At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles. BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles. All cheese-doodling ended in 2010, and there hasn't been any in far too long. Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ZOMBIES!

Might as well face it, the Zombies are going to win. They have help.

This morning over coffee Savage Kitten and I got into a heated discussion about Zombies. Not an argument - the heat was caused by the fact that when she wakes up she's full of piss and vinegar, whereas when I wake up I am slow and lethargic like a normal person. Her mind is going ninety, mine is ambling along at thirty.
Conversationally, at that hour, I am the old geezer driving a nineteen sixties station wagon in the fast lane that she so desperately wants to pass. Old fart, move!

I brought up the scientific article that Tzipporah linked in a comment underneath the post about Shank Dog standing at a window with an assault rifle, facing the offices across the street.
My speculation was that he was going to deal with that nest of investment bankers over there, Tzipporah seems convinced that Shank Dog was just preparing for the Zombie Invasion.


REASONS A ZOMBIE OUTBREAK WOULD FAIL

Savage Kitten rejected the article's conclusions, based on "valid" reasons that I cannot remember (I may have mentioned that my brain was slow and lethargic), which she argued with verve and passion.

Whatever I said was ineffective, I clearly didn't understand the situation.

My input at that point may have been to wail sleepily "but but but, they're Zombies!"
It seemed reasonable enough to me - Zombies, being walking protein and rather stupid, would be eaten by wild dogs and IRS agents LONG before there were enough of them to swing the balance. Besides, legally the undead have no rights - they wouldn't be allowed on the bus, nobody would hire them, they'd stumble into traffic.......
I may not have remembered enough of the article Tzipporah had linked to make much sense.
Savage Kitten insisted that by the time society noticed the Zombies it would be far too late. They would have multiplied so rapidly that there would be no hope.
2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 ..... . Or even 5, 25, 125, 625, 3125 ........

Just in case, she happily started strategizing on their behalf. Zombies may not move very fast, therefore they would have to employ guile and tactics. Heck, no problem. They just need a leader.

How a woman who cannot find any redeeming qualities in a human-size cockroach can support America's undead is beyond me. Zombies just aren't worthwhile members of society.
She, on the other hand, values their potential input and will passionately defend their dignity.

Sensing I was losing the battle, I fled to the bathroom with my books and coffee.

While I was ensconced therein, she periodically padded up to the closed door to renew the assault.

"They'd probably eat solitary people when there were no witnesses first."

'You mean like elderly apartment dwellers?'

"No, more like drunks in the middle of the night."

'Oh come on, even drunks are hard to catch.'

"Not you - there you'd be, stumbling home from the bar at three in the morning, moving slowly because of your gouty foot......"

'I do NOT stumble!'

"Hah, I've heard you!"

'That must've been somebody else.'

"You ain't fooling the Zombies......."


It just seems so unfair. Not only is she backing the Zombies, but she's accusing me of being a tippler.
I hardly EVER drink to excess, I am the very epitome of probity!

Sane and reasonable behaviour are my middle names, sobriety is my one character flaw.

Zombies are just wrong!

Tonight some of us are going out drinking with Shank Dog. We'll probably have several cocktails, and it will be a happy party - we really appreciate his company. He's the only thing that stands between us and Zombies.
Or investment bankers.
I can't imagine anything worse than being eaten by investment bankers.


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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

NOT WHAT I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT

This is not what I wanted to even consider at any time.
I do not want to feel it now.
She has always been what matters most in my life. But at some point our situations may be so different as to be unrecognizable. There are moments when the future is a dark and frightening place.
I do not know. I know less than ever.

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TORTURING THE KITTEN

My better half has had a severe cold. For over a week, Savage Kitten was wheezing, sneezing, and rubbing her nose raw. Most amazing.

I had the same cold, but got over it in one day. Very quick recovery.
I credit my healthy lifestyle. Her, on the other hand........

Part of it may be related to the monthly visitor. Women tend to be more susceptible to opportunistic infections at that time. Their body temperature also tends to make them much better hosts.
If YOU were a virus, would YOU infest a cold man? Or would you far rather victimize a hot young thing? Even if cranky and foul-tempered.

I think we know the answer to that question, don't we?

There was, however, a very distinct upside. She could barely smell. Almost not a darn thing. Not only did that mean I could be a bit, errm, casual about certain things..........
It also meant she didn't notice me smoking in the teevee room.

Normally Savage Kitten hates smoking in the apartment. While she's "tolerant" of my bad habits like smoking and drinking and scratching myself, she prefers it if I pursue my smellier peculiarities either outside or in the kitchen.

The public can darn well put up with it, she and the Teddy Bear (senior room mate, oldest friend) won't.
Go smoke the devil's weed elsewhere! Feh! Bad man! Smelly!

[Actually, the Teddy Bear (Ms. Bruin) is surprisingly tolerant, and usually doesn't comment. Maybe she likes the manly smell of tobacco. Does it remind her of autumn leaves?]


Last week I enjoyed several bowls of MacBaren's Virginia Flake (a nice pressed tobacco with a slight aroma added - anise, I think), as well as Orlik Golden Sliced (the choice of all sober judges, being pressed Virginia with a little Burley for a bit of oomph).
Plus three or four bowls of Samuel Gawith St. James Flake (tasty medium Virginias made zingy with Perique).

And a cigar.

A nice sizeable dark Nicaraguan.

Although it made her eyes sting (the air was blue with smoke), she didn't even notice. She was too busy watching borrowed movies, and her nose was thoroughly plugged up.
I'm not sure if the redness around the eyes was from my smoke (doubtful), her infection (possible), or watching Felix and Oscar trying to live together (probable). One fastidious to a fault, the other a cigar-chomping, poker-playing, hard-drinking, bachelor with a vengeance. Quite the comedy.

At one point she turned to me and said "you know, you're rather like Felix".

Felix and Oscar were in a restaurant at that moment - Oscar had ordered a pastrami sandwich and a beer, Felix was making deep throaty ahooharharrrh sounds to drain his ears, which attracted the attention of other patrons. This was after a long neurotic disquisition about his allergies, and a bellyache about ventilation, dust, and airconditioning.

'Scuse me, Hon, but do you notice the Corona? Oh wait - you're referring to my cleanliness, aren't you?


"You're rather like Felix"


Okay.... I'll take that in the spirit of compliment that you intended.
You're too kind.

If I had known how profoundly affected her nose was, I would have upped the ante, and smoked pipefulls of something dark and stinky with Latakia. But, you see, I was just pushing the envelope. Very carefully.
I did not want to risk the Teddy Bear's wrath.
Turns out Ms. Bruin had a cold too.
Remarkable coincidence.
Darn.


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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

HIGH CALIBER, SQUARE JAW

I work in a remarkable place. I have just seen photos of our design chief standing at the office window with an assault rifle. It doesn’t help matters that he has a military build, feral agility, and looks capable. There’s a resolve to his shoulders as seen from the back. Tense.
Locked, loaded, and ready to go.

We are several floors up. There are several floors of investment bankers across the street. One of these days, boys, one of these days.

Shank Dog - got gun, will travel.

Dot dot dot

Earlier today I overheard a conversation in which the following phrases occurred: “That looks terrible!” "Oh my G-d!" “You mean your doctor let you go like that?” "Yipes!" “It’s non-infectious.” "If anybody saw that, they’d be scared out of their gourd."

I do not know what the ailment is that elicited the comments, nor what it looks like. But I can imagine. Shank Dog's department probably has something to do with it – perhaps there was a leak from the lab. Someone broke the isolation on a tank of goo. We’re no longer sterile.

I’m thinking in terms of a Biblical plague or a Central-American parasite.


I really don’t have clear picture what EXACTLY they do in the design department. Testing, experiments? Lab rats, children?
Data is provided on a need to know basis, and I’m just an accountant.
All I know is that we sell “things”. “Things”, that’s what those are, “things”. Right? Shank Dog and his crew develop things.
The expression ‘weapons grade’ should not ever come to mind, forget that you heard it, just forget.
There’s no such critter.
We are investment bankers.
That is all.

I have NO problem with anything we sell. I will just repeat that I don’t know what it is.
Please don’t ask.

Still doesn’t explain why Shank Dog was at the window with an assault rifle…..

