Saturday, January 21, 2017

I shouldn't kick 'em when they're down, but...

Ein Bißchen Schadenfreude für Sie...






the cavernous smile

If they ever make a TV biopic on Nigel Farage, I know just the guy to play him:






at least there'll be no more of this

the ultimate krav MAGA

In the run-up to Trump's inauguration, and all over social media, the hashtag #MAGA has been rampant. It stands for "Make America Great Again," and with Donald Trump's now having taken the oath of office, #MAGA becomes something like a new national motto.

The text of Trump's inaugural address is here. As some commentators have noted, it lacks the blizzard of first-person-singular pronouns that throng in Obama's speeches.

The mainstream media, true to form, quickly got busy beclowning themselves with their bitter and often fearful commentary as they watched Trump's ascension alongside the rest of the world. Chris Matthews and Rachael Maddow, for example, traded Hitler and Mussolini references, seemingly incapable of understanding that their thoughts and behavior are contributing to the long-overdue, well-deserved death of the MSM. Other liberal-media figures have tossed around the adjective "dark" to describe Trump's speech, which began with a promise to "[transfer] power from Washington, D.C. and [give] it back to you, the American people," as well as "That all changes – starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you."

My impression of Trump's speech was that it didn't, at first, seem to echo the can-do, bootstrapping ethos of JFK's "ask not what your country can do you for you" moment: Trump seemed almost to be saying, "You, the people, have been neglected for too long, and that ends now, for I've come to rescue you." I found that a little disturbing, but at some point along the way, Trump's speech morphed from a litany of paternalistic "you"s to a series of more life-affirming, synergistic "we"s. Trump then listed a raft of goals and achievements that "we" will accomplish together, so perhaps, buried somewhere in the text, there was indeed an implied "ask what you can do for your country" after all.

Far from being dark, Trump's speech strikes a note of hope and optimism for the future. The MSM think the speech is ominous because Trump's time in office bodes ill for them, so perhaps the MSM aren't wrong, from their selfish perspective, to see storm clouds on the horizon. One of the most entertaining aspects of Trump's presidency will be his constant circumvention of the arrogant journalistic gatekeepers via Twitter and YouTube (if only the man can control his errant, arrant spelling!), and his constant pranking and head-faking of the press to show what dupes they are.

I wish the man luck. I didn't vote for him, but Donald Trump is my president for at least the next four years. As even Matt Damon, that liberal to end all liberals, says: a successful president is good for all of us. May Trump put our country on a better economic and geopolitical course. May race relations improve under his watch as they failed to do under race-baiting Obama. May enlightened self-interest, at the national level, be the order of the day because, in the end, national self-interest isn't selfish at all—not when it focuses on the welfare of a third of a billion people. #AmericanLivesMatter.

ADDENDUM: this is pretty damn funny. Also on a humorous note: a comparison of Trump's inaugural address with Bane's brief speech from "The Dark Knight Rises."



Friday, January 20, 2017

what a cock

2017's lunar new year will mark the Year of the Rooster—or the "Year of the Cock," as per the indelicate wording on those paper place mats you find in Chinese restaurants in America. Having been born in 1969, I'm a rooster, fortunately or unfortunately: this is the year I turn 48, an age that's divisible by 12. That is, in fact, how you can remember the animal associated with your year of birth: if your age is evenly divisible by 12 this year, it's the year of your animal! Congratulations! The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac each cycle around every twelve years, but the actual calendar takes sixty years to go through a whole cycle (there are a lot of "stems" and "branches"... it's complicated). This is why Koreans traditionally throw a bigger-than-usual party—called a hwan-gap—for people turning sixty: such folks have survived a complete cycle of the zodiac which, back in the day, was a noteworthy accomplishment. These days, age sixty is increasingly seen as... if not young, then certainly not old, so there's less of a "Congrats! You survived!" vibe at today's sixty-year parties. As for me: one more trip through the Chinese cosmic menagerie, and it'll be time for my own hwan-gap. How short life is, eh?

Year of da Cock. Dat's right—my year. Suck it, baby.



winter wonderland

The view out my apartment's window this morning:

Ave, Mike! (I'm now on Gab.ai!)

Thanks to my buddy Mike, I am now on Gab.ai, the purportedly freer-speech version of Twitter for people who are sick of watching righties getting shut down simply for voicing opinions that don't follow The Narrative. Instead of having to wait for Gab to crawl down the waiting list toward me (I was nearly Number One Million on that list), I received a personal invitation to Gab from Mike, so I've logged on and have created a new account and profile named, appropriately, @bighominid. Here's the link to my feed; I hope it's actually visible to non-Gab members. If Gab has a feed-widget that I can install on my blog, I'll slap that up soon. If not, then you'll have no choice but to click the link I've provided.

I'm still feeling my way around Gab's interface; there are similarities to Twitter, but there are also numerous differences, and it's obvious that, in several areas, Gab has a lot of catching-up to do before it's truly competitive with Twitter in terms of functionality and ease of use.

