Friday, December 31, 2021

oh, here we go

From the Epoch Times, this little piece of delightful news:

Cuba Signs ‘Belt and Road’ Agreement With China

[You might not be able to see the article, which is an Epoch Times Premium piece.]


Cuba and China have signed a cooperation plan to push forward construction projects under Beijing’s controversial overseas infrastructure program, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has saddled many participating countries with heavy debt loads.

The Chinese Embassy in Cuba announced the agreement on its website on Dec. 26, saying that the deal was inked two days earlier by He Lifeng, head of China’s top economic planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission, and Cuban Vice Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas.

The agreement implemented a memorandum of understanding the two nations signed in 2018, when Cuba agreed to become a BRI participating nation.

Under the agreement, the two nations aimed to work together on projects in several key sectors, including communications, education, health and biotechnology, science and technology, and tourism, according to the Agencia Cubana de Noticias news agency.

The Chinese Embassy also stated that a timetable and a roadmap had been proposed to implement the projects, without giving details.

China launched the BRI in 2013 in an effort to build Beijing-centered land and maritime trade networks by financing infrastructure projects throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. In recent years, critics have denounced Beijing for using “debt-trap diplomacy” to lure countries into its initiative.

In a low point in my life, I came this close to signing on for a payday loan. For those who don't know, a payday loan is basically a deal with the Devil: the loan sharks will loan you what need, but you have to pay the entire loan back by your next payday, and the loan's APR is some batshit-crazy amount like 300%-600%. Poor, desperate countries eager for a quick cash infusion sign on with China's Belt-and-Road initiative and essentially become debt-slaves to China indefinitely, in the manner of a payday loan, but more painfully drawn out. 

You thought Greece had problems when it took loans from German banks instead of breaking away from the EU in a Grexit? As predatory as those German banks might be, they're nothing compared to what China is like. I almost feel sorry for Cuba, but the development really ought to send alarm bells clanging throughout the US: what's going to happen is that China will help itself to some of Cuba's major ports and essentially take them over. This will put Chinese power right on America's doorstep, and suddenly it's the Cuban Missile Crisis all over again, except this time with a much healthier adversary. 

Cuba, meanwhile, will have its soul sucked out from the inside as Chinese "soft power" takes the country over like a cancer. And just like Agent Smith assimilating his next victim, Cuba will ultimately become another copy of, another tentacle of, China. To all Cubans who remain in Cuba, I say: leave now. Don't wait for Biden to be out of office. Get the hell out while you can because your country is now fucked if it wasn't already fucked before.

Many countries have surrendered pieces of their sovereignty after failing to pay off Chinese debts. For example, China Merchants Port Holdings is now running Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port on a 99-year lease, after the South Asian country converted its owed loans of $1.4 billion into equity in 2017. Seizing the port has allowed Beijing to gain a key foothold in the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese regime has also sought to partner with countries rich in natural resources—such as African BRI participants Ghana and Zambia—in order to gain access to these raw materials to drive the Chinese economy.

It appears that China has its eyes set on Cuba’s natural resources, as a Chinese researcher told China’s state-run media outlet Global Times on Dec. 26 that the BRI agreement was good because China and Cuba “have strong economic complementarity.”

giving my body a break from the festival

While I've allowed myself to go fairly nuts for two weeks after my doctor's appointment, I can definitely feel that the loosening of dietary restrictions is taking a toll. Next year, I don't think I'll be quite so cavalier. It's actually kind of scary how quickly the symptoms of being fat and eating a bad diet will return when you allow yourself to fall off the wagon for longer than a day—weight gain, blurry vision, neuropathic pain in the feet, higher resting pulse, breathlessness, frequency of urination. These are all bad, bad signs, and they may indicate just how delicate a balance my health really is. So I'll consider this another lesson learned on the road to 90 kg. 

Today, then, I'm going to Newcastle it—a shake, chicken breast, and salad—and that's it for the day: a 24-hour break from the madness. Tomorrow, I'll do my 25K walk to Bundang along the new route with JW (fasting beforehand), then enjoy a last hurrah the rest of Saturday and all of Sunday before getting back to the grind on Monday. Also today, after a late lunch, I'll do a two-hour stroll and a walk up the building staircase to the 14th floor, just to remind my heart and lungs what true effort is.

the New Year's Eve plan and beyond

I'm gonna walk out to the Tan Creek (Charles long ago suggested translating Tan-cheon/탄천 as Coal Creek) Friday night so I can see the Lotte World Tower live at midnight. Will the Tower be as lame as last year? I hope not. 

Saturday morning, I'll be doing a 25K hike with my buddy JW down to Bundang; maybe there'll be photos. JW likes the idea of "starting the year off right" with a big walk; he's been like this ever since I got him addicted to distance walking. Last year, I was lazy and didn't walk on New Year's Day, but this year, I think I'm going to go along with JW's idea.

I think I had said, earlier, that I'd restart my dietary discipline on January 2, but that's a Sunday, so Sunday will instead be my last hurrah before restarting the discipline on January 3. A reminder of what the discipline will involve: MWF carnivore OMAD (one meal a day) @ 1986 calories max (yeah, I'm bringing back caloric limits); TR fasting; morning shake on Saturday, then nothing else; regular keto food on Sunday. Simple. 

