A Little Bit of TinyScheme, a Lot of Cozonac

November 25th, 2019

There are few things as quintessentially Romanian, to my mind, as cozonac; the golden, nut-swirled, babka-like pastry dolled up and drummed out into the daylight for the two major Eastern Orthodox holidays. Then again, I'm not even so sure it's actually Romanian. Cozonac's one of those things that most states in the region boast as being their own, right up there with moussaka, smoked eggplant salad, goulash, and stuffed cabbage rolls. The diacritics and thus pronunciations may change, but not much else does. I guess it's proper, then, to introduce cozonac as an Eastern European thing, and to point out its specific spelling is Romanian.

Now that we've gotten there, we can promptly throw out a good half of what Romanians, and Eastern Europeans at large for that matter, think they know about cozonac. There are two main problems: the first's that folks don't put nearly as much of the awesome chocolate-walnut filling in their loaves of cozonac as they ought to1, and the second's that they put way, way, WAY too much sugar in it. A fairly common artifact of modern processed diets, the whole "dessert means heaps of sugar laced with occasional other ingredients" fanaticism is a hoary old positive feedback loop.

Thus armed with spite and sparseness, we can proceed to actually make some of this stuff. Except that I wanted to try out Mircea Popescu's image processor for blog articles, and also jfw's version of the same. Except! It turns out the box I'm using for publishing doesn't have Image Magick, required for both tools. An' I'm not happy about installing things --at all, much less things I don't know much about to "just get it to work". I do have Gimp, though, which was what I'd been using to process my pictures manually. And! It turns out Gimp uses TinyScheme, which wouldn't be a total waste of time to muck in a little as it's an interpreter of a dialect of Lisp, and maybe not too many layers removed from relevancy to learning to use some tools likely to survive the Republic's reckoning, thereby.

The following gets saved as batch-scaler.scm, to be placed in the ~/.gimp2/scripts directory:

(define (batch-scaler pattern
			new-width
			new-height)
	(let* ((filelist (cadr (file-glob pattern 1))))
		(while (not (null? filelist))
			(let* ((filename (car filelist))
				(image (car (gimp-file-load RUN-NONINTERACTIVE
								filename filename)))
				(drawable (car (gimp-image-get-active-layer image))))
			(gimp-image-scale image new-width new-height)
			(gimp-file-save RUN-NONINTERACTIVE image drawable filename filename)
			(gimp-image-delete image))
		(set! filelist (cdr filelist)))))

Note that I've put extraneous spaces between all multiple parentheses; you'll have to take these out. If someone has a better idea for preventing MPWP's cannonical footnote plugin from interpreting lisp parentheses as footnotes, please write in. The very MP in question has a fix for this in the comments, works splendidly.

Running it goes like so, from the directory where your selected but otherwise raw pictures are:

gimp -i -b '(batch-scaler "*.JPG" 1024 638)' -b '(gimp-quit 0)'

I scale my images when I re-size them, so I grabbed gimp-image-scale from the "Script-Fu Procedure Browser" and worked it into a batch processor, which goes through a glob of files according to the pattern given when running it (as long as the glob isn't empty) and then without loading the Gimp GUI, loads the pictures themselves, selects the drawable part, scales them according to whatever's set when running, saves them, and deletes the originals.

Some important problems: this only works for landscape-oriented images; you could pick out portraits, put them in a different folder and run this on them with different size parameters, but that's not so efficient. If I figure it out, I'll update this article, otherwise if anyone would care to modify this, please do. Ideally the width should be set to 1024 while preserving the aspect ratio, rather than manually specifying the length, too, regardless of orientation. Another thing to consider is that this creates one set of images, not a display size and larger size pair as in MP's process. Further, this just overwrites the images and saves them as such; the file-jpeg-save function takes fourteen, FOURTEEN, parameters, and I really can't be assed. So once the above is done,

ls -v | cat -n | while read n f; do mv -n "$f" "cozo-$n.jpg"; done

Then you can proceed to upload them as normal.

Anyway, I was saying: let's make cozonac. The instructions below are for two loaves, because who does this laborious stuff one output item at a time?!

First comes the filling. I typically make the filling the night before as it needs to cool completely before being used, otherwise it'll make steam pockets in the dough and fuck up the whole thing. Grind about a half kilogram of walnuts3 and add them to a saucepan in which you've dissolved about a tablespoon of brown sugar into 150ml or so of milk over low heat. Keep stirring; you want a paste-like consistency, for which reason you may use a little more or a little less milk. After it's thickened admirably, stir in a little rum.

cozo-1

And five or six tablespoons of unsweetened dark cocoa. Zest an orange or three and stir in the zest, too. Your mixture should be fairly thick, and very nicely scented. Set it aside, or put it in the fridge if you're saving the rest 'til tomorrow.

cozo-2

For the dough, melt 150 or so grams of butter into another 150ml or so of milk. Dump two more tablespoons of brown sugar in there, and once everything's dissolved and incorporated take it off the heat and zest two oranges and a lemon into it, and add some vanilla; either scrape the seeds into it or steep a pod in the milk while it heats, or better yet, do both.

cozo-3

Also while you're waiting for the temperature to drop, get something like 2/3rds of a kilogram of bread flour into a big bowl, add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg, a handful or so of the best raisins you can find, and plenty --that's around 6 grams-- of dry yeast, and distribute it all evenly.4

cozo-4

Once this concoction's cool enough to touch but still warm, break three eggs into it and stir.

cozo-5

Now dump the wet stuff into the dry stuff, and knead it until it's pliable and doesn't stick to your hands too much. You might need to add a little more flour; not too much though, or your dough will be too tough. Once you're done kneading form the dough into a ball and let it rest in a warm kitchen under a slightly damp towel.

cozo-6

If your kitchen is cold, heat your oven for a few minutes, then turn it off and put the bowl in there. Leaving dough to rise in a cold place is begging for disappointment.

