Tuesday, June 30, 2020

spot the errors

From a goofy tabloid article about Woody Harrelson, we get this gem of a sentence:

Harrelson's father left the family when he was only seven and this seemed to affect his mindset.
Here's the sentence in context:
Looking back at his childhood in Midland, Texas, Woody Harrelson admits he may have been a lot to handle. "I had a lot of anger, a lot of rage," he confessed to Esquire. The young boy found a way to get kicked out of his nursery school and then first grade. After an incident where, supposedly, teachers accused a young Harrelson of stealing a purse, he "went around the school breaking windows with [his] bare fists." Harrelson's father left the family when he was only seven and this seemed to affect his mindset. "I think I was also just too soft. I was so sensitive, so vulnerable," he told GQ. As a result, Harrelson vowed to toughen up and not be pushed around. But this manifested in negative ways. He admitted to having "tantrums" and holding onto this "rage" as he grew older.
Does the added context make the sentence clearer? I might tentatively say: Yes, but not by much. Anyway, as regards the sentence in isolation, I see at least three errors. Do you see them? Do you see more errors than just three? How might you rewrite the sentence so that it works well on its own merits as well as in context (and, yes: other parts of that paragraph desperately cry out for repair, but we'll save that for another time)?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

"Burn Notice": series review

Over the past few months, I finally had the chance to binge-watch "Burn Notice," a spy-themed USA Network action-dramedy starring Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, and Coby Bell (from Season 4 onward). The show ran seven seasons from 2007 to 2013, which was the same period when the world was switching from "dumb phones" to smartphones—a technological change that the show itself reflected over its final few seasons, along with some shameless product placement for Microsoft whenever we had a closeup of a phone or pad. The show's basic premise was that Michael Westen (Donovan), a spy who worked for the CIA, got burned, i.e., disowned, disenfranchised, disconnected, and disempowered. The CIA wasn't done with Westen, though: he was dumped in his hometown of Miami, close to his mother (Gless), and not allowed to leave the city. Most of the seven seasons were devoted to Michael's pursuit of the people who had burned him—a long, long rabbit hole that led Westen on many a wild goose chase. Along for the ride were Westen's sort-of-ex IRA-connected, bomb-happy girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Anwar) and Michael's ex-Navy SEAL buddy Sam Axe (Campbell). Beginning in Season 4, the crew acquired Jesse Porter (Bell), a spy who got accidentally burned by Michael during one of Michael's missions. Another recurring family character was Michael's brother Nate (Seth Petersen), a gambling-addicted loser who both resents and idolizes his older brother.

To understand "Burn Notice," think of it as the humor-filled love child of two mostly humorless TV shows: "24" and "The Equalizer" (the TV show with Edward Woodward, I mean, not the Denzel Washington movies). Michael Westen is cut off from the CIA, but he still needs to make a living, so he becomes a government-trained do-gooder. Every episode of "Burn Notice"—for the first six seasons, anyway—runs on two parallel tracks: Westen's pursuit of the people who burned him, and Westen's aid given to the show's victim-of-the-week. The show never quite explains how Westen and his team are able to obtain the often-expensive spy equipment and weaponry they rely on to resolve their cases. It frequently seemed to me, as I binge-watched, that Westen & Co. had a net income of zero dollars, especially once you realized that much of the work they did was gratis—a charity to help out a friend of a friend, or a friend of Michael's mom.

The show stretched plausibility and didn't take itself seriously at all. Each episode featured Michael's smooth tones doing a periodic voiceover narration about spycraft; in interviews, Jeffrey Donovan has said that the showrunners had retained a veteran spy as a consultant, so a lot of what we learned on the show was true to life—except for when the discussion turned to things like bomb-making and such. In those cases, the show used fake chemicals and deliberately mis-portrayed procedures for the understandable ethical reason that it would be unwise to give true crazies an education on how to kill people en masse.

Ultimately, though, I found "Burn Notice" to be at its best as a character study, an exploration of a tight network of friendships and familial relationships. When the series begins, Michael is on prickly terms with his ex-SEAL buddy Sam Axe, who has been recruited by the FBI to spy on Michael. Michael is also navigating the complicated waters of his relationship with his mother Madeline, a.k.a. "Maddie," whose husband used to be abusive to her and the two boys, Mike and Nate. Fiona Glenanne, an ex-IRA operative whom Michael met during some missions in Ireland, begins the series as Michael's sort-of ex, and most of the seven seasons of the show are devoted to exploring how Michael and Fiona really feel about each other.

