Monday, December 04, 2023

a good breakdown of a nettlesome math problem

I'd heard about this before—the one about how an SAT question listed four possible answers, but the actual correct answer was missing. Because I'd heard this one before, I realized that the seemingly obvious answer, 3, was not the correct one. The Veritasium video below goes into detail as to why it's not correct, and what the correct answer is.



DEVELOPING: Police on hunt for serial killer who is gunning down homeless people

Five homeless people were shot, leaving two dead, in Las Vegas – just hours after cops revealed they are hunting for a serial killer who murdered another three in Los Angeles.

A lone gunman opened fire on the group of homeless people at 5:30 pm near a highway overpass in the northern part of Vegas. One victim, a male in his 50s, was pronounced dead at the scene due.

Two other males in their 30s are listed in stable condition while another male of similar age is listed as critical. One male male who is in his late teens is said to be in stable condition.

The Vegas bloodbath came on the same day LA officials revealed they are hunting for a serial killer who shot three homeless people dead in their sleep in alleyways during separate attacks on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.

The Californian killings led to an unprecedented warning from Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, who told the city’s homeless population: “Our message to the unhoused community is clear – do not sleep alone tonight.”


real craftsmanship

One day, I will make that kind of love. And it will be epic.

one of the universe's great mysteries


I'm sad, too, about the leftie friends who unfriended me. To me, they were friends first, but at least now, I know their priorities.

I hope this is a real Reagan quote and not one of those Anything's a dildo if you're brave enough "Lincoln" quotes.

There're way more examples of that nonsense.

I don't know why, but this one made me laugh and laugh as I remembered back to those old commercials.

They know to stay away from the armed people.

the postmortem is finally up!

It's been nearly a month, and I apologize, but the Kevin's Walk 7 postmortem is finally up. I've read through what I wrote in an attempt to proofread the monster (it's a long, hefty post, as you can imagine), but there are doubtless mistakes that slipped by me—mistakes I'll catch on subsequent rereads. This thing took days and days to write, then Thanksgiving interrupted. There are plenty of photos in the post, including gross ones of my toes, so you've been duly warned. (My toes have healed a lot over the past three weeks. Photos pending because you love them.) I hope you enjoy the postmortem as much as I enjoyed writing it. It's almost my final act for this year's walk: the last things I must do are (1) enlarge the blog's photos and (2) caption those photos. I'll try to get that done before the new year. Meanwhile, go have yourselves a read while I pour myself a drink.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

claim: you don't need hours and hours to make clotted cream

I report; you decide:

LOTR nerdery: Gandalf and his power level

I've always been under the impression that Tolkien preferred to leave massive power—at least among the good characters in his universe—understated. Let evil express itself as loudly and as strongly as it wants: good operates in more subtle ways. It's a different take for sure, and not universally accepted: think of the demon(s) in "The Exorcist" telling Father Karras that it/they will not perform a telekinetic miracle because "That's much too vulgar a display of power, Karras." Even demons have limits, apparently. While Tolkien, in some famous exchanges with CS Lewis, strenuously denied that his fantasy universe was meant to be some sort of Christian allegory (something Lewis, in his own stories, freely embraced), I do think the contrast between subtle good and unsubtle evil does at least find an analogue in the arc of the character of God that we see in the Hebrew Bible. Jack Miles's Pulitzer-winning God: A Biography makes this point, painting the God of Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible*) as a character who starts off as a prominent, powerful, and guiding figure in the ancient days who eventually fades from view if you read the Scriptures sequentially.

