Saturday, April 30, 2022

I might be your cause of death

My buddy Mike sent me the following graph. Look carefully down the list:

So, just under liver disease, your cause of death might be Kevin. I had no idea I wielded so much power over the fates of millions. If the current global population is 7.9 billion people, then 1.2% of that number is still a whopping 94.8 million people whose deaths are on my hands. I may not kill as many people as cardiovascular disease, but I kill more than Parkinson's. I hope my mom is proud of me and my achievements.



Russell Brand on the Trump phenomenon

I was actually impressed by Brand's take on Trump. He calls Trump out for exaggerating his own achievements (which I think is justified; Trump constantly uses hyperbole, and he does monomaniacally talk about himself all the damn time), but Brand gives Trump credit for forthrightness and relatability, and he ends his video with the very challenging claim that the people who truly wish to criticize Trump need to come from a place of absolute integrity, but at least in the political realm, such people don't exist. In the end, voting for Trump and his policies isn't a matter of liking the man: I sure don't. You have to judge him on his qualities as a leader with a vision, not on his ability to be charming at parties.





MiniTrue

Everyone's talking about the Biden administration's new Disinformation Governance Board, which was created in direct response to Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter. Most commenters are latching on to the idea that the new branch of government is essentially Orwell's dystopian Ministry of Truth (nicknamed "Minitrue" in Orwell's novel 1984). Here are some vids to that effect. First, Matt Walsh:

Next, Paul Joseph Watson:

This is a desperate move by the left that's doomed to be short-lived if the Republicans somehow overcome election fraud and retake the White House in 2024. What goes up must come down. Meanwhile, the left has installed an insane woman, Nina Jankowicz, to head this new governance board up, and based on her operatic warbling, she truly is batshit crazy (although she does admittedly have a decent singing voice—see above videos).

UPDATE: Jankowicz in 2020 was singing a very different tune about disinformation. (Disturbingly, the linked article sloppily spells her surname "Jackowicz" at points, but Wikipedia assures me it's "Jankowicz.")



next movie reviews

This weekend, I'm going to rewatch—and then finally review—"In Bruges." And since my Blu-ray copy of "Zack Snyder's Justice League" finally arrived (I couldn't find it on streaming video, so I bought the Blu-ray), I'm going to watch and review that as well. I've heard a lot of good things about "the Snyder Cut," as it's been called. It's supposedly light-years better than "the Josstice League," a reference to the fact that Joss Whedon—normally associated with Marvel projects like the Avengers films—took over directing "The Justice League" after Snyder had to leave the set to deal with his daughter's suicide. Grim.

Anyway, stay tuned. More reviews to come.



"The Way": review

2010's "The Way" stars Martin Sheen and is written, produced, and directed by Sheen's son, Emilio Estevez. I think the last time I really sat down and watched this movie was before I took my first big walk across South Korea in 2017. As a now-veteran distance walker who will eventually be doing the trail shown in the film—the Camino de Santiago—I found it a treat to go back, rewatch this movie, and finally review it after all these years.

"The Way" is the story of ophthalmologist Dr. Tom Avery (Sheen), a man secure in his work and of a fairly conservative temperament, who receives news that his estranged son Daniel (Estevez, in flashbacks and visions) has been killed in a storm in the Pyrénées mountain range after he had barely started to walk the French route of the Camino de Santiago (The Way of St. James). The Way, which actually consists of nine separate pilgrimage routes (the French Way is the longest and the most popular), terminates at the church of Santiago de Compostela in the city of Galicia, Spain. Tom leaves America to pick up his son's remains in France. While in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Tom learns a bit about the Way and its spiritual significance from a local French police captain (Tchéky Karyo), then decides to have his son's body cremated. Tom takes Daniel's ashes, along with Daniel's equipment, and decides to walk the entire Camino to Galicia despite having no training.

As he walks, Tom inadvertently collects walk partners. First is Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), a plump and jovial Dutchman who says he's doing the walk to lose weight. Next is the angry, bitter, and cynical Canadian Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), who is ostensibly on this pilgrimage to quit smoking. Sarah—and this is back in 2010, mind you—calls Tom "Boomer" long before that term became associated with the expression, "Okay, Boomer." Last is troubled Irishman Jack (James Nesbitt, maybe better known as Bofur the dwarf in the Hobbit movies), a travel writer suffering from writer's block and looking for inspiration.

Tom's walk comes freighted with a few adventures and misadventures: Tom loses his backpack—and thus Daniel's ashes—when his pack drops off a bridge at one point when Tom is very tired. He swims in the river to retrieve his belongings. Later on, Tom's pack is stolen by a Romani kid before the child's father angrily forces his son to return the pack to Tom. Along the Way, Tom takes out Daniel's ashes and sprinkles handfuls here and there as a way of honoring his boy. Tom occasionally sees wordless visions of Daniel, often in crowds, and we come to know that this is one way in which Tom, who starts off as a gruff and distant person, is processing his grief. Tom starts to open up, though, and a friendship forms among the four walkers—separate in their goals, but united in their determination to make it to Galicia.