Like many post-2000 TV shows, "Burn Notice" folds long story arcs into its overarching plot, which means that, while there might be "villains of the week" (many of whom are quite colorful), there are often a few big-bad antagonists lurking in the background, pulling the strings in mysterious ways over several episodes, preventing Michael from finding out more about how he got burned. Season 7 mostly drops the aforementioned parallel-plot format to concentrate on a central question: the saving of Michael Westen's soul. In Season 7, Michael contends with a villain named James Kendrick, a man who seems able to reach inside Michael's head and manipulate him far more than any other villain has ever managed. It's up to Michael's friends to try to remind Michael of who he is and which team he's on, and the battle for Michael's soul lasts pretty much until the series finale.

I'll say it now: I found Season 7 to be the weakest of all the seasons; I wasn't convinced that Michael, who had been so solid for six seasons, could suddenly find himself so utterly hypnotized by James and his cult-like organization. It felt almost as if the writers of the show wanted to make Michael Westen more like Jack Bauer in "24," a man who becomes increasingly disenchanted with his country's government once he realizes just how full of vipers it is. This shift in the show's tone and in Michael's character felt somewhat off to me. Season 7 was entertaining, to be sure, but I think it could have benefited from better plotting.

Season 7 aside, "Burn Notice" is a dramedy, so it features plenty of lighthearted moments, often coming from Bruce Campbell's Sam Axe, a mojito-swilling bachelor who's always on the lookout for a rich woman on whose coattails he can coast. Sam and Fiona, both of whom have claims to Michael's friendship, don't always get along with each other, and part of the show's charm comes from its exploration of their evolving relationship, which often feels like a testy sibling rivalry. Gabrielle Anwar, as Fiona, also proves to have an amazing sense of comic timing. Like Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck in "Battlestar Galactica," Anwar is one of those actresses whose expressive face clearly telegraphs her character's inner emotions. Fiona is a joy to watch, and her interplay with the other principals is always entertaining. Maddie provides plenty of her own comedy as she growls and chain-smokes her way through scenes in which she's required to help the team in some way. These scenes can veer from the comic to the deadly serious, such as in the episode where Maddie—played by Sharon Gless—is forced to blackmail a cheerful, innocent bank officer played by Tyne Daly (Gless and Daly starred together in the 1980s crime drama "Cagney & Lacey," which also lasted seven seasons). Maddie ends up furious at her son for having to ruin another woman's life.

Season 4 sees the introduction of a new team member: Jesse Porter, played by the very capable Coby Bell. Fiona takes a flirtatious interest in the trim, muscular, and handsome Jesse for a brief time, but she quickly finds herself again and remains faithful to Michael. Jesse's character, from Seasons 4 to 7, often gets plenty of screen time, but I felt that he was sometimes relegated to fifth-wheel status: we never get to explore much of Jesse's own personal life, and we never see him with a girlfriend or anyone else close to him—not even a regular friend. Jesse becomes part of Michael's team, but he's the team member who's in the most eccentric orbit around Michael. That being said, his character is the focus for some great drama: he starts off as another burned counterintelligence agent—accidentally burned by Michael, who hides this fact from Jesse for as long as he can. Michael ropes Fiona, Sam, and Maddie into a conspiracy to keep the true cause of Jesse's current hardship away from the young spy, ostensibly "for his own good." But Jesse is no dummy, so as you can imagine, he figures out what Michael has done to him. Now betrayed and feeling both raw and murderous, Jesse has to contend with the urge to put a bullet in Michael's brain while also coming to terms with the fact that, in the spy game, people fuck each other over all the time, and it's nothing personal. Maddie, who has hosted the homeless Jesse at her house and developed maternal feelings for him, plays a key role in trying to get Michael and Jesse to clear the air between them and to patch things up. The epic speech she gives in the episode where she tricks Michael and Jesse to meet makes for the kind of drama that wins an actress an Emmy. Sharon Gless, as Madeline, is definitely a key to the show's success. Maddie Westen—tough and brave, bloodied but unbowed—is quite a character, and I mean that in several senses.

The show isn't above making sly intertextual references. Several Bruce-Campbell-related jokes allude to Campbell's famously prominent chin, and one recurrent character calls one of Sam Axe's makeshift weapons a "boomstick," a hilarious reference to Campbell's now-iconic "This... is my boomstick!" line in 1992's "Army of Darkness." Early in the series, Sam and Fiona, acting as spies, introduce themselves to their marks as "Detectives Cagney and Lacey," a nod to Sharon Gless's Cagney character from the 80s. The intertextuality extends further, and in subtler ways: Jonathan Frakes—Riker from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"—directs several episodes, and "Burn Notice" plays host to several cast members from "Battlestar Galactica," such as Tricia Helfer and Lucy Lawless (both of whom played Cylons on "Galactica"). Sci-fi nerd and comic actor Patton Oswalt guest-stars in a few episodes during some later seasons, and even huge stars like Michael Ironside and Robert Patrick make brief appearances. The show shamelessly plugs itself into the pop-culture Zeitgeist, and you can track the evolution of the series by what sorts of cell phones the cast members use.

