Sunday, May 31, 2020


There were helicopters in the sky in different directions two hours ago. This blogger does not like helicopters; they remind him of unpleasant places, humidity, and buggy things. Which I'm sure is not part of the programme. Tonight's protest and the necessary festive looting that will accompany it are supposed to be happy welcoming events!

In all seriousness, any movement will be "borrowed" by people with different agendas. That's just the nature of mass action. You could have a parade of stoned buddhist peaceniks moving down the street chanting slowly and beatifically about the peaceable nature of the noble sloth, and somewhere nearby a plate glass window would be broken and a hundred dollar pair of designer jeans would disappear off the shelf.

Let us all support the peaceable sloth.

Who does not wear designer jeans.

The corner store was being boarded up when I returned home. The CVC a few blocks south was looted last night, the one on Van Ness was completely boarded up. When I went out for a quick smoke after curfew started there were very few cars, and as few pedestrians. The helicopters were still overhead; closer to the civic center area.

Market Street has wannabe looters ("random white kids") moving east, staying a few steps ahead of the police. Some activists are busy preventing destruction and vandalism wherever possible. Arrests are being made. The streets around my old office (near Montgomery Station) are chaotic. Cops, protestors, potential looters in conflict with both of the above .....

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations closed down in response to unrest.
Cutting off escape routes.

Powell Street Station, Civic Center, Bayfair, Concord, Oakland 12th. Street, Walnut Creek, Hayward, Lafayette .....

Arrests soon on Market Street. Small group heading north on Kearny.

Confrontation between two sides at Fifth Street.

It's going to be a long night.

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While watching protest footage from around the country late yesterday evening, some of it live, the thought occurred to me that we've never been closer to needing guillotines in this country. Another thought that came to me was: "burn this fucker down". Because we have a serious and ongoing problem with racial inequality AND economic inequality.
When a handful of people can become obscenely rich, holding most of the wealth and resources of this country, we have a problem.

And it looks like the only reason why so many people feel they have a vested interest in maintaining this situation is fear and hatred. Sort of the "I've got mine Jack" attitude combined with a 'screw everyone else' mentality. Trumpism, Mitch McConnell, that whore Lindsey Graham, fundamentalists, and the pandering kiss-buts at Fox News.

Teargas and flashbangs near the White House.
Repeat volleys, live on Youtube.


You know, it's been six years since Eric Garner said "I can't breathe".
Has there been ANY improvement since then?

If you say there has, perhaps it's because you can afford to live in a gated community.

One of these days we'll have a guillotine that's just your size.

That's something in which we might be vested.

Truly a fabulous invention.

The guillotine.

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Saturday, May 30, 2020


The great thing about shelter-in-place and curbside service is that one does not have to listen to dumbass comments by the usual gang of rightwing extremist geezers in the backroom about "freedums!" and the burning of Minneapolis. They decided five years ago that ALL lives matter (except black ones), Kaepernick was an evil communist, and everything good and decent about this country was rotten. They know enough now to shut the "F" up about the sorry state of healthcare in this country, but even the most left-wing of them is an apologist for Trump.

Largely, they are braindead twats.

This blogger feels that burning Minneapolis is, under the circumstances, perhaps a rather logical thing to do. Understandable in any case.

Leastways, I'm fairly cool with it. No skin off my ass.

If you're black, the police (largely white or wannabe-white) in most of this country probably hate you. Which has been clear for years.
They work for the business and real-estate interests.

If you say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing. Most likely that man died of overdose or heart attack.
------Hal Marx, mayor of Petal, Mississippi

This society needs a wake-up, badly.

Snake dance, baby.

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Friday, May 29, 2020


During summer weather keeping properly hydrated and energized is extremely important. And that, of course, is where getting swacked to the eye-brows on tea comes in. At work this isn't a problem. I am in the habit of having at least half a dozen cups of Pu Erh throughout the day. Often more than that. Keeps the mouth refreshed when smoking.

At home during prohibition erm, 'shelter in place', it becomes more of an issue. Often reading matter binds me for hours, so that I overlook how close hot water and a tea pot are. Then I overcompensate.

Kung Fu tea, which is made by filling a small teapot all the way with leaves, rinsing them once with near-boiling water to wash out the adhering dust, then steeping the tea briefly -- each successive steeping being slightly longer than the last -- will get the solitary drinker high as a kite. Each steeping brings out different aspects of the tea used, and this method works best with the semi-ferments like Iron Bodhisattva, Iron Lohan, Oolong, and Sui-sin. As you can see from the illustration above, normally there is an assumed plurality of drinkers, hence the four tiny teacups in the rinse basin alongside that pot. Which is where they always are.
It's one of my favourite pots.
So is the darker one.

