Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Charlottesville: 3 voices

Here are Phil DeFranco, Roaming Millennial, and Stefan Molyneux on Charlottesville:






Molyneux's spiel is by far the rantiest, especially in its latter half. He seems to undermine his point about the need for civil, rational discourse when he starts shouting at the camera. Molyneux does, however, point out early on that the police:demonstrator ratio was 2:1, which means that law enforcement and the maintenance of order should have been easy (excepting, of course, unforeseeable events like the helicopter crash that killed two police officers and James Fields's mowing-down of leftie demonstrators, resulting in one death).





"Split": review

"Split" is a 2016 film that represents the victorious comeback of much-maligned director M. Night Shyamalan. It stars James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, and Betty Buckley. There's a cameo by Shyamalan himself (he usually appears briefly in his own films), as well as an uncredited cameo by Bruce Willis as David Dunn, the protagonist of Shyamalan's 2000 film "Unbreakable." As with the 2000 film, Shyamalan is intent on exploring the world of superheroes and superpowers, but in "Split," this is done primarily through the lens of psychotherapy. And like Luc Besson's "Lucy," a major theme in "Split" is the power of the human mind over matter.

The plot of "Split" is almost absurdly simple: three high-school girls get in a car, expecting the father of one of the girls to drive the three to their respective homes. Instead, a creepy man named Kevin Wendell Crumb (what's with all the movies about crazy people named Kevin?) slips into the driver's seat, renders the girls unconscious with a spray, then drives them to an undisclosed location, locking them seemingly deep underground. Kevin turns out to be a victim of DID: dissociative identity disorder, which until recently used to be known as multiple-personality disorder. We come to learn that Kevin is inhabited by at least twenty-three distinct personalities, one of which is seriously diabetic and in need of insulin shots. There is a rumored twenty-fourth personality, a demonic one known only as The Beast, which apparently requires the sacrifice of young girls and promises to be a liberating force for the other three personalities. The Beast's arrival is foretold by several of Kevin's personalities. In the meantime, the other twenty-three personalities take turns "in the light," i.e., acting as the dominant personality inside Kevin. Among these personalities is Dennis, who is all business and physically threatening. There's also Boston-accented Barry, who claims to control who gets to be in the light. Next is lispy nine-year-old Hedwig, who is something of a trickster. The last major personality we meet is prim, proper, British-accented Patricia. Kevin makes it easy for the viewer to know which personality is in the light by constantly changing clothes to match the personality. In the end, we never meet more than a handful of the twenty-three identities in residence.

The girls, meanwhile, begin their captivity locked in the same room together, but subsequent escape attempts force Kevin to place the girls in separate rooms. We see most of this trauma through the eyes of Casey (Taylor-Joy), who is something of an outcast. The other two girls resent Casey's apparent aloofness, not realizing that one reason for Casey's detachment is that she had been sexually abused by her uncle (Brad William Henke) during one or several family hunting trips in the woods. We see Casey's past in flashbacks.

Kevin, while manifesting Barry, regularly visits a psychiatrist named Karen Fletcher (Buckley). Fletcher is fascinated by the interplay between and among Kevin's personalities, and she also suspects that each personality somehow makes the person different in very real ways: physical stature and strength, handwriting, body chemistry (which is why only one personality needs insulin). Fletcher digs into deeper and more dangerous territory as she comes to realize that Barry, although he claims to be the executive personality deciding who gets to step into the light, is actually second fiddle to Dennis, who is not merely the executive but also the herald announcing the arrival of The Beast.

As part of my undergrad work, I took courses in general psychology and abnormal psychology, and some of the more disturbing things I recall seeing, in a psych textbook that I still own, were photos of so-called "stigmata" and about fourteen handwriting samples taken from the same person manifesting different personalities. The "stigmata" were brought about through hypnosis: the patient was taken back to a time in his or her life when s/he had been tightly bound and confined in a basement. The evocation of that time period caused the actual rope imprints to appear on the patient's wrists, redness and all. The picture showing the handwriting samples was just as disturbing: as they say, it's actually quite hard to "fake" handwriting in such a way that the fake sample looks nothing like one's normal penmanship. People usually leave traces of themselves in their attempts at fakery, but the fourteen writing samples in my textbook all convincingly looked as if they had come from completely different people. "Split" attempts to take the idea of mind-over-matter even further, suggesting that the mind can change one's body chemistry and even give a person what are effectively superpowers, like the acquisition of a hulking muscularity or the ability to climb walls in a spider-like way. This is obviously fiction, but Shyamalan does a good job of keeping the proceedings from seeming totally implausible.

That being said, "Split" was something of a mixed bag for me. The story was coherent, and the acting was fine, but the plot was rather predictable. For example, the moment I saw Karen Fletcher, the psychotherapist, I knew she had death written all over her. Fletcher was our guide and gateway into a scarier universe, but there was no doubt in my mind that, in the end, The Beast would require her life. The latter third of the movie follows a fairly standard "final girl" horror-movie template, although the dénouement is, admittedly, somewhat unexpected. Another problem was that, despite the film's slow pace and talky script, we never really got to know the other two girls in any depth, which made it obvious they were just cannon fodder.

The appearance of Bruce Willis's David Dunn means that The Beast and Dunn exist in the same filmic universe, and since I've heard of "Unbreakable" being referred to as "the first movie in an 'Unbreakable' series," I suppose this makes sense. Perhaps we'll see The Beast go up against David Dunn in a future film (assuming the film is made before Willis is too old for the role). You'll recall that Dunn's superpowers are enormous strength, inhuman physical toughness, and the ability to form psychic connections with people he touches.