I don't expect Gab to drive traffic to my blog as much as Twitter did (although honestly, Twitter's influence on my blog traffic was minuscule), and I don't expect to "gab" quite as frequently as I tweeted. But Gab might prove useful if there are fellow Gabbers who might be interested in following my misadventures as I prep for what I hope will be a long walk across the southern half of the Korean peninsula. Those folks might be able to provide much-needed advice and/or encouragement—and who knows? I may end up meeting some of them.

I began my career on Gab with an appropriately un-PC post that praised Hitler, pined for the Caliphate, and saluted Cthulhu. Expect more arrant nonsense soon.



Thursday, January 19, 2017

bye-bye, Barry

A collection of reflections on Obama's presidency that articulate, better than I can, what I think of the past eight years:

Victor Davis Hanson

Stephen Hayes

"The Obama Legacy in One Chart"

Bre Payton

Peter Berkowitz

Styxhexenhammer666

If you prefer to filter your reality through distorting organs like The Huffington Post, please be my guest, but I think the above assessments—which admittedly contain some contradictions when paired up with each other—present a more accurate picture of the reality of the past near-decade. And now, on January 20, we embark on uncharted waters. I think Obama was disastrous for the nation—easily as bad as Dubya had been, and I agree with the current wisdom that Obama's track record, now seen in retrospect, paved the way for Trump's rise (note that article's source). Are we in for worse, or for better? We'll soon find out. My hope is that the next 4-8 years will be more interesting than depressing.



chairs and bureaucrats


A rant about stupid people.



surprised and a little impressed

Otherwise-undistinguished UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is either pulling some cynical political ploy, or he's actually grown a pair of wrinkled old balls: Ban has come out strongly in favor of THAAD deployment in South Korea. Well, good for him.

For those who don't know anything about Ban: in 2007, Ban succeeded Kofi Annan as UN secretary-general. Now at the end of his term of service, he may be eyeing a run at the presidency of South Korea. A bland, generally unremarkable politician who has apparently earned the moniker "slippery eel," Ban isn't known for staking out firm, clear positions that could make him a figure of controversy.* That's what makes his THAAD position so surprising to me: I'd never have expected him to come out one way or another on the deployment of a missile-defense system in the ROK. THAAD is a thorny issue: many irrational South Koreans are protesting it, having been hoodwinked by the local press into believing the defense system emits harmful radiation that will slowly spread cancer among the populace. The prospect of THAAD in Korea also upsets China, which is constantly wary of any threats to its interior.** Korean leftists who kowtow to China are therefore upset because China's upset.

The big rumor is that Korea's dominant conservative party, Saenuri, wants to woo Ban to run for president under its aegis, but I find this bizarre because Ban has always struck me as more of a milquetoast leftist than as a rightie. But what do I know about Korean politics? Almost nothing, really, but it'll be interesting to watch this drama play out.



*To be clear, Ban's "slippery eel" moniker has more to do with his avoidance of press questions than with his amorphous or limp-wristed policy positions.

**Yes, yes: THAAD is purely defensive, but tell China that.



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

the Great De-press-ion

Unbelievable. If 2016 taught me one thing, it's never trust the mainstream media. They lie, lie, lie—and they do so with a straight face while exuding a hypocritical fetor of self-righteousness rising like a column of greasy smoke toward a cohort of dark gods.

The latest salvo from the morally twisted MSM is this "open letter to Trump" by the hilariously misnamed Kyle Pope of the Columbia Journalism Review. Note first Glenn Reynolds's brief comment on this letter: "Can you imagine them sending this to Barack Obama, who needed to hear it just as much? No, no you can’t. And that’s because they rolled over for Obama."

In brief, the open letter levels several accusations against Trump (a tactic that isn't likely to make Trump any more receptive to the press, but I don't think Kyle Pope was in a negotiating or conciliatory mood when he wrote this amazingly sanctimonious piece), then proceeds to list the many ways in which the press, now having awoken to Trump's nefarious agenda, will hold the president-elect's feet to the fire. Here's a quick list of those ways:

1. Access is preferable, but not critical. (We have other ways to gather info.)
2. Off the record and other ground rules are ours—not yours—to set.
3. We decide how much airtime to give your spokespeople and surrogates.
4. We believe there is an objective truth, and we will hold you to that.
5. We’ll obsess over the details of government.
6. We will set higher standards for ourselves than ever before.
7. We’re going to work together
(i.e., together as a corps of reporters).
8. We’re playing the long game.

While there's far, far too much material to spend all day debunking here, I'll concentrate on two items: (4) and (8).

Let's start with (8): it is my fervent hope that the MSM are dying a slow and painful death. There will be no long game (Pope speaks in terms of centuries, not single presidential terms) as long as the MSM refuse to learn any lessons from 2016 and before. The democratization of video production has made it possible for news and commentary to bypass the traditional media gatekeepers completely in order to report directly to the masses, and much of that "citizen journalism" is better than the swill oozing from the legacy-news outlets. Again: at this rate, there will be no long game.

As for (4)... where do I even begin? The most comical line in the entire piece is this:

Facts are what we do, and we have no obligation to repeat false assertions...