Walking will continue as it did last year: MWF 140 minutes; TR 80 minutes + 1.5 staircases; long walk on Saturday; jump rope on Sunday. I still haven't figured out how I'm handling strength training, but I think I'll spend most of January trying to figure out what I can still do despite my shoulder. I also need to create calendars for my various other projects (books, learning Spanish, learning videography). That might also take most of January, although I do already have timelines for two of my book projects.

Elements of this blog post will be repeated in later blog posts.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

be sure to read the whole thing

From American Thinker:

Biden's comments about air travel create massive instability in America

One of the hallmarks of a failed country is that people cannot make plans for the future. In a stable country, people have jobs, save money, get married, have children, invest in homes, start businesses, travel for business and pleasure, and do hundreds of other routine tasks because they know that the underlying status quo of their country will be the same from day to day and year to year. That stability breeds prosperity and happiness.

In a tyranny, the future is too unpredictable to allow for any long- or short-term plans: money is devalued[,] and laws regarding everything from jobs to speech to travel change on an arbitrary and capricious basis. And none of those rules applies to the nomenklatura or politically favored class.

COVID has jettisoned the deliberation and stability that the Founders envisioned for a constitutional American republic. Instead, we have a gerontocracy: government by old people scared of a virus, desperate for power, disdainful of ordinary Americans, and deeply corrupt, whether morally or financially.

And still the left natters on about how the right is guilty of fearmongering.

beef on Weck redux

Unlike last time, I took pictures of my beef on Weck this time. Many thanks to my American coworker's pro-chef wife for making the elements of this wonderful sandwich from scratch. She made and baked the Kummelweck rolls; she apparently prepped beef tenderloin for the beef part, and she made a wonderful au jus with wine this time around (no au jus last time). she also made the horseradish sauce from scratch; I didn't ask about the mayonnaise.

So this time around, I was able to participate in what my coworker said was the traditional way to prep a beef on Weck: you dip one or both pieces of your bun into the au jus, a bit like the way some restaurants do a French dip. 

Three photos follow. The first was taken after I had already eaten most of the lovely sides. The next two were taken when I plated up for Round Two, and this time, I remembered not to eat the sides before taking the shot.

The wife apparently thought the buns had come out badly. I disagree.

The Missus also made the coleslaw and the jacket stuffed potato. This was a stem-to-stern meal.

Beef on Weck, in all its open-faced glory. Horseradish in foreground.

And that was lunch at the office. Nice way to finish the week (we have tomorrow off).

my scare for the morning

Around 9:30 a.m., our building's fire-alarm bell went off. It rang for a few minutes, then went quiet, then started ringing again thirty seconds later. On top of that, a computer voice came over the PA system (one of the Soviet aspects of living in a Korean apartment is the fucking PA system) telling us that a fire had broken out, and we were to leave immediately. Well, we all knew the drill: use the stairs. I dressed, bagged up my laptop and some hardware essentials (portable power pack, portable WiFi, cords), and headed out.

I live on the 14th floor of my building. Out of curiosity, I dodged into the 13th floor to hear whether the alarm was ringing there as well. It was. I shrugged and continued down the stairs until I reached our building's lobby. A bunch of folks were milling about along with some firefighters. I saw a fire truck parked outside the building's front, but sensed no urgency among the firemen. Sure enough, within about a minute of my arrival in the lobby, someone gave the all-clear. I looked to one of the concierges for confirmation and asked, "Is it over?" He nodded, so I headed for an elevator. As you might imagine, the elevator going back up was packed, but by the 14th floor, it had cleared out somewhat. Everything was quiet on 14 as I walked back to my apartment, and here I now am, blogging this post.

UPDATE: a subsequent PA announcement said the alarm had come from the 13th floor. After inspection, we were all given the all-clear (이상 없음/isang-eopseum), and voilà. I didn't understand the entire message; maybe it was a false alarm or a very minor fire. Am guessing false alarm. A former coworker who still lives on the 8th floor says she heard nothing except the fire trucks outside the building. No alarm, no PA, nothing.

"Old Henry": review

[This movie contains a major reveal that is essentially the story's punchline and absolutely cannot be spoiled. I will therefore do my best to make this a spoiler-free review.]

2021's "Old Henry" is written and directed by Potsy Ponciroli (what a name! he's also known for "Jay and Silent Bob Reboot" and "Ted K," a story about the Unabomber) and stars Tim Blake Nelson as the title character. Nelson had recently starred in the Coen Brothers' "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," and he was somewhat concerned that people would too closely associate his role in that Western with his role in this one. In terms of mannerisms and demeanor, though, the characters of Buster Scruggs and Old Henry are diametrical opposites, so there's nothing to confuse.

