At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, May 25, 2018


If it weren't for my apartment mate, I might never have cheese. She keeps the cupboard stocked. Goats milk Gouda and Aged Havarti at present.
I am an untypical Dutchman. She is Cantonese American.
Which means keenly food focused.

What she had for breakfast was fried potatoes and a fluffy biscuit with some dairy stuff on top. Which might have been molten cheese.

It's a jolly good thing we are not romantically involved, or I'd have to share meals with her. Like, for instance, breakfast.
Food just after dawn disquiets me.

Since I was a teenager, my idea of breakfast has been coffee, the news, and a smoke. Nowadays that means I step outside into the fog in my bathrobe, and trigger the neighbors, for whom tobacco is the great evil which must be replaced with yoga, kale. and gluten-free muck.

Kindly bugger off, I've got a pipe.
Your argument is invalid.

Whenever that woman has a health checkup, her cholesterol is perfect. She celebrates that result with lobster and drawn butter. If it weren't for the fact that shellfish gives me gout, I would envy her.
I am fairly okay with cheese.

She is snarfing cheese right now. If lobster shops were open at this hour, she might have that instead.

I gloomily peer over my coffee at a Cantonese woman and her food.

Breakfast is the most evil meal of the day.

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Upon sitting down I accidentally knocked over the empty tobacco tins near my chair with my foot. A glass of 'Auld Pukey Boyo' (which is not its actual label, as I am ashamed of the low, low quality of my Scotch, and would far rather not name it) and a pipe filled Sam Gawith's Golden Glow at the end of the night, after a nap and a visit to the Tower to see Marie and the boys.
One drink there, one drink here.
There is rain tonight.

From the portico I can see that Macau Uncle is still awake. But I cannot hear the clackity sound of mahjong tiles, he's not being social at this hour. Occasionally, on his 'game' nights, he steps outside for a cigarette. Both he and his wife smoke, but she is more circumspect about it -- nice Cantonese women do NOT indulge in tobacco -- whereas he comes right out and goes right out for a puff. As a courtesy to the other MJ players.
One those nights I may cross the street to chat.
I assume Macau Uncle is retired.
But I've never asked.

This whisky tastes pretty good.
So does the blonde flake.
It is quiet now.

Lunch tomorrow? Probably pork chops at The Regency.
I should think about new pants and new coat.
What I have looks disreputable.

Get up early. Coffee, coffee, shower, pipe. Out of the house before noon, and down to Chinatown. Eat, then another pipe. And after that maybe something constructive. Pants, and a coat.

Day off. Talk Cantonese. Be lazy.
Sanity time. And silence.
Buy some vegies.
And tea.


The reason for cheap Scotch is because after a full day my taste buds have had quite a work-out. They've been trotted around the block, so to speak. Single Malt would be wasted, its fine distinctions lost. The best time for an Islay is early morning, just after dawn, when the palate is fresh.
But of course the civilized man does not drink then.
No liquor till after sundown.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018


Last night I cooked something with chili peppers. Shortly after I came out of the kitchen, she (my apartment mate) went in. And started coughing. Which is sad, because it indicates that the likelihood of finding another person who appreciates my style of food may be rather slim.

Years ago I went to a farewell luncheon for a departing coworker. There were six of us, and I felt distinctly like the third wheel. But the food was truly exceptional. I have never been back to that restaurant.

Lunch yesterday was 生滾肉丸粥 ('saang gwan yiuk yuen juk'; rice porridge with meat balls) and a cup of Hong Kong milk tea. There were two other customers in the place, eating alone also.

Sharing a meal is sacramental. But most people eat crap.
Eating alone is much more common now.
Modern life.

My apartment mate bought a lovely tres leches cake a few days ago.
We shared it. Cake is such a lovely word.

Dine by one's lonesome.
Smoke outside.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018


A very dear man on the East Coast, when alerted to a Lutheran christening, asked "How does that work? Do they nail the baby to the door of the church?"

[And please note that what is meant by 'christening' here is actually baptism, as was pointed out by a Jewish person who knows far too much about witchcraft, the Greeks, and pagan superstitions.]

Both my brother and I were christened as infants (C of E). It was the only christening we ever attended, and it had as little impact on our subsequent lives as christening had had on our parents. My mother believed the ritual was just something that had to be done. The only reason they had to visit churches was to admire the architecture. My brother memorized the entire Tanach and most of the Christian subsequentia not out of faith, but as a challenge (severely Aspergers, that one). So, technically, I am a Christian. As were all the generations leading back to a toothless peasant sometime in the twelfth century, whom I imagine saying "we're an anarcho-syndicalist commune" and "supreme power derives from a mandate from the masses".

[No, I don't know how those two phrases would sound in the Brabantine Dutch of the late mediaeval period. And it would take more knowledge than I have to find out.]

As a child I did rather like the tale of the loaves and the fishes, because living in the Netherlands that sounded very nice. Herring and good bread? Mmm, I am SO there! Americans, of course, eat garbage bread and canned tuna, so I haven't even thought about it in years. And there were other tales (I skipped over all the crap about baby sheep and butterflies), but the best ones were always the stories that kept one awake at night. Example: the Levite, his concubine, and the men from the tribe of Benjamin. Look it up.

