At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton.
And that you might like cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


So, if I've understood this right, sometime later this year, possibly in September, up to half a million people will "Naruto run" through the Nevada dessert into area 51, where they'll liberate Space Aliens, and accidentally release extraterrestrial viruses that will wipe out mankind.

Of course I had to look up what 'Naruto running' is.
Youtube was very helpful in that regard.

Best case scenario: twisted ankles and dehydration.
Worst case: daemons erupting from a stargate.

Somewhere in between: lots of city folks wandering around lost, with both the vultures and coyotes circling. While Nevada hillbillies take potshots at them from their survivalist bunkers on the ridges.

Wander around faster, I hear banjos!

Better bring lots of chocolate. I read somewhere that girls and rednecks love it when you give them chocolate! It may save your life! By the way, I doubt that anyone of them is named 'Cletus'. That sounds too much like a body part. "They tole me at the clinic that mah cletus wuz infected." "Wha? They didden remove that when you wuz born?" "Dang." Infections of the cletus cause alopecia.

Strong sunlight does things to the body.

You are pouring sweat.

Be quiet, be calm.

Eat some peanuts.

The end of times people and the flat earthers will probably also be there, on the fringes. Along with the Trotskyites that show up at every event. Don't share your chocolate with them, it will only encourage the swine.
And make them more competitive.


There are no hurricanes in Nevada, the series Naruto does not take place in the Great American Outback. Chocolate will melt there, and the wild beasts will turn up their cute little button noses at your dessicated corpses.

Watch out for moray eels and lizards.

Orang utan.

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Friday, July 12, 2019


In retrospect, there may have been too much hot sauce. And cholula. And chiles en escabeche. And sambal. But it was good, and I'm probably going to make the same mistake in a few days. In keeping with my long-standing insistence that hot sauce is a vegetable, and therefore must be good for you. Clears out your insides, keeps you healthy and vibrant.

If I were a dog, my coat would be shiny.

On the other hand, if I were a juvenile, I would have taken full advantage of Slurpee Day at seven-11 yesterday, and have a refined sugar hangover of monumental proportions now. Rather than mild interior discomfort.

So I'm miles ahead of the curve here.

It should be a glorious day.

My first exposure to the exciting possibilities of chilies was when I was still in my single digits. Within weeks it was a secret surreptitious addition to all meals, necessary because my mother, when she cooked, cooked military-style. Or Berkeley student boarding house style. Very American.
Very "what the devil is this".

My father occasionally did the cooking, and in my teens I started preparing dinner, because due to my mother's illness she needed more rest.

Most women of her age and era cooked, having grown up with that seed firmly planted in their minds, but, truth be told, their social indoctrination never inspired them with a love of good food. If she had ever seen Julia Child, she would have been both amused and baffled. Cookbooks, until fairly late in the game, lectured on necessity and nutrition, of which there is plenty in meatloaf. As well as convenient casseroles.
It was all sternly uplifting and superior.

Cooking killed bacteria.

Hot sauce and chilies, in that universe, were somehow bad things. Unnecessary, and indulgent in a sinful and possibly depraved way.
Likely to stunt your growth both physically and morally.

Wasp propaganda had pulled a number, and we all paid for it.

I think you'll agree that chilies are, in fact, essential to the proper functioning of society, and vastly improve almost anything. And unlike bacon, they're filled with the building blocks of healthy bodies.

Everywhere between the Sierras and the Cumberland Gap would be a much better place with happier and more tolerant people if they just ate well.
Instead of the cesspools of mean-spirited trailer parkers shooting Meth that they are now.

On the other hand, that keema and rice yesterday could have been a little less assertively flavoured. And blanched veggies dipped in sambal as a side dish might, possibly, have been a bit much. Especially when I finished them off late at night as a midnight snack. Sambal lalap.
I am no longer a teenager.

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According to news reports, nineteen people in Jiangsu Province (江蘇省 'gong sou saang') have recently been arrested for drug offences. Of which sixteen were foreigners. Four of whom are British. All were connected to a language school in Xuzhou (徐州 'cheui jau').

Why do first worlders assume that they can pull crap like this while abroad? Especially in a country whose historic problems with drugs were caused by the British and Americans unloading opium in broad daylight on the docks?
It's a bit of a sore point, I bet.

I have NO sympathy for any Europeans, Brits, or Americans caught in foreign countries doing such things.

It's not the first time that expats have broken drug laws in the People's Republic.

In fact, it's a fairly regular occurrence.

Damned pot-heads.

The only psychotropic substances of which I approve are refined sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in moderation. Civilization has thrived on these four things, but especially caffeine. The enlightenment and the modern age would not have happened without it, and if Americans and Europeans had to survive without coffee or tea they'd be bad tempered, lazy, and probably insane.

When you are abroad, be a good example.

Rather than a liability.

PS.: This also holds for people visiting the Netherlands and Northern California. Where stoner tourists take advantage of the lax drug laws and get whacked out of their goofy little minds. Common public nuisances.
We'll gladly take your money, but can we kill you afterwards?

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Thursday, July 11, 2019


On the way home, I saw a woman wearing black leather hotpants. Take it from me, that is not a good look. She was reasonable proportioned, I guess, but even if she were big as a house and tattooed all over, it still wouldn't have been worth more than a passing glance at the carnival freak-show.

No, I am not a puritan. And despite my family's Calvinist history (mercifully over, four generations ago), I am not a disapproving Christian.
I like a nice bit of pulchritude.

Tight leather is something only gay men should wear. It just does not do anything good to the female form.

