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.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


The day of the cardiac stress test (心臟壓力測試 'sam jong ngaat lik chaak si') at the hospital was, remarkably, a day for kiddie-winkies. Vast ruly mobs of 'em, in neat well-behaved ranks along the street, on the way to the hospital. There's a grammar school near the hospital, the kids were being trotted somewhere for a field trip. Hundreds of the little tykes.
I applaud their patient herders, I couldn't do it.

All of you little anarchists, shaddap!
Uncle needs some quiet.

The stress test was easy, no studying required. First we're going to glue things to your chest, then you will run on a treadmill, after which we'll say 'mmm' in a thoughtful way, and start pulling the things off your chest.

There may be a painful ripping sensation. Oh boy.

Presiding medical man: Dr. Chan.

While patiently lying down before it started, I realized that his surname is NOT banner on the left, east (東 'tung') on the right, but banner on the left, invite or choice (柬 'gaan') on the right. Which etymologically makes more sense, as the word 陳 ('chan') means to lay out, to display, to exhibit, as for instance merchandise, or spreading out citrus peels to dry in the sun.

The illustration below shows the character written three ways. On the left side, common quick script, in the middle, nerdly hyper-correct, and on the right the seal script version which shows the parts clearly, with two hands spreading something on a wooden board.

You look up the word under the radical 'fu' (阜 阝) meaning more correctly "mound", "hillock", or "big heap of something", "abundance", but showing the banner planted on the mound, when claiming it against all comers.

Here's a slightly alternate version:

The key difference in modern times is that the wrong way of writing it takes eleven strokes, the right way is twelve. The radical (阝) is three strokes.

By the way: I actually like the free-thinking anarchy of little children, but it is better observed from across the street, like a flock of seagulls or parrots.
You don't actually want to be stuck in the middle.
They object to smoke.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019


Disturbingly, or maybe perhaps not, I am on my second bottle of Jameson's Irish Whiskey this year. Seeing as I do not consume alcohol, because it might interact adversely with my medication, there is only one explanation: cleaning briar smoking pipes; booze dissolves tarry build-up. I never actually tracked my drinking when I still had a sip now and then, it took anywhere from six to twelve weeks to finish a bottle. This second bottle is still more than half full, so we can assume that present usage is approximately three ounces per month, enough for between three and six pipes.

The two most recent pipe projects at home were a Stanwell and a Canadian of unknown provenance (stamping unreadable). At work, I go through probably much more Frat Boy Party Vodka than that.
I really cannot understand how some of those old fossils get a tarry layer on the outside of their pipes. How are they smoking?

[And how do they get the interiors of their stems and shanks so staggeringly disgusting? Did they really suck through that sewer? Have they NEVER heard of pipe cleaners?]

The bottle is on the kitchen counter. Also there are a sealed fresh package of Harbor Sausage (海港臘腸 'hoi kong laap cheung'), a fuzzy melon (節瓜 'jit gwaa'), a jar of peanuts, and some curry fixings. The bitter melon that was on the counter for three days had to be thrown out. I go through bitter melons and fuzzy melons a lot faster than whiskey, but evenso.
That melon turned on me.

Methinks the old fossils with the filthy pipes would be better off eating melons than smoking their pipes; they are doing it wrong. Pipes are like underpants; if you keep them clean, you make a far better impression, and they last longer. Y'all monumental cheapskates (haven't bought pipe cleaners or cleaned out layers of crap in years!), however never-the-less; one packet of bristly pipe cleaners costs one dollar and forty four cents, a big bottle of Frat Boy Party Vodka (32 ounces) can't be more than ten bucks and is good for several dozen cleanings).
Do the effing math, you filthy beasts!

[Maybe they're all computer engineers? Computer engineers, I've heard, hardly ever change their underwear or do laundry. They don't know how, and nobody will date them anyway.]

Good clean habits may not get the girl of your dreams, but will get you into heaven. Pipe smoking heaven. The teevee is set to I Love Lucy all the time. That's your era, you heathen relics.

Yeah, no, I have never watched I love Lucy. Or any of those 1950's shows. Didn't start watching television until the X-files, stopped after Forever Knight went off the air. Although I have seen all of Monty Python's Flying Circus.
My kind are Monty Python heads.

We don't sing, we compete against blancmanges, we turn into Scotsmen.

And some of us also smoke pipes and own bottles of whiskey.

As it says in Pirkei Avot, the world depends on three things: pipe cleaners, a good reamer, and whiskey. The Irish got it partly right. Except they smoke shitty aromatic tobacco, so they're entirely irredeemable.

blancmange is a quivery British dessert. It is quite utterly revolting, and served in British Public schools. No wonder those brutes went out and raped the world. Harry Potter probably loves it.

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Friday, September 20, 2019


Everyone knows he's a bad golf player. That's why he always practises a lot. America needs a president who can ace the game. We expected better of him, and he's failed to deliver. Apparently he often cheats too.

This blogger used to be a whiz at golf. But it's been years since I played, and what with no longer having the need to whack little white balls around several long stretches of perfectly manicured grass, as well as lacking competitiveness involving little white balls, or fuzzy balls, or pigskin spheroids, or leather stitched orbs, or plastic globes ...

You know, if pudgy old geezers would walk eighteen holes, instead of riding around in what looks like a wussy-ass Jeep with soft wide wheels, they'd be a lot trimmer. Might not even have flabby guts. They'd never hear the doctor or nurse use the term 'panniculus'.

I myself have never heard that word said; it's inapplicable in my life, as I am a rather fatless dude. Not in the best of shape -- still having trouble going uphill, recovery from a few years of circulatory issues prior to the stent is taking a little time -- but, never having driven around a golf course in a ridiculous little cart, I never developed a beer gut or presidential flab.

We should be thankful that the president plays so much golf. By doing so, he sees the world, or at least more of it than if he spent all his time in front of the teevee tweeting, and it keeps what's left of his mind active.

