Monday, September 30, 2019


The flock of crows overhead was much smaller than a day ago while I was outside on the steps with smoke and coffee. But that is probably because the scouts had not found anything good to eat. It's Monday, the supply of left-over pizza is less. A small party flew over, heading north-west. One lone crew perched on a roof-edge at the end of the block, cawing questioningly.

One can imagine what goes through the birds' heads.

"Why is there no stale pizza?!? Oh woe! Oh woe!"

Better not speculate about whatever else they may have to eat this morning. It's grim. The supply of stale pizza is much diminished; young drunken yuppie humans tend to be markedly fewer on Sunday nights, and the neighborhood was quieter by far. If and when the scouts return from their explorational flight, perhaps they will smell deliciously of dough and tomato sauce, having been successful in their hunt, and there will be much joy.
I wish them well. If I had stale pizza, I would spread it out for them.
But, not being a frat boy or e-yuppie, I have none.

All I have are cigarillos at this hour.
And a cup of strong coffee.
An adult breakfast.

The millenials are not doing their part. As I see it, their most useful function is to eat pizza late at night, or bacon wrapped dogs, and be messy, so that my corvid fellow Americans may thrive, and be happy.
They have nothing else to contribute.


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Sunday, September 29, 2019


Great line from a crime series: "even in Los Angeles there is no place to hide". But why go to Los Angeles in the first place? I've been there. I was born there. Well, actually in Hawthorne General Hospital which may no longer exist. After revisiting the Los Angeles area upon my return to the States at the age of eighteen, I could understand why we left.
Los Angeles and its environs are pretty ghastly.

Some people love the place.

I've heard that you can breathe there now.

No, I shan't be putting that assertion to the test.

I have a hard time remaining polite and courteous to folks who insist on telling me at great length why they love Los Angeles. What I really want to say is "oh please shut up, you're obviously a shallow airheaded dingbat".

When tourists say that what they really like about San Francisco is that is so very "European", what they mean is that it is NOT like Los Angeles.
Where they were last week.

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Coffee. Cigarillo. Front steps. Crows. There are over a dozen crows in this loosely organized flock. Unlike the pigeons beyond the nearby bus stop, they do not crowd each other, or fly in a tight formation. First four cross over the street, giving each other plenty of room. Then two more. Then another three. After that half a dozen more, at intervals. One knows that they sort of belong together, because only the crow at the lead of the first four cawed, and all of them were going in exactly the same direction. Likely heading toward the rear of a pizza restaurant two blocks away for breakfast.
Social eaters. But no need to clump together.
And likely anarchists.

Pigeons aren't intelligent enough to be anarchists.
The clusterfudge instinct dominates.

An elderly Chinese woman waits at the bus stop. This line will take her across the hill towards dim sum, seven or eight blocks away. I have never eaten dim sum this early myself, because the only thing I want at this hour is coffee, a smoke, and  the reassuring impersonal presence of crows.

From all this we can deduce that Dutch Americans like myself are not very social when still groggy from sleep. But we kind of knew that already.

There may be giant holes in the conclusion, but I shan't argue with myself.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019


It dawned on me that casual readers may be unfamiliar with several of the terms used in daily gibberish written here, and might need a quick bone-up on terminology. Because, though they are 'English as a first language' people, their English is not quite the same as my English.
And thus impaired. Severely.

Here then is a list that will get them up to speed.

Study this well before you visit. It will help.

We'll finally be able to understand you.