Despite the predictability of "Split," Shyamalan does a good job with suspense and atmospherics, and James McAvoy gives a bravura performance as Kevin. The film was rated PG-13 in the States, so the viewer needn't worry about things becoming too gory and gruesome. Overall, I can cautiously recommend "Split." Watch it mainly for McAvoy's performance, but do expect to know the outcome well before the story is over.



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

today's only meal

Pancakes, bacon, and pale scrambled eggs:


I used a different store-bought pancake mix this time, and it turned out a lot better. As for why the eggs are pale: it's the milk, baby. But they still tasted like eggs.



adieu, O backpack

I had to put down my ailing Gregory Whitney 95 backpack today. The poor thing has been shedding flecks of faux leather since even before my big walk in April. The parting was fairly unceremonious: I took my backpack down to the B1 garage level, which is where we residents throw out our bagged garbage and recycling. When you throw away items that are out of the ordinary and a bit cumbersome, like worn-out desks and couches and standing lamps and computers, you have to pay the parking-garage guard a fee. In my case, that fee was W3,000, or just under three dollars. With that, I simply laid the backpack against a pile of garbage, turned, and walked away without a spoken goodbye. But inside, it felt as if I had abandoned a faithful travel companion. That pack, purchased in 2008, had been with me to Europe and back; it was the pack I used during my 600-mile hike in 2008, and it traveled to and from Korea with me several times. The April-May walk across South Korea was its last hurrah; when I used it recently during my abortive attempt to walk to Incheon in soul-crushing heat, the pack's hole allowed a water bottle to slip through, and at that point, I knew the old boy was done. It was only a matter of dropping the pack off at the basement dump, something I hadn't wanted to do since coming back from the failed walk on August 5. But today, I finally took a breath and did the deed, and I feel all the emptier for it.

From here, though, we have to look toward the future. I'm still brand-loyal to Gregory, and I see on Amazon that Gregory has a new, sleek pack: the Gregory Denali 100. This might be a great replacement for my defunct Whitney 95. It costs a lot more, but part of that is probably because of improved tech since 2008. I'll give it a look and see how I like it.

The walk goes on.



problem finally(?) solved

Another week has gone by. The electricians came by yesterday (Monday) to reinstall my circuit breaker, which has been hanging out of my wall for the better part of a month. All the internal leaking has dried up. I asked the repairmen how bad the problem was, and they reiterated that the leak had begun two floors up, on the eighth floor. All the necessary construction work has been done—presumably on the floors above me.

In a sense, I was lucky: almost a month ago, the electricians had pulled my circuit breaker out of my wall to keep it out of the way of the leaking. Once that had been done, I was told simply not to touch the breaker panel, and that I could otherwise operate all my electrical appliances normally—my A/C, my fans, etc. In other words, the problem didn't affect me too deeply, which is one reason why I'm not ranting about it. Last week, when the electrician called and said, with some hesitation, that the problem would take another week to solve, I laughed and replied, "I've waited weeks already, so what's another week?" It really was no skin off my nose. I also told the guys that the most important thing was safety, so they needed to take their time and do things right. Here's hoping that they have.



Happy Gwangbokjeol

Today is VJ Day in the States and Liberation Day in South Korea. Koreans rarely use this day to thank their liberators; there seems, alas, to be a push to act as if Korea somehow liberated itself. Whatever speech President Moon gives today, it probably won't mention—much less offer thanks to—the countries that helped liberate Korea from Japanese occupation. That said, it's a national holiday, and we proles are off work today, so it's not all bad.

(If Moon breaks with tradition and does thank the US and its allies, I'll eat my hat. You will eventually be able to go here to see the English transcript of the president's speech for yourself. It's not up yet, so please be patient.)



Monday, August 14, 2017

tricksters: round 3

Over at YouTube's Crash Course Mythology series, Mike Rugnetta puts out his third (and I think final) video on trickster figures, which I've embedded here:


The first trickster video is here; the second is here.



Roger L. Simon on Charlottesville

You may have heard about how an initially peaceful "white nationalist" demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned into a riot and ended, on the second day, with at least one death when an angry driver, James Fields, rammed into a crowd of demonstrators. Fields turned out not to be someone of the left, but rather someone of the far right. The demonstration featured rhetoric expressing a desire to preserve white culture, but also featured swastikas and Nazi salutes. The violent group Antifa ("anti-fascists," supposedly, but the group uses fascist tactics) showed up, and that's when the fighting started and the local police failed to do their duty. Ed Driscoll's take is here. Fields's act of vehicular manslaughter was, in a sense, just the icing on the violence-cake.

Roger Simon, in this PJ Media article, writes that what we're seeing isn't a reflection of the country at large, given how small a slice of the population consists of white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazis, etc. This is an important point that will be forgotten in the furor.

Meanwhile, since the 1920s, our population has more than tripled to some 325 million. Using the figure of 100,000 white supremacists (not many of whom made it to Charlottesville fortunately), this puts the percentage of white supremacists in the U.S. at a puny 0.03%. Terrible people, yes, but no epidemic by any stretch of the imagination. By way of comparison, an estimated 3 billion pizzas are sold every year in the U.S. There's an epidemic.

More to the point, are there more of these white supremacists than members of the equally violent and disgusting Antifa movement? Again statistics are hard to come by. (Both sides like to wear masks.) But I tend to doubt it. If anything, Antifa has been far more active, until Saturday.