As the source of quotes and turns of phrase, scripture is stellar.
But as a life guide, perhaps far less so.

As a book about cuisine, it just could not ever work.
That wasn't important for a long time.
Twenty centuries of kraut.
And porridge.

I recommend the Larousse Gastronomique instead.
Crêpes Suzette are a sacrament.

I am somewhat intrigued by edible grasshoppers.
But only somewhat.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018


The latest hip glib champion of the patriarchy is a Toronto professor named Jordan Peterson, who apparently is a thing. A thing that fills lecture halls, and complains about women. I have read too much about him, and all of it bored me. Jordan Peterson is a dreary male superiorist in a long line of dreary male superiorists, and his fan base consists of immature men.
Self-loathing meets self-righteousness; everyone benefits.
He is the darling of the male rights movement.
As well as resurgent whiteness.

But, other than unhinged white boys, who cares?

As a middle aged white male, I have better things to do than pay attention to some whiny sponge head academic complaining about his own irrelevance. Or maybe it's diminishing sex appeal, couched in terms that flatter a whole bunch of other men who aren't getting what they consider their fair share of nookity and adulation. His poisonous ideology hijacks the socio-political discourse, and twists it to fit his own deeply held self-serving needs.
Basically, just another malevolently gibbering faux-intellectual.

There is far too much Jordan Peterson in this world.
It's better than weeping about your penis.
But still quite repulsive.

Can all of you Jordan Peterson fanboys please get back into your closets? And please take your limp dangly bits with you. Hold them gently in both sweaty hands. Thanks, guys.

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On a whim last night I checked the temperatures upon returning home after lurking around the neighborhood with my pipe. My apartment mate is a confirmed non-smoker, which means, you understand, that post-work tobacco is enjoyed outside with the snow weasels and polar bears.

San Francisco: 47 °F.
Hong Kong: 86 °F.
Singapore: 85 °F.
London: 60 °F.
Antwerp: 70 °F.
Schleswig Holstein: 65 °F.

There was a cold wind in San Francisco.
I wish to register a complaint.
Pretty damn' beastly.

Two bowls. A lovely VaPer blend which the good doctor might enjoy, except that he's a monumental cheapskate, and begrudges the expense of tinned tobaccos. Until recently he'd mix up his own from internet-bought bulk (two thirds McClelland red cake, one third McClelland black Virginia), but since the demise of an estimable company he has been bereft.
"What is left?" he asked.
"Nothing", I replied.
Nothing like it.

He's likable, a fine fellow, but miserly as all git-out.

It would be pointless to steer him toward Greg Pease's Fillmore.

Which is splendid.

"In the Scottish Tradition"

Red Virginias and Perique, light press, broken flake. You wouldn't call this a "ready rubbed" product, and it is moist in the tin. Like many concoctions with Perique it ages well, and benefits from airing for a few days after popping the lid. Rub it out beforehand, while it is still moist.
The smell of it from the pipe is angelic.
Almost sinfully degenerate.
Old-fashioned good.

There are several people in my circle of acquaintance who would not appreciate it, so I shan't ever recommend it to them.

It almost made the wind worthwhile.

After enjoying two bowls, on either end of a red meat snack at a nearby pub, I returned home. Had some tea before bed. Good evening.


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Monday, May 21, 2018


When you are waiting for the bus in the morning, you are a target for all manner of people. The diversity of "hunter gatherers" in San Francisco is immense! For amateur psychologists or habitual observers of the human condition, this city is sheer heaven. A gold mine.

"Hey man, you got a cigarette?"

No, I don't. This is a small cigar, and I do not have any more.

I really did not have another one on me, and I just wanted to be left alone with my thoughts. An attack of gout during the night had left me feeling a bit limp -- those sausages were delicious, as were the cheeses, and the roast peppers were extremely nice too, as was the guacamole, so considering what a splendid time I had had heading toward that severely bitchy episode from my right foot, I would definitely do it again -- and I was not quite as forbearing with my diverse fellow Americans as I could have been.

I simply wanted to smoke my cheroot outside the healthclub (triggering all the exercise pustules within), while observing the tykes across the street.
The phrase "no, I don't; this is a small cigar, and I do not have any more" had to be uttered several more times.
The diversity of smokeless people in this city is staggering.
Even among aimless white males.

I noticed that not a single one of them asked the tykes across the street for a fag. Not surprising, because the tykes across the street were all Chinese and less than six years old. That type is not known for any generosity with their cigarettes. Or cigarettes, period. Neither are their maternal relatives, for that matter.
The mothers, and the children, would have looked baffled at the request. "What are these somewhat less than perfectly attired white gentlemen saying? And why do they all seem to be twitchy or staggering?"
The tykes might even have been a wee bit scared.

They were cutest little urks.

In that description you will see a Dutch word: Urk. Plural: Urks (in English), urken, urkjes (with the diminutive ending), urkies (non-standard as well as diminutive). It denotes a tiny child, often affectionately. Those darling little urks would not have liked to be approached for smokes by scraggy-waggy adults. Not that it would have necessarily traumatized them.
But such things can be disconcerting.