The MSM are currently trying to push yet another narrative on the people: that there is a thing called "fake news," and that it originates from the right or the alt-right or from some dark corner far removed from the shining bastions of unimpeachable journalism. Ironically, the MSM are themselves the primary generators of fake news: see ZeroHedge for a damning laundry list of the MSM's recent sins—and there's so much more to find if you're willing to dig further back into history.

"Facts are what we do" is the funniest lie I've heard in a while, and in this article, it's said with such seriousness that I suspect the influence of something pharmacological.

Pope's open letter is only the most recent article of several that have caused me to question journalistic integrity ever more deeply. On January 14, Instapundit blockquoted a chunk of an article titled "'Fake News?' Media, Heal Thyself." Here's that blockquote:

In December, PolitiFact awarded its “2016 Lie of the Year” award to “Fake news.” But mainstream press deserves plenty of blame. We can’t all be gullible rubes, after all. Why are American news consumers turning away from mainstream media? The answer is simple: contemporary reporting is awful.

According to George Mason University economist and political scientist Tim Groseclose, whose work has focused on measuring partisan bias in the press, news editors and reporters overwhelmingly skew left on the American political spectrum. To wit, the Center for Public Integrity found that, of the over $396,000 that members of the press gave in 2016 to the two major presidential campaigns, 96 percent of the funds went to Clinton.

Recent headlines claiming that malicious foreign actors “hacked” the 2016 election suggest that editors make deliberate choices to try to shape how we think about current events. Although federal officials have found no evidence of vote-tampering, the damage is already done: over 50 percent of Democrats in a recent YouGov poll think Russians hacked actual vote tallies to help Trump. This conspiracy theory rivals the belief that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.

Michael Cleply, a former New York Times reporter, wrote after the election that his editors often assigned stories to him with prepackaged narratives. His job was to gather facts and comments from sources to support the storyline. This is not “reporting.” It is little wonder that many people distrust mainstream media.

Got that? So from now on, whenever you read or hear that "Facts are what we do," keep in mind the reality, which is that "editors make deliberate choices to try to shape how we think about current events." It's lies, manipulation, cynicism, and hypocrisy.

The fact that the press is so biased isn't really the problem for me. Once I know the bias is there, it's easy mentally to "recalibrate" what I'm reading to account for the skew, and it's especially helpful to map a biased report onto another report from an outlet with the opposite bias. But what does bother me is the press's insistence that it's somehow committed to objective truth. "Facts are what we do." What's being sneakily left unsaid is that an agenda becomes visible when you look at the choice of facts being reported. And then, of course, there's the matter of outright lying...

On January 7, Korea Exposé published an article titled "Ethics Be Damned: South Korean Journalism Fails" by Se-Woong Koo. This article is a "J'accuse!" list of journalistic sins in the South Korean media, but it could just as easily be a condemnation of the intellectual sloppiness and moral bankruptcy of Western journalism. Interestingly, many of the commenters responding to that article thought the author was naive and out of touch with reality—that he didn't understand the true nature of journalism today. One wrote:

Ethics in journalism is an idea that only exists in ivory towers of academia, not in today's commercial and [consumption-oriented] society. [Just] as major global news outlets are controlled by major media [corporations'] (NewsCorp, AP, Reuters, AFP, Time Warner, Comcast, etc.) [boards] and shareholders, [all] other news outlets must cater to [their] readers [for survival through] clicks, [the] selling [of] ad spaces, subscriptions, and donations—even for your beloved NYT and Korea Exposé.

It's [not just] in Korea, but [also] in [the] UK, France, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. [that] you’ll readily find [a] spectrum of news organizations working for their bottom [line or] promoting their readers' agenda[s], often reflecting [their citizens' desires] and [the] political spectrum of each country without ethics [sic].

So, whether JTBC illegally produces its own news or not, let's drop all pretense [of] the notion of journalism ever having ethics or holding [itself] to a higher standard in the first place.

Basically, the commenter is affirming that journalism today is little better than prostitution, morally speaking: it's all about the acquisition of attention and filthy lucre at the cost of integrity and dignity. My response to the commenter's cynicism, though, would be (1) "Thanks for essentially agreeing with my (and the author's) condemnation of journalism," and (2) "...but not wanting to improve the situation smacks of moral cowardice. You're not even willing to speak out against the problem? All you want to do is 'drop all pretense'?"

Whatever your view of that commenter's attitude and reasoning, the larger point is that journalism is losing its luster for droves of consumers while alternative media are strongly on the rise. With any luck, the MSM will eventually either die off or radically reparadigm, but given current trends, any reparadigming may be happening too late.

Good.



Steve says nerp

My buddy Dr. Steve says, "Not my president."

As I wrote before, I plan to give Trump at least a year before I draw any preliminary conclusions about him as a leader. Your own mileage may vary. Steve, it seems, won't even get into the car. He should probably read Scott Adams.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

eat it and weep, baby

Now, that's a good sandwich! Behold: homemade curry/satay chicken* with homemade Thai-ish peanut sauce on country-style baguette (from the new bakery in our building), with iceberg lettuce and store-bought mat-kimchi. I had worried that the kimchi might clash with the peanut sauce, but I needn't have. Despite its strong taste and smell, kimchi goes surprisingly well with a huge number of foods from very different flavor profiles.