It’s Friday, I’m leaving soon, and I ain’t gonna say a darn thing. Just keep my mouth shut.
He probably won’t be here much longer.
Have good and safe weekend, y’all.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

GILAD BOGNER'S SUSPICIOUS FAMILIARITY WITH LILY VON SHTUPP

To a very large extent I haven’t a clue what today’s teenager listens to – nor am I particularly interested. I'll just assume that it's garbage.
I’ve never actually been taken by what comes out of the radio, as it all seemed like dreck anyway. My late brother, Tobias, often tuned in to Radio Luxembourg and the pirate stations in the NorthSea, but insofar as I paid any attention to what was coming from his desk while he was studying, it was to marvel at the commercials.

“Decide for yourself whether you are small, medium, or large”

Excellent advice! Even if it was only to purchase a shirt featuring the visage of some lithe and hairy pop trog. Expecially, perhaps, because of the haughty Brit accent and supercilious delivery. I have taken the recommendation to heart.
It is SO multi-applicable.

What I actually listened to was the victrola.

When I was about ten or eleven I discovered my father’s collection of Bertold Brecht & Kurt Weill operas, which featured the voice of Lotte Lenya.

There was just … something. Husky. Nice plonky music. A bit sleazy and nightclubish.


PLONK PLONK PLONK!

One of the most recognized songs from the Dreigroschen Oper by Brecht and Weill is ‘ Mackie Messer’. You’ve probably heard the limpwanged version sung in English – heck, some dillwad did a bad rendition of it every time you visited the karaoke bar – but this version is different:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPG9GcykPIY&feature=player_embedded

That's how it's supposed to sound.

I rediscovered it while reading Treppenwitz today.
[This post: http://www.treppenwitz.com/2010/08/overheard.html ]


Thanks, Trepp.
Tell Gilad that Lotte Lenya does NOT sound "just like Lily von Shtupp".
Not in the slightest!



If you, dear reader, are interested in songs that haven't been bollixed up by English-speakers, here's Lotte Lenya singing Surabaya Johnny:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJKkqC8JVXk

This is a lively tune about soldiers - Kanonen song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gi433VgJ5bc&feature=related
[Fun version subtitled in Portuguese: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yuj0HEght0E&feature=related Or how about the 2006 performance at the Theaterhaus in Jena: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iorl1qin54E&feature=related - it's very German.]

We'll finish this recital with Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht's most famous song, Alabama:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6orDcL0zt34&feature=channel


Now, wasn't that much better than the crap you hear on the radio?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

THE PLEASURE IS ALL MINE!

It irritates Savage Kitten when I monopolize the crapper for over an hour in the morning. What, she undoubtedly wonders, is that crazy old coot DOING in there?

Apparently the luggage I shlep into the bathroom has not sufficiently clued her in. She hardly ever takes stuff with her to go “powder a delicate nose”, whereas I seem to need an entire shopping cart.
Her: in and out. Me: sitting out the siege of Bergen op Zoom.

I thought it might be instructive to provide a list of items which are essential for the morning eliminatory and ablutionary interlude.


NECESSITIES:
Pen
Notebook
Phrasebook

Paperclips
Small slips of paper
Thumbtacks
(optional)
Pocket knife OR tweezers
Cigarillos
Lighter
Matches (in case the lighter fails)
Ash tray
Coffee cup (filled, second cup of day)

Coaster
Foreign language dictionary
Reading specs



It should be obvious what all that time in the loo is about, right?
Surely I’m not the ONLY person in the whole wide world who learns while ‘sequestered’?

You probably take a similar collection of items in with you, to make your stay there as productive as possible.
Certainly paperclips, notepaper, and a steaming cup.
Maybe you don’t need a Phrasebook of Tajik (“ohe, peshkhizmat, ba man lazim ast, namak o rogan e domba” – oh waiter, please bring me salt and clarified sheep-tail fat), or a Collection of Chagatai Poems in Translation (‘my galloping heart is like a dromedary, seeking the water of your passion, oh sleek she-wolf of the steppes’), but I’m sure you have your own essentials.

Cigarettes, the NYT, and junkfood. Plus the teevee guide.
Unfinished correspondence.

Maybe a cellphone.

You wouldn’t believe how often I’ve heard flushing in the background while calling.
I’ve learned to avoid certain people at certain hours. Arnold? No, I think I’ll call him around ten-thirty, when he isn’t ‘preoccupied’. Estefan? The last time I asked about an invoice, he dropped his wallet – it took another three weeks before he gave me the new credit card number. Ludovico? Naaaa, he eats pizza Tuesday evenings, told me all about it last time.
Randall is just a little water-sprite after lunch, splashes like a kid in a fountain. So no.

I have to wonder what hand they use when answering my calls while returning the call of nature. Do they also text their nearest and dearest with those hands? Mrs. Smith, don’t answer that message! Do you know where your son’s hand has BEEN while thumbing those loving words? You should be horrified!
I am, on your behalf!

And why do they share their activities with whoever calls? Can they not delay the water sounds until AFTER we’ve taken down the minutes of the call-in meeting?
We really didn’t need to know so much about them. Trust us, we’ll just assume they’re human, they don’t need to prove it.

Please, don’t prove it.

I’d far rather people not talk to me while they’re in there. Long-distance attention is far less flattering when you keep interrupting our conversation to grab more toilet-paper.

Savage Kitten should be glad that I read while in the little boys room.
It’s a very old-fashioned habit, indicative of clean habits and correct morals.
I was raised properly.
Porcelain means private time. Not conversational opportunity.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

ALL THE HOT SAN FRANCISCO LUCK

The weather in SF is fine. Last week, it wasn't. Really, now is when all of you European tourists should come here, as we are finally the California you've been dreaming about.
But your timing is way off - you were all over the place up until last week, bellyaching about the biting cold and the wind and the fog........
At present, there are almost none of you around.

No offense, but that is pretty much how we like it.
When the weather improves at the end of summer you might see things we would rather you didn't.


Such as bra straps when there is no bra. As passed by while I was outside smoking a moment ago. Honest, I don't know why that woman even wears a bra, no support whatsoever is needed. Nor any uplift. Maybe a touch of lace, but a wispy camisole would accomplish the same. Brassieres are so constricting, don't you agree?
Anyway, I'm glad you didn't see that. We deserve something for living here.

Yesterday evening on the cable car you tourists were marked by your complete absence.
The cabin was almost empty, except for an elderly Chinese gentleman who had picked his granddaughter up from school. Cute kid. She spent considerable time rooting through her backpack rearranging things. As soon as he dozed off (top of the hill, between Pacific Union and Grace), she frantically started rearranging her clothing. The poor little thing was wearing all synthetics, in bright functional colours and textures. In this weather one should only wear cotton - she must have suffered all day. At one point she reached in and scratched fiercely right where I imagine the waist-band of her panty to be.

Sweetheart, I really don't need to imagine where the waist-band of your panty is..... but neither do the German tourists. They're all horrid perverts, and we're glad there aren't any of them around, aren't we?

This morning, on my way to work, I had a splendid view of a young miss dressed for heat. I was standing, and could look down at the people waiting for the bus - it was far too crowded for any of them to get on.
You looked so very very disappointed, my dear - but you also looked like cake, so I'm quite pleased. Sorry.


HOW MIXED ARE THE MESSAGES

Of course, not everything in San Francisco is female.

The strapping fellow on California street last night certainly wasn't. Unfortunately I could see all of his tattoos. I really didn't want to. Why do some men adorn themselves with obscenities? Does it look macho? Is there a frisson of contradictory temptation if a large bosomy goth harpy illustrates your shoulders? Really, do you NEED to have some buxom vampire babe straddling your ripped stomach, rising up from your pubes? And what is the message these sexbabe she-daemon images are supposed to send? Are you confused?
I know I am.
Do you spend way too much time looking at yourself in the mirror?

Dang, those are some muscles. Looks like pythons in a gunny sack.
Slick moist pythons.
If you got it, flaunt it, I guess.

Anyhow, that's just a selection of San Francisco sights which you visitors do not need to see. I'm not sure you could handle the excitement - the visual stimulation, plus the heat, would affect your poor shriveled Northern European brains. There's no telling what it might make you do.
You all are just lucky you're not here.
And so are we.

Monday, August 23, 2010

FOND THOUGHTS ABOUT PAMELA GELLER, NEWT GINGRICH, AND GEERT WILDERS

Over on Dovbear's blog, where the debate in favour of civilized values and building a mosque, versus darkness, stupidity, and idolatrous worship of a pit, is once again in full swing, I made a comment about wanting to buy pornography, cheap liquor, and a snack near ground zero.

Perhaps a teensy bit crass.