The movie takes its sweet, unhurried time, allowing the story to unfold at its own pace. The cinematography is gorgeous, offering us viewers some beautiful vistas and panoramas of the Spanish countryside as the weather gets colder. While some parts of the film feel a bit contrived (pretty much anything involving Jack the writer feels forced and unwontedly Shakespearean), the movie has a good heart, and it's realistic enough not to end with everyone accomplishing their goals (e.g., losing weight, quitting smoking, etc.). There is one moment of closure for Tom, though, and the promise of a new beginning in the story's final scene.

Overall, "The Way" is recommended viewing. Its characters are fleshed out well enough for us to care for them, and some of the conflicts, as they play out, allow us to understand and sympathize with people who, at first, may seem unpleasant and unlikable. The film's visuals are sumptuous, and the scenes with the Romani people are tastefully done, without falling into parody or exaggeration.

Lastly, here's my evaluation, as a walker, of the film's portrayal of distance walking. The most unrealistic aspect of "The Way" is how Martin Sheen's character simply starts an 800-kilometer trek using equipment that is not his own and having undergone zero training for the walk. Conceivably, Tom Avery could do such a walk even without training because the very act of walking can toughen you up as you go, but a more realistic film would show us a Tom who has to stop frequently because of hot spots and blisters on his feet: even if he's in good enough cardiovascular shape to handle the weight of a pack and all those Spanish hills at the age of 60-plus, it's very hard to believe that Tom could simply plunge into this sort of walk problem-free. In fact, the film makes a point, at the very beginning, of showing Tom golfing and using a golf cart to drive short distances instead of walking: the man is soft and lazy. This scene may have been put into the film to prepare us for how much Tom has changed by the end—when he's become an inveterate distance walker—but my point is that you don't go from riding around in golf carts to walking 800 km on a hilly trail in the course of a single week. That, right there, is my strongest critique of the film. Otherwise, as I looked over everyone's gear and watched their behavior as they hiked each segment of the Camino, I thought everything else about the hike was handled fairly plausibly. People do indeed stop for a piss alongside a trail; when they reach town, they do often gravitate to the nearest eatery to appease their grumbling stomachs. At the beginning of such a journey, many people do indeed find they have trouble sleeping because of the radical change in environment from "the real world" to the trail. Camping can also be an uncomfortable experience the first time you do it, and it is certainly possible to do something as stupid as lose your backpack off a bridge if you're tired and not careful. You'd think that walking a long trail would be a fairly simple, straightforward act, but human beings are great at making things difficult for themselves, and that, too, is one of the harsh lessons taught by the Camino.

"The Way" isn't a perfect film, but its heart is definitely in the right place. Watch the movie for the beautiful Spanish scenery, for the interesting and amiable characters, and for the quietly uplifting story, which doesn't preach anything miraculous, but which quietly suggests that while long journeys might not provide you the particular solace you seek, you can end up deeply transformed all the same. Long walks are like that.


Friday, April 29, 2022

two contrasting views on (among other things) lifestyles

Let's start at 3:05 in this Russell Brand video (embedded earlier) and go to about 4:06:

That sure sounds a lot like libertarianism, or something close to it: you do you, and let me do me. Don't tell me how to live my life, and I won't tell you how to live yours. In this framework, tolerance is an essential value. Now, let's look at this Matt Walsh video, starting at about 3:55:

Walsh is framing his argument from the perspective of objective reality, and his viewpoint, while honest, is certainly much less tolerant, and here we can see a crucial difference between a (presumably) libertarian point of view and a more decidedly conservative point of view. Walsh is saying the subjective can never trump the objective: incorrect usage of pronouns, etc., is a form of lying, and people deserve the truth. A person with a Y chromosome is objectively male; a person without a Y chromosome is objectively female.

I see and actually accept many of Walsh's points, but I think I sympathize more with Brand's seeming libertarianism than with Walsh's starker, less tolerant take. I've previously said that I have no trouble, for example, referring to a drag queen as "she." I know the drag queen is biologically male, but I'm willing to make the allowance that this person, for whatever reason, identifies as female. Walsh rejects the sex/gender dichotomy because he sees it as delusional; I see the dichotomy as a road to tolerant coexistence, and while I'd concede that the objective trumps the subjective, there has to remain room for the subjective: that's where individuality lies. The subjective has weight; it matters. What do I care, after all, about what's happening inside your head, and what business is it of mine? As long as you're not hurting or oppressing anyone else, I have no reason to care what you do or how you think. This is, overall, more in line with what Russell Brand is saying than with what Matt Walsh is saying.