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Once your dough has doubled, which should take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half or so, prepare a workspace for rolling. Your filling should be room temperature, either because you've let it cool for several hours or you've taken it out of the fridge a few hours before --note that very cold filling is no good here, as it'll cool the dough for its second rise and you'll be stuck waiting f o r e v e r to get your loaves in the oven.

cozo-8

Oil your countertop/foil-lined table/friend's back/whatever surface, and do the same with your rolling pin/wine bottle. Generously butter two loaf pans and sprinkle them with flour.

Divide your dough into quarters. For each loaf, roll out first one quarter and then the other into rectangles, until they're quite thin but not too thin to pick up. Spread each with a quarter of your filling, leaving small margins at the edges.

cozo-9

Roll these up lengthwise, then twist them together to make a floppy, unwieldy helix; immediately plonk them into the loaf pans before they get any unwieldier.

cozo-10

Brush them with an egg yolk beaten with a bit of milk, and let them rise another hour or two, until they've started to threaten the edges of the pans. Then bake at 200C, preheated if you're stuck with an electric oven, for just about an hour. After fifteen minutes or so in the oven, lightly cover the loaves with aluminum foil to keep the tops from burning.

cozo-11

Let them cool for a few minutes after taking them out, then remove them from the pans and cool them completely, resting on their sides, and switching sides occasionally. There's a delicate juxtaposition of dense chocolaty nuts and light, puffy dough inside --it has to cool down gently and evenly, hence all the elaborate dancing.

cozo-12

Once they're cool, slice and enjoy. Cozonac also freezes very well, and can even be eaten as frozonac, for the adventurous. All in all this is a rather heathen recipe, unlikely to be approved of by most Romanian cooks, who tend towards the strict and unexaminedly-traditional side. It is however highly praised by those whose opinions I actually care about, and owes something to the instruction of Ellie, whose basic discussion of procedure managed to somehow break through very heavy Hallmark-isms, Jesus worship, cups and cups of sugar, and other incompatibles to teach me something.

  1. "Ought to" maps, of course, to as much as MP would like, here. []
  2. I'm using 2.8, fwiw. []
  3. You can also add some measure of pecans, almonds, pistachios, or macadamias, though walnuts are the traditional, and really the best for this recipe. []
  4. You can also use fresh yeast, which imparts a pleasant flavor for those with a taste for it. It'll also cause your dough to rise a little faster, which isn't a bad thing. To do this, mix eight to ten grams of crumbled fresh yeast into the warm milk mixture after you mix in the eggs, which are coming. []

A little about transactional analysis.

November 22nd, 2019

The following is a translation from the Romanian "Pe scurt despre analiza tranzactionala" by Mircea Popescu.

Transactional analysis is regarded in some academic circles (especially those of psychoanalytic orientation) as a rather unserious concern, if not completely unscientific. Certainly, the particular talent of Eric Berne to speak in terms accessible to the public at large has created sufficient interest and a following of "practitioners", more or less in the way of science or reason. Nevertheless, I think that the discipline is intellectually recuperable, in the following terms:

There exist in principle two paths by which we can understand and represent the processes which have a place within the mind of man: Either by listening to the descriptions produced by the respective man, or else following the facts of the respective man. The fact that a good part of classical psychology uses the first source does not absolutely invalidate the the second.

Regarding phylogeny, it's clear that in its evolution from the most primitive ganglions to the neocortex, the brain was guided by the need to respond to stimuli. This is the function which created this organ. The fact that the types of stimuli which appeared first received solutions and responses of better quality than the types of stimuli that appeared later isn't surprising. For example, we have the capacity to observe light, so much so that we can follow with the free eye millions of stars in a summer sky. Just so, we have the capacity to follow the movement. Specifically because it seems unremarkable, the simple fact that we can catch a ball falling from the sky shows how well-adapted the human brain is. For all technology's worth, there doesn't exist even today a robot that can play basketball, even if there have been robots capable of playing chess for twenty years.

The light was here for a while, but the movement appeared on Earth all at once with living beings. Both are fairly old, like stimuli. Speech, on the other hand, is from a more recent time; it appeared more or less concurrently with people. It wouldn't be surprising then if the brain wasn't capable of responding to the stimulus of speech as quickly, as well as it responded to the stimulus of the basketball.

If a joke is told today, it serves nothing to laugh on Sunday, at church. If you're mocked, you can't go to the post office with a vicious retort. In the majority of social interactions, a spoken response has to come in a few seconds if it's going to be heard. What is asked of our brain, in the end? Nothing more and nothing less than the receipt of information about the sounds heard, to recompose these sounds in the sounds of language, to get words from them, and from these words phrases, and from these phrases to extract understanding, from which to then process into further understanding, from which to make other propositions which then break into words to be vocalized. In a few seconds. It's a lot.

It wouldn't be, then, all that surprising to discover that, faced with such pressure and fairly exaggerate demands, the brain, like any human thing, also commits some simplifications. Up to a point, it's obvious that people don't listen to all that is said by the person being answered when they're forming responses. Still more obvious is that people do not understand, before giving a response, what was said in fact by the person to whom the response is addressed. Sometimes, as though by a miracle, it happens that they hear and understand, but I imagine you'll agree that this'd be quite rare.

This is, evidently, a bad thing, but wherever there's bad there's yet good, and the merit of this theory is that it finds the good in this case. Namely, if the response doesn't necessarily consider what was said, what can it reveal other than the internal structure of he who responds? If you don't speak to the object, you speak about you yourself, as though from nothing, in a vacuum, incapable to produce anything.

