Friday, December 31, 2021

SOUTHERN WATERS FRAGRANCE

One of the least ennobling experiences is listening to a kvetchy old lady of Fujianese ancestry vociferating about her landlords, the evil creatures who should have known better why she'd lived there how many years?!? Fortunately it didn't last long, she gave up on the bus and decided to walk the two blocks. Shortly afterwards the bus came.
At the restaurant where I had lunch, a table full of yuppie Mandarin speakers could! Not! Believe! that there was tax (稅) on their bill. It was outrageous! They left no tip.
I don't complain about 稅 ('seui'). I am not a foreigner here.
Nor do I suffer from ugly Asian syndrome.

That is something for the Mandarin speakers. Mainland or Taiwan, or gorhelpus Malaysian or Filippino Chinese. I suspect that Hong Kong people inform themselves of local customs and mores before they come. The waitress there works hard. And understands my Cantonese.


But let us not speak ill of the Mainlanders (陸客 'lok haak').
This isn't Hong Kong, they aren't a plague here.
Just, occasionally, irritating.



Southern Waters (南水 'naam seui') is a toponym of some place probably in or near the Pearl River Delta (珠江三角洲 'jyu gong saam gok jau') in Guangdong Province (廣東省 'gwong dung saang') in southern China. At least that would be my guess.

The pears from Southern Waters (南水梨 'naam seui lei') are totally delicious. Which I knew intellectually before I tasted one. The pair of pears was packed in wadding inside a clear plastic box, and cost me more than the rest of my purchases at that vegetable shop by a huge margin, and considering that the customers there are by no means well-heeled mainlanders, nor rich capitalist roaders (走資派 'jau ji paai', 走資本主義道路的當權派 'jau ji pun jyu yi dou lou dik dong kuen paai'), for that price, they damned well better be worth it.
CHINESE PEAR

They are. Not particularly sweet, but crisp and extremely juicy, with a lovely perfume. A very decadent pleasure. One of them was my evening snack while plonking away on my computer. Asian pears (pyrus pyrifolia) keep well in cool or cold circumstances, much like my apartment at this time of year. Because they bruise easily care must be taken in packing them and transporting them, which drives up their cost. They are not like European pears.
Also, they're as big as a baby's head.

And I now know that a strong cup of milk tea after eating them is perfect.
I was wide awake till nearly midnight. Quite buzzing.


南水香。



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Thursday, December 30, 2021

THEIR QUIET TIMES

Normally on Thursdays I end my off-period with a visit to a favourite bakery in Chinatown, where the staff seem to like me, and the milk tea and pastries are excellent. Shan't do that today. Need a break. No, it isn't because of Omicron. But in a way it is. Omicron. Delta. Masks. Stupidity. The sheer number of people who scoff at public health and safety, vote for immoral conmen, the strange thoughts and ideas that have gained ground, tourists, vegans, local politicians, celebrities, and people who don't understand the concept of nose-breathing.

Something that has become apparent over the past year and a half is that people are more on edge than ever. Fragile, hyper-sensitive, easily triggered, and over-reactive. Which is probably why some folks have ended up being needy schmendricks, and otherwise regular people act in tense unlikable ways. Maintaining one's centre, in a state of constant low-level crisis, becomes defensive. And often, offensive. Or it can seem that way.

I don't like being the subject of ired curiosity. In normal times, I also don't mind being taken entirely for granted. But the pandemic is getting to me. I find myself irritated at little things that other people do. And I'm not fond of people.

This past week I've avoided familiar haunts entirely.

Today I'll have a late lunch at one place.
A quiet restaurant with "distances".
Where I am still anonymous.
Yesterday my apartment mate took me out to dinner, at a place both of us have patronized in the past. There were only four other customers there, which was disheartening -- I wonder if they'll survive this -- but it was also immensely reassuring. There is safety in negative numbers. It was very enjoyable. I had not been there in a long time, but she had been there several times with her ex boyfriend, before they broke up, and probably since then too. I have avoided most of the restaurants that he has been at. For a number of years.

Yes, I have 'baggage'. Less now than a few years ago, but it's still there.
A pandemic is not a good time for neuroses.


Periodically I check Facebook to see how individuals I know are doing. And in some cases whether they are still alive. That they are is satisfying, and I really should say 'hi' occasionally, but most of them are dealing with their own situations, and I suspect that like me they are coping with life by, to a certain extent, seeking greater solitude than usual.
Contradictorily, I also imagine having company.


My apartment mate is on the spectrum, and not sociable in the same way as normal people. She needs people around her occasionally, but doesn't really want to interact with them much. And she expects more common sense and sound judgement from them than very many of them are capable of, or gifted with. She is tolerant, but they make her tense.

I'm probably projecting just a little bit there.
I like people. But not very much.



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YOU'RE ALL GONNA DIE! AND THERE'S OPERATIC WEEPING!

Nothing quite beats one's apartment mate audibly scrolling through a long list of crappy sci-fi and horror films from the fifties through the seventies, when film production crews were thinking "we've got five days to shoot this, not a brain among us, and we're gonna be rich!"
Followed by the question "what's a script?"

Because, of course, these movies almost defy belief. Cheesy plots, staggeringly amateurish special effects, monsters that might as well have been made by the Sesame Street worshop.