In this regard I am an immovable purist. If I were a woman, all my clothing would be clean and comfortable, no chafing tightnesses, no sweaty pockets because of ill fit, no straps and cinching.
My version of a poodle skirt would have an appliqué Hello Kitty, either wielding a cheroot or a machine gun. Probably the cheroot.
Actual poodles are stupid.

Saying that may get the poodle partisans on my case, but seeing as those people are not the type I ever wish to meet in person, and their comments will be deleted like spam before I ever approve them for publication here, no problem.

Hello Kitty probably smokes Nicaraguans.
EPC, My Father, Liga Privada.
That's just a guess.

A poodle skirt is, other than the damned poodle, something one could in good conscience wear to church or a social event. Or on a date.
Leather hot pants, no.

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It struck me that if you really want to the tourists to have a treat, you need to feed them some real food. Too many servings of sweet 'n sour pork and they'll bloat up like Harvey the Whale. And seeing as most of them come from the deep interior, where lard is king, they're already coping with a bit of surplussage.

I like lard. It's what makes a pie-crust so deliciously good.
But Midwesterners use it with damned well everything except corn on the cob and cheese.

These are the people who have a tendency to roll.

From what I've heard, my maternal grandmother always praised fat kids as "nice and healthy looking", mistaking morbidly obese with well-nourished. She was from the Midwest, as was her husband, who was far more realistic about the Honey Boo Boos of the world.

Unfortunately the home cooking of their world included string beans boiled for half a day, as well as three different greasy potato dishes with each meal. They dropped the multiple potatoes early on, which lead to longevity.
My grandfather passed away in his eighties.

Better for you: Cantonese Home Cooking

Chicago has grease-bomb skillet-pizza swimming in lard, Ohio does pizza on a stick deepfried in lard. Kansans simply drink it straight out of the tub.

Yeah no, I've never been to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin. But judging from the nice visitors wandering around the city, their diets leave something to be desired.

Now you know why the woolly mammoth is extinct.
They were all deepfried in lard.
On a stick.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019


Serve it with rice, and some pickled vegetables for variety. If you are from the former East Indies (Batavia), you will prepare it with much more vegetable matter in the mix, whereas people who still remember a distant home town somewhere south of Amoy (廈門 'haa mun') make it cleaner. Serve it simply glopped on a pile of rice, or dumped over noodles or dumplings, or even cooked asparagus.

Someone I had not seen for a few years recognized me on the street last week, and greeted me with a phrase that instantly recalled previous places and times. He's Dutch, born in Jakarta, but American for over five decades.
I used to know his parents and an uncle.

"Ei, lu chia-pang bo?"

Have you eaten (rice) or not yet? Sometimes 'Dutch' does not mean racially Dutch. Sometimes it means legally Dutch, but nicely mixed with other ethnicities and cultures. Such as Batavia Chinese. He speaks Dutch, Hokkien, and English. Almost no Malay. Some Spanish.
Only a little bit of Canto.

His familiarity with windmills is that building out by the beach.
He's never worn wooden shoes in his life.

Lu chia pang bo (汝食飯無) is pure Jakarta (Batavia) Hokkien (福建話).
The same meaning as 'lei sik jo faan mei' (你食咗飯未) in Cantonese, 'Nǐ chīfànle ma' (你吃飯了嗎) in Mandarin. It's friendlier than Dutch "heb je al gegeten?" which sometimes implies "don't mind us if we finish our meal", rather than a warm invitation to pull up a chair and have a bite (that's very Northern, in the Protestant part of the Netherlands). The correct answer is "chia pang" (Southern Min: 'chiak png') or, if it's been a fractured day and you haven't yet, "bo chia"('boh chiak').

We used English and Dutch for the rest of the conversation. He's well. His children all have good jobs and are married. Everyone is in good health.
He has five grandchildren, three girls.
And he has eaten.

['bah soh'/'lo bah'/'lo bah'/'tau yiu bah'/'lo chap bah']

Naturally food was discussed. Mostly Indonesian, some Chinese, erwten soep and kroketten, plus pizza. But he did mention something so simple as to almost be non-existent: Lo chap bah. Plain pork cooked with soy sauce.

Fry ground leanish pork or small chunks of fatty meat with a big spoonful of sambal, and minced shallots or small onions plus ginger till flavoured, then simmer with soy sauce, sherry, stock, and a hefty pinch of sugar, till dark.

I always add some chopped ja choi (榨菜) for crunch.

Very camp after the war. Very poor urban kampong. And something the Fujianese Philippinos I knew in Southern California also knew. In English, they called it "Chinese spaghetti sauce". And if you throw in a couple of chopped tomatoes, you can see why.

You can also dump it over your French fries, precisely like melted zult.

Years ago, living in a residential hotel, I ate it often.

Communal kitchen cookery.

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He had a white loony to his right, I had the "most dangerous man in North Beach" to my left. The white loony kept staring at us with distrust, the most dangerous man was clearly stoned out of his mind, and kept giggling in that irritating way that he has. Over at the karaoke machine a young woman was singing in Mandarin, not very badly, and four Cantonese gentlemen near the door played liar's dice.
So if you actually think about it, the place is thankfully back to normal.
Calmer than when the mainlanders infested it 3 weeks ago.
Also much calmer than when the owner is there.

Earlier on Grant Avenue I had smoked my pipe while waiting for the bookseller. While there, an "artistic" guitar player strolled past accompanying a raggedy man with a bum leg, and a deranged person sounding exactly like Linda Blair in the exorcist screamed in fury at intervals from an alleyway further down the street. The actual number of dysfunctionals in North Beach was lower than usual, but the few made up with their high level for the many who were missing.

