Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween

I won't be doling out candy to any trick-or-treaters in my building, but I wish you a Happy Halloween all the same. Here's a snapshot of Santa Muerte:

only tangentially related to Halloween, maybe

And here's a classic "Happy Halloween!" from the movie "Highlander":




some images

Am about to meet a friend, but here are some images to distract you:





For this next one, it helps to know the meme:





exploration

On Saturdays, I usually do a long walk of at least 18 kilometers. I decided to try something a bit different this time, and I took a detour from the Tan Creek to walk along the Jangji Creek (Jangji-cheon/장지천), a small tributary that leads into the Tan Creek. It was a bit of a disappointing walk, being a narrow path with noisy traffic not far off, but the detour added a couple kilometers to my normal walk down to Bundang. I'm not inclined to explore that spur much farther, but there are other paths that break off from the Tan Creek that might be worth looking at on future walks, including a path that runs on the other side of the creek, parallel to the path I normally walk.

The Jangji Creek detour was a left turn when facing toward Bundang; a bit farther down the path was a new trail, only a few months old, that broke off to the right. I followed that path, too, until I looked at a map and saw that the trail led inland and not along any watercourses. Disappointed again, I turned around and resumed my walk along the main Tan Creek path. The total distance of both of my detours wasn't much—maybe 2 or 3 kilometers in total, making my overall Saturday walk around 20 or so kilometers. 

As I said above, there are other paths to explore, so I may find myself going down some different routes in the near future. Stay tuned.



Saturday, October 30, 2021

staircase, differently

This past Thursday, I did my stair work a bit differently, heading outside to the Yangjae Creek stairs for the first time in long time. I did seven of the creek's staircases. Six of them have 70-some steps; the last one has 82 steps. That's roughly [(70 × 6) + 82], or 502 steps. 

How does that compare to doing my apartment building's staircase from B1 to the 26th floor? Well, from the 5th floor to the top, that's 18 steps per floor (9 × 2), or 22 × 18 = 396 steps. From B1 to the 5th floor, though, it's a bit weird. We have to go floor-by-floor. From B1 to 1 is 36 steps (9 × 4). From 1 to 2, and from 2 to 3, it's 27 steps each (9 × 3), so 54 total. From 3 to 4, it's 32 steps (8 × 4), and from 4 to 5 is the most intense at 40 steps (10 × 4). That means 36 + 54 + 32 + 40 = 162 steps. 396 + 162 = 558 steps. So I guess I need to add one more staircase to my Yangjae Creek workout.

The creekside workout is admittedly easier, given that it's about 100-200 meters between staircases. But it's a nice change of pace from the drudgery of doing the indoors staircase all the time. So I'll be including the creekside workout as part of my stairs work from now on. Plus, the extra steps between staircases will add to my regular walk time. No harm in that.



Friday, October 29, 2021

"The Suicide Squad": review

Harley, touched that people are trying to rescue her

[WARNING: slight spoilers of the movie's beginning.]

"The Suicide Squad" is the 2021 sequel/reboot of 2016's "Suicide Squad," which ended up being a box-office turd. I've seen only parts of the first movie, but I sat through the 2021 film last night, and I have to say... there were moments that made me laugh out loud. The movie struck a dark tone but didn't take itself at all seriously, which is a quality I appreciate. Sometimes, the best movies are the ones blessed with an unselfconscious sense of fun. That said, there were also some draggy moments during which the main plot bogged down to follow this or that sidetracked subplot.

The film is directed by James Gunn who, up to that point, had more of an association with Marvel (Gunn notably worked on the Guardians of the Galaxy movies; the Suicide Squad is a DC property); Gunn brought his trademark morbid, gory sense of humor to this modern take on "The Dirty Dozen," in which a group of quirky criminals gets recruited to help save the world in exchange for ten years off their respective sentences. It stars Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, and Pete Davidson (along with a host of other stars). With such a large ensemble cast, some characters will obviously make more of an impression than others, although most of the main characters do get more than a moment to shine, often in hilarious ways.

At the risk of spoiling the movie's beginning, I'll note that we begin with a red herring: the Suicide Squad we initially meet is only a distraction meant to act as cannon fodder while the real Suicide Squad lands elsewhere and takes advantage of the distraction provided by the dummy team. Of that dummy team, only Rick Flag (Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Robbie) survive. They eventually join up with the main team, led by Bloodsport (Elba), a soldier-assassin who, like Will Smith's Deadshot before him, has an unerring aim and can make practically anything into a weapon. On the team with Bloodsport is Peacemaker (Cena), a pathologically patriotic soldier who will kill as many people as it takes to bring about peace; Ratcatcher 2 (Melchior), a kindhearted soul who has a device invented by her genius dad (Taika Waititi, who plays the original Ratcatcher) that allows her to control any rats in the area (and there are always thousands of rats in the area); King Shark (Stallone), a brutish, half-man/half-shark hybrid with a taste for human flesh; and Polka-Dot Man (Dastmalchian), who is the mutant result of experiments promoted by his fanatical mother, a woman obsessed with breeding superheroes. Polka-Dot Man's power is the ability to fire thousands of glowing polka dots at people, dissolving their flesh. He's also saddled with a death wish.

The movie's principal story is about sending these two strike teams down to the fictional Latin country of Corto Maltese (long a DC staple), which has just undergone a military coup. On the island is an old Nazi facility called Jotunheim, in which languishes a captured starfish-like alien—dubbed "Starro"—that is being weaponized. The new junta now knows about Jotunheim and sees the alien, which has been "managed" by The Thinker (Capaldi) for over thirty years, as leverage. Meanwhile the US government wants its own involvement with Jotunheim erased, which is what the Suicide Squad is down there for: to destroy Jotunheim utterly. The proverb, alas, is that no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and the rest of "The Suicide Squad" is about how the surviving team members have to salvage a plan that goes horribly awry the moment reality sets in.

In terms of character development, most of the main characters end up surprisingly well fleshed out. John Cena is hilarious as Peacemaker, who brags that if he's ordered to eat every dick on a beach covered in dicks, then by God, he'll eat every one of those dicks in the name of liberty. Peacemaker and Bloodsport, both marksmen, take an immediate dislike to each other and engage in several shooting/killing-themed pissing contests throughout the film. Bloodsport has a troubled daughter back home who is at risk of being arrested, or worse, by Amanda Waller (Davis), the ruthless woman running the operation against Corto Maltese. Bloodsport also has a deep fear of rats due to past childhood trauma, which makes him deathly afraid of Sebastian, Ratcatcher 2's favorite rat. Ratcatcher 2 is the most moral member of the group, not really deserving to be there at all. She is a weirdly deep sleeper and an incurable optimist who sees the good in the people around her, even Bloodsport (who considers himself unredeemable). Polka-Dot Man hates his mother and functions best when he imagines that his intended victims all look like her. This leads to some truly hilarious scenes toward the end of the movie when the team finds itself face-to-face with the alien Starro. By the way, if you've seen "Dune" and are disappointed that Dastmalchian didn't have more to do in that movie, watch "The Suicide Squad" to get your Dastmalchian fix: at this point in his career, Dastmalchian has corned the market on weird, eccentric characters; he's this generation's Brad Dourif). Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn gets some imaginative and funny moments, but it's assumed that she's a known quantity, at this point, so her character doesn't get quite the development the others do. She does, however, have a fantastic post-coital scene with one of the junta leaders that I won't spoil here. (I don't know Harley's back story, so I don't know where she acquired her acrobatic and fighting skills from. She started off as a psychotherapist assigned to the Joker, didn't she?) Sylvester Stallone's King Shark (who also goes by Nanaue) is strangely poignant as a brutish, simple-hearted man-eater with no friends. He does get a hilarious moment, though, with a school of seemingly harmless fish, and he makes friends with Ratcatcher 2, who wants to be friends with everyone. Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flag gets a bit of a character arc as he become increasingly disenchanted with the government he works for. One exception in the character-development department is Peter Capaldi's Thinker, a man with weird metal(?) studs protruding from his bald skull. These projections somehow enhance his intellect, but nothing is ever made of how smart he can be, and in fact, he doesn't come off as especially clever in the film. This lack of development felt like a wasted opportunity.