Handpuppet space alien monkey spider.
It has too many appendages.
And long teeth.
It devoured your puppy, and thus got a taste for flesh! It came from a dying planet in search of women! It needs the world's supply of graphite! The invention of steak sauce! It cannot die!

These are the movies of teenage fantasies.


My dear apartment mate, despite being an adult Cantonese American female from Northern California, is in some ways a blonde all-american Anglo teenager inhabiting a Southern California drive-in movie theatre, chewing bubble gum, 1950s.

We've seen several crappy films together.

Monsters clearly made out of shag carpet and plastic balls.
Special effects which involved visible wires.
Firecrackers. Garden hoses.


Yeah, I can't understand why those moviemakers never got rich either. People would pay to see those films nowadays. Good theatre is all about make-believe.



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Wednesday, December 29, 2021

GENTLE FLAKES AND OLD NAVY

At this moment I am looking speculatively at an unopened tin of McClelland Navy Cavendish from 1996. It is slightly swollen from ferment and age, and would probably be a marvelous tobacco to smoke. Do I open it? Or do I wait for a more opportune occasion? I am of several minds. The ideal accompaniment for such a product would be strong tea. Perhaps a slice of fruitcake beforehand. While wrapped in a warm blanket because it's beastly could outside.
And reading a good book (Sforno on Pirkei Avot, for example).

Smoking is not permitted in this apartment.
My apartment mate would object.

Tea, fruitcake, and a book. Plus warmth. These are key concepts.


It is manifestly undoable to set up on the sidewalk outside with a roaring trashcan fire and a comfortable folding chair plus a small table on which to have the mug of tea and an ashtray. The local authorities would object, and in this city concerned earthmothers would make it a point to come up and complian that I was ruining their lungs.
And I should think about the children!
My turkey vulture would have no problem with that, and would scope them out for fatty thighs. He has a thing about fatty thighs, precisely like in this photograph he has affection for McClellands fine pipe tobacco.


NAVY CAVENDISH
McClelland Tobacco Co.

"With this tobacco, we reintroduce the smoker to the traditional Navy Cavendish, pressed in cakes and aged naturally with dark Jamaican rum to achieve its rich depth of flavor, color and aroma."



The rum is not really noticeable, it unifies flavours rather than to contributing any of its own. Short brown flakes that rub out crumbly for the bowl, and a pleasant fresh sweetness at first light. The taste is not overly complex or full, the darkness is deceiving (it was the Rum soak that had made it appear darker than it actually would have been).
There is a faint hint of cookie in the fume.


I fail to see the connection between pipe tobacco and children OR fatty thighs (presumably of elderly duffers who would only need a gentle clop on the back of their heads to render them "harvestable") that Sydney Fylbert (the turkey vulture above) fixates upon. Very few little kiddie-winkies nowadays smoke pipes, and as far as I know the elderly mostly have scrawny gams, all tough, stringy and fishlike. Possibly he intends to lure me closer with that tin of nicely aged Navy Cavendish, and then whack!

I think I can survive the assault of a small bird.
See, I've got leverage and resilience.
I am a tough old cock.


It's that diet rich in tea, fruitcake, heavy books, and tobacco.
I just need that warm blanket and a raging fire.
Just forget about fatty thighs.
A hint of cookies.



TOBACCO INDEX


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RUNNING WITH THE BULLS

There are many reasons why the Dutch swung massively towards hard core Calvinism and cynicism. The infallibility of popes may have played a part, though one suspects that they largely took papal pecadilloes in stride. And were entertained by such idiocy.

At least, judging by their art and literature.

Somewhat "colourful".


The list of adulterous, rapacious, degenerate, or alcoholic popes and papal officials is too long to list. Reads like a trashy novel besides. Trumpian, in a way. Peyton Place writ large.


1. The Famous Corpse Synod: Stephen VII. (May/896-Aug/897) dug up the long dead corps of pope Formosus and put him on trial in March of 896. The decaying corps, dressed in papal vestments, was condemned of crimes he had committed as ruling pope. Then the dead man was defrocked, three fingers on his right hand (the hand of benediction) were cut off, and he was dragged through the streets of Rome and thrown into the Tiber.
Pope Stephen was later put in prison and strangled in his cell.

2. Sergius III (904-911) had Cardinal Christopher and Leo V to murdered so as to become pope. Ordered Formosus dug up again, and had him (the corpse) beheaded.
Seduced a fifteen year old girl while living in the Lateran Palace.

3. Boniface (974) fled to Constantinople with the treasures of the Vatican.
I seem to remember reading that he had raped a girl...

4. Benedict (1044) sold the papal throne to Gregory VI (1046), for fifteen hundred pounds of silver. Eventually he was poisoned. Gregory was deposed by the council of Sutri in 1046 and subsequently executed.

5. Gregory IX (1241) sold absolution to the emperor for a hundred thousand ounces of gold. He also had the emperor's envoys strangled when they told him of the conquest of Jerusalem.

6. Alexander (1261) purchased his election to the papacy.

7. Clement (1268) had the son of the king of Sicily beheaded without trial and without stated reason.

8. Boniface VIII (1294-1303): "Dante called him The Black Beast and assigned him to the 8th circle of Hell with his head in a rock fissure. Had a married woman and her daughter as mistresses. Locked up pope Celestine V, who died of starvation and neglect."