So perhaps Tolkeinian characters like Gandalf and Tom Bombadil can be seen in this vaguely Christian light—maybe not as reflections per se, but as parallels** to the portrayal of God in the Hebrew Bible, a power that moves increasingly behind the scenes as the story proceeds. A similar arc can be seen in Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever: in the first trilogy, Covenant fights the Despiser in what is essentially a violent, Earth-shaking wizards' battle; in the second trilogy, Covenant wins by refusing to fight the Despiser, instead walking straight into his trap and defeating the Despiser from "inside" the trap; in the final tetralogy, Covenant ends up merging with the Despiser, finally accepting that the Despiser has always been a part of himself. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make isn't particularly deep; it's merely that the notion of a subtle, or increasingly subtle, good force is a common (but not universal) trope found in biblical and (some) fantasy literature. Even in something like the Matrix trilogy (from Morpheus's point of view) or "Battlestar Galactica," the operation of God is subtle, hinted at, implied, not seen directly as a Cecil B. DeMille special effect. So maybe characters like Gandalf and Tom Bombadil can be appreciated in that spirit: they're extremely powerful beings, but their power is generally expressed in subtle ways—although, as the video below argues about Gandalf, there can be frequent manifestations of Cecil B. DeMille-style power, albeit not at the cosmos-altering level.


*Tanakh comes from the Hebrew letters TNK (read right to left: תָּנָ״ךְ), standing for Torah (the Law, the Five Books of Moses—what Christians call the Pentateuch), Nevi'im (the Prophets), and Ketuvim (the Writings). In the Christian Bible, this is technically the Takanh because the last two sections are flipped.

**By saying "parallels," I leave open the question of whether Tolkien was consciously riffing off this theme of goodness being (increasingly) subtler. I'm not making a declaration about Tolkien's actual intent; I'm merely speculating as to whether a parallel might exist.

Israel/Hamas is revealing the deep rift among Democrats

so—how seriously should we take Lauren Boebert?

Lauren Boebert (R, pictured on the left, with Rep. Anna Paulina Luna in the center) is hard to take seriously after her little scandal earlier this year in which a security camera caught her inside a movie theater both vaping and possibly stroking off her Democrat* boyfriend-at-the-time. And you have to wonder whether Dave Chappelle appreciates being name-dropped here. Chappelle has said some things that resonate with people on the right, but I would never confuse him with a conservative Republican.


*I grant that Boebert, a recent divorcee, is free to bang or beat off whomever she wants. Maybe that's part of her across-the-aisle appeal!

"art within the framework of propaganda"

I'm less and less inclined to watch the anti-woke rightie critics get together and discuss the problems that wokeness has caused for entertainment. I think, by now, if you don't understand the rightie perspective on the problem, then there's no helping you, and frankly, I agree with the rightie critics on almost all points. My problem is that, when people like the Critical Drinker and MauLer and Disparu and Nerdrotic get together, they merely end up making the same gripes over and over and over again, and it just gets tedious. At this point, it's almost more refreshing to hear criticism from the leftie crowd that I listen to—people like Jeremy Jahns, Nerd Cookies, Chris Stuckmann, and Adam Olinger. That said, this latest panel discussion led by the Critical Drinker has some interestingly bleak insights in it regarding the future of the latest attempt to revive "Dr. Who." The depressing point is made, during the discussion, that writers for large outlets have little creative leeway, these days, because of all the hoops they must jump through and all the limitations that are placed on them, hence the title of this blog post (which is something the Drinker says).

some people are really good at Photoshop

How to tell a story with no words:

I envy this person's Photoshop skills.

the prescience of Robin Williams

Robin Williams was a committed liberal, but he was balanced enough to occasionally make fun of his own people. The video below highlights how Williams already saw Joe Biden as a gaffe-prone loony well before the comedian's 2014 death.

RELATED: Dana Carvey does his Joe Biden impression.

oh, yeah: about that debate

For over 24 hours, I wasn't hearing anything about the debate between governors Ron DeSantis (R-Florida) and Gavin Newsom (D-California). There were some scattered clips on YouTube, tailored to the perspectives of the people putting the clips together ("DeSantis owns Newsom!" "Newsom obliterates DeSantis!"), but I wasn't seeing any commentary from my usual sources (including Styx, who probably thinks the debate didn't move any needles). Then, finally, there was this, linked from Instapundit.


DeSantis DOMINATES in Red State-Blue State Debate With Newsom

This brings us to tonight's Red State/Blue State debate in Alpharetta, Ga., moderated by Sean Hannity on Fox News. 