Alabama:   The new Greenland.
Amsterdam:   a lovely walking city with a great soccer team.
Andy Lau:   a singer and actor from Hong Kong, responsible for some very silly stuff.
劉德華 'lau tak waa'.
Anglo Indian food:   a vast, inclusive, and flexible, category of mostly subcontinental dishes, resulting from a melding of European and Indian ideas, cultures, and parentage. Great stuff.
Appendix:   a useless organ that wants to kill you.
闌尾 'laan mei'.
Astley's:   a famous tobacconist at 109 Jermyn Street, whose mixtures became part of the McConnell portfolio, and are still manufactured through Kohlhase & Kopp, though the store has been long closed.
Atjeh:   a territory at the northern end of Sumatra, populated by a stubborn people.
Ballichao:   condiment from Macao or Goa, made with fermented seafood; sometimes also a dish incorporating that condiment.
Bearded dragon:   a small lizard popular as a pet.
Belgian:   an inferior Dutchman.
Bitter melon:   a cucurbit, momordica charantia, which I like and you probably don't.
苦瓜、涼瓜 'fu gwaa','leung gwaa'.
Bitter melon omelette:   delicious, especially with Sriracha.
苦瓜煎蛋 'fu gwaa jin daan'.
Burley:   an air-cured tobacco with low natural sweetness. Useful as a filler or blending component, but too educational really to be smoked on its own.
Brabant:   an area and a province in the Netherlands where some of my ancestors are from, and where I lived from two till eighteen, after my parents left Southern California.
Calvinism:   a severe form of Christianity common in the Netherlands that my ancestors practiced, even after landing in New Amsterdam. We jumped that ship five generations ago, thank heavens. See "Dutch Reformed".
Cantonese:   a mellifluous language derived more directly from Ancient Chinese than Mandarin, as well as speakers of that language from a province in the south of China.
粵語、廣東話 'yuet yü', 'gwong tung waa'.
Cantonese people:   the dominant Sinitic population in San Francisco.
廣東人 'gwong tung yan'.
Chachanteng:   a Hong Kong style tea-restaurant, where club sandwiches, fried noodles, casseroles, and HK style spaghetti, are served, along with super deadly French toast drizzled with syrup and sweetened condensed milk, washed down with strong milk tea. It's necessary for your civilized life, and your doctor won't eat there.
茶餐廳 'chaa chan teng'.
Charatan:   at one time the best briar pipes for tobacco ever made. Far better than Dunhill.
Charsiu turnover:   delicious flaky pastry filled with Cantonese barbecue pork.
叉燒酥 'chaa siu sou'
Chinatown:   a district in San Francisco near my apartment, where I hang out a lot, because I like the food, nobody belly-aches about my smoking, and people don't ask stupid pesky questions about my accent. Okay?
唐人街、唐人阜 'tong-yan kai','tong yan fau'.
Chinese Hospital SF:   a splendid institution that helped me dodge a bullet twice this year.
東華醫院 'tung waa yi yuen'.
Chou Hsuan: 周璇 ('jau suen'), originally named 蘇璞 ('sou pok'), born in 1920, died in 1957, who was a legendary star of Shanghai cinema. Over forty movies and innumerable songs.
Club sandwich:   a popular Hong Kong lunch-time snack served at many chachantengs.
公司三文治 'gong si saam man ji'.
Comoy:   once one of the best brands of briar pipe, up there in the rankings with Barlings, BBB, GBD, Loewe& co., Sasieni, and Charatan.
Cookie:   a Dutch American invention, like the donut.
Cretins:   the Trump administration.
Curry:   咖喱 'gaa lei'.
Curry puff:   a popular and delicious pastry with curry inside.
咖喱角 'gaa-lei kok'.
Den Haag:   "The Widow of the Indies"; Dutch town where the government is located, where retired colonials settled because there was no one left in the provinces whom they knew, and where there were more Indonesian restaurants than anywhere else in the country.
Diabetes:   an affliction of the elderly and the poor; "sugar urine disease".
糖尿病 'tong niu beng'.
Donut:   a Dutch American invention, like the cookie.
Dum alu vindaloo:   an Indian restaurant dish rather similar to tichwan.
Dumpling:   a savoury meat and vegetable filling enclosed in a thin skin of dough, which is delicious.
餃子、水餃 'gaau ji', 'seui gaau'.
Dutch:   see "German".
Dutch man's breeches:   a perennial herbaceous flower native to North America. Dicentra cucullaria
Dutch Reformed:   an ethno-cultural form of Calvinism, marked by anti-social tendencies and severe disapproval of whatever every one else believes or does.
Dutch treat:   a silly American term.
Dutch uncle:   another silly American term.
Egg tarts:   possibly the best snack in Chinatown, egg custard in a flaky crust.
蛋撻 'daan taat'.
Fecalith:   an almost useless medical coinage.
糞石 'fan sek'.
Fledermaus:   a mouse that flitters. It has vlerks.
Flying Jacob:   a Swedish casserole (Flygande Jacob) containing chicken, cream, chili sauce, bananas, roasted peanuts and bacon, seasoned with Italian salad herbs, served with rice and a salad, invented in the Seventies.
Frank Chu:   an honorary Dutchman.
Friesland:   the closest thing to Norway in the Netherlands. A strange place.
Garlic bread: San Francisco French bread slices smeared with garlic grease and toasted.
香蒜麵包 'heung suen min baau'.
General Tso's chicken:   a popular restaurant dish from New York. It's what East Coasters mean when they whine about our Chinese food not being good enough.
左宗棠雞 'jo jung tong gai'.
German:   a hip modern language suitable for making everything you say sound simultaneously serious and absolutely berserk.
Greenland:   America's Belgian Congo. Plantation crops, mineral resources, and golf courses maintained with slave labour.
Hamberder:   food for republicans.
Hamburger:   grilled meat patty in a toasted bun with condiments. Broodje Jantje.
漢堡包 'hon bou baau'
Herring:   a fish best eaten very lightly cured, with chopped onions.
Hello Kitty:   an ironic fashion paradigm.
Holland:   a town in Michigan where people with whom we don't associate dwell.
Hungry Ghost Festival:   fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month, when spirits visit the mortal world.
鬼節 'gwai jit'
Indo:   a common term for a Dutch person with some Indonesian cultural inheritance or kin. Often a family history in the East can be assumed, as well as certain tastes and habits. Indo-Dutch.
James J. Fox:   a famous London tobacco house at 19 Saint James Street.
John Cotton Ltd:   a manufacturer of some of the finest pipe tobacco ever, once located at 65 Kingsway.
Kau yiuk:   a lovely fatty pork preparation often including snow cabbage, which really needs a vegetable dish on the side.
梅菜扣肉 'mui choi kau yiuk'.
Ketjap manis:   thick sweet soy sauce common in the Netherlands, Indonesia, and Malaysia. It is a necessary condiment.
Latakia:   a smoke cured tobacco from the Levant used condimentally in many pipe mixtures. It smells of terpeneols and creosote.