9. Innocent IV (1362) had the emperor poisoned.

10. Pope Paul III (1549) poisoned his mother and his niece, so that he could inherit the family fortune.


And here you thought the Republican Party had invented evil. Hah, mere amateurs!
Florida and Texas are nothing at all like Rome.
Except for the idiots.



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CHICAGO HOT DOG

Pursuant the illustration of the cheese pizza in a previous post, I realized that what I also needed to draw was the Chicago style hot dog. Which is an all beef sausage on a poppy seed bun with sweet relish, pickled peppers, a slice of dill, tomatoes, yellow mustard, and celery salt. And, if you are me, decent mustard substituted for the yellow, and a sploodge of Sriracha.
By the standards of Chicago I am a heretic.

Drawing of a Chicago dog.
You will just have to imagine the celery salt. Drawing celery salt is entirely beyond my skill set. If the rest of the garden is there, you can assume that celery salt is present too.

From Wikipedia: Celery salt is an ingredient of the Bloody Mary cocktail and the Caesar cocktail. It is also reported to be an ingredient in KFC's secret spice mix. It is also commonly used to season the Chicago-style hot dog, the New York System wiener, salads, coleslaw and stews. It is a primary ingredient in Old Bay brand seasoning.
End cite

Also Wikipedia: Chicago-style relish is a type of sweet pickle relish typically used on Chicago-style hot dogs. The unique color of the relish, often referred to as "neon green", is created by adding blue dye to regular pickle relish.
End cite


Old Bay

More Wikipedia: Old Bay Seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices that is marketed in the United States by McCormick & Company, and originally created in Baltimore, Maryland.

The seasoning is a mix of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, paprika, and many others. Some of the other spices that may be used are laurel leaves, mustard, salt, cardamom, cloves, and ginger as listed in the original product in the Baltimore Museum of Industry. It is regionally popular, specifically in Maryland, as well as in the Mid-Atlantic States, the Southern States, and parts of New England and the Gulf Coast.

End cite


Clearly, celery salt and blue dye are hallowed elements in American cuisine, the masala on which the Yankees and Midwest Germans rely. Probably also used in Chicago Pizza and milk shakes, though not having been to the Windy City, I have yet to confirm that.

Here in California we might throw some salsa on the dog instead. A nice pico de gallo, not that pretentious mango salsa prefered at high style eateries. Some slices of chile en escabeche alongside, and you have a working man's feast.

This is where you and I probably fondly remember the bacon-wrapped grilled dogs sold by Mexican entepreneurs on Mission Street late at night, or on Polk Street before the merchant association spoke to the police and demanded harsh enforcement and dragoon tactics.
Squirted condiments, pickled chilies.



What also needs mentioning are the often illegal foodstalls once common in Asian cities. Grilled meats on skewers, cheap and chunky goat or pig soup, stinky tofu, and, famously, lapsap min (垃圾麵 "garbage noodles"). That last are, nowadays, instant noodles of whatever flavour augmented by meat scraps from the refrigerator and a vegetable, maybe a fried egg on top, and a splurt of whatever condiment you fancy. For instance chicken noodles with left-over charsiu slices, some bokchoi or yauchoi, chopped chives or scallion, and hot sauce.
Delicious after a long day or while watching teevee.
See also che jai min.










Everything is better with Sriracha.



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AND NO DANCING!

When it's cold like this in San Francisco at the end of the year, everyone looks forward to the great big party on the thirty first; people dancing nude, kept warm by the body heat of the crowd. Flesh pressing flesh. Close proximity! Boogie woogie conga! Except, of course, that during a pandemic such as we're experiencing, all close proximities and public disrobing is discouraged. Party at a safe distance - six to ten feet, while wearing masks -- and NO nekkidity! Please and thank you.

Well, nekkidity was actually never part of it.
We're a rather staid bunch, here.
No orgies either.

All of that's more of an East Coast thing. For the past several years, instead of gathering with others of unlike minds to swill cheap champagne and tunelessly sing Old Lang Syne, I've gone to bed early. Waiting for the ball to drop is pointless. If the ball, exceptionally does not drop, the new year will not be delayed or in any way harmed.


Did I mention the cold? It's a pity none of us have tauntauns. I suppose we'll have to kill the pet doggies of yuppies instead to crawl inside for warmth. Imagine how I'll look wearing several bloody pug cadavers. Oops, scratch that, bad idea; somebody might get triggered by my extremely poor taste sense of humour and pitch a hissy.
URBAN TAUNTAUN, DOMESTICATED


So anyhow, I actually like the little pests.

I'm not dancing, nude or otherwise. Those are convulsions from the cold. No wonder the rest of the country is friggin' insane, it's colder there.

Dang it, it's cold.



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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

ARE NEW YORKERS ALL RICHARD?

In a discussion string about masks, vaccines, and boosters, I gave vent to my distaste for the tourists wandering around unmasked with equally unmasked toddlers. A woman from New York promptly went off, castigating me for being a misogynist and parent shaming.
Apparently I am also a schmuck. And an incel.
And I do not have children.
I am gross.

Question: Are New Yorkers oversensitive easily triggered thin-skinned mentally unstable entitled dicks?

That's meant rhetorically.
They are. All of that.

Also, critical reading may not be their strong suit. That kind of goes for everyone from that entire part of the country. And furthermore, their pizza is over-rated.
Imagine a city filled with George and Elaine.