The plot is ever so slightly nonlinear. It's easy to follow, and it features some creatively laid-out transitions, but every once in a while, you'll see a title card like "Three Days Earlier" or "Eight Minutes Earlier," with past action that leads back up to the present moment. These little hitches don't happen too often, so the general flow of the plot isn't disturbed.

One big question hovering over the movie is whether this dysfunctional group of misfits can actually work together as a team. Without getting into specifics, I can say the answer is yes, almost to the point where it's hard to say who gets top prize for taking down one of the main antagonists. In fact, it could be said that the movie's true big bad, the American government (especially as incarnated in Amanda Waller), doesn't get taken down at all, and indeed, the movie leaves us with several unresolved plotlines, including the fact that, by the end of the movie, our main characters all have explosive devices still planted at the base of each of their skulls, an insurance policy to make sure they've carried out their mission.

As I mentioned earlier, the movie is laugh-out-loud funny at certain moments, but it also has segments that drag a bit, so the pacing is a tad uneven. Overall, though, the film tells a coherent story, and the bulk of the main characters are fleshed out enough to earn our sympathy or our disdain. Most of the movie's bad guys (I feel bad for not mentioning the largely Latin cast) serve as little more than a backdrop to allow our main characters to interact with each other, which is the same syndrome one sees in most Marvel films that don't feature Thanos. This movie is more about the journey, less about the destination. By the end, though, you may find yourself caring enough about some of the characters to wonder what might befall them next, and this open-endedness hints at the possibility of a sequel.

Thus far, I've avoided talking about the dummy team at the beginning of the movie, which features James Gunn regular Nathan Fillion as TDK, The Detachable Kid, who can pop his limbs off at will so that they can float around and do... not much of anything; Michael Rooker as the long-haired, emotionally unstable Savant; Jai Courtney (who was in 2016's "Suicide Squad") as Captain Boomerang; James Gunn's brother Sean Gunn as Weasel, an anthropoid weasel who hacks and coughs and shows little intelligence or awareness; Pete Davidson as Blackguard, the group's betrayer, who ends up getting his just reward; Mayling Ng as Mongal, an alien assassin who barely registers; Flula Borg as Javelin, who flirts a bit with Harley Quinn at the very beginning before handing Harley his javelin as he's dying on a beach (Harley spends most of the movie wondering what she's supposed to do with the javelin). The always-winsome Alice Braga shows up as a rebel leader on Corto Maltese, but she's not given very much to do, and her revolutionary side plot is barely relevant to the main story. Most of these folks have little more than cameos, but I suppose their main importance is in setting the stage for when the real Suicide Squad appears.

Overall, I'd give the movie a cautious thumbs-up. It really did make me laugh at certain points, but there were other moments that were either distractions or slow buildups to a predictable punchline. In terms of intensity, my tolerance for cinematic gore is pretty high, so seeing a guy's face get blown off in the name of comedy doesn't bother me all that much; that said, the movie's best kills are the ones involving emotional impact. All in all, I'd welcome a sequel; "The Suicide Squad" does a decent job of getting you invested in these characters' fates, and when some of the main characters kick the bucket, you feel it. Most importantly, the movie doesn't take itself seriously, and that sense of fun is its most redeeming quality.



today's lunch

Bossam from the coworker's Missus:






Thursday, October 28, 2021

belle photo de ma famille française

From my buddy Dominique, sent a while back:

I know a few of the folks in the above pic; in some cases, kids who were young when I last saw them have grown up. In other cases, the kids are ones I've never met before, and in still other cases, some adults were people I'd met back in the day but haven't seen or talked with in years—or never met at all. I see, on the far left, Tim, Hélo, and Auguste, the children of my buddy Dominique. In the top row, on the far left, I see Véronique (Dom's wife) and Dominique next to her. Next to Dom is his big brother Damien, followed by his wife Charlotte. Next to Charlotte is Sophie (glasses), wife of François, Dom's other big brother, who is next to Sophie. Then we've got Maman and Papa (Jeannette et Pierre) rounding out the top row. As for the bottom row, I don't think I can name anyone after Augustin.



20K yesterday

Yesterday, I had nothing to do after finishing up that grammar chart/calendar I'd talked about before, so the boss told me to just leave. I lingered a bit, then left around 4:45 p.m. and decided to walk down to Bundang from work, knowing this would be a slightly longer walk than when I do it from my apartment. Turns out it was almost exactly 20 kilometers, but hey—it was a way to burn some extra calories. 

Today is a fasting and stairs-training day (plus the shorter version of the walk home, around 80 minutes), and tomorrow is a cheat day because we're having our October luncheon, catered by my coworker's wife. My understanding is that tomorrow's lunch is bossam. The boss won't be in tomorrow, so that means more food for me! Bossam is actually pretty keto, but I'll be eating a rather non-keto jjambbong tomorrow evening to cancel that out. Long walk on Saturday (with only a shake and some keto trail mix to eat) to counteract the cheat day, of course. Weigh-in and numbers on Sunday, if I remember. My belt tells me I'm about the same, but maintaining one's weight can't be bad news, right?



Wednesday, October 27, 2021

keto's funny that way

Just a strange, random little meditation.

The whole point of the keto diet, which is predicated on the CIM schema (carbohydrate-insulin model), is that you eat an extremely low amount of carbs every day (20-50 grams, max), thereby stopping your body from spiking insulin, which is your fat-storing hormone. Once your body learns to burn fat for fuel, and with no insulin standing in the way trying to preserve or generate fat, you're supposed to lose weight, or at least lose fat.

Keto says that you do this by eating a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet. Your allies along the way are natural foods, the rule of thumb being, "If the food looks the way it did in nature, then it's probably good to eat." So for proteins, this generally means eating meats, fish, etc. that have been minimally processed. Red meat should look like a big hunk of muscle, preferably with fat shot through it, so steaks are perfect on keto as long as you don't slather them in sauces filled with starch and/or sugar. Rotisserie chicken works; so does duck breast (nice and fatty). Fish is great, too, but pan-fry it in oil because most fish aren't that fatty unless you're talking bluefish or salmon. For veggies, stay away from tubers, carrots, parsnips, corn, and other carby items, but do indulge in leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower). Turnips and radishes are OK; onions might be marginally keto if used in moderation (they contain a lot of sugar). Nuts and seeds are fatty and have a good bit of roughage. Fibrous foods of all types are generally good because the body doesn't really metabolize fiber (hence the concept of net carbs versus total carbs: fiber counts as carbs, but you subtract fiber from the total carb count to figure out your net carbs). For fruits, well, they're full of fructose, but on keto, blueberries and strawberries can be eaten in moderation. Heavy cream is better for you than skim milk; cheese is also fine, but dairy products carry the danger of being calorie-dense, so while you might need some fat for satiety's sake, you shouldn't consume too much dairy.