Her angry vocalizing was audible from 2 blocks away.
Lung power, world-hate, and conviction.

"Dear mother and father, I have landed in the New World, and I dare not drink the water. It's bad enough that I have to breathe the air, I am certain that it's filled with a poisonous miasma that makes people insane. There are screaming women on the streets, and the smell of marijuana is everywhere too. The food consists mostly of potatoes, lard, and beef tallow; everyone smells of it.
Love you, miss the hometown.

Later, while outside the karaoke joint enjoying a cigarillo, a Mexican dude rolled up and asked for a cigarette. The elderly pilgrim also having a smoke and I both denied having any. Then he wanted to know if we had marijuana, and was quite put out when we snapped 'no'. After thinking for a bit, he finally asked "hey Chino, got a dollar?"

Which yielded nothing also.

Who the hell addresses the person they are importuning with "hey Chino"?

Especially if they know all the words in English for every other dingbat request they made? I went back inside to finish my hot water. The bookseller sipped his second whisky. The white loony looked daggers at us. The Mandarin speaker sang a song that went on forever.

We left just as the loony began singing. As a general rule of thumb, Caucasians should neither do karaoke themselves nor encourage their friends to do so.
Ego and a lack of taste or talent do not combine well with alcohol.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019


The apartment mate is watching a black and white flick from the fifties featuring a famous star who also produced the film. There are two voices responding to and speaking for the irrational characters on screen.
Coincidentally, there are two people living in this apartment.
It's a horrible movie. Badly written, and badly acted.
The star hamming it up makes it worse.
Classic cinema.

"You were never a liar, Kate."

"Just a conniving psychopath!"

"But I love him, I tell you!"

"You turned him into a newt!"

"That's just the foghorn, it's speaking to you."

"True love is forever. That means heaven."

"How you say such drivel with a straight face?"

"The voices, the voices, they made me do it. I didn't want to, I tell you, but sometimes a woman has to just push a bitch off the train."

"Especially if she's wearing my hat."

"I swear I've seen the same train in John Wayne movies."

"It was taken over by Twinings, and the bastards don't make it anymore!"

That last comment was pursuant Jackson's of Piccadilly, which according to her made the best Russian Caravan. She also laments the unavailability locally of Schokinag, whose chocolate mixes were heavenly.

"Oh Jesus Christ! Chocolate matcha green tea powder! It's probiotic! These people are nuts!"

Okay, she's tired of the weird romantic drama on screen, and is now cruising the internet for drinks. Hot chocolate, Russian Caravan tea.

What's that sound? It's grunting and it sounds constipated.

Now she's ooing over shoes.

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You've often read sneering remarks here about Mandarin speakers and their language. Yet my first exposure to Mandarin was sweet. Golden oldies sung by the stars of Chinese cinema in the thirties through the fifties.

So, to preserve them mostly for myself, I am parking two songs here.
They're sappy. Good thing most of you can't read the lyrics.

Sung by 周璇









Sung by 董佩佩 and 黃河








Themes of spring, flowers, young love, and little birds tweetering. There is an innocence in these lyrics that appeals to me, but it's primarily the sprightly tunes. In both ways very different from Grunge or Rap.
Which I both like also, make no mistake.
I headbang with the best of them.
Oh my heavens yes!

I am an old fart.

Zhōu Xuán
周璇 ('jau suen'), originally named 蘇璞 ('sou pok'), born in 1920, died in 1957, was a legendary star of Shanghai cinema. Over forty movies and innumerable songs.

Dǒng Pèi-pèi
董佩佩 ('tung pui pui') was born in 1928. Child star in Shanghai, moved to Hong Kong in 1949. The song above dates from 1956. She passed away in 1976 or 1978.

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Because of the ongoing Van Ness Avenue project, the bus stop keeps moving across the intersection. For several weeks it will be outside the gym whose patrons I shall piss off with cigars, for several weeks it was near the Chinese childcare centre whose tykes I will not expose to smoke if at all possible. Tobacco smoke nicely disguises the reek of superior sweaty adults, but interferes with stuffed bunny rabbits and teddy bears.

If you have a stuffed rabbit, you don't want it to pong of tobacco.

That's what grandparents are for.

Because this is San Francisco, the shifting bus stops are marked in various languages, obviously because you should not wait for the bus where yellow earthmoving equipment is creating a huge hole in the ground. Bus drivers will not be able to see your barely visible head sticking up over the edges from a distance. You would wait forlornly.

[Canto: 'lam si che jaam']

The bus stop is used by Spanish speakers, Russians (no translation for them), Filipinos, Subcontinentals (also no language) and both Mandarin and Cantonese speakers. Plus folks fluent in English.

Because this is San Francisco, bums, drunks, and tourists stagger into view. One of whom always asks "spare a buck for a poor Christian?"
Which is the wrong approach. I can't stand Christians. And he's a bad example of that type. What with being blotto so soon after breakfast.

Je suis désolé, earthling, I do not speak your language.

On that note, I am naturally reminded of some neighbors who are Seventh Day Adventists, whom I've known for years. Nice enough folks, Indonesian Chinese. But one of them made the mistake of talking Jesus to me at the Laundromat years ago. After a long and completely one-sided disquisition about the Documentary Hypothesis and several contradictory statements in the Pentateuch, she never made that mistake again. In her mind I am probably a stubborn smelly Dutchman, the Indies are well rid of my type.