Old Henry (Nelson) ekes out a simple existence on a quiet farm in the very early 1900s. His wife died of tuberculosis years earlier, and Henry's only remaining family are his son Wyatt (Gavin Lewis) and his brother-in-law Al (Trace Adkins, country singer, and not a bad actor). A riderless horse wanders onto Henry's farm one day; the horse's saddle has blood on it, and Henry goes alone to trace where the horse came from. Henry finds a man near death; he takes him back to his homestead, and he and Wyatt begin to nurse the man back to health. The man has a gun and a bag full of money, and when he's well enough, he reveals his name to be Curry (Scott Haze). Curry claims to be a lawman, and he tells Henry he's being chased by three outlaws whose leader is Ketchum (Stephen Dorff, the baddie from the first "Blade" movie). Ketchum and two henchmen appear on Henry's farm, claiming to be lawmen looking for Curry and accusing Curry of pretending to be a lawman.

How this tension plays out, and who everybody really is, is the subject of the rest of the film. Certain elements of the story are predictable as they follow several of the standard storylines associated with Westerns and other action films. Wyatt is a young teen who's entered the rebellious phase; he wants to shoot a gun and ride far on hunting trips, but he has no real appreciation for who his father is and what Henry has done. Curry has certain memories from his past that he vaguely begins to associate with Henry, who seems more and more like a familiar face, and Henry has a reputation that's known widely enough for even "Sheriff" Ketchum to have noticed. The image of the old gun who has to fight one more time despite his misgivings, and of the son who finally learns something new and important about his father, are both fairly go-to Hollywood tropes.

Tim Blake Nelson has defied Hollywood convention to play a scruffy leading man here, and Nelson's acting basically carries the film. All the supporting actors are excellent in their particular roles, but Nelson is the focus of the movie, and our engagement with the story deepens as we find out more about Henry and his dark past until the reveal near the end blows everything wide open. The role of Henry could have gone to a slightly younger Clint Eastwood, but Nelson takes the part and makes it his own.

The film's cinematography is less interested in giving us wide vistas of farmland than in showing us the intimacy and loneliness of farm life, and while the film's pacing is occasionally slow, the story moves forward at a steady enough clip to keep us from getting bored. The slowness actually works in the film's favor because it allows for the building of tension that leads us to the story's violent third act. Granted, violent third acts are a dime a dozen in Westerns, but the violence here feels earned, not gratuitous.

I hadn't heard any buzz about this movie; I merely watched the preview trailer and found the trailer compelling enough for me to want to purchase the film on iTunes. It was a worthy purchase, as it turns out. Watch "Old Henry" with my enthusiastic blessing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Critical Drinker on "The Matrix Resurrections"

"This movie is quite literally the yin to No Way Home's yang—a boring, cynical, creatively bankrupt attempt to milk an old franchise for all it's worth, awkwardly retconning new ideas into a narrative that was already completed decades earlier, shat out by a past-her-prime filmmaker who doesn't seem to know why she's making this film, and featuring a mixture of creaky, middle-aged actors who can barely keep up with the action scenes, and a cast of forgettable, young hopefuls that are about as memorable and distinctive as a late-night visit to McDonald's."


Reid, back when he was mysteriously battered and bruised

Notable among a slew of recent celebrity deaths is the odious Harry Reid. Can't say I'll be shedding any tears for this man. Instapundit sums it up nicely:

Harry Reid is proud he lied about Mitt Romney’s taxes. “‘They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?’ Reid said during a wide-ranging interview. So, in Reid’s world, it is perfectly acceptable to make a defamatory charge against an opponent to damage his campaign.”

Reid was 82. While he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the cancer was declared in remission in 2019.

a slew of Epoch Times articles

I subscribed to The Epoch Times a while back, so I receive several emails daily from the paper, which has a more alt-media slant than your typical mainstream-media or corporate-media outlet. Here are a few recent articles:

‘Soft on Crime’ Policies Lead to Increasing Crime in Los Angeles: Former District Attorney

The District Attorney’s woke policies are contributing to the increase of not only the “smash-and-grab” robberies but other violent crimes in Los Angeles County as well, a former district attorney told the EpochTV’s “California Insider” program.

“In many cases, if they had a real prosecutor in Los Angeles, those crooks would be in prison. They would not be out committing these crimes,” Steve Cooley, the former three-term Los Angeles County District Attorney from 2000 to 2012, said in an interview that premiered last week. “So a lot of them have been released. … They’re taking advantage of the situation.”

Finland Man Blows Up His Tesla After Claiming to Face $22,000 Replacement Battery Bill

A man in Finland has blown up his Tesla vehicle with 66 pounds of dynamite in defiance over the cost of a new battery after he claimed to face a $22,000 repair bill.

Tuomas Katainen, who lives in Jaala village in south Finland’s Kymenlaakso, exploded his 2012 Tesla Model S at a former quarry in a video uploaded to YouTube.

The Tesla S model 2012 cost around $57,400 to $77,400 when it was released.

Tesla’s warranty covers battery replacements if the capacity drops below 70 percent within 150,000 miles or eight years of purchase, leaving some owners of the older models facing large repair bills.

The video, which is over eight minutes long, shows Katainen and a group of people loading the car with the dynamite before notably placing a dummy with Elon Musk’s face on it inside the car.

Lockdown Policies and Mask Mandates Linked With Lower IQ in Children: Psychiatrist

The nation’s recent lockdown policies and mask mandates will create a generation of children who exhibit lower IQs and signs of social brain damage, according to a clinical psychiatrist for children and adolescents.