Hannity promised at the beginning of the debate that he would not tip the scales in favor of one candidate, but the questions he asked and the graphics he displayed definitely favored DeSantis. He debated Newsom several times, which I wish he hadn't done. DeSantis proved more than capable of handling Newsom on his own. In fact, he wiped the floor with Newsom, who wouldn't know a truthful statement if it hit him in the head. Over and over again, the Florida governor used facts to back up his claims and called out Newsom for saying things that were not true. 

The first question was about net migration from California to Florida. DeSantis explained why people are leaving and coming to Florida. "You almost have to try to mess California up," he quipped. 

When it was Newsom's turn to answer, he completely ignored the question and rambled about all the great things California has, like Silicon Valley (which no doubt carts a truckload of cash over to Newsom's campaign every other month). 

Hannity tried a second time to get Newsom to answer the question. Newsom claimed that more people have moved from Florida to California over the last two years, which contradicted the graphic Hannity posted from the Census Bureau. 

DeSantis called Newsom "slick and slippery." 

California has "failed because of his leftist ideology," he added. "We must choose freedom over failure." 

I almost want to see the debate now. For DeSantis, at least, this is good because it gives the public a chance to see him without a crowd of other GOP contenders, allowing for a more focused evaluation of his policies and priorities. It won't be enough to push DeSantis's numbers up to Trumpian levels—Trump clearly has the nomination in the bag—but it still might benefit DeSantis in some way. Only time will tell.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

"She-Hulk," Season 2: please do kill it dead

Why the idiots at Disney-Marvel would proceed with a second season of "She-Hulk" is utterly beyond me. Shows how much they listen to the fans. Hard to believe there are any fans left.

would you accept an apology after being called racist for no reason?

You may have heard about Holden Armenta, the 9-year-old who was photographed in full Kansas City Chiefs regalia. A TikToker, seeing only one photo from one particular angle, originally called the kid out for seemingly wearing blackface when, in fact, young Holden's face had been painted in team colors—half black and half red. A Deadspin "journalist" named Carron J. Phillips picked up the story and ran with it, saying the kid was hating on both blacks and native Americans. It then came out that Holden is himself Native American, that he was not in blackface, and that the whole thing was a huge, stupid mistake. The TikToker, a guy named Jack who goes by "@jackmacbarstool," publicly apologized, even calling himself an idiot for jumping the gun without knowing the fuller context. Carron J. Phillips, by contrast, has only dug himself in deeper, refusing to apologize for amplifying the original false claim. Holden's father Bubba (yes, Bubba) says that he would refuse any apology from Phillips (which isn't forthcoming, anyway), stating that "it's too late" for that gesture. Meanwhile, fellow KC Chiefs fans have promised they will all paint their faces red and black, in solidarity with Holden, for the next game. Here's the Black Conservative's perspective:

more about Elon's "go fuck yourself" moment

Here's PJW:

Benny Johnson re: Elon's effect on Disney Plus:

I'm glad this is happening, but I'm still not willing to jump on the Elon Musk bandwagon as long as he maintains his deep ties with China. Musk is pro-free speech out one side of his mouth, then anti-free speech out the other every time he cozies up to China, what with his Tesla facilities in Shanghai and Xinjiang. Until Musk frees himself from inconsistency and hypocrisy, I'll weakly cheer his attempts at touting free speech in the West while strongly deploring his suspicious relationship with China.

"too many white people"

Just fuck off and live where whites are a minority, bitch.

ADDENDUM: Triggernometry piles on:

To be clear, the above videos are about Sri Lankan-born BBC personality Nihal Arthanayake, who is apparently incensed that the UK has so many white people.

in which I learn about a nifty police device

Ever heard of "the grappler" as a way for police to stop cars?

NYC cops resign in droves with no concern for pension benefits

The people of New York wanted this, and they're getting it good and hard.

Can't say I have any sympathy for the dumbasses who demanded this.

the Chinese lab in California

The Chinese were doing shady things in a California lab, and the US government did its best Sergeant Schulz impression.

Korean celebrities, drug scandals, and prudishly high standards

Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling has a great post up about why Korean celebrities seem to be held to high moral standards compared to their Western celebrity counterparts (Americans, at least, pretty much assume their favorite celebs are bad boys or bad girls although some celebrities manage to maintain a squeaky-clean reputation for probity and decency).

