Tuesday, April 30, 2024

can't go straight from A to B

I've talked a lot, on this blog, about the nonlinearity of Koreans. My friend JW is a great example of a Korean who initially says "yes" to my carefully thought-out plan for some Saturday, then when Saturday rolls around, hits me with a "Let's do something different," thereby rudely tossing everything I'd wanted to do out the window so that we can do his thing. (There's often an element of selfish inconsideration involved when people walk all over you like this.) Or we'll be strolling along the straight-line path by the Tan Creek down to Bundang, and suddenly, he'll be like, "What about that path?" as he points to a random, lame-looking path that branches off the main path and probably leads to nowhere (I've walked a few of those, and they are lame). Koreans are often this way: they get a sudden idea at the last minute that fucks up your plans, or they make a scheduling mistake and that fucks up your plans, or something. You can never go straight from A to B in Korean society—not with friends, and definitely not at work, where bosses can be even zigzaggier. So you either become bitterly cynical and mask it with humor, as I normally do, or you kick and scream and wonder why the fuck you're still in Korea. (Such people really should just leave.) 

And here's another harsh reality: you can take the Korean out of Korea, but you can't take Korea out of the Korean. I'm discovering this is true about the older couple I'm to meet this weekend: we were originally supposed to meet at the high landmark of Ihwaryeong on the Four Rivers trail this coming Saturday—arguably the trail's highest point. But the distaff half of the couple, M, texted me Tuesday afternoon to say she'd messed up and "accidentally" booked a particular hotel, which somehow altered the plans because she couldn't cancel the reservation. How do you "accidentally" book a hotel room? Granted, both members of this couple are in their seventies, so maybe senile accidents are possible. My mind is still boggled, though, because M had emailed me a PDF of her original itinerary, and I went through it line by line, checking distances and locations. It all looked immaculate, and I came away impressed. M and her hubby are veteran distance walkers, so planning and executing trips like the one they're on now should be old hat. The PDF made me think M was a pro.

But then, this nonsense happened, and I'm still not entirely clear as to what's going on. First, I'd heard that their stopping point the day before the Ihwaryeong ascent had changed. Then she texted me about what I assume was a change in the destination hotel, presumably after Ihwaryeong—the one she'd "accidentally" booked and couldn't cancel, and which was 31K away from Joryeong-san's peak.* Now, I'm all sorts of confused, partly because, even though M has lived in the States with her Caucasian husband for decades, her English still isn't quite up to snuff, which means it's occasionally a struggle to read through her texts. She's generally a clear writer, but in her most recent texts, she said some things that I found utterly confusing, so in exasperation, I texted back that I'm going to call her tomorrow at a time that's convenient to her so we can straighten all of this out. I did my diplomatic best not to make it sound as though I were blaming her, but inwardly, I'm cursing the Korean nonlinearity that led to the fuck-up of the "accidental" booking and what that's doing to my carefully laid-out plans. Looks as though I'm back to my cynical default mode of fuck it-with-a-smile. I'll just have to go with the flow the way I usually do.

But, God-fucking-dammit, I don't want to go with the flow. There'd been a plan.  What a nuisance. And up until today, I'd actually been looking forward to meeting this couple. Now, I just want to get this shit over with. I don't know... maybe it's just an honest mistake and not another example of Korean flakiness. Sigh... I'll know more tomorrow. Stay tuned.

NB: if you're new to my bitching and moaning, welcome to my blog. More than anything, this is a place where I vent. So get used to it or move on.


*This meant, or so I thought at first, a 10K walk to the peak, then a 31K walk to their hotel for a 41K total. That's a nasty distance to walk in a day; I've done 42K, 44K, and 60K walks in a day, so I know this from experience. As I thought about what M was trying to tell me, though, it occurred to me she was saying they'd be avoiding Ihwaryeong altogether. Hence my need to call the couple and clarify what's going on.

two Styx

Oz apparently hates the internet and the free exchange of ideas:

More fallout from the Martha's Vineyard incident:

needles have arrived

I got my insulin-pen needles this morning, so my vacation from injections is now over.

the Solomons versus China

today's lunch

Despite not drinking any caffeine yesterday evening, I ended up staying up very late—probably as a function of the Newcastle diet, which kept me up late three years ago. Going to bed late meant waking up late, so I once again failed to make waffles. I did, however, prep the galbi for today's luncheon, then I bought some sides and some microwaveable rice. As luncheons go, this is one of my worst: two-thirds of the meal was not prepped by me. In my defense, April turned out to be a bit of a rough month, so my heart wasn't really into food prep.

main, L to R: galbi, 'waveable rice
sides, L to R: mixed veg, lotus root, chilies, doraji-namul (bellflower root, which I love)
not pictured: kimchi (the boss complained it wasn't out because of course he did)

Closeup, with sesame sprinklies. Click to enlarge further.

this occurred to me

In Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Bruce Wayne puts on the Bat suit one last time to fight his greatest battles as the Caped Crusader. At the end of the four-part story, a news broadcaster notes that this "old" Batman was 55 years old. I turn 55 this year. With my gray beard and people already guessing my age as 60, I guess there's no hiding it: I'm old.

could a piece of shit prove useful?