Dr. Mark McDonald cited an Aug. 11 study by Brown University (pdf) that found that “children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic,” during an interview with host Cindy Drukier on a Dec. 25 episode of NTD’s “The Nation Speaks.” NTD is a sister media outlet of The Epoch Times.

The masks, “Zoom schools,” and lockdown mandates have led to “deprivation overall, of social contact, [of] not being able to see faces, being stuck at home all day long, [and this] has actually caused brain damage to the youngsters,” he said.

In another interview in the episode, professor Carl Heneghan, the director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, cited evidence that pandemic restrictions and the “fear we instill into children” has led to the worsening of psychological problems.

ending the year with saggy stats

I'll be under 20,000 visitors for the month of December—a limp way to end 2021, but things usually get saggy this time of year. To make 20,000 visitors in a month, I need a daily average of around 700 visits; this month, I had closer to 450 visits per day. My thanks to those who do come by regularly; stop lurking and start commenting!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

woman on plane goes nuts about masking

I'm a bit late to the party, but in the news is this incident that occurred on a Delta plane: a woman in her 50s, Patricia Cornwall, screamed at and physically assaulted an 80-year-old fellow passenger on the airplane for not wearing his mask. Cornwall herself, as she was haranguing the old man, had her own mask down around her chin, making her a hypocrite. Cornwall was arrested and detained upon landing in Florida, and she has a date with a courthouse in Atlanta, GA.

Here's PJW's take:

I've personally experienced two incidents of mask-Karening here in Korea, but both were relatively tame compared to what was going on with this nutjob. Over at Instapundit, where there's an entry about this incident, a lot of male commenters are talking about how they'd break the "never hit a woman" rule for this woman. While a primitive part of me understands the anger and wants to join these guys, the more civilized part of my brain recognizes that the old man did the right thing by not replying in kind (not that he'd have gotten far, as an 80-year-old man against a still-vigorous 50-something woman who used to be an L.A. Raiders cheerleader back in the 90s).

Neo vs. John Wick

As a fight-choreography junkie, I approve:

It's low budget, but the guys obviously all worked hard on this, and the two fighters are obviously legit martial artists, not stuntmen doing gymnastics.

two from PJW

Putin sees the woke mindset as a "virus":

Bringing the shithole with them:

That's the problem with the idiots: they have no idea that their own voting habits are the cause of the problem. They'll flock to red states and turn them into blue shitholes as well. There is no escape. The only solution is to turn and fight until the "virus" is gone. 

But who has the guts to do that?

a bit late, but an awesome Christmas mix

Samuel Kim combines the theme from "The Mandalorian" with "Carol of the Bells":

banana-cream pie

My first-ever attempt at banana-cream pie:

Above: bananas in place.

Above: with the whipped-cream topping.

Looks absolutely horrible when plopped onto a plate, but it tastes pretty damn good. Almond-flour crust, vanilla pudding with a half-teaspoon of banana extract plus crushed bananas, sliced bananas, homemade sweet whipped cream. I'll work on the pudding's texture and do a better job next time. But the taste is already dialed in, so at least there's that.

Monday, December 27, 2021

2021: taking stock

Yes, I've used this pic before. What can I say? It's so apropos.

It's the final week of 2021, so the time has come to assess the year—its events, my goals (and whether I fulfilled them), and how the past points me toward the future.

1. The Year in Review

I guess we'll start with the elephant in the room: this past May, I suffered a full-on ischemic stroke, which is a way of saying that blockages of circulation led to the killing of certain brain cells. I am now officially brain-damaged, but my recovery is probably somewhere around 90 to 95 percent. My fingers are still clumsy on keyboards when I type, so I know I'll never again type anywhere near 142 words per minute. I type fast enough to write lengthy blog posts without taking much longer than I used to, so I guess I'm okay even with my reduced abilities. Physically, I still have balance issues on stairs and when crossing creeks via those stone footbridges (jinggeom-dari in Korean), and while I can break into a short jog when on a bike trail, I can't break into a sprint or even a regular run. I haven't tried getting back onto my bike; I admit I'm kind of scared to try.

In the latter half of the year, my right shoulder mysteriously began aching. I held off going to the doctor because I thought that, like most of my aches and pains, this problem would go away after a while. It didn't, though, so I eventually visited the local orthopede and got diagnosed with frozen shoulder (called "50s shoulder" in Korean since it strikes people in their fifties). According to the physical-therapy videos I've watched online, the problem can last up to two or three years before the shoulder eventually unfreezes. I don't want to spend a chunk of my life with this problem, so I'll be doing the recommended therapy exercises over the coming year to try to accelerate recovery.

On a brighter note, I've enjoyed not having to deal with scholastic debt; I got rid of that debt in December of 2020. Took my time paying down my credit-card debt, but that, too has been manageable for a while, now. Next step is to begin investing; once I get my chunk of cash at the end of my current work contract (which got extended because our team is making the jump to a franchise branch of our company), I'll dump a few thousand dollars into investments, and we'll see what happens. With the global economy sagging the way it is, I'm not expecting much return on investment, but you never know. If ever there was a time to buy low, that time is now.