I find Matt Walsh useful to listen to because, as I'm discovering through his videos, he tends to be a pretty clear thinker. But he's also a strictly doctrinaire thinker, which makes me view him and his intolerance (for lack of a better word) with caution. I've seen enough of his videos to know he doesn't actively wish harm upon the trans community, but he often comes dangerously close to accusing that community of being a gang of liars and insane people. I appreciate the aggressive caution he brings to the issue of "grooming" children; in such instances, I find I'm thoroughly on Walsh's side. Little kids are far too young to know what they want; in the above speech, Walsh notes that his own kid couldn't decide what he wanted at a restaurant, so how on earth can a kid that age make major decisions about his sexual future? I think Walsh also points out, later on during a Q&A session, that the whole "trans" thing is much more a problem in richer societies than in poorer ones: poor people from desperately poor countries can't even understand or relate to "trans" issues.

That said, I think Russell Brand's notion of peaceful coexistence in a libertarian spirit is more where I'm at. I don't want to live my life angry and cautious and tribal all the time, always on the alert for a new thing to be offended by. That, ironically, is what so many on the left are doing these days. I'd rather live among people who can take a joke, who don't mind occasionally ribbing and offending each other, yet who see it as a genuine plus to be exposed to different perspectives and ways of living. Exposure to difference gives us all a chance to learn and grow. On the other hand: what is the cut-off age for when it's appropriate to talk to kids about "trans" issues? I don't know. I personally think kids do need to gain some understanding of today's sexually polymorphic reality, but teach them about it below third grade? No. Absolutely not. 

I'm trying to express a nuanced view, here; I don't think the world is as black and white as Walsh makes it out to be, but at the same time, it should be obvious that there are some limits to acceptable discourse. Tolerance is necessary, but it's not infinite. It can't be.



lasagna/focaccia lunch

The coworker's wife did not disappoint. Behold, lasagna and focaccia:

I took a shot of the loaf before it all disappeared (mainly down my gullet):

You can see some of the Jeju-picked gyul (tangarines) off to the side, along with a healthy chunk of the remaining lasagna, all of which was gone by the end of the day:

The lasagna had an interesting array of veggies in it. Carrots are often used in Italian red sauces, so their presence didn't surprise me, but what did surprise me were the green beans, which I would never have thought to put in the sauce. They were good, as it turned out: they added texture, and their taste was muted enough not to overwhelm the dish with green-beaniness. Also in the mix were more classical things like mushrooms, and the meat was actually my own home-ground sausage. My Korean coworker ended up plucking the sausage out of his food, which I found disappointing, but I'm beginning to realize he's a bit of a picky eater. When I called him out about the sausage, he tried dodging the issue by saying he'd simply eaten his fill, and that that little pile of meat was all that was left of the lasagna. 

Uh-huh.

The focaccia tasted fantastic, but because of how it was transported (totally covered), the crust got a bit soggy and ended up being soft. My Korean coworker, while not exactly complaining about the bread, said that he liked crunchy crusts better. Personally, I also thought that my bread from the day before was a bit better than the Missus's bread today, but this isn't to say her product was bad at all: it was tasty, and I probably ate nearly half the loaf myself. She's made focaccia for us before, and she obviously knows what she's doing.

Below—my second plate of food, consisting of the remaining 'sagna and bread:

All in all, a really good lunch that I didn't have to cook. And today's technically a cheat day (true, I cheated a lot yesterday), so I'll be back to the discipline tomorrow, fasting most of the day. There's always a price to be paid for these binges.



a slew of videos

If YouTube ployglots were honest:

Amber Heard (now involved in a defamation trial brought on by Johnny Depp) gets around:

Probably the most important Russell Brand vid I've watched... I wanna discuss this later:

Brutal shotgun-on-dummy action:

Hilarious on-the-street interviews:




Thursday, April 28, 2022

Fauci apparently comes around, but...

Here's an article saying that Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks the US is out of the pandemic phase, i.e., the pandemic is (almost) officially over. Problem is, the lockdown-loving liberals who have been drooling about following the science now find themselves without a reason for any more witch hunts. Sorry, assholes! The fun had to end sometime!

From the article:

As Americans and the rest of the world have passed the two-year mark since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Anthony Fauci, otherwise known as “Science Itself,” appeared with Judy Woodruff on the PBS New Hour on Tuesday to discuss the state of COVID in the U.S.


In a rather surprising statement coming from Fauci/The Science, he declared the pandemic phase in the U.S. as being all but over. This of course sent liberals over the edge.


[...]


This announcement sent the left into an angry tailspin, shocked and saddened by the conclusion of Dr. Fauci.