If Greenland had golf courses, he would have visited by now.

And eaten hamberders at a fabulous resort.

Red ties hide ketchup.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019


Apparently mature men of a certain age out on the front steps enjoying tobacco are an unusual thing. While outside, several passers by gave me looks. Looks that either said: "you frightful pervert, how dare you poison the air that little children will breathe tomorrow morning, the precious dears" or "good heavens, there's a dessicated refugee from the stone age!"
Perhaps it was the pipe; a handsome piece of briar.
On second thought, that must be it.
A very fine briar pipe.

It probably reminds them of their grandfather. Which is unfortunate, because they've never called since they shoved the old blighter into an assisted living facility, never sent a letter, never even e-mailed to see how he was doing.
He smelled bad and he ate too much.

Now he's being pursued by randy eighty year old women.

There's not a spare ounce of fat on him.

Running keeps him trim.

All he has to do is outrun the other men there. The ones in wheelchairs have no chance. Those eighty year old grannies will catch them easily.

Whatsa matter, ya never seen someone smoke a pipe before?

I harbour bitter feelings towards millenials.

In my day, we didn't vape or smoke pot, we barely even drank! Our lives were clean and abstemious, the internet had not been invented yet, and the internal combustion engine was still a pipe dream. The Wright brothers hadn't been born, and we feasted on oatmeal porridge and flaked wheat kernel puffs, which are good for cleansing your bowels.
We were total saints, dammit.

Now get off my lawn!

Maybe I should have said 'boo' at them.

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Ikea has apologized after featuring something called "peas and rice" in their canteen. Made with peas. And rice. Now, if this was meant as a Swedish dish, ärtor och ris, it would not be objectionable. Peas, rice.
Little green balls in white stuff.
It's very pretty.

But it was meant as an accompaniment to jerk chicken. Jamaican food. So the peas are actually gandules, kidney beans, or pigeon peas. Not plain English garden peas.

A little bit of reading by their Marketing Department would have prevented this embarrassment. Especially as they already knew about jerk chicken, which is NOT chicken served by jerks.

I have to wonder what their version of jerk chicken is like. And is it edible? One does not normally associate the Swedes with adventurous and spicy food, nor with Scotch Bonnet chilies, although that would make both surströmming and lutfisk at least palatable.

I am now imagining Sweden filled with hard cooking Rastamans offering jerk chicken, curried goat, and roti. As an alternative to kanelbulle, potato gratin with cream and sprats, and rotten fish products with mayonnaise.

Perhaps they could cater?

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019


The most intelligent woman there also had a very sweet personality. Often the two characteristics go hand in hand. And, logically, it is a good thing to sit down next to such a person. Any interaction is bound to be rewarding.

Sitting on the bench along the wall were the following people: Mid-twenties peasantish type man, his cousin attending to her cellphone, her cute little three year old daughter, two teenagers talking and giggling.
And a serious looking woman eating pudding.
There was a large gap between the three year old girl and the two giggling teenagers, and I was ready for my second cup of milk tea, after starving myself of caffeine all morning in preparation for blood being taken

Which was an enjoyable episode, as the Shanghainese woman with the needle and the computer was quite pleasant; we talked about Shanghai after I showed off my very minimal ability in her home-town language.
I clarified that I had never been to the mainland. But I certainly must go. Everything is changing so fast, each year it is different, and nowadays it is hard to find real Shanghainese food, or even people who still speak Shanghainese ('sang heh wuw'). She sounded a little wistful.


So of course I sat next to the three year old to enjoy my beverage. She is a quiet little girl, well behaved, and with a very evident sunny disposition. Fascinating to observe, and much more intellectually stimulating than the two teenaged girls on the other side with their brined chicken feet.
Very much in control of herself. Likes mommy hugs.

She was politely curious about uncle's black briar pipe, a newly restored Canadian blast, make unreadable. Which I loaded up before my tea and curried fishballs came, in preparation for a second pipe of the day.
It may be a Comoy off-brand, I do not know.

She was also much more personable than the young peasantish fellow, or the Southern European tourists with one lactose intolerance between them who sat down at the table opposite. Or the teenage boys who came in.

Yeah, no talk. At one point she told the peasantish dude "ngoh hai nui-nui", in a firm soft voice. Responding to one of his male-bias remarks meant to tease her. "I am a (little) girl". It was a factual statement, and she seemed slightly baffled and pissed that he had failed to grasp that.
She and I did not converse.

Despite her youth, it is very possible she could have wiped the floor with me conversationally. Other than yacking about tobacco, my medical issues, and what a moron our president is, I really do not have much to say. So huge an age difference can be a monumental stumbling block.
A black hole into which I shall not easily wander.

I said goodbye to her when I left.

She watched me lighting my pipe in front of the window. It is highly likely she'll be there again, as I think she may be related to the owner.

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Acquaintances have asked me if I would ever be interested in giving a tour or Chinatown. The idea is a bit daunting, what would I say?

Hypothetically: "We're in front of a place where I eat occasionally, it used to be a dim sum counter, but the owner retired; she was getting old. This place here used to be called something else in Chinese, but it's been completely revamped; new decor, new menu, everything. Very Hong Kong. The milk tea is excellent, I usually end up with the bitter melon omelette, but you should try the concubine chicken, which is written on the wall in Chinese. Ask for Kwai Fei Kai, hope that they know what you mean. In quick succession, dried sea foods and similar stuff, a market where I shop regularly, frozen dumplings, huge selection of noodles, a herb store that replaced another herb store, a liquor store, the big hole in the ground where they're putting the subway, a bakery with fabulous charsiu sou and decent milk tea.
Oh, and this shop here has a horrible attitude.
I never shop here anymore."