But in all honesty, flaming holes like Pamela Geller, Newt Gingrich, and Geert Wilders do not bring out the best in me. And their acolytes are, if possible, even more repulsive.
"Brown bag hooch, tittie glossies, and a snickers bar and I'm good to go. It's a secular religious experience."
Pamela Geller is a bigot who spent far too much time making banana comments about Obama, Newt Gingrich is a moral midget and ethical cripple, and Geert Wilders is a shameless political whore.
Please note: everything between 'Pamela Geller' and 'whore' is an opinion, and therefore constitutionally protected free-speech.

All three are rank opportunists.

If I were visiting a brothel, they would probably be splendid company. Especially if teenage sex-slaves, ambisextrous midgets, and beating parties were part of the night's programme.

So, inevitably, I must think of dildos.



LARGE REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS

Years ago I lived around the corner from a delightfully old fashioned boutique where one could browse a truly amazing selection of flexible pink rubber items. Everything from modest and discreet little poink-poinks to immense strainful-looking arm-sized knobby brutes, and several rather startling iterations in between.

I would frequently drop by to talk with the manager, who was a very intelligent academic from Russia. Perhaps because of the conversation pieces framing him, our discussions veered all over the board. It's hard to stay on subject when a humongous fright-cock made out of shocking pink elastomer is staring you straight in the face.

Occasionally we would talk about penises. Not often.
The presence of artificial dongus in so many forms tends to put a damper on any mention of Richard..... . but some exemplars were just so spectacular that they demanded to be discussed.

If it boggles the mind, just imagine what else it might boggle.

Some of them, we thought, just had to be trophies. Surely no one could fit something that monstrous?

But I was proven wrong.
A friend invited a few of us over for sketching party. At that time I still had pretensions of being a graphic artist, so someone modeling nude presented a golden opportunity. I was getting very good at shading over the muscle groups, evoking warm skin.

H struck several classical poses. He was excellent at modeling, held himself immobile for several minutes at a stretch, and the lighting was perfect.

What he did with a certain pink object defied both imagination and medical science. It disappeared entirely several times.
Discobolus, with blissed expression -- Spear-thrower, with blissed expression -- Lady Justitia, with blissed expression -- Saint Sebastian, with blissed expression -- Leda and the swan.


H passed away years ago. It was a profound loss to art and culture in SF.


I still have those sketches somewhere. I haven't shown them to anyone in the quarter of a century since.
If you knew H, you would recognize him immediately. I really worked on the face. So it just wouldn't be "diplomatic" to show the pictures.

Given H's personality, I think it would please him immensely if Pamela Geller, Newt Gingrich, and Geert Wilders were beaten to death with his twenty inch long flexible rubber monster hose.
But I suspect he was buried with it.
And that, truly, is hallowed ground.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

STICK THIS IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT

Nearly a month ago the local tobacconist decided that people should not smoke. Or at least, not smoke at the shop. This wasn't because of some dictat from San Francisco's city fathers (tobacconists had been specifically grandfathered in), they just didn't like their customers.

Three years ago they had installed comfy chairs and televisions to encourage people to spend time and money at the store. Now they have removed all chairs save two, and imposed a rule that ONLY folks who spend a minimum of twenty five dollars per day can smoke there. Only two customers at a time. If they smoke what they bought that day.

Otherwise just pay and leave.

That excludes most of us. Even the cigar aficionados.

We patronized the place purely because we wished to support a local tobacconist, where we could smoke without being harassed by the vicious wheat-germ snarfing anti-tobacco healthnazi Berkeleyite earthmoms so common on the streets of San Francisco.

[Five days a week, for over five years, I would head around the corner with my pipe in my mouth, to purchase a box of cigarillos at the store. Often I ended up buying several tins of tobacco there too - much of my personal stockpile was purchased locally - and I have also acquired over a score of pipes from them.]


If we are not welcome, why should we patronize them?


A tin of pipe tobacco which sells for $17.95 in San Francisco is only nine dollars by parcel post, and cigar smokers can save nearly seventy percent by not shopping locally.
Yes, we cannot smoke in 'Parcel Post' (there is no actual place named 'Parcel Post', alas) - but we can't smoke at the tobacconist either.
The pleasure of shopping in SF is, perhaps, not worth the extra money - certainly not when the pleasure isn't pleasant.

There are several reputable tobacconists on the internet.
They will welcome your business.


PIPETOBACCO

Four Noggins
http://www.4noggins.com/

Cup o Joes
http://www.cupojoes.com/

Pipes & Cigars dot com
http://www.pipesandcigars.com/

All three of these internet merchants are reliable and have excellent selections of pipe tobaccos. The first one listed ships orders by next day post.


COLLECTIBLE PIPES

Vermont Pipes
http://vtpipes.com/

Pulvers Briar
http://www.pulversbriar.com/

Vermont Pipes (Pipeworks & Wilke) has a good selection of house blends in addition to pieces of wood, and offers a number of other services like repair and restoration. Carol, the proprietor, knows her stuff, and has been selling pipes and tobacco to an appreciative clientele for decades. Her blends are highly rated.

Pulvers Briar (Marty Pulvers) is how the previous owner of Sherlock's haven keeps himself entertained now that he's retired. In addition to being one of the most knowledgeable fellows in the business, Marty is also a witty and beloved fixture of the Bay Area tobacco scene - many of us fondly remember afternoons at his shop turning the air of the financial district blue in good company. If you need a fine collectible from one of the famous pipe makers of the past, he's your man.


CORNELL & DIEHL and G. L. PEASE

Decades ago Craig Tarler acquired a tobacco company named after an exotic dancer (the wife of the previous owner). After changing the name to Cornell & Diehl he packed the entire shebang up and moved to the country with his wife. He's been manufacturing and inventing fine blends ever since. For several years now he has been producing Greg Pease's blends also.

http://www.cornellanddiehl.com/

http://www.cornellanddiehl.com/oldindex.html

Both Craig and Greg have experimented in recent years with pressed tobaccos, to extraordinary effect; I am staggered by the results, and highly recommend what they do.
Bear in mind that I have always been a smoker of traditional English blends - Greg's Westminster and Craig's Red Odessa are among my favourites - but dammit, these flakes are fine stuff.

Cornell & Diehl and GLPease tobaccos can be bought from Craig at the internet site shown above. You can also discuss your order with him - he wants to make sure you get something that makes you happy.


All of the on-line entities listed above will smile, say hello to you all, take your money ("thank you!") and provide compensatory merchandise for the pleasure of taking your money.
It isn't complicated.

Times have changed, boys and girls. We can no longer rely on local tobacconists.
Feel free to patronize the internet instead. Spend your money wisely.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

AFTERTHOUGHT

It could be argued that 'pay-up-and-piss-off' is normal for the retail trade. But when all your customers are aware that they can get what they want over the internet for considerably less, and far more reliably besides, that is no longer strictly true.

Additionally, when most of the customers know more about the merchandise than the merchant, and are graciously willing to put up with shortages entirely unknown on the internet, there has to be something to pull the people in - mere convenience does not prompt daily spending.

[Perhaps mere convenience does work for cigarette smokers - but they had already been chased away two years ago. "We don't sell cigarettes, snnnnfff!"]

The joy of discovering new things, too, was not a factor, as frequently customers would ask about very well-known products with which the owners were not familiar, and with which they intended to remain unfamiliar.

The respite of sanctuary kept us coming in; the glow of other times made us overlook interpersonal ineptness and occasional uncomfortable moments.
But it has gone beyond that.



TOBACCO INDEX


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NOTE: If you wish, you may contact me directly:

LETTER BOX.
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

MACKEREL IS NOT HERRING

When I greeted a coworker this morning, he snapped "I have to work on a spreadsheet today, so I'm not in the mood!"

Seeing as I'm a bookkeeper-type individual, I guess I am co-guilty for the existence of spreadsheets, which are a potent tool for torturing sensitive innocents who do not deserve such treatment. Him, plus kittens and butterflies.
It's all my fault.

"I have to work on a spreadsheet today, so I'm not in the mood!"

MS excel is NOT a blessing, his life would be SO MUCH better without it. For one thing, he'd still use quills and oak-gall ink. The mediaeval work-environment brought joy to thousands, but we bookkeeper-types (and Microsoft) just had to go ruin it with our brisk efficiency and need for quantifiable data; we took all the romance out!

Damn your rectilinear thinking! Damn your verticals and horizontals!


I guess YOU just aren't capable of thinking IN the box, huh? It prevents you from maximizing your potential, developing your core skill sets, and expanding your horizons. Organized summationality is too non-intuitive, the rigidity of a framework destroys your cozy relationship with the feeliness of it all. Straightjacket!