Season 7, the show's final season, ends on a bittersweet note that involves both tragedy and triumph: a major character dies, but some of our main characters get something akin to a happy ending. All in all, I enjoyed "Burn Notice" for all its quirkiness: its humor, its action scenes (Jeffrey Donovan is an actual practicing martial artist who did most of his own stunts on the show), and even its frequently goofy, corny tone. All of the principal cast members do stellar work and mesh about as well as any small ensemble cast can be expected to. "Burn Notice" does follow a certain formula, and it occasionally strays a little too far into "24" territory, but overall, the series makes for a lively watch. I was thankful that the series didn't take the route of the 1980s show "The A-Team," in which the main characters would spray a fire zone with enough lead to build a huge bunker, all without ever hitting anyone. In "Burn Notice," bullets do actual damage, and the show isn't shy about killing off certain much-beloved characters, or about showing our main characters killing someone in cold blood when necessary. The series was, at least until Season 7, a delicate balance of humor and grit, with plenty of character development and interaction. While not as intense or as philosophical as my two favorite series, "24" and "Battlestar Galactica," "Burn Notice" still earns my respect as a show with an interesting story to tell.

ADDENDUM: here's a video that unabashedly praises "Burn Notice":

Styx re: why to vote for Trump

Some good points by Styx about why one should vote for Trump:

Monday, June 29, 2020

this is how ridiculous our country has become

Tim Pool rags on all the "woke" voice actors now quitting TV roles because those roles didn't correspond to the actors' actual race:

So as the commenters below the video point out, we need to hear apologies from

• James Earl Jones, who is black, for voicing Darth Vader, a white character
• the entire cast of the musical "Hamilton," which is non-white but playing white roles
• anyone voicing an animal character on a cartoon (speciesism)

I kid, of course: I personally don't expect apologies from anyone. Why would I? I haven't seen "Hamilton," but I think the musical's concept is awesome. I grew up with Darth Vader, and there's no way you'll get me to subscribe to someone else voicing the character unless he's an absolute James Earl Jones soundalike. I think talking-animal characters are hilarious. I don't mind (as Tim mentions above) that a woman has voiced Bart Simpson for decades. These things don't bother me.

But what does bother me is the illogic of the left's skewed approach to "bigoted" cultural phenomena it purports to attack in the name of "woke" justice. You can be sure, for example, that canceling white voice actors is okay, but canceling the non-white cast of "Hamilton" is not on the agenda. The hypocritical asymmetry is cringe-worthy. It's the same asymmetry we see when it comes to rioters attacking statues: they supposedly target the slave-owners, but since Muhammad was also an unrepentant slave-owner, they really ought to be burning down mosques and destroying Muslim-heavy communities. Will they? Of course not. And why? Because these people are—not to put too fine a point on it—moral pussies.

Until you attack the asymmetry at the heart of all this hypocrisy, nothing is going to change. The doctrine of intersectionality must be burned out of every foxhole and cleansed from every university until not a single American brain is tainted by that garbage.

But I don't see that happening anytime soon, more's the pity.

the time of the mosquito

It's mosquito season in South Korea again. In Korean, mosquitoes go by the ugly-sounding name mogi (that's "moh-ghee," not "moh-jee"). Even in our office, which is way at the end of a hallway and far from any windows, we routinely get skeeters. When they fly close, we clap at them, attempt ninja-grabs, and even use Windex (well, I use Windex). We are, all of us, only marginally successful at killing the little beasts on the first try, but they all die eventually... only to be replaced by others that have somehow managed to sneak onto the premises.

I can't wait for those laser-shooting mosquito-killers (see here—this tech is by no means new) to be mass-produced and sold to the public. Along with setting the machines up in offices, schools, and residences, we should put thousands of them around the perimeters of lakes, deep inside forests, and around all pools of standing water. Driving mosquitoes extinct would deprive birds of necessary protein, you say? Boo-hoo. Birds and other predators don't kill mosquitoes nearly fast enough, so fuck 'em.*

But until the mosquito laser comes out for the general public, we have to make do with the killing tools we have: our clumsy hands, our slow wits, and our Windex.

September—blessed autumn—can't come fast enough. In Korea, summer is a season to endure, partly because of mosquitoes.