Such tea pots become better with use. The teas brewed within subtly "ghost" the clay over the years, till eventually they have a unique character and fragrance. The medium brown pot has been in use for a quarter of a century, the other one has a decade and a half of use.

There are three antique pots in the collection that between them must have two centuries of use. And the largest Yi-Hsing teapot I have had over a decade of daily use before I put it aside.

Like a typical pack rat I own more teapots, tea cups, tea bowls, and tea paraphernalia than I need. For a while I had what many pipe smokers would refer to as PAD and TAD, which they think means "Pipe Acquisition Disorder" and "Tobacco Acquisition Disorder".

Pot Acquisition & Tea Acquisition Disorders.

Aficionadism doesn't have to be neurotic.
It's about enjoyment.

Oh, and putting together collections that you can't really show off to anyone, because nobody else "gets it".

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Turkey vultures, as every one should know, are inordinately fond of the imaginary little girl hamster that visits almost every day to eat cookies and strawberries and dance boogie woogie conga. Her name is Clarissa, and she is very much loved by the stuffed creatures.

Sydney Fylbert, our turkey vulture, is also attracted to her.
Because she looks just like a meatball.
He loves meat.

Here he is, Goth-wannabe-like, lurking in wait for her.


The other stuffed creatures are more than prepared to seriously damage him if he even comes close. They're keeping an eye on him. They know all about his 'hurty places', they've studied the diagrams.
He thinks that if he perches high enough, all he has to do when everyone is dancing boogie woogie conga is spread his majestic wings and swoop down like a predator with a container of sauce.

The thick book he's sitting on is 中國書法大字典 ('The Big Chinese Calligraphy Dictionary') , which is large enough for his bottom.
And quite comfy.

As turkey vulture go, he's not very effective. The little girl hamster has been visiting for over four months now, and all he has to show for it is painful hurty places. She has whacked him quite sharply.
Oh, and he's easily sidetracked.

He thinks he's sitting on a cook book.

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Thursday, May 28, 2020


At around quarter to eight I was outside enjoying the fog, which had come billowing in yesterday evening while I was smoking the last pipe of the day. Nowadays I get up around six A.M., swill the first cup of coffee and swallow my pills, and head out with a pipe before the crazies, street people, and multitudes of maskless cretins are awake and stirring. Just auntie with the pistachio ice cream hued hat, grumpy uncle, the woman who recognizes me even though all of us white people look alike, and other cautious souls.

So enjoyable. With the hill tops in three directions disappearing into the mist, and trails of moisture still lingering at lower elevations it always reminds me of motoring through the Ardennes and Luxembourg.

Once when we were walking several miles from the hotel where we were staying we encountered a hollow surrounded by cliffs, on which were carved runes and animal symbols. If cell phones had been invented at that time it would have made a lovely multi-page photo album. The floor of the ritual space was densely covered with leaves, the air was still. A perfect place, you might think, to light up one's pipe and pause a while.

It was two years before I took up smoking (still using snuff at that time), and my familiarity with rune script was still minor, so I have no clue what the ancient texts said.

These days I am a little more conversant with such things. But not in the same category. One of my hobbies is exploring Chinese script forms and carving seals using the characters that were in standard use two thousand years ago (篆書 'suen syu'). Which of course every half-assed literate person would naturally do.

And trust me, half-assed is the right term. While I have the ability to recall ancient forms of very many words, I am too often stumped when it comes to less common characters. I'm still learning.

If you look at the illustrations below, you will understand why that is so. Often the modern form and the ancestral form do not seem related.

HUA (Cantonese 'waa'): Elegance, flowery; China (as an ablaut of the name of the first dynasty). The character shows two grass radicals at the top, followed by stamens and the calyx underneath, rising from the ground. Originally it meant 'flower', but the meaning expanded and a different character is now used for that word. 華
JUAN (Cantonese 'kuen'): Scroll, book, volume, a chapter, curled, something rolled up. Also shows up as signific element in a number of other words with related meanings, and as the phonetic element in yet further words.
Hands coming to together over a tool or signifying object, holding the scroll flat or laid out. 卷
QIU (Cantonese 'yau'): Hill, mound, hillock; a cerrito, kopje, or tor. Also a less common surname which I've encountered only once.
Two men seated back to back on a higher area, with the signific for territory or area to their right. 邱

Seals carved with such characters are not antiques, though they appeal to people with antiquarian sensibilities. They are still used today. Complete name seals to sign documents, office or department seals, nick name or literary name chops, collector and artist signatures, vanity names, even complete phrases expressing one's hobbies, interests, or personal philosphy.

Collectors of books, paintings, and calligraphic scrolls often have numerous personal seals, one or two of that may be used to mark their pieces, which is useful for the art historian in dating, or establishing provenance. Painters and calligraphers often also have a selection; Qi Baishi is a good example of that, as his self-chosen name (bai shi) refers to having carved a hundred or more seals before he considered himself in any way proficient.