Quite delicious, this was, although I don't think the baguette lived up to my expectations. It looked like a country baguette, but when I leaned close and smelled it, I got a distinct whiff of sourdough. I've smelled the sourdough odor coming off certain el-cheapo, store-bought baguettes in the States, and I just don't understand what these people are thinking. As offended as some politically correct nincompoop might be about my above sandwich and its various cultural appropriations (as you know, I don't think "appropriation" is a bad word), I'm more offended by these horrific knockoffs of what should be an awesome bread.

There is, however, a bit of irony** in not liking sourdough baguettes: sourdough bread-making apparently dates back to ancient times, but in more recent history, modern American sourdough was brought to California by French bakers. So sourdough has a pedigree that runs through France, but in my view of bread's evolutionary tree, there must have been a separation, somewhere back, between sourdough breads and baguettes. No proper baguette is made with sourdough, even if the internet is rife with recipes for such. Non, non, et non.

That said, today's bread was good enough to make for a fine sandwich. As with Paris Baguette's sad and shitty baguettes, it helps not to think of this bread as a baguette but, rather, as a new thing to be evaluated on its own terms. And by that criterion, this was a good-enough bread that contributed to a very tasy lunch.



*I pulled the curry chicken toward a satay by incorporating yogurt. Ideally, when making a satay (the yogurty kind, not the teriyakiesque kind), you marinate your raw chicken in a curry-yogurt-garlic marinade. A marinade should have an oil, an acid, and an aromatic: the garlic is the aromatic component, in this case, and the yogurt—being a fermented milk product—provides both the oil (well, the fats, anyway) and the acidity. The first time I realized that yogurt marinades were possible was a mind-blowing experience.

**I suspect I'd better spell the irony out before someone calls me on this. Basically: I love baguettes, which are French, but I don't like sourdough baguettes despite sourdough's French pedigree. Okay, maybe it's not that ironic, and now you're thinking I've misused the concept of irony the same way Alanis Morissette was accused of doing in her song "Ironic." But I see the irony even if you don't, dammit.



Happy Birthday!

A very Happy Birthday to the late, great(est) Muhammad Ali and to Benjamin Franklin, who share a birthday on January 17. There's some other unsavory person turning 75 today... can't remember who that is...



sometimes, life is like this


When I see two alligators wrestling with each other, snapping and writhing like angry dragonspawn, I see two tasty things competing for the chance to be first on my plate.



Monday, January 16, 2017

18°F

Walked back to my apartment—about a 25-minute trek—in 18° Fahrenheit (-7.8°C) weather last night. Didn't feel all that different from walking in 24-degree (-4.4°C) weather, to be honest, so I think my nighttime creekside walks are still doable. This isn't arctic weather: it's not as though the snot from my nose is freezing as soon as it meets the cold air, nor are my eyeballs in any danger of icing over. So yeah—this is all still walkable. I may, however, need one more layer of upper-body insulation for when I stop walking the staircases and just walk straight back to my place, sweating underneath my coat. It might also be nice to have thin gloves that fit under my thick gloves: with my current gloves, my fingertips still freeze. Aside from that, I'd say winter walking is quite feasible... as long as things don't get too icy, thus forcing me to break out my trusty ice cleats.



I give up

It is now officially too cold out for me to continue with my previous heating arrangement (space heater + boiling water). This building comes with no real insulation, so the place is an icebox when I get back from work,* especially now that nighttime temperatures have hit the mid teens, Fahrenheit (17ºF = approx. -8ºC). As a result, I am now turning on the dreaded ondol, which means my electric bill is going to go from manageable to massive. Ah, well. Such are the woes of winter.



*Yes... I worked until midnight on a Sunday. I have no family. Or friends. Or life, apparently.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

the new walk project

If I can clear this with my boss, it's gonna be amazing.

By the time we hit March 1, I will have racked up over 120 hours of comp time on top of the 20 or 30 extra hours I have left over from my Christmas/New Year's break. I've therefore broached the idea of taking three or so weeks off straight so I can walk the South Korean half of the Korean peninsula, from Seoul to Busan, by following the Four Rivers Project bike path. The path actually varies in length as there are some alternate routes (that all come together by the time you reach Busan), and one of the four segments will take me across the imposing (imposing to me, anyway) Baekdu Daegan mountain range.*

One athletic Canuck made a video of himself (drone camera, GoPro, and all) biking from Seoul to Busan; his version of the route covered a distance of 572.95 kilometers.** In miles, that comes out to around 355, which is a bit more than half the distance I walked in 2008. I calculated that, if I were to walk the route in 17-mile chunks every day, the walk would take 20.9 days, i.e., 21 days, or three weeks. If I block off about 24 days to walk the route (with a few days' padding as a "Murphy's Law buffer"), I can do the whole thing in about 3.5 weeks.

If I get the "yes" from the boss within the next week or so (we're still confirming our publishing schedule), I'll begin training much harder than I currently am. Having walked 600 miles before, I now have a much better idea of what to expect in terms of aches and pains, logistics, etc. On the bright side, I'll be armed with a much better cell phone, and since I've seen reports that there's a 500-kilometer version of the trail, I might suss that route out and make it my hiking route of choice.