Keto sure sounds a lot like paleo, doesn't it? The emphasis is on largely unprocessed, natural foods that are low in carbs but high in fats, fiber, etc. The goal is always to keep your insulin from spiking (which is why it's recommended to do keto along with intermittent fasting, which also keeps insulin from spiking). But here's the thing: keto has this whole other side to it that's utterly artificial. This is where we get into various sweeteners like the sugar alcohols (erythritol, etc.), allulose, and so on. Then there's the weird stuff like xanthan gum and powdered whey protein. Psyllium husk is arguably natural, but it tastes like sawdust and serves only to help with texture and fiber. The keto noodles I linked to earlier are from the alchemical world of molecular gastronomy, the assumption being that the chemicals in those noodles do nothing to stimulate insulin production. Many chemical-y keto "substitutes" for regular food end up looking weirdly shiny and/or rubbery; it really is as if keto, seen as a whole, is this two-faced monster that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. And within the keto world, of course, you have partisans who advocate for "strict" keto or "dirty" keto, etc., depending on how they view things like processed meats, artificial sweeteners, etc.

It's a lot to take in, frankly. I'm still learning about this universe, still trying to figure out how to get the requisite macros every day. Up to now, I'd have to say that I haven't once experienced true ketosis; my weigh loss is probably more due to the CICO model (calories in, calories out) than to hormonal balance. But once I figure out how to do this keto thing right, I think the sailing will become smoother. 

If you're starting your own low-carb journey, I'd humbly suggest just cutting back on the usual sources for carbs: bread, pasta, rice, sauces made with a roux or with cornstarch, and sweets of any kind, including cookies, candies, cakes, fruit juices, and sodas. Don't worry too much about finding keto substitutes for these things unless you're really, really craving them. If you're jonesing for bread, though, I have to admit I'm coming around to using fathead dough (which generally contains mozzarella cheese); this results in a heavy bread that's good for keto pizza crusts and bagel-like rounds. I started off hating the very concept of fathead dough, but it avoids the problem of egginess that plagues so many of the early iterations of keto bread, and it's more shelf-stable and arguably tastier than, say, keto soda breads. The cheese is also a very firm binder for almond flour, which otherwise falls apart pretty easily (cf. my experience trying to make almond-flour-based pasta). As for cheat days, if you're a beginner, allow yourself a cheat day per week, then reduce that to a cheat day every other week (which is about where I am: two cheat days per month).

Keto's a bit weird, and it takes a lot of getting used to, and I only belatedly learned that it gets a lot of hate from vegans, who deplore the way keto plays up the the vital role of meat (the carnivore diet is basically a super-extreme form of keto, and it goes in totally the opposite direction from veganism). But if you have an open mind and are willing to indulge in new experiences, maybe give it a try and see how it changes things for you. I hope to have a decent keto routine by early next year; I need at least until the end of this year to muddle my way through things. I'm not there yet, but I will be.



zoodles in action

Here are my lunchtime zoodles:


I followed the instructions that came with the spiralizer as literally as I could, pan-frying the zoodles for two minutes in olive oil after adding some salt and pepper. Seasoning the zoodles proved to be a good idea, as the zucchini would have been awfully bland otherwise. I topped the zoodles with a layer of grated Parmigiano, added my homemade spaghetti sauce (with home-ground sausage), then topped the whole thing with more cheese. 

The carb count for all this is surprisingly low; the tomatoes in the sauce are the carbiest part. Calorie-wise, the zoodles themselves are low-cal, but the sauce and cheese are not. A single giant zucchini cooks down to one serving after some of the water has a chance to evaporate during pan-frying, but since I pan-fried the zoodles for only two minutes, they retained their crunch even after sitting for nearly an hour inside a zip-top bag. Overall, the zoodles weren't bad; the zucchini taste didn't get in the way, and the spiralizing process made the zucchini noodle-like enough. I'll be making zoodles again, I think, although maybe next time, I'll see what happens with Alfredo or faux-Fredo sauce.

I'm also really curious as to what the zoodles would be like if I pan-fried the hell out of them, turning them crispy by chasing out all the water. Could I make a low-carb fried lo mein dish that way? (Frying something doesn't add carbs. The old thinking was that dietary fat was what got you fat; we now know dietary fat isn't at all correlated with body fat. It's the carbs that spike your insulin and make you fat.  Fried chicken is fattening because it's battered, not because it's fried. Certain "bad" fats can affect you hormonally and metabolically, and they might even affect your heart health, but they won't make you fat.) We'll see; right now, it feels as if the sky's the limit. Today's experiment went way better than expected.

I like that the spiralizer is made of easily separable parts that are, individually, easy to clean. The whole thing is easy to store as well, as the machine tucks neatly into itself and fits inside a plastic box with a fairly small footprint. I think this tool was a good investment.

Expect more spiralizer craziness soon!



my laugh for the day

Seen in an Instapundit comments thread:




spiralizer, arrived

My spiralizer arrived from Amazon yesterday, and after reading up on zoodles, I decided it'd be best to prepare them close to when I plan to eat them, so I made a batch of zoodles this morning, right before work. If I remember to, I'll take a photo of them with my spaghetti sauce and cheese so you have some idea what they're like. I sampled some zoodles right after pan-frying them, and they weren't horrible, but they're certainly not anything like real pasta. All the same, we'll see how the zoodles are when I sit down to lunch in about an hour.

I think the zoodles will be more of a passing phase for me; as much as possible, I want my keto pasta to resemble pasta as closely as possible, and while zoodles might mimic the firmness and stringiness of spaghetti or fettuccine, they're still substantively different from pasta, being vegetables. I've got that egg-and almond flour-based pourable pasta that I'll be trying next, and if I can obtain the chemicals(!), I plan to make some keto noodles via molecular gastronomy (video here). So I'm not done looking for a decent keto replacement for pasta—not by a long shot. Still, now that I have the spiralizer, I'll be experimenting with salads and fried, keto-friendly vegetables (it never occurred to me that broccoli stems are spiralizable). I might also use spiralized zucchini in a frittata. Stay tuned.



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

the Keto Twins dispense their wisdom

I have to say that I generally agree with everything said in this video:

The five points the ladies make are:

1. Most people fail on their keto weight-loss journey.

2. The "correct" keto is the keto you can do forever.

3. You will get bored (with your food).

4. You might go months without losing anything.

5. Forget your "goal weight."

The twins' focus is on following a sustainable lifestyle; maintaining weight loss, they argue, is more important than getting to a certain weight, and whatever weight you "arrive" at ought to be comfortable for you to maintain. The twins offer a bonus insight:

6. Weight loss won't solve all your problems.

Of the six notions mentioned, I'd say I'm guilty of putting emphasis on (5), having a goal weight. But then again, I intuitively know I'm not quite where I need to be, so I'm striving to lose those last few kilos—not to be able to say "I've arrived," but to be where I think I'm healthiest. 90 kilograms isn't unreasonable in that regard, but I'll keep in mind that I shouldn't be obsessively attached to that number.

I discovered the Keto Twins only today; one sister appears far more talkative than the other one, but together, they seem to have some decent, commonsense advice for those of us who struggle to shed the pounds.



spinning my wheels

At work, I've been tasked with coming up with a curriculum for a new English grammar book that is to be part of a series of books for fourth- and fifth-graders. I'm the grammar guy in our office, so I get all the grammar-related assignments. "Don't worry too much about it, though," said the boss. "They're going to rearrange everything, anyway." ("They" = the Korean staffers who will review what we make.) This is consistent with how things normally operate in my company: make something real pretty, turn it over to lesser minds, let them fuck it up, then make whatever it is they want, even if it makes little sense.