At this time I rarely carve seals for other people. But I still study seal script, because it fascinates me, and I often practice calligraphy. I find the seal script elegant and expressive. Plus there's a great satisfaction in discovering striking designs and etymological relationships.

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Yesterday while reading the news I spotted mention of San Francisco, where I live. As well as the name of a person. Whom I then looked up on the internet. He's involved with a few noble causes which I support, but he is, justifiably, a very private person, and there are indications that he is considerable more left-wing than myself. Perhaps irritatingly so.
I ended up not contacting him in any way.
Though we've probably met.

I do not know how his cat died, but I hope it was after a happy life.

He knew the cat for four years, since 2016. That's not very long in human terms. Perhaps he adopted him from a shelter in that year, perhaps he was related to the other cat, a large fluffy ginger (golden) beast.
Who is probably lonely and confused now.

My sympathy goes out to both of them.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Having gotten a cell-phone, finally, after more than two decades of resisting progress, it was necessary to cancel my land line. Which, because MCI was still experiencing technical difficulties, proved quite an effort. Talk to the billing department, request transfer to customer service. Customer service "cannot connect you with a representative due to technical problems, thank you, good bye." Several more attempts. Finally in mid-afternoon I got a live human being, of South Indian derivation, who was most helpful. Desperate to keep me as a customer, but finally bowing to the inevitable.

"Surely a landline would be good to have if there were an emergency?"

Well yes, but when the phone finally was able to make outgoing calls late Friday night, and there was a crime outside my frontdoor, I tried calling the police. Too much damned static on the line to be worthwhile. What I didn't mention was that if that had been the case ten months ago, when I needed a taxi to the hospital at four in the morning, I would be dead now.
That really was an emergency.

[Let's review the medications they sent me home with, five days after the operation: Metronidazole 500 Mg., four days worth. Ciprofloxacin Hcl 500 Mg., four days worth. Hydrocodone-acetamin 5-32, a three day supply.]

All in all it took four hours today to tell MCI about the rope they could go piss up. After which I needed to step outside for some fresh air.

Which I promptly turned blueish and fragrant.

MCI is owned by Verizon. All service in the San Francisco area was sold to Frontier, who are all over. Amanda at Frontier (West Virginia) was as helpful as she could be, but because the MCI part of Verizon was not part of the deal, she sadly admitted that she was of no use. The MCI customer service wallah, when I finally got a hold of him, was useful. And I commend him.
Verizon was no stinking use whatsoever.

It was an excellent smoke. A blend of red Virginia with a touch of dark leaf, and smidgeon of Perique. Soothing and reverie inducing.
Very good for the soul.

The pipe pictured above is something I finally started smoking this year, after leaving it in brand new condition in a box with over a dozen other briars I haven't even begun to use yet; all purchased from Marty Pulvers when he still ran Sherlock's Haven down on Battery Street (Financial District) late nineties early two thousands.

I was working for the Law Firm of Regrettable Memory at the time.
That was my first exposure to the Marin County mentality.
With which I continue to have issues.

Yeah, I called MCI on my new cell-phone.
Different number and company.
Clear, no static.


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Over the past few days, several news organizations ("the fake media") have been circulating data alledgely debunking the five G information you have received from concerned sources, as well as the efficacy of bleach and hydroxychloroquine, especially if taken in combination with insulin.
How reprehensible!

Next thing you know they'll be poo-pooing Windmill Cancer.

As part of my contribution to public health, the freedoms, and countering the socialist Kenyan agenda, the following public service announcement: If you are reading this, it's because of 5G and you are already infected!

Turn off your computer and go to church.

Then cleanse yourself.


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Looking at the posts in one of my favourite groups, I am struck by the diversity of reading material displayed alongside the fine briars that the members will or have lit up. Jean Paul Sartre. Bertrand Russell. Isaac Asimov. The Plague, by Albert Camus. Something about Baroque music, with the title partially obscured by matches, an ashtray, and pipes.
Os Pensadores - Ryle, Strawson, Austin, Quine. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science; Rudolph Carnap, edited by Martin Gardner. Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science, by Atul Gawande. Theory and Practice to Conserve Fresh Water Biodiversity in the Anthropocene, by Rebecca Flitcroft, Michael S. Cooperman, Ian J. Harrison, Diego Juffe‐Bignoli, and Philip J. Boon.

Gosh. I'm just an idiot.

My complex strategy for maintaining my equilibrium in these times is not nearly so wonderful. It does involve a lot of reading, though. News media, dictionaries, reference books, Wikipedia, manga, and cheap novels. In between going outside with my pipe and walking stick, and glowering at people who come too close to me with their gay devil-may-care germs.