"This is Jackson Street. On the left, the hospital where I'm getting blood drawn for a test today, doing some more tests on Friday. On the right, the closed down store with the lovely sturdy awning where I've often sheltered from the rain while smoking my pipe. A little further along is one of my favourite alleys, but I can't really explain why I like it so much. It heads toward the projects. There used to be two dim sum restaurants after you left the alley; the one where I took the Shanghainese girls closed down years ago. The other one, near the bus stop, is popular among old folks, and pretty good. There's roast duck within two blocks of the hospital.
Delicious! Buy a whole duck."

"That market over there has the curry powder I like; it comes in a glass jar, and is very Hong Kong. There's a Vietnamese place with decent sandwiches nearby. Let's eat and have coffee."

You see? Other than taking them ballroom dancing at the restaurant that has that four evenings a week, and I don't dance btw, it would be dreary.

You have to fast before a blood test.
No breakfast or coffee, nothing.
I'm a little grumpy.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019


It is obvious that I do not watch enough television. Not only do I fail at sports references in conversation, but today several people on my Facebook feed posted stuff that related to popular shows. Slim consolation: didn't get the Dungeons & Dragons jokes either. I am out of touch with disreality.

Yeah, kinda proud of that.

The television in the backroom at work has been on all day everyday. Not to news broadcasts or animal planet. The most teevee I've watched this year was when I was in the hospital. First time: animals acting like beasts, with a Greek chorus of moaning in the background from the demented woman in the next room unhappy about her surroundings. Second time: five days of post-appendectomy watching Hong Kong news, and a really fun Hong Kong investment and stockreport show, with a young woman repeatedly proving to her co-host that he was defective and needed to read stuff. He kept looking ever more dejected with each zinger that came out of her mouth. It probably detracted from the ticker going across the bottom, which may have kept the audience glued to the screen. It certainly kept me watching with interest; he epitomized doofusness at the end of each episode. Something not obvious at the start, when he looked neat and professional with his pressed white shirt, dark coat, and tie. Clearly "an expert".

Maybe she was meant to be eye-candy, but she totally rocked the show.

A huge number of people on television need to be taken down several pegs by a smart-aleck brainy young woman who is not impressed.
Smart-aleck brainy women are always fun to listen to.

Go ahead, Johnny, say something.

I want to hear her cut you.

Job environments and social situations are also vastly improved by smart-aleck brainy women. The history of the world would have been better if there had been more of them.

Of course, there are drawbacks. I've noticed that when doctors 'X' and 'Y' take my bloodpressure, it's now normal or even slightly below.
That's the medication doing what it's supposed to do.

When nurse 'Z' does it, it is still too high.

When she measured my height for the file, she missed two inches.
I may have shrunk in her presence.

Oh by the way: she's much shorter than me.
She was relying on devices. Had to.
Maybe it's my knees.

Say something.

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The fact that Saturday Night Live dumped Shane Gillis before he could even be on the show isn't news, for two main reasons: nobody even knew who he was before, and Saturday Night Live ceased being worth watching ages ago. Trust me, that bigoted racist homophobe isn't a comedian, and SNL is strictly third rate. Listening to him going 'dude' for two minutes while spouting racist crap was, probably, as much a waste of time as my last meal at McDonalds several years ago. Much like the other clips I forced myself to hear.


Before his mismatch with SNL was detailed, I had never heard of him. Now I've both heard of him, and heard him. And by this evening, I hope to have forgotten both of those things.

SNL getting rid of him was the right thing to do. Even if he wasn't a garbage human being puking slurs. Because he just isn't funny. Pointless and utterly humourless drivel under the wishful-thinking guise of "pushing envelopes".
With all the appeal of a stoned junior high under-achiever.

Dude. DUDE. Duude. Dude.

Maybe it was a fluke? Nope. Listened to several more clips, just to make sure I wasn't merely trigger-reacting. The man ain't funny. Hardly has a sense of humour, maybe no talent at all, but the best one can say about him is that he doesn't foul his pants going up on stage. If he did, he'd show us. Seems to have a basic sense of confidence being out there.

SNL probably thought he was malleable, and given how few people actually want to work with them, they were desperate. Warm bodies.

DUUUDE. Dude. Duuude. Dude-dude.

He's probably gotten more views in the last twenty four hours than in his entire previous life. This is the pinnacle of his success, his ten minutes, this is as good for him as it will ever get.

Toadilly, dude.

People like him are why I stopped watching Comedy Central.

He should go back to junior high.


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Monday, September 16, 2019


These Shantung Dumplings I bought at the store are lousy. The damned things either stick to the bottom of the pan or fall apart. Mind you, I am very fond of dumplings (餃子、水餃 'gaau ji', 'seui gaau'), Northern Style, as they are the perfect snack-dinner, and normally hold up well to barbaric white person treatments. These don't. I shall avoid this brand in future. Shantung Hand Art hah! Those Shantungers should be ashamed.
AND there's too much chive!


The best pork and chive dumplings (韭菜餃 'gau choi gaau') are probably Shanghainese. Which are not, to my knowledge, available premade frozen in Chinatown, at least I haven't seen them. And I am too lazy to learn how to make them myself, the only dumplings I do by hand are Cantonese wonton, because you cannot trust a Northerner to make those. Or the appropriate soup. But those likewise I usually buy premade. The cheap lunch counter to which I occasionally go on Stockton Street offers those for sale.
Decent folks whose enterprise I happily support.

No, I shall not mention the disappointing brand name. There's probably some one out there who swears by them; why, they're as good as his aunt's, and his mother-in-law can't even tell that they're store-bought, or they miraculously cure cancer and preserve domestic harmony. And by slagging them I prove myself irredeemable, stupid white man.

['jing gaau ji']

Years back I would go to the DPD (一品香 'yat pan heung') opposite the International Hotel hole in the ground with a book, order steamed dumplings, and wait a good half hour for them to be ready. They were absolutely delicious. The Bund Restaurant in the middle of Jackson Street between Grant and Kearny also does exceptionally fine steamed chive and pork dumplings (韭菜豬肉水餃 'gau choi chyu yiuk seui gaau'), so even though the DPD is no more than a fond memory, I can still slake my cravings in the neighborhood.