One of the most toxic aspects of working in a hagweon context is that everyone is a slave to the parents, who are paying for their kids' education, and who therefore view themselves as customers deserving of the royal treatment. Something like this dynamic obtained back when I was in my twenties and teaching at a private Catholic high school in Arlington, VA. There, too, the parents thought they had the final say regarding their kids' education, and our principal's office kissed ass constantly to keep the parents happy.

The issue has come up in American discourse, recently, about whether parents have a right to say how their kids should be educated. In the current context, you have parents who are alarmed by the "woke" stress on transgender issues* and Critical Race Theory. These parents complain to their local school boards, and for their trouble, some are being branded as "domestic terrorists" for being concerned about current trends. Should these parents have a say in their kids' education? I think that, if a parent is concerned that the public-school system sucks, then s/he should take his/her kid out of the system and starting homeschooling. Why stick with a system that's irrevocably broken? If I had kids and lived in the States, I'd be homeschooling and motivating my kids to attend a trade school so they could be equipped to earn some real money, acquire some real skills, and enjoy a measure of fulfillment that way. American education has really gone leprous over the past couple decades, taken over by postmodernists and leftists and others who want kids to learn that black is white and up is down. Opt for homeschool, I say. Before it's too late.

In the English-teaching world of South Korea, we have our own parent-related problems. For the most part, the "woke" nonsense found in the States hasn't hit Korean shores yet, but parents have certain traditional expectations for their kids, and they want the teachers and textbook-makers to follow the grain of those expectations. Do these parents have a right to make demands? It's a complicated question, mainly because most of these parents have no idea what it really takes to teach a foreign language, and yet they think they can dictate key elements of a curriculum, such as how much homework the kids should have every night (Korean thinking: if my kid's not snowed under, it's not enough homework). I sympathize with the idea that parents ought to have some voice in their kids' future, but I don't like the idea that people who know jack shit about what I do for a living are telling me how to do my job. When are we permitted to say to the parents, "Leave this to the experts"?

So let's say that I create a grammar curriculum, in calendar form, that leads the students from simple elements to more complex ones, generally following the order for how such things might be taught in the States (assuming anyone still teaches anything about grammar). What happens next is that my boss will review my grammar calendar, make a tweak or two, and pass it along to a set of Korean teacher/reviewers who will "suggest" changes, most of which will generally make no pedagogical sense. 

Part of the reason for that is that English grammar is taught rather illogically in Korean schools, and the kids come out of the educational system having learned no conversational English, and having no practical writing skills, despite the insane emphasis, from a very young age, on essay-writing. In my experience, 95% of student errors are grammatical in nature. Whatever "grammar" the kids are learning isn't grammar at all. And it doesn't help that, in the typical English class run by a Korean teacher, over 90% of the teacher's discourse is in Korean, not in English—probably because these teachers can't actually speak English themselves. The whole thing is a rotten scam, and my idealism was crushed long ago. Nothing will change until Koreans themselves realize there's a need for change. But these parents grew up learning English in this shitty, inefficient way, and it's what they expect their children to go through, too. That's the pressure we in the business are up against.

So I might make the world's best grammar curriculum, but it's going to get shat upon by English-incompetent teachers (and staff) who fear doing anything to cross the parents. My attitude, these days, is not to take ownership of anything I do for the company. I invest no ego in what I do; I try to remain as detached as possible (I don't always succeed), and what will be will be. And there's always the chance that our flighty Korean bosses will decide to chuck whatever program my R&D team comes up with in favor of something that sounds nifty, but which they don't understand fully. That sort of thing has happened often in the past, usually at the last minute, and usually after a lot of time and effort has been spent working on a program. In our office, we have megabytes' worth of tossed-off files, books that were started and then abandoned. We keep such material because we might be able to recycle it later, but there's no guarantee that later efforts will be any more successful than previous ones.

Thus do I spend my days, spinning my wheels in the mud. When some American starts singing the praises of Asian-style education, just ignore him because it's largely bullshit. Education in Korea (and probably in China and Japan) is more about ending up with a piece of paper that allows you to ratchet forward in life. It's not about actual knowledge or enrichment or real learning. It's about passing tests and getting a diploma. And if your response is that America really isn't all that different, well, you may be right, but that's my point: the Asian way really is no better than the American way.

Homeschool your kids. Trust me on this.

__________

*I've offered my thoughts on transgender issues. Click here to refresh your memory.



the Critical Drinker reviews "Dune"

My own review of "Dune" was spoiler-free, but so is this review by The Critical Drinker, the angry Scot who is yet another of my go-to movie critics. Here's his take:





Monday, October 25, 2021

scaling back, moving on

My right shoulder still hurts a lot even when I stay within my limited range of motion, so I'm going to cancel pretty much all the strength training for now, and I'll resume it when things are better... whenever that might be. Sucks not to be able to finish out the year with my hoped-for 2 pullups and 50 pushups, but with Mother Nature being a bitch about my shoulder, I'm not left with much of a choice. Yes, I'll probably visit an orthopede between now and the end of the year, so don't you fret. At a guess, it'll be like with my stress fracture: they'll X-ray me and find nothing, then tell me to just rest the shoulder, which is what I'm doing, anyway. That's why I'm in no hurry to visit the doc.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing my lenient form of Newcastle, i.e., having a morning shake, eating three chicken breasts and two Paris Baguette salads, and downing a handful of nuts at night. Tuesdays and Thursdays are 24-hour fasting days, and Saturday will involve a long walk, a shake in the morning, and maybe some low-carb trail mix in the afternoon. I've also got the materials to make more keto pizza, which I might do this coming Sunday (no more burrata cheese—lesson learned). In all, the lenient Newcastle won't be much different from stringent Newcastle because I'm doing the 24-hour fasting thing. Technically, that sort of extreme fasting is happening only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Saturday being more of a limited-eating day than a true fasting day. Assuming I eat around 2,000 calories on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, with maybe 500-700 calories on Saturday and zero calories on Tuesday and Thursday, that puts my daily calorie average at about 943. That's not much more lenient than strict Newcastle was, at (ideally) 800 calories a day. The difference between 800 calories and 943 calories is about 1.5 slices of American cheese or roughly 2 medium eggs.

I do have another cheat day coming up this Friday, though; my coworker's wife is making our October meal. I'll walk some of that meal off in the evening; I usually put in about 140 minutes of walking on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (in theory, that's around 10K or a tiny bit more). I might, however, go visit the jjambbong place I've talked about before (video here) for dinner that same night. What good's a cheat day if you eat only one meal?

In other news, I continue to read up on the elusive keto pasta. I've decided that the Keto King's pasta, while plausibly pasta-like in feel, just doesn't taste right, so I'm dropping Keto King altogether because none of his recommendations has panned out. I've seen some super-simple "pourable" pasta—with a base of egg, cheese, and almond flour—that looks as though it might at least taste neutral while providing some pasta-like texture; more news on that as it happens. (By "pourable," I mean you mix up a loose batter, pour it onto a Silpat mat, then bake it for a few minutes. You then peel the eggy rectangle off the Silpat, put it on a cutting board, and cut it up into fettuccine. I'm also wondering whether such pasta can withstand a pasta mill.)

