Thursday, February 28, 2019


Sometime around mid-day, or a little later, I shall be sheltering under the awning of an empty storefront in Chinatown while smoking my pipe. Because it looks like the rain is coming back, as well as the miserable temperatures. What I would rather be doing is twiddling my toes indoors, warmly bundled up, maybe listening to the rain. Comfy. But I have errands to run, hence leaving the house relatively early, and I can't smoke in my apartment in the afternoons anyway, as any smells must fade.

There is a very suitable shuttered shop entrance with a deep awning right across the street from the hospital, but at that time it is not unlikely that either my doctor or other staff who might recognize me will be going to lunch or doing their own errands, and they needn't see me doing precisely what they've remonstrated against, so blatantly near where they work.
Nor do I wish to witness them lighting up.
Bad examples all-round.

[They are excellent people, and I do not wish to embarrass or offend.]

So I'll probably end up in front of the defunct jewelry store on Jackson, one block up from the chachanteng where I might have something to eat.

Either that, or near 'Bug Grass City', on the corner of Clay.
But away from all doorways to that building.
Not far from another chachanteng.

Chinatown can be very comforting. As a middle-aged white dude I am nearly anonymous, except for the people who actually recognize me, who seem to be rather fond of me and do not mind my foul habits, and recently when I showed up at a bakery all the regulars there (mostly older than me by a wide margin!) were warmly welcoming. They are used to my speaking Cantonese, but not really grasping their Toishanese, and I am a known quantity, a familiar face.

[And a few of them also smoke, so my smell is probably not objectionable]

They're an upbeat and lively bunch.
Very good for mental health.

During this season, irrespective of how well sheltered outdoors, I still often would rather be under a throw rug on a couch, perhaps with a pot of tea nearby, inside. But this isn't Holland or England, and tea time and a comforting pipe must, necessarily, be somewhere else.
Even in inclement weather.

[Step outside, you foul specimen! You stink like granddad!]

Even young pipe smokers reek like granddad.
And that's a fact.


The apartment mate and some of the stuffed animals would object if it where otherwise. Possibly excepting three criminal furballs who wish to "borrow" my leathery thing and the plasticky thing inside to do a spot of shopping on the internet. Grass suckies. Salmon sashimi. And banana fandangoes. Plus a hovercraft for terrorizing the other creatures.
They will avidly search for my wallet while I sleep tonight.
And I have made sure that they will not find it.
My credit card is safely stashed.

The blue-faced sheep denies, by the way, that he is untrustworthy.
Grandpa Hamster still swats at him with his cane.
Because he smells totally skeevy.

Surely other people hide their credit card from their stuffed animals?

At least I do not smell skeevy.

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Scotland is a very modern place. They have electricity, hot and cold running water (that comes out of a tap), automobiles, and suppositories. Quite up to date. You do NOT need immunizations to go. And you won't get scurvy.

Well, you are not likely to get scurvy. Although British people, including the Scots, hardly ever touch fruits and vegetables, other than canned peas and beans, and the idea of nutritious food may have escaped them.

You don't need to bring matches to build fires so you can stay warm.

Modern plumbing was a late arrival in most of Northern Europe, but soap IS available in the larger cities.

If some birth-defected native, all stunted, bent, and red-headed, tries to offer you pots of gold, you had best refuse. Oh wait, that's Ireland.

Do not refuse the canned peas and beans; these might be the only vegetables you will see for several weeks. Except for leeks and oatmeal, which often crop up in the strangest concoctions.

You'll need suppositories to cope with that.

One the whole it's rather like Pennsylvania.
Except much more civilized.
Better pizza.

Watch out for highway men.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Well, the doctor gave me another long gentle lecture on the unmitigated evils of tobacco usage, during which something he said proved that he is an ex-smoker himself. He did not realize he had divulged that, and I didn't feel it necessary to point out to him that I had caught it.
But we both agreed that standing outside of an office building every hour sucking it down as fast as possible was a strong addiction, whereas half a bowl slowly puffed in a briar was milder.

*   *   *   *   *
Boys, that's why you should switch to tomatoes and cauliflower. There's nicotine in both of those vegetables, and if y'all head out to the pavement regularly to gobble a salad, you won't offend nearly so many secretaries or Berkeley Earthmoms, or even the pudgy cretin at the security desk who always comes out to yell at you to stand away from the entrance.

Fresh vegetables are good for you.
Ain't nobody gonna object.
I'm just sayin'.

*   *   *   *   *

Pipe-smoking, for me, is a memory tool.

Five of my earliest intense memories:

My father smoking a pipe at tea-time, with the afternoon sun slanting in, dust motes dancing, and the smell of his tobacco.
Another tea-time, cinnamon toast, a sharper tobacco fragrance, he was smoking his calabash pipe.
Having my stomach pumped because I had mistaken aspirin for candy.
Running desperately away from a man in a lab coat wielding a hypodermic needle. Possibly a flue-shot.
My brother yelling as the stitches were put in to close the big gaping gash on his forehead.

A softer early memory involves brown corduroy shorts, a child barrier to keep me from getting in the way, sunlight (Southern California), my dad painting our initials on large crates, and a hint of pipe smoke. That must have been before we moved to the Netherlands. Whisps of smoke issued from somewhere near his head.

Obviously those medical episodes are intense, because they were horrid experiences. But my point is that many of my best memories are tied in with the smell of tobacco -- specifically pipe tobacco -- and both mood and remembrance are sharpened by smell.
The odour of cheap Central American Rum, for some reason, brings back hospitals and doctors.

Grammar school (cigars), second year of high school (Niemeijer's Scottish Mixture, Maryland tobacco, Troost, Capstan, Erinmore Flake), third and fourth year of high school (Maryland, 'Portorico Krul-tabak', then Balkan Sobranie), interstitial year (Balkan Sobranie, plus a few Dunhills), first year in Berkeley (Latakia mixtures), Second year Berkeley (Latakia, Balkan blends, and some McClelland Virginias), and so on.

While I lived in Holland, the smell of dark shag rolling tobacco (Drum, Van Nelle, Samson, Dragon Super Zwaar, Brandaris Zware Shag, Javaansche Jongens) was always in the background.

Anyway, you get the idea.

[Other fragrances: A faint hint of salt fish or spilled shrimp paste, plus nose-evidence of recently smoldering sandal wood incense, always reminds me of hot weather and humidity: South East Asia. Add lemon grass, kentjur, or ginger, and it intensifies. Likewise the smell of burning clove, and grilling meats. Durian simply reminds me of the intersection of Stockton Street and Valejo Street. That reverberation is an overlay that drowns out previous durian memories.]

The fragrance of jasmine tea brings back the clack of chess pieces as my late brother studies the games of the masters, cats wandering in through the open sliding doors, warm summer evenings, and the smell of Balkan Sobranie Mixture, both the tin aroma and what it tasted like in the pipe.
I smoked my tobacco too wet in those days.


After the doctor's appointment, I went down to Stockton Street for a bowl of congee and a fried bread stick. The place filled up after I got there, because an entire flock of oldsters also like congee in the morning. Preserved egg and lean pork congee (皮蛋瘦肉粥 'pei dan sau yiuk juk'), fish slice congee (魚片粥 'yü pin juk'), and plank fish and peanuts congee (柴魚花生粥 'chai-yü faa-sang juk'). Fried bread sticks (油條 'yau tiu'). Spare ribs rice (排骨飯 'paai gwat faan', paai kut faan'). Fresh cilantro sheet noodle (芫茜腸 'yuen sai cheung'). Fried thin noodles (炒粉 'chaau fan'). The desperation of hungry people keen to get the day started, get out, and live.

Bugger this rainy weather, there are awnings!
And things that must be done, now!
First smoke of the day!

Around tea-time I'll head back to C'town. A hot cuppa, a yummy pastry, and then another pipe full. I hope the rain will have lessened by then.


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When I returned yesterday evening, my apartment mate was at her computer, and the television was on. She had the Real Housewives of somewhere ghastly on as background noise. This of course pleased me, as it was dark and wet outside, and when she does not come home until late I worry about her. It's a totally sexist and racist thing. She's a Chinese woman of slight build, who in my mind looks vulnerable and innocent. Even though she's had several years of martial arts practice and can put your eye out.

The Real Housewives of Bunfudge are all white and do not look vulnerable. They look and act mean and vicious, and the only way they could put out an eye is if they accidentally smacked it with their huge bosoms, each of which has had enlargement. Because breasts do not normally come that big.

Breast augmentation is a frightfully white thing. Filipinas also have it done, but that's largely to imitate Caucasian women, or to snag a rich guy. And some mainland Chinese women undergo it because they have been influenced by Western ideals of beauty, just like the eye thing. There are a few others, with weird self-images. Mainly, hypno boobs are for psychos.

Normal people don't do it. Because it is very silly.

Every one of the Real Housewives has had it done.

Hypno-boobettes end up married to frat boys or lawyers. Or Arabs, Russians, and Donald Trump. Or rich old skeevy dudes.

Quite a few of them live in Marin County.

Prove me wrong.

There. Now that I've got the offensive generalizations out of the way, I beg to inform you that the three charmingest females yesterday did not impress me with their breasts. One brought me a plate of double mushroom chicken over rice (雙菇雞飯 'seung gu gai faan'), one of them was maybe about four or five years old and cute as the dickens, avidly drinking in everything the bus driver did, with curious intelligent eyes, and the third was probably married and over thirty years of age, with kissy cheeks and an expression that showed character, who kept looking at the briar smoking equipment in my hand while I was on the bus.

It's the faces.

There were also the two people crossing Waverly while I was smoking my pipe; an aged bent lady being helped by her daughter. They both seemed happy with each other's presence. That, too is charming.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2019


This post is for the obsessives, and will be of little or no interest to anyone else but pipe smokers. Even among them, only a small number.

I am working on updating the Index of pipe smoker essays ("Big Heap of Tobacco"), that helpfully lists and links the posts here on that subject since the beginning of time. Which I last updated in January of 2018.

It is a work in progress, going back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019
These are the rules.

Thursday, February 21, 2019
More about Hobbits.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019
This is why you need to provide smoking spaces.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
Brief excursion into famous Scandinavians, and their penchant for being drunken fish. No, syphilis is not mentioned.

Monday, January 14, 2019
 Briggs mixture: Burley, Virginias, Kentucky. Subtle top dressing.
And a mention of medical matters.

Monday, January 7, 2019
Perverts smoke aromatics.
Firedance Flake.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Saint James Flake with noises and bad behaviour.
Calmness before I went to the clinic.

Friday, December 28, 2018
Full Latakia blends, and diminishing numbers of pipe smokers.
What grampa smells like.

Thursday, December 27, 2018
The prospect of medical attention, and an advert for Camel Cigarettes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018
Cigar shapes. Congee. Saint James Flake. Smelly uncle Ed.
Flue-cured leaf, in an elegant festive pack.
五葉神 from Canton.

Sunday, December 23, 2018
Comments about cigar smokers and other reprehensible people.
Aromatic pipe tobaccos: Samuel Gawith's Firedance Flake, Molto Dolce, 1Q, BCA, Celtic Talisman, Very Cherry, Highland Whiskey.
A tight lacy man-thong.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Cornell & Diehl's Red Stag. John Cotton's Smyrna. Constantinople.
Kyriazi Frères, located in Suk El Tawfikia, Egypt.
The Four Seas restaurant (四海酒樓).

Tuesday, December 11, 2018
What some people fondly remember from their younger years.
It is indeed an enjoyable tobacco.
Not imported.

Sunday, December 9, 2018
Pipesmokers, cheese.

Friday, November 30, 2018
Quote: "Real men do not gad about naked whilst smoking Clan and admiring themselves in the mirror."
True, that.

Friday, November 23, 2018
The missing Peterson (shape 606) was underneath a stuffed animal.
You should smoke Virginia flakes.
Like Bertrand Russell.

Thursday, November 22, 2018
Lunch in Chinatown. Pipe. Milk tea in Chinatown. Pipe. More milk tea. Another pipe. Nasi goreng. Thanksgiving equals lima beans.

Thursday, November 22, 2018
Cayenne is an ingredient in mashed potatoes.
Virginia in a Comoy's Grand Slam.
No damned turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Somebody else's lovely picture.
My admiration of his pipes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Pots, Canadians, Billiards.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Pipe, tobacco, and quiet passages.
Perhaps a cup of milk tea.

I am a man of beastly habits.
And it's raining.

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In a Facebook group for pipesmokers, someone posted a still from some anime series showing a saucy female smoking a pipe. No, I did not ask whether our two dimensional heroine was smoking an aromatic; I will just take that for granted. Schoolgirls love fruit-flavoured tobacco. Adults will have a preference for Balkan Blends or Virginia-Perique mixtures.

Much flavoured stuff is loathsome. Good coffee should not be bollicksed-up with hazelnut-chocolate-vanilla syrup, a decent cup of tea is not improved by mango-melon essences and large gummy tapioca pearls.

It's like adding sex to a detective novel.

And on that note, this is why I hate the popularity of vapes. There you are, just quietly contemplating a developing pimple or pustule on your face in front of the bathroom mirror, when the fragrance of raspberry-musk wafts from a nearby stall. With a touch of burnt sugar. This is very discordant!

No one expects passion fruit in the loo.

It's as bad as someone talking on a cell-phone in there. But at least then he might drop the damned device.

[The follow-up conversation will be interesting.]

Years ago, when the company for which I worked was in its last months of existence we moved to tighter quarters in the heathen wilds of Hayward, and were encouraged to work from home at least two days a week. To that end, they provided me with a cell-phone. One time when I really needed to go, a client called. And kept me on the phone for half an hour.

Once we finally closed our doors, I got rid of the damned thing. Don't need it. "But what if there's an emergency?" Yeah, no. The rescue crews will not find my corpse any faster under the rubble if I have a phone. Batteries dead in any case. My car isn't stalled on a dirt road near a meth lab.
Fleeing a burning building shan't involve a phone.
It won't stop raining when I call.

In fact, the only emergency I can even imagine that might involve a cellular device is desperately needing to leak. Been there, and done that.

"Hi, I'm on the bus with a lot of ugly people!"

Vapes and aromatic pipe tobaccos are for children.

Cell-phones are for people who can't let go.


Adults smoke good straight tobacco, drink coffee and tea entirely without weird syrups or sprinkles, have a land line and a lap-top, eschew vapes, avoid fruity cocktails, and e-mail each other in complete sentences with proper punctuation and capitalization.

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Monday, February 25, 2019


By mid-afternoon, the usual compliment of cigar smokers were present and bloviating. Outside the rain was coming down, making life miserable, and crap was scudding across the freeway and the parking lot, but inside there was a fire in the grate and self-satisfied smirking.
Cabin fever is a bitch.

Strange things get said.

It's my fault. When one of the boys in the lounge made bleating noises about the air quality, and whether any ventilation possible, I remarked "gracious, I thought you were all methane breathing space aliens!"

A little later Trump was mentioned. The same person who was desperate for ventilation told me "he's one of yours. You know, human".

I'm not sure that that is entirely true.
Let's agree it's debatable.

Stop smirking, you reptile!

Over the course of the day I smoked three pipes and drank several cups of tea during work. So let's say it was a good Monday. If this weather keeps up, as it is expected to, I shall spend most of my weekend (Tuesday and Wednesday) indoors, except for the necessary excursion to Chinatown for a tasty meal in the afternoon, and my doctor's appointment Wednesday A.M. Which means that on Wednesday I should really pack TWO pipes into my overcoat pocket; as I'll be looking for a calming smoke much earlier, and will probably be still hanging around the neighborhood by teatime. There are overhangs there, and the awnings of storefronts that are vacant. Shelter for puffing without getting wet. And of course, I'll have an umbrella.

Always carry an umbrella in inclement weather.

In case there's a need for gallantry.

Even though it is rainy, the temperature has improved over the past few days; I am three weeks further along in my recovery from the medical intervention at the beginning of the month; and I feel full of beans.

Nothing I need to do before Thursday.

It will be a good weekend.

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Apparently the Oscars were held last night. No one yesterday even mentioned this, so being the hip with it all and up to date kind of guy I am, I had no idea. Though I was wondering why the traffic was so light when I got back to the city. I will probably never watch any of the movies. My apartment mate did not talk about the Oscars, or the films that were in the running, and as she is the only person in this apartment likely to borrow or rent flicks, it is highly unlikely that I will be exposed to any of this year's Oscar stuff. If you were to ask me who won what, or what got nominated, I couldn't tell you.
None of this has been discussed in my vicinity.

Conversations yesterday dealt with prostates, audits, pipe brands and famous tobacco blends, the allegation that I am prematurely gaga, what happened to the last four scrumptious mini fudge brownies, how to operate the new coffee machine, and the peanut-butter cookies that Neil made.

And the prospect of torrential rain bucketing down this Tuesday and Wednesday, which are my days off.

There may be flooding in low-lying areas. As I live safely uphill from the intersection, I am not too concerned. In principle I like rainy days, especially when I am safely indoors, perhaps only venturing outside briefly to smoke on the steps. If the waters rise, it will likely go no further than the garbage can on the corner, down the block.

Watching the waters rise, from a safe dry portico, is more intellectually thrilling than watching the Academy Awards on the boob tube, and the rain is infinitely more satisfying as a spectacle than any number of celebrities poncing on red carpets.

In between smokes, I'll probably spend a lot of time in bed, though fully clothed, reading comic books. It is warm, and there are stuffed animals.

Those of you with Monday to Friday jobs may want to play hooky.

I've got more than enough food and tea to last a while.

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Sunday, February 24, 2019


It's probably my friendly intelligent face and patient understanding manner, but people trust me with their weird details. As an example, I now know about one person's back problems that required an operation, as well as his mom's chainsmoking. A woman informed me that she uses Old Spice full strength (smells like apples) underneath her boobs. Another person confided recently that his wife goes to the nail salon when her needs a cigar (every day), a third has shared, entirely unasked and unprompted, that because his dad had a fungal infection in skin folds the hospital treated him like Typhoid Mary, and a fourth has adult children who insist that he take a shower every time he enters the house.

This morning, someone told me all about his prostate. And what a blessing it is to urinate whenever you want to again. After the operation. Men, have your prostates checked. Hallelujah.

That's probably damned good advice for men of a certain age.
As well as having your blood pressure checked.
To see if you are still alive.

The prostate in the human male is an exocrene gland slightly bigger than an cherry, comprised of several interesting parts tightly fused together. It is similar but different in other creatures. Dog prostates are particularly effective, mustelids such as otters and badgers don't have one.

Have your prostate checked!

I did not wish to know about his prostate. I don't mind being privy to the details, especially because his life has so vastly improved -- he can piddle comfortably when he wants now, instead of getting up several times a night for a frustrating experience -- and I am very happy for him.
It's almost like he found Jesus.

But honestly, my day would have been filled with just as much joy and satisfaction if I did not hear about tightly fused glandular globs.

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Something that will please my doctor: sauteed bitter melon with hot chilies and yellow curry paste. Plus a little meat for extra flavour, and grilled bread. Healthy! Also altogether tasty. It made the uninspired sammich I had for lunch yesterday fade into the past.
What we need at work, barring tasty to-go stuff from members of whatever ethnic or cultural group shares my preferences, is a hot plate.
Or heck, a camp stove.

Doktor tidak memberitahu jangan makan tjabai, jangan makan kari. Makan malam: tumis pare dengan croutons dan daging panggang. Pedas sekali.

Yesterday afternoon James dwelt lovingly on the laksa his wife made, which he adores. He's in his seventies, and I imagine his wife is not very much less aged. He's Anglo, his wife is Chinese (I think originally from Hong Kong, but I've never met her because good Cantonese girls seldom hang around environments that reek of cigars being smoked).
Even when they're grandmothers.

Any Dutchman will tell you that the perfect end to any meal involving curry-spices and / or noodles is a cigar. James is not Dutch, but his sensibilities are in the right place.

My doctor isn't Dutch either, so as a responsible medical man he might eschew the cheroot.

With envy.

As a courtesy to the person who occupies the other bedroom in this apartment, no cigars were smoked after I had my dinner.
She puts up with my smells enough already.

That preference-sharing ethnic or cultural group mentioned above: Dutch American bachelor with condiments. Or people who shop in Chinatown.
More of a cultural group than an ethnicity, I guess.

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Saturday, February 23, 2019


Sometimes I wish there were a happy pork chop song. If there were, I would sing it. It's not per se the taste, though scrumpty, but the ambiance, that fills me with contentment. Old school C'town, clean and comfortable, with a television in the corner tuned to a station that plays HK serials, Cantonese news, and Chinese-oriented infomercials. Thanks to which I now know that 'pomegranate' in Chinese is 紅石榴 ('hung sek lau'), and very healthy. Just like Japanese green plum extract. Which enhances beauty and endurance.

[Read more about Asian plums here: Wikipedia-Prunus mume.]

Perhaps I should look for plum stuffs at the herbalists.

As I suspect that I am not beautiful enough.

Actually, I do wonder about my appearance. This year an exceptionally frequent occurrence is people offering their seat to me on the bus. Even people who are close to my age! And I am not old. So I might look a right wreck, decrepit and venerable. But in the mirror I do not see that at all.

Yes, I no longer look like the smart-aleck thirty year-old of several years ago, but I sure as heck don't see an antique. It's probably all the grey hair, and the air of pissy old scrawn. They should look at my skin instead.
And the beard is actually young in shape, if not in hue.
My cheeks are still soft. Almost girlish.
Plus my eyes sparkle.

My hands are still nice. Voluptuous.

All of you are either super-respectful and my epic aura makes you wilt, or you've all got your screws seriously loose.

Maybe it's my old grannie gloves. But those keep Rainaud's condition from making my fingers look like I'm turning into a zombie.

It could be the lighting on these new buses. Or maybe I just smell bad and look total psycho, and y'all want to escape.

That's gotta be it. Not the age thing.


So far only little children ever call me 'Ah sook' (阿叔).
Besides my apartment mate, no adults have.
So it can't be my years.

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Friday, February 22, 2019


The first hour of the day often belongs to kittens. Not having any pets of my own, I often waste an inordinate amount of time looking at animals on the internet, in between reading the news and checking the weather during my coffee. Apparently the temperature will be frigid, and there's a slight chance of kittens. The Middle East is a mess; there are kittens everywhere.
The collapse of the Labour Party, and riots in Asia. Kittens.
The Republicans are vile and corrupt.
And fervently dislike kittens.
Democrats love kittens.

And there you have it.

I do not mind the dog hardware, but it really should have kitten programs installed on it. And some do. Golden retrievers (who think they're just like us, but entirely overlook opposable thumbs), Pekinese ("you worship me, hooman"), dachshunds (paranoia over-ruled by curiosity), and otters (not at all confused, just defiantly the best of three worlds).

The fact that I have a Hello Kitty backpack (for my pipes and tobacco on work days) has nothing to do with this. That's a defiant rebellion against 'the man'. Nothing says middle-aged pipe-smoking bachelor like a Hello Kitty accessory. There should be Hello Kitty tobacco pouches and pipe-tampers too, even a Hello Kitty lighter, but in the meantime, the bag will do.

It baffles the cigar smokers of my ken.

This rejection of orthodoxy frightens them.

Yesterday, they made animal noises instead of talking about politics or sports, and then spent half an hour fondly reminiscing about "I dream of Jeannie", a "fantasy sitcom starring Barbara Eden as a 2,000-year-old genie and Larry Hagman as an astronaut who becomes her master, with whom she falls in love and eventually marries. Produced by Screen Gems, the show originally aired from September 18, 1965 to May 26, 1970 with new episodes, and through September 1970 with season repeats, on NBC" (Wikipedia).

That series was before my time, and for most of my life I haven't watched television. For me the golden teevee years were watching Monty Python on KQED with my grandmother in Berkeley, and a few years of the X-Files, plus Forever Knight (a dashing vampire from the Middle-Ages as a modern day police detective in Canada with "health" problems), as well as the first two years of Absolutely Fabulous. Oh and a few food programmes. Julia Child bathing in butter, some German chef getting potted on the cooking sherry, and Anthony Bourdain.

And Muppets. When I grow up, I want to be just like Kermit the Frog.
But in a world where Miss Piggy isn't stalking him.

I'll be heading out later for lunch at a chachanteng in Chinatown, with a pipe and an umbrella for afterwards. In case there are kittens.

One of my very good friends doesn't like kittens, but he's slightly defective.

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Thursday, February 21, 2019


According to the news, somebody of whom I never heard did something that was rather depraved, and Facebook wishes me to be outraged, or join a chorus of condemnation. Or, at the very least, hit "like", or post an emoji.
The problem is that I really don't care.
I am not vested in him.

For years I have remained blessedly unaware who any of these blithering celebrities are. Their privately public lives are not what the internet is for, as far as I am concerned. If they were to die in a plane crash, it would be merely a blip. An uninteresting squiblette.

Nor am I interested in their products or fabulous diets.

I know that 'Prince' made great flapjacks.

Perhaps that recipe I want.

For a long time I thought that 'twerking' was something politicians did.
Now that I've seen a few videos, I rather wish it were so.
I might vote for the twerkiest candidate.

Possibly the last celebrity whose life affected me was John Belushi.
Such an untimely demise! Such an actor! What did he eat?
Who was his style-guru?

More than anyone else, he changed the way we look at cheeseburgers.
As well as cool cars. The Ford Pinto Station Wagon.
Wheels that every young man should have.

"106 miles to Chicago -- a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark...      And we're wearing sunglasses."

Life changing.

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They had run out of the rice porridge with fish slices by the time I got there shortly after twelve, and the choice was between preserved egg lean pork congee, or peanuts and plank fish congee. While I do like the latter, any dried fish product would probably not be a good idea before a medical appointment during which blood pressure was sure to be checked. The fried bread stick is, naturally, a must. They were packed, so I scooted in opposite an old fellow happily devouring a Chinese tamale (glutinous rice, pork chunks, lok tau, packed in a bamboo leaf cone and steamed for hours till dense and rich). The evidence of other snacks still sat before him.
Two young fellows speaking the northern tongue were at a table behind me, a pretty little girl eating rice noodle sheet roll with her auntie and grandmama were behind him.

I've learned that I must avoid their coffee. It isn't a strong suit. Many country district Cantonese are somewhat casual about the bitter brew.

Steamed rice noodle sheets, congee, various other dim sums, and the lunch special -- three sides, soup and rice -- are what you go there for. Or steamed buns (both Cantonese, with filling, and Northern, plain steamed bread for sopping), plus a bag of frozen freshly made wontons for heating at home. It's basically a lunch counter where the dominant languages are city Cantonese and country-side Toishanese. Little bits of Mandarin and English.

魚片粥 ('yü pin juk'): rice porridge with fish slices.
皮蛋瘦肉粥 ('pei dan sau yiuk juk'): preserved egg and lean pork congee.
柴魚花生粥 ('chai-yü faa-sang juk'): dried fish and fried peanuts rice congee.
油條 ('yau tiu'): fried bread stick.
粽 ('jung'): Chinese tamale.
腸粉 ('cheung fan'): rice noodle sheet rolls (steamed and toothsome).
海米腸粉 ('hoi mei cheung fan'): dry shrimp rice sheet noodle.
香茜腸粉 ('heung sai cheung fan'): cilantro steamed rice-sheet noodle.
鮮蝦腸粉 ('sin haa cheung fan'): fresh shrimps rice-sheet noodle.
咖啡 ('ga fei'): coffee.
三餸一湯 'saam song yat tong': three sides, soup, and rice.
飽 ('baau'): steamed buns with filling.
饅頭 ('maan tou'): plain steamed bread.
鮮蝦雲吞 ('san sin wan tan'): freshly made wonton.

Often, in warmer weather, the place attracts little swarms of tourists, who after long vocal deliberation among themselves, will purchase one carbonated beverage, and one meatball. For some reason no one ever looks at the wall above, where a listing of what they have is clear, legible, and easy to understand, in two written languages.

Fortunately there were no outsiders crowding in, because it was humming, and there would have been no time at all to answer questions from a committee of the baffled yet apathetic.

If, from the foregoing, and the fact that I do not mention the name of the place or where it is, you get the impression that I am less than enthusiastic about Caucasians visiting, then who am I to contradict you?
It's strictly our kind of place.

Food-curious San Franciscans, fine. Southerners, Mid-Westerners, East-Coasters, Germans, Dutch, Italians, French, and many others warmly tolerated, but ultimately a waste of time who are in the way.

At some point, maybe this week, maybe next, I'll head into Chinatown for steamed chicken over rice (蒸滑雞飯 'jing gwat kai faan'), or steamed pork patty and rice (蒸肉餅飯 'jing yiuk beng faan'). There's a place near Pacific Avenue where they do a whole range of claypots, and most of the clientele are neighborhood people.

Home town cooking from a place that isn't my home town.
I'm a Dutch American from California.

The medical appointment went well, in case you were wondering. My blood pressure is back to normal, and the next follow-up visit to the cardiologist will be in the middle of April. Once again after lunch.

I'm thinking plank fish and peanuts congee then.

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One of the posts here which gets visits every day makes me despair for humanity. The fact that it is so often read indicates that many people are deficient. Stop the planet, the crocodile aliens have landed.


What is wrong with you people?!? Do you all wish to be denizens of Middle Earth? Speak in thees and thous? Fancy yourselves with hairy splayed feet? Have fairies and elves as friends?

Perhaps you all wish to smoke fruitloops, out of photogenic long pipes, while dancing and playing the harp by starlight.

Real people smoke good tobacco that does not need pimping with the cheap vulgar smell of a bath house.

Aromatics gum up your pipe, imbue your clothes with rancid odours, and prove you defective. You probably also use patchouli, and your carpets stink.

The orcs will get you.


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Wednesday, February 20, 2019


When I was a child we had pets, who liked our presence, but did not demand our attention, as they would come in from the courtyard through the open sliding doors and make themselves comfortable in the sun room or the back living room, only rarely seeking out a lap. Creaky furniture, clinking cups, drainpipe trickles, odd bumps, and murmering. My memories of being a teenager involve smells, minor sounds, cats, and a dog.

Not always our smells, sounds, or animals.

One of the local cafes had deep awnings, and creaky rattan furniture. There was a dog there who would come up, sniff, accept head scritchies, and then retire to the interior. Good place for a smoke while looking out over the market square, at the end of which the church would be hazy in the rain.
Another nearby cafe had an enclosed front patio, with comfy terrace chairs, a great view of the church, a poodle, and old gentlemen enjoying cigars.
Whisps of Latakia from my pipe would be barely noticeable.
It would mingle nicely with the undertone of coffee.
And soften the old man reeks.

Our neighbors on one side had experimented with a pet dog, but eventually gave it away because their children were uncontrollable antisocial monsters. They settled for a backyard quite devoid of animals and trees, so that their youngest mutant freak could not harm himself, and we largely ignored them. The folks on the other side kept chickens and ducks. Which are fascinating, I suppose, but not very good family members.

I remember the animals and smells of Valkenswaard with slightly greater fondness than the local people or (or climate). Some of the smells I was myself responsible for -- see aforementioned whisps of Latakia -- and the natives had, often, a straightforward peasant approach to animals.
Those chickens and ducks were meant for future food.
Roast duck, by the way, is delicious.

The animals in my life nowadays live with other people. Most of them are calm, reasonably social, and seem to have their own minds. We impact on their lives, but they seem largely able to maintain their mental equilibrium despite our peculiarities. The cats in Chinatown like attention, but don't demand it. And there are raccoons here too. And crows.

The whisps of Latakia are still within reach.

The only rattan furniture I know of is the battered chair where I usually sit while drinking my morning coffee. I smoke there on my days off.
The other rattan chair is "buried".
Stuff on it.

I have no pets.

This place currently smells of fresh dark brew and aged English leaves.
The sun is shining, but it is frigid outside. It might rain.

There are no backyard chickens or ducks in this city. San Franciscans do not understand tobacco, and one cannot indulge indoors anymore. Rattan chairs are regrettably rather rare. The coffee, often, is dreck from 'Bucks, strong milk tea Hong Kong style OR like the English do, is not part of the programme at most cafes and restaurants.

Warmer weather will make smoking outdoors much more enjoyable.
The rainy season here is cold and unpleasant.

I am not bellyaching.
Just observing.


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Now here's a bit of a conflict: today is International Pipe Smoking Day, AND the day of my follow-up appointment with my cardiologist. Which means that I should finish my last smoke two or three hours before seeing him. Though I am sure that he's used to the smell of tobacco clinging to some of his patients, old fossils who keep mentioning that Deng Xiao-ping huffed three packs a day into his nineties (and if he did it, so should they).

Pipe-smoking and cigarettes are not equivalents.

Yesterday I smoked three bowls.

Today I'll be heading into C'town around noon for a visit to my bank, and a spot of lunch. After a post-meal pipe, I shall head over to Market Street to catch the bus to the hospital where I had the stent put in, which should be enough time for the scent to dissipate.

Always show up early for medical appointments.

The other day a coworker left a cigarette of a type she had not had before for me to smoke at the end of the day. She said it was really good, I should try it. An hour and a half later, I did. She was right. Made me understand all over again why teenagers acquire bad habits. No, shan't mention what it was, because I do not want to give any children reading here ideas.

Kid, go straight to pipes. And preferably good quality tobacco, not that aromatic shite that everyone says reminds them of grandpapa. A solid flake, or a Balkan blend (Latakia, Turkish, and flue-cured leaf).

Stay away from drugs and Vaping devices.
The road to hell is paved with them.

There's something about my medications that makes mere half bowls much more enjoyable than full loads now. That's probably a good thing.
Nearly the same number of smokes, but less tobacco.
There is an effect on taste.


Some studies show that caffeine may reduce the cardioprotective effect of statins(*). Though on the other hand, caffeine especially in combination with Atorvastatin seems to induce aptosis of tumors or inhibit their growth (*).
Prostate cancer cells were specifically mentioned.
Further reading is required.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019


It is surprising how much my spam folder and the news headlines mirror each other, though with spam it is usually transparently a comment that serves to alert a bot that no one is guarding the gates. Several phrases over the years have been repeated, along with the very same peculiar spelling errors, as well as praise for the editor/manager of this page, and an enthusiastic promise to circulate it to a community, a few members of which are newly involved in scheming.

Other blog owners will recognize what I am talking about.

Many of the phrases show that whatever language they originated in, it sure wasn't English. One expression of botic wonderment, if posted here, would probably get this page put on a list of dubious sites.
I ran that example through several googlian language translations till at last it made sense, which revealed it as being praise for my skill at maintaining unreasonable knowledge about unpredictable expectations.

Yessirree, what you will find here is unreasonable knowledge. As well as unpredictable expectations. About any number of things. Briar, pipes, pipe tobacco, Hong Kong milk tea, what I ate for lunch, ceramics, the weather, my recent medical history, and animals real or imagined.

And in that vein, I am wondering why the old gentleman behind me on the bus yesterday so strongly reeked of turmeric. Perhaps it was his bath soap, as turmeric is supposed to be good for the skin. But he's had that dermis for longer than I have been alive, so he should probably leave well enough alone. Trust me, old man, your hide sack works.
The curry within does not spill out.
As far as we can tell.

The other frequently noticeable odours on the Marin buses are marijuana, along with cheap designer soaps and unguents. Both of which epitomize unreasonable expectations, and are predictable.

I flatter myself that my occasional manly pong of pipe tobacco counteracts that nicely, in that it should be unpredictable for most people, as well as perfectly and reasonably civilized.

I never smell of pot.

This blog writes mostly about penguins, unreasonable and unpredictable penguins, which only your cousin knows so much about that you think he must be one of the authors.

Этот блог-сайт пишет в основном о пингвинах, неразумные и непредсказуемые пингвины, что только ваш двоюродный брат так много знает о том, что вы думаете, что он один из авторов.

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My apartment mate's ex-boyfriend, 'Wheelie Boy', is both neurotic, and notoriously hypochondriac. As well as not entirely sensible about the correct approach to health. So, when he called late one night recently with a medical emergency that required help getting to the hospital, I was a bit sceptical.
But there is nothing imaginary about a kidney stone.
And passing one is intensely painful.

He was miserable. But calm.

Kidney stones are a little more common in men than women.

Per Wikipedia: "High dietary intake of animal protein, sodium, sugars including honey, refined sugars, fructose and high fructose corn syrup, oxalate, grapefruit juice, and apple juice may increase the risk of kidney stone formation".
End cite.

About oxalate, Wikipedia says: "Plants that contain significant concentrations of oxalate include, in decreasing order, star fruit (carambola), black pepper, parsley, poppy seed, amaranth, spinach, chard, beets, cocoa, chocolate, most nuts, most berries, ( ... ) and beans. Leaves of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) contain among the greatest measured concentrations of oxalic acid relative to other plants. However, the beverage derived by infusion in hot water typically contains only low to moderate amounts of oxalic acid due to the small mass of leaves used for brewing.

And: "In the body, oxalic acid combines with divalent metallic cations such as calcium (Ca2+) and iron(II) (Fe2+) to form crystals of the corresponding oxalates which are then excreted in urine as minute crystals. These oxalates can form larger kidney stones that can obstruct the kidney tubules. An estimated 80% of kidney stones are formed from calcium oxalate."
End cite.

He did the right thing in calling her. In San Francisco, ambulances and other emergency service will wipe out your rent money, and taxis are notoriously unwilling to take people with ambulatory issues (my nickname for him, 'Wheelie Boy', is because he is in a wheelchair).

She thanked me for waking her up.
And I am glad I did.

My own recent experiences with hospitals and medical care, as well as all the scrub-wearers whom I know, indicate that while in agony he will have been exposed to some very nice people, who are intelligent and capable. And of an equitable temperament. In between waves of pain he might have had quite enjoyable conversations. But I don't know.
When I went to the clinic on January second, the nurse who took my vital signs struck me as calm, capable, and to the point. Which are always great conversational characteristics, no matter the context. Umm, no, I didn't pay attention to her physical attributes -- and should point out that one hospital worker I know looks like a sailor, except when (or perhaps especially when) he's wearing pale lavender scrubs and huffing cigars -- but I would certainly recognize her in civilian garb.

The one thing about which people in the medical profession are obdurate is that smoking is bad. Even if they themselves indulge.

Wheelie Boy does not smoke. So that will not have been an issue.

Again, kidney stones can be extremely painful.

Which may have inhibited chit-chat.

"Do you come here often?"

I have been exposed to the medical profession significantly more in the past month and a half than 'Wheelie Boy', but overall it has been an enjoyable experience. Except, of course, for the need that drove me to it.

By the way, one of the regulars at work left behind a collection of essays about ear, nose, and throat emergencies. I have temporarily borrowed the book, because it is fascinating and filled with lovable phrases.
Example: "The nose is richly vascularized." Which means that your schnozz is full of it, and you may bleed like a stuck pig if punched.
Which you've known since grammar school.

From the piece on peripheral vertigo: "A clinician should have a low threshold for a formal echo-cardiogram and cardiology follow-up." Because inexplicable dizziness may be a sign of underlying conditions.

A tattooed cigar-smoking sailor wearing lavender scrubs.