*Actually, studies by people working on the malaria problem in Africa have shown that radically reducing a mosquito population has almost no ecological impact. Birds deprived of skeeters can probably just hunt other chitinous prey.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

two Jokers analyzed

Below are some interesting analyses of two cinematic versions of the Joker (Heath Ledger's and Joaquin Phoenix's) by YouTuber Williarious the Therapist:

Heath Ledger's Joker from 2008's "The Dark Knight":

Joaquin Phoenix's Joker from 2019's "Joker" (reviewed here):

Styx on the shithole-city issue

Yes: Trump's claim has not been debunked. If anything, the Washington Post has supported Trump's claim that the largest cities are both Democrat-run and shitholes:

Mike makes me envious

A few days ago, my buddy Mike sent me a slew of delectable photos from a combined party celebrating both his eldest daughter's (my goddaughter's) graduation and Father's Day. Most of the pics below are of the "swineapple," i.e., a bacon-weave-wrapped pineapple that is also stuffed with meat (presumably pork). The final pic is of some lovely, lovely ribs. Enjoy.

I first wrote about the "swineapple" here.

using the last of the pasta

Alfredo with bacon atop the last of the pasta I had made yesterday:

I'll be making another batch of meat sauce this evening. There might be pics of that, but since it's more of the same sauce I'd already made, there might not be pics.

Oh, yeah: I'm also making another small cluster of meatballs.

musical interlude

A little blast from the past:

A hypnotic rendering of a famous tune:

even leftie journalists (inadvertently) affirm
Democrat-run cities = shitholes

This news has been traveling around for the past day or so: tired of Trump's repeated claims that it's Democrat-run cities that are shitholes, news outlets like the Washington Post have finally struck back... with a chart that proves Trump's essential point.

Tim Pool is, as you can imagine, on the case:

Here's the hilarious WaPo chart in question:

First graph: oh, no! 1 out of 20 of the worst shithole cities is GOP-run!
Second graph: oh, no! 0 out of 20 of the worst shithole cities is GOP-run!

So if I understand the Post correctly, the newspaper is crowing triumphantly that Donald Trump is absolutely wrong to claim that all the worst cities are Democrat-run. To the contrary, it's only 95 percent of the worst cities! So take that, Trump, you idiot!

Can these twats get any dumber?

memes seen at Power Line

Regarding the above: Tim Pool cautions us to distinguish between the authoritarian left and the libertarian left, of which Pool claims to be a part. The latter group is probably composed of the people standing around and wondering where the hell their political party went.

Seen over at Instapundit, from Glenn Reynolds:

I EXPECT THE SAME RULE TO APPLY TO FUTURE PRODUCTIONS OF HAMILTON. IT’S ONLY FAIR. ‘The Simpsons’ Will No Longer Have White Actors Voice Non-White Characters.

Glenn is, of course, being facetious. Double standards ensure that "Hamilton" will remain "Hamilton," even as "The Simpsons" bends the knee to the "woke" PC crowd.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Saturday dinner

Handmade pasta, homemade pesto, and some shrimp done up in herbed garlic-butter sauce (the remains of the garlic butter I had used on my bread, plus some olive oil):

your dose of black comedy for the day

You can see the ending coming, but it's still funny:

writing test

What follows are the (mostly) unpunctuated, uncapitalized elements of a compound-complex sentence (i.e., a sentence with at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause). Rewrite the following text as a single sentence with correct punctuation and capitalization. More than one correct answer is possible.

we can dance
if we want to
we can leave
your friends behind
'cause your friends
don't dance and
if they don't dance
well they're
no friends of mine

(with special thanks to the Men Without Hats)

Highlight the space between the brackets to see two possible ways to write the sentence in question, plus an explanation:

[1. We can dance if we want to; we can leave your friends behind because your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, well, they're no friends of mine.
2. We can dance if we want to; we can leave your friends behind—because your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, well, they're no friends of mine.
You don't normally use a comma with a subordinating conjunction like "if" or "because" if the given subordinate clause isn't at the head of the sentence. Examples:

• If you do that again, I'll kill you. (subordinate clause at the head, therefore comma)
• I'll kill you if you do that again. (subordinate clause not at the head, therefore no comma)

The justification for the em dash in the second "dance" sentence is that many people will read the line as having a dramatic pause, and an em dash fulfills that function nicely while also avoiding the "no comma before 'because'" issue. The justification for the comma before the "and" is a bit complex. Normally, a comma-and construction separates two independent clauses the way a semicolon does, but in this case, the comma-and actually introduces an entire complex sentence. In such a case, the same rule applies, i.e., treat the situation as if the comma-and were merely introducing a single independent clause. Why? Because, as is the case with an independent clause, the complex sentence is expressing a complete thought.

Tim Pool on Facebook's manipulation of elections

As one bitter commenter said regarding this video:

2016: Russians are using Facebook to meddle in our elections. We need an investigation.

