Tuesday, December 31, 2019


All over the internet people are retrospecting over the past ten years. What they did, what they felt, what they lost or won, and who has gone forever.
Yeah um no. It was interesting, which is all I will say about it.
Instead, let me tell you about the year, and the day.

今年: In the past year I had a coronary stent put in, got on medication for extremely high bloodpressure, and ruptured my appendix. All of which together is like watching 'Cats', I guess.
I haven't seen 'Cats', but after all the reviews describing it as supernaturally batsh*t lousy, just phenomenally bad, downright unbelievably awful, monumentally and epically crap, I feel I should go see it.
What will tip me over that edge is if a charming, sane, kind and intelligent woman offers to see it with me. Something so bad could be "our movie". With many tunes that could be "our song".

If there is ONE movie that will have nearly empty theatres on Valentine's Day, that would be it.

So it's decided then; I'm probably not going to see 'Cats'.

Unless I bring a stuffed animal.

今日: Today was a busy day. Bank, haircut, lunch. One of the other patrons of the lunch place had applied black shoepolish as eye-shadow, and wore form-hugging spandex yoga pants. Many of the other people there kept a wary eye on him, out of the corners of their eyes. Nothing adds zest to a meal more than a possibly dangerous deranged man gustatoriating.
We worried that his fur hat would fall into his soup bowl.
It would have been quite disastrous.

Tea more than two hours later was a place which had two loonies talking loudly into non-existent cellphones immediately behind me, and a gentleman with frozen fingers trembling in front of me.

Which I could very well understand -- having left my little black knit gloves at home, my own fingers were quite blue, and the hot cup took ten minutes to warm them back up to fresh corpse temperature -- and I radiated as much sympathy as I could. Once he saw my digits, he relaxed considerably. He was no longer ashamed of his spasms, or the seemingly neurotic behaviour with his own tea-cup. His fingers were too cold to lift it to his lips.
He bent down to slurp.

The Chinese term for Raynaud's phenomenon is 雷诺氏综合征 (减少的血管血流). 'Leui-nok-si jung-hap-jing (gaam-siu dik huet-gun huet lau)'. Which I should memorize, as doing so would simplify things, especially that last part: 'gaam-siu dik' (lessened, decreased) 'huet-gun' (artery, veins) 'huet lau' (blood flow).

The specific cure for 减少的血流 ('gaam-siu dik huet lau'; decreased circulation) in the fingers and toes is a hot cup of milk tea.
Plus a well-chosen Chinese pastry.
Trust me on this.

So it was a very good last day of the year. I'm probably not going to stay up for any dropping balls, though. Go ahead, party among yourselves.

Oh by the way: I gave the apartment mate a small raccoon today.
Like many 'roomies', he listens to the wrong advice.
There will be NO eating of hamsters!

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My apartment mate broke a bottle of rose-scented liquid yesterday evening while abluting. As long as I've known her, she's liked the smell of roses. In consequence of that little accident, the bathroom now reeks like a florists. Which is somewhat surreal. There you are, scroping your chin, and there are roses. You take a leak, roses. Hack up a hairball, roses.
Proper toe-care? Roses.

The kitchen of course pongs like me. Or, more precisely, the aromas of my curries and hot beverages, which cleverly mask the odour of cigarillos.
A major incentive to eat well is that I must disguise the smell of smoke. Especially during cold weather, when I don't feel like going outside.

Despite the sub-tropic antecedents of her people she is entirely a temperate zone person, whereas I, though of distant Northern European ancestry and partial more recent background (I lived there as a child, my parents moved there when I was two), prefer warmer weather. I would have done very well in Hong Kong if there had not been so many Englishmen there. Now of course the dominant Caucasian element is Australians, who are drunk, disorderly, and damned well unintelligible, rife near Lan Kwai Fong where all the western bars, sex-crazed Europeans, and rugby fiends are.

English and Aussies tend toward "loud" behaviours.

Here in SF both of those cultural groups are in short supply, which probably explains why people sometimes guess that I am either of those.
When they don't presume Irish or Bostonian.
Faint accent, good diction.

Or, in the case of a waitress at a chachanteng, referring to me as a fake barbarian, because even though I have that barbarian skin and barbarian hair, I don't sound like one of them. We Dutch are very good at picking up languages, and as a Dutch American striving to remain true to my heritage and our reputation, I made myself become good at linguistic shiznit, and learned several Asian tongues.

Another waitress thought for years that I had grown up in Hong Kong.

No, I just went to movie theatres and saw every film in Cantonese produced between the late seventies and the early nineties. The period when Andy Lau (劉德華) was still a good actor rather than a goofy stage performer, and Chow Yunfat (周潤發) did the gallant underworld hero on screen so well.


All of that provided the discordant note a year ago, when I stumbled into the clinic on the bottom floor of Chinese Hospital (東華醫院) more dead than alive. I had chosen them as my primary care providers when signing up for insurance, figuring that if any one was good at dealing with stubborn old coots who swear in foreign languages and don't happily follow their doctors' orders, well, that described a large part of their patient demographic very precisely, and when my insurance kicked in, I toddled over there and got the medical attention I needed. Freaked out little nurse Mak by having sky high blood pressure and being on the cusp of insane.

A few hours later I left with two prescribed medicines, and an appointment for tests later in the month, had a procedure done shortly thereafter, and later in the year they did emergency surgery on a ruptured appendix.
Little nurse Mak probably still thinks I'm goofy.
But I'm much saner now.

If Miss Mak hadn't been weirded out by a delirious Caucasian speaking lousy Cantonese, I would be dead now. So I am quite appreciative.

Did I mention that I'm much saner too? Not being dead and getting expert medical attention does remarkable things for a man's mental state.

Everything is coming up roses.


假鬼佬 ('gaa kwai lo'): fake foreigner; possibly an Englishman on vacation. There are other meanings.
亂噏 ('luen ngaap'): to prattle nonsense, to talk deliriously.
神經病的 ('san ging ping dik'): crazy, insane.
荷蘭裔美國人 ('ho laan yeui mei kwok yan'): Dutch-descended American person. An American of Netherlandish ancestry. A civilized beast.
黐線佬 ('chi sin lou'): a right freak, weirdo.
高血壓 ('gou huet ngaat'): high blood pressure, hypertension.
血管成形術 ('huet gun sing ying seut'): installing a stent; it improves circulation and one's mood immensely.
闌尾手術 ('laan mei sau seut'): appendectomy.
腹膜炎 ('fuk mou yim'): peritonitis.
敗血症 ('paai huet jing'): sepsis.

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Monday, December 30, 2019


As it turns out, the way to a Turkey Vulture's heart is a gift of shortbread.
A friend gave me shortbread for old year new year, and Syndey Fylbert (the stuffed critter who entered our lives two weeks ago, a buzzard) just LOVES shortbread. Little buttery cadavers. Being a carrion eater, everything he likes is framed as "dead". Cadavers, corpses, carrion -- it's all delicious. So it stands to reason that delicious things are the three "Cees".

Pizza too. And French Fries.

He's young and innocent, and has simple tastes. And, being an upstanding and likeable fellow, an all-round decent sort, he lives in my apartment mate's room, whereas all the bent stuffed creatures inhabit my side of our living quarters.
That's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Middle-aged Dutch American men, such as, for instance, myself, ALSO like shortbread. It's very good shortbread!

I, however, do not see everything in terms of cadavers, corpses, carrion. Not being a Turkey Vulture, those things are not a fundamental part of my world. When he does it, it's charming (well, in a way; gotta take his natural native environment, diet, and culture into account). If I were to do so, it would take creepy uncle to the nth. degree, and freak people out.

Then I would flap my giant wings and take off, circling the objects of my appetite, carefully ascertaining that there are no remaining signs of life.
No last dying gasps, no convulsive final jerks and tremors.

Sydney Fylbert seems to have adapted quite nicely to a diet of hot chocolate and crinkly-cut potato chips.

And shortbread.

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You've finally realized that the time has come to rethink the holiday and family routine. Your frightful cousins from Long Island came out for Christmas, with their bratty kids, and all ten of them stayed with you for nearly two weeks. They were unbearable. Except for the sixteen year-old, who discovered your pot stash, and spent her entire visit under the bathroom sink giggling.

The dog ran off the first day. You've got flyers all over the neighborhood. ShihTzu, answers to the name Poopoopoo. Please call if found. And you are SO glad that you didn't go with the first name you thought of, Runny Poo.

Your first hound choice was a mastiff, but your girlfriend at the time put her foot down. And then you realized that you would have to be the person behind the beast with a baggie. Little Poopoopoo is probably crapping on every lawn in the neighborhood.

The dog is missing. The grass is gone. And several of your plates are broken, because the youngest kid put them in the dishwasher.
All of your sheets smell of Long Islander.
And Amici's East Coast pizza.

Thank heavens for cigars and convenience stores. Everyday you've been having a smoke under the freeway overpass and a ham sandwich from Marcel's Liquors for lunch. Quiet time. Private time. Mental health.

You're planning a long trip next year. Right around the holidays.
Someplace that your relatives don't know about.
Sublet the house first.

Too many people are finding excuses to visit California. The scenery. The wine country. The museums. The bridges. The marijuana.

Your spacious abode with all those rooms.
Conveniently located.

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Sunday, December 29, 2019


On a chilly wet evening, such as it presently is, it is good to relax with a warm cup of coffee and some maple shortbread. The latter is courtesy of our landlady, who gifted us a lovely box after Christmas.
I actually got back to my neighborhood about two hours ago, but witnessed an accident and stayed at the scene so that I could tell the cops what I had seen. And got harassed by a crazy person while waiting. Naturally I gave them the "diplomatic" report, rather than mouthing off with the unvarnished account: old guy crossed in the middle of the block, got hit by slow moving car. Barely a thump, and he fell to the ground. The old guy may have had a few, the driver was probably stoned on pot, and the crazy person is definitely off his meds and needs to be zapped with a stun gun.

While at work, which was quiet because of the weather -- it meezered all day, and even nearby features of the landscape were invisible, enveloped in dense haze in consequence -- Neil mentioned over a cup of tea that he had recently rediscovered a tin of Rattray's Jocks Mixture from shortly after production had moved from England to Germany, so probably two decades ago. He had forgotten how nice it could be.
Many of the old Scottish tobaccos go well with tea. He had spent an hour yesterday afternoon on his patio with his cat, his pipe, a cuppa, and the neighborhood coyote roaming at the far end of the yard.
The cat will not be allowed outside anymore.
Unless firmly accompanied.

[Meezered: from Dutch "miezerig" (adjective), weather twixt a thick but not hefty drizzle and a woolly soggifying mistiness. The pavement gets moist, but it's pointless to deploy an umbrella, because that suggests it's raining, and in any case it's not coming down, more of a sideways drift. Today was quite miezerig.]

Cat, tea, pipe. Sounds very nice. The coyote is a little discordant, and the poor beast may be hungry at this time of year. There are so few chihuahuas out there now. I suggested bribing the creature -- perhaps a piece of tender beef daily, to keep it from thinking of cats as dinner -- as well as leaving out a hardware store catalogue, but it seems unlikely that he'll do that.

He remarked that being moored in a desert with nothing to smoke but various Rattrays mixtures would be more than bearable. Timbouctou or someplace. A statement with which I can only agree, though I should want a regular supply of tea flown in every month as well, and a good curry restaurant there already.


Rattrays was part of the McConnell portfolio, which Kohlhase & Kopp acquired about twenty years ago. Which also included products for Astley's and Fribourg & Treyer. K & K have played a bit with the recipes, and have sometimes been less than 100% ethical regarding blend composition and original marque, but on the whole they've done an excellent job of keeping venerable names alive and in circulation.
The products under the McConnell name are all quite good, though perhaps not as famous, and they undeservedly appeal less to the neurotic blinkered pipe smoking cognoscenti.

I've had a lot of fun with them, and nothing says teatime better than cracking a tin on a rainy day and settling down for a good read while it clatters and splashes outside. Perhaps the Eindhovens Dagblad, for the crime reports about Valkenswaard over the weekend, or the Volkskrant, for childish anti-Americanism. No British newspapers, because they're virtually unreadable, and have too many titty pictures. Page three: miss Tuesday.
Does the Kempische Koerier still exist? Marriages, funerals.
And events arguably of a cultural nature.

It probably doesn't rain very often in Timbouctou.
Tea, they have. Decent curry, probably not.
Clattering outside? Camel caravan.
And rowdy Tuaregs.


The following are descriptions of several tobaccos which a well-stocked tobacconist should have, whether or not they are in Timbouctou. It would make life among the howling camelteers and pot-huffing Californians more than bearable.


Very much like Rattray’s Marlin Flake. Virginia, a little Dark Fired Kentucky, a fraction of Perique. Easy smoking, no longer folded but cut. Slightly similar to Stonehaven, but sweeter.


Virginias and Cavendishes, some Kentucky. Spritzed with fruitiness, rum, and allegedly chocolate. A well-behaved tobacco, but one which gives the purist second thoughts. Rummy, plummy, puddingy. Medium to mild, especially if dried out a bit and smoked slowly.


Latakia, Kentucky, black Virginia. But mostly Latakia. Woody and earthy. Almost floral because of steam-pressing, but the Kentucky is distinctly noticeable too. Neat but fragile black flakes. Nice. Old-fashioned and extremely English. A great late night puffer.


Contains mostly Virginias, with Orientals playing second fiddle. Fruity broken flakes. Citrussy and woodsy, topped (anethole, carotenoids).


Carolina, Virginia, Perique, and a little Macedonian (now replaced with black Virginia!), hard pressed, cut, stoved. Leathery, yeasty, figgy, complex. Very mild; a mellow easy smoker. Reminds one rather of Marlin Flake.
It is not a pebble cut. And they’ve diddled with the recipe.


Cyprus and Turkey, black Virginia, touch of Perique. An English standard, very Londonian. Smokey, leathery, dark fruit. Complex, medium.


An old classic; Carolina red with a very minor touch of Perique. Tangy, grassy, and fruity, smells roasty, mildly sweet. Fully rubbed out.
Can be subtle. Consistent. Medium-bodied. Good.


Similar to Astley’s 88. Dark, almost black. Stoved Virginia. Chunky and ribbony. Smells roasty. Rich in taste and smell, but of a single-minded character, not complex. Citrussy. Sweet. Very enjoyable.


Virginia and Kentucky with a smidge of Burley. Lovely thin-sliced broken flakes. In the tin-aroma the Virginia dominates, less so in the smoking.
Grassy, citrusy, earthy. Creamy. Good all day smoke.


Mature red Virginia and Kentucky from North Carolina, black cavendish and Turkish are blended with latakia to produce a blend which has given quiet satisfaction to smokers for over a century.
Burns evenly, smells rich and plummy. Thin flakes. Sweet, grassy, hay-like in fragrance. Delicious.


Straight Virginia, red-bronze to deep brown. Ribbon-like, fully broken, mild to mild-medium.

Now if only Timbouctou had a tea merchant worth patronizing. Without access to good tea (Assam, Ceylon, Keemun, Lapsang Souchong, Pu Erh, Golden Tippy Yunnan, plus Oolong, Iron Lohan, Dragon Well, 六安, 碧螺春, and 水金龜) settling down for a good smoke is far less enjoyable.
At work I swill weak Pu Erh like you wouldn't believe.
I'm high as a kite by the end of the day.
Proper hydration!


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This blogger, alas, is not like the Froad. Who is small and green and fuzzy. And adorable. And prides himself on being a sex god. A lean, green, love machine. With delicious thighs.

I do not have delicious green thighs.

Nor do I boast needlessly about how attractive I am to womenfolk, because the ladies in this apartment do not regard me so. They don't the Froad either, but he's full of hubris and delusional.

Louise, the Cow, a five inch tall Hollstein, likes publicly rubbing her udders against the Froad, which is frankly perverse and disturbing. Especially as it happens suddenly, and at random. If someone were to do that to me I should want fair warning. As well as a say in the matter. Announce it to me first. "Hello, pink Dutch American pipe smoking gentleman who does NOT have delicious green thighs, at some point in the very near future I may wish to rub against you, at such and such a time and such and such a place.
Please do not be alarmed!"

I would also hope that this person was already known to me, and had already introduced herself before udders or green thighs even came up.

We could share milk tea.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019


The apartment mate, who is an innocent little middle aged Cantonese American girl, likes watching trash teevee about white women elsewhere in the country. Pretentious vulgar women. And she talks.

"OMG, I can't believe how big some of those breasts are!"

"These women are just awful; it's fabulous!"

"This is so white people!"

The women in question are all American rich bitches. So it's quite utterly fascinating for a Cantonese girl who has never lived further than six blocks away from Chinatown. Though locally born. Apparently exposure to me didn't quench her curiosity about how white America lives. The America that has fake boobs (her words) and tiny little perfect noses (plastic surgery).
I have no boobs (what with being male) and my nose is normal.

Sometimes the trash women have husbands. Who are perfect for them.

"What the hell! Why is he trying on such poofy-ass shoes?!?"

Neither of us would want to move to the suburbs; we need to be close to Chinatown. Me because I need access to all the Indonesian, Chinese, and Dutch ingredients cheaply available a few blocks away, her because suburbs are where all the crazy cannibalistic white women live, earth mothers and free spirits, it's kind of like Vietcong territory, and there's howling at night.
Horrible things happen there. Strange ghastly things.
Very white things.

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Friday, December 27, 2019


The only things left for Ecky to remove this morning are Petey the Christmas Penguin and a tree, up on the beam. Seeing as penguins can't fly, one wonders how Petey got up there. And there's probably a rational explanation that fits in with Petey's personal narrative as a magic holiday beast, but I shan't research the details. I'm still traumatized by the story that Rudolph was bitten by a radioactive spider after American tests up near the Arctic Circle, and Frosty actually being a deceased fellow pipe-smoker who wasn't let back into the house by his mean wussy-ass anti-smoking health-freak kinfolk at Christmas. But in any case, we've taken down the Christmas decorations at work, including Zombie Santa.
The place looks a lot cleaner now.

Rusty Sparkles the lawn reindeer is gone too. Ecky will be glad. He hates that animal, and has fantasies of abusing her.

It's probably a memory of being tied to a metal beast and left as an offering for the fire ants as a child.

As is traditional in Southern California. Where he grew up.

My coworker yesterday is a decade and a half older than me, and knows what he's doing. Most of the time. Despite being a decade and a half older. And more creaky than I am.

First voice: "Ooh-urgh!"

Second voice, softly to a third person: "That's the sound of old men."

First voice, to no one in particular: "I have to pee now."

And there you have it. Old men need to pee. The best thing you can give the old geezers in your family for Christmas or Hanukkah is a warm empty bathroom. Preferably with an ashtray inside.

I am considerably younger than either of the gentleman with whom I worked yesterday, as well as several of the crotchetty layabouts in the backroom occupied with cigars and post-holiday grumbling.

One of whom is Jewish, but married to a Vietnamese Catholic. Who frightens the bejayzus out of him every year by decorating the house with icicles, santas, tinsel, holly, elves, festive tableaux ...... all amateurishly electrified, as has been traditional ever since that single mom gave birth to the miracle baby in a shed with a bad wiring and a bare light bulb and cowshit. Personally I feel that cowshit should always be part of the decorations, as a reminder of our more bestial nature and a crucial note of verisimilitude, but I have as yet not gotten anyone else on board with that. That's probably one of the main reasons I don't decorate for Christmas myself, because without the cowshit it would just be hypocritical. A hollow mockery. Living a lie. But I can understand why he's frightened.
He's Jewish, and has the soul of an electrician.

"What is all this badly wired possibly dangerous trash in every room? Is this the year we all die in a religious fire? And thank heavens she hasn't discovered plastic glowing cowshit yet!"

Possibly the cowshit would be the drop that makes the bucket overflow. Next year he's probably going to be at the office twelve hours a day throughout the season, because government enterprise is non-denominational, irreligious, and not covered in electric cowshit.
Either that, or he'll be in his nice warm bathroom with an ashtray for six solid weeks. From Thanksgiving till long after New Year.
Before she puts the plastic santa in there.

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Thursday, December 26, 2019


Both the apartment mate (Savage Kitten) and the Turkey Vulture (Sydney Fylbert) seem to want to keep me alive for a while. When I returned from work this evening, the Turkey Vulture (Sydney Fylbert) was on my bed with extra bottles of supplements: D3, B12, and Magnesium. That last is good for high bloodpressure and heart function, and apparently I have a heart.
This is a datum will come as a surprise to several people I know.
Who believe me full of piss and vinegar at best.


Sydney Fylbert is, of course, the newest roomie. A splendid addition to the household, despite his yearning for carrion, corpses, and cadavers. And his disconcerting habit of staring intently at the other creatures and sincerely inquiring about their health, and the lifespan of their species.

Anyhow, I now have enough supplements to last me till next Autumn, and it's nice to know that my continued existence is something desired. I've sometimes doubted that that was so. In any case, I like prezzies!
This is the season of prezzies.

Sydney Fylbert (the turkey vulture) is kind of like Big Bird's more interesting Goth cousin. Probably the nicest buzzard on this side of the Rockies.


The other day I explained what 'faecaliths' were to someone, and then demonstrated how that term, which is probably the most useless word in the medical lexicon, might hypothetically be used, by, for instance, jokingly postulating that not far from Stonehenge (a circle of giant megaliths), there was a lesser know stone circle, much smaller, made of ... faecaliths.

Maybe he wasn't listening; I then spent twenty minutes trying to assure him that the faecalithic circle of which I spoke was of no cultural or historical significance whatsoever. Non-existent, even.

He's not correctly wired.

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A friend suggested that I try internet dating. A few years ago I joined an internet dating site, with considerable apathy and a huge lack of enthusiasm. Which got worse as time went by. Most women are looking for a man who will raft down the Amazon, climb Everest, likes dogs and cuddling, and goes to the gym. Most men like moonlight walks, adventurous independent career women, cuddling, and baking quiche with honest artisanal non-gmo ingredients. After a few months I shut down that account.

Basically, internet dating is a job interview.

For a better version of yourself.

How frightful

For the record, while I know how to make a quiche, I use gmo ingredients, don't own a dog, and absolutely promise that I will never raft down the Amazon OR climb up or down Mount Everest.
Moonlight? Yeah well okay.

I think I prefer people with some reserve, rather than extroverts who put everything out there.

A friend suggested that, to be more attractive, I should quit smoking.
Actually several friends have told me that.


Pipes and tobacco are memory tools. And welcome comfort, the smell and feel of old times, late afternoon tea, rainy summer evenings, late nights with a book, the family pets from several years ago, playing hooky from high school, watercolour paintings, the Cheshire Cat, jasmine tea, smelly couch pillows, Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht operas, the narrow lane past the side of the house in Valkenswaard, a riot in front of the Spanish Consulate, palm trees on the road to Baliguan, copra in a large warehouse near the beach, fish drying in the sun, a range of fine cheeses, latte at the Caffe Trieste with a milk foam crest on top of roiling liquid, durian on the back table freaking out the regulars, tea with a friend on a rainy day in Northbeach ...

These are building blocks.

So no.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Christmas morning. First smoke of the day. Crows overhead, cheerful sounding. A few minutes later a flock of parrots. Elderly Cantonese ladies at the bus stop, heading to C'town, probably for dim sum, or simply a pastry and coffee. Possibly a nice bowl of congee. Whenever I'm at the place on Stockton (金華快餐 'gam waa faai chaan') for a bowl of congee, I notice that few of the Toishan-speaking retirees have theirs with an oil stick (油條 'yau tiu'), it's mostly Northerners or Taiwanese who do that.
I've always prefered it with an oil stick.
A strip of fresh fried dough.
It's yummy!

Maybe their doctors told them not to. Or they think it's too "heating". But honestly, there ain't a hell of a lot of substance to congee, as the proportion of rice to water is so little. A goodly bowl of hot jook will equal approximately three tablespoons of dry rice at most, the additions to make it fun, whether preserved egg and lean pork, or salt plank fish and peanuts, or whatever, are barely half a cup in volume. We're not talking a huge meal here.
More like a snack that hits the spot.

[Many Cantonese will avoid or only have modest amounts of foods wich are heating. I've never actually understood what that means, but "yeet hey" (熱氣 'yit hei') is something to be wary of. Everything that tastes good seems to be "yeet hey". It's probably their version of feeling puritanical guilt about enjoying good stuff.]

Congee, or jook (粥 'juk') is a common breakfast food. And may be had as a comforting indulgence throughout the day, or late at night when you've been out drinking. Which I would recommend as far better for your stomach than that doughnut or slice of greasy pizza. It should be mentioned that the concept of an elderly Cantonese person out carousing till the wee hours is rather amusing, and almost unheard of. In any case I have seldom seen it. Drunkenness and gravitas, whether actual or a desperate pretense), hardly ever go together. Ah Sook may get a little tiddly, but you'll never see him with a lampshade over his head.

Dim sum is something you do with a group of your friends or relatives early in the day. Congee is more of a single person thing. Not all Cantonese people are gregarious in the morning, and some of the older folks don't even pretend anymore. This middle-aged Dutch American sympathizes with them. I like having people around me at most times, but preferably at their own tables, quietly enjoying their "privacy". Attend to the food, show it the respect it deserves. Please don't talk over it and ignore it.

Unless you're eating at KFC or the Golden Arches.
Then it deserves all the ignoring it can get.
Is that stuff even food?


One of my friends on the other side of the country has a pancake breakfast with his buddies every week. I could never do that. Perhaps jook with one other person, each of us with our own bowl, oil stick, beverage, and news paper. Except that the local newspaper isn't worth reading anymore.

Afterwards, perhaps, a quiet smoke.
Have some of my tobacco.
Or a cigar.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019


After picking up my refills at the pharmacy I headed over to Stockton Street for a very late lunch at a chachanteng. Which was just not very good, but never the less exceedingly enjoyable.


Baked grouper with curry sauce over rice ('guk gaa lei jap sek paan faan'); a very Hong Kong style dish. Almost like Portuguese chicken rice, but with fish and no cheese. Could've also had it with tomato sauce (番茄汁 'faan ke jap') or white sauce (白汁 'baak jap'). It's the breakfast of champions. Especially with a solid hour of the national day marchpast playing on the telly, and nobody speaking English or German.

Brand new tanks and missile trucks are SO festive.

Techno-design military camouflage.

Green, with corners.

Smoked one of my dad's old pipes afterward, and remembered the past.
That pipe has possibly been to more places than I have.
It feels comforting in the hand.

When the program switched to a reprise of the North Korean news for the ninth of September, I finished my tea, paid up, and left. Smoked the pipe mentioned above near Hang Ah Alley, and down on Waverly.
Then relit it after the bus back to my neighborhood.
The streets are empty, quiet, cold.

All is peaceful.

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This blogger is not vested in the music traditionally played during the winter holiday season, as the lyrics are often saccharine and creepy ('fat red guy spying on you'), or at complete odds with the way it's sung ('fat red guy is gonna make your life hell, and you sound giddy about that'), to the point that you wonder what the heck people were thinking.

Baby it's cold outside: glib alcoholic sexually harassing a woman.
Oh come all ye faithful: a dirge, maybe someone died.

One of the rare joys of the season is when a radio station programmer decides that Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah is suitable for Christmas.
Because "hallelujah" sounds so religious!

With which I would agree. Brutal passions, ruined lives.

A sampling of the lyrics:

She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair ...
[--- ]
... love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah!
[--- ]
... all I've ever learned from love
Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
And it's not a cry that you hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah!

End sampling.

The only way this could possibly be improved is by having a chorus of tinkly children's voices singing this song on a shopping mall sound system.

The real meaning of Christmas in the modern era is to send the smokers in your family out to the compost heap at the far end of the yard to freeze their donkeys off before the exiled Vegans who are already there slaughter them and burn their bodies for warmth.

Other than that, there's the family togetherness thing. Let us all object to Uncle Bertie and his pipe, and make him feel like a pariah. Out to the compost heap with him forthwith! Now we can feel good about ourselves, because we've united as a family and been on the same page!

Roast goose, figgy pudding, hot chocolate, booze nog.
A toasty fireplace, pumpkin spice candles.
Ringing bells, warm scarves.

What's that? There is moaning from the outer depths beyond the compost heap? Ignore it, it's just the irredeemable boomers freezing and alone, who offend our tender modern age sensibilities! They deserve to die!

Meanwhile, little Johnnie and Melissa have found the stash of medicinal pot that was hidden in the bedroom closet, and what they haven't huffed in their vape-pens will go into the therapeutic brownies they're baking for everyone.

You've suddenly discovered a naked man tied to a chair in the kitchen?
Just carry him out to the compost heap and dump him.
It's at the very back of the yard.

In cold weather my legs seize up, and I walk with difficulty when outside. Slowly, and laboriously. That's why I haven't festively decorated the compost heap or the nearby trees, which are leafless and bare of life, or the rigid corpses of the Vegans who have been there since Thanksgiving.

I shan't even mention Raynaud's phenomenon, which makes my hands nearly useless if I've been outside too long. Bloodless and blue.

But it would all look so much better with glittery balls.
Still freezing and dark, but very cheery.


The most suitable pipe tobacco for this period is probably a good Virginia mixture with a proportion of dark aged leaf and a touch of the condimentals. A very old-fashioned fragrance, comforting and toasty. Goes well with a cup of strong tea, with a little milk and sugar. I'll be wearing my double lined winter coat a lot, as well as my little black grannie gloves, and sheltering from the wintry blasts as best I can. Right around tea-time, the downtown gets to be an arctic windtunnel, but fortunately nobody in Chinatown will furiously object to my smoking on the public street; they aren't like the snooty entitled suburbanites in the Financial District who want to commit murder because of the merest wisp of tobacco from half a block away, and the term "compost heap" is not part of their daily vocabulary.

In Cantonese, that would probably be 混合肥堆 ('wan hap fei deui') or 垃圾混合堆 ('laap saap wan hap deui'). Not a part of the urban landscape in their world, except where bourgeois millenials congregate.

I might even smoke some Erinmore Flake.

Or Doblone D'Oro.



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Monday, December 23, 2019


Home. Need only buy some cheese for the holiday, and pick up my refills. Three hectic days at work done, pau hana time. Sausages! And while I shall enjoy the post-holiday let-down everyone else will experience, I shan't rub it in. Y'all didn't get your exboxes and new American cars; some of us don't need those boxes, and we live in SF so there's no place to park.

I do need to call my uncle and aunt in Canada, to wish them a merry Christmas, happy Festivus, and joyous whatever... I suspect they celebrate 'Orthodox Kwanzaa', what with being in a foreign country and so white they glow in the dark, which won't happen till January Eighth. Julian Calendar.

But no matter. On Christmas, good little boys and girls get presents from the Xmas Python, which slithers down their chimneys and regurgitates lovely things for them, bezoars and such. Bad little children get enveloped in coils of his strong body and crushed till all their bones shatter, which is exceedingly painful, then swallowed whole, never to be seen again.

So look deep within your soul to determine what your fate will be; if you hear faint scaly sounds in the middle of the night, or any hissing, it's the python coming to get you. Your parents won't save you.

No. They'll be thinking of having another kid, or adopting one.

A new and better kid; one less prone to waking up in the middle of the night screaming, more obedient too, and cleaner.

I'm a ruddy joy to have around at holidays. That probably explains why my nearest kin live in Calgary.

"I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you're going to hear about it!"
---Frank Costanza

From Wikipedia:
"Festivus is a secular holiday celebrated on December 23 as an alternative to the pressures and commercialism of the Christmas season. Originally created by author Daniel O'Keefe, Festivus entered popular culture after it was made the focus of the 1997 Seinfeld episode "The Strike", which O'Keefe's son, Dan O'Keefe, co-wrote."

"The non-commercial holiday's celebration, as depicted on Seinfeld, occurs on December 23 and includes a Festivus dinner, an unadorned aluminum Festivus pole, practices such as the "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strength", and the labeling of easily explainable events as "Festivus miracles". The episode refers to it as "a Festivus for the rest of us".

End cite.

Such celebrations aren't truly being observed until someone (let's call him or her "George") is weeping and having a breakdown.

Don't be George.

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The following post was written by our president.

"I never understood wind. I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody. I know it is very expensive. They are made in China and Germany mostly, very few made here, almost none, but they are manufactured, tremendous—if you are into this—tremendous fumes and gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right?"

"I never understood wind."

"The world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint, fumes are spewing into the air, right spewing, whether it is China or Germany, is going into the air."

"A windmill will kill many bald eagles. After a certain number, they make you turn the windmill off, that is true. By the way, they make you turn it off. And yet, if you killed one, they put you in jail. That is OK. But why is it OK for windmills to destroy the bird population?"

------Donald Trump

He's right. There are no bald eagles in the Netherlands. I lived there for nearly sixteen years and never saw a bald eagle once. Not one. Not a single bald eagle there. There are well over nine hundred windmills in the Netherlands, and no bald eagles. Zero. None. It's un-American!

Tremendous "right spewing".


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Sunday, December 22, 2019


This blogger does not deal well with Christmas throngs. So I think that we should replace the entire tradition with flame-thrower parties! Instead of shopping frenzies, and brutal fistfights in crowded mall parking garages, a wondrous incendiary celebration! Everyone including the kiddies armed with gasoline gel spray devices and backpack reservoirs of napalm.

Nothing else in the world smells like that!

I guarantee that two or three years after the change, nobody will be Christmas shopping anymore. Or eating too much.
Which might limit their mobility.

The key to enjoying a flamethrower party is to keep moving.

It would herald major improvements in the American diet, as well as make people want to stay trim. So much better for them than being roly-poly slobs waddling around with shopping carts, or using little motorized chairs, or clubbing other people over the heads with tire irons down at the big box for that last latest version of a computer gaming device.

Yeah um no. I myself don't engage in any of that; I haven't been to a mall in years. And I've never given any one a game console or game package or whatever it is. But I have seen normal people on teevee.
No kiddies to bribe, or bankrupt myself over.
No wife to buy a diamond bracelet for.
No husband to gift a new car.
I pity everyone.

During the next two days, there will be scenes of violence and frenzy. Followed by over-eating, bad beverage choices, anguish, domestic discord, somnolescence, recrimination, and the frantic search for cheap chocolates.

New Years? More bad choices.

I'll probably be inside, waiting till it's safe to go out again.

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Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, a woman from Des Moines, vehicularly assaulted a teenage girl with her SUV because the girl was Mexican.
Which is something that says it all about the Trump era.

"Nicole Marie Poole Franklin, 42, is charged with attempted murder for allegedly running down a 14-year-old on Dec. 9 as the girl walked to Indian Hills Junior High School, Clive police say."

"The Clive police chief said hate crime charges are being considered after a woman admitted she hit a 14-year-old girl with her car because the girl is Hispanic."

End quotes.

SOURCE: Woman admits to hitting 14-year-old because of race.

Remind me never to visit Des Moines. And by the way, everything between the far side of the Oakland hills and New York is Des Moines.

From the Associated Press:
"Ms. Franklin made several derogatory statements about Latinos during a police interview in which she admitted she intentionally ran over the teenager" ...
"Franklin was already in jail on a separate assault charge when police interviewed her about the hit-and-run. In the assault case, which also occurred on Dec. 9, she’s accused of making racist remarks to a West Des Moines convenience store clerk and customers and throwing items at the clerk."

Het spoort echt niet met jullie Trumpaards.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019


If you blog you eventually become aware that people read what you write, but may not be on the same page. Your range of interests and theirs diverge. The posts most often visited show a spectrum of differences, and if taken as a portrait of the average reader paint a picture of someone you might want to keep at arms length.

As, I'm sure, my readers wish to keep me.
Further than an arm, at least.
Several miles.

Recently popular essays here:

Jan 9, 2011
One of the best know Hong Kong movie songs, originally sung by Maria Cordero. Still deservedly popular.
The movie was 監獄風雲 ( ('gaam yuk fung wan') from 1987, directed by Ringo Lam. The song was 友誼之光 ('yau-yi ji gwong').

Dec 19, 2019
It's more or less about food and drugs in the Netherlands, about which there is almost nothing original to say. Plus sneering references to Geert Wilders and fried things.

Apr 20, 2011
Written the year after the break-up of my long-time relationship with Savage Kitten, but in reflective reaction to the opinion that Cantonese girls looked rather ape-like. Which was surprising to me.
I do not share that opinion.

Nov 19, 2012
This one remains eternally popular, seeing as it concerns underwear. There are no pictures. It was written primarily to tease Pakistanis and other internet trolls. It's often staggering what people search for on the internet.
My own queries usually have the words "wiki" or "def" in them.

Dec 10, 2019
There's a talking fish here, and a few bitter remarks.
Some of us don't like the holidays.

Apr 27, 2011
The term "ham sap lo" is not complimentary, and frequently applied to men (often Australians) by angry Cantonese women. The Cantonese language can be sharply expressive, an evocative and flavourful tongue.

Jan 28, 2010
A long list of essays talking about pipes and pipe tobacco, subjects which are frequently mentioned on this blog. You may have deduced that I am a long time pipe-smoker. No vapes, bongs, glass pipes, or other drug paraphernalia. This entry is of interest only to fellow pipe-smokers.

Dec 18, 2019
Bad beverages and Baby Yoda.

Dec 14, 2019
My doctor has advised me to stop smoking, eat better, and exercise more. He probably suspects that I am not fully vested in that programme, and he would not know what to make of the stuffed animals.

Dec 16, 2019
Thoughts about Christmas trees.

Dec 16, 2019
Because of Losartan (a medication), my dreams are vivid and often detailed. Combine that with caffeine, and the results are often unusual and pleasing, and sometimes involve languages. Some people taking blood pressure medication experience depression and nightmares, but in my case there are very clear dictionary entries and scenes from movies.

July 2, 2009
This one is about the pipe tobaccos that are common in South Africa, and because how smells evoke memories, I did a bit of research. Since then I've been lucky enough to sample a few of them.

Dec 26, 2012
How to prepare roast goose. It's similar in approach to roast duck, which is more appropriate to smaller groups of people, but just as beloved as a quick working man's lunch in Hong Kong, over a bowl of rice with some yau choi, bought, frequently, from a dai pai dong.

Jan 30, 2011
About many of the Cantonese dishes which are traditional for the Spring Festival (春節 'chun jit'), which this year (2020) falls Saturday January 25. Fortunately I am working that day, the next, as well as the Monday after, so I shan't be wondering what to do and where to eat. Otherwise it might be a tad depressing.

Mar 28, 2012
A full listing with Chinese characters and pronunciation.

Feb 1, 2011
Traditional at some celebrations, especially at New Year. Three recipes.
Due to holes in my social life I haven't had any in years.

Food is mentioned a lot. Seeing as my social life is almost non-existent, that's not surprising. People who know me in real life seem to rather like me, but in truth I am probably too peculiar for large doses.
I am the single diner.

Besides, as a smoker I am not safe for your children, your house, your elderly relatives, and your oppressively health-freakish cousins.

Important geography: 
Valkenswaard, Eindhoven, 'sGravenhage, Amsterdam, Antwerp.
Hong Kong, SF Chinatown, Manila, Jakarta.
San Francisco, Berkeley, Marin.
North Beach.

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Friday, December 20, 2019


Some pipe shapes speak to me. Briar pipes are almost a thing of the past, but among my fondest memories are the smells of pipe tobacco -- my father liked a blend from a tobacconist in Southern California which no longer exists, but in retrospect it was an American style product with only a little condimental leaf (Latakia and Perique) on a base of mostly Virginias, with I'm sure a touch of burley -- and appreciating the aesthetics of specific shapes in high quality briar. Before he passed he gifted me his old pipes.
Canadians, bulldogs, and Lovats. Plus a Peterson System Standard.
My own collection welcomed them gladly.
They mean much to me.

I seldom smoke them out of the house, which is problematic, because the person with whom I share this apartment is a non-smoker whom I would like to keep. So there are only two or three days a week during which I can enjoy my dad's pipes. Though not all of them, some still have his smell.
And I cherish that.

On cold days I do not enjoy being outside. Any one would rather be indoors looking out over the soggy street or hearing the rain against the window panes, with a warm beverage and a book, than outdoors in that weather. But there are few places left where smoking is tolerated, and an adult does not appreciate the company of cigar-huffing sportsfans.

There's something infinitely comforting about the smell of an old-fashioned tobacco that cannot be replaced. Among the products I either still smoke, or remember fondly though they have changed or might no longer be available, are Balkan Sobranie Original Mixture, Capstan regular, Orlik Golden Slices, Dunhill Dark Flake, Orlik Scotch Type.

Several newer tobacco mixtures have acquired a place; Cornell & Diehl products or Greg Pease. I am particularly fond of Stonehenge Flake.

Allegedly this is a Lakeland, but I cannot discern a topping. Of course I also like many of the Samuel Gawith products, as well as a few fine smokeables from Germains and Esoterica Tobacciana.

I'm not particularly fond of Penzance or Stonehaven. Honestly, I cannot see what all the fuss is about. They're good, though.

Flavoured pipe tobaccos are for children.

Pipe smoking did not used to be so solitary a vice, but the world has changed, and become a pissier kind of place.


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