, the current walk ought to be easier than the 2008 walk: I won't have a 60-pound (27 kg) pack on my back. Then again, I was eleven years younger in 2008, and these days, I'm starting to feel my age, especially in my knees, but also all up and down my torso.

As noted before, this walk ought to take less than 12 hours in theory. Nearly 60 km, at a pace of 5 kph, comes out to less than 12 hours' walking. But in reality, I'll be taking breaks along the way, and as my fatigue and pain levels go up, I'll be slowing down, too. For those reasons, I'm betting on a 19-hour walk. If I start at 9 p.m. tonight, I ought to arrive at the River House Motel sometime around 4 p.m. on Saturday. Last I checked, the weather is supposed to be great until Saturday evening, when there's a 30% chance of rain.

This will be a bare-bones trek. At most, I'll be taking 2 liters of water with me (possibly refilling along the way, if/when I pass by a convenience store), plus some personal toiletries and very little else. Since I'll be walking all night plus a good part of Saturday, the weather ought to be fairly cool at first (there'll be a low of 47℉/8.3℃ just before sunrise—jacket weather), with a high of 68℉ (20℃) during the day. I have to remember to bring along my hat and toshi for sunburn protection; we don't want a repeat of Day 2 of the 2017 walk.

I don't think I'll be writing anything more until I'm actually at my destination, so this blog entry is probably it for Friday. Strangely apropos that I'm doing this walk of pain, this via dolorosa, on Easter weekend; Easter Sunday is going to be spent in a motel bed, with me groaning in agony while my battered feet try to recuperate. I'll train back to work and limp into my office early Monday afternoon, as is my wont. I'll have lost a few kilos, and given that I'm on a strict budgetary regimen, I hope not to regain that weight too quickly. We'll see.



Happy Pesach!

Sending you all the best.


I thought of the "challahcopter" on my own, but when I searched Google, I discovered there were already 65 entries for various sorts of challahcopters. Oy gevalt.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

taking on Bernie Sanders

Jon Miller takes on hoary old Bernie Sanders and his kooky (not to mention hypocritical) socialist economic policy:






après l'incendie

A coworker points me to this NY Times article with a 3-D model to help readers understand why Notre Dame was basically a tinderbox. The animation (which is quite helpful) works best if your mouse has a scroll wheel.

Laurence Jarvik writes about some implications of the burning of Notre Dame.

I'm hesitant to frame this fire in terms of a culture war; we haven't confirmed whether the cause was arson or accident. Let's leave politics for later.






Charles, this one's for you

Bon Appetit puts out some pretty good cooking videos on YouTube. The video below features a guest baker named Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery. The dude is quietly intense, and his crisp professionalism as he works his dough and bakes his bread is almost intimidating to watch. My buddy Charles is an accomplished baker, but I'm sure that he'd say he's still constantly learning, so why not give my friend a chance to compare notes with a fellow baker? Of course, the video is such that anyone can enjoy it. Even non-bakers like me can appreciate the thought and action that go into making good bread.






burrito prep

These turned out to be some ugly-ass burritos. I think I made ten of them, and they're all twisted and misbegotten. In my defense, I've had loose-and-floppy burritos at the Old Post Office Pavilion's food court in downtown DC. That said, I do need to work on my wrapping game in order to form actual cylinders. Most burritos look as if they could be shot from a spud gun. Mine look as if they could be laid out as bases on a baseball diamond.

Anyway, aesthetic issues aside, the burritos were fairly simple, but a few things had to be prepped. For the beef filling, I browned some ground beef and added green bell peppers plus corn to bulk up the final product. The sauce binding everything together also got plenty of dried onion, powdered garlic, paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt, pepper, and the now-sacred-to-me chipotle powder. God, that stuff is addictive. I could unscrew the bottle cap and stand in my kitchenette all day long, just sniffing the redolent contents. Along with the ground beef were the refried beans. Alas, I used frijoles negros when I should have used pinto beans in order to arrive at that familiar brown color. My refried beans taste fine, but they look fairly evil. They got a shot of Tabasco, along with onion flakes, fresh ground garlic, salt, and pepper. A third component was the Mexican rice (a.k.a. arroz rojo, i.e., red rice). I watched a few videos on how to make this familiar side dish, which proved fairly easy to make with passata di pomodoro (tomato purée), a bit of garlic, minced chiles, and some other seasonings.

I piled the three components on tortillas and added shredded cheese. The goal was to make something freezable and then microwaveable, which is why I added no guacamole, sour cream, or fresh vegetables. It's now too late for me to buy any of those additions, so I'm stuck with the burritos I have. What follows are the photos from the burrito-making process. Enjoy.

A wide shot of all the burrito components:


A closeup of the ground beef, which tasted marvelous:


The Mexican rice (with Korean rice substituting for Mexican arroz):


My evil-looking refried beans:


Shredded cheese, up close:


The foot-diameter flour tortillas:


Assembly begins:


With cheese added:


A little sriracha for some kick:


And the ridiculously shaped burritos in all their awkward glory:


I do a taste test of everything I make, and while these burritos don't look very good, I guarantee they're fucking deliciosos. Can't wait to chow down on them later this month. I made ten, with the purpose of eating two per meal, thus giving me five burrito meals over the course of a month. Mmmm.



more humor via Bill

This gave me a chuckle:


And this one shows a thought experiment that the right often has to engage in:


Not sure why, but this one makes me laugh the more I look at it:


I just received this one:


And this last one has a sad-but-true vibe to it:


Imagine living in a place like San Francisco, where there are apps to help you avoid the areas of town with high concentrations of human feces. Talk about a city literally going to shit. L.A. doesn't seem to be far behind, and the same goes for places like Paris and Stockholm as well.