2020: Facebook is meddling in our election... crickets chirp

via Bill

My understanding, from Tim Pool, is that the CHAZ/CHOP has already collapsed.

When a bunch of retards band together to create a (cough) nation, well... how long do you think such a thing can last?

not exactly Lysol

I miss Dettol. The Korean brand still exists, but what I specifically miss is the Dettol spray, which was the Korean answer to American Lysol, a popular disinfectant spray. I've seen other sprays on the market here, and I've bought them, but none of them really seemed to fit the bill, mainly because disinfection wasn't their primary function. But on a recent trip to the local Daiso, I found the following:

Maybe I was seduced by the power of marketing, but the above spray says "STERILIZING" in huge font, which would seem to indicate the spray's top priority, function-wise. (Another common term is "항균/hang-gyun," or "disinfecting.") I bought two bottles and brought them home. A test-firing revealed a rather strong chemical smell, which was reassuring. I now use this spray to combat the odor already coming out of my new air conditioner; I hope I'm not inadvertently creating superbugs by doing this.

This spray is the closest I've come to finding a Dettol surrogate, and it'll have to do for now. I keep hoping that Dettol will go back to producing that Lysol-like spray again, but as I've sadly noted before, everything I like disappears.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Friday, June 26 luncheon: some pics

Lunch turned out great, and everyone was happy, especially the boss, who stuffed himself silly, then spent several hours periodically complaining about how full he was. He was also drowsy as a result of the foodfest, which was a good sign for me: I know I've done my job when I've induced food comas. Below is a pic of bread (Charles's recipe) that I had formed into something in between loaves and buns as a way to make "Italian" garlic bread. In the pic below, the buns—which had been frozen—have been plucked out of the fridge, where they'd been thawing all night. I have to laugh at how horribly misshapen they look.

Next—a very simple, humble insalata caprese. I had made homemade pesto to go along with the salad; you'll see it in a moment.

My darker-chocolate panna cotta. This one doesn't have any whipped cream in it:

My much lighter and fluffier "mouce," which is closer in spirit to a proper mousse au chocolat in terms of being bubbly; this is because I incorporated whipped cream into the mix:

I may have explained this before, but just to remind you: a mousse gets its bubbly-yet-firm structure from eggs; a panna cotta (which looks a lot like a flan) gets its structure from gelatin. And I used a lot of gelatin. To bring the panna cotta back to a mousse-like consistency, I had to add whipped cream, which is naturally bubbly. You can't just stir the whipped cream into the mix: as with the eggs in a chocolate mousse, you have to fold the whipped cream in.

Below: a shot of my homemade pesto, which did me proud today:

Lunch, phase one:

And finally, the food-porn angle:

My boss claimed a bag of leftover spaghetti sauce for himself, and one coworker took home the other remaining bag of my spaghetti sauce; I had also bagged up each individual bird's nest of pasta—ten bags in all—and all of the remaining pasta must remain in the office freezer at the boss's request, except for the three bags of pasta the aforementioned coworker took home for himself and his wife. I'm going to crank out some more pasta for myself this weekend and slather it with my pesto. I might even add some jumbo shrimp to the mix. We'll see. All in all, today's luncheon was a success. One of my coworkers is married to a professional chef, and he has, on several occasions, boasted about how awesome his wife's spaghetti is. I doubt I converted him away from that position with my own spaghetti today, but that's not upsetting: I understand why a man might be brand-loyal to his talented wife.

some food-prep pics

Below: pasta in the making. When you're rolling out a lump of pasta dough, it tends to get longer and longer. If you're thinking about the length of the noodles you're making, then you'll probably want to split your rolled-out dough in half, at some point, to keep the final noodles from becoming ridiculously long. Despite my having split the dough in half, I was still in for some long-ass noodles. The size of each dough lump was different, though, so in some cases, I didn't need to split anything in half.

Below: spaghetti. My pasta roller is a cheap version that set me back only about $35. You get what you pay for: in my case, this means spaghetti strands that are pretty thick in the raw-dough state. They get even thicker when I boil them, and the strands tend to stick together because the roller doesn't always cut completely through the dough. Peeling the strands apart during the boil takes a bit of patience, but your patience is rewarded with good pasta. The end result is, alas, more like linguine than spaghetti, but I've enjoyed eating the results of my efforts, however puffed-up and malformed they may be.