The pandemic rages on, but mostly in the minds of fearful, power-hungry politicians. Variants of COVID are becoming more communicable but even less deadly than they initially were; this is apparently consistent with what modern epidemiology tells us about viruses in such situations. I remain uninfected, although I do wonder, sometimes, whether I might have caught the virus at some point over the past two years. Both of my coworkers had COVID scares recently; my Korean coworker actually got infected, but my American coworker was merely tested for the virus after his daughter may have been exposed to it: he tested negative. It makes one wonder how one should feel about the virus and China: the urge is to blame China for unleashing this pestilence upon the world, but the pestilence has proven to be pestilential only for certain narrow demographics, i.e., the very old and the already-sick. US deaths from COVID are presumably around 800,000 now, but many of those deaths are more "death with COVID" and not "death from COVID." Statistics are definitely inflated. I think we ought to open everything back up, stop placing infected people in hospital beds when they don't need to be there, and either let the disease run its course or give people the option to take pills (only recently made available in some quarters, from what I understand).

This year, I've corresponded with my brothers only rarely. David doesn't really talk to me anymore; I don't know what sort of passive-aggressive bullshit he's up to, but I'm not going to beg him to talk if he doesn't want to talk. Sean has been more verbal, but even with Sean, conversations are extremely rare given how busy he is as a professional musician. I've probably talked more with my buddy Mike, over the past year, than I have talked with my brothers. Same goes for corresponding with my French family.

Saw "Dune" in the theaters, right before South Korea clamped down and decreed that only people with vaccine passes may patronize cinemas. I find myself wondering what it'd be like to move back to the States—specifically to a red state where pandemic restrictions are minimal. There are times when I'm sick enough of people in general to consider living as a hermit somewhere, but I don't yet have the cash reserves to indulge in such a life.

Did plenty of walking, especially after the stroke in May. Walked the east coast of South Korea from mid-September to mid-October; the route I took ended up being only 610 kilometers long, not the 720 kilometers that the east-coast trail is purported to be. At a guess, I went off book and followed some shortcuts that I shouldn't have. And while it's tempting to go back to the coast to figure out where I went wrong, the coastal walk, as a whole, was something of a turn-off, and I have no real desire ever to do a walk like that again. Too much traffic; too much civilization. Not enough quiet nature.

2. Meeting This Year's Goals

I set some goals for myself after I got out of the hospital in late May. A quick recap of the goals I'd set and where I hoped to find myself by the end of this year:

1. 50 pushups
2. 120 seconds' planking (front, 2 sides)
3. 2 pullups
4. walking: 30 km at 4.8 kph
5. building staircase, B1 to 26: 3 times
6. weight: 128 kg to 100 kg
7. fasting blood glucose: 95
8. resting heart rate: 65
9. blood pressure: 120/80

Those were the goals. I can judge my accomplishments by two standards: did I meet my goals, or did I meet my goals and maintain them? By the first standard, I did pretty well except for my strength-related goals. By the second standard, well, there's room for improvement, but the trends remain favorable.

1. 50 pushups (gave up)
2. 120 seconds' planking (front, 2 sides) (gave up)
3. 2 pullups (gave up)
4. walking: 30 km at 4.8 kph (accomplished very early on)
5. building staircase, B1 to 26: 3 times (reached goal before December 16)
6. weight: 128 kg to 100 kg (goal almost met [100.5 kg], not maintained)
7. fasting blood glucose: 95 (goal met several times, not maintained)
8. resting heart rate: 65 (goal met, not maintained)
9. blood pressure: 120/80 (goal met, not maintained)

The strength goals got tossed out the window once the shoulder pain became too much. Now that I know this frozen-shoulder problem is going to be with me for up to two years, though, I'm going to try strength training again in the upcoming year, but by finding ways around my problem, perhaps by doing certain exercises in a limited way, with only partial range of motion (half-pushups and the like). I will also be adding certain resistance-band-related exercise goals to the list after I figure out which ones to add.

Meeting my walking goal was the easiest of all the goals. Getting back into distance walking was a high priority for me, so I concentrated a lot on that from May onward, and I kept myself moving throughout the week, not just on weekends. Staircase training was harder, but I did hit the 3-staircase mark right before my December 16 doctor's appointment, so I consider that goal met. As I mentioned before, I'll be doing a maximum of 1.5 staircases from now on because I know that that's enough to get me into decent cardiovascular shape. I might get a wild hair and try doing three staircases again, but probably not for a while.

Things like heart rate and BP are a function of weight, so as long as I get back on track, come January, and continue to lose weight, I ought to see better numbers in those areas. Same for blood sugar: staying on a decent diet like carnivore ought to help radically with both fasting glucose and A1c. It's all about minimizing the carbs. I'm taking it easy right now, having decided to enjoy the final two weeks of the year, but things will crank up into high gear once January 2 rolls around. Overall, I'm a lot healthier now than I was when I had my stroke. I'm going to make sure that that trend continues.