RECTILINEATION

Dude, I can remember when I first encountered excel - it was still a Macintosh-based program at that time. I thought it was head and shoulders above Lotus, both 1-2-3 and Symphony. And I had already energetically and enthusiastically mastered both of those. Excel, however, was the bee's knees, the cat's veritable miao.
Since that moment over twenty three years ago, there has scarcely been a day when I did not have an excel file open.
I even dream occasionally in excel.

I can hardly think without it.

No offense really intended, dude, but clearly neither can you.


-------------------------------------------------------------

Now, about the title of this post: Mackerel is not herring.


THINKING OUTSIDE THE BENTO

Yesterday evening Savage Kitten and myself had dinner at a sushi restaurant. She is inordinately fond of seafood, and being a coastal person who spent a lot of time in Holland (a country whose commercial enterprise was first formed by fishing fleets several centuries ago), I too am rather fond of fish.

Many sushi restaurants have herring. Though it is too fatty for Japanese tastes, it is a delicious fish, relatively cheap, easy to trim and slice, and the non-Japanese seem to like it.
This restaurant, however, did not have herring.

They did have mackerel. Like herring, mackerel is fine and fatty, but while the meat of herring is rather buttery, that of mackerel is oily. There is, consequently, a profound difference in mouth-feel, especially when raw. Because of this, and differences in texture and density, the fish can spoil quickly; it must be eaten soon after capture.
For sushi, a mild cure to prolong edibility is common - which precisely explains why I am fond of mackerel sushi. To me, taste-wise, it strongly echoes Dutch-style herring, which is also lightly cured. There is even a similarity of appearance, though the flesh looks softer and less glistensome, and has a yellower hue. It is close enough, and hence very nice.

Savage Kitten however is a purist, and fiercely disagrees.
What it feels like to the tongue is probably a stronger determinant in her case.

"Mackerel is NOT herring!"

The last types of sushi we ordered were ika and maguro. The waitress must have mistaken ika for ikura....

We ate it anyhow. Within the context of a sushi restaurant, and given the variables that influence American pronunciation of Japanese words, a framework is created wherein hearing 'ikura' for 'ika' is both logical and appropriate.
You must appreciate the ikura for what it is.

Mackerel is not herring - it is significantly different.

Salmon roe is not squid, but it is very much the same.

There is no connection between the first part of this post and the last. Though really, there is.

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MARCH OF THE UNACKNOWLEDGED

At the beginning of this week, the company marked another milestone. This was announced with great pride by someone connected with either Marketing or PR - I forget which.
Like the many HUNDREDS of milestones the marking of which we have celebrated in the last ten years, it is earthshaking, boundary-pushing, elemental, glorious - take it from me, as I have heard it multiple times from multiple people.

Marketing, Sales, and the PR branch have circulated congratulatory e-mails of fulsome praise for themselves all over the place. Daily.

This achievement is worthy of cake!


QUOTE:
"Very impressed! ... thought is looked cool ... content was deep ... GREAT JOB ... now LIVE! ... appreciation ... and the many others ... this project the best it can be ... big thanks ... Well done!"
End quote (and you may fill in the blanks).


Yay! Go team! Pom pom pom!


The neuro-typicals are VERY good at this sort of thing. They have changed the world, and done the moral equivalent of curing cancer. Yay.


Hmmmph!


Let’s hear it for the killer Finance team that makes all of this self-congratulatory poofle possible!
And how about the tolerant contributors in Customer Service, OPS, Prod. Dev., and IT, who year after year shore up the creaking timbers of the salt mine?
Yay, us! Yay!

And a raspberry to you!



Please note: NO Marketing People or PR provocateurs were harmed in this post.
We tried, but they weren't even aware of our presence. Sorry.
Plus the skittery little bastards ran away - they saw something shiny.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

AROMATIC THINGS

Savage Kitten has been one of the most fortunate things to have happened to me; getting that woman crazy enough to actually live with me has been another.
Even though she believes me to be a a weird white man, an utter deviant, and an obsessed sicko, it turns out we are 'simpatico' in a number of ways.
Apparently my weird sick deviance does not disturb her too much.

Well, not any more than is necessary.


My food habits sometimes did surprise her, but were not disturbing at all. She already knew that white people were extremely odd about food. We had fetishes and dislikes. We didn't just eat anything, unlike the Cantonese.
White people were unimaginative eaters - we would order sweet and sour pork over rice every single time.


She and I share the kitchen, more or less, but have divergent ideas about doing so.

If I'm doing the cooking, I can be interrupted at any time for conversation. Multitasking is what whitey does best in a kitchen, though it is debatable that whitey should actually be in the kitchen at all when conversation is necessary - the jury still out.
Conversation is often necessary. I should know that by now.

If she's cooking, however, I must keep my distracting tuchus out of the kitchen as much as possible - whatever is on the stove is a surprise.
Go smoke somewhere, don't bother me; I'm cooking!


Culinarily, my chief function in this relationship is to keep the kitchen stocked with interesting stuff.

She was happy to discover that I kept shrimp paste (Haahm haa jeung 鹹蝦醬) in the refrigerator, along with oyster sauce (ho-yau 蠔油) and various other fragrant condiments.

The 'library' of hot sauces, mostly homemade, was far less thrilling - chilipepper was a fearsome plant, its aficionados possibly psychopaths. Certainly, I was a bad example.

[There was a period several years ago when she kept discovering bags of sugar and jugs of vinegar around the apartment - for a while I had been making and selling my own hot sauce - which convinced her that she was living with a loony. Ferreavensakes, who stores sugar in a bookcase?!? Then some relatives came to town and gibbered about liquor stores and "delicious pastries", ecstatic every time they passed a bakery or place that sold vodka. This convinced Savage Kitten that I was in fact quite 'normal'.]

Homemade peanut sauce, ketjap manis, and stinky Indonesian salad dressings were good, one could use them in many ways.
Coconut milk, olive oil? Sherry instead of rice wine? Cool!
Mayonnaise, mustard, banana ketchup, and chutneys likewise had their uses.

Olives and capers, however, were exceedingly nasty things. Even today she has a hard time thinking of them as edible.

What she really appreciated were the spices.
Cantonese-American girls grow up in an culinary environment that has five-spice powder (ng-heung fun 五香粉), black pepper (Wu-chiew 胡椒), dried orange peel (chanpei 陳皮), and salt (yim 鹽) - Toishanese cooking relies on fresh natural tastes in judicious combinations, plus garlic, and ginger; savoury additions like soy sauce (cheurng-yau 酱油 OR see-yau 豉油), oyster sauce (ho-yau 蠔油); and a number of strongly flavoured dried foods used as lesser ingredients. Hence a multiplicity of spices is virtually unknown.

[Five spice powder is compounded of cloves (ding-heung 丁香), star-anise (baat gok 八角), cinnamon (gwaipei 桂皮), fennel seed (woei-heung 茴香), and Szechuan pepper (faa-chiew 花椒;also called Prickly Ash). These are also found uncombined as whole spices. Star-anise is often used in slow-cooked meats. Additionally, black pepper (胡椒) is used - but the name alone says that it is foreign to the Chinese: 胡椒 ('Wu-chiew') literally means 'Barbarian Pepper'.]


Words that were new to her nearly twenty years ago: Anise, annato, basil (tulsi), bird's eye, black cardamom, black mustard seed (bidji sawi), bukbok kunit (yellow spice mixture), caraway (djinten itam), cayenne, chile de arbol, chiles rocoto, chiltepin, cinnamon (kayu manis), cloves (tjengkei), coriander (katumbar), cumin (djinten), curry leaf, Delhwi garam masala, dried Thai chilies, dry ginger, fenugreek, galangal (langkuwang - dwarf ginger, also called 高良薑), green cardamom, green curry paste, guajillo, Habanero, Jalapeno, kaffir lime (djeruk perut), kala masala, kluwak nuts, lemon grass (sere), mace, nutmeg (buwa pala), oregano, paprika, paura (bukbok ura - red spice mixture), red curry paste, saffron, sambal santaka, Scotch Bonnet, serrano, Sindhi garam masala, sweet Spanish pepper, tamo kuntji ('Chinese keys'), thyme, turmeric (kunit), white pepper, yellow curry paste.


She can recognize most of these things by sight now. Which means she no longer has to call me in and ask "what is this?". That alone has made cooking more fun for her - she can happily putter about and experiment without needing me to enter the kitchen at all, and her ever increasing familiarity with my spice shelf has made the results extraordinary.

The role of a Dutchman is to keep her supplied with exotic spices.


Now keep quiet and go smoke somewhere!