Further research has revealed that foreigners who have biked the Seoul-Busan route were delighted by (1) how well-maintained and generally easy the route was, and (2) the fact that there are rest areas and free(!) campsites spaced evenly along the way every 10 or 20 km. That last thing was a worry for me: I had wondered how much back-country camping I would have ended up doing, with no recourse to civilization. Now, it seems that civilization is available every 10 or 20 kilometers. Good. So I can concentrate on walking.

One major issue is, of course, my knees, which haven't really improved since 2008, given that I've gained weight since then and have kept my knees under constant strain. I'm going to look into a wheeled carrier that I can hip-belt to myself, but I'd ideally like a rig that can convert easily into a backpack if necessary: I anticipate needing such a thing when I reach the mountainous part of the route. And if all else fails, I'll go back to using my backpack, but I'll do what I can to reduce my encumbrance to no more than 30 or so pounds. (In 2008, I was lugging about 60 pounds on my back, gear plus pack. I'm not a trained soldier—not used to carrying 120 pounds of gear plus 8-15 pounds of a weapon and ammo—so 60 pounds was insane for this untrained civilian.)

The prospect of a long walk is exciting, even if it'll be short in comparison with 2008's walk. Here's hoping the boss looks over our 2017 publishing schedule and says yes.

Oh, and: if I do get to do this walk, it'll likely happen this May. Walking during Korean summer would be unbearable.



*Korean mountains generally aren't that high, but their slopes can be steep. South Korea's tallest peak is actually Halla-san, which is not even on the main peninsula: it's on Jeju Island, just off the coast, and is 1950 meters tall (6398 feet or about 1.2 miles).

**Watch the video with the sound off. The music soundtrack is horrible and obnoxious, and the guy's voiceover narration doesn't add anything important to the video, except maybe for the one part where he ends up in the mountains and wastes part of a day inadvertently biking a loop instead of a line.



Saturday, January 14, 2017

24°F

ululate!


William Peter Blatty, author of that horror classic The Exorcist and director of "The Exorcist III" (from Blatty's novel Legion), has gone to his maker at age 89. I enjoyed The Exorcist in novel form as much as I enjoyed the movie version, and if Blatty's reward for his literary efforts is an eternity in hell, then may he traverse the laval fields of the inferno upon a regal palanquin carried by all of his legion of demons. He's earned it.



first checkup of 2017—and good news!

I went to see the doc this morning for my monthly (well...six-weekly) checkup. Somehow, I got away with not submitting a urine sample, but I did get the usual blood-sugar and blood-pressure checks. Blood sugar was fine; the doc smiled at the numbers and said I was good—much better than the previous checkup, anyway, when my HbA1c numbers came back looking rather poor. But the big news was my blood pressure, which was the lowest I'd ever seen it:

110/80

I did a double-take. A BP of 120/80 is considered "classic" normal. I have no idea whether I'll be able to maintain such stellar numbers over the next few months, but we'll see. I began exercising again a couple weeks before today's appointment, and I also did my usual cheat-diet* starting a week before today. If I stay on this path, that'll be a good thing, and I'm thinking that diet and exercise may have played a small role in my improvement.

But there's yet more great news: the doc no longer needs to see me every month: we're now moving to every two months. Eventually, if I get healthy enough, I imagine I'll "graduate" and will no longer have to visit the doc at all. That stage is still a long way off, but it's no longer unimaginable. In the meantime, I enjoy having a doc who acts as an externalized conscience. God knows I need one, given my general lack of self-discipline.



*You may think it's devious and wrong to do a cheat-diet instead of just changing my dietary habits over totally. But hear me out: all the doc sees are numbers, right? What he's looking for, from month to month, is a trend in those numbers. If I'm able to cheat-diet and provide the doc with that trend, then I'm actually obtaining real health benefits from my seemingly cheating lifestyle because, little by little, I'm shaving away the bad dietary habits and replacing them with good ones. It's a gradual process that mimics a graph's approach to an asymptote, but I'm going to stick with it for the time being, especially if I'm getting results like those talked about above.



Friday, January 13, 2017

Darth Vader and "Rogue One"

Continuing our Friday the 13th theme: here are some interesting articles on the issue of Darth Vader's spare but memorable appearance in "Rogue One":

"Can we talk about that final Darth Vader scene in Rogue One?"

"Let's Talk About Darth Vader in 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story'"

"How Darth Vader Got His Groove Back in 'Rogue One' Thanks to Last-Minute Tweak"

And amusingly:

"'Rogue One': Vader's Final Scene Redone Shot-for-Shot in Epic Lego Fashion"

Vader sure made an impression. And yeah: they made him evil again.





here's a dark thought for Friday the 13th

With a week to go before the inauguration, Donald Trump has been making all sorts of enemies. During the campaign, the mainstream media did its best to make him into the next Hitler, and Trump has punked the media several times, either by bringing unexpected guests to a news conference or by inviting reporters to a presser for an "exclusive," then castigating reporters for their bias and sloppiness. Trump has also made enemies within the intelligence community, especially recently with the surfacing of Buzzfeed/CNN's "Pissgate," a fake-news scandal in which Trump has been accused of perverted dalliances in Russia involving prostitutes and golden showers in posh hotels. The president-elect has fired back at both media and intelligence for sloppy work, ranting on Twitter about a "witch hunt." Trump supposedly conducted his own private sting against the intelligence community as a way to determine whether that community was actively leaking classified information; he claims to have caught some leakers, none of which is endearing him to the spooks.

