Sunday, January 23, 2022

how do you help an addicted friend who refuses help?

I have an addicted friend. You'd think he'd be too mature for this particular addiction, but it's a sickness that strikes a lot of men of his age and financial position. My friend is perfectly aware he's both addicted and forever engaging in self-destructive behavior, and while he's always a good sport about seeming to take the counsel of friends in the spirit in which that counsel is intended, he keeps right on indulging his addiction. Is he stupid? Is he too far gone? Can anything be done to help him, or should we all just stand aside and watch his sad, slow death-spiral as he crashes again and again, never learning the essential lessons that he should have learned years ago?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
—possibly of 19th-century origin, routinely misattributed to Einstein and Ben Franklin



heh




since I have no pics of Saturday's walk

Out of curiosity, I ordered the variety pack of Magic Spoon cereal, which is supposed to be grain-free, packed with protein, and keto-friendly:

Of the four flavors in my variety pack, I can say that peanut butter and frosty are horrible. The complaints I read on Amazon.com, about how these cereals have a weird, chemical-y taste, apply most strongly to these two cereals. Chocolate is also a bit off, but it's kind of good, and the so-called fruity flavor is an exact match for Froot Loops. Anyone who's eaten Froot Loops knows the cereal doesn't taste natural at all, but if you ever had it during your childhood, you might like Magic Spoon's version, anyway. When I was a kid, our family was more into bland cereals like Cheerios, so I wouldn't eat the more sugary cereals unless I was staying the night at someone else's house. As you might have guessed, Magic Spoon cereals were developed primarily for people on keto who crave the flavors and textures of their previous life (this is the same urge that motivates the development of keto breads, pastas, cakes, etc.).

To sum up: I'd never buy the variety pack again given that 50% of the pack sucks, and while I'd consider buying the chocolate one again, I know I'd almost definitely buy the fruity flavor a second time. Oh, yeah: consistency-wise, I thought Magic Spoon mimicked normal cereal pretty well. I'd seen complaints of the cereal melting in milk and leaving weird, gooey lumps, but that's not what I experienced. Maybe I ate it too fast.

That said, I ordered this variety pack through Coupang, and it was hellaciously expensive ($25 a box—no joke), making this more of a full-on scientific experiment and less of a mere curiosity purchase. So given the astronomical price point, no, I won't be buying this cereal again. It also doesn't help that Magic Spoon cereal boxes are much smaller than average cereal boxes, making the cereal that much more expensive. All in all, I can't recommend Magic Spoon to fellow expats. If the cereal is more reasonably priced in the States, then go for it. Otherwise, I'll be sticking to more keto-style breakfasts (eggs, avocado, keto bagel, etc.).

Among the people I subscribe to on YouTube, some of them shill, occasionally, for Magic Spoon, and I now think they're all lying through their teeth, merely allowing Magic Spoon to sponsor them for the filthy lucre. I certainly wouldn't let the company sponsor me, and I'm not sure that I'd call Magic Spoon "a product you can believe in."



Saturday, January 22, 2022

vaccines have failed; mandates should be dropped

From The Epoch Times:

Dr. Peter McCullough: Vaccines Failed in Stopping COVID-19[,] and Mandates Have to Be Dropped

The COVID-19 vaccines have largely failed in stopping the transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, especially for the most recent Omicron variant, so the vaccine mandate should be thrown away, according to Dr. Peter McCullough.

“The vaccines themselves have basically now become obsolete as the virus has continued to mutate,” McCullough told NTD’s “Capitol Report” in an interview broadcast on Wednesday. “So at this point of time, the vaccine mandates have to be dropped across the board.”

McCullough said some recent studies have shown the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines dropped significantly with the new variants.

[...]

“The only thing the vaccines could have done is reduce the chances of getting COVID-19. … So many millions of Americans who have taken the vaccines have been disappointed to find out they contracted COVID-19 anyway,” McCullough continued.

On Wednesday, the CDC published a study showing protection from prior infection, or so-called natural immunity, was better than the protection from COVID-19 vaccines against the Delta variant.

Drop it all.



Althouse's error

I don't normally read Ann Althouse; she was an Obama voter who has been trying to claw her way back to respectability. My friend John McCrarey, perhaps more forgiving, does read her, though, and he occasionally sends Althouse links my way. Althouse is a self-proclaimed language nerd, but as you'll see in the example sentence below, she ain't perfect.

I'm going to try again to watch it, for the sake of this post, but I'm going to publish first, because I don't know how many on-and-off clickings it will take for me to reach the end.

Did you catch it? It's a comma error—one that's rather common among those who think "a comma marks a pause." Specifically, it's the comma in front of because: it needs to be deleted. The word because is a subordinating conjunction; subordinating conjunctions* introduce subordinate (dependent) clauses. I alluded to how comma rules for complex sentences are different from those for compound sentences in my previous "find the error" post, but let's make the rule explicit, here: if the subordinate clause comes first (like in this very sentence), use a comma. If the subordinate clause comes last, then no comma. Here are two simple examples to illustrate how this works:

If you do that again, I'll kill you.
I'll kill you if you do that again.

In the above sentences, if is a subordinating conjunction introducing the subordinate clause you do that again. In the first sentence, the subordinate clause comes first, so there's a comma. In the second sentence, the subordinate clause comes last, so there's no comma. All of this is covered in Part 2 of my ongoing comma series. As I've contended before, if people were to read only Parts 1 and 2 of my series, they'd eliminate 95% of their comma errors. So, what are you waiting for? Go read and master this!

Keep in mind that an actor reading a line with a because in it will often pause before the because. This prepares the listener for the reason that's coming next, and it's a natural thing to do. However, the pause you hear in the voice reading does not translate, on the page, into a pause marked by a comma. This is why I've been at pains, again and again, to get people to stop thinking about how commas mark pauses. They do mark pauses on occasion, but the rule itself is misleading, as we see above. So stop retreating to vapid bullshit like "commas mark pauses" and "this sounds right" or "this sounds awkward" or "this just doesn't flow." That's all a bunch of vague nonsense. Where there are explicit rules to guide your writing, learn them and use them. This is how to improve.

__________

*An incomplete list of subordinating conjunctions would include: because, before, after, if, that, when, although, even though, even if, while, during, in order to, provided that, unless, until, once, so that, etc.



ululate!

Meat Loaf: dead at 74. Nickname came from a football coach. Real name: Marvin Lee Aday. Cause of death: many are saying COVID. He was certainly in the danger demographic.

Can't say I ever really appreciated his music. I do, however, remember his memorable turn as Robert Paulson in "Fight Club"—the dude with "bitch tits" who ends up getting his head blown out. Mr. Loaf had apparently been anti-vaccine mandate. RIP, O Bat out of Hell.

UPDATE: oh, noes! Comedian Louie Anderson also just died at age 68. Too many ululates!