Sometimes, when you fight dirty, you have to bring out the big guns:

I don't trust that this will go well, frankly. Avenatti was Stormy Daniels's lawyer; he was even tapped to run for president at one point, with Chris Cuomo fawning over the guy. Then he turned out to have a ton of skeletons, and he became known as the "creepy porn lawyer." Would you trust your defense to a man like that? He's apparently turned against Daniels now, claiming that she lies for money every time she opens her mouth. While I don't doubt that claim, I doubt the reliability of Avenatti himself. Who's to say he wouldn't turn on Trump right there while on the stand? Trump has a history of surrounding himself with bad-quality people. This could be a huge mistake. Or, who knows? Maybe Avenatti's potential testimony is the result of a deal he made—something to motivate him to be a reliable witness. We'll see.

more flooding in China

We get floods here in Seoul; they're kind of seasonal, and I wish authorities could/would do something to avoid more damage (e.g., re-landscaping creek beds, introducing ways to control water flow, etc.). But China is a study in widespread mismanagement and coverups (then again, America is now rivaling China in its Baghdad Bobbing of the economy, foreign policy, etc.: "Everything's fine!"—we're becoming more like China every day), and it's flooding time again! Here's Chris Chappell with the sad story.

woodturning is fascinating

Monday, April 29, 2024

Nancy Pelosi channels Donald Trump

So many Democrats sounded exactly like Donald Trump back in the day. Here's Nancy Pelosi, from some years back, pretending to be a hardass about secure borders:

Here's even more of this nonsense:

is China's economy recovering?

jumping consonants in Korean

Have I never done a post on the phenomenon of jumping consonants in Korean? I could've sworn I'd done such a post years ago, but I can't find it.

Anyway, I'm a shitty speller in Korean, and part of the problem is how Korean syllables are subject to what in French is called liaison, i.e., when a phoneme ending one syllable becomes the initial sound of the next syllable. There may be another linguistic term for this in English linguistics, but liaison (explained in depth here) is what I know from learning French.

Some French examples of liaison:

les hommes ("ley zuhm," with the "s" in les jumping over to hommes)
mes amis ("mey zamee," with the "s" in mes jumping over to amis)

Here's an English example of what I mean phonetically:

Did you forget about it?

The above isn't pronounced did / you / forget / about / it ? It's pronounced:

dih / j(y)oo / forgeh / dabou / dit ?

See how the consonants jump over to the following syllable? And note, too, that if someone pronounces the sentence as did / you / forget / about / it ?, over-enunciating like that, it's probably because he or she is very angry.

In Korean, liaison, or something like it, is a thing, and it often expresses itself orthographically (i.e., via spelling). Take the verb "to fall," which is 떨어지다/ddeoleojida or ddeoreojida (with the "r" flapping off the tip of the tongue like a Spanish "r"). If you were to spell the verb out phonetically, you'd get:

떠 러 지 다 / ddeo reo ji da

...but then, you'd be spelling the verb incorrectly. So you can't always rely on what you hear to know how to spell something in Korean.

This is a rich topic that deserves a lot of space, but I'm going to skip right over to a peeve of mine: the frustrating way that consonants in Korean can "jump," liaison-like, when you go from one form of a word to another. This often shows up in Korean spelling, making things tough for us slow-witted Kevins. So, it's an orthographic liaison as much as it's a phonetic liaison. Right off the top of my head, I can think of a few examples:

1. When you want to say "a few days ago" or "several days ago," the word myeot/몇 ("how many" or "several") combines with the word il/일 to become 며칠, i.e., myeo-chil, not myeoch-il. Just look at the phrase 며칠 전에/myeochil jeonae, i.e., "several days ago." Note how the ㅊ/chieut has jumped from the previous syllable to the next one.

2. Another one is how the expression 밖에/bakkae ("outside," "outside of") has a consonant jump when you use one expression of "husband," which is 바깥 사람/bakkat saram (a husband can be called an "outside person" in Korean, based on the old idea that the worker or nobleman left home to go to work). Note how the ㄲ/ssang-gieuk (double "g") has jumped from the previous syllable to the next one.

3. A third example of consonantal jumping has to do with the verb 가지다/gajida, to have or possess. This can become 갖고있어요/gatgoisseoyo ("[I] have/[I] am possessing"). Maybe I should've written these examples in the opposite order, but note how the ㅈ/jieut (letter "j") jumps from the lat(t)er syllable to the previous one.

Can you Korean speakers think of other examples? I want to compile a list of jumping consonants. Leave your insights in the comments. And if you know the proper linguistic terms for what I'm talking about, please let me know. Also: I'm aware that hair-splitters might argue that liaison and consonant-jumping are not the same phenomenon, but I'd say the phenomena are awfully damn close and involve pretty much the same phonetic move, with consonants migrating from the final position in one syllable to the initial position in another or vice versa.

insulin-pen needle update

Feeling lazy, I had an idea and took a look at whether Coupang sold insulin-pen needles... and they do! This immediately resolved the question of whether you need a prescription just for the needles (you obviously don't), and it eliminated the need to go to the med-supply store, thus catering to my laziness. So I've ordered the needles (box of 100), and they'll be arriving tomorrow. I didn't use insulin last night, and this morning's blood-sugar reading, while a bit high because I'd eaten my breakfast-dinner very late in the evening last night, was only in the 160s today purely thanks to my pills. Not tragic at all, and tomorrow's reading, after tonight's long walk, will be even lower—at a guess, 140-ish if I behave myself for the rest of today. And we ought to keep going down from there. 

'Twould be nice to see 120-something by Sunday morning.

ADDENDUM: and to answer a question no one has asked yet: I did check to see whether there'd be any compatibility issues if I order a different brand of needle from the ones I had. According to the all-wise internet, most of these needles are interchangeable; just be mindful of their length (3-5 mm; mine were specifically 4 mm).

this is what you do when your dog suddenly turns on you

Kristi Noem's new book has some passages in it that may have made her into kryptonite for Donald Trump's campaign. In one passage, she talks about having shot one of her dogs, which had proved to be unruly, untrainable, and a terror to her neighbors' livestock. What do you do with an obstreperous animal like that? You put it down. That's life on a farm, folks. Liberals are apparently making a big stink about this, and the optics probably affect Noem's chances of becoming Trump's running mate, but it is what it is. Styx calls this a "nothingburger," which it is, but I suspect Noem has torpedoed her chances at the VP slot.

waffle update

I woke up too late to make waffles this morning, so I'll have to make them tonight. Sorry about that. Expect photos much later in the day. I'm off to the med-supply store in a few minutes.

even I would never go this far

What was he thinking?