Laksa:   Peranakan and Indonesian seafood soup with rice noodles. There are two types, as well as intermediate kinds, namely coconut curry soup, and sour (tamarind broth) soup. Laksa is a perfect exemplar of cross-over cooking.
Leslie Cheung:   A remarkable actor, a good singer, and the kind of man one would like to know.
張國榮 'jeung gwok wing'.
Limburg:   a province in the Netherlands where a peculiar group of dialects are spoken by unintelligible second rate Brabanders.
Marin County:   the region where anti-vax, crystal healing, a horrible sense of entitlement, natural healing, veganism, and white folks yoga, originated.
It is a very silly place.
馬林縣 'maa lam yuen'.
Medan:   a large metropolis in Northern Sumatra. Excellent tobacco ("Deli Tabak") was exported through Belawan harbour there. There is a substantial Chinese community in Medan, mostly speakers of Hokkien.
閩南語、福建話 'man naam yü', 'fok kin waa').
Milk tea:   often also called Hong Kong Milk Tea; a strong brewed beverage mellowed by the addition of sweetened condensed milk; the beverage of choice at a chachanteng.
奶茶 'naai cha'; milk tea. 港式奶茶 'gong sik naai cha'; HK milk tea. 絲襪奶茶 'si mat naai cha'; silk stocking tea, referring to the baggy strainer.
Mitch McConnell:   unspeakable filth.
Molto Dolce:   epic perversion.
Murgh makhni:   tomato cream sauce curry chicken, which is delicious.
Natural healing:   this is what's wrong with white people.
Nicotine:   a study aid.
Norwegian:   a fictional being.
Nurse:   the paradigm of womanhood, armed with needles.
Official and Triad collusion:   part of Hong Kong culture.
官黑勾結 'gun haak gau git'.
Official, Police, and Triad cooperation:   part of Hong Kong culture.
官警黑合作 'gun ging haak hap jok'.
Orange Wang:   an economic columnist based in Hong Kong.
Paisley:   one of the worst things to come out of the seventies.
Penguin:   a flightless seabird. A paradigm of elegance.
Peranakans:   descendants of locally born Chinese in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo. They have a little non-Chinese in their ancestry, just like Indo-Dutch might have Chinese or Indonesian. Similarly, their cultures and cuisines will incorporate a broad spectrum of ingredients which were not traditional then, but might be customary now.
Peritonitis:   inflammation and infections in the guts, often the result of rupture or incisions.
腹膜炎 'fuk mou yim'.
Perique:   an anaerobically fermented tobacco from Louisiana, often paired with Virginias.
Pipe:   an object made of briar wood for consuming tobacco. A fire cup on a hollow stick, with a mouthpiece of a different material. It is an old-school object of beauty and functionality, which should remind you of engineers, the golden glow of the early sixties, the vast moorlands of Devon, tramp steamers limping into port, continental hotels, happy nuclear families teeming with goldfish, televisions, and new station wagons in the drive way of their spacious ranch-style house, lounge wagons on cross-country railway journeys, after afternoon tea, and elegantly attired advertising executives or doctors, as well as ancient mariners, beloved college professors, philosophers, and French speaking individuals.
If it doesn't, you are defective.
Portuguese chicken rice:   mild coconut curry chicken layered over egg-fried rice with a generous sprinkle of cheese made bubbly under the broiler; a heart attack on a plate. Recipes vary wildly.
焗葡國雞飯 'guk pou gwok gai faan'.
Salt fish:   an important flavour-lending ingredient in much Cantonese cooking, salty, savoury, delicious, and sometimes overpowering.
鹹魚'haahm yü'
Salt fish and chicken fried rice:   precisely what it says. It's delicious.
鹹魚雞粒炒飯 'haahm yü gai naap chaau faan'.
Sambal:   an often necessary component to a meal that makes food more appetizing; hot chili paste with other stuff.
Sambal badjak:   a cooked chili paste with onion or shallot, garlic, shrimp sauce, and lime juice. Probably tme most versatile sambal there is, which can also be used when cooking many dishes. There's a jar in the refrigerator. What Dutch people use in lieu of ketchup and mustard.
Sambal goreng:   in the Netherlands, a condiment made by frying chilies and onion. In Indonesia, a side dish of anything stirfried with chilies.
Seal script:   an archaic form of Chinese writing that pre-dates the brush normally used to form characters.
Unlike modern script, it has round forms and curves, and can be very elegant. Not the earliest Chinese script, but a close relative.
篆書 'suen sü'.
Sepsis:   the result of infections, when the tissues rebel against the contaminative substance or agent; it can be life-threatening, and requires treatment with anti-bacterials or anti-fungals. See a doctor.
敗血症 'paai huet jing'.
Shrimp paste:   pâté de crevette.
Sliced fish congee:   魚片粥 'yü pin juk'.
Spam:   A tasty meat substitute beloved by many ethnic minority Americans, midwesterners, and Philippinos.
午餐肉 'ng chaan yiuk'.
Sriracha:   a condiment made of chilies that makes life lovely.
Stanwell:   a manufacturer of decent pipes in Denmark.
Steamed pork patty:   ground pork with usually slivered ginger and a few slices of salt fish for flavour on top, put on a plate and steamed till done. One of the most quintessential Cantonese home cooked dishes. It's delicious.
鹹魚蒸肉餅 'haam yü jing yiuk beng'
Sturgeon:   a large river fish much prized in certain cuisines.
鱘龍魚 'cham lung yü'.
Surströmming:   rotten fish.
Susie Derkins:   an admirable female, fictional.
Swedish cuisine:   jerk chicken and albondigas.
Tear gas:   a common occurrence in Hong Kong.
淚煙 'leui yin'.
Tilburg:   a quiet college town in the southern part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which has some culinary treats to sample.
Tung Pei-Pei:   a singing star of the Chinese cinema in Shanghai. She moved to Hong Kong in in 1949. Born in 1928, passed away in the late seventies. I have not been able to find out the exact date.
董佩佩 'tung pui pui'.
Trassi:   a firm brick-like fish paste used in Dutch, Indonesian, Malay, and Peranakan cooking.
Virginia:   flue-cured tobacco grown in Brazil, Canada, India, and many parts of Africa. China grows more Virginia and Burley tobacco than any other part of the world. It is marked by a carotenoid fragrance, and must be smoked slowly, on the cusp of going out.
Wonton:   the Cantonese soup dumpling, stuffed with pork and shrimp and served in a broth containing dried flounder, often with noodles, which horrifies Mandarin-speaking bumpkins.
雲吞、雲吞湯麵 'wan tan', 'wan tan tong min'.
Yao Lee:   a great singer born in Shanghai in 1922, passed away in Hong Kong on July 19th. 2019.
姚莉 'yiu lei'.
Yellow croaker:   a tasty food fish.
王花魚 'wong faa yü'.
Yong tau foo:   a treatment for beancurd unlike what most white people do to it. Ground spiced fatty pork and shrimp paste are stuffed into a slit you have made in the side of the tofu, which is then fried and sauced.
Sambal, bean paste, and vinegar are excellent.
釀豆腐 'yeung dau fu'.