Friday, January 21, 2022

find the error(s)

Some shit I found online and via Kindle. Find the error or errors:

1. Just because someone is old, doesn't mean they can't hurt you.

2. Howard Stern became Howard Stern because he flaunted authority.

3. The showdown in Eastern Europe might feel like someone else's problem as Americans face a pandemic and high inflation, and wage their own political battles.

4. She’s not sailing across the theater in a hook up, there are no pyrotechnics.

5. It was a good hike with the group and I’ll share some photos at the end of this post.

Highlight the space between the brackets for answers and explanations.

[1. No comma needed. Normally, you never put a comma between a subject and a predicate unless you're using a pair of commas to make a parenthetical expression (e.g., for appositives or whatever). In this sentence, Just because someone is old is a noun clause, i.e., that entire group of words functions as a single noun. In your mind, replace that noun clause with a simpler noun phrase like This fact. Now see what I mean: This fact doesn't mean they can't hurt you. It should be easier, now, to see why you shouldn't insert a comma. I'm also not a fan of the singular "they" in they can't hurt you. I'd rewrite the sentence this way: Just because someone is old doesn't mean she can't hurt you. Note that the singular "they" is nowadays considered acceptable in most types of writing except, perhaps, for very formal registers.

2. Diction: the word is flouted, not flaunted. To flout the law is to show contempt for the law, usually in an obvious, open, unabashed way. To flaunt your new jewels means you're brazenly showing them off to everyone around you. There is, however, some debate on this point: there are experts who argue that flaunt the law can indeed refer to a defiant show of disdain for the law. So consider this correction to be in line with my sometimes-curmudgeonly, old-school worldview. Some experts will push back against what I'm saying here.

3. Delete the comma. This is a compound predicate, so no comma is needed. Sheila sat down and farted. Never: Sheila sat down, and farted. In the above sentence, the compound predicate is face... and wage...

4. One problem is the term hook-up, which should be hyphenated or written as a closed compound: hookup. The other problem is the comma, which should be a semicolon (this is called a comma splice—an error in which you're using a comma when you really ought to use a semicolon). A semicolon separates two independent clauses, which is what you've got here.

5. Sorry, John, but you're a rich source for punctuation errors. I could do a whole textbook using your sentences as examples! Anyway, there ought to be a comma before and. The comma-and locution works like a semicolon, separating two independent clauses, which is what you've got here, too. Don't make the mistake of applying this rule to complex sentences, which have subordinate (dependent) clauses and follow their own rules.]



Redemption: review

Scottish author Will Jordan goes by the moniker The Critical Drinker on YouTube, and he's one of my favorite movie critics. He's been hawking a series of novels he's written, so I finally bit the bullet and bought Redemption, the first book of Jordan's Ryan Drake series. Drake, our protag, is meant to be something like Jason Bourne or Jack Reacher.

Ryan Drake is an ex-SAS Englishman currently working with the American CIA. He is tasked with assembling a team and rescuing a woman code-named Maras from a Russian prison. Maras's rescue is only the first part of the story, though, as Drake finds himself enmeshed in a web of intrigue regarding who Maras is and why she's such a valuable intelligence asset. The novel's plot includes some twists and turns, and we eventually build up to who the real bad guy is, behind the scenes and pulling the strings.  (As some Amazon reader-reviewers noted, it's not much of a surprise.) Several characters in the story have questionable paths and are seeking some sort of redemption, so the novel's title has multiple meanings.

I used to read Mack Bolan the Executioner adventures back when I was a kid. Jordan's novel reminded me, a little, of those heady days: there are occasional technical descriptions of fighting techniques, weaponry, and military technology, but unlike with the Bolan books, Jordan doesn't beat you over the head with all the technical minutiae.

The plot of Redemption moves along at a healthy pace; Jordan has a good idea of how to set the tempo, which often feels cinematic, smash-cutting Crichton-like from scene to scene as if the author were hoping to have his novel turned into a movie adaptation. Along with being well-paced, the plot offers decent characterization (some unsympathetic characters end up being more dimensional than they appear at first glance), and the story is smart enough to answer questions that might pop up in the reader's mind.

Like Lee Child, author of many Jack Reacher novels, Will Jordan is a Brit who writes American characters. Overall, I think Jordan actually does a better job than Child of capturing the American way of talking, although there are times when certain Britishisms make their way into American mouths. Jordan also slips up with certain iconic American names, like that of Frederick Douglass, whose surname is misspelled as Douglas in the novel.

There were other flaws and inaccuracies in the narrative as well. Jordan's description of DC's climate was a bit off-pitch: he made it out to be more tropical than it really is, and I'm not sure he had the best grasp of DC-MD-VA geography. A Marine character is listed as a West Point graduate, which would be a rare bird, indeed. It wasn't until late in the novel that Jordan used the American term "GPS" to describe what the Brits call "sat nav."

The character of Maras, while shrouded in mystery, also came off, at times, as a bit one-note: a pure killer whose training allows her to defeat almost all opponents. And inevitably, a sort-of romance develops between Maras and protagonist Drake; it comes off a bit corny.

The story seemed to be laced with deliberate or accidental references to TV and movie pop culture; many situations seemed ripped straight out of the series "24," for example: Drake is forced by a terrorist to go against his own team, which is something that happened to Jack Bauer more than once in "24," and later in the novel, an interrogator gets information out of a recalcitrant prisoner by faking a family member's death in exactly the same manner in which the same scene happened in one of the later seasons of "24," right up to the overturning of a chair before the fake-shooting of the victim. Two characters in the story are named Dietrich and Frost, which are the names of two characters in 1986's "Aliens." There's an "I shot a kid" line that is almost definitely from "Die Hard." Another evil character says, "When I found out it was you, I said I'd do it for nothing," which I believe echoes Bennett's line in Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Commando."

On a linguistic note: Will Jordan, being British, writes in an unrepentantly British style. Once you, as an American, get into the flow of the story, you might stop noticing some of the more obvious stylistic quirks, like using single quotes for dialogue, writing colour and manoeuvre instead of color and maneuver, etc., but whenever certain American characters accidentally sound less American, this may prove jarring to your Yankee mind. (I was also amused to see ministry used in an American context instead of department.)

So Redemption contained some admittedly derivative elements and had some linguistic quirks, but overall, the story was gripping, and not in a Dan Brown way. Dan Brown tends to end all his chapters on cliffhangers as a way to keep the reader hooked, but Jordan doesn't repeatedly pull that trick ad nauseam. If you're in the mood for a spy novel with a lot of action, suspense, and decent characters, you could do far worse than pick up a copy of Redemption. It's not Shakespeare, but it's a decent read.