Followed or preceded by a hot beverage and a cookie.

Put differently: day dreaming, time passing, a spot of exercise, and smoke. My work schedule is three days a week on, four days off. I worry about people I know, and how they are coping, both financially and sanity-wise, but there is not a damned thing I can do about that.

A lot of twiddling.

Oh, and I've made drawings of several of the pipes in the current rotation:

It's not very intellectual, I'm afraid. And rather unimaginative.

These are perilous times. One must continue as normally as possible, and keep the old aspidistra flying.

[NOTE: In fact, I do not have houseplants. No aspidistra. So that is a metaphor.]

Though I have my reading specs on almost all the time, that's primarily to keep from smacking myself in the face with a coffee cup or ricebowl, and to prevent the pipestem from accidentally going up a nostril on whichever side of my face I just switched my smoking to.

Some other pipe smokers are cooking a lot more, some are gardening, and a few are meticulously cleaning car engine parts with tooth brushes.
A minority are speculating about new products.
One or two are drinking.

In other news: people who choose to take large regular doses of insulin combined with hydroxychloroquine, especially in combination with disinfectant, will NEVER get windmill cancer.
So I recommend it.


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Years ago my apartment mate would wistfully dream of visiting the deep south and other parts of the country for the food. Being of Cantonese ancestry, food is a consuming passion for her. But the reality of American racism kept her from ever going there. Which, as it turns out, is a good thing. Because even though it is the twenty first century, there are still pockets of asshole everywhere.

During my first year back in the States (which I had left when I was two years old), I was told "we shoot people like you where I come from" (in San Francisco), "go back where you came from" (in Oakland), "You're a damned commie" (in Berkeley). That still happens.
Because I have an accent.
I'm white.

Here in the Bay Area it doesn't happen often. But it still does happen.

Most people are not like that. But there remains an underlying distrust and dislike of what is perceived as "other", and any tolerance is paper thin.

If you are white and doubt this, think of how often someone will still tell you a Black joke, an Asian joke, a Mexican joke, or a Jew joke.

Or think of George Floyd. Or Eric Garner.

Or "why don't you ask China?"

Irrespective of my apartment mate's non-Anglo ethnic background, she's more American than I am. Her daddy fought in WWII in an American uniform despite the racism then, and she has lived her whole life here.

But I can go to Texas or Minneapolis, and as long as I keep my mouth shut things will probably be okay.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020


It was her birthday, but nobody came. In previous years a few of her school friends, as well as cousins of the same age, had come over and helped her celebrate, and they had all had a great time. This year, she understood that they couldn't be there; the disease. And they had called to congratulate her, but she was still sad.

She really wanted to see them.

She wandered around the apartment pretending she was happy. Her mom had given her a new dress, which was very pretty, dark green with sparkles! Her dad gave her an atlas of the world, and showed her things in it. "See, here is Canton, in the south; your grandpa and granma came from there. And this is Hong Kong, where your mom and Auntie Ning are from. And this is the capital region, far to the North, where Taaipakchoi was originally grown, which white people think comes from Napa." It was all very interesting. Her dad thought that in ten years she'd go to Berkeley. But she had really hoped to see her classmates and cousins!

She smiled, so that her parents would not be disappointed. But still.

It would have been SO nice if she could've seen her friends and cousins, and shown off her pretty new dress!

That evening they had a festive meal and some cake. It was very good cake. And she loved soy sauce splattered chicken (豉油雞 'si yau gai') with scallions. Which is a simple dish, just poach a whole chicken in its marinade, then chop, serve with minced scallion strewn over.

She wore the dress during dinner, then fell asleep in front of the teevee.
Her dad carried her to her room.

She was still wearing the dress and clutching the new atlas when there was a tapping at the window.

She opened the curtains, and looked outside.
Six glittery blue eyes looked back.

She knew him!

Quickly she opened the window, and a giant spider holding a cake came inside. It was uncle from Eight Legs Cafe (好發足餅家 'hou faat juk bing kaa'). And he had brought her a lovely cake!

For the next hour she and uncle leafed through the atlas, reading the entries and wondering over the photos accompanying the maps. He had never been to China, his folks had left eight generations ago, he had often though about the country. It always sounded so wonderful. Endless emerald rice paddies, tall leafy incense trees, ancient bridges arching over the Grand Canal ...... silk.

He admired the dress. Green really was her colour!

And the cake was delicious.

Best birthday EVER!


2½ cups soy sauce.
½ cup Shaoxing wine or sherry.
Four TBS dark soy sauce, for depth.
Four tablespoons sesame oil.
One cup brown sugar.
3 to 5 slices ginger.
3 to 5 cloves garlic, smashed.
5 green onions.
3 cloves.
1 or 2 star anise pods.
1 small cinnamon stick.