3. New-year Resolutions

For 2022, the focus is going to be on body recomposition. This is kind of the next phase in training. I'm starting to meet the basic requirements for a healthy body, so now it's time to focus on recomposing my body. What this primarily means is losing body fat and gaining muscle. The bathroom scale is going to be much less of a factor, this year, than it was last year because, per unit volume, muscle is denser than fat, so if I'm losing fat and gaining muscle, I probably shouldn't expect much change in weight. Nevertheless, I've set 90 kg as my goal weight (that might go down to 85 kg, depending), and I aim to reach that weight by the end of July next year. The carnivore diet will be key, but exercise will also be crucial, especially exercise of the muscle-building kind: when you increase your muscle mass, you increase your metabolism, which means you burn more calories even when you're just sitting around.

So getting back to my goals for the coming year:

1. 50 pushups (same goal as for 2021)
2. 120 seconds' planking (same goal)
3. 2 pullups (same goal)
4. walking: 30 km at 4.8 kph (maintaining)
5. building staircase, B1 to 26: 1.5 times (maintaining)
6. weight: 85-90 kg (pref. by the end of July)
7. fasting blood glucose: 95 (maintaining)
8. resting heart rate: 65 (get there and stay there)
9. blood pressure: 120/80 (get there and stay there)
10. body fat percentage: ???? (I'll get back to you)
11. ketone count: 1.5 or higher (I'll get back to you)

For new goal #10, I'll need to buy one of those scales that can measure your body fat. I don't know how accurate these things are, so I'll have to research them. Once I get such a scale, I'll need to measure how much body fat I currently have, then figure out what a reasonable one-year fat-loss goal might be. For goal #11, I need to buy a decent ketone meter, but on Amazon, they seem to be out of all the good ones. So this goal might have to wait.

In terms of walk projects, I'm thinking I'd like to walk all 20-something legs (425 km) of the Jeju Olle path, which follows the perimeter of Jeju Island, but if I need a vaccine pass to get on a domestic flight, then those plans will be scrapped. Instead, I'll likely do the Four Rivers path again (since it's my old friend at this point), or I might do a combination of lake walks and a walk to the Andong Dam. I'm still mulling my options. Aside from that, I can only hope that, in 2022, the world's politicians let go of their fear, release their death grip on the levers of power, and allow their citizens to breathe free.

This coming year, I'm also going to take up Spanish. My buddy Mike wants to hike the Camino de Santiago when we're 60 (let's hope the pandemic is declared over by then), so I figure that at least one of us needs to be able to speak some Spanish to help us get around. A polyglot Brit named Olly Richards (eight languages, degree in applied linguistics) has an interestingly designed story-based Spanish course that I plan to take; I hope to be at around intermediate level by the end of next year. If I apply myself, it can happen.

So there's my year in review, plus a look forward to 2022. I forgot to mention that 2022 will be, in principle at least, the year that two of my book projects will come to fruition. I also hope to start learning more about things like video podcasting, photography, and videography, all in an effort to establish an online presence and start selling some books. I will also be joining Substack early next year, so stay tuned for more news on that.

the media's priorities

As seen on Instapundit:

ADDENDUM: and then there's this:

Lefties, don't even start with your pious and hypocritical "civility" and "respect the presidency" bullshit. After years of incivility toward President Trump, you have no leg to stand on. The best thing you could do would be to let this go. Like all things in the media, this will fade unless you continue to obsess over it.

"Boss Level": review

Frank Grillo (L) as Roy Pulver faces off against Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson)

At the recommendation of normally cynical YouTube movie reviewer The Critical Drinker, I hunted down the movie "Boss Level," eventually finding it available as a Blu-ray. It's one of my happier Blu-ray purchases: "Boss Level" is good, stupid fun filled with "Zombieland"-style violence and gore overlaid with an 80s-era action-movie aura. Directed by Joe Carnahan (of "Smokin' Aces" fame) and starring action-movie workhorse Frank Grillo (who also produced this film), 2021's "Boss Level" had originally been intended for a 2019 release but, you know, pandemic. Grillo plays ex-Delta Force commando Roy Pulver (Pulver is German for "powder"; it's where we get the term pulverize), who has been sucked into a causality loop in the style of "Groundhog Day" or "Edge of Tomorrow." 

Every day, a little after 7 a.m., Pulver wakes up to an assassin with a machete who tries to kill both him and the hot blonde he'd been sleeping with the night before. Every time Pulver dies, the day resets, but as in "Groundhog Day" and "Edge of Tomorrow," Pulver retains his consciousness from life to life, which allows him to learn from his previous mistakes (as well as remember what various deaths feel like) and get further through each day by memorizing routines as a whole host of assassins descends upon him. 

As Pulver gets farther along with every attempt, he learns more about his situation: his ex-wife Jemma Wells (Naomi Watts) is a scientist working for ex-military heavy Clive Ventor (Mel Gibson, looking tired and a bit saggy); Jemma has been working on something called the Osiris Spindle, which will allow its user—presumably Ventor—to rewind time/causality and to reset history on a large scale. 

A major complication, though, is that repeated use of the spindle technology can fray the fabric of reality, threatening to bring about the end of the entire planet.  No one except Roy knows that Roy is living through causality-loops, though, so no one but Roy is aware the technology is actually working, and that Earth's demise is imminent. 