Several factors are in play, not least of which is an expected drubbing of the Democrats this coming November as people vote to show how much they think the liberal party has screwed the pooch over the past two years. Some policy nerds think a lifting of restrictions will benefit the Democrats; others think the Democrats are relying on continued COVID restrictions to help influence the vote in November. I should also note that, if Dr. Fauci is indeed saying the pandemic is over, this doesn't mean anything unless and until we see real action showing that the authorities believe the pandemic to be over. 

Here in Korea, I expect the incoming conservative administration to start doing away with many vestigial COVID-related restrictions, but I think the last obstacle to fall will be masks. I think masks will prove to be a psychological hurdle that's hard to surmount for three reasons: (1) because Korean politicians are too afraid to take any sort of extreme initiative, (2) because Korean citizens—many of whom are, admit it or not, naturally superstitious—think of the mask as a protective talisman that they fear to remove lest the mysterious miasma of COVID take them,* and (3) because Koreans, being East Asians, have used masks since long before the current pandemic, i.e., masking is an ingrained habit. Government policy in South Korea, as my buddy Charles pointed out to me months ago, is that you don't need to wear a mask while outside, yet Koreans continue to do so religiously. There is definitely something vaguely religious or magical going on when it comes to masks and the realities of government policy. This is a ripe topic of study for anthropology students, and a good way to see how predictive of a science anthropology can be. So, anthro-nerds, what happens next?

UPDATE: as per usual, Fauci has done his characteristic flip-flop: the pandemic is NOT over, he now says. Never trust a word out of that man's mouth. But follow the science! Right?

__________

*I'm not saying Koreans are robotically monolithic. I've seen, and still see, plenty of defiant Koreans who go around either maskless or with their masks on their chins, exposing their faces. People might be religious, but they aren't (all) stupid, and this defiance is even more visible when you leave the big cities. As I've said before, people on the country's east coast are routinely maskless; a lot of them either don't care or don't buy the authorities' rhetoric.



no-knead bread: victory!

At the office! The boss isn't here today because his COVID isolation doesn't end until midnight, so he's missing out on what was, for once, a clear-cut culinary victory. The bread did indeed come out well, and I'm even more convinced, now, that this is a super-forgiving recipe.

The inside crumb of the bread was dense but soft, and the contrast with the crunchy outer crust was exquisite; my choice to paint the outside with two coats of that butter-olive-oil-salt mixture was the right move, although I did need to re-bake the bread this morning to firm up the crust. The bread, at least while it was fresh, was good enough to eat without any extras like butter, hummus, or herbed cream cheese. 

dense crumb, but soft, and the contrast with the butter-painted outer crust was almost focaccia-like

with the dill-garlic-cayenne cheese spread

gotta give some love to the cream-cheese spread (my own dill, garlic, and cayenne)

honest-to-God hummus this time—no cauliflower

This bread will make an appearance on other cheat days. It's very easy to make even if you don't have a Dutch oven. I survived with just a baking tray and a tented tin-foil top. The high-hydration dough, though wet, was firm enough to form something like a perky boule on the bottom of the baking tray. I did, however, follow the recipe's advice to leave a cupcake tin full of water on the lower rack to provide the bread with extra moisture while it did its initial baking. The final 15 minutes of the bake involved removing the water, uncovering the bread, and using my top burner to give the loaf a nice suntan, which I kept even by rotating the bread once. I'm still amazed at how well this worked out. My thanks, again, to my buddy Charles, who gifted me with the oven that makes all this possible.

UPDATE: I had planned to eat the remains of the bread after the other staffers left, but my Korean coworker snarfed up all the leftovers and declared it the best bread he's ever had. He then asked me for the recipe, so I showed him both the English-language recipe online (which he'll have to translate into Korean) and the Jenny Jones video. He took cell-phone pics of the URLs for both the video and the recipe, which I assume he'll look up on his own when he has free time. I'm eager to make this bread again, maybe experimenting by using an actual loaf pan (which I have). After doing this bread once or twice more, I want to move on to Maangchi's sweet roll-bbang, which I'm convinced will work well as hamburger buns.



no-knead bread!

I haven't cut into my loaf yet, and I'm now thinking that I shouldn't cut into it until I'm at the office because the loaf looks so damn nice. Many thanks to Jenny Jones for her version of a widely known no-knead-bread recipe, which struck me as pretty forgiving, like my idiot-proof pie dough. During the final few minutes of baking, I painted the crust over with a mixture of olive oil, butter, and salt; when the bread came out and cooled, I painted it again (possibly sogging up the crust, but the crust seems fine). The brownness of the crust is encouraging; I even rotated the bread once at the end to ensure even browning. Look at the following images and tell me what you think.

bread after 30 minutes' regular baking, before I turned on the top burner for final browning

It's a bit boule-ish.

wide shot

I hope you can see the salt crystals in this food-porn closeup. 

I think this means I've finally baked my first official, legitimate loaf of bread (I've done buns several times, and flatbread, but never a loaf of non-keto bread). 