And a chicken.

Cut the scallions into large sections. Put everything in a saucepan, bring to a light boil while stirring. When the sugar has dissolved take it off the flame and let it cool down. Then use it to "marinate" a young freshly killed chicken overnight on the bottom shelf of the fridge. A food grade plastic bag is excellent for this, and if properly "wedged" will allow the liquid to touch all of the bird.

The next day take it out and place the bird inside a pot, pour the marinade in, and add some water to cover. Bring to a boil, and turn the heat low. After less than five minutes simmer, turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour or so.

Take the bird out of its liquid and chop into chunks.
Strew some minced scallion over to serve.

Good with rice and hot sauce.

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Lunch (breakfast) was an egg custard tart (蛋撻 'daan taat') and a pork floss bun (肉鬆包 'yiuk sung baau') from Double A (永興餅家 'wing hing bing kaa') on Stockton Street (市德頓街 'si dak deun kai'). I also gave a box of egg custard tarts to my landlady, because getting down to Chinatown is not a daily occurence anymore.

Today I had to be there because after MCI's total pigs breakfast the other day, I'm switching from a landline to a cellular device. New phone number, something easy to hold, the bright young salesman who set me up showed me how to use the thing (好簡單), goodbye MCI. They still haven't e-mailed me back, and the landline still sounds like crap. So when I call them to nix further "service", it will be using the cellphone.
New phone service is by Cricket.
Easily pedestrianable.

Normally when I go to Chinatown, I smoke my pipe in the alleyways there, because Cantonese people are far less bitchy about tobacco than the average San Francisco white person.

The pipe in the picture is one of two I associate with a particular alleyway, and giant friendly spiders running a Vegan bakery. It's a fairy tale, of course. Because Vegans aren't friendly, and spiders don't bake. There actually is a bakery near the alley in question, but they are closed today, and possibly for the foreseeable future.

I had loaded it up to smoke, but it's a sunny day, I was overloaded, and wearing a jacket (totally unnecessary), and the egg tarts were still warm.
So I headed back, and scarfed down the pork floss bun upon my return.


The new phone gives me unlimited nationwide calling.

Nice, but who the hell am I going to call in the Panhandle or the Ozarks?

Time to have a walk and enjoy my long-anticipated smoke.

If you need me, please call.

Leave a message.


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In these times, my pipe has kept me saner than you would expect, and safer. Because many San Franciscans instinctively recoil from tobacco fiends, and, perhaps unjustly, suspect me of repressing natives, torturing little children, using plastic, eating meat, and burning witches.
Even during a pandemic I am the antichrist.
With which I am comfortable.

With a bit of luck I'll survive this period.

Assuredly some of the health freaks out there won't.

Neither will a number of residents in less densely populated areas.

From an article in The Atlantic: "Americans should expect neither a swift return to normalcy nor a unified national experience".

Peaks, plateaux, and spells in between. The rural heartland will get hit later and slower, but as bad or worse than the coastal cities. Other news articles indicate that many hospitals out in the stix do not have enough resources to deal with even a mild crisis.

Meanwhile, the president has demanded that the Republican National Convention be unencumbered by any health restriction or social distancing, insisting that the authorities where ever it ends up being held do not interfere with full attendance.

And I am fine with that.

It will be huge.


In other news, business cards and Muni bus transfers are useful for the paper tubes needed when making papirosi. In lieu of Mahorka or Black Sea tobacco, moist dark flake carefully massaged into thin shreds works well, and the last smoke of the day no longer has me on the front steps for very long, a silent fuming witness to the insanity outside my front door late at night. Just enough smoke to chase away the mental mosquitoes.

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Monday, May 25, 2020


At tea time yesterday I lit up a bowl of Field Master pipe tobacco, which is no longer in production, so you can't have any. It was a bright sunny day, and I had deliberately put the maskless cretins of Marin and San Francisco out of my mind. Nor was I considering the multitudes crowding public swimming pools, beaches, and lakeshores. Because, really, if they want to kill themselves and infect their friends, neighbors, and relatives, who is to stop them? The Freedoms, man! The Freedoms!

And in all honesty I don't care that much if idiots I do not know or wish to ever meet die horribly. It's all good. Just stay the hell away from me and the hospital where I will end up being treated.

It's time for an interesting smoke.

Latakia, Turkish, Virginia, Burley.
Blender: Carl McCallister.
Sutliff Tobacco Co.

No longer made.

A medium American-style English blend.