A secondary role is to remember exactly where each spice is, from the other side of the firmly closed kitchen door.
No, don't come in, just tell me where I put it!

Naturally, I remember spices - I am a Dutchman.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

GREAT ROAD KILL STATE

A friend and colleague is moving to Texas. Naturally we gathered to drink him under the table in farewell. I'm not sure we succeeded - he's a hardened twenty something, and you know how dissipated that lot are - but if you had overheard our conversation while we were trying to get him hammered, you might pity Texas.


"Dude, you should buy a Glock 17."
"Why?"
"Because the ammo is available everywhere; Ohio, Estonia, Glasgow..... "
"So you're saying that it's an unimaginative weapon? I think I'd rather have something unique."
"No no no, man, suppose you get attacked by penguins, and there you are, without any ammo....."
"Penguins in Texas?"
"Well, say somewhere else - Alabama or the Congo, look, the idea is that you don't want the penguins to win!"
"Then if I'm attacked by penguins, all I have to do is go to the nearest Walmart....?"
"Exactly! Blam blam blam!"


"While you're there, get a gun rack."
"I don't even have a pickup truck, why should I get a gunrack?"
"For your bike or whatever - you don't want the natives to think you're wussy."
"How on earth would they know I'm from California?"


"Hey, get one of those things they have all over Texas, you know, that thing, what's it called ..... ?"
"Roadkill?"
"No, not roadkill, but that reminds me, you should get a stuffed armadillo holding a beer can. They got those too. It's like a cottage industry or sumpin' "
"Okay."


"Chicken-fried bacon strips! Chicken-fried bacon strips!"
"I am SO there!"


"Let us know if you need a care package."
"Dude!"


Anyhow, I'm a little hung-over today, and Alex is on his way to the Lone Star Republic.
Good luck, little water monkey, good luck and G-d speed.

Your boss finally came in about half an hour ago, looking rather green. Must have turned into a Texas-sized brawl after I left, huh?

They don't have Guinness in Texas, just so you know. Real men have Budweiser with their quiche.

Avoid penguins.

Monday, August 16, 2010

STINKING RICH

Savage Kitten is of the opinion that I am insane. Bonkers. Barking mad, in fact.
No, this is not a recent development. But events of the last six years have impressed it upon her much more than ever before.


Well, one event.


One long drawn-out event.


Since Marty Pulvers, the proprietor of Sherlock's Haven, retired, I have been stockpiling pipe tobacco. Initially I was just making sure that I wouldn't run out of favourite blends after Marty sold the store. Then there was the state proposition to tax tobacco out of existence in 2006 - not its officially stated purpose, you understand, but definitely a long-term goal of the health nut fringe. It was a cause of minor heart palpitations to tobacco afficionados.
In the run-up to the November election the non-smokers in San Francisco became insufferable, damn gloating beasts. Many of them were openly crowing over the gouging that would happen after their assuredly overwhelming victory. While they hooted and gibbered, I stockpiled.
The proposition was defeated, which took the wind out of their sails and the hot-air out of their squawking. They sulked, brooded, wept.
I still stockpiled.

Shortly afterwards, while I still stockpiled, British American Tobacco had a temper tantrum, and broke off their relationship with the company to whom they had farmed out most of their blends. They finally sold rights to everything except Dunhill (the most desirable brand) to their blender. I still stockpiled.
When the various Dunhill mixtures disappeared from American tobacconists shelves, I had socked away over five hundred tins - enough for ten years of smoking.

Dan Tobaccos also disappeared. Got a few years worth of those, too.
Supplies of both Samuel Gawith and Germains have been irregular - sometimes a surfeit, sometimes a painfull dearth - for the past few years.
I shan't run out of either brand any time soon.

Further increases in tobacco taxes, plus the conviction that the State of California is out to get me, have only encouraged me to stockpile.
Stuff that I like eventually becomes unavailable.

Neurosis is a good thing.

Today I received ten more tins of Three Oaks.
I'm still stockpiling.

At present I have more than a quarter of a century's supply of pipe-tobacco stashed away. I shall be smoking till the day I croak.
Tobacco improves with age, and much of it will have been unavailable for years by then. What remains will be worth several hundred dollars per tin.

Savage Kitten will be inheriting some prime e-bay material.
Maybe then she won't think I'm so crazy after all.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

GROUND ZERO MOSQUE

There has been inordinate amount of noise recently about the stated intent by a Muslim organization to build a mosque on ground zero, which is hallowed ground. The mosque will mark Islamic dominance, and the Muslim victory over the West.


Except, of course, that that is balderdash.


The only part of it which is true is that mosque will be called “The Ground Zero Mosque” by most people.
You can thank America’s bigoted moron fringe for that last development, as the name they have given it will stick.


GROUND ZERO MOSQUE

In actual fact it is a cultural centre which will include a mosque in addition to restaurants, plus recreational, educational, and exercise facilities.
It is not on ground zero but two blocks away – and in so populous a city as New York, two blocks is a very fair distance.
It's on private property, manifestly not part of the ground zero site, in a district which is centrally located, and home to a very large number of people from all over the planet – Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Animists, Atheists, and G-d knows what else including possibly worshippers of Saint Sarah Palin, Moose Killer.

The actual location is a defunct Burlington Coat Factory store.
At present, bums micturate against its 'hallowed' walls.


The opposition to the "mosque" is spearheaded by, among others, Pamela Geller, John Joseph Jay, Robert Spencer, David Yerushalmi, Newt Ginggrich, and Dutch political maverick and sometime media whore Geert Wilders.

These people are not exactly sane and balanced - the best that can be said for them is that they are possibly human. None of them is particularly known for rational discourse.

Truth be told, despite the Jews who have jumped on board the anti-mosque bandwagon, what fuels this debate is mean spirited Christian bullshit.
Bucket loads of it.

There's also more than a hint of racism in the opposition to the 'mosque'.

That, too, is a reflection of mean spirited Christian bullshit.



RELIGIOUS BUILDING

"If two blocks is too close to Ground Zero, how far away would be acceptable? Six blocks? One mile? Ten miles?"
------Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg


Two of the most prominent buildings in San Francisco are cathedrals - the Catholics have their monstrosity on the edge of Japantown, the Anglicans occupy the top of Nob Hill with a Gothic wedding cake. Both of these Christian houses of worship dominate their areas in a way which will be impossible for Cordoba House in New York.

Frankly, the presence of both of those Cathedrals repulses me. The long struggle for survival against Spain, Portugal, and the Church of Rome that my Calvinist ancestors fought still demands requital, and that the pussy Anglicans built a neo-Gothic horror out of cement, with frills and curlicues, instead of something more serene and Californian in its inspiration, demonstrates more than anything else possibly could that those sneering and superior WASPS can be as tacky, tasteless, and nouveau riche as anyone else.

Both of those buildings are scarce more than vulgarity brushed broad.
But in the United States, freedom of religion includes the right to build your religious edifices where and how you please.


1.General rule. No government shall impose or implement a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person, including a religious assembly or institution, unless the government can demonstrate that imposition of the burden on that person, assembly or institution
a. is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
b. is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.



HALLOWED GROUND

Pamela Geller and her repulsive cronies also wish to assert that Ground Zero, and everything within several blocks of it, is sacred territory, and that the Muslims by their evil plan would pollute it. Fie!

Bollocks - There is NOTHING there that is sacred. We Americans are not idolators or death worshippers. New York real-estate is by no means magic, and other than the actual site of ground zero, there is no symbolic value to any plot of land there.

"Sinds die Engelstaligen de boel verpest hebben is Nieuw Amsterdam naar de kloten gegaan."
['since the English speakers poxed the place, New Amsterdam has gone to the testicles'.]

I absolutely refuse to worship New York. Or its pizza. Or any of the stuff that is so New Yorkese.
I do not watch 'Friends' or 'Barney Miller'. Kojak was a lousy show too.
Broadway sucks. New York franks are pretty much crap, cheesecake gives me bile, big-ass sandwiches are an abomination.
As a refugee from that G-d forsaken place once said, "it was insanely loud, hot, and smelled like sulfur; perhaps for some folks it's their vision of the life hereafter."


To finish, let me quote another friend: "If New York represents anything, it represents the diversity, tolerance and vitality of America. Standing against a mosque and cultural center does not honor those traditions."

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

FAT LITTLE VIRGINS

Fellow blogger Dovbear has posted a list of the best things that he has ever eaten. As you would expect, it is an interesting reflection of his environment, and I recommend reading his post, both for the vicarious gustatory pleasure as well as what is says about the man.

"The chicken is out of this world"

No, he's not the Swedish Chef.