You might want to print out this list for easy reference.
It will help you navigate the rapids.
You won't drown.

Now, go have a baked porkchop over spaghetti.
焗豬扒意粉 'guk chyu paa yi fan'.
With lots of cheese.
芝士 'ji si'.

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Friday, September 27, 2019


And, speaking of food, a friend showed what he ate for lunch. It is a beautiful and striking picture, which if it were art could well hang in a doctors office, so that sound individuals like myself would, when nobody was watching, adjust it because the cleaning staff while dusting knocked it out of perfect perpendicularity, with exact ninety degree angles.
As they are wont to do.

That's what happens when a man (or woman) studies medicine for oompty-oomp years instead of geometry. Logically both subjects could go hand in hand, but in most cases they don't. Please arrange the unconscious subject on the gurney in as much as possible a position parallel to the sides, so that we don't accidentally crash parts of his comatose ass into a wall when going around a hospital corner fast. Which is extremely important.

A little nudge lower left corner. Just so.
It's perfect now, thank me.

The picture:

Celllphone Photo: Irfan M, Thursday Sept 26, 2019

Now, the serious question you have to ask yourself next Tuesday afternoon at the hospital is NOT: "do I show this to my cardiologist when he asks if I'm finally eating right?" but "how DO you eat this?"

For obvious reasons, it should be eaten like salad: with a fork.
With something so messy, that is the right way.

It is not at all certain that your cardiologist's sense of aesthetics can trump his professional concern with your arteries, so it is probably best he not see this picture, even if he does ask you for advice on making his office decor more interesting, But visually, it is stunning. A thing of haphazard joy.

Such a pity the restaurant that serves this delight is nowhere near the hospital where I will see my cardiologist, as I wish I could have this for lunch after my coming appointment. Instead, I will probably head over to a chachanteng for porkloin and egg over rice.

I do not have a cellphone, or I could show you.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019


The likeable and extremely capable woman at the sign-in desk (登記處 'tang kei chyu') referred to my apartment mate as "your caretaker". Which is not strictly accurate -- for one thing, it makes me seem like a superannuated old fossil who needs minding -- and for another thing, the Savage Kitten is simply good at things, and quite capable of picking up men recovering from an appendectomy who might not have it all together at that time. Without making a fuss. As I hope I would be, if she ever needed a bit of help after a hospital stay. Such as was necessitated by an exploding appendix.