640 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA 94133.

Mind you, even though I have parenthesized the pronunciations of the Chinese words, it won't help you if you ever wish to order them; my pronunciation is Cantonese, and the Cantonese understand something completely different under the name 水餃 ('seui gaau'). Mandarin speakers say 'shwei jiao'. Or call them 'jiao dzuh'. And the Cantonese seldom think in terms of red vinegar and hot sauce as the proper accompaniment.

U-Lee (有利飯店 'yau lei faan dim') which used to be on the corner of Jackson and Hyde Street was well known for their potstickers (餃子 'wo tip'), which are basically the same as "shwei jiao", but with a thicker skin that holds up to abuse better. They closed over five years ago after thirty years in business. Rent went through the roof. Their 'over rice' dinner dishes were decent and enjoyable.


Somebody asked me recently where one could find the best Kung Pao and General Tso's Chicken (宮保雞丁、左宗棠雞 'gung bou gai ding', 'jo jung tong gai'). My guess would be out in the avenues, at a place owned, operated, and staffed entirely by folks from Shantung.

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When I went out for a smoke the fog had already veiled the buildings at the top of the hill, but it was not cold, not cold at all. Across the street I  saw Mr. Siu leaving, probably to move his car. He seldom comes out nowadays, there are weeks when I do not see him in front of his dwelling at all. This time last year during the long heat wave he was outside a lot. His brother had come from Macau, and they played mahjong nearly every evening. Which meant cigarettes! On the sidewalk, of course. Though I have also seen his wife taking a puff occasionally, as well as a female relative.

[No indoor smoking at the end of day, except maybe very late; my apartment mate is opposed to it. On my days off, Tuesday Wednesday and Friday, I wait till the apartment is empty before lighting up, or head out to the street with a cigarillo and a cup of coffee. 
On working days inevitably it's the street, bathrobe, cuppa.
It had rained this morning, very nice.]


The pretty Chinese girl who lives opposite returned from a day out with her boyfriend. He dropped her off, she lingered a bit talking to him, and because she was wearing shorts, I noticed, again, that she really has very lovely legs. Aesthetically pleasing. The darkness of the street helps my eyes, the sparse directional lighting paints a three dimensional effect.
I've never seen her in daytime.

The next door landlady was sweeping the late summer leaves into the gutter. Both the buildings on the left and on the right of where I live have Cantonese landlords who can regularly be seen engaged in such activities. Many of the apartment houses on this street have Chinese landlords. The only building which I know to be non-Chinese owned is a little further up hill.
That landlord is an older Italian man who smokes cigars.
Like the others, older San Francisco.

Lee's wife came down the block pushing the pram and walking the dog. She does that nearly every night when Lee is at work. When she saw me she stopped and we chatted. The kid is almost two now, the most dangerous age. Destructive, learning to talk, and very opinionated. The dog is quiet, and nobody knows if he even has an opinion.
The kid was asleep.

The white techno-dude across the street does not throw parties on Sunday night. That's what Friday and Saturday are for. One of his neighbors had a loud discussion with him the other evening, from his third floor apartment while techno-dude was having a cigarette break. Ten minutes that we all got to share, which ended with the music being finally turned down.
It's not that he's a selfish inconsiderate dillwad.
He just had not realized other people were bothered. He may have originally come from a small town out in the bush, where the cows and hogs were comforted by it, or the coyotes were kept at bay.
He honestly had no clue.

I usually have one or two cigarillos in the evening now. It collects my head.

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Sunday, September 15, 2019


Because there was a ballgame, the day started with screaming. Which during football season is fairly normal. Several of those people are married, all of them smoke cigars, and only one of them is in decent shape. The Anti-Christ (that's my affectionate nickname for the worst Trump-nut of the lot) has rolls of kidney fat that will probably strangle him in his sleep.

Football Sunday just isn't complete without verbs for intercourse in the same sentence as the alleged Messiah.

A local team was playing. I do not know the score. Many of the very same gentlemen will also be infesting the backroom when the super bowl comes around. It's customary. A day-long orgy. Cigars, the alleged Messiah, fatty foods, and reproductive verbiage.

More than anyone else I respect this fine American tradition. It shows why we're the best country on earth. This is why we went to war, conquered illnesses, and put a man on the moon.

Yeah, I didn't watch the game (sporting events leave me cold) or join in the screaming or cursing. Didn't feel like huffing a stogy either. Two pipes, filled with aged Virginia, several cups of tea, a sandwich with hot sauce to make it edible, in late afternoon, and a stiff upper lip. Just before lunch at quarter past-three o'clock I told one person in great detail about the Aceh War, and why it was relevant to American Foreign Policy even today.

[In 1873, because of pernicious American meddling, the Dutch invaded Bandar Atjeh at the northern end of Sumatra. By 1904, the war was substantially over, though there were still periodic flare-ups and remaining pockets of resistance. Atjeh had been a Dutch ally, and became a Dutch Indies territory. The damned Americans should have kept their big Anglo noses out of the Dutch Sphere of influence, bloody Puritan missionary bastards.
But okay. Water under the bridge.]

What the Dutch did in Atjeh was mirrored by the bestial behaviour of the Americans in parts of Luzon, when we Yanks liberated the Philippines from the nationalists who were busy kicking Spanish ass. One fifth of the population died as a result of American actions.

But hey, at least it kept the Dutch and English out, so it's all good.

That, basically, was the start of United States imperialism.

It's why even today there are banana republics.

Keep the Dutch and the English out.

As well as the Russians.

People love us.

Play ball!

Feel free to idolize Henry Kissinger, who put Machiavelli back into American Foreign Policy, where he belongs. Oh wait, he was never actually gone.