The media and the intelligence apparatus are two huge, powerful, and pervasive blocs that deeply influence American society. Glenn Reynolds, on Instapundit, has written ominously of "the Deep State," a term that refers to large entities that may be trying to quietly control national policy and exercise influence throughout all branches of government. Making these entities into one's enemy is, to my mind, a very dangerous thing, which makes me wonder: what if something terrible should befall Trump on Inauguration Day? It's not inconceivable. Many people, especially those on the left, are actively seeking to keep Trump from the levers of power, and they'll be agitating against him for the next four to eight years.

Unless something happens on January 20, and Mike Pence suddenly finds himself being sworn in as the country's forty-fifth president.



the horse has been re-shoed

My "care" packages from the US have arrived, and I'm relieved that I now have spanking-new shoes, new muscle shirts, new tees, and a few other doodads, including a LifeStraw* and several bottles' worth of iodine water-purification tablets. My old tees and muscle shirt had been torn to shreds from five years of use; my walking shoes had died months ago (and I'd bought a shitty pair of Korean shoes that aren't working out), and my black semi-formal Rockport shoes, which I wear all the time, were recently given a new lease on life, but since that day, they've been worn down almost to holey status again. So now I have new Rockports and new New Balance** shoes, which means I'm good for another five or so years.

Am currently wearing my New Balances, along with a new pair of slacks and a new muscle shirt under my black, all-purpose button-down shirt. This feels much better than the usual rags. Of course, calling the old clothes "rags" is uncharitable; I did feel a twinge of sadness, this morning, when I got rid of my shirts. I decided to keep the old, tattered pants, which might be useful as emergency pants in a pinch, but I do need to get rid of my recently repaired, yet woefully superannuated, Rockports.

Sorry for the boring update, but that's the state of my clothing.



*I bought the LifeStraw before I'd ever heard about the Grayl, which looks to be a thousand times better. The Grayl is so effective a filter that you can pour Coca Cola into it, filter the Coke, and end up with pure water. Don't believe me? Watch this incredible product-test video, which also shows people drinking filtered toilet water.

**I had misgivings about buying Korean walking shoes, and that's because I've got finicky feet that seem to work best with only one brand of shoe that has ever conformed perfectly to my feet, and that brand is New Balance. It's not that New Balance is somehow an inherently superior shoe; it's just that that brand of shoe has always worked best for me. So I suppose that, in the case of New Balance and my love of the brand, it's a bit of a positive-feedback loop that generates brand loyalty: the shoes work for me; I buy the next pair of shoes; those work for me as well, etc.



Thursday, January 12, 2017

love knows no boundaries

I saw this the other day, and my friend Nathan saw the same thing and sent me a link:

Snow Monkey Attempts Sex with Deer in Rare Example of Interspecies Mating

I must say: the video of the mating was less than spectacular. In the vid, the monkey hops onto the deer's back and, completely missing the vagina, basically dry-humps the deer's spine. The whole tableau is weird, perverse, and a little sad for both the deer and the horny monkey. Ah, well... that's nature for you: weird, perverse, and a little sad.

Some animals go Platonic:


Some animals really don't give a fuck.





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"tip" and "skip"

At my company, I work with a British freelancer who writes reading passages and reading-comprehension questions that are inserted into the grammar-vocabulary book I'm writing (in any given 18-page chapter, the freelancer writes 3 pages, and I write the remaining 15). The man is a pro, and I enjoy working with him, even though "working with him," in this case, means receiving emails from him because he lives way down south in the city of Masan, near the southern edge of the peninsula (Seoul is way up north, with its back pressed perilously against the DMZ). Not only does my colleague turn in his assigned work well ahead of schedule, he also produces passages that require very little proofreading.

That's not to say everything's perfect. When I proof my colleague's passages, I'll find the occasional minor punctuation error or inconsistency, but the thing I most frequently alter is my colleague's Britishisms. I've heard some people say that US and UK English overlap about 90%, but the more I read of British English, the less convinced I am that this conventional wisdom is true. There are so many differences.

Case in point: my colleague sent me a passage about a family in which the father, a man with no knowledge of computers, has decided to yank the old computer from his desk and take it to the local dump. What the father doesn't realize is that his son's 5000-word essay is stored in the computer's drive: the son had assumed the essay would be safe because the father almost never touched the computer. The story my colleague wrote uses the terms "tip" and "skip," neither of which I clearly understood until I got to the end of the story. Just to be sure, I looked the expressions up, which is how I discovered that, when a Brit says, "I'm taking this to the tip," he means, "I'm taking this to the dump." Once he's at the dump, he'll toss his garbage into a "skip," which turns out to be a dumpster.