5 days' food

I made a meal calendar, and this week, except for Tuesday, it's American breakfast! I'm varying between pancakes and waffles, with an array of different keto "syrups" to make things slightly more entertaining. I made a double batch of pancakes, but I'll have to make the waffles in the morning. The pancake recipe was new to me, but it tastes better than the one I'd been using previously. I did have to thin out the batter by adding more milk, but the neat thing was that each pancake, when flipped, had a very minimal splatter pattern. I'd had bad luck on that score with the previous batter, and I've suffered from batter splatter with certain "normal" batters as well. This was the first batter to behave itself during the flipping process; I might want to tweak it a bit more—maybe add more butter.

As per my earlier threat, I did indeed also cook up some sausage, bacon, and eggs. There's American cheese at the office, and I can add that if I want. The breakfast-sausage recipe calls for brown sugar; I have brown-sugar Swerve (mostly erythritol), so I was able to keep the sausage patties keto. I was also able to use my newly purchased patty press to make modest little 90-gram rounds. I can now see that the press will be too small for actual hamburger patties: they'll shrink to the size of sliders. If there's one intolerable sin in the burger world, it's having a beef patty that's smaller than the bun

Amurrican-style scrambled eggs

They look pretty good.

big ol' pile o' meat: sausage on the bottom, thin and thick-cut bacon on top

pulling back a bit for the wider shot

For years, we've had it beaten into us that dietary fat leads to body fat, but modern experts now say that "low fat" is a misleading label, not to mention a bad priority if you're dieting. The old way insisted that one's diet should be low fat and high carb, which is still suggested by the modern WHO/FAO "food pyramid": it recommends (scroll down to the ridiculous chart) that your diet be 15-30% total fat and 55-75% total carbs. Keto takes the opposite approach, recommending about 70-75% fat, 20-25% protein, and 5% carbs.

True, certain fats can be calorific and unhealthy, especially in combination with carbohydrates, but if you avoid the carbs, you can eat way more dietary fat than originally thought, and it won't clog your arteries. One source memorably talked about the magical thinking involved in the old paradigm: animal and plant fats somehow have to transmogrify into human fat cells in order to clog our blood vessels. How is that even possible? The old idea that Alfredo pasta is a "heart attack on a plate" is true, but not because of the Alfredo sauce: the problem is the pasta. Read Gary Taubes's Why We Get Fat for more on this.*

keto pancake batter before I thinned it out with a bit more milk

the first flip, with minimal splatter

a different pancake, with almost no splatter at all

yet another pancake, again with very little splatter

The stack grows.

Having doubled the recipe, I was able to make eight pancakes. This ladle is the final one.

dinner assembled, but not yet microwaved

By the time I'd made everything, a lot of time had passed, and everything had cooled down, so it was necessary to portion out my dinner—100 g of eggs, 2 sausage patties, 1 strip of thick bacon, 3 strips of thin bacon, and 2 pancakes—then heat everything in my microwave for 3.5 minutes on medium heat (lower heat at a lower temp for a longer time allows the heat to diffuse more thoroughly throughout the food). My keto "syrup" was strawberries with monkfruit sweetener and a teeny bit of "perfected" (lumpless) xanthan gum mixed with butter and spread over a pancake. Here's the "syrup":

Doesn't look very appetizing, but it tasted fine.

after microwaving

a slightly better shot

The strawberries have their own natural sugars, but the carbs are somewhat neutralized by the strawberries' inherent fiber. This is what "net carbs" are all about: total carbs minus fiber. Fiber is a carb, but it's not digested or metabolized: it passes through the system without breaking down into sugar, ideally cleaning your pipes on its way out. Fiber counts as part of your total carbs, so a lot of people subtract it and look at the net-carb figure when calculating their carb budget for the day.

I won't get bored of a week's worth of American breakfast (Monday, then Wednesday through Saturday) even if it's keto. Next week, I'll be sure to prep my meals Friday evening or on Saturday: doing it on Sunday is a bit stressful. This week, I've packed most of my breakfast-for-lunch elements into two large, plastic containers; the "syrups" will be packed in separate little bottles or snap-top boxes.

So let's go have a week. Expect waffle photos in the morning.


*As a point of comparison, note that 100 g of wheat flour has about 61 grams of net carbs, whereas 100 g of almond flour has about 18 grams of carbs. I used 200 g of almond flour to make eight pancakes; I'll use another 200 g in the morning to make my waffles. A batch of pancakes made from 200 g of almond flour has a total of 36 g of carbs; divided by 8, that's 4.5 g of carbs per pancake, or 9 g of carbs per meal. With, say, 2 tablespoons of strawberries for "syrup," that's another 5 g of carbs. The meats don't add more than a further gram or two of carbs. So most of my carbs will actually come from the smoothie I have for breakfast. That smoothie is very carby, and it'll push me well over the 20-gram carb limit for strict keto, but recall that I'm on the Newcastle diet, not the full-blown keto diet, and it's more about eating healthily while also trying to keep my daily calorie count below 800. I think my breakfast technically takes me over the 800-calorie limit (almond flour has 1.5 to 2 times the calories of wheat flour!), but I'll be walking later in the day, so the math works out.

squirrels vs. Tannerite frag pellets

All the usual warnings apply.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Tulsi on 2020

But, Tulsi, how do you vote your way out of a rigged election?


I'm prepping galbi (beef short ribs) for the troops, to be served on Tuesday (my Korean coworker is moving on Monday, so he'll be out of the office). I'll be eating the meat and sides on that day, but not the rice, which I'll serve to my boss and coworker. There's a microwaveable rice that requires no prep at all, so the only real effort is in prepping and cooking the meat, which is marinating as I type this. I'll cook everything tomorrow, and we'll chow down on Tuesday.