I've also got a vegetable spiralizer on the way thanks to Amazon (supply-chain problems won't stop me!) so I can make the infamous zoodles (zucchini noodles) and see they how they taste. I suspect that pan-frying them and seasoning them aggressively will make them tastier than boiling them will (I've seen boiling, steaming, pan-frying, and microwaving as methods for prepping zoodles), but the seasoning can't be such that it overpowers the sauce.

And I plan, finally, to experiment with "riced" cauliflower. I've been avoiding this one for a while. Cauliflower is not my favorite vegetable, especially when eaten straight or boiled and unseasoned. I don't mind turning it into cauliflower hummus or keto mashed "potatoes," but ricing cauliflower feels too much like eating it straight, even if it does end up stir-fried. We'll see, though; tons of people have made cauliflower fried "rice" before, so maybe the time has come for me to join the keto-zombie horde on this one.

Didn't weigh myself this Sunday. More numbers next week.



This is part of a hilarious series:





Sunday, October 24, 2021

"Dune (Part 1)": review

Shai-Hulud arises from the sand.
Denis Villeneuve is the guy you go to when you want a movie that's slow, thoughtful, punctuated with a bit of violence here and there, and brimming with Big Ideas. I think the French Canadian is an extremely talented director, and I've enjoyed his "Siciario," "Arrival," and "Blade Runner 2049." Villeneuve doesn't fall into the George Lucas trap of not pushing his actors, and when he engages in a project, he normally has a clear, well-thought-out, coherent vision. According to Villeneuve's own testimony in various interviews, "Dune" has long been a dream project for him, and he's finally had his chance to shine. I'll save you the suspense: "Dune" shines for sure.

Thanks to the pandemic, there was some question as to whether "Dune" would be released directly and exclusively to home video. Villeneuve was famously peeved by the idea, and he fought hard to make sure the movie would secure a theatrical release. His anger is understandable: "Dune" is a spectacle that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

For those two or three of you who have no idea what "Dune" is about, the movie is based on the novel Dune by Frank Herbert. In the 1960s, Dune won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. It is a story that takes place some ten thousand years in the future. Mankind has tried and failed to create and use AI, and the aftermath of the human/AI war resulted in the commandment, "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind." In this far future, mankind has reverted to an imperial state, with Emperor Shaddam IV at the head of the Galactic Padishah Empire. Under the emperor are the great houses of the Landsraad, and prominent among them are two enemy houses, Atreides (the good guys) and Harkonnen (the bad guys). Frank Herbert's Dune ended up being the first in a series of novels; Dune itself focuses on the story of young Paul Atreides, son of Duke Leto and the Lady Jessica. Jessica is a member of the all-female order of the Bene Gesserit, which trains its members in biofeedback, various forms of combat, and perhaps most importantly, politics. The Bene Gesserit have been working behind the scenes for centuries, steering humanity's course along what is called "the golden path." Lady Jessica had been commanded by her order to give birth to a daughter, but instead, she gave birth to Paul, whom she has been training in the Bene Gesserit way. The planet Arrakis, colloquially called Dune, has been under the cruel control of the Harkonnens for decades, but the emperor has suddenly seen fit to dismiss the Harkonnens to have Dune ruled over by the Atreides. Thus do Leto, Jessica, and Paul uproot themselves from their comfortable life on the planet Caladan—with its verdure and bountiful water—to move to the sere, austere desert planet Arrakis, home and sole source of a substance called the spice, a psychotropic chemical that allows powerful minds to navigate folded space-time, thereby facilitating interstellar space travel. No spice, no space travel. No space travel, no empire. This makes Arrakis centrally important to the galaxy.

Villeneuve's "Dune" plunks us into the middle of this situation, with Paul as a teenager being groomed to take over his father's role as duke. The Harkonnens are just now leaving; the Atreides are just now arriving to take their place on Arrakis, and the local tribes of fierce Fremen have every reason to believe the Atreides will be just as cruel and exploitative as the Harkonnens had been. Duke Leto, a kind ruler, wants to harness what he sees as the "desert power" inherent in the might of the secretive Fremen. He wishes not to exploit them but to make an alliance with them. But there are other forces at work: the Bene Gesserit arrived on Arrakis long ago, and in preparation for the future, implanted a myth among the Fremen of a coming messiah, a Lisan al-Gaib. Meanwhile, the emperor and the Harkonnens have come to a secret agreement, and the Atreides presence on Arrakis is a trap. But Duke Leto, though kind, is not stupid, and he knows full well that other forces in the empire are moving against him and his family line.

The basic elements of the plot described above are in both the novel and the movie. The movie skips over or changes certain details: in the movie, for example, the Judge of the Change, a man named Liet Kynes, has been made into a female. Like in the book, the movie version of Kynes has been imperially commanded to be neutral about the government changeover on Arrakis, but she secretly sides with the Atreides family once she discovers firsthand that the new rulers really do care about the people. Her shift in loyalties will have dire consequences for her. In the book, Kynes is the father of Chani, the Fremen girl who will eventually become Paul Atreides's love interest. That wrinkle is absent in the movie version, but I don't think this absence does much to affect the overall plot.

"Dune" has elements in common with more recent works like "A Game of Thrones" in terms of all the plotting, betrayals, and castle intrigue. As in the novel, Paul is looked upon by the Fremen as a messiah, but "Dune, Part 1" goes only as far as to hint at visions of what might happen should Paul take on the mantle of the Muad'Dib (this universe's version of the Muslim mahdi, a type of messiah) or Kwistaz Haderach (lit., "shortening of the way," a being who sees and possibly even unites possible futures). Villeneuve's movie does a good job of giving us a sense of Paul's call to destiny; prophetic dreams are with Paul from the beginning.

The actors all step up to the task of playing the story's iconic roles well. Oscar Isaac is appropriately dignified and soulful as Duke Leto Atreides; Rebecca Ferguson is a combination of deadly, maternal, and vulnerable in the role of Paul's mother Jessica, the concubine who can never marry Duke Leto. Timothée Chalamet is capable in the role of young, troubled Paul, who comes off as competent but overwhelmed by what is being asked of him, whether it's to succeed his father as head of House Atreides or to lead a jihadi army on a bloody conquest of the galaxy. Josh Brolin, fresh off his turn as Thanos in a series of Marvel movies, does fine work as gruff Gurney Halleck, one of Paul's personal teachers and a leader of warriors. Jason Momoa turns in a nuanced performance as Duncan Idaho, another weapons master and warrior in whom Paul confides his dreams. For the Harkonnen side, Stellan Skarsgård commands the screen as Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. David Dastmalchian as personal Mentat Piter De Vries gets the creepy vibe just right, and Dave Bautista as Glossu "Beast" Rabban is properly menacing. Among the Fremen, Javier Bardem makes for a solid Stilgar, but Zendaya (as Chani), whom you see so much of in the preview trailers, actually has little to do in the movie aside from serve as the object of many of Paul's visions. She gets some actual dialogue toward the end, but I think she'll have a much-expanded role in the follow-up film, assuming there is one (you may have heard that the making of "Dune, Part 2" is very much in doubt).