I learned a lot of British English by reading the Harry Potter series. I obviously still have much to learn. Unfortunately, since my company's preferred style is US English, I had to change "tip" and "skip" to "dump" and "dumpster," respectively.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

EU cascade failure in 2017?

I've made no secret of my desire for the dissolution of the EU and the eurozone, but I'm not willing to go so far as to predict that the EU will collapse this very year. This article over at L'ombre de l'olivier ("shade of the olive tree"), however, goes there.* The article concludes:

All in all the EU is likely to find a lot of politicians who find it a good thing to kick and very few who see any reason to protect it. This is a problem because the EU has utterly failed to endear itself to its citizens over the last 40 years. True people quite like the free trade and free movement bits but the rest of it fails to inspire. Moreover voters aren’t total idiots. If the Brexit talks stall, which they probably will, voters in the rest of Europe are likely to correctly perceive that the reason for this is that the EU wants to make countries that leave suffer. In Eastern Europe that’s going to remind them of the Soviet Union and the iron curtain.

All of this ought to be obvious to the EU Federasts but I’m fairly sure they still believe a combination of threats, blackmail and menaces will keep their restive populations in line because this has worked in all previous cases. The problem is that Brexit just showed that this is not the case.

I don't agree that the EU has "utterly failed to endear itself to its citizens." This may be true for millions of Europeans, but it's also true, especially among millions of younger Europeans, that a "European first" identity has emerged and continues to burgeon. Knowing quite a few Europeans, I've seen this up close: many consider themselves European above all else. While I don't believe that Brexit, Frexit, or any other potential "-exit" should be framed as an old-versus-young problem, I do think the specific question of being pro-EU or Euroskeptical falls at least roughly along generational lines.**

I also doubt an imminent EU cascade failure. Such a collapse might indeed happen if, as the article suggests, France elects Le Pen and goes through with its Frexit. But my understanding about la présidentielle this year is that François Fillon is currently ahead of Marine Le Pen, assuming the polls are accurate (which we have no reason to assume). Fillon is more moderate than Le Pen; much depends on how cautious the French are feeling. With Hollande in the command chair, the French have had a full dose of socialist policy, which has turned out badly (see also: Venezuela and other centrally planned economies, although admittedly, France hasn't fallen that low), so perhaps the French are set to swing fully toward the free market. I just don't imagine that that's going to happen, though: old habits die hard, and the French love their short work weeks, their long breaks and holidays, their habit of striking whenever things get slightly onerous, and their "free" government-sponsored "services."





*The article's title, "Wither the EU," may or may not be a mistake. The opposite of "whence" is spelled "whither," with a "wh-," but perhaps the title is meant to suggest the EU's withering, as with a dying plant. Hard to say. I'm leaning toward "spelling gaffe" myself.

**This is tough to untangle. I can hear you replying, "But wasn't the Brexit motivated by Euroskepticism? If it was, and if you're saying at the same time that Euroskepticism may be more of a generational thing than the Brexit, isn't your stance self-contradictory?" The situation in Europe is complex and not easily summed up. I think it was wrong for the anti-Brexit "Remain" crowd to portray the situation as a fight between the old and the young; part of the reason for this is that a healthy fraction of young people ended up in the "Leave" crowd (see here). But in terms of what a person thinks about his own citizenship, it tends to be the younger folks who say, "I'm European first." This only makes sense because the European-first idea is relatively new, so of course it would be picked up more easily by the young. I hope this makes sense. While there is, no doubt, some overlap between the Leave/Remain conflict and the pro-EU/anti-EU conflict, I don't think these are the same animal.





the Kyber conundrum

If you haven't seen "Rogue One" by now, you might not want to read further, as I'm about to spoil part of the film.

On the sere planet of Jedha, our heroine, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), encounters a blind almost-Jedi named Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen).* Because he's a Force-sensitive, he perceives the mystically powerful Kyber crystal hanging from Jyn's neck. As Jyn walks away from the stranger, he calls after her: "The strongest stars have hearts of Kyber!"

Imwe is a guardian of the local, now-defunct Temple of the Whills,* and Jedha is a planet on which a major Kyber-mining operation has been established. It turns out that the Empire is using these puissant crystals to power its new superweapon: the Death Star. It's unclear whether the Empire is using the crystals for their inherent Force-power or because the crystals have other physical properties that make them uniquely useful for the Death Star project.

So my question is this: if Chirrut Imwe is suggesting that Kyber crystals come from stars... why is the Empire mining them out of the ground on Jedha?

Granted, this isn't necessarily a contradiction: Carl Sagan, in his series "Cosmos," intoned, "We are the starstuff of the universe." It's entirely possible that stellar material might end up baked and folded into a planet. Nevertheless, I'm having trouble imagining how a Kyber crystal goes from here... to there.



*Way back in Star Wars prehistory, in the 1970s, George Lucas first used the term "Whills" as part of the title of a fictional document called The Journal of the Whills. The trivia for "Rogue One" is that the Whills—re-invoked for this film—were a race of powerful, Force-sensitive beings. The term "Kyber," meanwhile, is a new spelling of what had originally been "Kaiburr," from Alan Dean Foster's 1978 Star Wars-offshoot novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye: in that story, the planet Circarpous V (also known as Mimban) is the home of the Temple of Pomojema, in whose sanctum sits an enormous gem: the Kaiburr crystal, which is a mighty concentration of the Force that can magnify a Force-user's power.