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Monday, February 18, 2019


Yesterday an old friend expressed surprise when I informed him that a couple whom we both know had unfriended me on Facebook a year and a half ago. He asked what their reason had been. Buggered if I know.
When I asked one of them about it, she made some weasly excuse about a computer upgrade blah blah blah, and I did not inquire any further. Several other "friends" had done the same in that period, without talking to me, and the most I can figure out is that it was because of something shitty I may have written about Trump, Bernie Sanders, foodies, cigar smokers, Filipinos, or Vietnamese.

I've read through the stuff on my blog from then, and still don't have a clue.

I said lots of shitty things in 2017. About a great many people.

Not everyone is forthright enough to say something.

And there are many people with whom I am glad to no longer associate.
It has always been that way. Life is too short to smoke aromatics or eat junk food, and too many people are as bad for your mind as crap is for your guts.
There is a similarity that eventually gives you bile.

I hope they all eventually forget me, lest they recognize me years from now at an inconvenient moment (perhaps when I am talking with someone else), and either have regrets or say something which will baffle me.

Two people walked into where I work yesterday whom I had not seen in years. And I was glad to see both of them. No unfriending had occurred.
It was just fate that we had not been around each other.

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Sunday, February 17, 2019


The Saidaiji Kendo Club has been feautured in the news. Not because of any great praestations, or their fighting spirit, or because of their valiant efforts in the path of their chosen commonality. But because they were nearly naked and a news reporter caught them. Mayhap a stringer.
Or just a lucky man with a camera.

A lovely picture of glowing pale flesh, outdoors, during the cold season.

[COPYRIGHT: GETTY IMAGES SOURCE: Nearly naked crowd, lucky sticks - BBC]


That sign carried by the man with black half robe? "Prayer for Victory, Saidaiji High School, Kendo Department.

Three things I should probably clarify here: 1) I do not cruise the internet for pictures of brawny naked men; 2) My highschool (the Hertog Jan College in Valkenswaard) probably had almost nothing in common with Saidaiji High; and 3) None of these people look anything like any of the Kendo practitioners that I am familiar with. Which is only one.


Yeah, I am not really very familiar with Kendo. But thanks to reading far too much manga, the personality of Kuno Tatewaki (aka "The Blue Thunder of Furinkan High") is an open book. 

These men are not like him in the slightest.

We probably would have benefitted from the discipline and ideals of Kendo. What we got instead was Field Hockey, in which thirty or so rampant teenage boys are let loose upon each other with wooden sticks in a muddy field, with hopes that the subsequent mayhem will subdue them long enough that the "gymn teacher" can enjoy a cup of coffee and a cigar in the faculty lounge.

Remarkably few hospitalizations ensued.

I remember my high school years with fondness.
But not my actual high school hours.

And there was no nudity.

Of course, I am lucky. As I understand it, most American high schools are brutal environments, where sportive achievement is stressed, dominated by the jocks of the football team and the bitchy blondes of the cheerleading squad, and conformity may be forced upon you. At the very least you'll end up cowed, and resentful of the big galoots in the office building elevator.
Or the macho meatballs in the sales department.

If not that, perhaps drug-addled.

By the way: I really loathe all team-sports.
But quite possibly I would've liked Kendo.

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This blogger lives in a tightly wrapped cocoon. Along with several scraps of insane conversation heard yesterday -- one of which involved old men and their eliminative functions -- were several cogent and informative bits. And as one might expect at this time of year, especially from a place where many of the regulars are no longer spring chickens AND smoke cigars, medical matters were a dominant part of the program.
I myself contributed that there is nothing quite so patient as an old geezer trying to take a leak, pursuant which it should again be said that the key advice to men heading into old age is 1) never pass on an opportunity to urinate, 2) never ignore a tumescence, and 3) never ever trust a fart.
All three of these are valuable advice. And to a certain extent cross-gender in their applicability.

[The football season is over. They've got to have something to talk about.]

The best thing, however, was this:

"Nine out of ten doctors say smoking is good for kids."

Nicotine benefits short term memory, improves retention and mental focus, and counteracts attention deficit and dementia. All of which would help the hyperactive little brats of the Bay Area. Start the little turds out young.

Cigars perhaps less so than pipes, because pipe smoking will also inculcate an intellectual rigour, as well as discipline that will stand them in good stead later in life. Packing it properly, keeping it lit, and afterwards carefully and correctly cleaning it, are all good training. Chosing ones' pipe tobacco with care, and ensuring that it is at the proper humidity level for optimum performance are levels of detail-orientedness that the little thugs would benefit from. As they say, 'let kids be kids'.

As I am sure all right-thinking adults would agree.

Cigarettes, however, are strictly for thoughtless people.
Cigars: six of one, half a dozen of the other.

[The tenth doctor probably smokes cigarettes. More doctors smoke Camels than any thing else. In fact, in a nation wide survey, doctors all across the country, in all branches of medicine, fondly remember Camels as a smooth and rich tasting pleasure during the early years of med school.]

Kids smoking cigarettes during recess or after class are nervous and tense. But pipesmokers are calm and thoughtful, reserved even, and are quite the opposite of a public nuisance.

And, suffice to say, nothing is as bad as pot for young minds.
It's considerably worse than gluten and vaccination.
If you have to smoke pot, don't exhale.

* * * * *

Nothing, absolutely nothing, is as horrible as seeing clusters of people outside office buildings jamming tomato after tomato into their gaping orifices for the nicotine every hour. Or eggplant. Or cauliflower. And the mess that leaves on the pavement cannot be described.

If they had been taught to smoke as kids, it would be different.

I look forward to a day when schoolchildren all across America will enjoy pipes filled with good tobacco while doing their homework.

It's really all about the children.

Precious little treasures.

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Sometimes, out of the corner of your ear, you hear something that tingles. While we were eating she mentioned that she admired crows because...