Obviously, none of this is to exonerate in the slightest the human excrement that descended on Charlottesville. It's just to put them in perspective. For the next week or two -- assuming we're not at war with North Korea -- we will hear non-stop geschreiing from our media about what a racist nation we are, how we have to come together, rend our shirts, investigate this and that and endlessly discuss how bad we are until we're finally forgiven at some undetermined point in an ever vanishing future that seems never to arrive.

Neither the left nor the right came out looking angelic in this latest incident. The right certainly isn't advancing its cause by allowing swastikas and Nazi salutes to gain free air time. The left, of course, resorts to violence far more than the right does by several orders of magnitude these days; Antifa is a prime example of that. But now there's James Fields, and while I understand Roger Simon's desire to minimize the significance of a Charlottesville-style incident, I do have to wonder whether Fields's act is the first of many retaliatory acts to come as the right's patience finally cracks. The specter of civil war is always looming in the background. Can large-scale disaster be averted?

Styx sees all this as primarily the biased media's fault:


ADDENDUM: more Antifa violence in Seattle.

ADDENDUM 2: the right, at least on Gab.ai, isn't distinguishing itself when it uploads morbid humor like this:


That's one sample of many such posts that I see on Gab. People are cheering the death of the woman who got mowed down by Fields. I'd love to say that we're talking about only a small minority, but the preponderance of such images and posts on Gab isn't reassuring. There's a very large, very angry group of people that is beginning to feel it's been pushed around enough, which is why I fear this kind of incident is merely a foretaste of what's in store.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

dinner at Julio's

I met my buddy Tom for dinner in Jongno this evening. I had been holding his six packages of books for the past few weeks; he had been in the Philippines, and he brought me back four bars of Gillette armpit deodorant that he was able to buy for half the cost of the same product here. We traded items and went to the local galmaegi-sal restaurant, but that place was closed, so Tom suggested we hit a spot called Julio's, another Tex-Mex joint thankfully outside of Itaewon. The place reminded me of how Dos Tacos used to be before that place began to wither and shrivel. I suggested we share a quesadilla as an appetizer; for his main course, Tom chose tacos (pictured below, albeit blurrily). For my part, I got the Nachos Grande, which proved not to be too grande, but was filling all the same. The "bacon" in the quesadilla turned out to be the thick pork-belly cut that Koreans use when making samgyeopsal. The pork was startlingly smoky, and it was easily the most memorable part of my meal. The nachos were fine, and Tom's tacos came out of the kitchen looking bigger than they had looked in the menu's photos. A good meal, all in all, followed up by our ritual ice-cream session over at the local Baskin Robbins. Below are two photos of the meal: Tom's tacos and my nachos (plus part of the quesadilla). The "bacon" wasn't at all crispy, the way we Yanks like it, but the smokiness of the meat more than made up for the lack of texture.



Julio's was good enough to make me want to go back and try out other parts of its extensive menu, so I might be making a trip out there again soon.






gender is only in the mind (or something)

Funniest thing I've read all day, and it's 1:05AM.

I have more to say on trans/gender issues, but not yet. This is a complex topic, and while some of the ethical and social issues arising from it are easy enough to form positions on, other issues require a measure of nuance, sophistication, and—dare I say it?—compassion. I'm still fumbling my way through all this, so please bear with me. More later.



fixed it

In case you missed it, I fixed the eleven errors in my philosophy book's sample chapter. Click this link to take a look at the now-improved chapter if you want.



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Joshua vs. Styx on North Korea

Joshua Stanton thinks it's a bad idea for the US to ramp up its threatening rhetoric against North Korea. Styx, meanwhile, thinks Trump's rhetoric is apropos for East Asian-style diplomacy. As Joshua writes:

I’m already on record on the topic of threatening war against North Korea: it scares our friends more than our enemies (who assume, correctly I hope, that we’re bluffing). If we want to threaten the thing our enemies fear most, threaten to sow the seeds of the revolution that the people of North Korea desperately need. Nukes aren’t much good in that kind of war, and China would never tolerate their use so close to its borders. If we can’t resist threatening to bomb someone, at least threaten to bomb the person who is responsible for this crisis, and deliver those threats privately. The people of North Korea didn’t elect Kim Jong-Un. At least Americans had a choice, sort of.

The people of North Korea don’t make policy, can’t criticize their government’s policies, and often don’t even agree with those policies. They’d rather eat than have missiles. So I really wish we would not play directly into the hands of Kim Jong-Un’s propaganda by threatening the very people we’ll need to befriend, support, and empower to verifiably disarm His Porcine Majesty.

Styx, by contrast, says this in his video (linked above):

There is a difference between the way in which diplomacy is conducted in the European style, and the way in which diplomacy is typically conducted in an East Asian style, with regards to, you know, a threatening or aggressive situation.

[...]

In East Asian politics, the two sides basically size one another up, tell each other, "Hey—I'm big and bad. I'm gonna annihilate you if you get involved. Back the fuck down." And neither one is supposed to back down! It's like the posturing of bears. Bears, when they don't want to actually physically fight with one another, they exchange some warning roars, and they make themselves look big and burly, and they do a few fake charges. And the idea is that they both sort of retire from battle having not fought out their differences. It's a strategy of actual avoidance of warfare.