__________

ADDENDUM: I should note that, despite my nitpicking about Britishisms, I would be hard-pressed to write a novel featuring British characters who sounded authentically British. I know a lot of little British linguistic quirks, but I can't string them together to create naturalistic British dialogue. So please recalibrate your assessment of my criticism with all that in mind. I'm aware that it's hard to write authentic dialogue in an idiom that's not your own, so if anything, Will Jordan deserves praise for having the balls to try and mostly succeed.



word salad

I wrote this in the comments section of Instapundit (see this post), and it got both a lot of likes and even an "LOL" or two from some respondents:

REPORTER: The UK is dropping its mask mandate. Will the US follow suit?
BIDEN: Pizza triangulation smoke frogfucker.
REPORTER: Is that a yes?
BIDEN: Farthole momentum drive-train rabbits.
REPORTER: Could you clarify, sir?
BIDEN: Candy-coated testicle surgery.
REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. President.

Report:

Today, President Joe Biden clearly addressed the question of whether the United States would follow the example of the United Kingdom and drop the mask mandate country-wide. Biden expressed optimism that a decision may be made on the issue in due time.

I think the sad part is that the final paragraph of my comment is an accurate depiction of the so-called palace-guard media, which spends its days covering for Biden's many senile gaffes. "Move along... nothing to see here." As far as I'm concerned, the mainstream media can't die off fast enough. This is one thing the alt-media talking heads have gotten wrong: for years, they've been saying the MSM is dying and will disappear soon, but the MSM's pockets are deep, and stupid viewers who credulously consume MSM garbage are legion. The MSM isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Not without the help of concerted, probably violent, action. Next time people want to storm the Capitol, they should think about invading, trashing, and burning down MSM offices instead. In the alt-media world, you've got real journalists interested in the actual truth who do what they do for little to no pay. On the MSM networks, it's nothing but rich, pampered, big-haired, clueless clowns reading teleprompters and unabashedly supporting leftie Democrat causes.



ouch, but yes, Biden is indeed the kiss of death

Larry Correia, who really needs an editor, writes on the occasion of the almost-first-year-anniversary of Biden's term:

Biden has accomplished exactly one thing. And that’s demonstrating beyond a shadow of a doubt to all reasonable, thinking Americans that [D]emocrats are total shit at governing. They talk a big game, but it’s all just platitudes, wishful thinking, and magic unicorns farting free shit. Their claimed philosophy is childlike and disintegrates when it touches reality, exposing their actual philosophy, which is [that they are] draconian control freaks who are compelled to meddle in everything. And the less they understand something, the more they feel the need to fuck with it.

This is quite a rant, but you do have to wade through a lot of illiterate grammar, diction, and punctuation. That said, the essence of Correia's argument is hard to deny, even if you're a Dem. Joe Biden is not helping his own party with his constant ineptitude.

On top of all this, I'm getting the sinking feeling that Biden might just linger on long enough to survive his first (and likely only) term in office.



which president is more Russia's bitch?

According to wild-eyed lefties, Trump was a tool of Russia. A slew of Democrat-led investigations of Trump found nothing, yet lefties persist in seeing Trump as Russia's whore. But look at Joe Biden's actions and policies: is he not more a tool of Russia in actuality? In his latest piece, Glenn Reynolds argues that, yes, Joe Biden is far more a tool of Russia than Trump could ever have been. Reynolds's article begins this way:

Back in 2017, Walter Russell Mead wrote: If Donald Trump “were the Manchurian candidate that people keep wanting to believe that he is, here are some of the things he’d be doing:

Limiting fracking as much as he possibly could
Blocking oil and gas pipelines
Opening negotiations for major nuclear arms reductions
Cutting U.S. military spending
Trying to tamp down tensions with Russia’s ally Iran.”


Trump, of course, did none of those things, and indeed the entire “Russian collusion” narrative that the press pushed for his entire presidency has been thoroughly exploded.


But someone is doing these things, right now. I’m talking, of course, about Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., who at his shambolic Wednesday press conference gave Russia the go-ahead to invade Ukraine, though it was quickly walked back by backwalker-in-chief Jen Psaki, his press secretary.

Read the rest, but note what Reynolds says further down:

No, I’m not saying that Biden is actually Putin’s puppet. For one thing, Putin seems to be good at hiring competent help.

But I am saying that Biden is acting in destructive ways that are difficult to distinguish from what he would be doing had he in fact been put in office to weaken the United States and strengthen Russia, Iran and other American enemies.

To the checklist above you can add a deliberate strategy of sowing racial and class division, a spending plan that anyone with half a brain could see would lead to inflation and an exploding national debt, accompanied by a push for regulatory policies that would constrict supplies and drive prices up further.

Pain all around. Let's go, Brandon!



Thursday, January 20, 2022

gonna take that booster? think twice

From The Epoch Times comes this bit of lovely news:

EEU Regulators, WHO Call for End to COVID Boosters, Citing Evidence Strategy Is Failing

EU drug regulators, World Health Organization experts and the former chairman of the UK’s COVID task force all cited mounting evidence mRNA COVID boosters aren’t working and the strategy should be dropped

European Union drug regulators on Tuesday warned frequent COVID boosters could adversely affect the immune system and said there are currently no data to support repeated doses.

This comes a month after EU drug regulators said it made sense to “administer COVID-19 vaccine boosters as early as three months after the initial two-shot regimen,” amid concerns over the Omicron variant.

According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), continued booster doses every four months could pose a risk of overloading people’s immune systems and lead to fatigue.

Instead, the agency recommended countries space out the intervals between boosters and coordinate their programs with the onset of the cold season in each hemisphere — following blueprints of influenza vaccination strategies.

“While use of additional boosters can be part of contingency plans, repeated vaccinations within short intervals would not represent a sustainable long-term strategy,” the EMA’s head of vaccines strategy, Marco Cavaleri, said Tuesday during a press briefing.

Boosters “can be done once, or maybe twice, but it’s not something that we can think should be repeated constantly,” Cavaleri said. “We need to think about how we can transition from the current pandemic setting to a more endemic setting.”

Endemic. That word again. Better get used to it, guys. 

To be clear, the EU and WHO aren't saying "no boosters" (the article's headline is misleading); they're saying there's a good chance that boosters can actually harm your immune system if done too frequently; at the very least, the injections need to be spaced out to prevent immune-system overload and fatigue. Further down in the article, the suggestion is made that boosters might not be a viable option against new variants (life beyond omicron, I guess).



tax document: resolved

Every January, our HR department sends us an email with a PDF attachment that explains how we're supposed to generate a year-end financial statement (tax) that's supposed to be sent to HR for processing. Every year, it's a pain in the ass because the PDF sent by HR is written in Konglish and always seems a little outdated. The process involves, first, generating an electronic certificate by going to my bank's website. That's a problem right there because, in generating this certificate, I override the new certificate that I just got put on my phone. (These certificates are part of an elaborate security system. Many, if not most, Korean websites where you can pay for something use an e-certificate of some sort.) 