Monday, January 09, 2017

what took so damn long?

The alien-encounter movie "Arrival," starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker, came and went in the States a while back, but for some reason, it never arrived in South Korea, and I've been dying to see this film. Well, just today, I checked Naver Movie, the Korean movie-schedule site, and "Arrival" will finally be coming to Korea on Groundhog Day, February 2. It'll probably be out on video in the US by then. Grrr. I wonder why Korean cinemas dragged their feet. Is it because "Arrival" has been marketed as cerebral fare as opposed to the usual noisy, superficial, explosion-filled sci-fi crap? Profound films don't make that such money—not compared to the substance-poor blockbusters.



English chicken

The historically aware say that chicken tikka masala was invented in England, that it's not an Indian dish by a long shot. Who am I to argue with history?*

My buddy Jang-woong's wife gave me a packet of masala paste,** so I whipped this up last night and reheated it today for lunch. Not bad.




*Did you catch the Trek reference? (Although Dr. Who apparently said it, too.)

**Indians are much more likely to refer to their complex spice mixes as some sort of masala. The term "curry"—referring to the pungent spice blend with which Westerners are familiar—is used primarily in non-Indian countries, and not by Indians themselves. The etymology of "curry" is somewhat confused. See here. More here.



Sunday, January 08, 2017

today's lunch

Instead of saying anything at first, I'll just let the pics do the talking. Think of this visual narrative as a comic strip with no words. I'll explain everything after. Ready?









Explanation:

I knew I was going to the office on Sunday, and I knew I had lasagna leftovers, but only in a meager amount. So I devised a plan: take my leftovers to the office, but while there, go down to the building's basement grocery and buy mozzarella and a small jar of spaghetti sauce. Mix the purchased cheese and sauce with the cheese and sauce brought from home, and voilà: I'd have enough to make a decent 4-layer lasagna that I could microwave.

Using the cleaver my boss had gotten for me as a gift, I snapped three rectangular sheets of lasagna pasta into squares (as it turned out, I didn't need to do this, but whatever) and packed those in a Ziploc bag. My cheese and sauce were already containerized, so I toted everything to the office. Once there, I knew I wouldn't be able to use the pasta while dry: I had to let it soak in hot water to soften it up, so I placed the pasta squares in the stoneware pot I keep in my office, covered the squares with scalding-hot water from the dispenser, and waited fifteen minutes. With the pasta nicely softened and plausibly microwavable, I began the build.

1. In the first image, you see the cheese-like pasta squares.

2. In this picture, we've got our sauce (homemade + bottled), as well as our cheese (original mix + store-bought mozzarella).

3. Pasta, laid out and ready for stacking.

4. The build begins in earnest. This is looking plausible, but I'm worried about the differences between microwaving and regular baking.

5. A completed lasagna. I'll be microwaving this for six minutes on high. How will it turn out? Will the exposed pasta harden and/or burn around the edges? Will the cheese burn? I had no idea what was going to happen.

6. We're done microwaving. The thing smells like an actual lasagna, which gives me hope. My hand pauses, gripping the lid. Suspense. The moment of truth is upon us.

7. Relief! While microwaving doesn't "suntan" the cheese in the same way that baking does, this looks like a legitimate lasagna, so I'm happy with what I see. I am, however, a bit taken aback by the huge pools of grease on either side of the lasagna, so I dab most of the grease away before taking this picture. The lasagna cuts surprisingly well: it's melted but still firm.

8. A final food-porn shot of a steaming, melty chunk of lasagna heading for my gullet. What can I say? Lunch was pure bliss.



Christmas gift from my boss

I now own a cleaver that, according to my boss, was made by one of the finest bladesmiths in Korea. I received this kind gift on December 28, when the boss and my coworker came over for lasagna. I'll be putting the chopper to good use.

manly men doing manly things

YouTube is a trove of fascinating slices of life. You never know what you're going to stumble upon with the next click. Here are two videos that I found fascinating and inspiring:

Dressing a Full-grown Alligator

This guy knows his way around a gator. Watch as he butchers a sizable alligator while providing professional commentary on the muscle groups and other body parts along the way. Not for the squeamish, but absolutely riveting to people like me. I've now subscribed to his YouTube channel, and I look forward to seeing more of these entertaining videos.

Restoring a Rusty Old Cleaver

While viewing this, I felt like a kid watching one of those old "Sesame Street" videos that showed some sort of manufacturing process or the step-by-step procedure followed by a craftsman. This clip shows the amazing transformation of an old, tossed-away meat cleaver into a shiny, functional piece of kitchen equipment. Some angry commenters have gone after the craftsman for using a grinder instead of a vinegar bath to remove most of the rust, but since I'm not a pro restorer, I'll stay out of that argument and just enjoy the visuals.



stay tuned

What could possibly be inside the stoneware pot? A culinary triumph? A culinary disaster? Stay tuned for the full story later tonight!