A major subplot of the film is Roy's discovery that Jemma's son Joe (Rio Grillo, Frank's real-life son, who turns out not to be bad as child actors go) has been skipping school to engage in video-game competitions. When Roy reaches a point where he has learned how to evade his various killers and have a breather, he takes advantage of this period of calm to reconnect with Joe, who doesn't know that Roy is his father.

How did Roy initially get sucked into the spindle's causality loop? Can he shut the whole thing down before the whole planet is destroyed? Will Roy ever have a chance at a normal life with his son, or is he doomed to evade assassins forever? And why are there assassins after him, anyway? To answer any of these questions is to spoil crucial parts of the movie, so I'll leave these questions aside and talk about other aspects of the film.

It should be noted that this is a genre-straddling action-comedy. "Boss Level" in no way takes itself seriously, except insofar as it explores Roy's relationship with his son, and to a lesser extent, with his ex-wife. Aside from those two possibly profound aspects of the movie, "Boss Level" doesn't intend to be anything other than a goofy action flick involving a lot of ultraviolence. Roy meets all manner of deaths: he's shot, stabbed, and beheaded any number of times. One of the funnier assassins is named Guan Yin (as the movie notes, Guan Yin is the name of a Chinese goddess of compassion—she is also, for what it's worth, in the Buddhist pantheon as a bodhisattva of compassion). Every time Guan Yin kills Roy, she triumphantly declares, "I am Guan Yin, and Guan Yin has done this." Ken Jeong has a minor role as a bartender; his best line, sounding an awful lot like something TJ Miller might say in "Deadpool," is "You look like Death taking a dump." So, no: this isn't a serious film.

Joe Carnahan brings his trademark ADHD sensibilities to the action genre; he's the perfect director to marry video-game concepts like respawning with action-movie tropes like blood and guts, thanks to his rapidfire editing and his eye for artistic carnage. This is the sort of movie that benefits when someone like Carnahan or Matthew Vaughn ("Kingsman," "Kick-Ass") or Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland") is at the helm. You need someone who can combine violence and humor effectively.

The film is, in fact, suffused with dark humor as Roy dies again and again, and as Roy finds clever ways of dispatching his enemies, again and again. Some of the fight choreography is a little lame when it comes to swords, but the gunplay is entertaining enough, and Roy's attempts to reconnect with Joe provide the movie with a richer-than-expected emotional dimension. Michelle Yeoh makes an appearance as a champion swordswoman who teaches Roy how to handle a sword and hopefully defeat Guan Yin. She doesn't play a huge role, but I have to think that Yeoh was a good sport to lend her martial talents to this sort of movie.

If you're looking to turn your brain off for two hours, and you're into 80s-style throwback action flicks, "Boss Level" is the movie for you. Don't go in expecting world-shaking revelations (although the movie's ending might surprise you); don't expect to be moved to tears by actors acting their hearts out (although Grillo proves to have surprising range and comic timing). This is an action movie in the classic vein, with a hero fighting his way up the ladder to save the ones he loves (along with the planet), all while a time bomb ticks away. 

Actually, that last thing might be the movie's one major flaw: while we're told that repeated use of the spindle can fracture reality, we're never given a sense of how quickly or slowly that fracturing is occurring as Roy repeats his horrible day. So there's a ticking clock, of sorts, but we don't know how fast it's ticking. Luckily, the script provides enough tension in other areas to make up for this problem, which is ultimately more of a minor nitpick than a huge flaw in the story. Watch "Boss Level" with my blessing.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

using up leftover pie dough

Chicken pot pie!


Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu has died at the age of 90. He is probably best known for his work against South African apartheid and his attempt at national healing through a Truth and Reconciliation commission that heard the confessions of people in power who had committed all manner of atrocities against black. The committee preached forgiveness instead of vengeance against those who had confessed. While today's South Africa seems to have veered wildly off the conciliatory track intended by people like Bishop Tutu and President Nelson Mandela, Tutu will still be remembered as a powerful voice for peace and forward progress freed from the shackles of the past. If only South Africa could remember this. RIP.

hot off the meme-press

Saturday, December 25, 2021

the gift quiche

To my buddy JW and his family:

The family couldn't wait, so they dug in right away, and everyone proclaimed it tasty. JW told me I should go entrepreneurial and start a restaurant. Obviously, the quiche isn't that good, but I'd settle for starting a food truck. 

your Christmas laugh for the day

Seen in the Instapundit comments section:

As to the long-running argument about whether "Die Hard" qualifies as a Christmas film, I proudly vote YEA!

a few images from today's walk

25K in -8°C weather isn't exactly a picnic, but it was a beautiful day for a walk all the same. Not many bikers out, as was to be expected, but there were more walkers than I'd anticipated. Here are a few shots from the latter part of the walk:

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to one and all. I probably won't have any time to write until tonight, so I thought I should lead off with the obvious.

Friday, December 24, 2021

the reviews are coming in:
"The Matrix Resurrections" is a big, fat turd

Here's a review whose take is pretty typical (no spoilers):

I have a feeling I'm going to be skipping out on this, just as I'm skipping out on a lot of other aspects of pop culture such as "The Book of Boba Fett," the third season of "The Mandalorian," and pretty much anything else that's been infected by woke ideology.