When North Korea says that it has drawn up concrete plans awaiting Kim Jeong-eun's orders to fire four missiles into Guam's territorial waters, it's probably a bluff. Now, Obama never realized this. Obama would see a situation like that and say, "Oh, we call for calm. We will defend our allies," blah—[he] may issue a few vague statements and ultimately do nothing. That's how you get disrespect. There is a reason why, late in his presidency, when Obama went to Beijing the last time, they didn't roll out the carpet; nobody was there to meet him. They saw him as a joke. Because in their culture, that's a sign of weakness. It's a sign that he's impotent—that he doesn't have any balls. Trump has chosen the correct strategy to deal with the situation in Korea: he's saying, "Hey—make my day. Go ahead and fire your fuckin' missiles. We'll fire something way, way worse at North Korea." That'll probably back them down and avoid conflict."

So here are two foreign-policy stances for you to mull over today. Which one do you think hews more closely to reality? (Males being males, I expect someone to come along in the comments and proclaim, "Neither!" Because it's somehow always a sign of wisdom to defy or shatter dichotomies. Heh.)

In my more whimsical moments, I think it'd be a hoot for us to fly drones all over North Korean airspace, and then to play "missile tennis" by launching warhead-less missiles from ships or subs on either side of the peninsula, back and forth to the east and west, from ocean to ocean, just to show what we can do.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Edward James Asshole?

One of my new coworkers used to work in the film industry, and she studied film, too. One time, her class had Edward James Olmos as a guest speaker, and according to her, Olmos—whom I greatly admire as an actor—turned out to be a raging asshole. He insisted that none of the students take notes while he talked, and he apparently went ballistic when one student clickity-clacked on a laptop. He told people not to take any photos of him, either, even threatening others by saying something like, "If you post any pics online, I will find you!" He also allegedly harangued a student while unironically referring to himself in his Bill Adama role from "Battlestar Galactica," roaring, "Don't fuck with a commander!"

This news came as a shock and a disappointment to me, but upon reflection, I think there were signs. Olmos has had a history of playing morally upright authority figures, and there's doubtless a feedback loop between his self-righteousness and the roles he gets. In one of the DVD extras that came with my copy of "Battlestar Galactica: The Plan," which Olmos directed, we see Olmos seated at a table with his actors, giving some sort of grave motivational speech intended to get the actors in the correct frame of mind for the upcoming scenes. The man obviously takes himself seriously. In another clip, Olmos talks about how relieved he is that "Battlestar Galactica" is a sci-fi show with no aliens. I don't remember his exact words, but at one moment he said, roughly, "If they ever put aliens on the show, I've already warned the crew that, when the alien appears, I'm going faint, drop to the floor, and not move again. Then I'm going to walk out. They can do whatever they want with that footage." While this can be interpreted as an example of Olmos's artistic integrity, it's also of a piece with the arrogance and instability that my coworker talked about (she called Olmos "insane"). Very disappointing to learn this ugly truth about one of my cinematic idols.



the philosophy book: take a peek at Unit 1

I've been charged with creating a textbook on philosophy for elementary schoolers, so I've been creating the content, making design elements, and fashioning layout. Here's a link to a draft of Unit 1, which of course begins with the question, "What is philosophy?" Thus far, I've had near-total freedom to create the content and the look as I please, but Unit 1 is soon going to be reviewed by several teachers (Koreans, most likely) who will offer their input as to how easy or difficult the material is, and/or how appealing the design is. The boss is pretty sure that the teachers will think the material is a bit too difficult for their kids; I'm inclined to agree, so I'm already anticipating having to redo most or all of what you see. As for other critiques, the boss thinks that the "listening" dialogue on page 7 needs to be removed so the students can't read along. I agree: I placed the dialogue there more as a filler than as actual content for the students. In the final version, the dialogue will likely be gone, and only the listening-exercise instructions will remain. Otherwise, the boss declared himself pleased with the unit's overall look, and he doesn't think the reading passage is too difficult (given that I was at pains to explain many new terms within the passage itself), but he's still fairly sure that the unit will need to be redone after the teachers have had their say.

Creating the content was easy and straightforward, but doing the art and layout took a long, long time. In the future, when I get back to working on this textbook, I've been told that I should concentrate solely on creating content. I hope this doesn't mean that other people will be brought in to do the design work (this has become my baby, after all), but that may be the only way to produce the book faster. My own thought is that I can radically reduce the number of illustrations I do per unit, which will speed production up nicely.

ADDENDUM: Dammit. I'm still finding mistakes in this draft. For my own purposes (because I'll need to go back to the original files, clean up the errors, then create new PDFs and hard-copy printouts), I'll list the gaffes here.

1. Page 3: need a closed quotation mark after "dead" in question 5.
2. Page 4: "analyze" is a verb, not a noun.
3. Page 4: for #4, "wisdom" = awkward phrase "a deep sense of about how to live life..."
4. Page 7: Prof. Jones's line, second utterance from the bottom: close up the space in the phrase "an animal that can use reason or logic."
5. Page 7: close up spaces after all ellipses (consistency).
6. Page 7: Prof. Jones's final line: close up space in the phrase "human beings are unique."
7. Page 11, section 1, question 2: delete "has."
8. Page 12: close up spaces after ellipses.
9. Page 14, section 2: switch "by ...ing" and "come to" to reflect proper order of patterns.
10. Page 16, section 1: change "6-line" to "4-line."
11. Page 17, #3: add the line, "Print out your paragraph and bring it to class."