I'm also prepping for the rest of the week, making myself the keto version of an American breakfast: sausage, bacon, eggs, and pancakes/waffles* with keto syrup (strawberry, blueberry, or maple). Four days of that ought to be awesome. And this is a new recipe for keto pancakes, so my fingers and tentacles are crossed in the hope that the recipe works out.

It's a lot of cooking, but once it's done, it's fire-and-forget, like a Sidewinder missile.


*I have a mini waffle iron!

Ozempic side effects

Ozempic is a diabetes and weight-loss drug that's become very popular in Hollywood. It does seem to have a range of side effects, though, despite being considered "safe," whatever that means in this day and age. Here are some of the minor side effects, aside from so-called "Ozempic face" (see here, too):

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • flatulence
  • constipation
  • stomach ache
  • abdominal pain
  • fatigue
  • injection-site reactions

And some possible major side effects:

  • vision changes
  • kidney problems
  • gall bladder disease
  • severe allergic reactions
  • increased risk of thyroid cancer
  • hypoglycemia
  • pancreatitis

Look deeply enough, and almost all drugs have severe side effects of some kind or other; it's a statistical game: do you fall within the narrow band of an unlucky demographic? At the same time, the taking of drugs can become a values question along the lines of, "If this magic potion cured all of your ills but gave you a 5% chance of being struck and killed by lightning within a year, would you still take the potion?" You know—one of those ethical posers.

And there's also the famous wisdom of Paracelsus: The dose is the poison. It's another way of saying that too much of anything can be harmful, even water.

Anyway, Ozempic is tempting—an easy way out, perhaps, but for the moment, I'm not at all interested in it, especially since I'm on enough drugs already. Maybe if I get desperate, but I'm an old man, now, and no longer so concerned about preserving my high-school figure (not that I ever had much of a figure in high school).

Speaking of being on drugs, last night was my first night of taking the new, reduced prescription from the hospital, and without an insulin injection (since I currently lack needles—to be resolved tomorrow morning with a trip to the med-supply store). This morning's numbers looked good except for blood sugar, which was back up in the 150s because I'd indulged on Friday after coming back from the hospital. (I fasted Saturday except for a single smoothie in the late morning.) BS ought to be down by the end of the coming week as I resume my walking. The slog continues.

E. Jean Carroll in hot water? we'll see

Yet another media-loving attention whore playing the victim:

E. Jean Carroll had absolutely nothing of substance to say about Trump (the "rape" wasn't even "sexual," whatever that means), and she got awarded $83 million, anyway. By rights, she should have been ridiculed, tarred, feathered, and sent on her undignified way as yet another fausse rape accuser. Her behavior since going public has been the exact opposite of a true rape victim's. True victims shy away from the limelight and don't act all happy, chirpy, and greedy as they think about their impending financial windfall. I hope she sees not a single cent of what she was unjustly awarded. She's as fake as Christine Blasey Ford.

By the way (and switching gears to another unpleasant woman): did you hear that Amber Heard, in a bid to avoid threats and bad publicity after her courtroom tussle with Johnny Depp (in which it was revealed she'd pooped in Depp's bed), has legally changed her name while she goes through the motions of becoming a Spanish citizen? She has to realize that, once the public learns her new name, it's all over.

the mainstream media hate RFK Jr.

...and we're back to this

Well over a month ago, I stupidly nicked my toe wound again—the right big toe—while trimming away callus. I never learn, it seems. The wound started bleeding, but only slowly, and only in small quantities. Sticking on a single bandage after cleaning the bleeding area was enough, and I could afford to forget about the wound for a few hours before the bleeding would soak through the bandage. Fast forward a bit, and I'm in the hospital. At least one of my meds is blood thinners (I'd been off my meds for a few months), and the nurses notice my bleeding. I tell them the wound's history and say that it's no big deal. But lately, it's starting to feel more like an annoyance than like an inconvenience every few hours: I now have to cover the wound with two bandages, and if I forget about my toe, there's a chance I'll leave blood spots on the floor, the way I used to a couple years back when the diabetic ulcer was far more serious. I'm confident the toe will re-heal eventually, but the blood thinners (which I'm still taking as anti-stroke meds) aren't helping. I've still got my Chinese burn cream (from my botched hospital visit a year ago) to stick on the wound as an ointment, I guess. Maybe I should start using it more often. In the cosmic scheme of things, a leaky toe isn't a big deal, but it's one more damn thing to be mindful of.

UPDATE: then it occurred to me: blood-stopper powder. I have some at work.

"If you strike me down..."

How true is any of this? Is this like, in 2022, when conservatives crowed there'd be a "red wave" that turned out to be little more than a piss trail? Or is there a real sea change happening as people look at their wallets and Biden's sorry track record? From my distant vantage in Korea, it seems pretty obvious as to what's going really going on.

how AI depicts liberals and conservatives

I don't like this guy's forced, fake laughter, but the AI-generated stereotypical images of lefties and MAGA types are hilarious. As the guy points out, AI trains itself on the data it's given, so it's merely reflecting human stereotypes that are already out there.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

2 short vids

Unpopular in New Yawk!

As the Drinker says: "Nah, it'll be fine."

did Neil find my doppelgänger?

 Did my buddy Neil find my twin?

pre- and post-drug

So—is this me?

It's from an article on Ozempic (thanks!).

a few from the ranty Matt Walsh

Raise the minimum wage?

Squatters and simple solutions: just find the nerve and do it—

Jimmy Kimmel discovers Japan, fails to understand why it isn't a shithole:

Domestic enemies and infrastructure:



It belatedly occurred to me that, when the doc wrote up my new prescription set, she didn't renew my insulin.* Now, I was given several insulin pens, which is enough insulin to last a few months, but what I really need are the attachable/detachable/disposable needles that you stick on the pens. On Monday, I'll have to visit the medical-supply store and see about needles.