There's no stopping me now!



quadruple-vaxxed VP Kamala Harris has COVID

Vice President Kamala Harris has COVID despite being four-times injected. If she dies, we at least won't have to worry about the "what if Kamala has to succeed Joetato?" hypothetical. But with the virus having mutated into increasingly gentler forms, there's no hope that Kamala will pass on to the next plane anytime soon. Meantime, like Nelson, all I can say about someone who gets vaxxed four fucking times and still catches COVID is... HA HA!

I know some of you will respond that the "vaccines" (they're more like gene therapy than vaccines) aren't meant to prevent COVID but merely to dull its effects. There are several responses to this. (1) You've obviously forgotten that the original claims about the vaccines were that they would prevent COVID. (2) You're ignoring how the situation evolved from getting jabbed once to getting jabbed twice to getting two jabs plus a booster to getting two jabs plus two boosters (and beyond). (3) You'd never use the "it mitigates effects" standard with, say, a mumps vaccine: if you got vaxxed for the mumps and then caught the mumps, you'd rightly say the vaccine was garbage. So stop moving your standards, stop forgetting your history, and just acknowledge the jab was and remains worthless.



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

tonight: attempting no-knead bread

I'll be using Jenny Jones's no-knead bread recipe for people without a Dutch oven (yes, that Jenny Jones, the talk-show host from long ago). I have no idea how it's going to turn out, but I'm gonna give it a college try. It's a high-hydration dough that, ideally, ought to be baked inside a Dutch oven so it has a chance to bathe in its own steam, but I'll be going with a tin-foil-covered baking tray and parchment paper under the loaf so it's easy to remove. My coworker told me his wife will be making focaccia to go along with her lasagna, so instead of doubling up on Friday bread, I decided to bring my loaf in tomorrow. I'll prep half of the loaf as one of my favorite appetizers from way back when, and I'll prep the other half as bread on which to smear two spreads I'll be bringing along: hummus and garlic-dill cream cheese.

Photos tomorrow.



almost as if China wanted COVID to spread

Alt-media commenter Styx has a theory: China engineered the COVID virus as a way to pare down its demographic problem: too many old people weighing too heavily on its elder-care network. Why not kill off a few million (we still don't know true COVID numbers in China)? Well, the virus did and does still attack the old and those with certain comorbidities (obesity, lung problems, etc.); it's actually a fairly narrow demographic that can be killed by the virus when you think about it. Almost as if the virus were engineered.

Anyway, The Epoch Times has an article saying

EXCLUSIVE: China Stonewalled US Offer of COVID-19 Assistance During Early Days of Pandemic, Emails Show

Here's a long excerpt:

Three days after Beijing officially acknowledged a cluster of an unknown pneumonia disease in 2020, then-head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCRobert Redfield asked his Chinese counterpart George Gao to get on the phone.

“I’ve been trying to reach you and will try again in a few hours,” he wrote, according to emails obtained by The Epoch Times. It was Jan. 3, 2020.

This would be the first of a series of efforts from the United States to engage with China and offer assistance over the next few weeks.

“Unfortunately, that assistance wasn’t accepted by the Chinese government,” Redfield later recounted. “I think it could have made a big difference.”

Redfield said he had “extensive discussions” with Gao in the early days of the pandemic and that a team of 20 people was ready to fly across the world.

Gao personally refused the offers, citing a lack of authorization, according to one report.

A review of the files The Epoch Times obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request and the public statements offers another glimpse into how China was stonewalling the United States during the early days of the pandemic. All the while, the communist regime was suppressing information about the outbreak domestically when any health data would have been crucial to formulate a more effective COVID-19 containment strategy and minimize the disease’s global spread.

[...]

Ultimately, the United States and allies, during the early stages of the pandemic, made nearly 100 requests to ask for assistance or offer help, all of which were rejected by Chinese authorities, according to David Asher, the former lead COVID-19 investigator at the U.S. State Department.

Chinese officials at the same time had been aggressively suppressing information inside China. While Redfield spoke with Gao in one of the calls, local police in Wuhan summoned Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, one of a string of Chinese medical professionals who tried to sound the alarm about the danger of a new pneumonia-like virus, and accused him of “rumor-mongering.”

Li ended up passing away after contracting COVID-19 on Feb. 7, the same day Azar reiterated Washington’s readiness to provide on-the-ground help.

The U.S. CDC had no access to direct data from China. More COVID-19 cases began emerging in America. No U.S. experts were invited on the WHO team that arrived in China on Feb. 10 that year.

A WHO probe into the virus origin eventually happened a year later, under mounting international pressure and the close supervision of Chinese researchers. Two U.S. scientists were on board, including Clifford Lane, deputy director at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It was the first time government-affiliated U.S. scientists were allowed into China since the COIVD-19 pandemic.