He also suggested if any other semi-famous bloggers would like to pick up the meme, he would link in exchange for a link. I cannot claim to be semi-famous or even semi-infamous. In the slightest.
But I am an almighty opportunist. And I like the idea.


FUNNEST FOODS - A LIST

Herring at Van Altena's stand outside the Rijksmuseum
Mr. Van Altena was neurotic about the quality and presentation of his merchandise, and the cleanliness of his stand. He sold the finest and most delicious groene haring you would ever see, perfectly trimmed and boned - a veritable sushi-chef's praestation. His haring-kot was a landmark.

Unfortunately, he closed a few years back, because the municipality would not allow him to upgrade his water lines. Rabbosai, this was a tragedy of horrific proportions. Savage Kitten wept when she heard the news.

FYI: Groene haring is the same as matjes herring. The term 'matje' is demotic from 'maagdje', a 'little virgin'. So-called because the little virgin is still immature, and has been storing up fat for her first winter. It's the high percentage of fat which makes her delicious.

Once the fish is caught, it is gutted except for the alvleesklier (pancreas), and lightly salted, packed, chilled. The pancreatic enzymes and the very mild cure combined make for a very tender bit of fish. Now, in order to kill the herring nematode, Dutch law requires that the beastie get frozen solid for twenty four to forty eight hours, then thawed again under precise conditions. It is this which allows one to enjoy Dutch-style herring year-round, instead of just during the fishing season. As you may have surmised, Dutch herring is raw by American standards, though not so by Japanese taste. The cure is very light indeed.

Pickled herring is no substitute. Aside from being a repulsive German abomination of no edibility whatsoever. Just so you know. Ick poo.


Lunch at Heathrow AirportThe English are not famous for their food. About some of which the less said the better. Far worse than mediocre English food, however, is the prepackaged slopkettle which airlines are pleased to serve as grub on their longer flights. So it was with considerable pleasure that I discovered a chain of caviar huts at Heathrow. What the heck, why not? In addition to caviar, they also had smoked salmon, gravlax, and various other wonderful fishy things, plus chilled vodka.
We had lunch there while waiting for our flight. I drank her vodka. Then we had lunch again, less than five minutes after our first lunch. And more vodka - it came with the meal.
I was happy as a clam all the way back to San Francisco, and sneeringly rejected the humble chow that was offered on board. Darn fine eating, baby.


Dinner in AntwerpWhen Savage Kitten and I were overseas, we tripped to Antwerpen for the day. Yes, we left the hotel at a reasonable hour....... but en-route to Amsterdam Centraal Station we ran into obstacles. You see, there were herring stands (haring kotten) along the way. Savage Kitten felt a pressing though not altogether practical need to sample their wares, right then and right there, in order to compare them to Van Altena - in the spirit of scientific inquiry of course.

We arrived at the trainstation several hours delayed, nearly six hours later we rolled into Antwerpen. By then Savage Kitten's bloodsugar levels had plummeted, and she was tired, grumpy, and mewling fiercely. Only one thing to do - drag her to a restaurant and feed her.
At a place of which not even a trace remains on the internet, we feasted on a sumptuous array of chilled seafoods, followed by a few discrete warm dishes, and luscious desserts.

We've revisited Belgium a number of times since.
To quote Savage Kitten, more or less, "the Belgians beat the pants off of you Dutch when it comes to food good gracious you guys got nothing nothing man those Belgians can cook you guys suck you know that really suck hah eel and cheese but the Belgians that fish those shrimp the mussels anguilles au vert the darling little lamb chops baa baaaaaaa waterzooi and those chocolates pralines pastries the delightful pate carbonade soup sausages - cheeses H. that was good that was something oowee really can we go back again soon can we can we can we?"


Sushi for several hundred dollarsIn the early eighties there was a sushi restaurant at Grant and Bush, before that intersection became the Eurotrash district of Chinatown. It was a very good sushi restaurant. One time, several of us drove from Berkeley to San Francisco in the middle of the night to eat there, as we lusted for fine fish. We stayed till four in the morning. We spent every last dime we had. We left with smiles all over our faces and all over our insides.


Curried potatoesFor several years I worked at an Indian restaurant. The chef, Jeet Singh Rawat, was a clean man, and a darn fine cook. There was a dish he made for the staff which was fairly simple but utterly delicious. Potato chunks in a modicum of buttery spicy sauce. It was not on the menu, but was similar in some ways to a typical restaurant vindaloo - there was a tangy element almost overpowered by the main reason many Indians eat out: ghee. Plus garlic, cumin, fenugreek, deghi mirch, etcetera.


Gehakte leber
Which is how I found out about gout. It wasn't my own gehakte leber that did it. It was hers. I am too lazy to make it often, so she made some. It was very enjoyable. Delicious. Smooth, but not too smooshy - the smoothness was schmaltz. Liver, schmaltz, onion. Sheer heaven.
The attack of gout lasted for three days. I am become a grumpy old coot.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

SPLEENS IN THE MIST

I don’t know what it is. Perhaps the cold weather. It affects people.
One of my coworkers has indicated that in her estimation I am an incompetent and don’t know my job. That, at least, seems to be the gist of an angry e-mail squawk.

I have no evidence that she knows my job either.

Apparently, in addition to calling the relevant accounts payable contact person regarding a past-due invoice, I am also supposed to alert the buyer, the stock clerk, the warehouse manager, the receiving department, and the president of the delinquent company, in addition to our sales people, their marketing department, various important vice presidents, and the entire gardening crew of a gated community.

Had I alerted the customer that there was a past-due invoice?
Yes.
I left a clear message for the AP department. In addition to sending an e-mail.

As this customer is quite reliable, and financially stable besides, it is likely that the invoice has been misplaced. Their average days to pay are within five days of the due date. There have been some changes there but nothing to worry about, so no doubt in the fullness of time the invoice will be taken care of.
Whether the accounts payable person intends to tell the buyer, stock clerk, warehouse manager, receiving department, comptroller, president, or anybody else (possibly including but not limited to: salesreps, gatekeepers, coffee lady person, janitorial staff, or even the entire neighborhood) about the past-due invoice which is or will be paid (in the fullness of time) is not known to me.

I do not see how that would help…….. but it probably can’t do any harm.
If she feels like it, why not?
I have no idea what the customs are regarding past-due invoices in deep South Texas.
Maybe they garland them with strings of marigolds and sprightly bear them forth dancing, ere writing the cheque. All with great ceremony. Perhaps even feasting.
Bully for them if so.


The order that is scheduled to ship next week will indeed ship – I see no reason to hold it past the scheduled ship date.


There is, in fact, no indication that anything needs to be brought to the attention of the buyer, the stock clerk, the warehouse manager, the receiving department, and the company president. Or any sales people, marketing departments, concerned citizens, vice presidents, Fox newscasters, robed dignitaries, shrive-designated priests or witchdoctors, powerful local headmen and their retained soothsayers and ritualists, blind bards, or whoever mows the lawn and trims the shrubbery in any gated community anywhere.

The world is not coming to an end.
Not over this account in any case.
Trust me.


[-----LONG PAUSE-----]


In order to regain my composure – now that I’ve been alerted that I am an incompetent, just spinning my thumbs, and probably vastly overpaid for that paltry and useless service, in all no more than a hindrance to the proper functioning of the company and an unnecessesary obstacle to profit – I took a walk.

I ended up going to a tobacconist I seldom patronize, to browse quietly among the leaves.

While there I found a tin of pipe tobacco which they may have had on the shelf since Marty retired five years ago. In any case, several years old, nicely tin-aged and probably a delight to smoke. It’s a great find, and I shall enjoy it immensely.

Why had that tin of tobacco not sold in the interim?
Well, for much the same reason that I seldom patronize them.
They don’t know what they are doing.
Just like me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

REAL ANIMAL LOVER

There’s a small personable dog outside the office building. It is on a leash, and the leash is attached to a sandwich board. The small dog is patiently waiting for the return of its human being.

The human being whose "return" is so patiently being awaited is in plain sight, in a long line of other humans at a food truck. The small dog is single-minded, and will not be distracted. It looks in one direction only, barely even sniffing my fingers before once more focusing intently on someone a few yards away.

I pride myself on offering a veritable smorgasbord of smells - do you know where my fingers have been? This is perilously close being rejected. My reek isn't fascinating enough for you?

The small dog, however, is completely uninterested. It just wants to know when its human being will stop standing in line and rejoin it. Everything else is moot.

The small dog is a dachshund puppy.