We can't talk about Villeneuve's "Dune" without roping in David Lynch's 1984 mega-disaster version of this story. Lynch's "Dune" has many haters, and I can see why. Lynch is an auteur, a maker of arthouse flicks, and I still don't understand why he was chosen to helm a classic like this. The results of Lynch's efforts weren't up to his usual standards. That said, there are elements of Lynch's "Dune" that I admit I rather enjoy—his choice of cast, for example. Patrick Stewart was a fine Gurney Halleck, and Kyle MacLachlan was a capable Paul Atreides, if a tad too old. I also had a bit of a crush on Francesca Annis, who rather sexily played Lady Jessica. Max Von Sydow was great as a book-faithful Liet Kynes, Siân Phillips was iconic as Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Jose Ferrer played Emperor Shaddam IV with gravitas, and Kenneth McMillan was gleefully over the top as Baron Harkonnen. Lynch worked with a top-notch cast, but some of the film's Shatnerian line deliveries have led me to wonder what he was smoking when he was directing his actors. Lynch's choice to do voice-overs of character's inner monologues may also have been a bit too literal of an attempt at adapting the novel to the screen. (In the novel, we are often privy to characters' thoughts.) Villeneuve's "Dune" gives us spooky voices on occasion as a way of hinting at prophecy, but never as a way of conveying a character's specific thoughts.

Another area where Villeneuve's "Dune" kicks the ass of Lynch's version is that of special effects. Lynch really has no excuse for the sloppy production values of his 1984 film. "Return of the Jedi" had come out the previous year, featuring the cutting edge of Hollywood special effects for the time. Lynch's "Dune" looked bargain basement in comparison, at least with any scene involving a blue screen and ships. Why Lynch didn't take advantage of the full potential of special effects back then is probably a story involving budgetary constraints and producer/studio infighting. Frankly, I don't want to know that story; all I care about is the disappointing result. Villeneuve, on the other hand, took full advantage of the awesome technology at his disposal and crafted a film with nearly flawless effects, which range from understated (like Baron Harkonnen's repulsorlifts) to grandiose (like the Heighliners and the transports of House Atreides).

Which leads us to the sandworms. In the novel Dune, sandworms dominate the storyline. For the movie versions, the sandworms needed to be big and bad and bold. Lynch didn't do a terrible job with his version of these behemoths, which cruise the deserts of Arrakis like massive whales with huge fangs. But Villeneuve takes the sandworms in an interesting direction, making their teeth look almost baleen-like, less for biting things than for funneling food into those massive mouths. Villeneuve's "Dune" offers us several tantalizing hints of what a sandworm looks like before finally giving us a huge, theophanic reveal toward the end of the film. I have chosen the word "theophanic" carefully because, in the culture of the Fremen, Shai-Hulud (the sandworm) is considered a manifestation of God. Villeneuve's magnificent sandworms, seen in contrast with tiny humans, do indeed strike awe in the viewer, or at least in me. They are an organic marvel, convincingly integral to the ecology of Arrakis, and awesome on the big screen.

I should also note the film's sound design, from the music to the auditory effects. Composer/conductor Hans Zimmer, as it turns out, has also long been a fan of Dune, and it was a dream of his to work on "Dune" as a project. The planets seem to have aligned, then, in getting Zimmer together in the same room with Villeneuve (Zimmer is German for "room," by the way). Zimmer has been prone to excess in the past; I always go back to his breathless score for "The Rock," which has not stood the test of time, and I don't like his work on "Gladiator." But as he's aged and mellowed, his music has become more serious. I've enjoyed his more thoughtful work in films like "The Dark Knight," "Interstellar," and "Inception." You can hear traces of those films in his score for "Dune," and Zimmer has added some ethereal, spooky touches to this soundtrack that often called to mind the work of Bear McCreary on "Battlestar Galactica." One video I saw said that Zimmer had to invent new instruments for this movie to get the otherworldly sound he desired. As for the film's larger sound design, you can tell that Villeneuve has taken great care here, too, to provide the audience with a dimensional experience (Theo Green is credited as sound editor).

So in sum, "Dune" is the story of a young man burdened by prophecy and destiny, struggling to survive on an alien world as he comes to grips with powers that, at first, seem much greater than he is. By the end of Villeneuve's "Dune," though, Paul has begun to gain the trust and respect of the desert Fremen, and assuming "Part 2" is eventually made, we will witness how this massive story concludes. 

It's been said many times that the novel Dune is, among other things, a warning about messiahs. It could be a warning that messiahs aren't always who they're portrayed to be, as with the proverb "Never meet your heroes," which is about how the real falls short of the ideal. It could also be that messiahs are inherently misleading, causing one to think that the arrival of a messiah signals some sort of end (or beginning), when in fact, history shows us that the story never ends, and anyone claiming to be a messiah turns out to be nothing more than one wave in a ceaselessly moving ocean.

Denis Villeneuve is to be credited with doing his best at treating the source material with greater respect than David Lynch did (although some of Lynch's imagery will forever remain burned into my consciousness). Villeneuve's "Dune" isn't perfect, e.g., Dr. Kynes's fate isn't faithful to the book at all, but it's better than a mere college try. 2021's "Dune" is the film David Lynch could have made had he taken the story more seriously. Villeneuve, like Lynch, assembled a very competent and photogenic cast, and the result is a visually sumptuous epic that warrants multiple viewings just so one can drink in all the details. I have high hopes that the film will do well enough to warrant greenlighting "Part 2." Hats off to the director and the cast for giving us such a fun ride. "Dune" is a feast for the eyes and ears and mind, and if you're looking for a reason to see a movie in a theater instead of watching it, pandemic-trapped, at home, then your opportunity has finally come.



the experience of seeing "Dune" (not a review)

I just came back from watching "Dune" in a real, honest-to-God movie theater, and I'm still processing the experience. This is my first time seeing a movie in a cinema since the pandemic started, so I guess it's been close to two years. As I used to do pre-pandemic, I took a cab to Lotte World Mall to take advantage of the mall's huge multiplex. I had no idea what to expect regarding how the pandemic might have affected ticket-buying. I was about to find out.

Up to the fifth floor I went, hoping I'd see the usual staffers at the box office, ready to give me a ticket for "Dune" at the time of my choosing, but no—the first thing I discovered is that, if you want to buy tickets on site, you're still going to have to use a computer. They had some sort of SmartTicket setup that I had to learn quickly how to use. It wasn't too difficult, but it was inconvenient. There are touch-screen options that allow you to call up your already-ordered ticket via your order number; I realized that that wasn't what I wanted: I hadn't gotten a ticket online, and I wanted to buy a ticket sur place. I found the option for that, and the program led me through the procedure, step by step. 

Seat selection was a bit confusing, though, because the graphic didn't show the seats the way they're actually arranged in the theater. I made my best guess as to the seat I wanted (I normally go for the end of an aisle so I can have easy access to the restroom if necessary), accounting for social-distancing measures (I'm still not clear on this, but at a guess, if you're not a couple, you have to have at least one seat between you, which really reduces the number of tickets that can be sold per screening). I noted that ticket prices had been jacked up to W14,000 to make up for all the lost seating potential (pre-pandemic, Lotte World Cinema tickets were around W11,000, but cheaper for matinees). 

The final step, after you've selected a movie, a screening time, and a seat number, is to receive your ticket via phone. This meant logging in via Naver, and as I found out, it had been so long since I'd last used Naver this way that I had to reactivate my account. One step forward, two steps back, as per usual with Korean tech. But in order to reactivate my account, I needed to be able to receive text messages, and I was in WiFi-only mode because I had used up my monthly quota of LTE data. I flipped data back on, allowing my phone bill to be charged extra, got through reactivation, then finally got my ticket.