The Latakia is most noticeable, right after first light. Burley accentuates Latakia, and so may seem more evident, but without the Virginias it would simply be an odd old-fashioned American tobacconists mixture. As it is, it's quite enjoyable, with a definite English / Balkan slant. Had it been a Cornell & Diehl product there would have been more Burley. Given that I often find Burley blends somewhat hard to enjoy, I am glad it is't.
It's earthy, creamy, and smokey.
Very tasty.

Goes well with Pu Erh tea. Also regular black tea. But if you smoke more than a few bowls each day, it will leave a peculiar feeling at the back of the mouth. So I recommend it, especially with a few years age on it, but with reservations, and it's no longer in production, so good luck on that.

The name is taken from fox hunting. The Field Master is the experienced member of the hunt who knows the terrain well and rides ahead of the rest. His horse is a reliable mount not likely to misbehave or throw him when faced with ditches, ruts, or hedges. Given that I have never hunted -- the unspeakables in pursuit of the uneatables -- and on the whole despise that and similar overly hormonal past times, the imagery does jack for me, and there is no resonance that I can appreciate there.
But it's pretty good tobacco.

Fox hunting is not an Olympic event, has not spread outside of the Anglo world, and has only caught on in a limited way in the American South, among pretentious dickwads who fancy themselves gentry.

Afternoon tea, and the occasional spot of sherry, have a much greater appeal. With a satisfying smoke. Perhaps with comfy armchairs, or rattan furniture under the deep veranda while the tropical downpour shrouds the rice paddies and distant jungle edge in a dense grey veil.
Dammit, this place is full of mosquitoes!

The roaches are the size of a shoe!

Nyamok, lemot, lalat, sangatat, lipas, pipit pipit, pantjok, katjuwak.

Little pesky black flying bugs make a sit-down dinner impossible during the first weeks of the rainy season. They're everywhere. Even the tinned English mutton stews have lost their flavour at this time.
We need to shoot another goat.

Field master.


Yeah, okay, the rest of you can happily go spread the plague among yourselves in large groups. Me and a few friends will just sit quietly by ourselves at twenty to thirty feet apart, with our computers and teapots, and our briars filled with something that many "sensitive" people shy away from. Pipesmoking is the definition of social responsibility and consideration.
We're doing it for the common good.


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Are white women ever "auntie"? Usually only if they're blood kin. Or elderly drag queens. Or live in Asian societies. The term "auntie" is properly used for women of your parents' generation to whom you are not related, but who are more familiar to you than "missus". Closer, like older family members.
In any case, they are the people whom you address as "ma'am".
So, older Asian women, usually.
One must be respectful.

The difference between oneself and one's parent's generation grows conversationally less as one grows older. I used to call ladies over twenty five years older "auntie", now it's often people barely a few years senior. The woman who does her daily repeat walk up and down the block outside my building every morning when I leave for my first pipe smoke of the day is, clearly, an "auntie". "Pistachio ice-cream hue hat auntie". 開心果色嘅帽阿姨 ('hoi sam gwo sik ge mo ah-yi'). Though in actuality I would never call her that long term to her face, because 開心果 ('hoi sam gwo'; pistachio) is not very respectful; it also means 'an amusing person'. And I've actually never addressed her as 阿姨 ('ah yi') either. We've said good morning (早晨 'jou san'), or waved, whenever we're out at the same time.

From which you can deduce that I still think of myself as a younger man. Still spry and full of piss and vinegar, comparable to a sprightly young fellow, why, I am still very liberal, and can dance!

Which, if I were to mention it to my apartment mate, would elicit peals of laughter. She's always thought of me as the crotchety old fart.
Or sometimes as "tobacco stink white man".
With respect, of course.

[She's dissing me right now. Describing me, in the voice of one of the stuffed creatures, as "like an elderly waiter, you do what you can, creak creak creak, I'm sorry, how's your great grandson?"]

First pipe today. One of my favourite smokes.

I am not "uncle". So ONLY if you are a teenager can you address me as "ah sook" (阿叔). Repeat: spry, liberal, in theory capable of dancing.
烟斗佬 ('yin tau lou'; "pipe dude") is okay.

Grey beard? NO! That is "silver blonde"!

All of y'all can kindly stop laughing now.

See, all of us whiter people develop that handsome silveriness early on (late twenties), and we've never heard of Clairol hair dye or Grecian formula. Whereas many seriously senior female persons of Chinese ancestry will colour their hair black so that they will not get telephone sales calls from burial societies, insurance scams, or botox injecting plastic surgery sag lift spas trying to convince them of the essential nature of their vanity services.
You know, like Caucasian women in their late thirties do.
Surely you've seen the "Real Housewives"?
Those ladies are still young.
They just look antique.

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Sunday, May 24, 2020


Pursuant an article detailing that many techno-yuppies would consider relocating elsewhere from the San Francisco Bay Area because of current circumstances -- news welcomed by most long time residents -- a friend had this to say: "For the record, I would trade 20,000 Syrian refugees for 100 tech bros." We all would. Most of us can't stand the bros.