ADDENDUM 2: corrections made. I'm breathing easier, now.


another successful office lunch

These office lunches have become hugely expensive affairs, but despite how tiring and wallet-draining they are, they can be fun. I had insane amounts of leftover chimichurri, pesto, Thai peanut sauce, and hummus, so I prepped the following for today:

1. Thai chicken satay with peanut sauce
2. Hummus with Indian roti flatbread
3. Pesto chicken-and-mushroom fusilli pasta
4. Shabu beef plus chimichurri

As before, the staffers destroyed anything chicken-related. There's still a ton of hummus left, but the hummus got plenty of compliments. This was my first time tasting Indian roti, which turns out to be much more savory than a standard naan. A coworker discovered that the roti actually goes very well with the Thai peanut sauce, which makes sense, given that roti is South Asian and Thai peanut sauce is Southeast Asian—two flavor profiles that aren't too far apart. One staffer said that he thought today's lunch was even better than the last one.

And that's it for August. I'll be doing another luncheon in September.



Thursday, August 10, 2017

"...thus proving Damore's point."

The James Damore fiasco continues. As Philip DeFranco noted (link in previous post), Julian Assange of Wikileaks has publicly offered Damore a job, and I suspect that other companies will be doing the same. In the meantime, triggered women at Google are now skipping work because they've been made to feel uncomfortable by Damore's ten-page screed (which, along with being called both a "diversity memo" and an "anti-diversity memo," has also been called a manifesto, probably because of its length). As this article points out, the disgruntled women's action essentially confirms what Damore says in his piece regarding feminine emotionality.

In the document, Damore suggested that "women on average are more cooperative" and "more prone to anxiety," and that this often involves a search "for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average."

What could demonstrate these arguments more clearly than women staying home (focusing on life over work and accepting a cut in status) in solidarity with other women (more cooperative) and feeling "uncomfortable" going back to work (more prone to anxiety)?

Indeed, NPR quoted [software engineer Kelly] Ellis as a sympathetic source, noting that "she left Google in 2014 after she was sexually harassed." Ellis also reported feeling traumatized by seeing "similar language when I was at Google being shared on internal message boards and other different internal forums."

Here's the thing: Ellis refused to report the verbal sexual harassment she received at the time, posting it on Twitter only after she had left the company, and acknowledging she had no evidence to support her claims. She said Google "reprimanded me instead of him," despite the fact she hadn't reported the incident. Nowhere does Damore's document dismiss sexual harassment or support the idea that women should be objectified.

[...]

The manifesto was very fair, presenting the virtues of the Left biases and the Right biases, but warning against the dangers of imbalance. Damore was not arguing for Google to become a conservative company — he was arguing that it should have more intellectual diversity, correcting blind spots and maximizing value for everyone concerned.

The women employees at Google, by reacting the way they did, underscored his general points about men and women. Again, Damore only said that gender stereotypes explain the difference between the average man and the average woman — many men and women overlap on the spectrum.

In general, women focus more on empathy, work-life balance, and cooperation, while men focus more on leadership, things and ideas, and competition. "Status is the primary metric that men are judged on, pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail," Damore argued.

Rather than just focusing on why women are less frequently in top leadership positions, he explained that "the same forces that lead men into high pay/his stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths."

Men did not ditch work on Monday, even though many of them undoubtedly were disturbed to see a memo questioning their basic assumptions. Women did, and the reporting focused on them as victims, proving both of Damore's points that women tend to be less competitive and that society tends to be protective of women.

Damore was not denouncing either of these trends as bad, but insisting that social sciences and companies like Google need to acknowledge them. Unfortunately, this reaction suggests both that Damore's analysis was accurate and that it will fall on deaf ears.

The "thus proving Damore's point" notion has become a meme, of sorts, over the past week as this kerfuffle has attracted public attention. Google is now a ponderous company that often seems blind to many ironies, e.g., the contrast between its "Don't Be Evil" motto and its collusion with China in helping to reinforce China's Great Firewall, which suppresses information that the Chinese government doesn't want its citizens to see. And now we see the irony that Google, supposedly pro-diversity, actually wants employees to march in lockstep and hew to a specific ideological line. Google owns YouTube, so this ties into my earlier post re: the continuing constriction of free speech on that platform.



Wednesday, August 09, 2017

PJW on the Google-memo controversy

Stefan Molyneux will happily talk your ear off for an hour, but you can always count on Paul Joseph Watson to have a brief, acerbic take on the issues of the day. In the video embedded below, Watson gives his perspective on the recent controversy surrounding the now-fired Google employee James Damore, who wrote and sent around what has been variously called a "diversity memo" and an "anti-diversity memo." Damore's memo dares to mention possible hard-wired differences between the sexes; he also notes that, for Google, ethnic/cultural/racial diversity might be important, but diversity of opinion/perspective is not. For this thoughtcrime, Damore has been pilloried, fired from his job, and even doxxed.

Take it away, PJW:


ADDENDUM: my good-natured ribbing of the prolix and vociferous Stefan Molyneux aside, it's interesting to note that Molyneux actually scored an interview with James Damore himself. You can watch that 45-minute exchange here.

ADDENDUM 2: Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit posts:

CONOR FRIEDERSDORF: The Most Common Error in Media Coverage of the Google Memo: Many headlines labeled the document “anti-diversity,” misleading readers about its actual contents. They wanted a white-male hate object, even if they had to invent one.

True. If you've seen any part of the actual memo, then you know full well that it affirms various types of diversity, including the racial/ethnic/cultural (and sexual) kind.