If in truth the responses that don't respond to, address, nor take into consideration stimuli describe the respondent, there would have to be then, theoretically speaking, specific modes in which different people fail to respond, recognizable through regular practice. This would be the first prediction a theory of transactional analysis would face on a scientific basis.

Practice confirms this first prediction, through so called "games". One of the most well-known is "Yes, but".

The one: I'd like to get rid of my belly.
The other: You've got to go to a gym.
The one: Yes, but I can't afford the membership fee.
The other: You have to go to work.
The one: Yes, but I'd have to wake up too early.
The other: You have to stop using the elevator.
The one: Yes, but my knees hurt.
The other: You have to change your diet.
The one: Yes, but I have a sensitive stomach and I can only eat certain things.

Obviously, you could continue this dialogue indefinitely, with minimal effort, and just so you could extend it to any given domain. If you get bored of this, you could also play "if it weren't for you", "why does this always happen to me", "look what you made me do", "look how hard I've tried", "I'm only trying to help", the list is long enough.

The next following prediction would be that people can, once they've read these things described, revise their own behavior in the sense of improving the quality of their communication with others; for the one part recognizing those cases in which the discussion transforms into simple transactions without notional content, simply satisfying some necessities of mechanical functioning, and for the other part eliminating from their own repertoire pseudo-responses that don't respond to anything in particular.

To the degree that this second prediction were satisfied in practice, transactional analysis would have to become a school of clinical psychology. To what degree this satisfaction actually happens, only you can say.

Why I Go to the Gym, and What I Do When I Get There

November 17th, 2019

gym-logs

Well one thing I do is read logs1.

I go to the gym for two fairly obvious reasons: the first is to get better at physical tasks, and the second is to engage in the glorious blow-off-steam/enjoy-endorphins cycle. There aren't all that many contexts in which you can noticably, tangibly improve at something within as short a time period as in fitness; or perhaps it's simply easier to admit to progress when there's little else but labeled weights in front of you. In any case, watching yourself grow unequivocably stronger, or faster, or whatever else, is pleasant. Meanwhile various other aspects of everyday life, from walking to hauling groceries to fucking to sleeping to recovering from minor injuries, gain major passive bonuses. As for attending the gym mentally, working out frustrations on metal and rubber is guaranteed to make things look and feel a lot better. No amount of spinning or nail-biting or imbibing of whatever the fuck substances can hold a candle to the quality and longevity of relief and calm available after a gym session. It's a controlled, socially-acceptable rampage, with many of the benefits and none of the potentially negative repercussions of an idiosyncratic one.

All of this should be part of simple maturation and self-maintenance for human beings. I don't think anyone'd be shocked by the observation that in many parts of the world, it's...not. Plenty of people live out their days with a mere smidgeon of some of these most basic elements of existing as a physical entity in a three-dimensional world. Several markets focus solely on providing people innocent of this facet of self-ownership with convenient (read: ineffective) solutions for the problems that inevitably arise as the body hollers for the mind's awareness. Sure, there was some growth in adolescence, a sport here or there even. But just as with the average dearth of reading after school, a lot of people simply stop doing it once there's no longer some daily authority figure reminding them that they need to exercise --muscles and ideas.

There's naturally also a component of exerting control over appearance, inasmuch as that's possible. I find that's not sufficient motivation for sticking to a gym program on its own --it's a byproduct, and a great one, but it's not a cause. Gyms are also reasonable venues for building local WoTs in new places, especially since the vast majority of people there are ahead of the general public curve in terms of focus, commitment, and willingness to hustle.

My gym program2 is pretty standard. I go four days and spend 10-12 hours a week, alternating between lower and upper body exercises, with a half to three-quarters of an hour of cardiovascular stuff first. I prefer walking a 10% or so grade at a moderate pace (like 5 - 5.5 kph) for this, though I think it's important to change exactly what this looks like fairly often. Intervals of higher and occasionally lower incline are essential to avoid getting used to the same movements over and over again. The floor also has to be raised regularly --either the lowest incline used must go up, or the highest, or the speed must grow, or some combination of all three. Occasionally I'll do something different, such as a stairclimber, or spending the last fifteen minutes walking for speed instead of steepness3. This keeps me from getting bored and helps find other muscles (typically tiny stabilizer guys) that aren't getting as much attention.

I always stretch after cardio, and a good ten minutes of it at least, too. It helps prevent injuries, but I insist mostly for the sake of how hedonistically good it feels, honestly. After the stretching comes the foam rolling. Basically you counteract the pleasantness of the stretching with a few minutes of steady pain as the pressure of the roller against your muscles loosens them and gets more blood in the area so more lactic acid and friends can be carried out.

Bigger, heavier, and more complex exercises come first, so I'm not left with them at the end, tired and not as able to focus. Each type of day, upper and lower, has two distinct days. On lower body days I either start with Romanian deadlifts or barbell back squats. RDL days also see dumbell reverse lunges, leg presses, free-plated clamshells, back/glute extensions4, and hamstring curls. Squat days get barbell hip thrusts, kettlebell swings, cable kickbacks, and visits to the abductor and adductor machines.

Upper days are split like so: the first day starts with a superset5 of military presses and side flyes, then a superset of bent over rows with tricep presses, after which there's seated dips, the deltoid machine, tricep dips or a tricep machine, and a row machine or two (for the upper and lower back). The second day starts with the same superset, followed by front dumbell raises, preacher curls, chest presses, a lower back press, and the delt machine again6.

I'm happy with this routine for now, after a couple of years of figuring things out, and getting knocked out for a few months with a surgery here and there. I don't know that the gym is necessarily "better" than a given sport or some physically intensive hobby, but I wholly recommend it for people otherwise unengaged and aware of the woes of their sloth.

  1. Or, I should say, re-read. Running into log material on the first pass in an environment where I can't readily respond is a recipe for baking a read-only mind. []
  2. Not prescriptive, but who knows, maybe someone's clueless or curious, or wants to compare --or critique! []
  3. Keeping up with MP's prodigious walking speed without breaking into a run is no joke, and I honestly can't come close when he turns the vroom on full blast. We clocked him at 14.4 kph at one point. Yes, walking. I just broke half this. []
  4. I used to do back extensions on upper body days until I learned that turning the feet out twenty degrees or so and not coming up as high forces the focus on the glutes. It feels very different for such a seemingly small modification. []
  5. Just one exercise after the other before pausing between sets, rather than one at a time. []
  6. I'm pushing a little harder for my shoulders these days as they've been performing in the "noodle" class. []

Central European Retrospective: Frague

November 13th, 2019

Yes, Frague. Pragueurt just doesn't sound right.

Where's Frague, you ask? Why, it's where you are when you've landed in Prague after trudging through Frankfurt, so your fun's all fraught with frustration. Frankfurt was going to have been a pleasant stop on a long list of German cities to be visited, starting with Munich and ending in Berlin, but moving through the country revealed insurmountable social problems; the kind that make even a few days' stay untenable. That we stayed in Frankfurt at all was largely due to the need for some rest, as rejecting cities one after another can really take it out of you. For my part, the rest mostly consisted of surfing the metro system to hunt for nouns (you know, people, places, and things) and reorganizing logistics to focus on the Czech Republic instead of Germany.

Some notable scenes along the way: it was quickly established that the Konstablerwache metro station and surrounding area is the local hang-out-with-open-bottles-and-slum-it-up pseudoparty spot. Not that all of Frankfurt doesn't have some portion of this non-scene, but Konstablerwache is the epicenter; with hundreds of people with nothing better to do bumming about, a pair of Turkish hustlers were working it so damn hard they actually hit me twice, in reasonably distant locations, in the quarter hour I spent there before ducking back onto a train.

Driving around aimlessly for an afternoon's entertainment, we crossed paths with an enormous truck exuding an enormous smell. Through tiny, barred slats near the top of the container, I spotted eyes. Enormous eyes, full of sleep and something I can only interpret as sadness, though I really want to believe it was anything else. I don't know if it was an elephant, or a bear...all I know is that it was very big, and I remain very haunted by the image, moved to nod along to Williams' prayer "for the wild at heart kept in cages". If only there were something redeemable, worth being sacrificed for, in that morass of confusion and complexity outside the bars....

I've not much to add in the way of pictures for Frankfurt, especially as what there was to be photographed mostly debuted on Trilema. This meagre offering is the repose of a given evening, perusing a very nicely illustrated book on birds while drinking an over-syruped Hugo at the hotel bar.

frague-1

The peace was soon disturbed by a group of very drunk conference-goers wearing lots of coats but not shoes and shuffling middleagedly to Depeche Mode.

frague-2

Oh, right, and there was this thing. Fuck this thing. It's tiny, it has no driver, and its front looks exactly the same as its back. So it'll just stop, and suddenly go backwards, as though that's what it intended to do all along. I'm not riding these things like I'm not having dogs with two heads and no ass. Probefahrt? I don't think so!

On which note, let's ditch this place. Prague took a couple of tries to be hospitable also, but it managed, which is good 'cause it's very much worth seeing. There are more monuments and historic buildings than you're likely to cram into an even generous schedule, but the real charm's in seemingly innocuous beauties like this apartment building entryway:

frague-4

Or in the embellishment of what'd probably be just another hrushceba in most European towns:

frague-14

Or on a set of seemingly random doors doing more homage to the arts and sciences than a thousand US universities:

frague-10

Or even in the institutional metro seat upholstery, lovingly embellished with the local castle and friends, and done in a pleasant purple1:

frague-15

This is not at all to belittle Prague's deservedly famous landmarks. Even if they are a little shy amidst the confangled whatsitry of the modern age.

frague-8

The past here knew something about construction, and the present knows something about caring for it.

frague-6

Prague's also, blessedly, not very pretentious.

frague-7

Possibly because it remembers harder times.

frague-16

With so much to look at, and a great deal of people to talk to, the Mucha Museum was put off for a few days, even, despite its having been the focal point of this city, as far as I was concerned, on first getting in.

frague-18

Most of Alphonse Mucha's glorious women are therein exhibited, sure --but they're a kind of screen print, which honestly leaves a lot to be desired in the way of examining the artist's hand. This seems obvious now, but I somehow wasn't quite expecting it, and I left feeling...unenlightened, though the visit was still very much enjoyable in a childlike sense. Unrelated to the museum, I picked up two very fine Muchasian artifacts so as to work on countering my rentally-enforced collection at home.

Before this, to keep things nicely out of order, The Juicy Bimbo and I went for a look at Charles University, founded in 1348 and rather hurting for students by now, judging from the ~empty halls. Maybe they're all busy being modern women architects?

frague-11

Know this: some doors are closed.

frague-12

But others remain open.

frague-13

...And space invaders are just waiting for you to drop your guard.

frague-19

Prague being exhausted for now, but hopefully not forever, we fluttered a handkercheif and prowled along back to Budapest, the central european buffer town, just in time for

frague-20

Thus ends another chapter of another tour of the vacation-within-a-vacation (with vacation frosting). More to come once the vacation from the vacation is over and we can get back to vacationing. I don't know anymore.