Below: "birds' nests" of pasta. If you plan to store your pasta, you're probably going to want to freeze it. You're supposed to let the pasta dry out about 15 minutes before you slap it into cold storage, but I found that simply putting the fresh pasta into a Ziploc bag (after dusting it with flour, of course) right away, without the drying period, works fine. Anyway, I was making so much pasta that I had little choice but to let it dry in bird's-nest form before bagging everything up and putting it all in the freezer:

My sauce had been in the freezer a few days, as had the meatballs. Here they are below, thawing overnight. Everything was frozen so solid that I had no fear of quick thawing leading to rotting food, and my confidence was rewarded when I checked the thawed sauce and meat in the morning and smelled absolutely nothing wrong with anything. Gotta say, I'm always proud of the meatballs I make. As I've written before, I don't use the classic egg-and-bread-crumb binders; I use only cheese to keep the meatballs as proteinaceous as possible. Works every time, but this time around, I followed a recommendation from Sam the Cooking Guy and added ricotta to the meatball mixture, along with my usual grated parm. Sam suggested doing this as a way to up the moistness of each meatball, and I think he was right: when I ate a test meatball, it was indeed very moist and juicy.

Next up: pics from the luncheon itself.

voices from the Obama era

From 2014:

Thursday, June 25, 2020

this guy rocks

Introducing Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, a black conservative on a mission:

oi, mate

Anyone else excited by the news that Michael Keaton will be returning as Batman?

600 + 300 = 900

I was too tired, last night, to work on more pasta dough, and I woke up too late this morning to do anything more than make some dough and put it in the fridge. You're normally supposed to bring the dough together (including kneading), let it rest in the fridge for thirty minutes to allow the gluten to relax, then bring it out, cut the dough ball into smallish pieces, flour the pieces, partly roll them out on the table, then start running them through your handy-dandy pasta mill (which you've finally learned how to clamp to the table properly), eventually ending up with stringy lengths of fresh pasta. I stopped the process right at the "refrigerate for thirty minutes" part, but instead of being in the fridge for thirty minutes, the pasta's going to be in there all dingle-damn day. So I'm a bit worried about what's going to happen, and I'm trying to reassure myself that, if thirty minutes is a good amount of time for the pasta dough to rest, then all day is even better. I don't know if that's true, but that's what I'm going with.*

Side note: when the experts talk about how gluten "relaxes," they aren't fucking around. I saw this with the first batch of pasta dough I'd kneaded the other day: when I finished kneading the dough, it was tense, almost like a clenched muscle. But after thirty minutes in the fridge, the dough had literally relaxed, becoming soft and pliable enough for my fingertips to sink gently into it as I handled it. It was the exact opposite of rigor mortis: a quickening.

Ultimately, I'm making three batches of pasta dough, with one batch being 300 g of flour and three eggs (plus a bit of salt and olive oil). So that's 900 g of flour and nine eggs in total. This morning, I slapped together 600 g of flour and six eggs, i.e., two batches' worth. As Charles wrote in his bread-making instructions, a medium egg's contents will weigh about 50 grams. Despite knowing that, I was startled when I weighed my kneaded dough ball and saw it was around 900 grams. My brain had attached to the number "600" because of the 600 grams of flour. But then I did the math: 600 g of flour + 300 g of eggs = 900 g of pasta dough. One more batch to make tonight. 1.2 kilos of pasta for four people... that's enough, right?

*A UK-based website called The Happy Foodie says: "A fresh ball of dough can be made up to 2 days before shaping; just wrap it tightly in cling film and refrigerate. Fresh pasta that has been shaped can be tossed with a little flour, packaged in airtight plastic bags, and refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 4 weeks." So there we are. My pasta ought to be locked and loaded. I'll be making noodles tonight, babe.

remain silent, or stand against the tide and shout "NO!"?

Tim Pool and his buddy Adam Crigler both get the chance to rant in this episode of Timcast IRL. Tim's rant happens about 18:55 into the video; he excoriates the people, especially conservatives, who sit passively by, saying nothing and doing nothing ("Please, just leave me alone," as he bitterly puts it) while the left pulls down statues, destroys shops, burns cars, defaces property, assaults innocent citizens, takes over city centers and police stations, and runs roughshod over the entirety of American culture. Tim is genuinely angry during this rant, and he and Adam both give us viewers plenty of food for thought. Can people really afford to stay quiet and hunker down while their culture gets stripped away? It's an important question. I dealt with it briefly a few blog posts ago, but it's obvious where Tim Pool stands.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

some images

Keep on tweeting, baby.

Yeah, pretty much. And there are definitely walls to keep the hoi polloi out. Just look below:

Which Joe Kennedy are we talking about (and don't forget your vocative comma)?

I'm wincing at the poor writing, but Juneteenth should absolutely be a thing, and for the reasons stated above: a yearly reminder of which side has been, historically speaking, the racist one. Ask any black Republican or conservative about leftist racism.