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Back in 2012 I posted an essay which remarkably still snags readers. One-time readers, I'm sure, because it has NO pictures, and must inevitably disappoint them.

It had a charming and evocative title: Naked Middle Aged White Man.

A lithe Lord Byron, skinny dipping.

In it, I described obliquely what a person such as myself might look like in the hallway mirror on days off while heading toward the bathroom, intending to shave and shower. As many men do. Several times each week.

Also remarked upon was the complete absence of dim sum items, such as egg tarts. Or other delicious pastries.

I would like to remind readers that tasty things to eat are very important.
Much more than casual and incidental masculine nudity.
No matter how staggeringly handsome.

Again, no illustrations or selfies, and a not particularly detailed description, so if anyone went there looking for man-porn or a butch Adonis with which to fill their dreams, they will leave kind of pissed off.
Which was, in a way, the point.

Naked Middle Aged White Man

At regular intervals I am still naked and white. Never in mixed company, or any company whatever. Pastries are a sporadic part of my life. Along with hot cups of HK milk tea. And while I could easily imagine nudity, flaky snackipoos, and a hot beverage, being enjoyed at the same time, sofar that has not happened. It does not factor into my social life.

Most of the time I have delicious flaky baked items and HK milk tea while fully clothed. Except during hot weather, and in private, when I should be more eccentrically garbed, or not even at all.
Feel free to visualize that.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019


One sentence I read yesterday keeps going through my head like an ear worm, permanently looping. It's from a cartoon about space aliens, this time involving a cat sleeping. "My thighs are forlorn." There is palpable sadness.
Without the illustration, the mental picture it paints is staggering.

Very many people in this city have forlorn thighs, probably most of us.
I doubt that an application of cats can cure it.

It might actually relate to the heat..

Are your thighs forlorn?

The temperature yesterday afternoon was well over ninety Fahrenheit in parts of SF. Measured in Celsius, that equals "too hot by half". At the place where I had tea and a snack, several customers were wilting -- direct sunlight slanting in, but fries and shrimp and fishballs and noodles and hot sauce -- and the owner was listless and limp, though attentive. I did not ask how his thighs were. Seeing as I cannot frame that in Cantonese.
So I didn't ask anyone else there either.

大腿 'taai teui'; thigh, big ham. 胯 'kua'; pelvis, groin, thighs. 股 'gu'; stocks, shares, thighs, hips. 髀 'bei'; thigh, thighs.
That last one is more specific, but seeing as there is fried chicken thigh (絶雞髀 'jaa kai pei') on the menu ....

孤獨 'gu duk; solitary, singular, alone. 絶望 'chuet mong'; forlorn, sad, desperate, hopeless. 悲 'pei'; sad, mournful, sorrowful. 愁 'sau'; feeling sad or despondent, anxious. 難過 'naan gwo'; undergoing hardship. 悲酸 'pei suen'; bitter and aggrieved. 悲愁 'pei sau'; bitter, despondent, downcast. 哀怨 'oi yuen'; sad, sorrowing.

[Pronunciation: 'nei ge seung taai tuei hai m hai gu duk ge me']
Are your two thighs singular? Are your thighs all alone? Or not?

Well, white people ask all kinds of goofy questions, so the chances are they would simple fail to grasp the query, instead of slapping me.

[BTW, what google translate does with that sentence is truly bizarre. Google doesn't do Cantonese. 嘅 and 咩 are particles, and not themselves content-rich.]

Maybe I should have asked the young ladies wearing skirts or shorts, but I was too intent on getting the cheung fan which I had requested, as well as preventing the tyke next to me spilling his drink or falling off his seat.
I could have also asked the Vietnamese girl wearing an extra large teeshirt as a dress on the other side, but if I cannot ask it in Cantonese, you can imagine how badly I'd express it in Vietnamese (she didn't speak any Chinese, though one of her companions could).

How the heck are your thighs?

Several hours later I was smoking a small cigar on the fronts steps of my building, when the downstairs neighbor stepped out.
We agreed that it was rather warm.

Terlalu panas, hari ini, eh. Bagaimana bilik mu?

No thighs at all were mentioned.

Paha itu sedih.

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Friday, September 13, 2019


About the only thing we can agree on is that laksa is spicy, and contains thick rice flour noodles. And seafood of some type. Laksa is comfort food by definition, and some people find comfort in bizarre ways, such as extremely sour broth, or overly oily curries. One has to wonder about their digestive systems, and depending on how depreciative one's personal make-up, sneer at their severly flawed background.

[Laksa: Peranakan and Indonesian seafood soup with rice noodles. There are two types, as well as intermediate kinds, namely coconut curry soup, and sour (tamarind broth) soup. Peranakans are descendants of locally born Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo. They have a little non-Chinese in their ancestry, just like Indo-Dutch might have Chinese or Indonesian. Similarly, their cultures and cuisines will incorporate a broad spectrum of ingredients which were not traditional then, but might be customary now. Laksa is a perfect exemplar of cross-over cooking.]

Myself, I prepare it with a mild coconut milk broth, and have both sambal and fresh lime on hand to adjust the flavour, as well as fresh basil leaves.
In this I declare myself a heretic. Jerome and Abdullah would label me so.
Oh, and I tend to use yellow Thai curry paste.

Dried shrimp toasted and ground, kemiri nuts ditto, rice stick broken so that the whole thing can be eaten with a spoon. Fresh seafood if available, plus shredded cooked chicken and beansprouts. Thin coconut soup, made with chicken broth, touch of shrimp paste (蝦膏 'haa gou'; pâté de crevette), and a little fried garlic.
A roasted large tomato, skinned and chopped. Pinch of sugar. Spoonful yellow curry paste. Dash of fish dew, dash of a vinegar-based hot sauce.
Minced scallion or chives.

Think of it as a South East Asian Chinese Indo Dutch version of San Francisco Cioppino, but with everything entirely different.
Good with warm sourdough.