  1. When's the last time you saw anything but primary colors and shades of gray in institutional fabrics? []

Reading #ossasepia logs, or: my jig is up.

November 10th, 2019

My IRC channel, #trilema-hanbot, has been registered for some years, though as noted there it served solely as my testing grounds for a long-defunct bot. While it has ever been welcome to both the lordship and whatever stragglers the republic has accumulated over time, I never explicitly stated as such, nor did I take any steps to populate it. Mircea Popescu recently gave me the task of getting up to speed with Diana Coman's rather successful channel/castle, with a view towards cultivating my own. This was both a very pleasant and a very unsettling experience --unsettling in the literal sense, it shaking loose some rather long-held and not fully examined ideas and practices. In that order, then, allow me to recount.

I was aware that Diana had attracted and retained some folks intent on contributing to the republic, but I hadn't a clue of their quantity or quality. What a pleasant surprise to find several people clearly throwing themselves into the chaos and churn! What fun to set aside a few days to read logs peppered with others' struggles to read logs! I quite enjoyed discovering the often long, arduous journeys to speaking up recounted by Diana's pageboys --it's about as good a guide on "what's with/what happened to the lurkers, dabblers, and would-bes from back in the day?" as we could hope to get. I'm glad to see there's apparently a great deal to be salvaged from that heap, which was previously written off in my mind.

Moreover Diana's firm and level hand is remarkably fit for the sort of pedagogy herein desired. What particularly struck me was her precisely codified structure; featuring a straightforward pledge of submission and a clear hierarchy of development, the ossasepia castle doesn't leave its inhabitants much to remain in the dark about, as far as their own involvement and commitments stand. I'm curious to see how this works as a driver, and will be closely observing how the potential for love of title and recognition to poison love of work plays out, or doesn't.1

So why was the experience unsettling? Reading #ossasepia's logs made something very clear to me: as it stands, I am inaccessible. To wit, I found that one of Diana's recruits actually thought I might be a bot2. Moreover, discussions of setting up a home3 or sourcing irons in Costa Rica4, and of trading BTC in Panama5 didn't find me, nor I them.

In all honesty this enraged me at first, but then I realized my own, rather severe, culpability: I haven't been talking about any of this, nor making it clear that I'm available to talk about it. All there is consists of some (by now aged and by that reason suspect of irrelevancy) blog posts and milquetoast mentions in the logs. The cause for this vaguery is two-pronged: one is sheer laziness and neglect. This can be dressed up in whatever flavors and finery of "other priorities" you'd like, but that's neither interesting nor relevant. It's true that I have heavy offline duties, as the man himself has occasionally alluded to, even, but everyone has their own, and I'd be dishonoring the very duties I most respect and believe in if I used them as an excuse to slack in other areas that need attention. The second prong is my struggle to coexist as the functional head of Mircea Popescu's household and as a lord within the republic. Even attempting the description of these titles is daunting, inasmuch as they've fostered a great deal of tension for a long time. Who shall you know me as? Where do these roles overlap, and where may they not? Suffice it to say I've been steeping in these questions for years, and clearly I've not come to any useful conclusion.

Enough is enough, though. I cannot be useful to the republic or its members while things I could contribute lay fallow for the sake of what ultimately boils down to solipsistic thumb-twiddling. That it's taken me quite so long to give it up is shameful, and I'll work to make amends, if they can so be made. For many years the bulk of my output was invisible, and I suspect some portion of it will remain so, but meanwhile various things I never thought would be made public, have been. I intend to do a lot more testing of the borders therein.

This, for my part. For yours, dear lordship, I beseech you: lean on me, expect from me, as much as you would from anyone else. Take me to task if you see me failing or flailing. I am not fragile, nor should my proximity to MP exempt me from anything. I will grow with or without your help, but I'd much rather do it with. It'll be faster, anyway, and fuck knows I need all the speed I can get to keep up.

A page organizing and detailing my channel will be available Monday is available here.

  1. So far I'd say the majority of Diana's court is natively mature enough to avoid the problem. []
  2. It was perhaps forseeable that #trilema, like #bitcoin-assets before it, could and would use various bots, whether for logging or carrying out mundane tasks, but what can I say; hanbot had been my handle for ~all of my existence online, and for much of my life before I did much of anything online other than grief people in Diablo. I'll pay the price for the confusion, and assume the responsibility of making it more clear that no, I am not a robot, though I can dance like one. I'm not changing my handle, administer all the Voight-Kampff tests you want. []
  3. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. []
  4. 1 []
  5. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and I'm sure there was another even recently between Mircea and Diana that I can't now find, but at some point the exhaustiveness is truly exhausting. []

The Right Thing

November 3rd, 2019

The right thing fuzzes into being for most people sometime during childhood through some episode or other of a previously unperceived wrong going punished, and describing the right by its difference. Later in adolescence the struggle for the right thing often enough leads to blood and blows, or maybe experimentation with drugs, or running away from home, or what have you. The right thing rules life complete for the adult (not that all that many people mature into adulthood). There's no period of life aside from natality, and no state aside from sloth, exempt from the right thing's dominion --making awareness of the same an arguably decent prerequisite for being actually alive, or human, if you like.

Any familiarity with the Republic makes one likely to load a particular meaning for the right thing; the variety speak points to Republican separation from pretenders who came before, and who (fail to) coexist now, accepting to make their wine with some percentage of shit, to compromise integrity for convenience, and to stand behind nothing but a false-toothed grin. The right thing has often enough been summoned in discussion when ironing out the particularities of a piece of software or the branches and leaves of a system, but its practical and present use in no way cordons it off from its true scope, which is: everything.

Everything, terrifying as that may be. There is always a right thing, though it may not always be known or even approachable. What is anxiety, after all, other than the experience of a human mind confronting the uncaring vastness of the possibility of correct and incorrect? What is philosophy, other than the attempt to codify correct and incorrect, whether from the understanding of the universe, or of man within it, or of god above it, or whatever other angle?

And yet it's not merely the vastness of the right thing that lends to its horror; it is its separateness from us, its objectivity, that makes for who knows how many sleepless nights spent on this spinning globe. The right thing has no connection to what you'd prefer to be the right thing. No influence, no possibility of meaningful exchange, nothing. Neither is it subject to your conceptions, conscious or not, of what could possibly be the right thing, or whether or not you'd be capable of doing or even choosing it. It does not love you. It will never even know your name. Love of the right thing is the quintissential unrequited love; there's just nothing there.

But you love it anyway, because that's who you are --good for you. You're now welcome to spend every waking moment obsessing over which of the paths before you are right, from when and how and why to brush your teeth to which and whether and why not way to climb the stairs and so on and so forth. You're welcome to waste your life (can it be wasted on the right thing? better figure that out before the next question comes!) spending every moment looking for possibilities and choosing amongst them meaningfully and with confidence. Inasmuch as the potential rate of personally experienced phenomena is quite a great deal faster than your fly-brain moving through real time, you're in fact welcome to inevitably fail. Aww. And all you wanted was to do a good job, wasn't it?

A great secret of life, or perhaps it's not a secret and that's merely my personal collection of inadequacies fronting for the past lack of its obviousness to me, is that pretty much everything comes with, and is best described in terms of, two or more data points. You know, you bought fifty litres of gas, and gas is four euros a litre, the sort of details that allow you to get through the practical movements of life with some sense of what you're doing, and why, and how. Living with a solitary data point is the culprit of most states of ignorance and indigence. The same holds true for the right thing, conceptually; it's not just about whether a given thing is the correct one. It's also about whether it matters.

Holy shit, twenty-year old me is ranting furiously in the corner, tearing up bits of the phone book and frothing at the mouth, "what do you mean WHETHER it matters?! It always matters, what the fuck, just that question belies total traitorhood omfg where's the Captain Morgan?!"

For most of my post-pubescent life I held that the most important, sometimes the only important thing, was to always do the right thing. I also held that this wasn't actually possible, but the key benefit of time has been the realization that this impossibility is inherent in the system, and it is not a fundamental flaw of humanity that it cannot physically keep up. Rather, most people lack a way to determine when the right thing matters, and when it doesn't, so much; and manifest in either slovenly stupidity on one end of the spectrum or manic insanity on the other, most people fail at obtaining this second data point.

I'll dare to say now what I've been suspecting for a while, and what would've frightened me ideologically not even so long ago: those that fail at obtaining this second data point, and therefore at doing the right thing appreciably, have fairly clean crossover with those who fail to understand the role of management (or sovereignty, or whatever other mask you care to put on it). Because this is what management is for: to observe your struggle with doing the right thing, and to determine where you're faltering in applying your dedication to it. As a fanatic, you're naturally inclined to find management's determinations arbitrary and punitive. The true task before you is to decide, and to necessarily stand by your decision, as to whether or not the management available to you is sane1. If you're lucky, both the truth of the matter and your determination will be positive. If you're unlucky, one or both will come out with a dull thud.

Ideally, management should need only speak to you its findings to affect your course. Naturally, such smoothness is incredibly rare. How much of historical conflict is the result of the professedly managed needing more than a word to adapt to the determinations of the management? Other than particularities of the "professions" therein, it's necessarily one hundred percent.

I'm not entirely sure where to end here except to state that taking on the burden of both data points is an Atlassian task to which the vast, vast majority of people born on this planet will never be equal. The prayers, the wailings in the night, the starved children, the mangled, stray dogs, the incredible potential of sadness and ruin is but testament to the natural inadequacy of most to provide themselves, and their rings of people, with both data points. There's nothing bad or good about this; it's just the way it is, but I'd hope demonstrably so, for anyone who's had a look around. Be fucking humble, and keep your wits about you, when you encounter those who've assumed such terrible responsibility. The latter, because a great portion of even these will be bad; and the former, because there's nothing worthier of your time and your blood than those who are great.

  1. Yes, this means at some point T before the shit's hitting the fans so fast you're not advised to "decide" much of anything, just keep mopping. And yes, you are held to verify this decision now and again, as a regular part of your self-hygiene --but as a regular part, not as a reaction to managerial determinations you don't like. []

Central European Retrospective: Austria

October 30th, 2019

I'm technically still on the road, though I'll admit the criteria for "on the road" is getting very blurry by now. Is it on the road if you're living out of suitcases? I went from Costa Rica to Europe in two, and moreover to Argentina and Europe before that in even less. Is it when you don't cook? 'Cause I brought a bread pan this time around, no more choosing the least-evil ersatz from bakeries that forgot the world's oldest recipe. I've been to doctors, bought gym memberships, been out all night, stayed in all day and watched bad movie marathons...just about everything one'd think wouldn't fit into being on the road. I suppose the only meaningful difference is that I'm using my designated travel key; that'll serve as a useful marker. So then, quite provedly, I'm still on the road, and that's that.

But there's no law against reflecting while one's still in motion, even if you end up walking ass-first for a while. It ought to be noted that these images are at best faint and distant twig-lets to the far more comprehensive treatment of the same lands, monuments, and mischeviousnesses on Trilema.

Austria turned out to be a markedly less fucked in the head destination than expected (expected half for cynicism, and half for having been there a half-decade ago with different company, and admittedly rather different circumstances, none of which supported much depth of discovery).

Let's start, as is proper, with some soup.

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The Pumpkin Cream bisque at Porterhouse, in Vienna's little knot of capable restaurants near the Parkring: the best exokitchen soup I've had.

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A calendarclockbridgepaintingsculpture. It's not merely the language that's aglomerative in Vienna, you know. This was right before the malagavanillacandiedchestnutcoffeesundae, naturally. I'm not posting that, though. What if it runs out?!

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A reasonable monument including the names of noble horses, from a time before horses were given names as bad as sailboats.

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This'd be a repost, but it'd also be my favorite portrait of the on-the-road crew, taken at the Albertina a mere hour before we started leaving and noticed crowds gathering out the door, down the steps and around the block --it was the "Night of the Museums", see, free entry after 5. To think we came so close to Sardin-ia in the middle of the Osterreich!1

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A Hieronymous Bosch, and blue brocade.

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Some Egon Schiele. They had him in the same room as Reubens, which worked fairly well, I thought.

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The wee tramstop-tobaccoshop Schloss of Karlsplatz.

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Royal rose window repose, Viennese filtered sunlight, chickenwire lace.

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A reward for looking up in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, kunstkammer room.

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Forward display of the same.

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That wonderful and terrifying time I had Mircea Popescu both in front of me *and* over my shoulder. Oh yes, and there was also kaleidescopic cake.

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You suppose any English-speakers ever ordered the first item on the list? Why?

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A painting that made a day, to be held high in my heart forever. Never let the seemingly mundane pass by unquestioned, should some question arise; sometimes incredible rooms have rather unremarkable doors.

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A trio of trashy saccharine mementos, dimly presided over by Delicious Grandfather Diplomatico.

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Chestnuts along the river on Vienna's last day, or at least, the last day of that Vienna leg (we'd be going back later for the sake of the steak, not to be too confusing). Phenomenal roasted chestnuts, most welcome in the morning chill, husks opened with ease while eyes voluptuously followed curvatures of riverfront facade and hectic bargaining at the Naschmarkt.

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Joy and delight in the garden labyrinth of Schonnbrun. Have you ever walked the grounds of palaces with someone fit to own them?

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I had a dream, once, of being sent on a journey through these trained trees, by the very figure that walked me through them now; and the leaves were all turning, as they were, and I felt some notion of eternity trickle through. But the dream was sad, and the day was not, and I count myself as being very lucky, when the tally's in.

Vienna was nearly blacklisted on arrival, largely due to failures in planning, but quickly redeemed itself with amendment of the same. Much remains correct, there, whether you'd like to buy a hat, or see a horse, or feel humble in a museum hall. The strudel's entirely disappeared, though, be forewarned.

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The view from a hotel room in Linz. The sticker's quaint but the meaning ain't; there's beehives on the terrace, and their honey's for sale in the lobby. I rather liked Linz, though I score it as a weekend-coffee-country-drive-outing rather than a place to live per se.

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Runner-up pumpkin soup at the Postlingberg Schossl temple of preserved deer. The waitstaff uniformly begin each utterance with a very conspiratorial "SOOOoooo...".

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Possibly they know something about this butter knife pirate, terror of the seven spoons, that I don't?

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List of Rules on the Postlingbergbahn, something or other about steepness and blah blah people who've never driven in Costa Rica.

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It does, however, let off at an interesting spot.

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An interesting spot that leads to...yet moar bahns! Keepen ohn der trücken!

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The story was there's a "fairy land" at the top of the hill in Linz...

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...and it was no lie, though there was a lot less absinthe and sparkly body paint than I'd imagined.

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It was more like...Turkish Delight reimagined as an architectural theme.

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Oh, and with gnomes. Lots of gnomes.

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And a whimsical mini-pok Linzerplatz, why not. Each avenue therein led to some painstakingly put together depiction of a pair of German fairy tales. I'll let you do the 'dentifyin'.

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It occurs to me there's a fair amount of folks spending their lives on this whole subterranean children's interest painted maculature stuff. I wonder: is it the manifest failure of a greater idea above the surface? Could there be some genuine intent? At any rate, I find the whimsy + refuge childcave combination unspeakably sad, somehow. The post-apocalyptic abodes of people who, for reasons I don't know but might understand, have given up.

But I'm glad we went. It's healthy to see unspeakably sad things now and then.

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Sale case at the hilltop church where the past fewscore foregoings've been going on. Do you think there are any holy water connoisseurs out there, making cocktails at a pulpit basement bar?

If there were any in Austria, we didn't find them --the bars are stocked with entirely objectionable schnapps (rather ought to be a Eulora consumable, no?). Happily enough, there's sufficient pleasantry to make the objection a hand-wave instead of a fist. Austria's fine, in every sense of the word.

  1. All terrible joke complaints to be directed at the muses, pls. I just wear hats here. []

Narodni's No-No

October 29th, 2019

It's true that part and parcel of the way we travel is a general and vigorous avoidance of the overtly touristic. There's simply not that much that's organized with the purpose of mass entertainment that can actually deliver entertainment to those not fettered to the mass. Besides, wandering around wide-eyed through cookie-cutter "interests" with DSLR-bedecked livestock is how one meets...livestock, not natives. Essentially, there are a lot of stationary cruise ships in this world; all-inclusive, and all roped in to discourage you from wandering away from the group.