ADDENDUM 3: Philip DeFranco opines, with lengthy quotes from the document, here.





armed but unarmed

Incredible.

What's your excuse? indeed.




Tuesday, August 08, 2017

some kid has his head on straight

I might be seeing things, but I'm pretty sure some impetuous kid carved "Kim Jeong Eun [is an] idiot" into a local tree. Look at the unaltered tree first, then scroll down, look at the enhanced picture, and decide for yourself.







not bad for three months' debauchery

Visited the doc yesterday and today. Had my blood pressure taken, gave a urine sample (hadn't done that in a while), and had my blood drawn for full-scale blood work. Yesterday, the doc told me to come back today for my blood-work results; in the meantime, my BP turned out to be fine after three months of not exercising the way I had during my long walk. The doc said I was at 130/85, which is slightly high, but not alarming (classic BP is 120/80 for adults).

This morning, I came back for my blood-test results, and they turned out to be mixed: high blood sugar (albeit substantially improved from three months ago), but normal levels of cholesterol, and all other signs appeared to be normal. The doc altered my meds a bit (I'd told him about my geographic-tongue issue), but I couldn't pick up the meds at the local pharmacy because they weren't in stock. The lady at the pharmacy ordered more meds for me and told me to come back around 4PM, which it is right now, so I'm off to pick up my meds.

I'll have enough medicine for two months, and since I never take my meds on Sunday, I can stretch that time out to about two-and-a-half months before I need to come back to the doctor's office. In all, my numbers could have been worse after three months of relative relaxation and dietary misbehavior. The doc told me to keep exercising, which I'll definitely do. Sometimes, it feels as if I'm regularly visiting a drug dealer.



Monday, August 07, 2017

tricksters: redux

The previous Crash Course video on tricksters is here.

The newest video on tricksters is now out:






memory or death

Having nearly reached my 15-gigabyte capacity, I recently bit the bullet and subscribed to paid storage for my Google account. Being the stingy bastard that I am, I went for the cheapest option, which is $2 a month for 100 gigs of storage. When you first sign up for Gmail, Google gives you a free 15 GB to play with, which is a decent chunk of memory for a non-pro like me: I don't constantly send or store huge graphics or video files, so I don't consume that much memory. I switched over to Gmail in 2006; it's now 2017, so it's taken me eleven years to max out. With my new 100-GB account, I now have an extra 85 GB to play with. If I use the storage up at the same rate as I have over the past decade, then I have over 62 years' storage left. In other words, I'll be dead long before I use up my current storage.

Good to know that something will outlive me, even if it isn't progeny.



Sunday, August 06, 2017

what hath Trump wrought?

In the midst of supposed White House chaos, Trump's recent trans ban for the military, and the RAISE Act (which limits immigration), Trump seems to be getting things done in a way that isn't obvious if your only sources for Trump-related news are the mainstream media.

1. Someone Just Noticed That Trump Is Getting Stuff Done

2. Trump Has Quietly Accomplished More Than It Appears

Styx comments on Jim Justice's defection to the GOP. In doing so, he points out some of the nonsense coming from Trump's opponents—accusations that essentially cancel each other out.


Styx comments on Trump and Russia:






how to cheat your weight loss

Wrestlers have known this for years: to reach your weight class, just sweat.

Today, I went out for my 2.5-hour creekside walk, having decided that the 5-hour megawalk would be too much. I sweated and sweated going up and down those fourteen staircases... and at the end of my walk, when I weighed myself on my bathroom scale, I was back down to 117 kg after having regained 3 or 4 kg in the three months(!) since I finished my trans-Korea hike. You'll recall that I'd lost 10 kg during that walk; I went from 126 kg to 116 kg, and here I am again, hovering around 117 kg after being around 120 kg for the past few weeks.

Actually, I drank two 600-ml Powerades, so I guess I'm up to 118.2 kg, but I've also taken a piss since then, so that needs to be factored in. By morning, I expect to be around 117 kg again, as I'm currently fasting. Not a bad way to start the week, even if the weight loss is mostly water loss and not fat loss.

Oh, and I just made a gigantic batch of hummus with my leftover chickpeas from the goodbye party we'd had at the office. Want some?



100º F, but feels like 111º F

My cell phone's Weather.com app is telling me that it's insanely hot right now (38º C, feeling like 44º C), but I'm going to go for a creekside megawalk in that heat with nothing more than my small backpack and maybe four liters of water. Normally, I hike at night, which is probably also the wiser course for today, but every now and again, I fancy a good daytime stroll.

Here's my problem, though: while I love hiking at night, I prefer going to the gym in the morning. This has led to a sort of paradox in my daily schedule that has caused my gym attendance to grind to a halt. The problem is that, on a day when I go to the gym in the morning, I don't like walking at night, and on a night when I do my walking, I don't like going to the gym the following morning. Result: I've ended up doing neither. Ideally, and as I discussed a month or so ago, I should be doing everything in the morning: my creekside walks every Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and my gym-plus-staircase routines every Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. But such a schedule means waking up very early every morning, something I'm still constitutionally averse to doing.

"So what's to prevent you from doing gym + walks at night?" you ask. This is going to sound weird, but what I like about hitting the gym at 6:30AM is that there aren't any expats in there: it's all Koreans. I don't know why, but it'd weird me out to be grunting and sweating away with a fellow Westerner in the room. Am I a racist? Maybe, but I think it's something else because I don't get weirded out when going to a gym in the States. What's going on may actually be a form of GOMAS, a syndrome that I wrote about long ago.