Excerpt, quoting Olga Federenko: South Korea, the marketing instrumentality of advertising is subordinated to the ethos of public interest, and both advertising consumers and producers strive for advertising that promotes humanist values and realizes democratic ideals, even if it jeopardizes the commercial interests of advertisers.

This actually explains a lot to me—more than just the question of why Koreans are such prudes about celebrities' personal conduct. I often wonder how and why it is that so many Korean businesses seem less interested in making money and more interested in maintaining some kind of image. If the capitalistic urge is ultimately subordinate to "the ethos of public interest" (which sounds like a cousin of nationalism), then I can see why a taxi driver might pass me by instead of making money by picking me up: it's in the public interest not to help those damn furriners. The same can be said for stores that close earlier than their stated hours (of which there are many): there's something more at play, here, than the urge to make money. It's enough to make me wonder how capitalism works at all in South Korea. Obviously, as the Ancient One accused Doctor Strange of doing, I'm merely peering through a keyhole at Korean society: I'm far from grasping the whole picture.

your dose of humor to start your morning

Owning a tank.

Friday, December 01, 2023

a litany of damning accusations... that will probably lead to nothing

Representative Byron Donalds (R-FL) is doing his best. He's got the goods on Joe Biden's dirty business dealings, but even with a mountain of evidence, will this amount to anything? Will Joe Biden be impeached? I very much doubt it. Still, this is worth a listen:

an unexpectedly ambitious Friday meal

This culinary adventure started with a pumpkin brought to me by my boss because he'd heard me bellyaching, some days back, about how hard it is to find a decent, Western-style pumpkin. The pumpkin below is a Korean pumpkin that I've seen and photographed on my long walks across the peninsula, but the boss said he'd heard that the smaller, lumpier pumpkins are the better-tasting ones. Here's a look at what the Koreans generically call a squash (호박/hobak):

how it was when the boss gave it to me

After a bit of a scrub:

You must wash the virgin before you sacrifice her. I got to use the utility toothbrush I keep by the kitchen sink. This pumpkin had more butt crack to wash than you'd find on a Kardashian.

Too late to save her now: we've taken the top of her head off.

Slicing north, south, east, west.

guts and seeds revealed

a closeup

When I've dealt with squashes before, I've generally baked them for about an hour or so to soften the fruit, making it easier to cut the flesh out. For some stupid reason, I went with a pumpkin-roasting recipe that recommended only 45 minutes' baking time (for small pumpkins?). Despite an intuition that that wouldn't be enough time to soften the flesh of my pumpkin, I set my oven for 45 minutes at 350ºF (177ºC) and slid the hollowed-out pumpkin (which smelled amazing) into the death chamber to bake.

quartered pumpkin, three of four pieces, ready for launch

another angle

all four quarters, lined up like torpedoes

Turned out that my instinct was right, and I should never have followed those instructions. Most types of squash that come with hard skins usually need at least an hour, sometimes even 90 minutes or more, to have a chance to soften up. When 45 minutes had elapsed, I pulled the pumpkin out, and the flesh was still hard and resistant. I had a choice, then: bake the pumpkin a little more, or risk boiling it to achieve the desired softness. (There's a microwave method, too: on high, 7 minutes per pound, stirring every 2 minutes. I've never tried that.) The risk in boiling is the same risk as when you're boiling potatoes for a mash: if you unmindfully let the taters boil too long, they get waterlogged. Waterlogged taters aren't the end of the world if you let them release their steam and drip a bit, but if you were to try to make mashed potatoes immediately after over-boiling, you'd end up with watery taters. Double-plus ungood. Upshot: timing matters, and my standard for most boil-able vegetables is about 15 minutes.

So I boiled the pumpkin after cutting away the skin, treating the pumpkin flesh like potatoes. Fifteen minutes later, the pumpkin still smelled amazing, and the flesh was properly tender. I containerized most of it:

I had a bit over 1.3 kilos of pumpkin flesh; the recipe called for 425 g (15 oz.).