"I would trade 20,000 Syrian refugees for 100 tech bros."

And they can take their damned attitudes, diseases, and general all-round asshole life style with them.

A few fitness places, yoga studios, and brew-pubs might have to close.
No big loss.

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Saturday, May 23, 2020


As far as I can tell, San Francisco and Sausalito will be the next epicentres of Covid19. Judging by the enormous number of people NOT wearing masks on the street, NOR practicing any form of social distancing. On the way back from work today, Sausalito was packed. Almost as if it was tourist season. Clusters of people happily telling the world, by their behaviour, that they were quite confident about their own survival, and unconcerned about the deaths of elderly people or folks with pre-existing conditions for which they would be responsible.

And one can easily understand their inconsiderateness; with all of us gone, real-estate prices will drop, and the rents will go down. And of course, if they themselves catch it, they can easily afford to lose forty pounds or so while intubated for two or three weeks. Someone will look after their dog and water their plants while they're in the hospital.

If one person on the street in Sausalito this evening had Covid19, soon one or two hundred people will have it.

Same goes for Polk Street in San Francisco, of course.

Again: rents, real estate.

It looks like we are going to cross 100,000 dead before the weekend is over. But that too is okay, really it is, because they're just useless old people, elsewhere, no one in the Bay Area has relatives anyhow.

1,622,605 confirmed cases nationwide, with 97,087 deaths so far. Elsewhere. Places like the New York area, and Los Angeles (43,070 confirmed).

Oh, and for those people without masks happily pushing strollers, kids are totally expendable and you can always make another one.

Just keep thinking about rents and real estate.

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Friday, May 22, 2020


In a month's time, the number of Covid19 cases will have hit one percent of the population, at current rates of increase. So my advice is to make sure you're freshly washed and are wearing clean underwear. Just in case.
I realize that in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia, that may be difficult.
But just try, okay? Show some consideration for the medical staff.

Yeah, I realize that many of you are convinced that this is all a plot by Bill Gates and the WHO to implant people with a microchip so that the Bilderbergers and the deep state can track you, but realistically speaking extremely few of you are interesting enough to do that to, and they've already got your mobile devices on the radar in any case.
As well as your dental fillings.

Beware of penguins. From "John Dash at Penguin Castle", we know that penguins are actually the villains. This message was cunningly hid in a children's book plot from the forties, transparent to those who know.

The bad guys are always penguins.
Spy androids with feathers.
Almost indestructible.

Always watch out for penguins!

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Question about a likely ongoing service outage for telephone land lines in my part of San Francisco. The Verizon tech suggested I call Frontier (whom I have never dealt with, and whose customer I am not), another tech requested I contact MCI, a third one suggested that I contact Verizon Facebook (" ... contact Verizon wireless at or @VZWSupport"), because "We do not have Verizon FiOS services in SF. You will need to contact Verizon wireless via their social media handle." So, as it stands, I am seriously thinking of telling MCI (again, same company as Verizon, and it's unclear which one is the dog, which one is the tail) to go fly a kite, and become someone else's customer.

Is service in SF affected at this point? If so, when will it be back?

Worst come to worst, I may need to finally give up the landline and get a cell-phone, which I will pretend is a home phone -- no incentive to take the damned thing out of the house -- and use an entirely different service provider. I'll research who is in direct competition with Verizon.

Then invent creative internet Memes about how Verizon (MCI) sucks.

By the way: Verizon owns MCI. Verizon repeatedly told me to contact Frontier. Frontier was as helpful as they could be, but because the account is an MCI number, they couldn't research it at their end. Finally, several hours after this whole thing began, Verizon forwarded a link to MCI, from which the response was the MCI would respond within twenty four business hours. Which means Tuesday at the earliest.

"Verizon Fios does not provide service in San Francisco. If you have MCI as your carrier, you would need to contact them for a resolution."

Resolution? Heck, closing my account. MCI and Verizon which OWNS MCI are just not very good, are they?

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Thursday, May 21, 2020


Sometimes you can discover a lot about a person by their habits. For one thing, you may notice that they are obsessive compulsive, detail oriented to the point of anal, and probably have Aspergers. Or not.
Not everyone is blessed.
My apartment mate qualifies, in ways which I will not detail. And a man in North Beach who was brilliant at document forgery was also in the fold.
He and I got along because I was trained as a printer, and good at drafting.
Also Elizabeth ('Liz'), who collected guns and drank a lot of Old Grandad Bourbon; a relationship of a year's duration impressed upon me that I was, maybe, not ideal boy-friend material. Perhaps not romantic enough.