But we're not done. The e-ticket arrives on your phone, and it contains a QR-code button, so I had to figure out how to be able to summon the QR code as well. I somehow managed that, and finally, I had my ticket and could get in line just as everyone started filing in for the movie.

Everything after that point felt like a more-or-less typical moviegoing experience except for the obligation to wear a mask, which I did resignedly. I've heard from two sources, now, that the Korean government is thinking of shifting to a living-with-COVID policy (the virus is endemic, after all) that drops a lot of restrictions and allows for more risk, but as JW reminded me, the government can take this breathing room away just as easily as it gives it. Anyway, receiving more leeway is something that'll happen later; we're not there yet: today, everyone had to be masked, so I kept my face-diaper in place.

Watched the movie, was properly wowed (review pending), and left the way I came, via cab.

So maybe I'll go back to seeing movies in theaters again, especially now that I know the new (or maybe not-so-new) procedure for doing so. But it is a pain in the ass, and I'm not sure how much I like sitting in a theater with a fucking mask on my face. Then again, a spectacle like "Dune" has been billed as something that must be seen in a theater to be appreciated (director Denis Villeneuve was famously pissed off when the news came out that "Dune" might be released exclusively on home video), and now that I've seen the movie, I'd have to agree. See "Dune" on a big screen if you can, and when you see it at home, have a big-screen TV handy.



Styx on Alec Baldwin

Ouch:





from PowerLine's Week in Pictures

Some of the funnier pics from the latest PowerLine Week in Pictures:

This next one had me rolling:



Can't say I have any sympathy for Baldwin at all, but I expect him to walk away untouched:

This state of affairs has been predicted for a while, now:

Along with the cartoon below, here's a damning article on why solar power is no good (but criticism here):

In this matter, France has long had the right idea:

It always seems to come back to the energy-dense sources of fuel and power:

Some complain Abbott is too squishy, but he has his moments:


How is this guy still on the air?

Couldn't have happened to a nicer pair of guys:

This made me laugh and laugh:

Am admiring the Photoshop work, here:

When I saw the bald supervillain Darren Cross in the first "Ant-Man" movie, I thought something similar:

If you start a sentence with "I wonder," don't end it with a question mark:

Another entry in the "can't unsee" category:

Taken to its logical conclusion:






about Friday

I told my boss and coworkers that I had written about them on my blog, and I told them about the comments my post had received. One coworker had enough shame to admit that, yeah, "lazy-husband syndrome" was at least a partial cause for why no one had eaten my food for a month, but he also defended himself by noting that most of the office went on vacation right around Chuseok time, so for about two weeks, no one was around to eat anything. 

This still doesn't explain why no one had bothered to take home the Italian sausage I had made for everyone before my departure: each coworker got 750 grams of home-ground sausage, and what did they do with it? Fuck-all, that's what. All that meat is still sitting in the office freezer. I guess they're expecting me to cook something. The boss tried to butter me up by saying his wife still talks about the giant quiche I'd made way back when. Since he's invited us to his place for a Christmas party, I suppose I'll make that quiche again as a way to get in good with the Missus.

Anyway, this past Friday, I bought a new block of feta (the first block of feta had gone rotten) and a new box of cherry tomatoes. I thawed out the Middle Eastern chicken, prepped some couscous, chopped the tomatoes, and we all sat down to the lunch that should have been eaten back in September. In the end, nothing was left; we laid waste to the whole thing, although I'm not sure my Korean coworker enjoyed the food as much as we Yanks did. The situation is changing, but many Koreans still have a hangup about eating anything with cumin in it, and my Moroccan-inspired dish definitely had cumin.

So that's one lingering problem finally resolved. I probably won't make that chicken for another year, but in the meantime, I can guarantee some other bullshit will come up to give me a headache.



how Saturday went

The big takeaway from Saturday's walk is that I fucked up my shoulder, so things are even worse, now, than they'd been before. There was a moment during the walk from Gyeongpo Beach to Jeong Dong Jin Beach where I wanted to step off into a secluded part of the woods to take a piss, but I slipped on some mud and nearly fell on my ass. I saved myself by flailing my arms desperately and instinctively, but my right arm, for months now, hasn't been able to go much above shoulder height. When I flailed, my right arm went almost straight up, and I felt something massive inside my shoulder give a big, meaty click, immediately followed by some surprisingly intense pain. If my range of motion had been bad before Saturday, it's far worse now, and I may just have to visit an orthopede to see what's up and what can be done. Anyway, despite my yowling shoulder, I was able to grin and bear the final 11 km of what turned out to be close to a 25- or 26-kilometer walk (originally 24 km), all because JW was in the mood for Chinese, and there was no Chinese food to be found close to the shore.

JW and I took a 7:20 a.m. bus out to the coast, hitting Gangneung Terminal a bit after 10 a.m. We goggled at the beach for a bit (it was cleaner than I remembered) before heading off, and while the first few hundred meters went alongside the impressive Gyeongpo Lake, there was a ton of traffic right from the very beginning, and JW complained about the noise. I had billed this segment of my walk, i.e., Day 6, as the prettiest part of the whole thing—which I still believe—but I felt bad because I knew "prettiest" was true only according to the rather low standards of the east-coast walk as a whole. The walk had been nothing but noise and traffic and pollution and civilization, punctuated with some genuinely beautiful moments, but not enough to salvage the journey in my mind. (If you read my walk postmortem, you know I'm no longer interested in any further coastal treks.)

I had forgotten that several of this walk's most interesting sights all happened within the last six or so kilometers—a warship exhibit (with North Korean submarine), a Buddhist temple (where I refilled my water bottle with some mineral-tasting spring water), and a Korean War memorial for fallen civilians all appeared in rapid succession. In my memory, they were spaced farther apart, but in reality, they were all almost next door to each other.

I had also forgotten how often the walk would force a person to play in traffic. JW and I had to hop from one side of the street to another on several occasions, just to be able to walk on a road shoulder. I mentioned to him that it's good he hadn't brought along his kids for this hike; their mother would have flown into a rage had she discovered how dangerous the walk was.

So the Day 6 segment, this time around, didn't quite hold up to my memory of it, and JW declared, at the end, that the walk was "okay" except for the really trafficky part at the beginning (traffic I hadn't seen the first time around because I had started off a little before 5:30 a.m.). I came away from the walk with mixed feelings, and JW didn't appear entirely satisfied. At one point, he wistfully brought up Jeju Island again. I mentally rolled my eyes because I think JW may be harboring a postcard-style fantasy of what these walks are supposed to be like. I have a feeling that the Jeju Island walks wouldn't impress me as much as they impressed JW, especially with Jeju now as manicured and tourist-friendly as it is.

Here's the one pic I took this time around—JW at the beach:

This might not have been the best walk we've done, but it was a good, solid 25-ish kilometers (that extra distance being caused by the desire to find Chinese food).



four via Bill

Had a chuckle when I saw these:







"Dune" reviews from my go-to reviewers

I write movie reviews now and then, but I have my own set of go-to movie reviewers, primarily on YouTube. These are mostly Jeremy Jahns and Chris Stuckmann, but I also watch Mark Kermode and some others. Here are Chris Stuckmann and Jeremy Jahns talking about "Dune (Part I)," which I might go see Sunday morning:






Saturday, October 23, 2021

off to Gangneung

I'm sitting at the Express Bus Terminal, about to leave for Gangneung. Blogging will be sparse until late tonight. Laters!