If you're a normie who doesn't have to worry about insulin injections: they're a pain in the ass because you have to learn the ritual procedure for injecting yourself, and insulin turns out to have a bit of a chemical stink to it, but the actual injection is totally painless. The needle is supposed to penetrate the dermis, but it shouldn't go deeper and cause any bleeding. It's a very narrow, sharp needle, and in my case, I'm protected by a nice layer of blubber on my torso (injections are done in the abdominal region, but other parts of the body can also serve as injection sites), so that might be why I don't feel anything.

If you want to see what the insulin ritual looks like, step by step, watch this. Before I left the hospital, I was drilled on using an insulin pen. The lady doctor made me do the procedure three times on a special piece of rubber (simulating skin and flesh) before she was satisfied. That's good teaching: always check your student's knowledge.

I'm curious as to whether I can get the needles without a prescription. I have the insulin already (it's in my fridge), so that shouldn't be an issue. But the needles? I may have to visit my local doc if a prescription is necessary.


*She was a cardiac doc, so this could have been out of her wheelhouse.

Javier Milei, government's worst nightmare

I wish US politicians had balls like these:

Biden says "Pause"

When you stupidly read absolutely everything on the teleprompter:

"Florida Man vs. Entire SWAT Team"

He deserved death. All his bad life-choices led up to this moment.

"Star Trek: Picard," Season 1: review

L to R: Soji (Isa Briones), Elnor (Evan Evagora), Picard (Patrick Stewart), Jurati (Alison Pill)

[WARNING: spoilers.]

I guess I'll have to state my unpopular opinion: "Star Trek: Picard," Season 1, wasn't quite the horrible disaster I'd thought it would be—had been led by certain critics to believe it would be. Don't get me wrong: the show was deeply flawed and laughably bad at several points (although I liked the opening-theme music!), and I didn't come away loving the first season at all, but there may have been some redeeming aspects that the conservative critics missed in their haste to lambaste the season. Here are some of my jumbled thoughts.

Because I'd refused to watch Seasons 1 and 2, my viewing of "Star Trek: Picard" began with Season 3, which critics from all over the spectrum raved about. Terry Matalas, writer/showrunner/producer, had been placed front and center, and he brought higher-quality writing, the general absence of a woke agenda, and plenty of memberberries to placate disgruntled fans who'd hated the previous two seasons. I'd heard about those earlier seasons from the usual critics I listen to: Chris Stuckmann (leftie); Jeremy Jahns (moderate leftie); Will Jordan (a.k.a., The Critical Drinker, rightie, not to mention a relentless mocker of Chris Stuckmann); and Gary Buechler (Nerdrotic, rightie). The rightie critics, in particular, hated how Picard had been reduced to a shell of his former self—impotent and constantly yelled at by younger, stronger female characters. A lot was made of Patrick Stewart's influence over the first two seasons: he wanted a Picard who was largely divorced from the prominent Star Trek tropes like the Enterprise and Starfleet. If you consider the course of Stewart's career, though, you can see how the dramatic choices made in Season 1 (the only season I've seen thus far) are consistent with Stewart's penchant for controversy (see my review of BBC's Hamlet here). By the time Season 3 of "Picard" rolled around, people were convinced that it was a good thing Stewart's vision for the show got dethroned. Now that I've seen Season 1 of "Picard," though... I can, at least somewhat, see what Stewart was striving for, and it wasn't all woke.

It's presumptuous to get inside Stewart's head, but I think the essential thing he wanted was to have a Picard who reflected Stewart's own aging process. In the show, Picard is in his nineties—old, feeble, and forced to rely on others when he wants to get anything done. This inevitably means that everyone around him is going to be younger, stronger, and possessed of greater agency. The Critical Drinker complained that this made Picard "a guest on his own show," and he's not wrong, but I was left thinking that, just maybe, that was the idea. Picard encounters a crisis, does what he can to assemble a team, then relies on the charity of others to move forward to his goal.

The show features some strong female characters, but it's not all girl-bosses. Among the most powerful females are Admiral Kirsten Clancy (Ann Magnuson), who comes off as a stone-cold bitch in the early episodes, but who turns out to be reasonable by the end; and Commodore Oh (Tamlyn Tomita), a Romulan spy with Vulcan training, under deep cover as Starfleet head of security. Raffaela Musiker (Michelle Hurd), who was serving under Picard when Picard resigned from Starfleet, has reasons to be bitter toward her former superior; she's also a recovering addict estranged from her son, who rejects her for having been a horrible parent when she was in the middle of her addiction. The main female in the plot is Soji (Isa Briones), one of a pair of twins, who isn't who she seems, but she's simultaneously vulnerable and powerful. One Romulan lieutenant named Narissa (Peyton List) is a bit of a girl-boss, but really, that's about it for what critic Adam Olinger hilariously calls the Stroooooong Female Leeeeeeeeeeads. Cyberneticist Dr. Agnes Jurati (Alison Pill—one of the funniest cast members in "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") comes off as anything but strong—she's timid, flaky, and untrustworthy. We'll have more to say about her later. And there's no lack of strong male characters, either: Captain Chris Rios (Santiago Cabrera), pilot of a small vessel called La Sirena (a possible reference to the Sirens of Greek legend, or more generically to mermaids), is an obvious stand-in for Han Solo, and he's dealing with his own troubled past. Romulan warrior Elnor, who seems to have sprung from Tolkien's universe with his elfin appearance and martial ways, worships Picard and fights like a dervish while ritually imploring his opponents to "Choose to live." Picard eventually finds himself asking for the help of his old first officer, Will Riker, and while we first meet Riker as he's making a pizza, we see the original, tough Riker by the end of the season.

Although I don't think the show was quite as woke as the right-leaning critics made it out to be, it wasn't without its flaws, and many of those flaws ran deep. To understand the flaws, though, we need to take a look at the overall story of Season 1. A simple summary might not be possible because the season was overloaded with subplots, many of which twist together and converge, but not always smoothly or coherently.

As the season opens, several things happen at once. Admiral Picard, in his nineties, has retired to Château Picard in La Barre, France. There, he lives the life of a farmer and is assisted by two Romulans named Laris (Orla Brady, still fetching at 60-something) and Zhaban (Jamie McShane), as well as by his pet dog, Number One. Elsewhere, a young woman named Dahj (also Briones) is with her boyfriend when they are both attacked by assassins. The boyfriend is killed, but the attack awakens something in Dahj, who is able to kill the assassins. She finds herself plagued by visions of Picard, so she finds her way to him. We learn that, fourteen years earlier, an effort to rescue Romulans after their sun exploded was interrupted when, on Mars, a contingent of "synths" (androids) rose up and massacred their human masters. The synths were nothing like Lieutenant Commander Data; very little progress had been made in creating synths as complex as he was. The result of this attack was a permanent ban on all things synth-related: research, manufacture, everything. Since the synths had also been instrumental in the effort to rescue the Romulans from their solar system's disaster, that rescue effort was effectively halted, leaving an enraged Picard to threaten resignation. Starfleet called his bluff; Picard resigned, and his friend and subordinate Raffi (Hurd) was booted out of Starfleet because of her loyalty to Picard, who did nothing to help her. This left Raffi humiliated and embittered, and she went to live in isolation in the desert.

Picard meets Dahj and has ideas about what might be happening—all linked to Data, from whose neurons Dahj, an organic android, had been made. This was the one strand of advancement that had happened with research into synths. Picard visits the Earthbound branch of the Daystrom Institute, where cybernetic research continues, but only in simulation. Picard finds the head of the research team, Dr. Agnes Jurati, but while at Daystrom, the assassination team comes again for Dahj, and Picard watches helplessly as she fights and gets killed—all before Jurati has a chance to meet Dahj, who is indirectly the result of Jurati's work.

As the season unfolds, we discover the assassins are members of Romulan secret special forces, a branch called the Zhat Vash, who are religiously committed to the elimination of all synthetic life because of an ancient prophecy or vision, known as the Admonition, that foretells wholesale destruction should synthetic life ever be allowed to predominate. The Zhat Vash see themselves as holy warriors cleansing the galaxy of an abomination. Meanwhile, Jurati reveals that the nature of the "neuronic cloning" that gave rise to Dahj would generally result in a twinning process, which means Dahj had, or has, a sister. Like Dahj, this sister, named Soji—Dr. Soji Asha—believes herself to be human, and the Zhat Vash is aware of her existence. Soji works on a decommissioned Borg cube called the Artifact, rehabilitating former Borg drones by helping to remove their cybernetic parts, but a Romulan officer named Narek (Harry Treadaway) has been slyly insinuating himself into Soji's life, seducing her so as to glean certain information from her unconscious about a special planet where a colony of synths lives an isolated existence. Narek's sister Narissa will lead the attack on the synths once the world is discovered; Narissa also works with the Starfleet-embedded Commodore Oh, whose spy network is sinister and far-reaching.

Rejected by Admiral Clancy when he asks her for a ship, Picard reluctantly turns to the embittered Raffi to find him a pilot, and she points him to Chris Rios, captain of La Sirena. Jurati and Raffi end up joining Picard as he pieces together where to find Soji, the living twin sister of Dahj. Picard also discovers that Data had once painted a picture titled "Daughter," in which either Soji or Dahj is prominently featured, thus tightening the connection between Data and the two young women.

The rest of the season is about how Picard assembles his group, and what happens next: he recruits the help of Elnor, now a young and talented warrior who pledges himself to lost causes, and he travels to the planet Nepenthe where he meets a happily domesticated Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis). They have a daughter named Kestra (Lulu Wilson), and they used to have a son named Thad, who died indirectly as a result of the ban on synths: a cure for a silicon-based virus was no longer possible because of the ban. Picard's travels also lead him to meet with ex-Borg Hugh (Jonathan del Arco) and Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan). Seven works as a "vigilante" for the Fenris Rangers, protecting people where Starfleet cannot. Hugh, meanwhile, is head of the operations on the Artifact to help undo the damage the Borg did in assimilating so many humanoid species. As all of this is happening—Picard's race to beat the Romulans to the synth's "home" planet, the machinations of the Romulan spies, a series of revelations about some of the main characters' pasts—Picard has to deal with the fact that a brain anomaly has left him terminally ill. Can he complete his mission to rescue the synths from destruction in time?

It's a dizzying number of plot strands to cover, and I haven't mentioned half of them. "Picard," Season 1, definitely bites off more than it can chew, and I think that, more than any perceived wokeness, is one of its major flaws. I also think the quality of the show's writing was both inconsistent and, at times, illogical. Agnes Jurati, for example, turns out to be a betrayer who murders a former lover and says nothing, for a long time, about having ingested a Romulan tracking device (it dissolves in the blood) that allows Narek to track La Sirena even when Rios's ship enters a Borg transwarp conduit to travel enormous distances in a short time. Jurati also falls for Captain Rios—a romantic subplot that both came out of nowhere and led nowhere. I also don't understand how, after Jurati's murder of her mentor and lover, and her betrayal of the Sirena's crew and passengers by not mentioning the tracking device, everyone was able to forgive Jurati and let her continue on with them in their adventure. Rios himself was something of a poorly written mixed bag as well; falling for someone like Jurati struck me as very out of character. But I could see some potential in his character; it just never got realized by the end of the season.

At the same time, other characters struck me as both richly dimensional and well written. Raffi may be the best example of this. A totally new character never once seen in "The Next Generation," Raffi has history with Picard, and that's partly thanks to how old Picard is. She's strong but flawed: a horrible mom rejected by her son, who is married and about to become a father. She's trying to put the pieces of her life back together, but she's angry at Picard for how things went down during the botched rescue of the Romulans. The only false note for Raffi is something that is hinted at in the middle of the season but comes to fruition only in the season's final episode: it turns out she's bisexual and attracted to Seven of Nine (who is also bisexual, considering her heterosexual romances over the course of "Star Trek: Discovery"). It's not that I think the bisexuality is icky: it just came out of nowhere, a lot like the Rios/Jurati romance. But maybe Season 2, which I have yet to watch, will flesh this out a bit more. Picard himself is fairly well written even if we're given a horrifying glimpse, in Episode 1, of just how bad Patrick Stewart's spoken French is (and there's a hint that Picard did not grow up speaking much French). Picard is still good at giving inspiring speeches and having philosophical moments; he remains a thinker—perhaps even more so now that he's in his nineties and unable to move about as spryly as he once did.

One big story element that makes me both more and less forgiving of the series is how it incorporates ideas from Isaac Asimov's fictional universe. I've read all of Asimov's Foundation series, and even though I never touched his Robot series, I've been aware for a long time that the two stories were meant to converge eventually. Season 1 of "Picard" hints at something like this, and it's a grandiose idea: by the time we learn about the Admonition, we're made aware that there are intelligent, synthetic beings, godlike in stature, that are looking out for all synthetic life, wherever it may be found. That idea in itself is fascinating, and I wish Season 1 had pushed more in that magnificent direction: new life forms, and new civilizations stretching the limits of human imagination. But—and this is what makes me feel less forgiving of the season—the final episode gets us to a point where the synths on their "home" planet have opened a portal to these greater beings, to summon them and stamp out organic life, and when we get a quick glimpse of what these beings look like... all we see are these armored appendages reminiscent of both angry centipedes and Dr. Octopus's AI robots arms, all flailing about—right as the portal closes. Basically, "Picard" takes a wonderful Asimovian idea—that robotic life might actually predate and supersede organic life—and turns it into a cheap horror-movie special effect. This, too, is a much worse sin than any wokeness in the season.

There was also one major bit of utter sci-fi ridiculousness: the concept of an octonary, a "planetary system with eight component stars." Such arrangements rarely occur naturally, and the Romulans have come to view one particular octonary as a warning: this octonary contains a planet on which can be found the site where the Admonition—foretelling the destruction of organic life—can be experienced. The idea that supreme alien beings would drag together stars and planets in such a unique shape merely to serve as a warning struck me, while I watched the show, as utterly absurd. How would another alien race ever come to the conclusion that the octonary was a warning?

And here's the biggest spoiler of them all: late in the season, when the motley crew of La Sirena finds the synth planet Coppelius, Picard is able to avert disaster with help from Will Riker and a fleet of Federation vessels, but the old admiral finally succumbs to his terminal illness and dies. Luckily for him, it was teased, an episode or two before his death, that the residents of Coppelius had perfected the art of transferring consciousness to "golems," i.e., synth versions of human bodies. So Picard's consciousness is "rescued" from his human body and implanted in a golem that has been made to model Picard's ninety-some-year-old body in every particular: no super strength, no youthful appearance, nothing. This was done to give Picard a chance to get used to the new body without receiving too great of a shock. Honestly, I'm not sure how I felt about this. The downloading and uploading of consciousness brings up many of the same philosophical issues associated with transporter technology: has a copy been created, or was something real and indestructible carried over from one bodily manifestation to another? This new "golem" Picard has all of the previous Picard's memories, but is the golem "ensouled" with the previous Picard's consciousness? Is this the same Picard in a meaningful way, or are we all simply going to pretend he/it is? One final thing about this "new" Picard: his "engoleming" is hinted at every time you watch the Season 1 opening credits: there's a moment in the credits when we see shattered pieces of Picard coming together to form his face. Picard... reassembled.

Overall, I didn't think Season 1 of "Picard" was bad in the way that rightie critics thought it was bad: it was bad for some woke-related reasons, yes, but more fundamentally for totally different reasons. We were almost given a glimpse of something that could have been transcendent—the sort of transcendence that the series finale of "The Next Generation" succeeded at doing—and were instead left with stale narrative crumbs and a feeling of deep frustration. At the same time, the season showed brief moments of potential brilliance even as it deconstructed the tropes that made us love the older TV series. So I finished Season 1 of "Picard" feeling battered and at least a little betrayed, but I can't quite convince myself the season was totally irredeemable. All I can say is: "Watch at your own risk."

And now, I move on to Season 2, which I fear is going to be much, much worse: it uses time travel and supposedly takes aim at Trump-era immigration policy.

Friday, April 26, 2024

poll discussion from 2 weeks ago

The political weather is always changing. By that standard, this news is on the verge of becoming stale:

the drawdown of my meds

Here's an update. I've just done the legwork of comparing the meds I received on April 11 and the meds I received today, on April 26. The doc did indeed reduce some dosages: 3 out of 8 of meds went from "take twice a day" to "take once a day"—not much of a drawdown, but not nothing, either. Better news: one blood-sugar med was removed entirely. All in all, I still have 8 types of pills to take per day, but the raw number of pills has gone down from 16 to just 10, which is close to the 8 pills a day I used to take. Alas, I'm still doing insulin injections, but if I stay ruthlessly low-carb from now on, I might wean myself off that, too. Per what the doc had said, the meds may get further reduced in a few months: we have to see how well I perform in the meantime. What I'm doing now seems to be working: Newcastle plus walking. I might also do the occasional one- or two-day fast to kickstart even more weight loss, but with my blood-pressure meds still being a huge component, I don't know if I should fast beyond 48 hours—not until my meds are reduced further.

back from the horse spittle

I got back from the hospital earlier than I thought I would. I guess it was a slow day (or there were no-shows) because I got bumped from a 4:50 p.m. appointment to a 4:15 appointment. I got to Samsung Hospital two hours beforehand, like a good little boy, and immediately saw they'd rearranged everything—nothing was where it had been three years earlier: the diabetes center had moved; the blood-work center was in a different spot, and everywhere I went, I had to ask directions. My paperwork was only partially helpful, basically telling me what building and what floor to go to, but beyond that, I had to talk to staffers for the details.