Dachshunds are very likeable creatures, due to their temperament, character, and intelligence.

Quite unlike chihuahuas, which are nasty little fluffbits suitable only for being dropkicked down California Street. Much like their high-strung dimwit bimbo owners.


CHIWAWAWAWAWA!

I used to wonder why so many decadent money-lenders' playthings owned chihuahuas. What was it that attracted these women of obvious mental deficiency to the runty little obscenities? Why did they so like having an ambulatory crap factory in their handbags? What was it about four-legged cockroaches that so appealed to them?

Well yes, I realized that the complete absence of any intelligence, let alone personality, played a factor..... much like it did with the choices made by men who maintained them......

Sort of like a having a perfectly brainless lump of quivering meat. Decorative, but no interaction actually required.
Not something that appeals to me, but degustibus non disputandem etcetera.

Still. Evenso. Why?

Now I know.

Chihuahua is also a slang term for penis.

Appropriate, no?


I suspect that if someone were to dropkick a chihuahua down California Street, a dachshund would wait expectantly for the decadent money-lender's plaything to be also hefted into the air. Dachshunds know what is proper.

Monday, August 09, 2010

IF IT SMELLS LIKE UNDERWEAR ...

Underneath a posting in which I said some very good things about Samuel Gawith tobaccos, linking their blends to various San Francisco-specific personality types, "Boltcutter" wrote: "I for one am a Captain Black man. What does that say about me. Be honest - I can take it."
[This post: Clean Wholesome Habits Only.]


Really, what can one think about such a frank admission of personality issues?

Dude, you are a heretic. We used to burn people like you. Or send them to Holland.

Deservedly so.


"I for one am a Captain Black man. What does that say about me. Be honest - I can take it."

You know what you like. I would not want to spend much ("any") time in the presence of your pipes, but Captain Black, underneath that cloying funk, is actually made from pretty decent tobacco. It was developed by Herman Lane back in the sixties, I believe, in order to supply a demand for a 'quality' aromatic. If the consumers want it, it must have valid properties.
Wouldn't smoke it myself, though. The words "last tobacco on earth" come to mind.......

I too occasionally veer into aromatic territory, as I like a bit of perverted fun now and then. Sometimes Erinmore, sometimes 1792 Flake - both of which I've stockpiled, as well as Independence by Dan Tobaccos, of which I've only got a few tins left.

NEVER EVER AGAIN THIS HORRIFYING ABORTION OF A BLEND: CLAN

All the Aromatics I have written about can be found here: Oooooh, Stinky!.

[But, if you sincerely wish to reform your evil ways, you really should read about Balkan Sobranie - it will open your eyes to a whole new world. Although it is no longer available, it is still the model by which many mavens and obsessive types judge tobaccos.]

Okay..... The ball is back in your court.



APPENDIX:TOBACCO PERSONALITIES - CONDENSED VERSION

1792 Flake: Electric pink panties, bright smile. Charming.
Balkan Flake: Lacy underwear, ruffles, spectacles, hello kitty. Girlish.
Commonwealth Mixture: Lovely raven hair, bright face. Evil sense of humour.
Full Virginia Flake: Dark skirts, pale blouses, strings of pearls, a perfect little lady.
Grousemoor: Fondness for smutty literature, only one brassiere (size: mosquito bite). Petite.
Skiff Mixture: Blue jeans, sweaters, ponytail. Sparkling.
Squadron Leader: Kissy-poo lips, blushing cheeks. Quite charming.
Saint James Flake: Spunky and vivacious. Stimulating conversationalist.
Westmoreland Mixture: Lacy garments well hidden, long soft hair, smart aleck. Self-assured.

[All products listed above are from Samuel Gawith, which is a very fine English tobacco company located in Kendall, Cumbria, somewhere north of nearly everywhere else.]
You see, anyone who smokes Samuel Gawith has a lot of common sense for her age, as well as exceptional taste. And quite the enchanting personality.
So we can assume that it must be incredibly popular among Cantonese-American high school girls attending Lowell.

The smoker of Captain Black, however, is probably a large butch blonde.
And the less said about such a person, the better.




TOBACCO INDEX


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LETTER BOX.
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.
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HULA TILL YOU'RE BLUE!

Several friends suggested that we should attend a cultural event - The 16th Annual San Francisco Aloha Festival - held at the Presidio. That was this past weekend.

Saturday & Sunday, August 7 & 8, 2010, 10am - 5pm
San Francisco Presidio Main Post/Parade Grounds
(next to the Visitor Center and Officers' Club)

http://www.pica-org.org/AlohaFest/index.html


Food, music, dancing! Hula hula hula! Mele mele mele!

I left the decision up to Savage Kitten. Saturday was out of the question, as she had a family thing to attend. On Sunday, when I brought matter up, she was ... pensive.

She likes other people's foods. And their interesting cultural quirks. Browsing handicrafts is always fun, and there might even be piles of meat!

We decided not to go. The prospect of watching large golden brown people with goosebumps and hula skirts going into hypothermic shock did not appeal to us. And we aren't trained first responders, so.......


ALOHA!

Coldest darn summer in San Francisco in decades. Bitter, nasty, positively Canadian. Like the buggery moors of Scotland. When I went out to Japantown yesterday afternoon to buy some books, an arctic wind was blowing. After leaving Kinokunya I could feel my beard turning soggy from the droplets in the air.

Japantown is considerably warmer and more sheltered than the Presidio.

Do Polynesians turn greyish when they're cold? Are chattering teeth acceptable rythmic accompaniment?
Is there a graceful and poetic way to dance-mime "I'm freezing my papa-kole off"?
These are questions for which I have no answer.
Maybe next year I shall go on my own. Wearing a sealfur Mikimak parka and heavy woolen underwear.
If I'm not back in a month, send in a rescue party.

Friday, August 06, 2010

FINE TOISHANESE QUALITY!

As you know, I drink and smoke. Abstention, in my life, is something best sampled sparingly. But I do not swear.
Savage Kitten on the other hand makes up for my defects by not drinking or smoking at all.
She swears like a trooper, but in her hands that’s a virtue. I have mentioned her mouth elsewhere, so shall not go into it here. It’s a very Cantonese thing.

[The Cantonese cannot help their foul tongues. Their native speech is a multi-layered construct of blisteringly unprintable hyperbole, made the more fertile by imaginative phrasing and a keen appreciation for the expressive possibilities of filth. A Cantonese woman swearing up a storm is a sight to hear – the earth shakes, dark clouds gather, and the temperature drops several degrees. Learn the language, then you will know.]

Pursuant a previous posting, reader Ari asked "Are you sure she doesn't smoke stogies or swill beer?"


Quite. Absolutely. One hundred and ten percent.


She is womanly virtue personified.


For one thing, she can't drink. If she has one or two teaspoons of whiskey in her warm milk at night, she'll sleep like a baby. A sip of hooch makes her face flush, and her mind will quiver dangerously in its moorings.
Which, I should add, is very disturbing.
Cantonese minds are twisty little beasts at the best of times, how much more so when the bonds of sobriety are loosened? Fortunately a stiff shot would knock her out before she got up on the table to dance.

As for smoking, a few weeks ago I was so thoroughly enjoying a pipeful of Three Oaks mixture that I suggested she take a delicate puff to taste. She has still not forgiven me.
Tobacco is the devil's weed. I am an evil white man. Punkt.
I rest secure in the knowledge that she will never smoke.


"Are you sure she doesn't smoke stogies or swill beer?"


A few years ago she won several medals at a martial arts tournament in Nevada. In high spirits she called me up to request a bottle of Champagne to celebrate when she came home.
I purchased a very good brand....... she likes good champagne, not that cheap swill that's served by her sister-in-law's crowd at baby showers. Or whenever. Expensive, lah!

It was a VERY good brand.

She drank a quarter of a glass.

Two weeks later I used the rest of the bottle in a pork stew. With dried mushrooms. And anchovies melted in the butter before adding the meat. I didn't want it to go bad, you see.
It was the most expensive pork stew I have ever made. But it was very good.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

FILTERED PORK PRODUCTS

There were over fifty e-mails that I did not get today. And actually, I’m feeling good about that. Not everything ever sent needs to arrive.

Most of the e-mails were about wonderful things I can do with my penis. Now, you would think that having had the thing for several years (my whole life, in fact), I myself would be most cognizant of strange tricks I can do with Brother Dongus. I’m in the best position to know, right?

No.

There’s a panel of experts out there, all of them alerting me to misuse.
Or leastways, incomplete or haphazard use. Of my penis. There is SO much more I can and should be doing (with my Johnson) that they feel the need to contact me.