For me, the big hint that something was massively wrong was Keanu Reeves's decision (I assume it was his decision) to play Neo while looking like John Wick. Lazy. Genre-confusing. And kind of sad. From what I'm hearing, the new film poses no new deep, philosophical questions and does nothing new in terms of special effects and fight choreography. There's nothing revolutionary here. Words and phrases like "too meta" and "crawling up its own ass" keep popping up in these reviews, and the overall effect is that I'd rather just retreat to the first film of the first trilogy (although I have said before that I like the second movie in that trilogy enough to think the series should have ended right there, given how the second movie rather cleverly subverts everything we think we know from the first movie). 

It's a shame, too, because I've heard the new film is, along with being a self-aware critique of the film industry, a love story focusing on Neo and Trinity (with Trinity proving to have the powers of the One this time). I wouldn't mind exploring that love story at all, especially through the rich language of myth, but it seems Lana Wachowski wanted to continue down the postmodernist rabbit hole instead, which is why critics are responding so unfavorably to the film. Postmodernism, as a philosophy informing an artistic message, can actually work in the realm of art: look at Tarantino's films, which are almost all thoroughly postmodern. But PoMo can also lead to meaningless pretentiousness—philosophical fluff of no importance: sound and fury signifying nothing.

So I think I'll pass. Maybe I'll see it when it's out on home video, but it probably won't merit more than a one-paragraph review. The sense of fun that animated 1999's "The Matrix" left the building with its sequels and never came back. A nearly two-decade hiatus hasn't changed that fact. As one critic said, if you're going to replace some of the previous actors with new ones, why not just reboot the entire franchise, populating it with all-new characters?

the quest for Stollen ends in failure

I trained out to Apgujeong Station to visit Hyundai Department Store's massive bakery section, absolutely sure that at least one of the bakeries or pastry shops there would have to be selling Stollen at Christmas. I walked every inch of that space, but it was all in vain. There was no Stollen to be found, and I didn't have the heart to look anywhere else. Saddened, I took a taxi home, not wanting to spend any more time inside the bacteria factory that is Seoul's subway system. Alas, the taxi driver proved to be something of an idiot, too, forcing me to repeat my destination to him six or seven times before he finally understood, and that only soured my mood further. I came home too discouraged to go out again and deliver the newly baked quiche to JW; I'll do it tomorrow after I'm back from my Christmas walk.

Tonight, I'll just do what I can to calm back down, eat a personal-size quiche I just baked with the remainder of my quiche filling and custard, have some ice cream for dessert, watch a movie called "Boss Level," then crawl into bed so I can have a walk fairly early tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe I'll look for Stollen again. It might be on sale somewhere in or near Itaewon.

as I've been saying

If a vaccine isn't supposed to protect you from illness or prevent you from spreading it to others, what the hell is it supposed to do? The lame answer coming from our government is something like, "It means that, if you're infected, it'll cut down on your hospital stay" or some such bullshit. To me, that means your vaccine isn't a vaccine. (And, technically, the COVID jab isn't a vaccine: it's more along the lines of gene therapy.) Anyway, it should be pretty well established by now that getting the jab is no guarantee you won't get infected. My best buddy in the States got jabbed, and he emailed me last night to say he's now infected, along with his wife and son. And just to add icing to the cake:

‘95 Percent’ Fully Vaccinated Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Reports COVID-19 Outbreak


Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas won’t dock at the island nations of Aruba and Curacao this week following an onboard COVID-19 outbreak involving some 55 passengers and crew members, the firm said.

All passengers aged 12 and older[,] and crew members[,] have to show proof they’ve been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to board the ship, according to the cruise line’s policy.

“The decision was made together with the islands out of an abundance of caution due to the current trend of COVID-19 cases in the destinations’ communities as well as crew and guests testing positive on board,” Royal Caribbean said in a statement Thursday to news outlets.

The cruise was slated to make stops in Aruba and Curacao. Now, the ship will stay at sea until its regular scheduled return on Dec. 26.

At least “55 crew members and guests, representing 1.1 percent of the onboard community,” tested positive, Royal Caribbean added in its statement. “The cruise sailed with 95 percent of the onboard community fully vaccinated.”

“Each guest’s regimen must include at least two doses of vaccine unless the guest received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” according to Royal Caribbean’s website. “This guidance is per the U.S. CDC, and no exceptions will be made, even if the guest’s resident country has authorized a single-shot regimen for a two dose vaccine.”

So you have to wonder why the vaxx rate is only 95% if the requirement is that all guests and crew have to be vaxxed. Anyway, even with almost everyone on board jabbed twice, there were still infections. Guys, I hate to break it to you, but the jab means nothing. Boosters mean nothing. The virus will do what it will. Catch the Wu-flu, get it over with, enjoy your immunity thereafter. If your freedom is restricted because you're un-jabbed, well, I'd rather be un-jabbed and unfree, at this point, than jabbed and likely immunocompromised thanks to a defective chemical coursing through my veins.