[We left seventy years ago, and they are still celebrating!]

Her kinfolk also use that busstop. We nod and say 'selamat pagi', and keep to ourselves. Because, as you will understand, a busstop is not the place for religion. Or financial questions. We have to be there, we have no choice, and it's really not cricket to distract us with Jesus or dollars when our eyes are focused on the intersection three blocks away where the bus will lumber into view. The nearer distance is occupied by earthmoving equipment.

I'm sorry, I lack Jesus and empathy, and I am pre-occupied.
Normal people people do not talk about religions.
That's for bums, nuts, and white Buddhists.
Tourists are often nearly as bad.
I have no change.

The little kiddies at the nearby childcare facility do not speak about Jesus.
If they talk at all, it's probably about their teddy bear or their bunny rabbit. And I think everyone will gladly agree that if a dollar were necessary to keep a teddy bear or bunny rabbit from harm, we would gladly fork it over.

There are several crazy people who sleep across the street at the insta-teller machine, as well as early patrons of a nearby liquor store. Unless they cross, they are harmless. They can scream all they want over there. Naturally I prefer little tykes with teddy bears and bunny rabbits. Harmless and cute is vastly preferable to intoxicated, insane, and unsanitary.
Bums, drunks, and tourists.

I do not have Jesus.

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Monday, July 08, 2019


We've figured out that one of them is from the East Coast; there are pockets of civilization there. And the other one is an Irishman, from Dublin, which would possibly account for the rambling whacko gibberish. Both of them are fervent Trumpistas, so unlike real Americans, normal folks, they do not have complete faith in British Ambassador Sir Kim Darroch's intelligence and perspicacity.

Good man, Sir Kim Darroch.

Our kind of people.

The person I haven't mentioned yet, who is not a Trump supporter, merely an apologist of monumental proportion, knows far too much about lizard sex to be acceptable. He's one of the skeeviest "well-respected" members of the community, and we're all immensely glad he often wears regular business attire, rather than the scaly suit he has in his closet.


He was frothing eloquently at the mouth about a Western Fence Lizard to whom he's close, which has been warmly embracing several female lizards, and chasing away rivals. Possible rivals. Lizards of either gender look the same, so he isn't sure that his little friend -- let's call him 'Godfrey' -- is barking up the right tree, but he has remarkable faith that Godfrey is both heterosexual, and able to tell the difference.

The way to sex a lizard is by examining the area near the cloaca, which is the vent near the base of the tail, serving as a "groin" in reptiles, birds, and amphibians. This is where the two decorated or possibly spiky hemipenes (intromittent organs of squamates) are normally hidden, to be everted when the creature is aroused. The male's cloaca will have a swelling indicating the presence of hemipenes. As well as two enlarged scales.

Additionally, males are blessed with large femoral glands on their thighs.

From Wikipedia: These lizards are diurnal, and are commonly seen sunning on paths, rocks, and fence posts, and other high places, which makes them an easy target for predation by birds and even some mammals, such as shrews. They protect themselves by employing their fast reflexes, which are common in many other lizards including biting and possibly defecating on the predator. 
End quote.

Godfrey has NOT defecated on our friend the lizard freak yet. To anyone's knowledge. This suggests that there is a measure of trust and familiarity there. Godfrey may enjoy having an audience. Or he recognizes the lizard freak Peeping Tom as a sympathetic but sexually non-competitive soul.

Possibly the Peeping Tom lizard freak apologist gets down on his hands and knees and acts comfortingly reptilian, flicking a tongue in and out somewhat placidly, to put Godfrey at ease.

I'll keep you posted when I know more.
I was busy, and forgot to ask.

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If you want something in this world, whether it's your due or not, you must speak up. If you want things to change, ditto. Of course, if you do so, you will get noticed. Perhaps unfavourably. So there must be caution.
Plus forethought and common sense.

Idealism is all well and good, but if it's coupled with stupidity, it's a waste of time. Which is just one reason I am no longer active in certain organizations. All those cats going in different directions, and a lack of effective planning.

Too damned many fellow-travelers who were liabilities.

On the other hand, I applaud people who, fully aware of the possible and likely consequences, stick to their guns, damn the torpedoes. Such as several of the groups calling our government to task in the Trump era.
I don't advise it, but I applaud it.

A recent slogan chalked on a pillar: 和平遊行是沒有用。
[Pronunciation: 'wo ping yau hang si mut yau yong']
"Peaceful marches are useless."

"You can't have a revolution without breaking teacups."

Respected scientists have been silenced. We're operating concentration camps. Rules for polluters have been so relaxed as to be nearly meaningless. There are racists and fascist in some government agencies. Tax reforms screw most of us. Education has been gutted, and college has become unaffordable. Religion has too much influence. Many medicine prices are too high and healthcare is nearly unaffordable. Politicians on the right have become more corrupt than ever.
Republican senators are holding the country hostage.
Flint still does not have clean water.

"A riot is an ugly thing"
-- Inspector Kemp.

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Sunday, July 07, 2019


One of the regulars has returned from Amsterdam, which he loved. He was recounting his time there in the backroom, enthusiastically and animatedly. But the part that caught my ear in particular was his laudatory mention of a stunning woman he saw.
When I brought that up later, he confessed that it had been from a distance. He had not come any closer. I refrained from mentioning the differential between distance vision and nearby vision.

He looked wistful; he probably would have liked to have been closer.