Friday, October 22, 2021

Alec Baldwin kills someone

By now, you may have heard the news that sanctimonious lefty Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed one person and severely injured another with a weapon what was supposed to be a prop gun. Facts surrounding the case are still coming out, so it's hard to know what's really going on, except that Baldwin undeniably killed someone. Memes are, of course, already flying, and a lot of people are saying Baldwin should be treated with the same benefit of the doubt that he gave Donald Trump.


The above was found in an Instapundit comment thread. Also from that thread, this remark:

"We're treating this as we would any other investigation," [sheriff spokesman] Ríos said. So, if I accidentally kill somebody with a gun that I claim I did not know was loaded, I'm still walking around free? Uh-huh.

Baldwin is currently free. No arrests have been made.



PJW on the dumbest tweet of the year

Paul Joseph Watson puts forth what may be the dumbest tweet of the year:

I'm not on Netflix (not for lack of trying), so I haven't watched "Squid Game," but I've seen numerous commentaries and think I almost know the plot of Season 1. It sounds a lot like a "K-dramas meet Tarantino" scenario, with all the tension and stress that such a fusion implies, all while keeping the requisite quota of screaming and tears that make K-dramas so endearing to the screams-and-tears crowd. (Korean shows are fine with screaming, tears, and violence, but still not so great when it comes to kissing and sex, although they're getting better in that regard, as I discovered this past May while in hospital.)

Maybe one day, if I ever get on Netflix, I'll watch "Squid Game" and review it, but for now, I can only be a distant spectator to this cultural phenomenon, which I might tentatively characterize as the first truly respectable K-drama.




via Bill

Some images, with thanks to Bill Keezer:






Thursday, October 21, 2021

Day 6, recapitulated

I'll be heading back out to Gangneung this Saturday with my buddy JW, walking the Day 6 portion of the east-coast route. I had wanted to finish the day by coming back to Seoul and enjoying food at a local jjambbong place (video of the place here—I've never seen jjambbong that looks like a rib-sticking jjigae before, nor have I seen it served with a base of mandu), but the train we're taking back from the east coast won't arrive in Seoul until almost 10 p.m., so JW and I will eat while we're still on the east coast. Assuming we have time. I ought to be able to walk the route faster because I won't be taking a lot of pictures this time around, so I think JW and I will arrive at our destination with plenty of time to eat before we have to get on the train and sleep the sleep of the righteous. So yes, I'll be treating Saturday as a cheat day, or at least as a day for a cheat meal

A cheat day tomorrow (Friday), then a cheat meal on Saturday. The gods are not smiling upon my behavior, I'm sure, but I think this'll all work itself out. More on my health later.



some videos to share

These have been sitting in my archive for over a month.

Paul Joseph Watson on rich people prepping for the apocalypse:

Vegetable oil is unhealthy (but keto-heads have been aware of this for a while):

Stick to butter and beef tallow!

Finally, a study of Luke Skywalker and heroism:





a rocky first week back

Diet-wise, I could be doing better. I mean, I'm generally behaving myself in terms of carbs—I'm pretty much back on a gentler form of Newcastle, now, so I'm no longer hitting the sugar, but I know I could do better. Tuesday, a fasting day, went well for the most part, but I've been heavy on the calories on the days I do eat, and this Friday and the following Friday are my two October cheat days. 

The coworkers all acted like helpless husbands during the month I was gone, completely ignoring the food I'd prepared for them (Middle Eastern chicken and Italian sausage); it's all still in the freezer, except for the tomatoes, which spent a month in the office fridge along with the feta cheese, which I threw out after I smelled it and discovered it was rotten (the tomatoes, all wrinkly and dry, had to go, too). What a fucking waste. And why didn't the guys eat the food I'd made them? Because they were all too goddamn lazy to do the final prep work to feed themselves. I mean, how much effort does it take to thaw the chicken out and microwave it? How hard is it to prepare couscous, for God's sakes? With couscous, you just pour hot water into the pasta, add a knob or two of butter, close the container, and wait five minutes. But, no—my coworkers showed they had all become lazy husbands who expect someone else to do the damn cooking for them. So we'll all be eating my chicken on Friday; I've bought a new block of feta, and I guess I need to buy another box of cherry tomatoes. Jesus.

As for my nutrition—next week, I'll buckle down harder. Meanwhile, today (Thursday) is another fasting day, so here's hoping that that helps even out the damage.

Discipline is hard. And apparently, for my coworkers, minimal food prep is hard. Christ.



Wednesday, October 20, 2021

site-traffic stats blowing up

Somebody's glad I'm back to blogging here!

I had a 13,000-plus day yesterday in terms of site visits. Even if you halve that number to account for bots and other fakery, 6,500+ is still pretty damn good for me. Today, I've already racked up 3,000 visits, so who knows where I'll be by the end of the day?

Thanks for the visits, whoever you are!



via Bill—hilarious response to ecofascism in the home

So your daughter has been skipping school on Fridays as a way to demonstrate her ecological awareness and to protest against the horrible, horrible world created by all those eco-unfriendly adults (this is called FFF, or "Fridays for Future"). Well, two parents have apparently written an open letter to Greta Thunberg, student-eco-activist extraordinaire, thanking her for showing the way. Here's what the parents (in Germany) wrote (slightly edited for form and style):

Thanks, Greta… thanks, Fridays for Future!

Oh, oh... doors slamming, loud screaming...

Our daughter recently got back from more stupid FFF truancy. She was teed off because we didn’t pick her up (climate-friendly) and so she had to tough it out in a bus and train for 3 hours to get home.

After having a chalky vegan soy cake (only for her—we had real cheesecake) there was a surprise. She now has to take the bus to school in the morning. But that’s a drag because the bus only leaves every hour, and she either arrives at school an hour early or arrives too late. We suggested to stop heating the bus because it still uses oil. But she also doesn’t want to go by bicycle because of all the hills and grades—besides, soon it’ll be winter, and it’s too cold and windy. But she says she might consider the option if she gets an e-bike for Christmas.

“Christmas? But that’s totally anti-eco,” I told her. “All those lights and CO2 emissions from candles!” This sparked the first prepubescent protest, which was amazingly similar to her defiant phase between the ages of 2 and 3. "E-bike? Hasn’t our little daughter even seen the devastated areas that result from the extraction of rare earths for the batteries?"

Now, she’s sitting upstairs in her room at 8°C (46°F), moping. We have already turned off the heat there to be ecologically conscious. Maybe she’s keeping her fingers warm typing angry mails about her “shitty parents” to her friends on her iPhone. But here, we’ve announced to her that she will be rid of this iPhone at 7 p.m. After all, it’s irresponsible to keep wasting electricity to have more or less useful conversation and, secondly: again, the lithium extraction and its ecological consequences.

In response to her protests against this expropriation, we assured her in a calm voice that we would either send the iPhone directly to needy children in Africa, or sell it and then donate the financial equivalent to help save the South American rainforest.

But the real fun starts on Monday. That’s when we swap out her trendy clothes for jute, wool, and hemp-fiber-woven stuff. Her Nikes with the cool plastic soles will be replaced by Dutch wooden shoes. And if someone thinks this is satire: No, we are GOING THROUGH WITH IT!

If she then still screeches on, she has two possibilities:

1) recognize what brainless eco-fascists she’s listening to
2) recognize what brainless eco-fascists she’s listening to!

Thank you, Greta. You have inspired us, as no one else would have done in educational matters. Mommy and I have just shouted up to our daughter: "We’re going to McDonald’s; want to come along?" We hope the hysterical screaming will stop by the time we get back.