By that time, all viral traces had long been destroyed in Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, the site linked to the cases officials first identified. The WHO panel was similarly denied access to raw data on early cases.

The revelation that the US was itself complicit in the spread of this pandemic by funding gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab during the Obama administration doesn't soften my attitude toward what China did and continues to do (e.g., Shanghai lockdowns, zero-COVID policy), but it does make me realize there's plenty of blame to go around, including in my own country. This whole thing has been one huge comedy of errors and idiocy on multiple levels, involving China, the US, the WHO, and a host of other countries whose responses to the pandemic proved to be stupid beyond measure. Follow the science! I can't wait to see whether, with the next pandemic, we've learned any good lessons from all of this. 

Hopefully, I'll be dead by the next pandemic.



14 (well, 15) staircases

As part of my own Build Back Better (doesn't that sound ungrammatical to you?) project, I went back to an old workout, last night, and did 14 staircases along the Yangjae Creek. It's been a while, maybe years, since I last did that specific thing, and it felt good. It helps that, right now, the springtime nights are pleasantly cool; this is going to become hell in about a month. When I do this sort of workout, I start with my first staircase at the point nearest the confluence of the Yangjae and Tan Creeks, then work my way along the Yangjae. The staircases get progressively smaller—starting at 81 steps for Staircase 0 (I'll explain "zero" in a moment) and reaching about 65 steps by Staircase 14. At Staircase 14, I simply turn around and walk back to my place, and that walk provides me with the time to get my heart and breathing rate back to normal.

Staircase 0 refers to an 80-step staircase that I didn't discover until I had been doing the "staircase walk" along the Yangjae Creek for several months (this was some years ago). There's a particular staircase, not far from where I break off from the trail to walk back to my apartment, that I had mentally labeled as Staircase 1. Upon discovering that there was actually one more staircase along the Yangjae, the very last and tallest staircase before the Tan Creek, I decided to call that one Staircase 0. So in truth, my 14-staircase routine is a 15-staircase routine, starting with that beast of a staircase.

I admit I do feel a bit self-righteous when I do this particular workout because I'm pretty sure there's no one else on that trail doing anything like what I'm doing—climbing every single staircase I meet. Doing 15 staircases this way is almost exactly equivalent to climbing my apartment building's staircase 1.5 times, and because the Yangjae Creek route is outdoors, it's substantially more pleasant, as workouts go. Of course, the coming summer heat will likely drive me back inside my building, but I've done the creek route in the summer before, so I'll still keep doing it, even in the heat, while I sweat my usual rivulets.

The full staircase walk goes so far along the Yangjae Creek that I actually leave Seoul and end up in Gwacheon City: that's how close I am to Seoul's southern border. The full staircase walk continues past Staircase 14 to Staircase 33, but the stairs after 14 are much shorter and easier to climb, averaging maybe 20-30 steps each. The walk becomes much more peaceful when you approach and then cross the Seoul/Gwacheon border; I've actually thought about moving to the set of apartments I've seen in that area (but commuting to work would mean using my bike, and God knows where I'd go shopping!). The full staircase walk makes for a good workout, but whether I walk to Staircase 14 or 33, it's a workout that takes time. I was surprised, last night, to see my walking time for the day was right around 180 minutes, i.e., three hours. My normal Tuesday walk involves maybe 90 minutes' walking, then about 15 minutes doing the stairs in my building. I subtracted 15 minutes from my walk time, last night, and transferred those minutes to stair-climbing for the purposes of MyFitnessPal.

Yesterday's workout was a worthy effort, as well as a nice reintroduction to creekside walking. As summer approaches, I'll be doing most of my walks during the nighttime as a way to avoid the summer sun. I'll never forget how I tried walking, with a full backpack, along the Han River in the summer of 2017: I had gotten back from my springtime trek across the country for the first time and, full of arrogance, I thought I could put the backpack on once again and trek out toward Incheon. I nearly fainted from the heat, and as Clint Eastwood said, "A man's got to know his limitations." I haven't tried anything that silly since, and I'm much more aware, now, of things like how much water I need during which season. Experience brings wisdom.

That reminds me: I have a Korean app that talks in some detail about the various segments of the Jeju Olle trail, and it includes difficulty ratings. The Olle route is a rough ellipse that goes around the outer perimeter of the island in a clockwise direction: you start in the east with Course 1, move south, go west, curve northward, go eastward, then drop southward during the final part (Course 21) to end up where you started. One thing I noticed is that all the parts of the trail rated "difficult" are along the south side. While many of those routes aren't long in terms of raw distance (15-20 km), if they're rated "difficult," then I won't be combining two segments into one-day walks. That would be insane.

I haven't started planning in earnest for the Jeju walk yet, but with the Olle trails being pre-planned and well marked, I think my main consideration will be things like camping/lodging and where to buy food and drinks. My coworker reports that Jeju has become very tourist-trappy, so I suspect there'll be no shortage of places to tank up. On a small island like Jeju, it's impossible to find oneself "in the middle of nowhere." You're always somewhere.