You know, there is something awfully cute, absolutely charming, about a two year old hiding from four and five year old little girls who think he's just adorable. They were extremely nice little girls, but the little boy was shy. Not terrified, just shy. He reminded me of that.

As a youngster I too was shy. But I doubt that I was "adorable".
I probably already radiated future grouch.
As well as a pipesmoker.

No matter their age, pipesmokers are never adorable.
Very likely not terrified, but perhaps shy.

Amsterdam is one of my favourite cities, and I am pleased as punch that he liked it so much. All nice people should visit Amsterdam.

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Recent events have convinced me that I am fuzzy and likable. That is to say, I come across as fuzzy and likable. Which isn't what I set out to be.

Several times, random conversations have started, often food-related.
Because I am fuzzy and likable. And noshing on something.

If, hypothetically, someone had proposed this to me years ago, it would have struck me as a peculiar thing.

"Young man, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Fuzzy and likable."

Mmm, no. The future fatherly stern dictator of the civilized world is NOT fuzzy and likable. That isn't résumé material or dating profile filler either. "After several years of doing collection calls, business to business, and strenuously avoiding long romantic walks on the beach with a dog by moonlight, Mr. Atboth has become 'fuzzy and likable'."

[Oh, and half a dozen years pushing tobacco on the unsuspecting.]

Instead, I always pictured myself as Rambo-esque. If Rambo was like Albert Einstein or famous philosopher Sir Bertrand Russell. You know, calm, with objective judgment, at least half a brain, and not smelling oppressively of body building exercises and weightlifting.
Not a steroidal storm vortex.

Yes. Rambo. Slimmed down a bit, neatly dressed, and socially polished.
A well-scrubbed gentleman with whom you could converse.
But with all the instincts of a killer.

Anyhow, fuzzy and likable. Not even a dark and romantic philosopher king, or a mysterious and elegant vampire. Well shoot.

Next thing you know, people will say that I am warm and charming.
Or so they've heard. We can't have that. That way lies madness.

Perhaps I should wear a mask.

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On Christmas in 1953 the shanty town at Shek Kip Mei (石硤尾) burned down, rendering over fifty thousand refugees from the mainland homeless. This lead directly to the first public housing developments in HK, because the authorities finally realized that tens of thousands of people living in rickety lean-tos, with the attendant likelihood of fire and disease, was, perhaps, a liability.

The fire at Lei Cheng Uk (李鄭屋) a year later gave further impetus to the policy.

Shek Kip Mei is a vastly different place now. Still "working class", but safer and more prosperous. And they pay rent and taxes.

"(refugees) are resettled because the community can no longer afford to carry the fire risk, health risk and threat to public order and public prestige"
[Source: Annual Departmental Report by the Commissioner for Resettlement, 1954-55]

The British did not set out to be humane rulers of the territory, but circumstances and a modicum of common sense forced them down that path. Their approach to the refugee problem in Hong Kong was realistic, rather than ideological. They dealt with the issue, because they had to.

It was probably far better than a crowded holding facility in a remote location operated by an outsourced private company.

In any case, serious mistreatment, such as withholding medical care, physical violence, sexual abuse, discrimination, unsanitary conditions, overcrowding, and whatever else, was not a hallmark of British governance.

There is no similarity with Texas.

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Saturday, July 06, 2019


Sometimes walking along Stockton Street you might spontaneously decide upon a purchase. The lobster looks fresh and feisty, the water spinach is so nicely green, that fresh stalky mustard.....

Of course the grannie out front of the vegetable place yelling "a dollar per bag" (一文一包 'yat man yat baau') also attracts your attention. You're a Dutchman, so you have a cheapskate tendency a mile wide. You can't help it. But what keeps you from acting on it this time is the scrimmage around her, and the knowledge that you won't be able to understand her unadulterated Toishanese very well.
Walk on. Circumvent a five foot tall person with a huge bunch of greens. Step aside for the worker with the fully loaded dolly wheeling seven crates into a store. Express frustration under your breath about the large slow tourists. Who require so much room on the sidewalk, because there is just so much more space in Storgrisigjørmeberg, Minnesota.
And life is slower there.

On a whim, you purchase fresh clams (蜆 'hin'). Because they don't have those in Storgrisigjørmeberg (Mn), and you're thinking about mussels in Amsterdam at De Koperen Pan on the Tweede Helmerstraat at the corner of Alberdingk Thijm. At least, you think that's where it was. Maybe it was on the Eerste Constantijn Huijgens Straat. Just a short walk away, in any case. Lovely mussels!

In Holland, a big bucket of mussels is cheap.

Here, they're so expensive!

The following dish requires speed, dexterity, and judgment. No exact measures are given, that's where the judgement comes in.

[Stirfried clams with salted black beans and red pepper: 'si jiu chaau hin']

Rinse the clams in salt water, and briefly boil them. Sauté chopped shallot, minced salted black bean, garlic, and hot red chilies, till fragrant. Add the clams, agitate briskly, drizzle in a little siuheng rice wine or sherry, followed by the sauce fixings (dollop oyster sauce, spoonful of soy sauce, whisked smooth), then add the usual solution of cornstarch, water, and sugar and sir around till coated and glazed. Throw in a handful of segmented scallion, give it all a final turn, and plate it.

A native of the Netherlands or Flanders would probably have a glass of beer with this, but I prefer sherry. Except that because alcohol and my medications are not a good combo, I would abstain. Tea instead. The warm crusty sourdough to sop up juices is optional, and not strictly orthodox, but never the less recommended. In lieu of rice or French fries.

FYI: The character for clam is the bug radical (虫) next to an eye on legs (見) as the phonetic element.


And just so you know, "Every Day Is Seafood Day" at The Bistro.
Probably better call for reservations: +852 2351-1118
They're on Nathan Road in Tsimsatsui (尖沙咀).
They also have breakfast.

Right near fabulous shopping, in case you are squiring shopaholic Filipinas around.
Rolex, Louis Vuiton, Rado, Lukfook Jewelry, Sasa, Longines, Emperor Watches & Jewelry, Isa, Tissot, Gucci, Louboutin, Prada,
Chow Tai Fook, Harry Winston .....

Not something I would do.
But hey, whatever.

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Friday, July 05, 2019


When I got home the fog was rolling in, it promised to be a cold moist night for pointlessly trying to see fireworks in San Francisco. So I didn't even bother. Let someone else freeze. There are times when one feels old, and throws the flaming baton at the younger generation. Instead, I stayed in, listening to the booming.

It had been a good day. Even with all the walruses and hippopopotamouses majestically lumbering around Chinatown. Glowing white or pink, and pasty.
The Caucasian diet in the United States celebrates freedom from personal gustatory responsibility. Instead, hamberders!

With double bacon, cheesy goo, and buckets of freedom fries.

The younger generation cannot run to catch the flung batons.

'gwai fei kai'

Anyone grilling hamberders yesterday in San Francisco yesterday was either out of their mind or indoors. Summer here after teatime is frigid and windy. I myself was nowhere near a hamberder, but I ate well. Concubine chicken! Of which there are two versions, the more common one is fairly assertively flavoured by poaching in a rice wine, spices, and soy-ish broth, the second more pallid and colourless, relying primarily on mild spicing (ginger and scallion) for flavour. In either case, it can be spoiled by veering too close to "drunken chicken" (醉雞 'jeui kai').

The correct version is made thus: trim the whole chicken as appropriate, massage with salt, steam with ginger and scallion in the cavity and surrounding the bird till barely cooked. Remove from heat, and give it an ice water bath. Take it apart (cleaver or scissors), and soak it in a warm spiced broth (whole spices, bay leaves, dash vinegar, a touch siuheng rice wine) for a few hours. The flesh should be soft and tender, pink near the bone, the skin slippery, the subcutaneous fat nicely gelled.
Serve it cold, neatly arranged.


It was written on the wall. So I ordered it with rice for lunch.

I'm fairly certain the table with Germans did not know about it, nor the middle-aged couple from perhaps Iowa. Sometimes there is no good reason to hunt up a translation, because the dish may not have much appeal outside of the group that can read the scrawled wall-specials. Nicely gelled subcutaneous fat? Yeah, there are several people of whom I am immensely fond who would pass on that.

Blanched and queasy. Much like the bird itself.

After lunch and grocery shopping I visited a bakery for milk tea and a lo po bing. Conversation with three mature gentlemen in construction company management about briar and food, then out into the now frigid street for a smoke.

Finished that bowl of tobacco on my front door step. It's less blustery and cold there than on Stockton Street after five.

One of these days I'm going to take a European to that restaurant for baked Spaghetti Bolognese with pork chops. Just for the heck of it.
I want to see the expression on their face.

You can have it with a fried egg on top.

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As an avowed disliker of the telephone, the following was bound to catch my eye: "Overuse of mobiles by university students may have be related to lower grades, drinking problems and more sexual partners, a study says. In a survey of more than 3,400 people taking degrees in the US, those who said they had problems with the amount of time they spent on their phones also reported having more sexual partners. But they also were more likely to report anxiety or depression."
End quote.

Source: 'Excessive' student mobile phone use -- BBC

I still have a land-line. The people who call me are Stan the neighborhood airduct man, surveys, Indian computer scammers, and recorded messages telling me Microsoft no longer operates in my country.
I do not own a cellphone.

Neither I nor my Aspy apartment mate call out much -- her more than me, because of shopping habits -- and I've called my bank maybe once in the last three years.

I can understand the usefulness of a mobile device, as, for instance, a quick means for looking up data, an internet research tool, but for most social purposes it may not be as marvelous as many people believe. Lower grades, alcoholism, promiscuity, and mental problems.
These are hardly benefits.

There you are, having rough drunken sex with a deranged person whose past history of sleeping around and using drugs you don't know, when the phone rings. It's a depressive partner from five or ten relationships ago, who is failing remedial reading, and needs your help.

There is nothing in it for you.

Your response? A text message, a photo of a burrito, and a cat picture.

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Thursday, July 04, 2019


The apartment mate is home today, which means that I will be spending a large part of it wandering around Chinatown enjoying the quiet in the alleyways. It's not because of any dislike. I am quite fond of my apartment mate, and often enjoy her somewhat skewed company. It's because I am antisocial, and I will be smoking a pipe. Tobacco use is a big no-no when she's around.

For me, a nice pipeful is a big yes-yes.
Promotes peace and well-being.

This morning, pursuant a commercial for medication on teevee, she disquisitioned at length about a conjunctivitis remedy that "may cause application site discomfort". What they never tell you is that it hurts like hell and makes you scream, like tiny little branding irons on your eyelids, who the hell has tiny branding irons around and do they herd mice, perhaps near the South Fork, rodent rustling is NOT a problem, except maybe only if you are ratboy, but anyway the pain makes you stay home and curl up in bed nearly weeping from the agony, good lord it's like those pills for irritable leg syndrome that cause diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, tics, and psychotic episodes. Not covered by most insurance plans. Talk to your doctor. She had already had coffee, and was munching on strawberries.
I had only just gotten up.
First cup of Joe.

Don't mention the little branding irons to the imaginary hamsters that visit the stuffed animals every day. We don't have any, and it might disturb them.

If I'm gone for several hours, I will hear that the imaginary hamsters visited. The fuzzy critters will be burbling with excitement when I return.

Chachanteng. Milk tea. Random explosions on Waverly set by exuberant teenage boys. Tourists aimlessly clustered in Ross Alley. A search by Midwesterners for any place that serves hamberders. I am sorry, I cannot help you, because I do not speak English. I don't know what ketchup is. Can I speak about our lord and saviour Pan? Have you a goat?

I've learned much from my apartment mate. But I was already fully cocked and loaded years before.

No, I shan't be watching any dumbass parades on television.
Fireworks? Giant pastel poofballs in the fog.
It will be cold this evening.

There is nothing, nothing! more American than chachanteng cuisine with hot sauce, Hong Kong Milk Tea, a complex Virginia blend in a well-loved briar pipe, random explosions, and imaginary hamsters.

Or, for some of you, diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, plus tics, and psychotic episodes.

Happy Fourth.

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Joke from a very nice man on the internet: Question, what do you call an elephant that doesn't matter? Answer: an irrelephant. No, I do not frequent the electronic company of dubious gentleman who lead me astray, he actually is a very nice man. All the right instincts. Just given to wordplays that make the sensitive cringe.

I am not sensitive. I like that joke.

The bee from America?


Well okay, that one is a somewhat pointless. When the Bugaloo finally comes and the Angels descend with machine guns to hunt them pansie heretics, you will be dragged before the awesome throne to account for your horrid puns.

Of course, until then you're perfectly safe.

Like many of us, I have not actually met this man, but I trust him. His character is vouched for by his statements, memes, friends, likes, and commenters, and before "friending" him I scoped out his page and his profile, as well as habits and social circle. Sort of a stalky credit check, much like what gave most of us our plastic.

You have done the same. At least, I hope so. Over time you've made errors, and "friended" people who later turned out to be slightly batshit, or rather redneckish and skeevy. No problem. They live far away, click 'defriend', and if others whose statements, memes, and CAT PICTURES you like do the same, over time the problem is rectified.

Social circles in the modern era are composed of people whose thoughts we know, but whose smells we've never encountered in the nose, and whom we've never seen hepped to gills on Redbull.

If you smell my pipe tobacco on the street, run away. I'm probably crazed by too much caffeine, and grumpy over tourists clogging the sidewalk. I'll also likely say something irrational and undiplomatic about other people's deep-seated habits, religions, food likes, and political points of view.
I'll walk slowly, and distract you from important errands.
In many ways I am unlikable and irritating.
You have things to do.

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It struck me earlier today that in Bill Watterson's ever-popular comic strip Calvin And Hobbes, Susie Derkins is the real hero of every episode in which she appears. And that Calvin likes to get her attention.
He's just lousy at expressing that.

For obvious reasons, I tend to identify with the boy, or his tiger, or his dad.
But I could have identified with Susie. A character capable of clobbering back or exacting retribution for the crap to which Calvin subjects her.

But otherwise a calm and equitable sort. With praiseworthy personal habits.

How can you not admire a girl whose stuffed bunny rabbit likes tea?

One imagines him having a preference for Assam or Keemun, rather than snooty Darjeeling and pretentious Lapsang Souchong. As well as those lovely Malaysian coconut cookies available in shops along Stockton Street, which also come in peanut-flavour, and are absolutely addictive.
Crunchy, small, round and bite sized.
Perfect with a nice cup of tea.

I find myself going in to the kitchen for just one more regularly.

Good thing I'm not drinking tea to wash them down.

I'd never be able to go to sleep.

I am not a bunny rabbit. The only women I know who are like Susie Derkins are my apartment mate, the older sister of my best friend when I was a boy, whom I haven't seen in years, and the nurse at the hospital who in a very business-like way fiercely jabbed me with the needle when I was getting necessary shots.
That happened a few months ago.
It wasn't quite what I was expecting, at all, and I am still traumatized.

My apartment mate has a bear, whose boyfriend is a rabbit.

I doubt that either of them drink tea.

I rather suspect that both of them secretly indulge in a little nip of whiskey now and then, but if I were to suggest that, my apartment mate might clobber me.

In all honesty, I do not want to get clobbered.
I already got jabbed fiercely with a needle.
Sometimes admirable women scare me.

I'll just have another cookie and keep my mouth shut.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019


Regular visitors to this blog site know that I often take public transit down to Chinatown and back. Usually the Number One on Clay Street, returning on Sacramento. Sometimes, however, the buses on Pacific are more convenient. Though rather crowded around early evening. Lots of senior citizens also catch that bus, a few of whom express themselves.

"I'm tired and my ass itches!"

Okay, old man. Please sit, but don't scratch. We can respect your seniority and forthrightness, and we don't want you to collapse. But as for your skin ailments down "there", we will take your word, please do not put thought into action.

Think before you scratch. Always.

The rest of you, ditto.

I tend to be wary of people thinking aloud; they're usually crazy. Down at my bank, however, the counter person assisting me was talking to herself barely audibly: "yat pak man. Yat pak sap, yat pak yi sap. Baat go sin". One hundred. One hundred and ten, one hundred and twenty. Eight cents.
It was soft, quite subconscious.