More rice noodle than chicken, more chicken than shrimp, crab, or chunked fish, fresh basil and a hefty squeeze of lime to finish, along with a squeeze of Sriracha sauce from Huy Fong, plus a spoonful oily sambal badjak.
More coconutty than sour, but with a fine balance of the two.
Seafood does not benefit from too much acid.
But it always needs heat.

Making laksa soup will take me several days, primarily because there are several ingredients that are low or absent from my larder at this point. Kemiri nuts and dried shrimp, as well as fresh seafood, beansprouts, and basil leaf, which I'll probably purchase sometime next week. And also the particular shrimp paste I like for some dishes, which is a Thai-style version of trassi or blatjang: 泰式蝦膏油醬 ('taai sik haa gou yau jeung').
Also good added to sambal goreng vegetables.
I cannot understand how I ran out.


My mother, who during most of her youth and early adulthood ate very white food (which then included chop suey, chow mein, and sweet'n sour pork, as "international cuisine"), would have looked askance at all this.
Surely there is no useful nutrition there?

In her day, cookbooks advocated cooking shrimp and other crustaceans for an hour or more. So all Dutch, Chinese, and Indonesian seafood dishes were ab initio suspect. Crab was risky, lobster could kill you.

French and Italian food was something that had to be prepared by people who actually spoke French or Italian. Or German, but only if they had been properly trained by Frenchmen or Italians.

Food in Switzerland was fine.
The Swiss are all three.

Mercifully, she did not ask what my father and I put in the pot when we cooked dinner. She probably knew that we were vile barbarians, but she avoided the sambal, and was diplomatic.

Besides, we weren't in any evident agony, or visibly dying.

Several words here were not in her vocabulary.

Shrimp only need a few seconds.

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Thursday, September 12, 2019


If Harry devoted as much energy to fomenting violent revolution as he does arguing sports with other cigar smokers, we'd have nationwide socialized medicine by now, as well as free college education. I've told him he really has to imagine himself at the head of a pitchforking mob.
As, indeed, I can see him in my mind.

Instead, there were two angry old white dudes on teevee this evening. And for once the boys in the lounge didn't sound quite like inmates.

As you might expect, this blogger is in favour of universal healthcare.
It makes sense for the government to keep the taxpayers not only healthy but productive, although I can understand why the Republicans see things otherwise, their income comes largely from special interests, so they don't give a damn. They don't have to.

Say, how much is Mitch McConnell worth now?

The angry pitchforked mobs can't burn this shitcan down soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. Everything between the Sierras and the east coast.

Errm, I mean, I love my fellow countrymen, and wish them well. All of them DESERVE universal healthcare (and diet advice), free education (let's start with reading), and cheap colour teevees.

My piles bleed for you folks.

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It's a matter of choosing the right time of day. From noon until two it's crowded there, then you get a whole bunch of European tourists doing the late lunch thing, which lasts til past four o'clock (teatime), and, after that, us. Meaning not only myself, but also the neighborhood folks, and their little children fresh from school.

As well as a likable wiry old dude who may have gang connections (don't ask how I know), and a frumpy frowny woman who knows I speak Cantonese and rather dislikes me. Two tables over, behind the business woman eating noodles and dealing with her social media.

The two waitresses are welcoming, energetic, and efficient.


The senior waitress knows me from a previous restaurant, and automatically brings me both regular tea and the cup of Hong Kong milk tea (港式奶茶 'kong sik naai cha'; "harbour style milk tea") which I will ask for, without, at this point, any need to ask. Some customers use the regular tea to rinse their utensils, but I trust that they've washed those, and there is no particulate matter in the San Francisco air that I need worry about.
This isn't Hong Kong or Manila.

Lunch was a predictable thing. I've had the same dish there a few times. Bitter melon omelette and rice (苦瓜煎蛋飯 'fu gwaa jin daan faan'). I am, I confess, a rather boring old fossil; and will zero in on foods that I've had before, even though at least once a week I try something new, which sometimes pleasantly surprises me.

So much for the food. Nothing to remark.

[Fu gwaa (苦瓜): I really, really like bitter melon.]

Three adorable little girls. What made them adorable was the combination of restrained liveliness, courtesy to their dining companions, and well-behaved hair. The nearest one did her homework while her dad answered his phone, the two more distant ones did something together on a cell-phone while their mother, grandmother, and auntie chatted. When the waitress came to take the orders from that table, all five of them interacted, inquisitively and knowledgeably, about menu items.

See, that's another thing where Cantonese diners are different. Rather than requesting things which aren't on the menu, or going for burger and fries OR sweet'n sour pork all the time, they'll investigate and ask relevant questions.

They are interested, at any age, in what's for dinner.
Passionately interested.

The decisions they make depend on constantly developing circumstances, and aren't final till the orders are actually being placed.

Young people discussing food with their elders.
Adults pointing at specials on the wall.
The waitresses explaining.

It's also practical. If everybody ends up happy, and isn't apathetic or peevish (hello, tourists, I'm talking about you!), things will be smoother and so much less fractious all-around. The Chinese restaurant that caters mostly to Chinese people wants the patrons to waddle out with a smile on their faces.

Probably the only other place where you will experience that is at provincial establishments in England, where they're proud of what they do.

I'm not sure modern style urban restaurants understand the concept.
Order now. Wait. Heap praises. Then tip well, regardless.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019


During that morning I spent an hour in the empty conference room watching the news. The mathematics of the event was staggering. There were only three other people in the office. The UPS delivery man had informed me "we've been attacked" when I first arrived at work, and the events on the television screen showed how, when, and what.

I left before twelve, first going over to Monzer's eatery, where his employee at the time, whose name I don't remember, was cleaning up and nearly in tears. Then I visited Abdullah and his family. They were in a state of shock.
I was worried about these people, whom I had known for years. We were all familiar with mob "sanity", and remembered what had happened after Oklahoma City.