More on my Jeju plans later.



"Muskageddon" images from PowerLine



And while you're at it, learn to code:

They dramatically vow to leave, but like the assholes they are, they never do:




This would be hilarious:

I saw an alternative suggestion for this "disaster": call it Armuskeddon. I like that better.



smokeless grill: unboxing

The smokeless grill arrived Tuesday afternoon, and I picked it up from the front desk Tuesday evening after a long walk along the Yangjae Creek—a walk I haven't done in a while (more on that in another post). Anyway, the grill looks sleek, and it comes with different cheolpan (metal griddles). I'll have to fight my way through the Korean-language instructions and learn how to use the thing properly. I've already thought of a tandem test that I can do with both the Instant Pot and this grill: use the sous vide function on the Instant Pot to cook some filet mignon to perfection, then finish the beef on the grill. That ought to be awesome if I do it right. I think I'm going to save that meal for my first cheat day in May, whenever that might be. Meanwhile, enjoy the following pics:

The box is simply designed:

Dude looks friendly. Maybe we could hang:

My ancient enemies, plastic and styrofoam:

Out of the box:

Finally, a look at the entire kit:

The electric cord seems a bit short; I might have to buy yet another multi-plug extension cord. I'm definitely going to have to read the instructions because I can't immediately decode how all the switches work. Not to worry: I should have everything figured out by the time I start sous vide-ing my filet mignon. Expect more images later.



a new musical instrument

Learning to play... the husky:





Tuesday, April 26, 2022

this could've been me

Ever since Bruce Willis and aphasia came into the public consciousness recently, I've hunted down a few aphasia videos on YouTube. Here's a young lady with expressive aphasia:

She's a brave kid to be dealing with this at such a young age (stroke at 18; the video's been up on YouTube almost a decade). I can't imagine going through what she's going through, but my hat is off to her, and I thank my lucky stars not to be in her place.



"The Great Leftoid Twitter Meltdown of 2022"

Heh:





but can Musk actually reform Twitter?

Saw this in the comments over at Instapundit:

I find myself wondering how this is supposed to work. Musk just bought a massive swamp. Now, either he has the intention of draining that swamp, or he doesn't. Musk has made some pro-free-speech noises lately, so maybe the safe assumption is that he does indeed plan to drain the swamp. Twitter, over the years, has gotten very swampy, so there's a lot of work ahead in Musk's future. Since I doubt a busy man like Musk, who is juggling several companies/corporations, will be doing the swamp-draining himself, I assume he's going to call on a gang of his henchmen to "get it done." Delegation of responsibility. 

So there's the basic scenario, laid out for us in a way that simpletons like me can understand. Even if I don't get the legal and business-related particulars, I can ask questions like:

  • What's to become of the entrenched Twitter staff who are part of the swamp?
  • What's to become, specifically, of Parag Agrawal, Twitter's current CEO?
  • How long might the swamp-draining take?
  • What are the metrics for knowing the swamp has officially been drained?
  • What guarantee is there that there are no Judases in the gang of henchmen?
  • The swamp is doubtless planning to fight back. What form will this fighting-back take?
  • What countermeasures will Musk's henchmen take as they battle the swamp-hydra?

I can think of plenty more questions, but those ought to be enough for the moment. My point is that I wonder whether Musk understands the beast he is hoping to tame. My greatest disappointment would be that he decides not to tame it at all, although, in the end, Twitter's fate doesn't really matter to me: I'm interested to the extent that the whole drama provides me with some Schadenfreude as I watch the swamp get emptied out.



will Trump return to Twitter?

By now, you've heard the news that Twitter, under pressure from its shareholders, has accepted the deal to be bought out by Elon Musk. The immediate question was whether President Donald Trump would then return to Twitter, but Trump himself apparently says he has no intention of doing so. For the moment, Trump will remain with his own social-media platform, Truth Social (I hate that name, which sounds Stalinesque). 

I have my doubts as to whether Truth Social will become anywhere near as big as Twitter, but I think staying away from the social-media colossus is the right course of action. The optics of crawling back to Twitter would be simply horrible; Trump is better off on his own, with his own uncancelable platform. Fuck Twitter.

As for me, I've been on Twitter, Gab, Parler, and Gettr. Every place I went felt toxic, Gab in particular. Twitter was, ironically, the place that gave me the best (or least worst) experience, but in the end, I think I'm just not cut out for the hurly-burly of that sort of social media. I'm currently on Reddit, but I post there only rarely, and I've seen firsthand that most precincts of Reddit are woke hellscapes best avoided. At the r/Homeschool subreddit that I frequent, people generally avoid politics and are fairly positive. I don't venture much beyond that subreddit, although I joined the r/Teachers subreddit as well as one devoted to movie reviews. And that, friends, is the extent of my social-media presence these days. I haven't done anything on Substack for a couple months; I'm starting to think that writing there is a waste of time. My blog is my first and best home. 