The following items are incredibly nasty:
Manhattan clam chowder. It's glue made with tomatoes. A bad excuse for cioppino.
New York-style cheesecake. Over rated sugar and dairy spackle.
New York-style bagel. Over-hyped, over-rated, dough turd.
New York-style pastrami. Not something you should do with meat.
Corned beef. A cow, very badly pickled. See above.
Baked pretzels. People actually eat this?

NEW YORK PIZZA

Cockroaches everywhere, rats the size of a loaf of bread in restaurants and on the street, sleet, rain, Woody Allen, drug addicts and neurotics, rabid taxi drivers, and Newman. Honestly!



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ILL WINDS

There are two bakeries to which I often go. Meaning that in the average week I will visit at least one bakery. Unsurprisingly, I was at one of them yesterday. I'm giving the other one a miss this week because too often the center table is jam-packed with a Toishanese coffee klatch. Not that I'm opposed to Toishanese, but that's my table. It's perfect for people watching.

In these pandemic times, people watching is a defensive manoeuvre. You see people. Are they masked? Are they white? Are they tourists in Chinatown? Do they ask the counterperson all kinds of questions that they should already know the answer to if they're in a Chinese Bakery?
Do they seem rather remarkably stupid?

To say that I distrust my fellow humans would be putting it mildly.

Too many of them are unmasked Caucasian idiots.


Oh, and it's also only a matter of time before one of the members of the Toishanese klatch catches covid and unwittingly gives it to the others.


There were two other customers at the bakery to which I went yesterday. At opposite ends of the room. With several tables in between. I chose a table facing the door and had a chicken tartlet with my tea, before heading out into the bitter cold to freeze my buns off with my pipe.
Let's just say that 'Uncle Stinky' doesn't like this weather. But it's a neutral, almost Platonic dislike, without emotional content. The weather is doing what it's supposed to.
There is no ill will in this animus.


This is the time of year when my feed is filled with pictures of bearded individuals puffing their briars in impossibly frigid circumstances, making remarks about the weather the garage the unheated front porch not properly enclosed their wives their kids the lack of central heating outside how society is going to hell in a handbasket. All the uncle stinkies of the world.

Obviously their problems are that they are married during the four months of the year that are miserable, have not installed a heater in the garage or on the front porch, had children whom they did not properly train, mingle among humans, and live in the Northern Hemisphere.
During those four months.

Australia is quite out of the question. Firstly because it doesn't really exist, secondly because of the horrifyingly punitive and meant to discourage taxes on tobacco, and thirdly because it's filled with Australians. Crocodiles and Dundee twenty four hours out of seven.

All of this could be addressed with a strongly worded letter to the editor.


I'm thinking of either going back to bed, or spending the day in the warmest room in the house, which is the bathroom. I can smoke in the bathroom, unlike the bed, but I'd probably end up with my rear looking like a French pug's face, all wrinkly and full of personality.
Neapolitan mastiff, sharpei, Bourdeaux mastiff, English bulldog.
Jowls where there should not be any jowls.

Get that image out of your head.



TOBACCO INDEX


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THE LANDFILL CLASS

Every day in the evening I check the Covid stats. Then enter them on two posts dedicated to that purpose. Despite the widespread availability of ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, vitamin C, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, and miracle honey, it keeps getting worse.
Thoughts and prayers don't seem to help.
Neither does homeopathy.
How odd.


COMPARISON:

Monday December 27, 2021.
52,793,379 confirmed cases in the US. 818,371 deaths.

Sunday December 27, 2020.
19,132,726 confirmed cases in the US. 332,118 deaths.


Maybe it's time for human sacrifice. I can think of several candidates.

Fully 20% or more of those deaths are people who refused to get vaccinated. Which proves something. Those were people who made themselves expendable, and wasted funds and hospital beds on their way to a grave. Sympathy for them or their grieving relatives and ennablers is, with few exceptions, wasted.

So is patience.




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Monday, December 27, 2021

BEARDED LADIES

Twelve months ago President Bolsonaro of Brazil asserted that the vaccine might affect people adversely. "If you turn into a crocodile, it's your problem." He also stated that he would not get vaccinated, because he already had immunity, but that others were free to do so, and implied that if, as a consequence of taking medically sound precautions against disease, their lives would change, bully for them and good riddance.

Since then, huge numbers of Midwesterners have taken his words to heart.


"If you become superhuman, if a woman starts to grow a beard or if a man starts to speak with an effeminate voice ... "
------Jair Bolsonaro, international level idiot


His thoughts on these matters are mirrored by Mehmet Oz, famous snake oil salesman and shameless rightwing panderer, as well as Fox pundits. And I, personally, have no problem with vast swathes of rural America and the trailer parks of the Deep South catching covid 19 and dying. I have sympathy for medical workers in those places who have to shovel the shit, but frankly I would advise them to leave those people to their own devices and return to the civilized world. They'll be more appreciated here.

Mask and vaccine mandates in large parts of this country are a waste of time.
The level of stupidity there makes them irredeemable.
Let the rabid dingoes rot.


It would be a wise caution, however, to put a barbed wire barrier across the Sierras and around airports to keep visitors from those places out. All evidence shows that they carry diseases and have unclean habits, and in order to ensure that Californians can continue living relatively risk free and safe lives we need to make absolutely certain that none of the Typhoid Mary Morons walk among us. They're rather like the zombies in several apocalyptic movies and popular teevee shows, except marginally smarter.