As a middle-aged fairly sane white male, I tend to think of these things.
I have warm regard for little Chinese urks. They have certain admirable qualities, such as cleanliness, consideration, and good naturedness, and usually they are even-tempered. Especially when mom is nearby.
From a safe distance they are quite charming.
As well as cute as the dickens.
The urks.

The person behind me on the bus was drinking beer while heading to San Rafael. When another seat became available I moved there.
He did not ask for a cigarette.

My weekend has begun. When next I head to work, on Thursday, I intend to have a bigger cigar and a far worse scowl. Then perhaps no one will bug me while I wait for the bus and observe the urks.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018


It lives on my right side, and extends down to the ground. And I am always aware of its presence. Some times more than others. It is a leg with a bad hip thing going on, as well as a knee thing. And a foot attached, which tends toward gout. Which is another way of saying that it wants to kill me.
It has a horrible attitude.

Gout makes everything feel much more so.

The way to cure gout is abstinence. Avoid steak, liver pate, gehakte leber, shellfish, beer, wine, fun of any kind, and republicans.
I am fond of all but one of these.

My entire right leg, from hip to tip of toe, despises the person to which it is attached. It wishes it were a walrus (a large flippered marine oyster eater), free to flutter around blubber-filled beaches, roaring with pleasure, and throwing back its head surrounded by fat-backed ladies.
Instead, it has me. I am not walrussic.
How disappointing.

Sleep tonight will be surreal.

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Two events to which I paid almost entirely no attention yesterday: a royal wedding, and a horse race. Both involved breeding. And, I believe, both were televised to millions.

By the same token, I shall not view moving or still pictures of this morning's zany race in San Francisco, during which dozens of runners will attempt to make history in the nude, semi-nude, strangely clothed, covered in black and orange body paint, or pretending to be beer cans.

Decorative ambulatory beer cans.

The Bay to Breakers.


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Saturday, May 19, 2018


On Tuesday I could barely walk for most of the day, but Friday evening was a slice of pretty darn good. There was improvement. It helps that I'm full of life, and determined to live forever. Totally stubborn piss and vinegar.
As, naturally, you would expect from any dirty old man.
Underneath my civilized facade, I am deviant.
I can draw underwear in my sleep.
Double seamed.

Actually, I used to do blue prints and schematics in my sleep, but thank heavens that no longer happens. There was also a shades of grey period for a few years when I dreamed in spreadsheet programs. These are some of the dubious benefits of being repetitive-obsessive, as well as more than a little Asperger syndromish. It makes me wonder what the woman in the other room of this apartment has in her head while she slumbers.
She's got it far worse than me.


The waitress at my favourite siu-mei restaurant knows that I have the menu memorized by now, even though I seldom visit more than once a month.
Same with two chachanteng in Chinatown, and my porkchop place.

Recently a friend admitted that at each establishment to which he goes he no longer has to order. Whatever it is, it comes.


That's far too predictable.
Shake it up a bit.

Seasonal squash and roast pork over rice, roast duck over rice, bittermelon black bean fish slices rice, fatty pork belly and red-in-snow rice, fish and cheesy cream sauce rice, baked Portuguese chicken rice, garlic paste porkchop rice, mushroom gravy porkchop rice, black pepper porkchop rice, Thai sauce porkchop rice, tomato porkchop rice, tomato cream gravy rice, baked porkchop cream sauce rice, stirfried pressed vegetable pork slivers beansprouts over rice, plum-vegetable pork rice or noodle soup, chive and pork dumplings, minced pork dab of salted egg dumplings, steamed shrimp dumplings, mushroom pork dumplings, rolled rice sheet shrimp, lean pork and preserved egg congee, fish slice congee, dried fish and peanuts congee, offal and crispy stuff congee, grilled pork noodle soup, grilled pork and imperial roll over cold noodles, grilled sliced pork or porkchop with a fried egg and rice, grilled pork garlic noodles, egg tart, dowsa biscuit, linyong biscuit, old wife cake, Italian cake, steamed chicken bun, meat floss bun, hot dog or ham and cheese bun, yau tiu wrapped in steamed sheet noodle, seasonal vegetable fish, black bean spareribs rice, white chicken, soy sauce chicken, snails, frogs, and crispy skin roast goose.

It's just a small selection.
And also cheesecake.
Remarkably light.

I keep myself entertained.

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Friday, May 18, 2018


There's a conversation right now on the interweb underneath a video of a man wearing a MAGA hat, carrying an American flag, with a pistol on his hip. Heading towards a crime scene where ten children got shot. As you would expect, the Alex Joneses are defending his stalwart bravery and heroism, the rest of the world is somewhat baffled.

Nah, I ain't going to score rhetorical points.
Enough people are doing that already.

Just going to highlight the best description I've seen in a while.

"Arrogant gun-toting dickholes"

Paints quite the mental picture, doesn't it?

Within less than a dozen comments the argument had gone circular and repetitive. and of course there were people blaming the gun-control crowd and claiming that the deep state either staged the shooting in Texas or the gun-carrying Trump-supporter, or both. I tuned out before it got to the mention of Pizza Gate, but I am fairly sure that it happened.
The Freemasons had already been brought up.