Before I head out on my walk, though, I have to swing by a contact-lens store and buy myself a new lens. I have no idea whether lenses are sold singly, but if they are, I count on paying W35,000 for one instead of W70,000 for a pair. After coming home from my abortive walk yesterday, I was so exhausted that I crawled into bed without removing my contacts, and I can only assume that my right-side lens crawled off, and out of, my eye while I was sleeping. This has happened before, and it's a fairly common occurrence for wearers of contacts, but I was troubled that I couldn't find the lens once I woke up. Normally, the lens will be sitting on the pillow, or somewhere on the mattress, or it will have tumbled off the bed and onto the floor. I've looked everywhere, and the lens seems to have disappeared. One other sinister possibility is that the lens is still inside my eye socket, having somehow crawled around my eye and tucked itself into the orbit somewhere. While there's a chance that that might have happened, it's been more than 24 hours, which is plenty of time for the lens either to make itself felt or to have crawled back around to the front and ejected itself from my eye. None of this has happened, so I'm assuming the lens left my eye and has simply gotten lost at sea.

Anyway, I'm hitting the lens place before going on my walk, and I'll make an effort to take my lenses out before sleeping from now on. Something tells me that my dried-up lens will turn up eventually; that's happened before. I've been wearing contacts since high school, so at this point, I've (forgive the optical pun) seen it all.

ADDENDUM: barely ten minutes after publishing this blog post, I found my fucking lens. I don't know how it got there, but it was sitting, tucked away, on the shelf where I keep my contact-lens-related supplies. It must have dropped off my unfeeling fingertip while I was trying to transfer it from my eye to the lens case (after I'd woken up from several hours of sleeping while wearing the lenses, I mean). The lens is as dry as a bone right now, so I'm letting it soak in saline solution for two hours before I risk putting it back on my eye. But at least that saves me a W35,000 trip to the contact-lens store, eh?

ADDENDUM 2: out of sheer monkey curiosity, I checked the soaking lens after ten minutes. Poof—like magic, it was ready to wear, so it's on my eye now.



Saturday, August 05, 2017

Mother Nature 1, Kevin 0

Today proved to be too much. I was out of the apartment at 6AM, and for the first couple of hours, the heat wasn't bad at all. I was walking generally west along the Han River, which meant the morning sun was behind me, hitting my backpack more than me.

But by the time 9:30 rolled around, the sun was much higher in the sky, and the weather was getting hot, humid, and positively angry. My pack weighed 15 kg, thanks mainly to the six liters of water and the food I had packed (no restaurants: I was planning to eat on the road), but also thanks to the spare clothing and other random bits of gear. One of my water bottles fell out of my backpack's huge hole, so I had to waste time rearranging my gear to keep anything else from falling out. After that, I trudged on.

Around 11AM, I was right on top of Yeouido when I decided to call it quits. I had just tried resting in the shade under one of the many river bridges I'd passed, but when I tried to get up after resting, I was hit by a wave of dizziness that told me all I needed to know about how realistic my chances were of completing the hike. The last thing this country needs is the sad sight of a 270-pound guy laid out flat on the trail, gasping his last. So, while standing under a two-level bridge, I hailed a cab and made my way back to my apartment, arriving a bit before 11:30AM, a defeated man. It was 98 degrees Fahrenheit out (37º C).

So in the end, I suppose heatstroke did become a concern, and while I'm ashamed not to have completed the 18-mile walk to Gayang Bridge, I do think I dodged a bullet by choosing to stop early. I'll try this walk again in October, when the weather's more reasonable. Meanwhile, I have other ways to work up a sweat.



Friday, August 04, 2017

oh, by the way

I'm hiking to Incheon, starting tomorrow morning. This hike will take me along the Han River trail, westward to the Ara Trail, which will eventually lead me to the ocean—what Koreans call Seohae, i.e., the West Sea. The total distance from my apartment to the Ara Seohae Gapmun Injeung Senteo—the Ara West Sea Lock Registration Center—is about 55 kilometers. That's a two-day walk, broken up into roughly 28-kilometer segments. I've looked at the map, and the halfway point is a bridge called the Gayang Daegyo, which sits almost exactly at the 28-kilometer mark. From the bridge, it's about a 1.5-kilometer walk into town, where there's a neighborhood that's chock-full of motels. I'll crash in a motel for the night, then walk almost the same distance the following day. In theory, I'll get another stamp in my Moleskine for my collection, then I'll likely take a cab back to either Incheon Station or to Incheon International Airport. If I go to the station, I'll take the subway back into Seoul; if I go to the airport, I'll catch a limousine bus back to my neighborhood (the 6600 bus goes to Gaepo-dong, which is right where I live). Most likely, I'll be opting for the bus: it's a nicer ride.

There's little to pack aside from a ton of water, light packaged meals that can be eaten along the way, a toiletry kit for when I'm in the motel, and maybe some extra clothing to wear while my hand-washed things are drying. My pack will be fairly light as a result: the heaviest thing will be the water, and I'll be slurping that greedily along the way. Since I was a dope and left my smaller backpack at the office when I recently carried over a bunch of food, I have no choice but to reenlist my battered Gregory, with its massive hole in the bottom.

Part of me thinks this hike might be the quick road to heatstroke, given that it's going to be extremely humid and about 97ºF on both days of the walk, but I'm thinking that this will be survivable. I learned a lot about enduring sunlight during the big walk from Seoul to Busan, and I still have my toshi (sleevelets, manchettes) and my wide-brimmed hat. I'll also have my trusty trekking pole. What could go wrong, right?