San Francisco (and my office) came through splendidly.

It cannot have been easy to be a Muslim in America during the months afterward, but we tried not to make it hard. At least I don't think so.
We're better than the rest of the country.

American citizen Hassan Awdah, the owner of the Marathon gas station, behind bulletproof glass Sept. 12, 2001 in Gary, Indiana.

[SOURCES: NBC NEWS - Aftermath and SFGate - Backlash.]

I still remember the face of the gentleman behind the fractured station window as shown above. Someone had fired an assault rifle.

As a nation we got plenty of chances to show what hatreds simmer here, and we did. Abundantly. There have been eighteen years of it.

Xenophobia has become the dominant culture.

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So John Bolton is out, and without a doubt some of my friends are completely heartbroken at this development. I wish I could be sad for them. Or at least feel their pain. And when I say "friends", what I really mean is individuals with whom I used to associate, but have avoided since the presidential election.

What I really wish to tell them all is "you never actually had an older sister, and she probably hated you any way". And "the reason your parents never gave you a party is because you were a horrid little cretin from day one".

See, because I'm all heart. And am rather overjoyed that the orange faced moron has finally ditched that reprehensible little troll.

The only thing up in the air is which vile specimen will replace him.

With Russian and Republican approval.

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A friend forwarded a Googlian mistranslation of scripture yesterday, which keyed in nicely with another friend discussing a Swedish dish that combined chicken, chili sauce and bananas, as well as one person plaintively wondering how to choose between chocolate and banana ice cream.

This highlights the versatility of bananas. Not the accuracy of translation programs.

"Hellohu, babble and violinist, the hallucinations, the drum and the brain; The hallucinations, the entrees, and the bananas. The sound of hearing, the hello, the shaking of the alarm."

------ from Psalm 150, google translated.

If this doesn't prove the existence of a deity, nothing will.

Now, bananas and chicken together as an entree.

From wikipedia:
Flying Jacob (Swedish: Flygande Jacob) is a Swedish casserole that consists of chicken, cream, chili sauce, bananas, roasted peanuts and bacon. In the original recipe, the chicken is seasoned with Italian salad seasoning. The dish is cooked in an oven and is usually served with rice and a salad ... [cut]... invented by Ove Jacobsson who worked in the air freight industry, hence the name. The recipe was first published in Swedish cooking magazine Allt om mat in 1976.
End cite

It is a beloved dish, on par with surströmming and lutfisk.

And you thought that Swedish cuisine began and ended with Ikea meatballs. Don't you feel silly now?

I've been there once. I survived.

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019


It's really a minor thing, seeing as this blogger does not look different. But I've recently been told that my ass is going to be deported, based on my accent. Which it isn't, because I was born here and can prove it. Still, it rankles. What kind of pissy son of a bitch let's his bigotry rise to the occasion when incorrect about something?

I shan't mention this to my apartment mate, who is Asian American, because crap like that happens to her somewhat more than me. Once someone asked her angrily how come she spoke English so well. Almost as if it was an evil and deliberate plot, rather than having grown up speaking the language because she was native-born.

It's not the majority who are asshats, strictly speaking it's probably not even a significant percentage. But one of them can colour your entire day, and I am often reminded that I am foreign despite never having had any other citizenship or natal country.

Okay. I am a Dutchman as well as an American. And I have an accent.
More than that, I don't wave the flag, and hate football.
Your president and religion suck. Totally.

Years ago one of the directors of a company at which I worked was totally convinced that I was an illegal alien who got the position with fake papers.
I received my first electronic paycheck, finally, after a five week delay.
Long after I left the firm her son-in-law put the profits up his nose.
But, of course, he was a real American. She had checked.

If I mention the Netherlands more than the average person, that's because I lived there for a while as a youngster, and my ancestors came from there centuries ago. Neither that, nor my accent, are proof that I am English.
Or Irish. Or Australian.

Evenso, I have it good. As long as I don't speak.

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If you do anything regularly, you may overlook the moment it becomes bizarre. You just keep on doing it, because in our village we've always shaved cats, and it prevents them developing dreadlocks, okay?
Massive clumps of ratty matted fur.

And a marijuana habit. It's part of our cherished tradition .....
Feline rastas; they're real.

It's like answering the phone politely. If you are of a certain age, you cannot help doing so; "hello, this is Badger, with whom am I speaking?"

Nowadays it's more likely that it's a scam artist pretending to be from the utility company, or someone representing the Fraternal Order of Police.
Who needs your personal banking details.
Or else things will happen.
Oh, and by the way, stop calling us about our airducts. There is nothing you can do about trachea, bronchi, lungs, or mucous membranes.
We are methane breathers here.
Artificial tubing.

Having been a pipe club member for over eight years, I barely noticed how odd some of the discussions have been. Salmon. Blood pudding. Hairy men in skirts. The love shack one of them is building up in Mendocino, where he will retire with a fab collection of Barbie Dolls and his bullwhip or something (I tend to totally zone out whenever he mentions his comfy rural hide-away, because I am a city boy, and will probably never visit that part of California where rattlesnakes and pot-farmers are common). Hobbits, naked men, Germans, old lady perfume, green herring, the Luftwaffe.
Eels, engineering, writing equipement.
Gluten, noodles, fried food.

Hello Kitty.

Some of these subject I probably introduced myself.

Still, to the unbiased observer, it may have resembled nothing so much as a rowdy collection of peculiar people, attention deficit disorder, and a crying need for straight jackets and restraint devices.

The unbiased observer.

Especially the Scottish episodes.

It happened gradually.

One possible cause is that tea is not drunk at these meetings, but there are always open bottles and cookies. Middle-aged men hepped on cookies are uncontrollable. And agendas will be strayed from or sabotaged.
Sorry, John, we can't help ourselves.
It's chocolate chip.

I'm the only tea drinker present.