Seeing as I have nothing to add to the discussion that hasn't already been said, very vociferously and sometimes eloquently, elsewhere, I shall just hang back and occasionally observe. I am glad I'm not at work, because it can be predicted exactly how the conversation there will go. It will not be insightful, or suprising. It is bound to be loud, and rather stupid.

And everything is clearly Obama's fault.

Obama did not take all your guns.

Thoughts and prayers.

My plans for the day involve bank, lunch, pants, pipe, herb store, hot milk tea, a snack, pipe, people watching, conversations in foreign languages, pipe, a cup of coffee around night fall, pipe, and some Scotch ere bed.

Post Scriptum: My Valium of choice at present (other than milk tea and coffee) is McConnell's Folded Flake. The tin of Dunhill Light Flake from a decade ago is finished, and other than a Greg Pease tobacco mixture that was tinned two years ago, I am wondering what to open next.
Life is good.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018


My apartment mate likes to watch the Real Housewives. In a very large part this is because she is Cantonese American, shy, and has Aspergers (it's somewhere on the Autism spectrum). So the show gives her a window into a world that she has never even visited: horrid rich bitches being spoiled, arrogant, dramatic, pissy, and, often, drunk.

It's like watching a slo-mo train wreck.
Or, perhaps, gladiatorial games.

She's currently hunkered in front of the television with porkchop, rice, and vegetable, enjoying the tasteless spectacle immensely.

I myself seldom watch teevee, as there has been almost nothing on since the Canadian vampire detective series years ago. Though I do like Bob's Burgers, and Futurama was often very enjoyable. I see myself as somewhere between Tina Belcher and Doctor Zoidberg.
Though significantly more socially adroit.

Watching the Real Housewives is like seeing the female companions and counterparts of the cigar smokers in the lounge at work, and it throws their escapism and self-centeredness into perspective. They have to get away and just be themselves. And huffing stogies with other vulgarians yelling about sports and Trump is the way to go.

[I have been told that taking a knee is treason, and Trump is the best president ever. Repeatedly.]

I'm surprised that there are no pizza stains all over the carpet.
It would have been in keeping with such manliness.
Machismo, armpit farts, and "opinions".
Plus shiny bald heads.


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The other night at a karaoke bar (NOT the place where everyone is a stuck-up dysfunctional bitch, but a different one), the bartendress sang one of my favourite songs, originally by Teresa Teng (鄧麗君 'tang lai gwan'), who passed away at age 42 twenty three years ago. And, while she was beyond a doubt a supremely talented artist, it took me a long time to learn to like her.
Reason being that I preferred Zhou Xuan (周璇 'jau suen'), who did many of the songs that Teresa Teng covered when she started singing Mandarin.
But to my ear, she did them better.
Disagreement on this is likely.

Zhou Xuan never sang 'ni zenme shuo' (你怎麼說). The classic rendition of that song remains Teresa's. Same goes for 'yue liang dai biao wo de xin' (月亮代表我的心), which I once in a fit of madness sang in that bar.
In all honesty, people like me should not sing.
But leave that to the experts.
Anybody else.

I should point out that when Teresa Teng was in her teens, and still singing her plaintive Hokkien ballads, she was the cutest little round-faced dickens.
The videos are still out there, but the number of people who understand Minnanwa is, comparatively speaking, small.

Sometimes I can understand Hokkien.
But quite often not quite.


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His daughter in law works at my bank, and I've spoken to him several times. He lives opposite, down the street a bit, and his dog is getting old. The first time he was taking a break from a mahjong game -- his brother who loves playing mahjong was in town from Macau -- and I was waiting for the bus to Tongyangfao with a cigar.

He's 62. Older than me. And yes, in worse health. His doctor advises him to quit drinking entirely, but a little wine is good for the heart, and without the pressing need to get up and take a leak, he couldn't walk the dog or have a late night smoke. All men need wine and the comfort of tobacco.
A late night smoke makes life so wonderful.
As, indeed, I know very well.

The pipe clenched between my teeth at present is older than me, a Comoy off-brand made sometime in the fifties. Virginia with a touch of Perique, and a glass of Scotch and water withing arm's reach. I had woken well after midnight, and decided that what would make life really perfect was cold air and tobacco. After a drink at a nearby establishment where I've known the owner for a very long time -- slow evening, neighborhood folks and one or two, restaurant people off-work -- and with my right leg was feeling like it was twenty again, I wandered home. Mr. Siew was letting the dog out and having a cigarette, despite his doctor's disapproval and entirely not withstanding his wife and daughter in law frowning on it.

Tobacco and Cantonese men go together like fish and ginger.
You cannot ever break that bond.

The pipe is is shape 110B, which a google image search will show as being a piss-elegant variation of a Billiard. It has started to smoke really well now. Some pipes acquire a set of memories associated with a time or place, like one of my favourites, which I will always thing of as belonging to a street crossing near three pork chop places in Chinatown, during cold weather. This pipe will always remind me of the alleyway with all the rats.
The rats are charming, lovable, and very happy.

We spoke of tea. Both of us have particular tastes. And while Monkey Pick is not on my top ten, prized Pu-Erh and great red robe are.
His dog doesn't care either way.

Mr. Siew headed back across the street, I went inside. The pipe was down to the dottle, and I poured myself a smidgen of Scotch. My right leg is, remarkably, not acting like a bitch. Life can be very good.

One of the briars I shall smoke tomorrow is a Josts Comoy shape 440 (also listed under different numbers), which Marty Pulvers sold me years ago.
A lovely little temptress, but without a strong time or place memory.
I worked at a downtown law office at the time, with a department head who collected Beanie Babies, and a supervisor who had invested in personal breast augmentation. Despite those two it was a good period.

Both of these old briars fondle very nicely.

One is associated with rats.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018


On a forum someone asked readers what started them smoking a pipe. Quote: "Who or what inspired you to become a pipesmoker? How long ago? For me about six months ago I read a magazine and somebody told a story about his grandpa who always smoked a pipe that smelled like cherry vanilla and since then I have been on a quest to find tobaccos and pipes, as well as learning about the rich history of pipesmoking and enjoying the camaraderie we keep." End quote.

The last time I smelled cherry vanilla pipe smoke was seven or eight years ago. No, I do not miss it. Good tobacco does not need tarting up with fruit loop flavours, just like good tea and good coffee do not benefit from hazelnut passion mango syrup.
Or Irish Cream Vanilla soy milk, a product which I saw in a coffee bar.
If I were the panicky type I might have run out screaming.
Convinced that it was a sign of the devil.
Which it may well be.

When I was thirteen there was a pipe in the window of the tobacconist next to the local bookstore (Boekhandel Priem, in Valkenswaard) where I went regularly. After several weeks I bought it. Two months later I realized that having a smoking tool but nothing to put into it was silly. Bought my first tin of Niemeyer's Scottish Blend, then when I finished that, another tin of tobacco. But my father still occasionally smoked his pipes.
So I was pre-programmed in a way.

That year I got a short but sharply pointed lecture about fruity tobacco which corrected my childish tastes, and I have largely avoided such products ever since. We all at some point need such an intervention.


Niemeyer's Scottish Blend, and its cousins 'Irish Blend' and 'Danish Blend' no longer exist. That is a good thing, as they were aromatics and undoubtedly started many young lads on a life of depravity.

Such products are often called 'girlie tobaccos', which is odd, as so few women smoke pipes. I believe most females shy away from briars because of parental warnings that it will turn them into lesbians or space aliens.
Or, heaven forbid, Catholics.

Enough of them have become lesbians or aliens without that help.

Most smoking mixtures are aromatic.

No civilized pipe tobacco should smell like a strawberry macchiato, or any other product from the coffee shop syrup bar. Neither should coffee.

My father's disgust at candy cavendish made an impression on me, and even as a teenager I appreciated his approval. Which may have been unusual, but it seemed to me that he had done much in his life that was exemplary. I don't think that he'd approve of the Hello Kitty backpack I use to carry pipes and tobacco with me when I head off to work, but I don't think he would disapprove entirely either. And after a while he'd probably appreciate the snark in that ironic gesture of individualism.

Plus, there are no aromatics in that Hello Kitty backpack.
There's nothing there to be embarrassed about.
It is lovely, and extremely useful.
Black, white, pink.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Describing someone as "alluring, a very sexy cow" just don't sound right, even if it was favourably intended. The problem is that English is NOT everyone's mother tongue.

Naturally the others present promptly started talking about milk production and the diary industry. Because "happy cows come from California".

I have been part of some rather strange conversations recently.

There must be sane people with whom to associate.
This isn't always possible in California.

No, the government is NOT lacing breakfast cereals with microscopic transmitters in order to track our voting patterns or eliminative habits.
I do not want to know who told you that.
Nor do I wish to meet him. Her.
But thanks anyway.

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There are times when one may curse the modern age. That someone offered me a sample of a very heavy Latakia blend with a rose essence, vanilla, and mango top dressing sprayed on, before the entire sodden mess was pressed tight between two planks, is one of those times.

It betrays the inventor as having a streak of perversion.

Not someone you could trust near kinfolk.

Naturally I tried some.

If little blue-haired old ladies smoked pipes, this is what they'd smoke.
Not Ennerdale -- too tarty and unclean -- nor 1792, but this.
It's much better than killing puppies.

Once dried, it was good.

Slight ghost.


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Monday, May 14, 2018


Several things need mentioning. Firstly, there is a strong cup of tea to my left, which should refresh me immensely now that I am home from work in Marin. Secondly, I have a new bottle of Scotch. Plus biscuits and cheese.
And lastly, a tin of Folded Flake, some of which I will smoke outside, later, while taking an evening constitutional up and down the street.
I like short walks after darkness falls.
Observing local wildlife.
With my pipe.

Unlike at work, were I have to deal with 'special and unique individuals', plus the "sub-clinically neurotic" crowd, in a professional manner, when I'm off, and have returned to the city, I am merely a disinterested observer.
If I am diplomatic and considerate, it is by choice.
Coolness and distance are also an option.

Sub-clinically neurotic is a polite way of saying batshit crazy, by the way. Smelly overcoat guy, who comes in several times a month, qualifies.
So does the self-styled carpenter, as well as Apu O'Riley.
I am not excessively fond of people.

My weekend has started.
Oh yay.

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Several days ago I committed the sin of cultural appropriation, and I hope that Jeremy Lam won't crucify me for it. Of course, he might lack the wherewithal for that. What with being so damned banana it hurts.
Jeremy Lam, readers might recollect, is the sterling intellectual who wrote "my culture is NOT your goddamn prom dress" when confronted with the image of someone wearing a cheungsaam better than he could.

It was a lovely day in Chinatown. I ate shrimp bonnets, little basket buns, and pot stickers for lunch. They were delicious. After smoking a pipe, I had some Hong Kong milk tea and a slice of excellent Italian cake.

[Shrimp bonnets: 蝦餃 ('haa gaau'). Little basket buns: 小籠包 ('siu lung baau'). Pot stickers: 鍋貼 ('wo tip'), Hong Kong milk tea: 港式奶茶 ('gong sik naai chaa'). Italian cake: 意大利蛋糕 ('yi taai lei daan gou'); Tiramisu.]

Only the first-named item is truly Cantonese. The second is Shanghainese, the third comes from so far in Mandarin territory that the sun doesn't shine, the beverage is colonialistic, and the dessert is, as the name suggests, not even Chinese at all. Though much beloved, despite being barbaric.
Furthering the sin, I pronounced everything in Cantonese.
Because it would've been pointless not to.
Hsiao long bao? Gwo tyeh?
How ridiculous.

No, I wasn't wearing a cheungsaam at the time.

Four out of five things for which the Cantonese terms are given above are NOT of Cantonese origin. Surely that's "cultural appropriation". All the pronunciations ARE for Cantonese. That, too, is appropriationistic.
The origin of the cheungsaam has been discussed elsewhere.
Calling it a 'qipao' is linguistic fascism.

I realize that I might offend the Jeremy Lams of the internet by writing this.
If any of them ever read it, they could be triggered.
My piles bleed for them.



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Sunday, May 13, 2018


Salami, cream cheese, baguette, and something in the cured meats department. The meeting was sparsely attended -- only seven people showed up -- because many members have mothers or are involved with mothers. Which surprised me. And on that note, I saw a picture of one of our members holding a freshly-minted grandchild in Germany.
Where he presently is.

All babies look like Winston Churchill.
Either that, or a meatloaf.


There were nearly as many bottles as people. Which, I suppose, is a good thing for a pipe club. There were no mothers in attendance. Several of the pipe smokers are old enough to let out of the house by themselves, and there is scant fear they'll come home with someone unsuitable.
There are no female members, which is a pity.

"You smell that? Do you smell that?... pipe tobacco, son! Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of pipe smoke in the morning, you know. One time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn't find one of 'em, not one stinkin' cigarette fiend. The smell, you know that dark matured flue-cured leaf fragrance, with a smidgen of Perique, the whole hill.
It smelled like victory! Someday the war's gonna end ...

"Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell ... Anchovies. Anchovies!!!"

Okay, I may be mixing up my quotes. The second one is from Mr. Krabs, in Sponge Bob Square Pants. I will have to strongly suggest that next time there should be some anchovies. Maybe I'll even bring them myself.
Men who like strong flavours assuredly like anchovies.

When you're in the jungle facing Charlie, what would you rather have?
A nice tin of anchovies, or a lousy pack of cigarettes?
Darn right! You want the anchovies!

Neither of our two medical men were there this time. They're probably still smarting from the previous month, when I reminded them that more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette. Doctors in ALL branches of medicine, doctors in all parts of the country ...

No idea what the others were enjoying, but I had a bowlful of McConnell's Folded Flake going in one of my dad's old pipes, which he bought long before I was born. I hardly smoke it; it still smells like him.

From my perspective it was a pretty good meeting.
Still. No women. We've got to change that.


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As usual I cruised into the BBC website to catch up on what's going on in the world. Which can be both irritating, and anger-inspiring. Especially as regards India, which in the past few years has proven itself a rather vile place. Yes, yes, I know that they gave us dhotis, yoga, and English late-night cuisine, than which there is nothing finer, as well as Sanskrit and devadasis, both of which truly blessings, and who can forget all those lovely photos of American politicians in front of the Taj Mahal? But it honestly seems like every headline about India involves Hindus brutally killing people, or robbery, rape, and murder.

As just one instance:
How a child rape became a religious flashpoint for India.

Do not bother reading it. You don't want to get sick.

It's just a lovely example of whatever it is that gets Indians in the news, and really, not all of them are like that. Certainly not that buff headwaiter at the local curry house, who tried to get everyone's pants off.

Here's another:
Why India's rape crisis shows no signs of abating

Quote: "The northern state of Haryana, which records the highest number of gang rapes in India, has the worst sex ratio in the country." End quote.

Should I mention "Eve teasing"? No, I guess not. It might prevent you from going to an ashram there to find yourself, all spiritual and sh&t.

By the way, don't eat a burger while doing that.
It might get you killed.

The Meaning of India's 'Beef Lynchings'

Hindus killing Muslims about their diet rather forcefully illustrates that 'religion of peace' is a misnomer. If it indeed was ever said.

If, from that article in the Atlantic, you get the impression that violence is inherent in the dominant religion, and an intrinsic part of their culture, you might not be wrong.

Quote: "Lynching is an old crime here, often committed against those of so-called lower castes and marginalized tribes, in order to reinforce brutal social hierarchies." End quote.

That's called 'Hindutva in action'.

You can blame Narendra Modi and his party for encouraging it.

On the other hand, Dowry Deaths are not part of Hinduism per se, but a beloved pan-sectarian part of the cultural landscape.
Something all Indians can share.

Dinner tonight might be a grilled hamburger.
With some delicious mango achar.
I feel like beef.

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Saturday, May 12, 2018


A friend, in a conversation about cultural appropriation, offered a musical piece as an example of the benevolence of that practice. No, it wasn't something from Madam Butterfly or Elvis Presley. He's too intelligent and sensible for that kind of glib density, and in fact there are a great many euphonious examples all up and down the scale.
What he chose was, however, bound to trigger some sensitive souls.
Who would be immeasurably offended by it.
And can get stuffed.

"An Israeli oud player of Syrian Jewish origin, performing a classical Turkish composition written by an Armenian."

The following video is not worth watching (because the pictures don't move) but it makes for extremely enjoyable listening.
Which I invite you to do.



Myself, I don't get my panties in a twist about cultural appropriation.
All metropolitan societies do it. It's like pizza.

I once ate pizza in a Palestinian-owned grillroom in Amsterdam, prepared by a blond guy with dreadlocks. Thank heavens they had sambal, because Dutch pizza is NOT like we do in New York, Chicago, or North Beach.

It needed help.

By the way: Toilet paper was invented by the Chinese.
I bet you are glad that we learned about it.
Such a splendid cultural artifact.


I have sambal or its equivalent with almost everything I eat, in case you were wondering. Sambal is mothers milk to a Dutchman, though invented by Indonesians, who took the idea from Ceylonese cooking, using an ingredient first cultivated by Mexicans.

By Takeaway - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
Bird's eye, Madame Jeanette, & Cayenne

Hot chilies. Fortune's gift to Holland.
Like ketchup, for Americans.

Blond dreads are an abomination.
The world does not need that.

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Friday, May 11, 2018


During the past week alone there have been several incidents, filmed and loaded up to Facebook, that show white people in an unfavourable light in their interactions with black people. And it seems to me that many black people ("darknesses") always fail to understand the basic dynamic.
Which is that we white people are sensitive souls.
Who inherited fundamental rights.
To everything.


Dear black people,

Stop sleeping. When you sleep, especially on a pile of books in a common room at Yale University, it disquiets us. We feel that it's inappropriate.
And an invasion of our space. Instead, be warily on guard.

Stop eating. Especially at late night franchises. There is a proper time and place to do that. We don't do that at such times around you, do we?
We wouldn't dare. And please do not laugh boisterously.

Do not attempt to use buffet coupons at a pizza place. The idea of black people enjoying a scrumptious meal and becoming regular customers is discordant. You have other times and places!

Do not barbecue outdoors on a Sunday. Especially not by the lake. That body of water is there for everyone's enjoyment, and both charcoal and chickens trigger us more than we can bear.

Above all, show some respect. We gave you pot. And chicken.

*      *      *      *      *

In other news, I apologize profoundly for being in several photos taken by tourists in Chinatown. And I am sorry that their relatives will now think that Chinatown is filled with middle-aged white men smoking pipes. Instead of colourful natives wearing flowered gowns and doing ethnic things.
That, too, is completely disquieting, and discordant.

I'm probably going to do it again, though.
Lunchtime is fast approaching.
I need some Kung Pao.

Don't call the cops.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018


One of the most charming things happened yesterday afternoon in Spofford Alley, which, as you probably know, is being remodeled as part of a very praiseworthy Chinatown beautification project for the benefit of tourists, none of whom were there to see it.
Had they been there, they might not have understood.
Because it was human and normal.
Not exotic.

A little girl ran past calling out "grandpa, grandpa, grandpa!"

Maybe three years old, hardly older.

At the end of the alley an old Chinese man looked very pleased to see her.
He very likely did not speak English, but he understood what she said. Grandpa. Their intense mutual affection was clear.

When her mother caught up with them, the conversation was in Cantonese. Together they proceeded on, the mom with the infant brother in her arms, the grandpa and the little girl holding hands.

Happy people.

That's better than any amount of Chinatown beautification.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2018


After a comment on a friend's Facebook page I found an item which intrigued me. As well as a word which I did not know till now: callipee.
Not, as you might think, an exotic princess living among the hairy savages of Northern Europe, or a musical instrument, but the cartilage, fat, and nutritious meat of sea turtles, which is used for soup.

"The flesh of turtles, calipash or calipee, was and still is considered a delicacy in a number of cultures. Turtle soup has been a prized dish in Anglo-American cuisine, and still remains so in some parts of Asia.
Gopher tortoise stew was popular with some groups in Florida."

Source: Wikipedia; Turtles; As food, traditional medicine, and cosmetics

Calipee is defined as the fatty yellowish material in the lower part of a turtle's carapace (the plastron), and does not sound very appetizing.

On the other hand gopher tortoise stew sounds delicious. It contains all the usual ingredients for adding flavour: salt meats or bacon (or any spicy pork sausage), chopped onion, celery, bell pepper, tomatoes. Plus land turtle flesh, and cubed potatoes. Pepper. And brown roux.
Proceed as you would imagine.
Hot sauce optional.

The gopher tortoise is native to the Southeastern United States. It is also known as 'Hoover Chicken', after our beloved thirty first president.

龜苓膏 ('gwai ling gou')

Chinese people will, especially during the warm months, consume a dessert made from tortoise plastron and medicinal herbs, although due to the cost of the carapace most versions commonly available contain no tortoise at all. Guilinggao is considered beneficial for the complexion if consumed regularly. Also said to be good for circulation and the kidneys.

Source: Wikipedia; Guilinggao

Two of the most interesting ingredients in some formulations stand out, namely China root (tu fu ling) and ganoderm fungus (ling qi).

Tu fu ling (土伏苓 'tou fuk ling'); smilax glabra, China root. Traditionally used to treat the effects of venereal diseases. Non-toxic, neutral.
Blood-stabilizing. Contra-indicated during pregnancy. [*]
Ling zhi (靈芝 'ling ji'); miraculous mushroom. Whole bunch of reputed benefits, but note especially that it boosts the immune response and may stave off senility. [*]

FYI: Another worthwhile herb in the Chinese pharmacoepia is Huang Qi, Astragalus membranicus (黄芪 'wong kei'). Allegedly it stimulates the immune system and is beneficial to the heart and circulation.
Contra-indicated for pregnant women.

PS.: The green sea turtle is named 'soepschildpad' in Dutch.
The literal meaning is "soup shield toad".
Delightfully blunt.

This entire essay is contra-indicated for Vegans.
Please go away.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018


Today's plans involve abluting, letting the apartment air out (because a Flor Dominicana Chapter One that lasted over two hours was smoked, mmm, it's tasty), lunch or snackypus in Chinatown, and, perhaps, buying a new outer garment. Preferably one suitable for a middle-aged man, all gravitas and hipwithitness, with plenty of pockets.

Bus pass and snuff in front right, upper.
Recent lottery tickets in front left, upper.
Tobacco pouch & pipes; front right, lower.
Extra matches, a pipe nail; front left, lower.

The current garment looks severely disreputable.

It may surprise you to know that I myself (occupant of garment) am not severely disreputable. I do not smell bad, eat too much, or dress funny.
I work for a living, and am not in debt up to my eyeballs.

I live by myself in an apartment with over three dozen stuffed animals and a small intelligent Cantonese woman in the other room, who likewise doesn't smell bad, eat too much, or dress funny.
She's an old friend, more or less from college, who also lives by herself.
In San Francisco, most people who live by themselves have someone else sharing their apartment.
Not all of whom tolerate many stuffed animals.
But she does. Which is a good thing.
Some of them are hers.

Shan't bore you with how this ideal living situation came about, suffice to say it's not romantic, we seldom eat together, and both she and her stuffed animals heartily disapprove of my tobacco. Which means that even on my days off, which do not coincide with hers, I am often somewhere outside pissing people off by puffing.

Which I enjoy.

Unfortunately the disreputable looking current garment with all those nice pockets smells a bit. Plus it's torn in a few places, and no longer reflects the gravitas and hipwithitness to which I aspire.

In San Francisco at present, this could be a problem. One does not wish people to look askance, or call the cops because there is a bum lurking outside the healthclub, smoking and looking crazy.

Besides, the garment probably scares the opposite gender.
One does not wish to scare the opposite gender.
One rather likes them.


None of the stuffed animals smoke, in case you were wondering. Though sometimes upon my return home I may find one of them poncing around with one of my pipes declaiming "hey look at me I am the famous English philosopher Bertrand Russel now bow down and kiss my toes", or something like that. They have rich full lives.

None of them will touch the disreputable garment.

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The best line today comes from someone who takes issue with dipshits: "there, at the top of my news feed on the other account, is some dipshit who seems to have decided just now that the absolute worst issue facing our society at present is the existence of women who weigh more than he thinks they should." End quote.

I fondly imagine that that dipshit is worried about the added strain on our infrastructure and rapid exhaustion of resources caused by women who weigh more than they should.
Maybe hospital emergency rooms are too small? The decaying transit system will now finally collapse? We'll run out of ketchup?

Stretchy fabric overload?

Honestly, if there is a problem here, it's that many women weigh more than they themselves think they should.

Women, stop doing that.
You're fine.

I'm not entirely supportive of women who might in fact weigh more than they should, but this isn't something that till now was on the forefront of my mind (or even a subject I thought about), nor do I claim any expertise in that field. Heck, as a man it's none of my beeswax. Statistically, the men who care most about it are probably advertising executives and asshats.

Don't associate with advertising executives and asshats.
You and everyone else will soon be much happier.

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