I fridged the majority of the pumpkin, leaving out only what I needed:

looks a lot like yams

The recipe I found online turned out to be awesome in the taste department, resulting in a pie filling that tasted much nicer than the Costco pie's. Even though the uncooked filling had raw eggs in it, I tasted it because the smell was so overpoweringly alluring... and it tasted fuckin' amazing. This recipe is a keeper for sure. With all the filling ingredients lumped together in a bowl, I got out my stick blender and blitzed the fuck out of the mix, doing my best to leave no long, fibrous strands that might be mistaken for hair. Here's the resultant pie filling:

browner than you'd think, probably because of all the brown sugar (froth due to stick blender)

I had two other types of pie to make: one was a quiche (technically a tart) that included my leftover stuffing; the other was a turkey pot pie using the leftover turkey breast from our Thanksgiving luncheon. For the quiche, I went back to HomePlus in search of Gruyère. There wasn't any, so I ended up with two different Swiss cheeses: raclette (which I love) and Appenzeller which, despite my having lived in Switzerland, I'd never tried before (or I'd tried it but didn't remember it). Both of these cheeses had a pleasant funk to them when I opened them up, and while neither will replace Gruyère as my favorite cheese, they're both worth coming back to—particularly the Appenzeller. The raclette was sold in slices; ideally, it's supposed to be sold as a huge block, wheel, or half-wheel. To eat raclette, you expose the block to an overhead heat source (a bit like a broiler), and when the top layer of cheese has browned and melted, you scrape that layer off (the French verb racler means "to scrape," hence raclette) and eat the cheese with new potatoes, cornichons (tiny dill pickles), cured meats, or other sides (learn more here).

The Appenzeller got grated down; since the raclette came in slices, I simply ran a knife through the slices to produce tiny little cubes, almost as if I were doing a brunoise on vegetables. I covered the bowl below with a culinary shower cap and stashed it in the fridge while I worked on other elements of the two remaining pies.

raclette and Appenzeller, broken down

shrooms and celery for pot pie, also broken down

the quiche elements: savory custard (cream, eggs, herbs, seasonings), leftover stuffing, cheese

A disturbing thought came to me as I was prepping the quiche: what if it didn't work? After all, the stuffing might have a lot of quiche-y components (sausage, veggies, herbs), but it also had raisins in it, and what if those clashed with the Swiss cheeses?

cheese bis (bis is one French way to say "again," "repeat," "twice," etc.)

stuffing, up close and personal

a good look at the custard (seven eggs, heavy cream, herbs, seasonings)

quiche filling, assembled

I turned my attention to the pot-pie filling. There ended up being a lot.

diced potatoes (this is not cheese)

The above taters had to be boiled a bit. 

many, but not all, of the pot-pie elements

frying up the celery to soften it a bit

adding shrooms, which need less time to soften

the happy jumble grows (see the leftover creamed corn on the right?)

I'm bizarrely proud of the Béchamel you see below. To make it creamier (Béchamel famously uses regular milk to achieve creaminess), I added heavy cream near the end of the process. It's a savory cream sauce: I tossed in salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic powder.

Béchamel, Béchameling

the cream sauce gets poured into the bowl in preparation for mixing

The pour continues. Pot-pie bukkake.

how things look after a slight toss


But I'd forgotten one crucial element after having made so much noise about needing this:

I finally remembered to add in the peas!

I filled two pie crusts with pot-pie filling and initially baked them together after folding the pie-crust dough into ugly, vaguely galette-like shapes and painting everything over with an egg wash. The folding of the dough led to a natural hole in the center, which kept the pot pie from exploding in the oven. Here's one pot pie, out of the oven:

ugly but smelling amazing

After baking the pot pies, I baked the pumpkin pie. The filling for this pie, despite tasting heavenly, was a bit too liquidy for my taste, and the pie came out darker than I would've liked, but that was its natural color, not a sign that anything had burned. I still stand by this recipe, but next time, I might add one more egg and a bit more cornstarch (or potato starch, as the case may be; I don't find that there's any difference in performance between the two starches).

suntanned (but not burned, I swear)

I baked the quiche next:

So what you should know is that all of this pie-making and pie-baking took me through the night. Before midnight, I knew I had to choose between (1) sleeping now and finishing the pies in the morning and (2) powering through the pies now and catching what sleep I could once I was finished. I chose the latter course, so right now, I'm dead tired. I ended up getting only two hours' sleep; I got to work a bit late, but the boss didn't arrive until maybe an hour later. 