Several of the e-mails had titles that referenced medication.
I did not open them, because I know EXACTLY where my John Thomas has been in the last thirty years or more, and I have reason to believe it has only been in good wholesome places.
My penis has led a fine upstanding life, in fact.
No medical treatment needed.

A number of e-mails suggested I should either encourage breathlessness, panicked gasping for air, or violent agitation.
Possibly this would also involve medication, and did I already mention that I’ve kept complete and accurate track of what my Dangling Modifier has ever done, and where?

I'm rather OCD that way. It's a gift.

Some messages were captioned in a way that suggested that penile dimensions and electric energy were linked – I do not intend to solve the energy crisis myself, so I did not read those either.


ZESTY YOUNG NUNS!

The one about teenage lesbians in the rectory looked interesting, but having seen more than enough nude documentaries over the years I am painfully aware that my tastes and the tastes of the average home and garden pervert do, in fact, differ considerably. I have good taste, the average deviant doesn’t.
Almost everything that Bubba MacSmut likes is unpleasant – the common pornographer has the jejune tastes of a twelve-year old, and the cinematographic hamhandedness of a tourist with a new gadget. We do NOT need to see your auntie wave at the camera in front of cousin Betsy blowing the world’s oldest donkey. But thank you for the offer, and feel free to keep showing that vacation tape to your friends and family.
They’ll be delighted!

The saddest e-mail was the one that may have suggested that sex with a teacher was in the cards.
I cannot remember any teachers who appealed to me in that way, although several of them did smoke cigars, and I like cigars. Cigars are very good.
Cigars are not a sound basis for exploitative sex with elderly people, however. And even though they weren’t elderly when I knew them, even in that day and age they weren’t quite my ‘type’.
Sorry.

Besides, it just isn’t right to depend on teachers for a bang. They probably cannot handle it with equanimity, and seeing the person who forced his exuberant youth on them in class everyday might make them nervous. In any case it would affect their instruction. Some teachers are shy, and blush easily, a few stutter at the drop of a hat.
And many are far too obsessed with their own peculiar subject to be interested in anyone else's "peculiar subject".


As per the recommendation of our e-mail filter, I have deleted all e-mails selected. Somewhere a spammer is weeping.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

SANDY, QUICK, AND FRAGRANT

We have been informed that our Hong Kong office is now on the other side of the road.
For the benefit of my coworkers, most of whom will never read this, here's a bit of linguistic help.
[If your machine is not configured to show Chinese script,you are well and truly hosed. Sorry.]

ADDRESS
地址 : 香港 九龍 尖沙咀東 麼地道 xx號 xx廣場 xx樓 xx室


[地址 address ('day-djee'; earth location, address): 香港 Hong Kong (Fragrant Harbour); 九龍 Kowloon (Nine Dragons); 尖沙咀東 Tsim Sha Tsui Tung (Sharp Sand Chew East); 麼地道 Mody Road (What? Earth Road; 道road, way, darma; also the Tao spoken of so fondly by white hippies) xx號 number xx xx廣場 XX Kwong Cheung ('XX Broad Stage/Threshing floor; 廣場 public square, commercial centre; 場 stage or threshing floor) xx樓 xxth storey (樓 lou = floor, storey; multi-storeyed building) xx室 xx room (室 sat = room, compartment, domicile).]

"Heungkong Kaulung Tseemsatsoey-tung, Mo-day tow xx ho, XX Kwong-cherng, xx lau, xx sat."

Region or country first, then city, then district, then street address, then floor, then room (suite).

Now please practice writing and saying that until you've got it down perfectly. There may be a test.


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ADDITIONAL DATA


SHARP SAND

Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀), often abbreviated TST, is an urbanised area in the Yau Tsim Mong District (油尖旺區) in southern Kowloon (九龍), Hong Kong (香港).
Tsim Sha Tsui East is mostly land reclaimed from Hung Hom Bay (紅磡灣; Hung Ham Waan - red sea-cliff bay) east of Tsim Sha Tsui. The area is bordered on the north by Austin Road and in the east by Hong Chong Road.

Geographically, Tsim Sha Tsui is a cape on the tip of the Kowloon Peninsula pointing towards Victoria Harbour (維多利亞港 Wei Do Lei Ya Gong). Several villages existed here before Kowloon was ceded to the British in 1860. Tsim Sha Tsui in Chinese means sharp sand mouth. It was also known as Heung Po Tau (香埗頭), fragrant wharf head - because of the export of tree-incense.


SWIFT WATER

Maps from the Ming (明朝) and Ching (清朝) dynasties give the channel between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central as Chung Mun (中門 middle gate) because it is located in between two other channels, Kap Shui Mun (汲水門 gulp water gate) in the west and Lei Yue Mun (鯉魚門 carp gate) in the east.

Kap Shui Mun (汲水門) is a large channel, between Lantau Island (爛頭 raggedy head, also called 大嶼山 - taai yu san: big islet mountain) and Ma Wan (馬灣 horse bay). It is on the major route along the southern coast, from Victoria Harbour to the Pearl River.

The original name of Kap Shui Mun was the same, but written with a different first character (急水門), thus reading as fast-moving water gate, which accurately references the treacherous current in the channel. In order to change the associations of the name with something more fortuitous, it was renamed: kap shui mun (汲水門), "water-fetching gate". Water implies wealth (so, in a sense, 'wealth seize gate').


SINKING FRANGRANCE

Incense tree (Aquilaria sinensis) from the New Territories was warehoused at wharves in Tsim Sha Tsui and transferred to Shek Pai Wan (石排灣 rock rows bay) on the southern shore of Hong Kong Island to be exported to rest of the world. Hence, of course, the name 'Fragrant Harbour' (香港 Heung Kong).

Aquilaria sinensis (agarwood 沈香 tsam heung: sinking frangrance) is a species of tree in the Thymelaeaceae family, native to China. The tree produces a heavy wood used for incense. Previously, incense sticks of this wood were manufactured in Hong Kong, but due to the scarcity of the wood this is now rare. Sandal wood and winter pear are still made locally, however.

The fragrant quality of the wood results from a stress condition that creates resin-rich strata within the heart wood. The resin can be extracted in large quantities at the site of natural fungal infections, or by incising to a depth of two inches through the bark. After a few years the resin which will have collected in the affected part can be harvested. Formerly, the tree would be felled and the resin expressed out by heat. Resin-rich pieces of the wood are still sold as an expensive and pure incense. Trees older than two decades yielded the best incense, and were more resin-rich, than young growth.

Nowadays decent quality agarwood is also derived from a related tree, Aquilaria malaccensis, but supplies of even that are diminishing.

Another name for the product is Pak Muk Heung (白木香) (White Wood Fragrance), because of the white to off-white hue of the wood.


NOTE: the very best 沈香 comes from old trees long dead in the wilds of Annam and Tonkin, or their malaccensis kin in the forests of Malaya and Borneo. These products can still be found in San Francisco if one looks with perseverance. But if such things are not available, or only the cheaper brands, you might prefer Snow Pear Fragrance (雪梨香 suut-lei heung).
Aquilaria renders a resinous almost oily aroma when smoldering, sandalwood and white sandalwood can be quite sweet, Snow Pear gives a thin dry mildly floral woodsiness.

Because of the spare fragrance of Snow Pear and the powderiness of the sawdust used to manufacture stick incense, joss can only be made when the humidity in the air is just right - less glue is used so as not to overpower - and the sticks can easily crack, the wood powder flake off in chunks, if badly made or improperly stored.
When you find it available, buy a few bundles for later.

All wood incenses discourage mosquitoes, evoke a literary mood, and will furthermore disguise the smell of pipe tobacco smoked in the side room overlooking the garden late at night, which one's significant other may have expressly and unreasonably forbidden.
Incense adds to the quality of life.



ADDENDUM: A FEW OTHER TERMS RELATED TO INCENSE

Taan = sandalwood; purple-red; a surname.
紫檀 Zi taan = red sandalwood; 紫 Zi = purple, purple red; a surname.
青檀 Tseng taan = blue-green sandalwood (Pteroceltis tatarinowii Maxim), from the bark of which 宣紙 is made. 宣紙 = Suun chee ('proclamation paper'), an excellent caligraphy paper from Geng-Yun (涇縣), Suen Seng (宣城), in Onfai (安徽 Anhui) province.
栴檀 Jin taan = sandalwood.
Tsaam = sandalwood (Santalum album), a tree that produces fragrant oil.
檀島 Taan-to = Sandalwood Isles; Hawaii.

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