Anyway, wish me luck. I'll be happy to be back out on the trail, even if only for a weekend.


on the nature of improv-inspired banter

There are some people with whom you can improv; there are others who don't have the ear, or the sense of humor, for such a thing. Comedienne Tina Fey has said that improv means saying "yes" to everything that comes your way. On an improv-comedy show like Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, this is exactly what the actors must do, creating whole universes simply by affirming each other's whimsy. If you've decided you're on Mars, building an igloo, your partner might try speaking like an Inuit and asking you whether you want seal for dinner. Your partner might also decide that that funny light in the Martian sky is an alien ship landing in your vicinity, which means you need to stop building your igloo and go exploring. Little children are often great with these sorts of flights of fancy; adults, being self-conscious, overly dignified, and overly ossified, often fail to retain the necessary mental and emotional flexibility to do improv well. Tina Fey writes:

The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, "Freeze! I have a gun," and you say, "That's not a gun. It's your finger. You're pointing your finger at me," our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, "Freeze, I have a gun!" and you say, "The gun I gave you for Christmas?! You bastard!" then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun. Now obviously, in real life, you're not always going to agree with everything everyone says. But the Rule of Agreement reminds you to "respect what your partner has created" and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with a YES and see where that takes you.

A lot of people don't get this, which is why some of them fail to connect with me when I try to be funny. One of my coworkers, for example, can be Spock-like in his literalism. He has a Japanese-American girlfriend from Maine, and there's another coworker in our office who hails from Maine. When we hired another employee who is also from Maine, I joked to my coworker, "Aha—a karmic connection!" Spock blinked and asked, "What do you mean?" I said, "Your girlfriend's from Maine, right?" With a look of utter seriousness, Spock said, "Yeah, but our other coworker's from Maine, too." By this point, a person open to improv humor would have said something like, "Yes! This was destined to be! All roads lead to Maine!" Instead, the humor fell flat, and I apologized for the bad joke.

Having an improv frame of mind means being open to new things and saying yes to life. It's not a bad way to live, and it will certainly improve your sense of humor, thus making you less of an asshole. Try it. You'll feel better about yourself and the world.



I've decided this is a good omen

There's supposed to be only one candy per packet. Then this happened:






why no Everesting?

I haven't posted about Everesting in over a month because, as you have doubtless guessed, I'm not Everesting. I could claim it was because of the oppressive summer heat, but ultimately, it comes down to just being "damn lazy," as my mother used to grouse.

In my defense, I've been trying to get more serious about jumping rope (which I do at 1AM, in the park, with no one looking), and to that end, I followed the Zen Dudes' advice and bought myself a Crossrope kit, which comes with a light rope and a heavy rope. The ropes I bought are perfect for a guy of my height (about 6'1", or 185.4 cm), and I can now skip almost a full minute before my uncoordinated feet get tangled. I'm not at a point where I can do anything but "regular bounce," as the Zen Dudes call it, but regular bounce is workout enough: funky tricks (like double-unders, boxer skips, and side swipes) can wait. Jumping rope is a surprisingly intense activity, given how light and fluffy everyone looks while doing it. Technically, it's a plyometric exercise, i.e., a form of "jump training," so the intensity makes sense. One of the main points of jumping rope is to engage in an intense activity that's also fun, thus allowing for workouts that are productive yet blessedly brief. Supposedly, it's a 1:3 ratio between jumping rope and running, in terms of cardiovascular intensity.*

Below: pics from the night I unboxed my Crossrope kit.




*Author Ken Cooper, who wrote the bestselling Aerobics back in the 1970s, claimed there to be a rough 1:4:16 ratio between and among swimming, running, and biking (i.e., swimming a mile gives you the cardio benefits of running 4 miles or biking 16 miles). He based this on test results done on the relative oxygen consumption of swimmers, runners and bikers, both male and female. I have no idea whether that ratio can withstand scrutiny today, but as a rough comparison of three common activities, it seems reasonable.



Thursday, August 03, 2017

low-carb lunch

Freshly made chimichurri and shabu beef:






what's wrong with this picture?

Spot the error below. As Lennon might say, it's easy if you try.


The above poster sits in the hallway that leads to my office. The same hallway leads to a suite of several classrooms, and it's often full of students waiting to go to class. I guarantee that not a single student has noticed the gaffe on the poster... and if a student were to notice the mistake, I sincerely doubt he or she would lose any sleep over it.

It's embarrassing to work for a company whose very lifeblood is the promulgation of correct English, only to see posters—on company grounds, no less—that feature embarrassingly boneheaded typographical errors. And why do such errors appear? Because people in this country don't fucking care enough to proofread. It's a common lament among expats that we could make a killing doing proofreading for Korean ads and other materials in English... were it not for the fact that no one here actually gives a rat's ass about the quality of the English that appears on posters, brochures, commemorative plaques, museum displays, etc.

Korea is paradoxical that way. On the one hand, the country cares intensely about its global image and is constantly worrying about how others perceive it. On the other hand, the country continues to act in ways that show it cares little or nothing at all for what the rest of the world thinks. Stupid, error-filled "Engrish" is everywhere; television comedians perform racist comedy in blackface; girl groups casually flaunt their Nazi garb. It's a special form of collective insanity that makes life for us expats both interesting and frustrating.