And, in addition to spreading pestilence, they are likely to bring false religions like Christianity and Mormonism. Lord knows we don't need any of that; we've seen what it did to Europe and the Third World.




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A FULL YEAR OF NAVEL GAZING

It is five days till the New Year. Which is as good a time as any to briefly review the past twelve months and what one has actually accomplished in that period. Doing so briefly is the key concept, because most people have done little except carry on with their lives (commendable), act normal (also commendable), and if they've accomplished anything it may not be apparent or fully realized yet, or still in process with no results that can be quantified.

What have I done this year?

I've twiddled.

My skills using Paint on the computer have improved, and while most drawings/paintings have been of pipes, there are several showing food, Hong Kong, San Francisco Chinatown, and a few others. There's a blog I've created for the pipe drawings: BRIAR PIPE ILLUSTRATIONS, of which I'm rather proud, and for which most people would absolutely not see any point. Same but less so for the coffee or tea cups, as well as the food pictures.
MILK TEA
BOOMLA

Or the creatures smoking pipes.
CAT

Like this self-portrait. I have more or less maintained my sanity, been mildly and twiddlesomely "creative", and said some extremely mean things about Christians and Republicans, of which I'm rather proud. No deep insights have been offered on this blog site, and I have not contemplated the meaning of life or my navel.

Well, not quite true about the navel. That's where the incision for my appendectomy two years ago was made, it's been somewhat ugly looking since then, minor scar tissue and all. But in the grand scheme of things a no-longer perfect belly button doesn't count. No bright personable female entity has looked at my navel and exclaimed "that's it, the relationship is off, that ugly navel has nixed it", and no one has actually seen my navel. There have been no bright personable female entities in my life except for my apartment mate, who is still single.
As am I. I am complacent about that, and don't think about it.

I suppose I could have actually searched for a bright personable female companion -- a friend in Canada obsesses over the concept, his life feels empty to him without one, and several internet friends and acquaintances seem to think that their lives are more complete because of one -- but I haven't spent any time doing so. Something held me back. No, it wasn't my navel. Perhaps the concept is more attractive in the abstract than the effort to actually find one seemed, prospectively.

A man past his vibrant twenties is not a hot item, and likely will have calmed down a bit by that age. If that man has a navel with scar-tissue, it might fascinate ony himself.

Navel-lint is different now.



As an "intellectual conceit", I would like to see another navel close-up, inspect it and admire it, perhaps over a hot beverage or after enjoying tasty food together, but that is NOT something one could ever put on Craig's List or advertise, the subject has not come up and is not likely to. And I haven't actually devoted much time to considering it.

Navels are nice. Everybody should have one.
Except for the lizards from outer space.

I spent a year twiddling, okay?


Anyone wishing to say something deep and profound about navels, including mine, knows how to contact me.




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Sunday, December 26, 2021

MINNESOOOOOTA!

Imagine a day spent with reamers, vodka, and a whirring machine. Plus buckets of tea. While it is pouring outside, wetter than the bathroom sponge. I spent all afternoon cleaning up pipes and buffing stems, and it was lovely. Quite the best way to end the Christmas season, and celebrate the deserved death of The Little Drummer Boy till zombie-like the creature resuscitates next November parrumpapa-pum.

Among other things, George -- a splendid fellow, whom I like -- smokes his pipes till they're soggy and sewer-like, and caked up a bit too much. His three pipes that needed a good job are now clean and useable again.
Two elderly pipe smokers passed away (sometime in the past decade), and their fine briars have been made ship-shape, ready for the next collector of fine briars.
These are not the two old geezers who are "missing in action". I suspect one of them may still be circling the Safeway parking lot trying to find the way out, having gotten lost because he double or triple doses his medication. Like the man with neuralgia he'll turn up again.

Several cups of hot tea. Ignored the ballgame and the cigar-huffing yutzes watching it in the backroom, except to yell 'Minnesoooota' periodically (a team which apparently wasn't on the screen, but whom the retired member of the judiciary branch hates because of a game against the local team a few weeks ago), and then returning my attention to the buffing wheel.
Which is far more interesting.

Steve up in Canada used pipe cleaning, repairing, and restoring as a form of physical therapy while recovering from a stroke. His hands have genius. For me, it's meditation with the fingers. I am not as skilled. His work, I admire. My work is "serviceable".

Hand-firmness. Also, it helps me swill buckets of tea while not interacting with people.
Except for hollering 'Minnesoooooooota' supportively.

My idea of perfect company is someone reading her book somewhere nearby, tolerating my pipe, and sharing the contents of the frequently replenished tea pot.
We can agree to disagree about the cookies.
Before deciding "why not both?"


My coworker today does not drink tea. He spent all day fussing with his pipe.
Occasionally going into the backroom to taunt the fossils.
In their post-holiday mental fogs.



Herring, lutefisk, and cheese.
Minnesooooooooooota!
How can you not?




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ALL THE ANTI-VAXXERS WE LOST

It is traditional in the last few days of December to tally up the changes and the deaths, and many media outlets will take time to list all the great people who have left us in the last year. Surely you remember when so'nso died? Yes, the great ones have passed.

In that vein I'd like to give a shout out to all the anti-vaxxers and paranoid nutballs we've lost over the past twelve months. Some continued asserting that it was all a liberal plot till their last breath, others filmed themselves weeping over their mistaken assumptions and saying that they wished things had been differently and they regretted their stance before finally dying.
I'd like to also mention their supportive family members and fellow morons, now stuck with the bill for six weeks of intubation and the funeral. Let's pretend that my thoughts and prayers go out to them. Heartache, sadness, oh the humanity, bla bla bla.

Jolly good riddance, serves them right.


I have a list of Republicans and Christians whom I'd like to see snuff it in the next year.



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Saturday, December 25, 2021

AND LITTLE CHILDREN LOVE THE SMELL!

This is a sampling of internet commentary on a day that is fairly meaningless for a man who doesn't have a family, or kinfolk within five hundred miles. No weird little social games.

By the way: for some people, Christmas means no smoking inside.
Pipe, walk, rain. Repeat.


Begin:

A serious man once wrote a book endeavoring to explain that the prevalence of little people stories and myths in North Brabant was due to inbreeding. His theory was that congenital idiots and freaks would run away from home or be left out on the moors, and those that survived (but could not find their way home) gave rise to stories of gnomes or kobolds .......
We WOULD have been outraged, but his book sank like a rock.
Reading being rather a skill of civilized society ........

What every woman needs for Xmas: a pistacchio hued vacuum cleaner to match her favourite pistacchio hued frock. That man might not find his goolies again in this life.

Bumblebees are social insects. Invite them for lunch.

For beginners I usually recommend one pouch of Luxury Navy, one pouch of Arango Balkan Supreme, both carried by many tobacconists. Reasons being that they are both excellent products widely available and representative of their categories, quite different from each other, and a good introduction to whichever type a person will gravitate toward. But there are many fine tobaccos available, and the one a person starts with is usually not the one they'll be smoking in a year or two. Other people often recommend 1Q (a mild easy smoking mainly Cavendish blend, aromatic). Which is one of the most popular tobaccos in the country and one many people like, and which many people have smoked with great enjoyment for years. In any case, keep in mind that there is no rule that you have to load all the way to the top (and end up with a soggy bottom if you don't finish), don't smoke hot, and keep the pipe clean.
Your pipe is like your underwear. Avoid a soggy bottom. Clean occasionally.

An umbrella is wonderful.

Best aromatic pipe tobacco for that Christmassy aroma: Lane Limited LL-7
Burley, Cavendish, and Virginia, flavoured with caramel and vanilla.
Probably banned in many locales because, as we have been told by concerned mothers all over Alameda County, San Francisco, and Marin, little children just love flavoured tobacco, why, the doors to your neighborhood tobaconist are mobbed by the little shits desperate for such things, they're beating the old codgers to death and stealing their ancient briars, howling, foaming at the mooth. They're cranky! And it's not green and ethically sourced!
Very mild. Consistent. Suggestive of chocolate. Not top heavy with nicotine, and if smoked at a reasonable pace, as little children often do, it doesn't bite your tongue. More vanilla than 1-Q, more caramel then RLP-6. Perfect for the nursery.

Today you can actually find parking in this neighborhood. All the younger people have gone somewhere else.

It is remarkable how many pipesmokers on the internet today have whisky before lunch.

It is remarkable how many pipesmokers look like Santa Claus.

Great cartoon, but he can't draw a cat.

A three pound lobster.

End.



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Friday, December 24, 2021

THE VOICES

The term 金鴞軍 ("golden owl army") occurs in a Japanese song. I have scant clue what it means. Something mythical and historic. I would imagine a battle standard is meant. Possibly the bird is in reference to the three legged crow (八咫烏 'baat ji wu', Yatagarasu; "eight span crow"), which represents the sun (and echoes the ancient offering tripods). Saam juk wu (三足烏). Also 金烏 ('kam wu'). Reading up on this became a complicated hairy rabbit hole I wished to explore no further. Suffice to say that it leads to the 大嘴烏鴉 ('daai cheui wu ngaa'; corvus macrorhynchos, the big beaked jungle crow). A very attractive pesky bird.


That was over eight wikipedia articles. Excluding the ones in Chinese. No Dutch, Indonesian, or German pages were consulted.

Perky omnivores that like sparkly things and make disturbing noises.


Sounds like someone I know.


Yesterday evening my apartment mate and my downstairs neighbor were happily gabbing seasonal stuff at each other. I'm fairly sure her husband remained out of sight deliberately, being like myself not a Cantonese American woman born in San Francisco.
In fact, neither he nor I are Cantonese American.

Or women.



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SEASONAL GOOD CHEER!

One of the things that bothers me is the huge number of unmasked people on the streets, as well as the unmasked visitors in Chinatown. It is both socially responsible and good manners to wear a mask -- the immuno-compromised and the under vaccine-age are at risk when you do not do so -- and, what with being rather antisocial myself as well as on the spectrum, it is extremely irritating when I see the casual attitude of so many people.
So many of my fellow white people.
Infuriating, even.

Look, I know many of you are pot-smoking barely sentient self-entitled alcoholics and deviants. 
That's a white folks thing, and you can't stop it. You don't want to.
Could you please be less so? In public?

Oh, and the fact that flights have been cancelled over Covid? And trips called off? Jolly good! Please stay at home. Wherever that is. You can keep your infectiousness in Alabama or Missouri, don't bring it out here. Stay at home, gather with your kin, and infect them.
I'm sure the ICU in Mongrel Turd, Missississippippi will welcome you.


We're not all in this together. Your behaviour for over a year has shown that some of you have no brains and cannot give a damn. Which is okay. You be you. In your own part of the swamp. We might sigh a little oh dear when you're intubated, but as long as you stay in Buttafuaca, Illinois, it won't affect us, and only your equally dingo neighbors will notice, mostly.


Oh, and keep watching the blathering nutballs on Fox. We know it makes you feel comfortable and good about yourselves -- lord knows you need that when the football season ends -- and it will keep you quiescent while your hospitals collapse and everyone in the old folks home dies.

Poor cousin Brad and his lovely wife Karen got arrested for storming Washington, and might catch Covid in the federal pen? Uncle Bubba is intubated and has bedsores? So sad, so sad.
Can't afford heating oil this winter let's go to California? Please don't.
Y'all can freeze to death perfectly fine where you are.
Eat your Smithfield Pork Product. By happy!



For crapsakes, morons, mask up.

Oh and merry Xmas.



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Thursday, December 23, 2021

I CAN LICK MYSELF CLEAN

Background: a while back, the hacks in the community standards division of Facebook decided to ban me for thirty days because of something honest I had said about my own "ethnic group". Naturally I stand by what I said, and see no logical reason why I cannot or should not say it. Many white people are stupid, and judging by their numbers, they surely did intercourse, they have intercoursed, and they are still intercouring.

Okay?

Intercoursing does not require a brain. The praying mantis proves that.

So naturally I found another way to keep in contact with my friends. Because in this day and age one wants ones friends to know, if they're interested at all, that one is still alive, one has not croaked of the plague alone in some hutment on the moors or been thrown into jail for killing a Karen. As, naturally, one might do. The Karen part, that is.

And one returns the favour. With avid interest I keep a considerate eye on my friends, hoping that if they whacked a Karen they did not get caught.
Or, if caught, moral support.

Now then. Facebook. As an 'other' self.


What's "on my mind"? Hot buttered Jorts.

Facebook asks 'what's on your mind. A loaded question.

Pursuant which someone commented: "I really feel much safer on Facebook when people from the Netherlands refrain from discussing food. That goes for Brits too."

dot dot dot

Rarely do I ever mention the Brits. Despite having joined a collection of bearded gentlemen from Blighty on the interweb. And I seldom say anything negative about the people and place, despite the teeth (nightmarish) and the cuisine (ditto). In fact, I go out of my way to say nice things about them whenever possible. They invented tea. Plus bacon and butter.
Which more than makes up for the damned peas or baked beans.


AFTERWORD

In the broad sense, my ethnic group is indeed 'white'. Which is the generic catch-all for almost everyone who isn't broadly something else. But in a narrow sense, I am specifically Dutch American, descended from settlers of New Amsterdam. A superior type of white, until we breed out so much that generic-ass Wasp ends up in the woodpile and dominates. At which point that stupidity rears its microcephalic head, like a snapping turtle in the mud. And you get something like Tucker Carlson, Marjorie Taylor Greene, or Charlie Manson.
Or, godhelpus, Louie Gomert.

The British empire was founded on the basis of tea, bacon, and butter.
Either that, or those were the highlights.



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DOES NOT TEST FOR ADRENALINE

The work Christmas Party last weekend provided a surprise: one of us is infected. Four of my coworkers have had tests which were negative, the fifth person I have not heard about yet. Because there are NO convenient walk-in rapid test sites anywhere near me -- every one of them require appointments AND promise results after 24 to 48 hours -- I used the BinaxNow Covid19 Antigen Self-Test from Abbot Labs yesterday evening (having only read my e-mail after dinner). Result: Negative. Covid 19 was NOT detected.

So I have a more than reasonable presumption of being clean.
And yes, I'm feeling 100% okay.


Naturally I hope the afflicted colleague who attended the party is doing fine and will have a speedy recovery.


Cite from the FDA (https://www.fda.gov/media/147254/download:
"Negative results should be treated as presumptive and confirmation with a molecular assay, if necessary for patient management, may be performed. Negative results do not rule out SARSCoV-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions. Negative results should be considered in the context of an individual’s recent exposures, history and the presence of clinical signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19."
End cite.

Instructions are clear and easy, and there is a youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baQQfoX-JXo) which is even clearer, for those individuals who feel challenged by small print when in a hurry. As one naturally might be. Results in fifteen minutes.

Using the nasal swab is kind of like stirring a cup of tea.


Again: four coworkers negative, home test result ditto.
And feeling quite full of piss and vinegar.
That's a good thing, by the way.




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IT'S A DRIED FISH THING

Having not been there in over two years, and seeing as they've changed hands and a new crew is tending the altar of wonton noodle soup -- younger, and presumably not tired out from slopping noodles and dumplings on the edge of the financial district -- it was a natural and logical lunch stop after visiting my bank. Wonton noodle soup is soulfood.

In Hong Kong it's "scrawny Mak's", here we rather ignore the Hong Kong standard, although we agree that there should be dried flounder in the broth.

Also, a dumpling house is NOT a fancy place; you could take your date there if both of you are food mavens, but if you want to impress him or her and their mom, go to a restaurant that has duck, tablecloths, and fine crystal.

I have never tried to impress anyone's mom.
And prefer bare-bones eateries.
However, I like food.
On a day with rainy weather, dumplings are a natural. Wonton are the prefered local type, you might be hard pressed to find northern style shuijiao (水餃) locally. Shanghainese places will usually have them. Wonton (雲吞) are available in many eateries, but only a few actually specialize in them. Theirs are good.


The pipe afterward was excellent.
Chinatown is lovely on a day when the fog and rain mix, the light seems almost supernatural.

On a different note, I'm often tickled pink when people understand me speaking Cantonese. It seems magical to me, because it wasn't always like that. And when they automatically assume that they can continue the exchange in that language with no pressing need to use English it rather says that my accent is okay.
Whenever I speak English, non-Chinese Americans ask me where I'm from. And sometimes guess wildly that I'm English, Australian, or German. Which I'm not. Just an overseas Yank.

I could get used to the acceptance.
It's very nice.



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Wednesday, December 22, 2021

STARKNESS

Note of reality: unvaccinated people are more than ten times as likely to catch Covid and die from it than vaxxed people. They are also that much more likely to be Republicans, Trump supporters, and Christians.

Of course, to folks in that crowd it's all a big plot by 'gubmint' and the liberals to take away their liberties, track them, or finally build the FEMA concentration camps that they have talked about since the first year of Obama. The end times, the antichrist, and child labour camps on Mars.

The map below, taken from a BBC article shows vaccine levels in some parts of the country, which might indicate where losses will be greatest.
SOURCE ARTICLE: Who is not vaccinated in the US and what's the risk?


Well okay. For the next year and longer, life in Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Wyoming, might be nasty, brutish, and short.

[The updated list of sh*thole states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.]

For over twenty months we've had to deal with this pandemic. Hard data is available, we know more about it than before, sources for solid information can be easily found, and healthcare professionals and scientists have overwhelmingly been clear, precise, and informative.

But some people still choose to put their trust in hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, as well as the unhinged blatherings of pastors and rightwing pundits.

How jolly good for them.



Last month I attended a memorial event for an old friend who died over a year ago from factors other than Covid. The other attendees were largely cigar smokers -- his ashes were in a cigar box, fittingly -- and while at the bar afterwards it became apparent, sadly, that a few of them were still Covid sceptics and full of rightwing horsepucky.

I shall be avoiding that bar, their hang-out, for the foreseeable future.
As I avoid all gathering places where such people go.
It's just too "Wyoming" for me.



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STABLE MOORINGS IN A STORM

It is illegal to smoke at bus stops. But on Clay Street, one can perch further up hill and see if there's a bus in sight down in the Financial District, without bothering the people sheltering in the wait hutch. Who, because they're looking downhill anyway, and it's raining, won't see or smell the offender.

Question: if it takes half an hour for a bus to come (on a line where there should be a bus every ten minutes), is it even a bus stop most of the time? Or during those awful in-between periods will it revert to being mere sidewalk?

An angry non-smoker would argue that the entire sidewalk, from cross street to cross street, on a bus route, is, in fact, the bus stop. It's a zen-conception. For the non-smokers it expands to fill all the available space between here and the end of the line wherever that is if they're waiting a long time, for me it contracts to the infinitesimal.

Both points of view are correct.


In any case, the wind was right, so I didn't bother anyone. And I was fifty feet away. All they could smell was the sewage in the storm drain at the corner.


Because of the pandemic there are more awnings where one can shelter from the rain, but some of my favourites have disappeared. And in any case one does have to share them. In an ideal world, a nice woman with an engaging personality would appear and exclaim "oh you poor middle-aged Dutch American eccentric gentleman, you look frozen out here smoking in all kinds of weather, please come home with me and sit on the couch in front of the fireplace under a blanket with your pipe while I fix us some nice hot cocoa, after which we can discuss the poetry of Wang Wei or Joost Van Den Vondel! Or mediaeval society in Northern Europe! Ooh!" But that sounds skeey as all get out, one should be cautious about people one has never met before, San Francisco apartments don't have fireplaces, I'm not particularly fond of cocoa, and no one really wants to discuss Wang Wei OR Joost Van Den Vondel in this sad era.

Oh, and while pipe smoking may remind you of an elderly relative, he or she is in a retirement home in Florida plotting to reinstate Trump, and you would rather not think of them.

It's a depressing situation.


"Oh you poor sprightly middle-aged Dutch American eccentric gentleman, you look quite miserable out here smoking in all kinds of weather, please come home with me and sit on the couch in front of the fireplace under a blanket with your pipe while I fix us some nice hot cocoa, after which we can discuss the poetry of Wang Wei or Joost Van Den Vondel! Or mediaeval society in Northern Europe! Ooh!"


Do you have any relatives with engaging personalities who like the smell of pipe smokers? And who don't have any screws loose? If you do, kindly send them my way. They don't have to be interested in great poetry, OR the mediaeval period, they could be programmers or financial planners working for downtown companies. Medical field professionals. Even translators of Slavic and Romance languages.

Preferably in the vicinity of Chinatown, North Beach, Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, or Polk Street beyond California. I am very flexible in the matter of warm beverages.



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