The day began with three tests, and one nurse suggested I do them in a different order from what was on the paper, so I did my blood sample first, then the chest x-ray, then the electrocardiogram. These tests take time to process, hence the two-hours-early arrival time. Lastly, there was the consult, which occurred in Room 8 of the cardio wing. I was done with all of my tests by 2:30 p.m., so I shuffled over to the cardio wing to wait for my 4:50 consult. Once I got there, I was told there was one last thing to do, but I'd expected it: my BP. There were several BP stations in the front section of the cardio wing; I scanned my patient number at one of them, sat down, hit "start," and let the machine do its thing. I saw with grim satisfaction that, even though these machines often seem to inflate my BP numbers, I was still slightly below normal thanks to the enormous amounts of meds I've been taking. It seems that nothing short of a good pounding by Thor's hammer is enough to tamp my BP down.

I'm the "KIM" who's next in line. They never write the name in Korean.

Looking and feeling woozy from taking meds last night and then fasting from yesterday to this appointment.

When Dr. Park saw me, she commented that my heart condition had "stabilized," but that I was still on the weak side. I told her about my meds and my wooziness; I'm not sure I completely understood her reply, but it sounded as though she were saying she'd lower the meds a bit this time around, but lowering them further would require a few months' more time to see what progress I'm making. If, around July, I'm still improving, then she'll lower the meds even more. We talked a bit about exercise and chest pain, and she basically said to take it easy. Key take-away concepts from the consult were "stabilized," "improved," and "still needs improvement." And after only five minutes, I was done.

Once I left Samsung, my first priority—after paying for tests and consults and then hunting down my meds at the local pharmacy (more money out the window)—was to get some food into me. I've done that, and I feel a bit better now, but I'll likely be resting for the rest of today. My next appointment, for both cardio and diabetes, is in about a month (28 days), and those consults are rather spread apart on the schedule: one at 11:10 a.m., and one at 5:20 p.m. I'll once again have to be at the hospital two hours early to run the same three tests I had today. This next appointment is on May 24, a Friday, so I won't be at work at all on that day. I'm going to have to work some weekends to make up for these absences. Not fun.

...and while you're at it, prosecute Jon Stewart

But you know they won't. The door only swings one way.

satire: "Puppetgate"


what is ragù?

Pasta Queen brings the zaniness

morning numbers

blood sugar: 108 (thanks to fasting plus walking)
BP: 104/63 (sure to be way higher at the hospital, especially as the meds wear off)
weight: 113 kg (again, fasting)
pulse: 65 or 73 (BP cuff or oximeter; they always give different numbers)
pulse-ox: 99
estimated A1c since 4/15: 7.14

The A1c number is in no way accurate: at the hospital, when they do the blood work, it'll be much higher because A1c is a three-month average. The date of April 15 just happens to be when I started measuring my numbers in earnest again. Last time I had my A1c officially checked, I was at 10.2, which is scarily high (under 5.5 is ideal for normies; I've never been that low). In a few months, though, I ought to be in the 5 or 6 range.

So far this morning, I'm not feeling faint or woozy, so I should be able to survive into the afternoon with no problems. I'd been worried about taking my meds on an empty stomach, but truth be told, my stomach wasn't entirely empty: before midnight last night, I indulged in a mug of coffee with a ton of cream and some artificial sweetener.* Despite the sweetener and its BS/insulin spikes, I woke up to a blood-sugar reading of 108, which is a major step down from previous numbers.** That's definitely because I've started walking again. For the moment, these are relatively short walks of about two hours. At my currently slow speed, that's not even quite 8K in terms of distance. I just walk out to the Han River and back to my place. This weekend, I'll do my first long walk, maybe down to Bundang (18K).


*The hospital said I needed to fast nine hours before coming. My appointment today is at 4:50 p.m., so I need to be at the hospital two hours earlier, i.e., by 2:50 p.m. I've had nothing since that coffee, so by 2:50 p.m. today, I'll have fasted at least 14 hours—more than enough time by hospital standards.

**From April 15: 

165 (4/15, then skipped a few days)
178 (4/18)
190 (4/19)
175 (4/20)
157 (4/21)
163 (4/22)
152 (4/23)
140 (4/24)
155 (4/25)
108 (4/26)

See the sudden drop at the end? That's fasting plus walking. I'll start eating again later today, so the number will go back up, but as you see from 4/15 to 4/25, there is a slight downward trend from 165 to 155. That's the important trend to note amidst all the fluctuations.

Matt Walsh vs. Greg Abbott

Texas governor Greg Abbott has a new executive order targeting campus antisemitism:

better than planks, he says

faces in the concrete

Demonic "faces" seen during my walk Thursday night. Some don't look like faces at all, so you'll have to use your imagination to see anything. Think of the less human "faces" as the result of having lost fights, with some or most facial features having been mangled or ripped off. Enjoy the gallery.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Thursday-night walk

Same route as before, and I did manage to do one fairly puny staircase of 30-40 steps. No chest pains at all tonight. I guess all I needed was to fast.

Doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon, 4:50 p.m. I have to be there two hours early for blood work, an x-ray, etc. The boss told me not to bother coming in to work.

More hours to make up later.

your "old man yells at cloud" moment

Let him have his crotchety-old-man rant:

We've talked about one of those idiots before. Our ranter has a point.