My own fault, actually. That Friday afternoon when the pain started, I said to myself: "this is nothing, it will pass, I have plans for the weekend so I'll just ride it out". Saturday the pain was considerably worse, but, um, I had plans!
I did what I planned, despite the pain. Went to bed severely hurting, and at four o'clock A.M. or thereabouts I realized that there was no way in heck I'd be opening up at ten. Taxi to hospital, admitted speedily, and was informed by four thirty that I'd be the first patient on the table at six.

At that time, Savage Kitten did what was needful, and they released me to her five days later. I may not have been entirely "collected" at that time.
So she made quite a good impression on the staff.
As, indeed, one would expect her to.
She is very impressive.

But she is not my caretaker. I am not decrepit, feeble, or senile. She's my apartment mate, at times a co-conspirator, rational, sensible, and an old and dear friend that I can rely upon.

The likeable and extremely capable woman at the sign-in desk was indeed surprised at this information. She asked me who cooks for me. From which we can deduce that white people in general, or middle aged men, do not have a reputation for doing things themselves, or knowing how to cook.

Remarkably, I know a few white men of reasonable maturity who can cook, do cook, and cook quite well. Though I will admit that they are unusual, and by no means average.

As you may have noticed from previous essays here, I also cook.
Though as a single man, only for myself.
Nobody else eats my food.

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As a mature individual of crusty habits, I darn well hate this weather we're having. It is warm and summery. On the other hand, the hour I spent down at the hospital talking to my doctor was lovely. Air-conditioning. And there were interesting facts about Alpha and Calcium channel blockers, and my recent medical tests. Plus Indonesian food. He's Chinese from Indonesia.
I am a Dutch American whose cooking is Chinese and Indonesian influenced. Strongly.

On the third hand, I found out that little Miss Mak, the petite nurse from Toishan, also hates needles. She had to give me two new injections.
I pointed out that she was on the right end of the hypodermic.
She's very good with needles.

Lunch afterwards was delicious, and never-the-less sucked eggs bigtime. That chachanteng faces West, and by late afternoon had absorbed so much heat that it might have been the Devil's anteroom.

Fried grouper with curry and rice (咖喱石班飯 'gaa lei sek paan faan').
Plus Srirach chili sauce. In a spacious dining room with wilting people.

The heat. The heat. The heat. The heat. The heat.

Smoked two bowls of tobacco. One pipe is an old Stanwell, the other a no-name. Both are good briar, and refurbishing them was cinch. My doctor, of course, tells me I shouldn't smoke. I'm sorry, I'm a Dutchman; smoking is part of my intangible cultural heritage! Besides, it is the only reason I don't sit on my ass all day and become a vegetable. It's how I get my exercise.
I would have gotten more yesterday if it hadn't been so beastly hot.

Two cups of coffee in the morning. A cup of Hong Kong Milk Tea with lunch, and a regular tea. Two yuen yeung over ice after the first smoke. When I got home I stripped to my colourful and stylish boxer shorts.

Caught sight of myself in the hallway mirror.
I'm much thinner than I thought.

Wired, and wiry.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Like everyone on the internet, I deal with Spam. No, not the tasty Hawaiian food beloved by so many poorer ethnic Americans, or Philippinos, but junk comments designed to either invade a site or test out whether it can be used to boost sales of penis medicine, tourist hotels in Allahabad, or durable cheap roofing materials and coffee enemas.

Full disclosure: I totally approve of coffee enemas. Only idiots and Gwyneth Paltrow get those. Maybe Vani Hari too, but I shan't delve too deeply. All those people deserve fully Starbucksed colons. If the kale didn't do it.
I have never had an enema.

Several Spam comments mention twitter. And ask if I use it.



I don't have a spoiled brat bitch daughter running sweat-shops either, or two loathesome slug-like sons.

I'd really like to put the twitter users and the coffee enema people together.
They have a lot in common.

Real Spam, I like. Great once in a while with lots of sambal, a pile of rice, an egg, and either salt fish or maple sausages. Or in insta-noodle soup, with some gai choi and sliced jalapeños.

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The idiot was there again, but unlike last week, he had much more liquor in his system, and far less speed. He wasn't tweeking, but he couldn't really stand. Pilgrim, Tatyee, and "the most dangerous man in Chinatown" were also there. One white guy; but he left pretty soon after doing an unremark- able karaoke piece. After that, five Lau Takwah (劉德華) numbers -- he's worked long and hard to get to the point where he does a duet with a man in a mutant costume with a helium voice, it's art, man, art -- followed by Teresa Teng (鄧麗君). The Bo Derek look didn't really suite her.
Fortunately that didn't last very long.
She looked better normally.
No cornrows.

Her voice has been described as seven parts honey, three parts tears.

"The moorland chrysanthemums are blooming, at the end of the branches the maple leaves quiver in the breeze; Autumn has arrived again."

[Song: 楓葉飄飄 'fung yip piu piu'; Mandarin: feng ye piao piao.]

That in no way describes the season in San Francisco. With Fall we get Germans and Italians, mostly. Middle-aged Germans, young Italian men. It's as predictable as clockwork. No, they don't flutter. Unlike Teresa's leaves.
Teresa Teng's singing was a vast relief; I feared that there would be more noise there. White people doing rap.