Joe Biden makes Styx's day

It's official: the Biden-Trump debates will happen, and Styx is ecstatic:

"anaerobic" kneading

Yesterday's batch of bread—made from Charles's very versatile* recipe—turned out perfectly. I used parchment paper this time, and the bread detached itself from the paper with nary a complaint. Because I'm making garlic bread for the troops this Friday, I made six large rolls that I tried to shape a bit like mini-baguettes, but they all ended up hilariously malformed: a testament to my continued lack of dough-handling finesse. I've now baked two "official" batches of bread, but that's not enough to say I have the hang of how to do it. For the moment, I'm a literalist with no baking-related intuitions of my own, desperately clinging to other people's instructions (luckily, Charles's instructions are clear and well written, with the stages of prep very clearly demarcated). It's going to be like this until I've baked a variety of breads and have begun to feel a bit more comfortable with the routine and ritual of baking. Luckily, baking is a mindfulness-promoting activity, so I enjoy doing it, even if the kneading portion of the work is a bit of a pain.

And speaking of kneading: it was when I was about three or four minutes into kneading last night's batch of bread that I had an epiphany: how about avoiding the whole sticky-dough issue by slamming the wad of dough into a giant Ziploc bag? I could save time and effort on cleanup for both my table surface and my fingers,** all while still kneading the hell out of the dough without having to scrape my digits down every two minutes. I don't know about you, but I thought this was fucking brilliant, so I stopped my cell phone's countdown timer, gathered up the dough with a bench scraper, pulled out a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, and tipped the dough into it. The dough occupied about nine-tenths of the bag's interior; little air pockets resided in the corners. No matter; I started kneading, and it was great. Why hadn't I thought of this before? I wondered. Probably because my fifty-year-old brain is slowing down.

I reset the timer with some extra minutes to make up for the time I'd needed to stop, grab a Ziploc, gather up my dough, and stuff it into the bag. In the end, I must have kneaded the dough for close to twenty minutes. I got out a sharp knife and, using a combination of leverage, gravity, and the precise application of the blade, I deftly split the Ziploc open and peeled away the top layer of plastic to reveal a well-kneaded, well-behaved blob of white, yeasty goodness that smelled amazing. Like last time, I tipped the dough into a plastic container to allow it to rise for an hour. At this point, Charles's instructions reassured me that "the hard work is done."

Ultimately, I shaped the dough into hoagie-ish buns, painted them with milk, and baked them at the requisite temperature. The smell of baking bread was eminently calming; serenity spread throughout my apartment. In order to brown the tops of the buns, I had to flip on my topside heating elements in my oven; luckily, my oven has a setting that allows both bottom and top burners to be on at once, each at a somewhat lower temperature so that the ambient temp inside the oven remains the same. This setting allows for direct heat to radiate down onto whatever is baking, but without burning it the way a full-on broiler might (the oven does have a top-burner-only setting for when a broiler is needed). I let everything bake to completion; the oven's bell dinged, and I left the bread inside the oven to cool so as to minimize moisture loss. That was last night; this morning, I opened the oven up to retrieve the bread, and I saw everything was perfect (everything but the weird shape of the slightly malformed buns, I mean). I bagged five of the six buns up and stuck them in the freezer, where they'll remain until Thursday night. The runtiest of the buns became my lunch; it went great with butter. I'm impatient to see how all the buns fare when slathered with garlic butter.*** We'll know in a couple days. Meanwhile, I can add "anaerobic" kneading to my Ziploc bag of tricks. It works! And it really does minimize cleanup.

*The dough, in burger-bun form, has already worked for hamburgers and other sandwiches. With today's batch, one bread came out looking exactly like a hot-dog bun, so I'm pretty sure I can go in that direction. This Friday, I'll be using this batch as a kind of homemade garlic bread, even though the bread is by no means "Italian" bread. (Which reminds me: I wonder how much actual Italian bread I've really eaten. The American-style "Italian" bread is probably about as Italian as Confucius is. It looks and feels like a limp attempt at something French, but with a barely-there crust that seems halfhearted at best. The Spruce Eats has a recipe that it claims to be "traditional" Italian bread. See here.

**The first time I kneaded bread dough, I got a lot stuck on my fingers, but as the knead progressed, the dough stuck less and less to the tabletop as it firmed up and gained coherence. It still stuck a lot to my fingers, though. Charles submits that that problem may be a matter of refining my kneading technique.