Years ago the head of the Graphics Department at the office once proposed that he should do his segment of the monthly company meetings with a sprightly sequence of interpretive dance. An ode to Spring. Instead of a dreary boastful lecture, like Sales and Marketing, about stupendous achievements and saving the universe.
Naturally Engineering, Creative, and Credit & Collections (me), thought that this was a splendid idea.

I shall propose to John, our esteemed club president, that next meeting we return to normalcy by having an interpretive dance session. Several of the members are hypothetically limber enough to participate.

I'll also bring a teapot from home, because proper hydration is important.

I am a concerned individual, and I care. Deeply.

Hello Kitty would approve.

All "intensive" purposes.

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He stopped barking when I came closer, and was enthusiastic when I petted him. That being the dog of someone smoking a cigar on the veranda. There are some dogs who vocalize merely to say 'hi', and when you don't respond, they express sadness. Naturally I encourage everyone to bark back.

I envision all of society barking.

This past Sunday, at the meeting of the pipe club, one of the members told us he's going to get a new dog. His previous furry companion passed away in April, and he feels an emptiness. Followed a conversation about the dogs various members have known. From this you may deduce that many of the members are middle-aged or older, and presently single. Which is odd; unlike the cigar smokers, we are likable fellows, clean, and have recently read books. Just a random guess, but modern American women probably don't like nice men who maintain reasonable standards of cleanliness and have literature.

Many pipe smokers do not own a motorbike.

What most American women want is a smelly dude garbed in black leather, a stogie clamped in his iron and unshaven jaw, rough hands firmly gripping the apehanger of his Harley while roaring down highway 101 on a sunlit day scaring children and small animals.

There's roadkill all over Marin between the bridge and the Sonoma border.

Seeing as I choose the company of men who can disquisition on Dickens or explain why a piece of wood of a particular shape recalls people and places of the past -- the drafting department at the aerodynamics company years ago, sun slanting in, or the Heidelberger Degel Automat which got jammed when they had to complete a print run, and a technician had to be called, or even hosing out the tanks of the glue works outside East Spotsdale after that unfortunate accident with the Sunday School class -- over hairy cigar smokers reclining in the lounge arguing Dungeons and Dragons, I am aware of modern American womanhood, but know very few actual exemplars.

One of whom recently communicated that you must never kick the chicken.

Other than that she's married and on the East Coast, she'd fit right in with the pipe smokers as well as the cigar crowd. There are people like that.


Not all pipe smokers are animal people. That is to say, not all of them have four-footed companions, but I suspect that other than smokers of Captain Black or Molto Dolce, most of them easily establish friendly relations with dogs and cats that intersect with their lives.

[Many smokers of Captain Black pipe tobacco, or Molto Dolce, are the kind of people who believe that books should be burned, have tattoos or piercings, were thrown out of Sunday School when they hit twenty one, and voted for someone Christian who hates foreigners. Especially smokers of Captain Black Grape, a smoking mixture with no discernible hint of tobacco whatsoever. As part of a manufacturer's test run, I huffed several bowls of that one day, two different trial versions. Candy. Grape soda. Perversion. Extraordinarily well-made.]

Or they will befriend the raccoons in the abandoned church past which they walk on Autumn evenings while smoking their pipes. Who have ensconced themselves there and formed a furry community, a free and democratic republic of the potentially rabid.
Whom I encouraged to adopt some of the neighborhood children years ago, because the idea of little Johnny furtively raiding the cat bowl before running away on all fours had a certain appeal.

[The church was torn down a while back, and a condo building was put up on that site. It's an elegant building, rather handsome. But the raccoons are no longer there, and I miss them.]

We prefer animals over brats.

Most of us do not know how to play Dungeons and Dragons.

Anyhow, I hope he gets his new dog soon, because he lives by himself, and will benefit from the company. He smokes clean medium-full Latakia blends.

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Monday, September 09, 2019


My apartment mate mentioned that the refrigerator at her work place is acting wanky. So several things had to be thrown out. Office refrigerators are probably one of the primary sources of food-poisoning in the modern world, other than tasty items from Chipotle. So it was time to review what people had been storing in there.

Please bear in mind that she works with Asian Americans. Mostly middle aged. Kind of conservative and stodgy. Mainly Chinese.

Who the heck buys a gallon jug of pancake syrup, and why the heck do they keep it in the office refrigerator?!?

Somebody hasn't heard of diabetes ...

Pancake syrup has no conceivable other use than food-related, generally breakfast items. At the average indulgence being, let us assume, two tablespoons per serving (2 TBS), that equals four months worth of the stuff. At double that, which is more likely, we're still talking two solid months of pancake-type breakfasts. Or sweetness-augmented muffins, drenched or dipped. Sausage and egg muffins, or egg, ham cheese breakfast muffins, even bacon sausage cheese breakfast burritos with a thick drizzle of syrup.


In Cantonese, the major exemplar of a Sinitic language and probably the most spoken version of Chinese in San Francisco, diabetes is 'tong niu beng' (糖尿病 "sugar urine disease"). It is not an unknown affliction. Four tablespoons of pancake syrup everyday is ill-advised. Even America's food industry does not advocate "fried cakes sugar gloop" (煎餅糖漿 'chin beng tong jeung') as a healthy supplement. Maybe someone adds it to their bowl of porridge? Many Americans have this weird habit of fixing themselves a bowl of hot oatmeal or similar crap after they arrive at the office, and it's entirely possible that they like it sweet. A gallon jug of pancake syrup. Convenient.

[Perhaps it's a group that meets before or after work hours for pancakes or French toast. Chinese Americans are known for peculiar dietary habits. A conclave of sugar fiends.]

One of my own coworkers heats up a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
I am fairly certain that adding syrup doesn't occur.
Salt, pepper, hot sauce, maybe.

There is no pancake syrup in my work refrigerator. There are three separate hot sauces instead. We have different food attitudes.

It might be a cultural thing.

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