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Austerity Day 1: empty pockets

Off to work, I was halfway down the hallway to the elevator when I realized I had forgotten my keys, handkerchief, and wallet. I paused, realized that I didn't need my wallet, and walked to the elevator with a smile. It was actually quite liberating to go wallet-free, and my day of austerity was only beginning.

Truth be told, it wasn't that bad. Maybe it's because the reality of what I'm doing hasn't sunk in yet, or maybe this really won't be a bad month. I did do a poor job of controlling myself regarding snacks: in preparation for the month of hardship, I had bought "fun size" packs of M&Ms and Twix bars (I inadvertently got the new gingerbread-flavor Twixes; they're surprisingly good), and they proved impossible to resist. I had bought enough to have one M&M pack or one Twix per day, but I blew through several of each at the office, then ate another couple of them at home. Oops.

But I drank no soda, and while I might be jinxing myself when I say this, I can't say that I missed it. (Again, I may be singing a different tune as the month wears on.) Hooray for my blood sugar, I guess. Now, all I have to do is rein in the snack consumption, and the only carbs I'll be getting will be with my one-meal-a-day lunches: ramyeon with my budae-jjigae, rice with my chicken/shrimp curry, oatmeal with my oatmeal, etc. Anyway, I had only a single Mason jar of tea with sugar and Splenda; aside from that I drank only water. I have an infinite supply of water at home thanks to my Brita pitcher/filter, and we've got a slow-ass water dispenser down the hall where I work. It's a bit of a step down, that dispenser: our previous one also dispensed ice, which I now sorely miss.

I did a walk tonight; it was a bit over 20K steps. Got home, snuck a couple more snacks (there's no Mom around to growl at me for sneaking food, and I don't think that God is a cosmic CCTV recording my sins, yet I still get furtive and sneaky when it comes to nicking treats), and haven't had anything else to eat. I've decided that I will eat tomorrow (Thursday), but it's tuna/egg salad with celery, so it shouldn't be too voluminous. Once I finish lunch, I won't be eating again until I arrive in Yangpyeong on Saturday.

So I survived the day. Wednesday's lunch was beef with chimichurri sauce. It wasn't that good, actually: the beef fat had aged several days and acquired a strange, old-fat smell that didn't go away when I microwaved the beef for lunch. Still, I wolfed the meat down with the chimi; Dr. Atkins would have been proud (although he would also have recommended cutting back on the meat and adding lots of leafy greens).

It does feel a bit weird, though, to embark on this regimen and then interrupt it right away: I'll be spending money and eating off-script during and after my crazy-long walk this weekend, then returning to austerity on Monday. But aside from that wobble, I'll be on course with my meal plan until mid-May.

Day 1 is done, and the project doesn't feel impossible. That's a good sign.



PJW strikes back at fake news

The twattery from fake-news services like BuzzFeed continues...


I enjoy BuzzFeed's food-related videos, but the channel is otherwise useless.



Ave, Lorianne!

Zen teacher Lorianne writes a meditation on the death of her cat Bobbi.

Whatever comfort I find in the aftermath of another pet death lies not in an imagined future but in this stone-sure truth: for a brief and precious time, Bobbi knew moments of pleasure and peace: the bliss of a head-scratch, the delights of a sunny windowsill. Forever and ever, amen, such simple pleasures will be–must be–amply and abundantly enough.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019

...and now my watch begins

My final expense, tonight, was an iHerb order for psyllium-husk tablets—easily enough to last me a month. Starting midnight tonight, and going on to May 16 (my next payday), I'll be on a no-expenditures regime: not a single won to be spent. Pas un seul sou. I've got one more batch of food to cook up (breakfast sausage, to be eaten with oatmeal and scrambled eggses), and then my food calendar kicks in. The calendar isn't accurate, though: I'd forgotten to account for my upcoming three-day trial of terror, i.e., my 60-kilometer walk that will start this coming Friday and end sometime Saturday evening. I'll be staying two nights at the River House Motel, and since I won't be lugging along any of my home-cooked food, I'll have no choice but to shell out for both the motel and whatever food and drinks I consume while away from Seoul. I won't be eating on Thursday, and I probably won't eat anything on Friday, either, so I ought to have a thoroughly empty stomach by the time I start the walk around 9 p.m. Friday night. Upshot: no food Thursday or Friday, nothing home-cooked on Saturday and Sunday, which already wrecks four days of my thirty-day meal plan. Not to worry, though; I'll improvise, adapt, and overcome. I'm looking forward to seeing whether I really can get through the next thirty days spending almost nothing. I'm wiring $3200 to my US account tomorrow, which will leave me with a few hundred bucks in my Korean account—just enough in case of emergencies. But for the moment, it's simply a matter of buckling down and powering through this austerity: night gathers, and now my watch begins.



something you can really blame America for

I normally think of Google and its ironically un-self-aware motto "Don't Be Evil" (which, I heard, was quietly taken down last year) when I ponder the question of US companies helping China repress its own citizens. But the laundry list of companies is far longer than I ever imagined, and this China Uncensored video functions as a public-service announcement to all the people who are dying to look for reasons to hate the United States:


And we're not merely helping China censor its own people: we're censoring ourselves!