Anyway, the procedure is: I generate a new certificate to use for my year-end financial statement; I save the e-certificate on my desktop computer's thumb drive, and then it's on to the next step: opening up the government's hometax.go.kr website, calling up my financial data, checking all the right boxes (you select which data to print out), then creating a PDF that gets saved on my computer. This PDF must then be attached to an email addressed to HR. Needless to say, the government website is a nightmare to navigate, too, and because I go through this procedure only once a year, I always end up forgetting how I'm supposed to do it (keeping in mind that HR's "helpful" PDF instructions aren't all that helpful).

After struggling my way through my bank's website and the government website, I finally had a PDF file attachment to send to HR... and then it was a matter of going back to the banking website to try and reinstall an e-certificate on my phone. (Without the e-certificate, I can't do any banking from my phone. With Korean online banking, it's never just about logging in to a well-encoded website; there's all these extra steps and doodads you have to deal with.) It took me several tries, tonight, to get yet another e-certificate on my phone (in fact, I eventually had to use my phone to get the e-certificate, not my desktop), but I finally managed to do it, and now, I'm ready to get the hell out of the office. Jesus Christ. I hate tax paperwork.



but many US states dropped their mask mandates long ago

The AARP website has a good article to help you sort through the question of which states have mask mandates, and which don't. The picture turns out not to be as neat and clean as all that, but for the most part, US red states lead the way in dropping mask mandates, and they're not suffering a huge blowup in COVID deaths as a result. 

It would be nice to see the US, as a whole, follow the UK's example, but US federalism may make that impossible. Trump, consistent with federalism and the US Constitution's 10th Amendment, let the individual states each figure out their own way to handle the pandemic, resulting in the red/blue split we've seen widen over two years. Red states aren't suffering significantly worse by any means (they may, in fact, be doing better overall), and their economies are much healthier than those of the blue states. 

While it's tempting to feel some Schadenfreude about how miserable the blue states are, the idea that the US could be splitting into two countries is discomfiting. It's better to wish for the good health of all states so we can all enjoy a fully functioning union.



is the UK leading the way?

"Follow the science," indeed—and for once, this isn't being said with bitter sarcasm. Paul Joseph Watson, in the video below, plays a brief clip in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson says, "The government will no longer mandate the wearing of face masks anywhere" to the sound of loud cheers from Parliament. See for yourself:

I don't know how laws and mandates are crafted and implemented in the UK. I assume Boris Johnson is making a unilateral declaration that has, if not the force of law, the force of a counter-mandate. (Any English or England-savvy readers are free to educate me further in the comments.) If Johnson is saying what I think he's saying, then we ought to see the masks drop off except among the most fearful—the true mask-clutchers.

As for COVID cases once the masks are off, I'd actually expect a bit of an uptick, but that's the moment for Johnson to stay the course and see his country through the crisis. We already know the death rate from COVID is minuscule, affecting only a narrow sector of the populace, and that hospitalizations aren't nearly as bad as people had thought they would be. Let there be an uptick in cases; you won't see a concomitant uptick in deaths (which are over-counted, anyway, by wild-eyed people who conflate "dying of COVID" and "dying with COVID").

If the UK truly has the courage to follow the actual science, this move could be the harbinger of a cascade in which politicians all over the world finally decide to do the right thing and drop all mask mandates (even if only for the cynical reason that they know dropping their country's mask mandate would be a popular move). Thank you, Great Britain, for showing the world what it means to have some balls.

ADDENDUM: here in Korea, where we all receive several-times-daily text messages about "confirmed infected" people, it might be constructive to switch to announcing the daily number of deaths both as raw numbers and as a percentage of the known-infected portion of the population. In Korea, that number would always be under 1%, and people would begin to realize how ridiculous most of the government's stop-the-spread measures are. Not long after that realization, Korean citizens would agitate for the removal of all anti-COVID measures now that we know the depth and breadth of how harmful the virus actually is.



Wednesday, January 19, 2022

"The Green Knight": one is not impressed

A less-than-enthusiastic review of "The Green Knight" that underscores some of my own reservations (my review is here):





Chinese folks shouting the "N" word

Dr. John Pepple has the story. Racism isn't just for white supremacists, just as slavery isn't an American invention, no matter what some would have you believe.



spent

I was in the office until after midnight writing the previous post, which took a lot out of me both physically and emotionally. Part of me is glad the story is now out there; part of me is still a bit queasy about releasing such personal information. Well, if nothing else, it ought to be an entertaining story for those with the endurance to read it the whole way through. Change a few names, and maybe I can turn this tragedy into a novel or a stage play.



80

Yesterday, January 17, my father turned 80. I haven't talked to my father since 2010, the year my mother died, but I think enough time has now passed—twelve years—for me to tell a story that I haven't told to anyone but those closest to me. It's the story of why I no longer talk to my dad, and why I'm just waiting for him to disappear from this earth. Caveat: this story involves some people close to me, and out of respect for their privacy, I'm going to be vague about who they are. Should they read this recounting, they'll know right away whom I'm talking about, but hopefully, no one else will. I should also note that, in telling this story, I'll be revealing a very unsavory side of myself, and if you come away thinking I'm just a father-hating piece of shit who should learn to forgive, well, I won't blame you for having that opinion. Just keep in mind the Let the one without sin cast the first stone maxim. Judge me if you must, but be honest about your own shortcomings, hangups, and character flaws when you do.

Mom died of glioblastoma multiforme, a.k.a. GBM, the most common and most aggressive type of brain cancer, on January 6, 2010, in an ICU berth at Walter Reed Medical Center. The doctor declared her time of death as 8:03 a.m. I won't go over the immediate aftermath of her death; you can visit my first Kevin's Walk blog and learn a lot there. All of us survivors were dealing, each in his own way, with Mom's passing. My brothers had jobs to get back to; I eventually wanted to find work again after lingering at home for more than a year. 

The parents had been renovating the house when I returned to the homestead with a knee injury in late 2008; I helped out a bit with renovation, and I also cooked meals for the Korean contractors and their Latino crew. Renovation finished right around the time Mom got diagnosed with brain cancer in April of 2009; I elected to stay with Mom as a caregiver. She'd initially had misgivings about my attempted cross-country walk, but she changed her tune once she was diagnosed with cancer; she suddenly wanted me to be out on the trail and not minding her. She may have felt guilty about my abandoning my walk plans for her sake, but she had to know that there was no way I'd abandon her. I'd like to think she was ultimately glad I was there, even if I didn't turn out to be the greatest caregiver.

Being one of Mom's caregivers had its difficulties, but one of the greatest annoyances, during Mom's illness, was Dad himself.

There were so many moments, while Mom was sick and dying, when I would end the day by yelling at my father for his many stupidities and other transgressions. From Day One of this crisis, Dad had basically checked out mentally, unable to deal with the frightening reality of Mom's cancer, unable to shoulder the burden of care for Mom in any way involving decision-making. Give Dad a specific task, like poring over Mom's medical records and looking for errors, and he was fine. He could take care of bathing Mom as she deteriorated, change her diapers as she became incontinent—these were all concrete things Dad could do well enough, and if I'm honest, I have to admit I'm thankful he at least bore those burdens. But give Dad a problem like What should Mom's future course of treatment be?—and he suddenly drew a blank, shriveled up, and left the big decisions to me. Dad wasn't the one doing research on GBM; he wasn't the one looking at the odds or figuring out Mom's diet (I did all the cooking). The big decisions were left up to me; as the head of the family, Dad had abdicated the throne. Without Mom herself to provide him with wisdom and a moral backbone, Dad had to rely on me, the Mom-proxy. He lacked basic common sense, and when he wasn't engaging in reality-avoidance, he'd go full-on with reality-distortion. People would call and ask how Mom was doing, and Dad would cheerfully reply, "Oh, she's fine," as if she were cancer-free. When we initially learned about the mass in Mom's head, I asked Dad how big it was. "Smaller than a golf ball," he told me, and I freaked out. Later on, when I asked him again, he said the tumor was "bigger tha a walnut." So which was it? It's like saying something is bigger than a fly but smaller than an elephant—you end up with no clue about the object's size. Dad was incapable of providing straight, accurate, truthful answers. This is what I had to deal with, day after day.

So I was often angry and frustrated. I didn't handle it well when people with good intentions would come visit and spout stupid platitudes. This added to my stress. (Outwardly, I was polite to everyone.) Once, we even had a Korean minister I'd never seen before come to our house, pray loudly, then never be heard from again. Who the fuck called this guy over? Dad? Some other idiot? To this day, I don't know where that pastor came from. More: I got furious every time Dad did something boneheaded like forgetting to put Mom's special crash helmet on her head before letting her walk around. (Mom hated the helmet, but she had to wear it because, at one point, the surgeon had removed an infected "bone flap" from her skull and had never replaced it: there was just a crater of skin, unsupported by bone, and under the skin was Mom's brain. Had she ever tripped and fallen while not wearing her helmet, that could easily have been the end.)

So, while Mom slept at the end of each painful day, I spent a lot of time yelling at Dad for his dumb mistakes and for not being medically competent despite his supposed EMT training courtesy of the Maryland Air National Guard. Maybe this is what drove Dad to seek someone outside the family to pour his own troubles onto because he obviously couldn't confess anything to me, his eldest and angriest son. I tried to keep my anger in check around other people, but my brother David once texted me that he had grown sick of my "smartass" attitude. I blogged about Mom's progress as a way to relieve stress, but I didn't recount the things I really wanted to vent about—namely, Dad's various stupidities. In many ways, Dad was lost and unable to function without specific direction. As I said above, he was fine with concrete, menial tasks requiring little to no thought, but the moment someone had to make a decision, he showed his utter lack of backbone and left all that to yours truly.

As mentioned, Mom died in early January of 2010. I stayed at the house, depressed, not looking for work until months had passed. Dad had used three different insurance policies, mostly his military TriCare policy, to pay for Mom's million-dollar treatment. Otherwise, he was skating along on retirement checks from both Northwest Airlines and the military (he'd retired as an E-8, Senior Master Sergeant, never quite having made it to Chief). 

Months went by, and Dad talked about going on a long trip in which he'd visit a series of friends, mainly people from our family's past—folks we had known from the old neighborhood back when we lived in Sequoyah, a community not far from our then-current house at 8525 Washington Avenue. Apparently, Dad's plans for his trip were becoming more concrete over time, and in July of 2010, seven months after Mom's death, Dad said he was going to go visit an old friend named Jeff (name changed) who now lived down in the Carolinas.

I can't remember how it happened, but I began to sense a shiftiness in Dad, and by the time Dad was ready to go on his trip, I was starting to smell a rat. When Dad drove off for his visit to Jeff, I sent an email of my own to Jeff, thanking him for hosting my father. Jeff wrote back, confused, and said he knew nothing of any visit from my dad; my email was the first he'd heard of it. Oh, I'm good. I had caught my father in a lie, so it was then a matter of trying to figure out where Dad was going. 

By this point, I was losing what little respect I had for the man, and since I knew Dad wouldn't be smart enough to retool his AOL email account's password, I just dove into his account and started rifling through his correspondence. Sure enough: jackpot. Dad had been emailing with Suzanne (name changed, though she doesn't deserve it, the bitch), a woman from the old Sequoyah neighborhood. This correspondence had been going on for months and had started even while Mom was still alive. So, I surmised, Suzanne had been Dad's shoulder to cry on. I later heard from a cousin in Texas that he had seen Dad emailing someone while Dad and Mom were in Texas visiting the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston; that someone was probably Suzanne. I also recalled walking in on Dad in his den in Virginia, between the January and July after Mom's death, and Dad would furtively flick off his computer screen when I entered. This was just something I quietly noted, and at the time, I hadn't quite put two and two together. I did know my dad would be too up-tight ever to be caught surfing porn; that would never have been the reason for his sneaky behavior.

So my guess was that Dad had lied about seeing Jeff and was instead on his way to see Suzanne. I knew from the emails I'd read that Dad had been developing a relationship with her. At a guess, this relationship had started even while Mom was alive. What I knew for sure was that Dad had lied to me and my two brothers for about seven months—from Mom's early-January death until Dad's supposed visit to Jeff in July. Now to track down Suzanne.

Finding Suzanne's address was easy enough: it was in the family Rolodex. I typed up and printed out a long, ranty, accusatory letter to Dad, and since he had taken the family van but left a spare van key, I pocketed the spare key and took the family's other car one July night, drove out to Suzanne's house, and sure enough, saw Dad's van sitting there. 

I guess Dad thought he'd had it all figured out, the fucker. His sons were in the dark, and he could enjoy some playtime with the woman he was eager to get in the sack with now that my mother was dead and cast aside like garbage. It made a sick sort of sense: Dad, the empty shell, with no moral compass of his own, could never survive without someone else to provide the necessary spiritual ballast. I've long thought of people who needily depend on other people as weak; Dad confirmed my assessment of his weakness. Had the tables been turned, had Dad been the one with the cancer, I'm sure Mom would have stayed loyal to his memory and been able to survive on her own. Some people seek others out of need and weakness, a desire to fill an empty space, but true love comes from a position of strength, a desire to give and to share what one has. That was Mom. Although Mom and I had had our own problems and conflicts, I came to understand that about her: she was the type to give and give until she finally gave out. My selfish, cowardly bastard of a father was nothing like that. He was a vampire, a needer, someone who lived off the strength of others.

Using the spare van key, I dropped my nasty note off in Dad's van and left. I don't remember the note's specific contents anymore, but it was something along the lines of I'm onto you, asshole, and I know now what a worthless, cowardly piece of shit you are. You lied about meeting Jeff, and you're gonna get it the next time I see you.

Moon Landing Day: July 20, 2010. Dad's been absent a couple days by this point, and I'm out mowing the front and back yards. At one point, I take a break and go inside for a cool drink of lemonade. The phone rings. It's Dad. "That was... some note," he says, still unable to speak in a direct way. Dad has always had a habit of deflecting, of never confronting. When I was yelling at him while Mom was sick, he'd say stupid shit like, "It's good that you can express these feelings." Stuff like that, stuff that was utterly beside the point, stuff that made him sound like a condescending therapist who thinks he has the right to analyze my feelings. That was some note. 

I screamed into the phone, probably something along the lines of Come home, you cowardly fuck! Dad lamely said something about needing to drive Suzanne somewhere, so he wouldn't be back for another couple days. I could tell he was petrified to meet me face to face, so he was in passive-aggressive mode, striking back by not doing something. I screamed some other shit I can no longer remember and hung up, feeling as if I were about to have a heart attack.

A few days later, a friend was over at my parents' house, commiserating with me. I remember cooking chicken Alfredo for the both of us; we ate in the basement, which had been nicely furnished for years with carpeting, furniture, a TV, and everything else needed to make it into an entertainment center. And while we were eating, heavy footsteps suddenly sounded from the stairs. I had been unloading onto my friend about my situation with Dad, and speak of the fucking Devil, who but Dad should appear! I could see the terror in Dad's face as he came down the steps, and I could feel my own face setting into a mask of fury as I said, "Well, look who's here." My friend diplomatically bowed out of the situation, hastening upstairs and out of the house. He later told me he regretted leaving, but I reassured him that he'd done the right thing: otherwise, police would have used him as a witness against me.

So there Dad was, his facial muscles going haywire with a mess of fear-induced tics. He stumblingly tried to explain himself, but I could sense he was yet again attempting to weasel out of whatever reckoning he knew was coming his way. I yelled more profanity at him, and then Dad made the mistake of trying to pull a trick from my childhood: he took his glasses off and said, "Do you want to take a swing at me?" When I was much younger, that trick worked: I would deflate because of course I couldn't hit my own father.

Not this time, though. I stomped over and belted him across the face. Later on, I'd realize this was a weak-ass hit, but it was enough to make Dad grunt, and as he toppled sideways and tried supporting himself on the couch, I hit him again and heard him actually mutter, "Didn't think you'd do it"—quite possibly the most truthful thing that bastard has ever uttered in his whole miserable, cocksucking life. While he was down, I punched him a third time in the back of the head and crammed his face into the couch's pillows, making him eat his shame and cowardice. But Dad was still mobile, and he sprung up and started to retreat up the basement stairs, muttering some shit about how this was his house. Later on, in retrospect, I thought to myself that I should have grabbed his ankles and yanked his lame ass back toward me, then pounded him until he was fucking bloody. But I didn't do that. I followed him up the stairs; he placed himself on one side of our dining-room table while I retreated to the kitchen.

Now, from what I heard later on, when I got bits and pieces of Dad's side of the story, Dad said he "feared for his life" at this point. But here's what really happened: I then yelled at Dad for a good two hours while he stood there like a fucking moron, occasionally trying to interrupt me as I harangued him about everything he had done wrong during Mom's sickness and after her death. I called him a liar, a coward, and an idiot. I'm pretty sure I used much worse language as well, but I can no longer remember what else I said. My harangue ended, and Dad eventually drove off. If he had truly been "fearing for his life," as he later claimed, he could have run out of the house screaming bloody murder and begging someone in the neighborhood to call 911. That didn't happen. "Feared for my life" is a load of shit, another of his many lies. Dad just stood there for two hours while I went after him verbally.

So that was an exciting day. The following day, sometime in the early afternoon, there was a sharp rap on our front door. I was alone in the house, and Alexandria's finest stood at the door. I let the officers in and was asked about the disturbance of the day before (an ex-policeman cousin later informed me one should never talk to the cops). Not one to hide anything, I told the truth, including the fact that I had hit my dad several times. That was enough to trigger the next phase of the officers' visit: my arrest. I was cuffed in my own living room, then led out to the squad car parked across the street. Before I was put into the car, I had to stand there and stew while the officers did some electronic paperwork. I don't know how many neighbors saw what was going on; certainly, none of them brought the matter up in the following months. Maybe no one saw me; I don't know.

The back of the squad car was made of a hard, slippery, flat plastic, and a clear-plastic divider separated me from the officers in the front seat. I was taken to the local police station, fingerprinted, photographed, grilled by the local magistrate (a tiny Korean woman; I recall being tempted to speak with her in Korean); she muttered something about how my situation was a "Jerry Springer" scenario, which goes to show (1) my case wasn't unique, and (2) she was pretty callous about the whole thing. I was given a 72-hour restraining order and a court date in October, I think. With that, I was driven back home. Dad was long gone, probably licking his wounds with Suzanne.

I was fairly quiet on the ride back, but the officer who drove (one of the arresting officers) was friendly enough. Maybe a little too friendly; at one point, he started talking about people's ignorance of certain traffic laws and how that made him want to "smack [people] upside the head." He instantly realized his casual mention of violence was the wrong thing to say, given my situation. Still, I appreciated his tacit understanding that there were things that could drive us to violence, like a father who lied to his son while disrespecting his wife's memory. The officer dropped me at the house, and we even shook hands.

Yeah, now that I think about it, I remember two things Dad tried to say while I was yelling at him in our dining room: (1) he had lied because he wanted to protect his sons, who weren't ready to deal with this new relationship (which is utter bullshit: he lied to save his own skin), and (2) he had talked with a much-older acquaintance of ours who had found and fallen in love with his current Korean wife only two months after losing his previous wife. To Dad's twisted mind, that made it okay for him to do likewise: to toss aside Mom's memory and seek companionship without taking at least a year to mourn. Mourn? No, not Dad, a man who, like a brain-damaged puppy, never seems to learn from his mistakes, who bounces back all springy and happy and optimistic from even the worst events because he just isn't deep enough to know what true suffering is. Dad's default nature is a happy, goofy optimism. Most people would say this is a virtue, given life's slings and arrows; but I see it as a marker that Dad is stuck inside his own fantasy bubble and incapable of learning anything new. Dad's also unable to figure out morals for himself; he needs others to show him the correct way to think and act in fluid situations. Mom's sickness and death had left him utterly at sea, rudderless.

Let me fast-forward, after all this crap, through the months that followed. A week after my blowup, we three sons sat down with Dad in a public park to hash some things out in what would be our final family talk. Dad looked perfectly fine: no bruises or anything from his encounter with my fists. A female cousin expressed disappointment when I told her Dad was unscathed: "How hard did you hit him?" she asked. Nothing got resolved at the park meeting, but our conversation did get recorded, and I've pondered writing and releasing a transcript of it after Dad dies. Dad and I met in court in October; I was forced to say "I'm sorry for hitting my father" as a supposed expression of remorse. (I merely meant I was sorry for the trouble and stress the incident had caused my brothers and cousins; I felt no regret about hitting Dad, and I'd probably do it all again, given the chance, even today.) I was given the punishment of nearly a year of probation plus 19 weeks of domestic-violence seminars (which turned out to be utter bullshit). Dad and I later met at a McDonald's to talk over my getting a job and moving out, which I did in late 2010 (I went to Front Royal, Virginia, where things are quiet and peaceful); Dad gave me a gift of $7000 in fuck-off money to let me move, pay a few months' rent, and start building up my own cash reserve. With me gone, Dad had his house back, and he no longer needed to keep cowering with Suzanne. I remember Dad's face during the McDonald's meeting: once again, he had these uncontrollable tics, born out of fear, that caused him to clamp a hand over his mouth. I remember asking him certain pointed questions during that meeting—questions he refused to answer because, like all liars, he wanted to keep his secrets. I reminded him that, in one email of his that I'd seen, he'd written to a friend, "No secrets! Absolutely none!" Fucking hypocrite.

In late 2010, I moved out of 8525 Washington Avenue, got a job with ETS as a TOEFL essay rater (a job whose skills would prove useful much later on), then moved over, in 2011, to teaching at a hagweon-style tutoring center in Centreville, Virginia; I stayed at that job until 2013, then I moved back to Korea and began a job in Daegu. I taught at Daegu Catholic U. for a year before going back up to Seoul and working at Dongguk University for year, after which I got hired by the Golden Goose in 2015. I'm still at the Golden Goose, mainly because it pays well and allows me the time to go on long walks.

I go from angry memories of Dad, whose lying and cowardice and disrespect for my mother's memory have poisoned all my childhood recollections of seemingly happier times, to just thinking that I basically have no father. Some thing that claims to be my biological father still walks the earth, but that thing has no meaning for me. Most of the time, anyway. I try not to think about Dad much these days, but 2022 does signal his eightieth birthday, and that milestone triggered a raft of ugly memories. 

It's thanks to Dad that I have little respect for weakness and cowardice when I encounter it. It's thanks to Dad that I despise my own weakness and cowardice whenever I fail to stand up and do something that ought to be done. I guess I owe Dad that much: his example helped me focus more sharply on certain values. As for forgiveness... maybe I'll forgive him when he's dead and gone. But not now. Dad, doubling down, got married to Suzanne two years after Mom's death; Suzanne has her own adult son and daughter, so Dad was able to leap from one family to another with ease. Superficial and stupid as he is, I'm sure he's yukking it up with his new wife and her kids, whom he doubtless sees as his kids now. How lucky for him that life has been kind enough to give him a soft landing: lose a wife, find a wife; lose three sons, find a new son and daughter. Because we don't live in a just universe, I'm sure my father is fine, smiling and laughing and lying to people about his actual personal situation. 

I do know he tried, lamely, to send birthday cards to us three boys through my brother David, whose address Dad knows. This went on for a while, apparently. I might have respected Dad more had he gathered up his courage and, like a man, like a true head of a household, demanded that we all meet as a family and hash things out, but he doesn't have that sort of Korean steeliness in his character. He lacks the backbone. I don't think he sends cards to David anymore, and besides, I told David to just burn mine whenever they arrived. If Dad doesn't have the balls to take the first step and call a family meeting, well, I'm not going to beg for such a meeting myself. Dad will die sometime soon, I hope, and while I'd like to imagine him dying sad and alone, missing his sons and regretting his cowardice, I know he's going to die surrounded by his new family (that Suzanne is a lying piece of work, too, by the way—she and Dad were made for each other), perfectly happy, his biological sons as cast-aside and forgotten as his first wife.

Anyway, having written all this shit, and not having made myself look particularly good in the process, I can assure you that I'm at a point where I don't obsess over this issue anymore. Dad rarely enters my thoughts these days, and given that I don't communicate with Suzanne at all, I expect not to hear news of Dad's eventual death until long after he's in the ground. I'm debating whether I'd even bother to announce his passing on this blog. I do know that, when I find out he's gone, I'll raise a glass and toast the fact that a world without that man is a much better place. Much better, indeed.



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

finally settled! "Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?"

A hilarious and definitive answer to the age-old question of whether "Die Hard" is a Christmas movie. Spoiler alert: it is. It very is.

Can't say I like Adam's politics, but he's funny and he deserves way more subscribers than he currently has (mid-60,000s). I've watched a few of his videos, now; he apparently used to work for ScreenRant, which is why he seems so polished. Some of his reviews turn into these weird, absurdist narratives in which he engages in some violent fantasy involving the bloody pummeling of noisy, obnoxious moviegoers (here, for instance, is a fantasy in which he basically slaughters a group of loud fat women while trying to watch a movie with his daughter). Politics aside, he's hard to dislike. Give him a listen.



\ ɜrb \ or \ hɜrb \ ?

Do you pronounce the "h" in "herb" or not? Here's what's up with all that.

I once had a British coworker who said the Brits pronounce it \hɜrb\ "because there's a bloody 'h' in it." I guess that made him a very hhhhonest, hhhhonorable man.



I probably won't see "Don't Look Up"





that scene

I recently wrote my review of "Pig," starring Nicolas Cage. After I wrote the review, I went on a review-watching binge among movie reviewers I know of on YouTube, and I quickly discovered that just about everybody—almost every single reviewer—mentions the same specific scene I mentioned in my review. I guess it affected us all the same way. It really is an incredible scene, and while I recommend that you watch it in the context of the movie, the scene itself is available on YouTube for those who can't wait:

I have a feeling the above video might end up getting yanked, so watch it soon if you must!

A bit of background about the scene: Rob Feld used to be a well-known chef in Portland. After losing his wife, he moved into the Oregonian wilderness and has been there the past fifteen years, living in a simple shack, communing with nature, cooking awesome meals for himself, and collecting truffles that he sells to young Amir, who resells them to Portland restaurants. Feld's truffle pig is stolen, and he's now in Portland hunting for it, using what connections he has to find it. In the above scene, Feld, who looks disheveled because of the simple life he leads, and who is bloodied because he's been asking for information in the local underground-fighting circuit, has tracked down a former employee who is now the head chef of Eurydice, a posh and avant-garde restaurant.

I'm glad the above clip ends where it does because the revelation at the very end of the scene is crucial to the plot and shouldn't be spoiled.



Monday, January 17, 2022

better late than never, I guess

Christ. My alt-media sources have been saying this for the past year and a half:

Goodbye, Pandemic; Hello, Endemic

In early 1918, when World War I entered its final year, the H1N1 influenza A virus infected millions of people, causing the Spanish flu pandemic. By April 1920, after four waves and almost 100 million deaths, the pandemic ended. H1N1 became much less deadly and caused only ordinary seasonal flu. It had become an endemic virus.

Will history repeat itself? After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and four waves of different variants, will SARS-CoV-2 become an endemic virus?

To its credit, the article does note that scientists have been talking "endemic" for more than a year. You wouldn't know it from our news media and politicians, though; you have to follow alt-media sources to hear the full story. So, for what it's worth, I've been thinking of SARS-CoV-2 as endemic pretty much all this time, i.e., since at least early to mid-2020.* As the rest of the media finally catch up, and as certain politicians finally start using the term "endemic" in their rhetoric, all I can say to these clueless people is, "Fuckin' duh. Morons."

This is life from now on. There are already coronaviruses out there that plague us seasonally, and COVID is just going to have its own season from now on—one virus among many. It'll come in waves, and maybe we'll finally develop some effective vaccines that respond to the latest mutations every year. (Although I should note that I don't bother with regular flu shots, either! That'll change, I'm sure, once I'm old and feeble and immunocompromised.)

Meanwhile, everybody, let go of your fear. Try to enjoy life.

__________

*I didn't specifically use the term "endemic" on this blog until March of last year, it seems.



well, this is weird

So here's a weird thing: when I type "shepherd's pie" into my blog's search window, then click "search by date," my search results don't include my previous post. Same if I do a search for "hachis parmentier." Anyone else noticing this problem? (Not that my readers ever bother to use my blog's search window, of course...)

I haven't seen this sort of quirky behavior since before Google took Blogger over.



hachis parmentier (shepherd's pie)

I think the shepherd's pie went over well today. The boss did end up coming in; his wife seems to be OK, so by extension, he reasons, he must also be OK.

Let's get right into the making and serving of this dish. It's called shepherd's pie if it's made with lamb, cottage pie if it's made with beef, and hachis parmentier if you're making this dish in France. On various cooking videos, if the chef mistakenly calls his beef dish a "shepherd's pie," commenters will call him out and scream that it's actually a cottage pie! It was only recently that I learned the French term for essentially the same dish—the aforementioned hachis parmentier—which often translates as "French shepherd's pie." The twist is that, for French shepherd's pie, you can use beef, pork, or lamb. So a cook calling his beef dish a "shepherd's pie" might not be wrong from the French point of view. Whatever the nomenclature, a shepherd's pie is a fairly basic type of comfort food that can be prepped several different ways. Here's what I did.

Start with a meat layer. In my case, I combined beef and lamb, and so I think I'm already more in hachis parmentier territory than in shepherd's/cottage pie territory. I mixed ground beef and lamb, added local mushrooms (I normally avoid shiitake/pyogo in Western food, but I thought the mushrooms' pungency would enhance this pie), added tomato purée (passata di pomodoro), salt, pepper, dried-onion flakes, and various herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, and oregano. I dumped in a mess of white wine (you're normally supposed to use red, but I had a bottle of white open). I let all that boil down a bit, then added a not-quite-necessary cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce up a bit more. It didn't change the overall consistency that much, probably because I stayed conservative in quantity.

The meat sauce is traditionally the bottom layer of the pie:

Meanwhile, I planned to make and eat my own personal-sized hachis, so I plopped some meat sauce into a smaller baking dish:

Next up: the peas-and-carrots layer. I had bought a huge bag of frozen peas while I was in Itaewon (along with the ground lamb). Before dealing with the peas, though, I had to prep the carrots: they needed to be peeled, then cubed, then boiled until barely soft. I had prepped the carrots the night before; when I thawed the peas in boiling water, I added the carrots and let everything warm up, then I drained the veggies, added salt and pepper and a little butter, and layered the whole thing onto the meat sauce. Et voilà:

Same for the mini-pie:

I had to peel, chop up, and boil my taters; I bought two bags' worth (5 mid-size taters per bag). As I was peeling the potatoes, I became a bit annoyed by how dimply they were; dimples and eyes make Korean potatoes a bit harder to peel. I had to resort to the potato-eye remover quite a few times. It took a while, but I got all ten taters peeled, chopped, and boiled.

Next, I had to turn this mess into mashed potatoes. I elected to use my regular potato masher, this time, instead of the ricer. Into the mix went salt, pepper, garlic powder, cream cheese, heavy cream, butter, 2 eggs, and a teeny bit of paprika just to wake things up a bit. Oh, and parsley to add flecks of green. I dolloped the mashed potatoes onto the veggie layer:

Same for Mini Me:

It was then a matter of spreading the potatoes out to make the mashed-potato layer. I did my best to get everything to the edges; I used forks to make sure the layer was nice and craggy:

Same for the personal-sized portion, which was starting to look big:

Off to the side was my grated English cheddar:

For both the small and large pies, I baked everything for twenty minutes at 350°F, added the cheese, baked for another twenty minutes, then broiled for five to ten minutes to get everything a little browner. Here's how the little guy turned out:

Here's what the little guy looked like when halfway eaten:

I took the large shepherd's pie into the office today (it was heavy), having let it cool overnight so as to avoid the problem of runniness. As you see below, the layers look pretty distinct:

Here's one angle of the portion I ate for lunch:

Here's the other, messier angle:

Everyone said they enjoyed the pie. My boss invited a coworker from down the hall to share with us since there was so much, and even by the time we had all finished lunch, there were still about four pieces of pie left. I'm boxing those up, and my coworkers can eat the leftovers tomorrow.* I'll be starting a 72-hour fast tomorrow, so I won't be able to join in, alas. Today, as it turns out, will be my final cheat day for January because, I confess, I cheated earlier this month when I really wasn't supposed to. I'm feeling bloated and nasty, to be honest, so a few days' fasting will do me good, and three days will be easier on me than five or seven days. When I eat again on Friday, it'll be something Newcastle-ish, like salad and chicken breast, which proved to be a winning dietetic combination last year.

I won't be cooking for the office again until March, at which point I think I'll redo my boeuf bourguignon with fusilli pasta—a huge hit the previous times I cooked it. In May, I have an ambitious plan to do extreme nachos with homemade corn-tortilla chips and two kinds of meat sauce—the standard beef sauce known to gringos everywhere, and a chorizo-sausage-based sauce that I hope will be a nice, fatty, greasy mess. One of these days, I'll have to try my hand at the birria that's currently so trendy. It looks amazing.

__________

*Only one piece left now. I ate dinner in the office. Hee.