Unfortunately, on my way to work, and as I was getting out of the cab, I ended up accidentally damaging my pumpkin pie. As you see in the photo below, I had riskily placed one pie higher and one pie lower. (The differently sized plastic boxes contained the pot pies.) During the cab ride, I was worried that the top pie might slide around and end up crashing into the bottom pie. Everything was fine until I tried to get out of the car: that's the moment the top pie (the quiche) decided to slide toward the bottom pie (the pumpkin). I tried to put my free hand out to stop the quiche's slide, and I somehow managed to rake my fingertips across the surface of the pumpkin pie. Fuck. You see the damage below:


Here's a closer look:

Now, I'm just self-flagellating while the undamaged quiche laughs in Swiss French.

Aside from that minor-but-disturbing damage, the pies arrived fine.

Galette? Crunch wrap? Lab-created monstrosity?

The quiche also looks quite suntanned, but we've been through this before with previous quiches: the food is actually fine—not burned at all. But how would the quiche taste?

quiche and pumpkin pie, hanging out on top of the office fridge

We all ended up eating about half of all three pies:

The quiche, as it turned out, tasted fine, or so my Korean coworker said. The boss said the quiche had a "unique" taste that was "hard to describe," but he pronounced it good. Everyone agreed the raisins balanced out the cheese.

The second pot pie was untouched. I had once again made more than enough food.

This leftover pie got eaten tonight when I got back to my place.

pie samples at lunch, pre-microwaving

quiche (L) and pot pie (R), post-microwaving

I took my slice from the damaged section of the pumpkin pie.

Despite being super-moist, the pumpkin pie held its shape when I cut it, but the overall texture was still a bit softer and looser than what I'm used to.

pie by the slice

I didn't have the deep-dish pie tin recommended by the recipe, so the pie was thinner than I'd wanted it to be. I still love the taste, though, made better with my homemade whipped cream:

By the end of lunch, half of the pumpkin pie and half of the quiche had been eaten:

The boss saw how tired I was and let me knock off early. I hung around a bit, did a little work, then left before 5 p.m. Little did the boss know that I'd go home and immediately start working on this long-ass photo essay and blog post. But I think we're done now, so can I stop writing and take a nap?

I hadn't expected to spend so much time and effort in what was supposed to be an attempt to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. Instead, I've managed to prepare too much food yet again, meaning I've got to eat my way through even more leftovers this coming week. Still, I enjoyed making all of these pies. I longer fret about how ugly the pot pies look ever since I had an epiphany: no one really cares about the crispiness or softness of the pot pie's shell—the shell functions almost like dumplings in a soup-and-dumplings meal. Pot pies aren't meant to be neatly carved into wedges: the filling, when it comes out of the oven, is creamy and soupy and a bit runny (depending on your style of pie), so you take a serving spoon, chop away the amount of crust you want, and slop as much filling as you want onto your plate. There's no standing on ceremony with pot pies. I think this also explains why many YouTube and TV chefs can't be bothered to make pot pies with bottom crusts (which I always do): what's the point if the crust is basically just a dumpling analogue? People just want something bready and lumpy to go along with the creamy, savory pie filling. This is also why there's no reason to obsess over whether to microwave a cold pot pie: if the crust gets soft in the microwave, it doesn't matter because dumplings is dumplings.

Luckily for me, though, I have an oven (thanks as always, Charles), so I can give my pies a proper reheat. Which I'll do later this weekend. But first—sleep.


TRIVIA: if you click on one of the above images, then right-click on the resultant image, look at the image's URL. At the very end of the URL, you'll see the photo's date/time stamp. It looks something like this: 20231111_044154.jpg. The first group of numbers in this example means "2023, November 11." After the underscore, the second group of numbers is the time—hour:minute:second. In this example, that's 04:41:54—4:41 a.m. and 54 seconds. So you can now look through the photos in the above photo essay, see the date/time at which I took each picture, and know how long I'd been slaving away as I made these pies.