***Because the bread comes out so moist, I have a feeling it'd be awesome for grilling. Alas, I don't live in a building that allows true grilling, so I'll have to make do with my grill pan.

awesome interview with Larry Elder


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

frozen-pasta test

I just took some of my frozen, homemade pasta out of the freezer, boiled some water, and dumped the pasta into the drink to boil for 4-5 minutes, per many online recommendations for such pasta. I didn't prep an Alfredo this time; I went with a simpler butter-and-garlic pasta with cracked black pepper. The result: fantastic. So I now know both how to make handmade pasta and how to store it in the freezer, where it can supposedly sit for 2-3 months, although I seriously doubt I'd allow any pasta to linger that long.

I had used 300 g of flour to make yesterday's batch of spaghetti; I think I might need to use 1.2 kilos to make enough pasta for all four of us. Instead of doing that, I'm going to use only 900 grams of flour (at one egg per 100 grams of flour, that's nine eggs and an abusive fuck-ton of kneading). I might do the spaghetti in 300-gram batches, but we'll see.

At least I have a better idea of the look and feel of homemade pasta. I'm a little disappointed that my pasta roller doesn't cut spaghetti more finely or roll the pasta flatter, but I'm happy with how a proper boil results in noodles that, while not al dente, have a firmness and chewiness that makes them a pleasure to eat. I think these noodles will work well on Friday.

beating a dead horse (but hear me out)

At this point, the online postmortems of "Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker" have all come out. If you're like me, you've doubtless watched and read many, many opinions on the topic. Star Wars is a long-running story that began when I was but a drooling, clueless second-grader; it's been with me since childhood, which makes it all the sadder to see how clumsily it ended. This is what makes the online commentary about the films so important to people like me: we are (or at least, we were) emotionally invested in the saga, so we all want to know what the hell went wrong, hence all the videos and essays.

I just stumbled upon what may be the most comprehensive criticism of the ninth movie in the saga, and while it says many of the things I've heard before, I'm recommending it to you now because, well, it's pretty damn funny. While I wince to know that so much of the video's vitriolic humor is aimed at a once-beloved enterprise, I admit I had a good laugh all the same. It's an hour-long presentation; I just blasted through it at 2X speed, but feel free to view it at whatever speed you're comfortable with.

tonight: BREAD

Once I get home tonight, I'll be working on making a batch of bread for Friday. I also need to make garlic butter, but that's not hard. If I have time and energy, I'll make and freeze another batch of pasta, but if I can't do that tonight, I'll do it either tomorrow or Thursday night. Prep for Friday is already nearly done. The spaghetti sauce tastes amazing: completely homemade, including the Italian sausage. The pesto is awesome, too, and tonight, I'll sample some of the chocolate "mouce" to see how good it is. I think it's gonna rock.

seen on Instapundit: two racisms, right and left

Quoted here:

There are two basic definitions of racism in the United States, one roughly associated with progressives and one roughly associated with conservatives. The former describes racism as the failure to acknowledge and seek to redress systemic discrimination against select disadvantaged minority groups. It is very broad and captures everything from unconscious bias to white supremacy. The latter views racism as making assumptions about, or taking action towards, an individual or group on the sole basis of their race. It is narrow and generally requires belief, intent, and animosity.

These definitions don’t simply differ; to a great extent they actually contradict each other. Much of the contradiction stems from the fact that the progressive definition of racism requires that an advantaged individual or group must be attacking the less privileged. The more conservative and narrow definition of racism requires no appeal to power structures, only to bias, and can be committed by anyone towards anyone.

And this is why the right says Donald Trump isn't racist while the left screams that he is racist to the core. I think the writer is too polite to note that the leftist version of racism is wildly delusional. Leftists ought to visit countries like South Korea, where overt racism abounds, just so they can get a taste of what real racism feels like.

This doesn't mean, by the way, that real racism doesn't exist in the States. As I've written repeatedly, I saw it when I was a member of Gab. It's alive and well, not hiding in the margins—and no, the left isn't paranoid to suspect that rightie bigotry exists. But the left, being delusional, views racism through a reality-distorting prism, so it's not even really aware of the gigantic snake coiled dangerously at its feet. What a shame, and what a waste: both the left and the right could be working on this problem right now, but this difference in worldview prevents such cooperation from ever materializing.

pasta: first attempt in years

Homemade spaghetti, currently drying before I do a test cook:

And here's the pasta with Alfredo sauce (true Alfredo for once, not my usual faux-Fredo):

The texture is great. Not exactly al dente, but still firm, and cooked just right. I put a bit too much sea salt in the pasta water, but that's a minor mistake; I'll simply add less next time. (I confess I'm not exactly a fan of the "make your pasta water as salty as the sea" rule of thumb. That's pretty intensely salty to me.) Aside from that, though, this may have been a case of beginner's luck. The pasta turned out way better than I expected, and I now need to process the rest of the batch, bag it up, and freeze it. I'll need to make a lot more pasta later this week, but that shouldn't be a problem (said he overconfidently).