I wish Trump luck with his new venture—another place where he can talk about himself nonstop. Meanwhile, even with Musk promising to improve it, I think Twitter can go to hell. I'm not sure anything can save it at this point.





Monday, April 25, 2022

Jeju Olle route

From Wikipedia, here's some information about the 21-ish segments of the Jeju Olle trail, which circles Jeju Island's perimeter. Each segment averages 15-16 km, which means I could, in theory, do up to two segments a day and get the whole route done in very little time compared to, say, the Four Rivers trail.

Route 1
Siheung - Gwangchigi Olle (Korean: 시흥-광치기 올레)
Route 1 is 15.1 km long.

Route 2
Gwangchigi - Onpyeong Olle (Korean: 광치기-온평 올레)
Route 2 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 15.2 km.

Route 3
Onpyeong - Pyoseon Olle (Korean: 온평-표선 올레)
Route 3 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 20.9 km.

Route 4
Pyoseon - Namwon Olle (Korean: 표선-남원 올레)
Route 4 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 19.0 km.

Route 5
Namwon - Soesokkak Olle (Korean: 남원-쇠소깍 올레)
Route 5 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 13.4 km.

Route 6
Soesokkak - Jeju Olle Tourist Center Olle (Korean: 쇠소깍-제주올레 여행자센터 올레)
Route 6 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 11.0 km.

Route 7
Jeju Olle Tourist Center - Wolpyeong Olle (Korean: 제주올레 여행자센터-월평 올레)
Route 7 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 17.6 km.

Route 8
Wolpyeong - Daepyeong Olle (Korean: 월평-대평 올레)
Route 8 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 19.6 km.

Route 9
Daepyeong - Hwasun Olle (Korean: 대평-화순 올레)
Route 9 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 6.7 km.

Route 10
Hwasun - Moseulpo Olle (Korean: 화순-모슬포 올레)
Route 10 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 15.6 km.

Route 11
Moseulpo - Mureung Olle (Korean: 모슬포-무릉 올레)
Route 11 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 17.3 km.

Route 12
Mureung - Yongsu Olle (Korean: 무릉-용수 올레)
Route 12 of the Jeju Olle Trail has a distance of 17.5 km.

So yes, I'm thinking I'll be doing the Jeju Olle path this coming fall. The above describes a little more than half the whole path; Wikipedia doesn't list anything more. In terms of distance, it looks as though I could easily combine certain paths (e.g., 5 & 6, 9 & 10) and do two segments in a single day. Much depends on terrain, though: if a segment is rugged, then doing close to 30K that day probably won't be possible: I'll be exhausted. Other resources note the difficulty level of each segment of the trail; I'll look at those resources, as well as at the contour lines visible on Naver Map, and plot my itinerary accordingly. More on all of this later as plans start to crystallize.



Instant Pot: the unboxing

Not quite like being a kid at Christmas, but still pretty cool: my Instant Pot arrived today via Coupang (ordered it yesterday, along with some other items, including that smokeless grill); it cost almost the same as it would have had I bought it at Costco. (And Costco would have been more expensive thanks to the taxi trip both ways.) Here are photos of the unboxing, which happened only a few minutes ago. 

Peekaboo!

Features including, apparently, sous vide—another answer to my prayers:

A parts list:

The greeting:

Instruction manual, red gasket, packing material:

Shrouded:

Unwrapped, front view:

The top twists off:

Some suspiciously naughty-looking rubber/silicone stuff:

And finally, a look into the gullet:

I'm going to plunge right in and try making Instant Pot bread tomorrow night. The idea is to bring some form of garlic bread for this Friday's luncheon, which I hear is going to be lasagna made by a pro chef (my American coworker's wife). I'm looking forward to the lasagna while also hoping it won't contain any weird shit in it. So far, I've had no reason to mistrust the wife's judgment; when she's made Western food in the past, she's generally done a pretty good job of it (except once, with a very strange pesto). But you never know; the chef may have some strange notions of what makes a good lasagna.

Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to getting to know my Instant Pot. And when that smokeless grill arrives in a couple days, that's going to be the icing on the cake: I'm eager to test out the grill directly under my fire alarm to see how well it works, maybe with a quick beef stir-fry or some samgyeopsal. This could go very, very wrong, but it'll be fun.



start the week off with some images


I want this tee:

It's "Can die from the vaxx," buddy—just look at your column headers:

A lot of conservatives want nothing to do with Republicans:




The urban legend was that Anthony Bourdain had said something similar before he died:




He still doesn't work for us:










Don't put a comma between your subject and predicate: