Wednesday, July 6, 2022

"as I still try to believe"

"If we are extinguished by death, as I still try to believe, what point is there in leaving some books behind any more than bottles, clothes, or cheap jewellry? and if Sarah is right, how unimportant all the importance of art is.  I tossed up, I think, simply from loneliness."

-- Graham Greene, The End of the Affair

Saturday, July 2, 2022

"endure it all the way"

"'It exists," Shevek said, spreading out his hands.  'It's real.  I can call it a misunderstanding, but I can't pretend that it doesn't exist, or will ever cease to exist.  Suffering is the condition on which we live.  And when it comes, you know it.  You know it as the truth.  Of course it's right to cure diseases, to prevent hunger and injustice, as the social organism does.  But no society can change the nature of existence.  We can't prevent suffering.  This pain and that pain, yes, but not Pain.  A society can only relieve social suffering, unnecessary suffering.  The rest remains.  The root, the reality.  All of us here are going to know grief; if we live fifty years, we'll have known pain for fifty years.  And in the end we'll die.  That's the condition we're born on.  I'm afraid of life!  There are times I -- I am very frightened.  Any happiness seems trivial.  And yet, I wonder if it isn't all a misunderstanding -- this grasping after happiness, this fear of pain. . . .  If instead of fearing it and running from it, one could. . . get through it, go beyond it.  There is something beyond it.  It's the self that suffers, and there's a place where the self -- ceases.  I don't know how to say it.  But I believe that the reality -- the truth that I recognize in suffering as I don't in comfort and happiness -- that the reality of pain is not pain.  If you can get through it.  If you can endure it all the way.'"

-- Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Various Diners of Whatcom County 16: Old Town Cafe

316 W Holly Street, Bellingham, WA

Full disclosure: my very thrifty father was has never been one for eating out in restaurants.  For years he maintained a beautiful vegetable garden, and one of the joys of visiting him was getting to eat fresh green beans and salads and squash.  (He never did figure out how to get tomatoes to grow regularly here, with all the rain, alas.)  But Old Town Cafe is a spot we'd usually visit once on my summer visits.  So what I'm trying to say is -- even my frugal father, my prudent Pop, thinks this place is worth your time and money.  Let's head south of downtown and try!

An old menu?  I think so!  Let's head on in!  (Am I the only person who would have ordered the fried young beef liver 70 years ago?  Maybe!)

Saturday, June 25, 2022


I'm just feeling numb and tired right now in the wake of Roe being killed.

Granted, it was clear this was coming when Hillary lost in 2016.

This is such a relatively minor thought, but I went to a really nice liberal arts college in Ohio.  There is no way in hell I'd allow a daughter to attend the school now, since it's basically a purple-turning-red state.

Because what comes next are laws banning American women from travelling outside their home states while they are pregnant.  Monitoring.  Placing "problematic" pregnant women under surveillance, or simply throwing them in prison until they give birth.  Women being prosecuted for murder when their pregnancies end due to standard medical complications.  Penal forced-birth colonies, basically.  Because this is the future Republicans actively want.

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Various Diners of Whatcom County 15: The Birch Door Cafe


4192 Meridian St, Bellingham, Washington

Let's head back into town, on the north side right off of The Guide -- The Birch Door Cafe!  Seasonal fruit, mimosa menu, huge Bavarian ceilings, and no shortage of patchouli wafting in the wake of the waiters and waitresses!

Summer Comes to Bham


Bellingham, Washington.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Staying in Touch in Korea

Following up here, I agonized a little over what to do for phone communication while visiting South Korea recently.  My current plan didn't (AFAICT) offer an international pay-as-you-go plan, which would have been perfect.  So then I thought I'd rent a SIM in Korea (very easy to do) then had nightmares imagining I'd lose either the new or current one.  So, it's also easy to rent an entire phone, and very cheap to do so.

In the end, I did nothing more than download Kakaotalk.  And I hardly used it.

I managed to get by just fine using email and Facebook messenger.  And believe me, I hate Facebook!  But my Korean friends use it, and it worked out fine.

When it comes to travel I always find that less is more.  Another stop at the airport to rent a SIM or phone is just that -- another 15 minutes I'm not enjoying myself.

So at least for me, everything worked out fine with the caveat that it's very easy to find free wifi in Korea, or to buy a data card at a convenience store and roll with that.  Then again, I got along just fine with coffee shops.

Also, be prepared to use an app to get a taxi at night in Seoul, and probably smaller cities as well.  There's a shortage of cabbies right now.  If you ask nicely, I'm sure any good restaurant or hotel will order one for you but be prepared to ask.  They will go right past you if you try flagging them yourself, because they already have a fare booked in advance.


I realize there's a certain risk in recommending any Nicolas Cage film, but I saw Pig on the way home from South Korea and it was incredible.  Very sad, a real gut-punch in some ways, but thoroughly excellent.

(It's about a pig.)

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Various Diners of Whatcom County 14: Three Flavors Kitchen

507 Nooksack Road, Everson, WA

Back to Everson, and its sister village just to the east -- Nooksack!  Welcome to Three Flavors Cafe, which is strange because they have American, Italian, Mexican, and Chinese dishes on offer!  (Check out the menu, page five if you don't believe me!)  While out of the way for many, I'd say it's more than worth the trip.

Visiting South Korea Soon? Here's What You'll Need (As An American, At Least)

First, schedule a COVID test for yourself (antigen is fine) within 24 hours of your departure.  I'd bring a hardcopy.

Second, you'll need to register with K-ETA first.  It costs about eight bucks, and it's a mild pain.  Be prepared to upload a passport-style picture (that you can take yourself).  The registration itself is good for two years.

Third, while you can skip the Q-Code I wouldn't.  You'll get through pre-immigration much faster.  Have the code on your phone or print out a copy.  I won't lie -- it took me a good 45 minutes to get their crappy website to acknowledge that my hotel and street address did, indeed, exist.

Within three days of your arrival in South Korea you'll need another COVID test.  You could do this at the airport if the scheduling works, but I went on to Daegu and got mine at the Daegu central public health office.  (The hotel provided directions.)  It was free, which was nice.

Finally, and it appears this is being phased out, you'll need another test for a return to the U.S.  It costs about 70 dollars and you can do it at Incheon Airport, but it's another thing you'll have to budget time for.

That's it!  Have fun!

A final note: I was told, and kind of noticed, that getting a cab in Seoul after nine is now harder than ever if you aren't using one of many apps.  In a pinch I imagine you could ask the restaurant owner to call you one if you find yourself in this situation.  Hotels will be less of a problem.

A Nice Little Trip

I made it home in one piece.  Daegu was hot, but not quite full furnace-blast as of yet.  I saw friends, my former boss, and former students.  In Seoul I met up with some foreigner friends.  I got tested for COVID a total of three times, and only had to pay for the service twice.

I miss Korea and always will.  At the same time, I think the time was right to transition back to home.

I caught a Samsung Lions game too -- they were crushed by NCsoft, 9-1.