鄧麗君 -- 楓葉飄飄


In the alley outside, three people were shooting craps. A wiry black guy, a drunk, and a fellow in a wheelchair missing a leg. Two dogs were dozing nearby. There was also a punk, and a guitar.
Further on, someone slept.

The Lyrics:

野菊花又開了 紅的豔 白的嬌
開在原野 開在山崗 朵朵花含笑
花在風裡飄 樹在搖 秋色多美好
是你告訴我 一年容易秋風又來到。

也是去年也是我倆 投入秋的懷抱
花在風裡飄 樹在搖 秋色多美好
是你告訴我 一年容易秋風又來到。

依然是花開了 紅的豔 白的嬌
眺望遠野 眺望山崗 不見你的笑
枝頭上 楓葉飄飄
花在風裡飄 樹在搖 秋色多美好
是你告訴我 一年容易秋風又來到。

It's in Mandarin, in case you were wondering.

The sounds of the craps game and the guitar didn't reach us listening to Teresa crooning the maple leaf ballad, nor could we hear the Italians who had been so loud outside Vesuvio's. Or any other white people.

Did I ever mention that when Ms. Teng was still a perky teenager singing in Hokkien she was cute as the dickens? Adorable and sparky.
She had an innocent girlishness.

Nobody at the karaoke joint knows Hokkien.
That's rather a pity.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Not being fluent in German, although able to communicate after a fashion, as well as reasonably comfortable with newspaper texts and other bits and pieces, I tend to treasure fragments that together do not form a linguistic dexterity of any usefulness. Quotable passages from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for instance. "Wir können hier nicht anhalten, das is fledermaus land" The entire movie is filled with a level of crazy, more so if you see it dubbed. "Der himmel war foll von riezige fledermausen."

Something which I've always wanted to tell European tourists on the Golden Gate bus is: "you cannot stop here, this is bat country".

"Sie können hier nicht anhalten ... "

Make their visit special.

Ganz affengeil.

Ja doch.

Some things in German are iconic. The defining moments for a generation. I'm not talking about Dieter and his monkey, or anything by Sasha Baron Cohen. Instead, I wish to offer you this.



Du liebst Fernseh-Funk, ja? Doesn't everybody? It's the sound of the repressed and yearning masses, and this is their veritable anthem.

"Schau, schau; der Kommissar geht um!"

Much better than Abba, more memorable.
And you can dance to it.

A film of the singer's life, " Falco – Verdammt, wir leben noch!" (dammit, we're still alive!) came out a year after his death (6 February 1998).
This was also the title of his last album.

Great for karaoke.

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One of my Facebook friends, a sound rational mature individual, whose ideas are very largely in the correct territory, revealed himself as a tortured soul in his youth. Someone with a rich inner life, and, at that time, unwashed friends.

"The ongoing study cleanout just unearthed something else long forgotten - the 8000 year history timeline I wrote out for my D&D campaign that I ran when I was 16. Holy carp.
The penciled lettering on this is about 2mm high in places."
End cite.

I myself have never engaged in Dungeons and Dragons. That was entirely the realm of out-of-shape programmers and engineers in the lab. For the most acne-tortured soul among them, it was his sole raison d'etre in life.

He continued:
"My stack of notebooks and hand-written history, country profiles, deities, magic, lore, etc... fills a box the size of a footstool, top to bottom."
End cite.

The subcultural community responded. Here are comments, with the names of the obsessive weirdos changed for safety.

Fledermaus: "I never took notes. It's gone. All gone."

Certifiable female of the species: "My husband [-] was the same way. He took extensive notes, made elaborate maps, created entire worldscapes. It was as much fun to him as the actual game, maybe more so."

First person: "Yeah, I loved writing all the lore and the stories. The problem was that you had to have players and they ruined everything."

Another female of the species: "That was just what I was sitting here thinking. He'd have some well thought out campaign and we'd trash it like the stone age barbarians we were. :D "

Someone else: "Gleefully. My out of my mad brain via my ass prevented such a thing."

Somewhere among his friends are Gandalf and a bunch of trekkies, I bet.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. I myself read tonnes of Fantasy and Science Fiction as a teenager -- my mother was a published author in those genres -- and in my adolescence I drew up plans for a rational world-government; a three inch thick tome. All of the edits, annotations, codicils, and inserts, made it more than unreadable within a few months. It was, not surprisingly, filled with paragraphs in formal Dutch, English, and really bad Anglo-saxon. As well as Indonesian, Tamarao, and bits and pieces of fractured Atjenese and Javan. Some of it was in cyphers of my own devising, some of it in code.

No, I did not have a troubled childhood. I had discovered coffee.
Plus, a few years later, pipe tobacco.

Caffeine, nicotine, and highly refined sugar.

It wasn't an obsession, it's just that if everyday you add two or three pages, before you know it, the damned thing has grown to over a thousand sheets.
I should mention that at the time I had three distinct forms of handwriting, and was already using excessively neat, print-like, blocklettering.
Plus editorial marks.