When I talk to myself, it's usually in Dutch. Though sometimes specked with foreign terms. Cantonese, Hindi, Indonesian, German. But I have NEVER said: "Ik ben moe, en mijn reet jeukt". Whoever might be listening does not need to know that my reet is itchy. Including myself.

Actually, if any one were to ask what I said, I would probably assure them that I was quoting from Scripture. The prophet Elisha, regarding Naaman's wife's leprosy, for instance. Parts of her also jeuked.


Join me in praying that neither today's bank teller nor any of us ever utters the sentence above ('ngo ge lo yeung laa, gong mun gu yin siu le'). Instead, let us consider the prophet Elisha, and the wife of Naaman's leprosy.

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Tuesday, July 02, 2019


In a news report detailing the damage done to our intelligence agencies by a consulting firm, the following sentence caught my eye: "Xxx positively assisted in a supporting capacity." That's almost the acme of PR spin.

The busboy who spilled the soup near the bathroom door causing desperate urinators to slip and hurt themselves before achieving their goal, then mopped it up with a poo-stained rag, 'positively assisted in a supporting capacity'. The patient died, but the operation was a success. The fellow who wheeled the deceased patient to the mortuary 'positively assisted in a supporting capacity'. The rat whose gnawing started an electrical fire that drove you outdoors moments before the earthquake brought down the entire building 'positively assisted in a supporting capacity'.

I think I'll put it on my resume.

The firm, which I shall not name here because I don't want to attract too much attention, has come under scrutiny in recent years for its positive assistance in a supporting capacity to several authoritarian and corrupt governments of shit-hole countries whom I also shall not name.
As well as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

They have offices in important cities all around the globe. Given their reach and influence -- everybody has been affected by their involvement -- they could be considered the new world government.

Positively assisted in a supporting capacity!

You know what? They need promo items!
Coffee mugs, tee-shirts, and tote bags!
Logo and eight hundred number.
Plus free baseball caps!
Call us, 24/7.

It's a business opportunity.

Their internal corporate culture is marked by interpersonal "affection" and "admiration". That's worth emulating, and I have been told that I am too sarcastic and cynical. My lack of positivism works negatively.
I could learn a lot from them.

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Somehow both my apartment mate and myself were responsible for Disney's Snow White being gunned down by gangsters. So, her involvement is easy to believe, because she hates Disney and what they have done to all the ideas of womanhood and the self-images of girls in America, but I cannot see how my sneaking around in the rosebushes outside our small comfortable villa (nineteen fifties, luxurious design, nice brickwork) could possibly have anything to do with it. But both her position on the couch while watching television and my dusky prowling were causative events. According to her brother, who was also there.

She has four brothers, only one of whom I've met.
Cannot remember which of them it was.
There is no small villa.
Or rosebushes.

The unfolding chain of events had her yelling, pretend-angry but in jest, that it was enough to make her want to date Irving. One of the gangsters.

There is no Irving either.

In actual fact, we live in a small apartment, there are no couches here, and none of her brothers come over to watch television. Irving is a street, and I have no idea what the hell this has to do with Disney's Snow White.

One of those pretty-pretty ultra femmy types that America admires.

It probably has everything to do with Amlodipine Besylate, one of the medications I am taking. Which makes dreams more intense and real (a known side effect). And many blood-pressure medications lead to skin sensations, which may explain why I was lurking in the non-existent rosebushes outside at dusk.

But why Snow White?

She probably had it coming. A gambling debt, or one of the dwarves took out a contract on her. Neither of us feel particularly bad about her demise.

Bland saccharine twit.

There is every chance that the spicy curried bittermelon with chicken chunks I ate for dinner was in some part responsible -- though Amlodipine Besylate, Losartan Hctz, and Metoprolol also affect the digestion -- as such a dish, while fairly standard for my cooking, may be a bit unbalancing to the medicated interior. But not harmful or problematic, and in all honesty I have no emotional invstement in Snow White.
I was worried about her brother. Who apparently did.

It's a regrettable lapse of taste. Entirely to be expected from almost any Chinese bachelor. She's the ideal woman. The right looks and status, small hands, bland and wussy enough not to offend his mom.
She's a boringly acceptable bit of baggage.

FYI: my apartment mate is Cantonese, and for many years three of her brothers were single, which was frustrating to her mother, who saw her own validation slipping away with each year that they did not produce grandsons.

Along with a danger of of them dating smelly weirdoes.

In that dynamic, I am the giggling outsider.
Anonymous, and entertained by all of it.
An evil and sarcastic white dude.

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Monday, July 01, 2019


There are times when I am glad I am not in the thick of things, or in our nation's capital. Actually, that's 100% of the time. There will be a festive Republican campaign event that lasts all day on the Fourth of July.
Washington will be filled with people from Florida.
And in all likelihood, teargas.

Yeah, I am glad I'm missing that.

The orgy starts at 11:45 AM with a grand military parade down Constitution Avenue, but there will already have been arrests well before then. Sometime in the evening Trump will speechify from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, surrounded by people with machine guns, and Russians, and Floridians with moist undies.
Which will be spectacular! Glad I'm missing that too.
There will be jets and tanks and armored personnel carriers and amphibious assault vehicles! And secret service men, and dogs, and riot squads! And Jesus! And people from Florida! Oh, it will be an extra vaganza!

I'm glad I'm missing all of that.

I may turn on Fox News briefly, for a bit of sneering at the ministry of propaganda kissing up to the giant orange slime, or I may ignore it, them, and him, entirely.

I am glad I am not in Washington.

Screw Florida.

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