Tobacco pipes reflect as good a set of character traits as any.

Over the years I have added to my pipe collection, both new and used. Sometimes deliberately -- the three Petersons that together painted a portrait of a man from the sixties, spare, with refined but straightforward aesthetics and tastes, or the old fellow who liked unassuming classic shapes and smoked old-fashioned Burley blends -- or entirely by happenstance; the pipes far too battered to be worth restoring.
In which I never-the-less saw something worthwhile.

Some of which I am now quite fond of.

Such as this lovely item.

Like the pipe mentioned yesterday (see below), it had been gunked up to a fare-thee-well. But underneath the years of grime it was lovely wood.

Both of these briars are superlative with the stinkiest Latakia mixtures.

The Pipe For Watching Rats in Spofford Alley is another one of the many redeemed smokers. I fill it once a week. Even though the regular Tuesday evening jaunt with the bookseller through dives in North Beach is on hold indefinitely, I still smoke it late at night in observance of the tradition.

The 'PFWRinSA' is very good with Virginia Perique blends, a little cramped for Latakia mixtures. But I mostly smoke Va-Pers nowadays.

Of course, this also brings up the tobaccos that pipe smokers like. Sometimes their tastes are more precisely defined by their times than should really be the case; what they first started with, followed by experiments with what was available, and what others smoked.

Herewith a sample of preferences

My father liked a mixture from a tobacconist in Beverly Hills that he started patronizing during his teenage years. While in the Canadian Air Force during the war, during college and on-board ship afterwards, and while studying to become an aeronautical engineer, he still smoked it. When we moved overseas (Holland) he eventually smoked his pipes less and less.
I now have them. They are lovely. Everything pipes should be.
Old-style American blends, scant condimentals.
I also have his drafting equipment.
Fine quality alloys.

Herman smoked Coopvaert and Voortrekker, both of which were run of the mill Maryland ribbon tobaccos, such as all good tobacconists in the Netherlands recommended instead of the horrid aromatics which were becoming common.  Good leaf, no added chemicals or perfumes.
An instrument maker and musician, socially reserved.

Professor 'M', an old classmate of my mother when both of them were taking Old English and Old Norse in college, smoked flakes and cavendish. But kept his pipes rather clean. Good spaghetti.
Liked Trappist ale.

Pauline smoked Drucquer & Sons Blend 805, or sometimes Drucquers Trafalgar. She had the loveliest collection, and excellent taste. It's been many years since I saw her. She started smoking in college.

Levit liked older Petersons, and hunted out prize examples. Which he would ruin in less than a week by smoking Condor or St. Bruno, wetly gurgling; after he had owned a pipe no one ever wanted it again.

Johan would spend hours on the mezzanine at the Caffè Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue with full Latakia mixtures and multiple espressos studying for his degree in Renaissance History (with an fascination for the Borgias), then when they closed for the night go across the street to huff Gauloises and have a few pints of Anchor Steam to calm down. He had coarse tastes otherwise, but was neurotic about keeping his pipes and fountain pens clean and workable.

Neil occasionally buys estate pipes, fiddles with them and cleans them up, then happily smokes Germain's King Charles or one of Greg Pease's mixtures in them. He smokes slow. And only one or two bowls a day, often with the cat. His favourite shape is the GBD Rhodesian, no. 9438.
Corn chowder, quiche Lorraine, short bread, barbecued ribs.
He's an excellent cook.

William collects pipes, though I have not been able to pinpoint his tastes. His tobacco is mild English, occasionally Virginia Perique, frequently aromatic. In any of his pipes. Which he only smokes halfway down.
Homesteading in the wilds of Sonoma County.

Martin is full Latakia, in rather large pipes. At present he is ogling an estate Ferndown, a panelled bent bulldog. He bought all of the McClelland 14 that was left in the Bay Area. Red wine and French food.
Good with wood.

The pee-doctor is probably still despairing of finding a replacement for his McClelland 5100, as well as outraged over the prices of tobacco and beer. Cheap bastard. I wonder whom he regularly stole the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal from.

T. Eager loved Erinmore Flake, bless his heart. He left this world two years ago. His pipes were usually wet. But he was cheerful, had a great sense of humour, and had survived the occupation of Hong Kong.
He had great tales, and was an avid gardner.

Doctor George only smoked Dunhill's London Mixture, only in Oom Pauls, also by Dunhill. He would explain that the Oom Paul shape was ideal for when you had to write reports after surgery.
Passed on six years ago.

The 'Harbour Porpoise' probably smoked Latakia mixtures, which I only remember because I hurried back to Grants one day to buy all of the McClelland Blue Mountain they had before he could get any. I think of him in the same breath as 'Left Testicle Dave' and the man who left his wife while he and the dogs took a trip across the country.


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