Trashed the whole thing when I was fifteen.
I had grown up by then.

My rear-pocket notebooks, of which there were dozens when I returned to the United States, were dumped in the garbage years ago.
Darn good thing, too.

In the present age, there are over twenty large wide-ruled notebooks in my living quarters with notes, stories, and dictionary entries for several Malayo-Polynesian cultures and languages. As well as Indian and Indonesian food and recipes. Plus a similar number of small breast pocket notebooks filled with micrographic lettering.

Oh and Seal Script (篆書) as well as Stone Drum script and similar archaic writing. Practice sheets, notes. Designs for carved seals.

Somewhere along the line I went from potential universal teen dictator to amateurish linguist, philologist, and social anthropologist.
It's many years later, and I can free-text narrate parts of the Mahabharata as I know it, plus tales of ghosts and pontianaks in the Malay archipelago. As well as some Chinese verse, plus further Asian stuff.

So I can indeed respect ex-Dungeons and Dragons geeks. The brain is a tool, as well as a caged monkey. It must be fed, and it must fling poo.
Like parrots and cats, it develops neuroses if left unattended.

To quote Dr. Frankenstein: "It's alive, alive!"

Some people fill their spare time with fantasy baseball.
It takes up many hours after midnight.
Okay then .....

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Monday, September 23, 2019


A classic 'Croque Monsieur' consists of Emmenthal cheese and deli ham between two slices of softcrust bread, optionally with a smear of Dijon mustard, baked or fried and served hot. A variation is to put the cheese on top of the sandwich and stick it under the broiler. It's French pub grub.

Personally, I think it's much improved if, instead of the thin smear of froggish moutarde, you apply a generous smear of sambal badjak. Which, naturally, you should have in your fridge. Additionally some thinly sliced Jalapeño pepper with the ham and cheese.

[Sambal badjak is made by frying a paste of Thai or birdseye chilies, shallots, garlic, and stinky shrimp paste plus salt (in order of decreasing qauntity, so mostly chilies) till it starts to caramelize and turn brown. Then add a hefty squeeze of lime juice -- one or two limes -- and refry. when it's stiff and the oil comes out, it is done, and properly made it will keep even at room temperature for quite a while. But it is best to store it in the refrigerator, because you will make a large quantity. The idea is that the cooking has removed most of the moisture, and the lime juice, oil, and salt, will act as a preservative or pickling agent.]

In fact, much of French cuisine is improved by the addition of sambal badjak. English and Swedish cooking is also often inedible without it, although often a stronger sambal is required, which is where Habaneros, Scotch Bonnets, and Madame Jeanettes come into play. Adjuma chilies may be substituted.

The last time I visited England, I had a tiny pocket jar of "bush paste" (sambal asin made with dehydrated Habanero chilies; it keeps nearly forever at room temperature) which I carried everywhere. Nobody noticed when I doctored my food, and it made everything so much more enjoyable. Much food in the American suburbs would benefit from the same treatment. Fortunately I have a bottle of Sriracha in the refrigerator at work, which, when used in sufficient quantity, will also stand in as the vegetable component of the meal.

My recent glib comments about Swedish food prompted a reader to post a link to a surströmming consumption video under the "brexit essay"
Um. Yes. No. Surströmming is a crime against humanity.
Anything except "groene haring" is a crime.
Le premier hareng de la saison.

[There are good reasons why the international language of haute cuisine is French, and not Swedish. Despite both cultures inexplicably avoiding sambal, without which normal human society cannot be sustained in the hinterlands.]

This blogger still fondly remembers the Indonesian goat curry, as well as the kouseband sandwich ('kouseband' is what Surinamers call long beans, so savoury stewed longbeans with salt fish in a firm roll; "broodje kouseband") which were richly augmented with a brilliant yellow sambal oelek made from ripe Madame Jeanette peppers.

Delicious, and almost a good enough reason to visit Amsterdam.

Actually, nearly everything I ate in Amsterdam the last time I was there was delicious. A large part of that was the widespread availability of sambal.


Mayonnaise, as is well known, was invented during the Viking age by the Scandinavians as a way to make English and Irish food palatable.
A chef named Ranzige Olaf is widely credited with it.
Chilies weren't available at that time.
So sambal was unknown.

I had a croque monsieur with sambal badjak and sliced tangy apples for dinner this evening. Hence this essay.

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This post is about Football, and Pipe Tobacco. Both thoughts on America's Pasttime, and a product review. The Forty Niners did something yesterday, and we're all supposed to worship their tight, tight rumps in form-fitting shiny spandex, much like at the nearest gay bar on Polk Street, which has three wide screens, bless their hearts, except I refuse to do that, or even watch any Football at all, because if I really want so see vigorous action by sturdy backends in shiny fabric, I can darn well watch American wrestling or Les Ballets Russes, celebrating the enduring influence of Messrs. Ivan Clustine and Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev, as determinative of the performing arts as Joseph Clifford Montana Jr., Jerry Lee Rice, and J. S. Young -- three men of swanlike grace and sprightliness, the gambolling does and fawns of the astroturf.

I smoked a bowl of Astley's No. 2 during yesterday's ball game. The most noticeable feature of this venerable blend is the pong of bergamot and clove, along with faint hints of vinegar and apple. It is, naturally, a somewhat fey product. But very good. Slight touch of Perique, not strong enough in that regard for vigorous tough men with shaggy bushes of hair on their chests, bursting forth out of their shirts which are open to the sternum, with tattoos and piercings, veritable he-men who machismatically love zest!

Medium strength, beguiling, tangy.
A bit on the subtle side.


Very enjoyable, as a change of pace, but not a must-have in the cellar. There is an open tin at work, which I am slowly depleting. The added perfume is scarce noticeable, and does not detract from the leaf.
A well-made product, rather pleasing.

It offers some comfort to the thoughtful man babysitting wild beasts.

Such as the cigar smokers, one of whom resembled nothing so much as an orang-utan desperately in need of a banana. Who is a middle-aged and well-respected member of the legal branch. Next time the Niners play, I'll bring a banana. It might calm him. Howling ape, rabid babboon, poo-flinging gibbon.
A sports fan. Commendably enthusiastic.
In a dignified way.

Smokes Rocky Patels. As befits a man of taste and class.
I'm not sure, I think he messed himself.
He had a good time.

All over this country, millions of men sit down on Sunday afternoons to watch shiny buns falling all over each other. And probably imagine the comforting feel of cups coated inside and out with Lamisil and Lomotrin.
Plus cornstarch, medicated powder, petroleum jelly, and tolnaftate.
So soft, so silky, so protective, and so totally mold inhibiting.
Don't want the privy parts to smell like wet bread!
A delicate whiff of Bergamot is okay.
Plus a hint of clove.


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Sunday, September 22, 2019


There's a sign at a pizza parlour in Sheffield, England, that offers "free curry and gravy on anything at any time". Which is a jolly good reason to visit England, even after they ruin the place by Brexitting. They'll still have curry and gravy. Unlike the French and the Germans, poor sods, who will be left putting up with Scandinavian food tyranny.

"Free mayonnaise on everything all the time"

---Swedish Food Preparation Law.

Even on your Ikea Jerk Chicken. They're Swedish, so you'll get less food poisoning than at Chipotle. Or at the place that used to be near the old office, where the food-preparation technician came out of the ladies room with her latex gloves on, proceeded to wipe the cutting board with a grey rag, and then started preparing the sandwich I had ordered. When I pitched a fit (had a monumental tantrum), the sub-continental manager or owner could not grasp the issue. Her hands were clean, she was wearing gloves!
That chain has shrunk since it's glory days.
Damned good thing, too.

Maybe meatballs taste better with mayonnaise. Julia Child believed in adding butter, more butter, to almost everything, but those canny Vikings may be on to something. They're supposed to be the healthiest people in Europe (health and happiness are NOT the same), and that may have something to do with condiments. Bland gooey condiments.
Alternatives to butter.

Mayonnaise; it's made with good stuff.

Sursylta, fylld tripp och svart pudding: Swedish delicacies.

If I had to eat those, I'd add hot sauce.
But that isn't customarily Swedish.
Mayo, with dill mixed in.

Sambal is also made from good stuff. Better stuff

Once Brexit is completed, the continent will be alone.
A sadder and far grimmer place.

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

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

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

There may be a painful ripping sensation. Oh boy.

Presiding medical man: Dr. Chan.

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

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

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

Here's a slightly alternate version:

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

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

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Saturday, September 21, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, September 20, 2019


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

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

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

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

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

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

And eaten hamberders at a fabulous resort.

Red ties hide ketchup.

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Thursday, September 19, 2019


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

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

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

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

Running keeps him trim.

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

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

I harbour bitter feelings towards millenials.

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

Now get off my lawn!

Maybe I should have said 'boo' at them.

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps they could cater?

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In passing, I mentioned to a friend the other day that I too occasionally practise Caligraphy. Which elicited a lot of talk about pens, nibs, ink, stainless steel, paper, and engraving. As well as draughting tools.
It was fascinating, and I listened with rapt attention.

Never clarified that I meant brush and water ink.
Or often steel blades and stone.


I'm fairly familiar with Chinese seal script, and have carved seals (personal 'chops') for use as signatures for several people.

Brush and water ink, example:

The character shown above is the seal script version of 'hua' (華).
On the mainland it has been simplified (华).
Which I find inelegant.

Chinese seal script was in use until the writing brush was invented. Until that time a kind of felt tip pen was the equipment for putting texts down, which allowed serious curves and wiggles, but the brush is better at angles, and the script forms underwent adaptation. The seal script forms are mostly known by calligraphers and scholars. And hobbyists.

In many languages I am mostly illiterate.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

I said goodbye to her when I left.

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

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For some reason which I cannot explain I thought about the Shanghainese girl this morning. I knew her years ago, we drifted apart, and lost ...