As with nearly everything, though, there are exceptions, one of the most prominent of which is probably the occasional trip to a museum. Noble, hallowed halls of my youth, tombs of wonder I'd always thought I'd want to work in, I love a good museum --but travel has taught me that the word itself, and even the auspices and trimmings, are largely a crapshoot. I'm not sure if it's a when, or more of a where, but at any rate the bar to museumhood seems to have lowered to depths rarely plumbed in other categories. To wit, the "Museo del Jamon" in Buenos Aires, if you like, or the utterly decrepit Brukenthal Museum of Sibiu, that bastion of Epson-delivered "masterpieces" and supernumerary ticket-checking interlopers.

Somehow, though, the complete and perfect failure of these museums that shouldn't makes them less offensive than museums that won't. You know, large, storied, monied institutions central to a city, which nevertheless have no real idea of what a museum is or what ought to go in it, or how. Sometimes, it's the shoddiness of the curation --a problem encountered mostly in Latin America, where art and artifacts are ubiquitously discussed in terms of their value to "the common man" rather than their own merits. Other times, it's a problem of policy: insane approaches as to whether or not pieces may be photographed and various other red tape fetishistic behaviors (beloved by the US and those doomed states still chasing the "ideals" of blue jeans and burgers).

Then there's the equally sad and infuriating example of Prague's Narodni Museum. Outside of Istanbul, I know no city more beautiful than Prague, its knack for line and curvature and smoke and sparkle licking every aesthetic joy I know at nearly every turn of the head. The Narodni Museum itself fits perfectly into this landscape, and crowns the very avenue that pumps blood and beauty into the New Town center. Everything is a scroll or an emerald, an epic pastoral stairwell or a waltz or windows and lanterns. I wouldn't even fault the place for having much less in the way of showpieces than structures; amidst empty rooms and corridors there's after all an eighteenth-century whale skeleton, and a very convincing (and comfortable!) yurt. I am satisfied with the thorough splendor of Prague enough to be entirely persuaded of its artistic accomplishments, even if the Narodni were quite literally devoid of any object at all.

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The problem is: they advertised having Tutankhamun's tomb. That'd be fine if they actually had it, but, you see, they...don't. It's not that they have it on rotation like so many museums around the world have had it now and then, and I'm a petty asshole begruding their lack of some eternal claim to it. No, seriously, the thing's not there, at all. It's just advertised. Incidentally, have you noticed that if something is described as being an "x experience", where x is some worthy or potentially interesting thing, which necessarily therefore requires care and thought and money to produce, there's therefore very unlikely to be any x in it? Yes, the Narodni Museum has, specifically, the "Tutankhamun Experience." I suppose I'd been geographically dazzled into a stupor deep enough to overlook that last word.

What this "experience" consists of is a couple dozen fragments of vases, tablets, and the like, several with accounting notes intact, and these are certainly worth seeing, even if they are significantly eclipsed by the collections to be found elsewhere.

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Accessing these fragments is an exercise in frustration, though, as they're peppered throughout a complex of rooms covered in floor-to-ceiling screens (yes, blocking the far more intriguing interiors of the museum) on which is displayed...

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...I don't know, I never watched much television and don't pretend to "learn things" on youtube, but I imagine this is pretty much how it goes, a shit-ton of stock footage with the occasional relevant graphic floating around in the foreground, different bits being mask-highlighted while some derp reads Wikipedia-level pseudotrivia on the audio track. And you...can't leave, see, it's the "experiential" part of the experience, you've got to stay in this room or that for this or that section of holy shit the audacity of the people who came up with this nonsense!

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Museums are places where people pay to see interesting items they otherwise wouldn't, and where people who know about these items take good care of them. A museum is not a cattle-herding set of hallways locking people into watching some graphic design student's sophomore year project. If you're trying to force things into being interesting to the general public by making it "relate to them", or fit into "today's technology" or whatever other bullshit, contentless paradigm, you're not a museum, you're a rube-cube, no better than a three-card-monte setup on collapsing tables. It's quite clear the Narodni bought this "experience" as some sort of license + materials package as opposed to coming up with the sham themselves. Their susceptibility to this in tandem with the manifest outcome of having had much of what would've been present, stolen, makes me rather sad, for the one fault is so deeply shameful, and the other so spotless, I don't want to look at the mottled, blemished outcome.

Prague doesn't need its experiences replaced or capped or capitulated by quotation marks. And I am certain this is true whether one follows the beaten path or not.

Untimed

October 27th, 2019

Splinter and spark, order and reason, source of all, end of everything:
All days are yours for your song.
For being numbered no day could compel me to remember, or forget.

A Black Forest

October 19th, 2019

In the Rohrbrunner Forest, somewhere between Munich and Frankfurt, in a truck-stop motel whose rented room is so stuffed with extra beds it immediately evokes the desperate case of some plurious, fantastically religious family swarming in a last-ditch effort to sleep without the non-activity managing to kill any of its members. Are we really that far off?

The whisps of fog shuttle by in slow processions out the window, masking and revealing thick depths of trees, all closing their eyes to the seduction of golden autumn. The stench of stale french-fries and industrial effort wafts along in tandem, ruining the fairytale. Sometimes the world seems to have disappeared in some such mists, though it's not so clear which cloud it's hid behind; when nothing works as you'd expect, is it you who's failed to understand nature? Is it nature that's failed to be comprehensible? The question comes through the woods, heavy but silent: does it matter?

The result, after all, is the same: surrounded at some hazy margins by castles, by fortresses, by great spans of bridge; and by rotting agglomerations of idiots, by fast-food multiplexes, by the towering ghosts of "solutions" that have more to do with professing to solve than either solving or even knowing what the problem is, here I sit, in a truck stop motel, forced into stasis. You can check out, but where will you go? "Please insert your credit card to discover more."

The difference matters. That is all we really know. Two false steps into the void of settling and you're there, in the swamp, offering excuses and ritual sins to gods made up by the mass of morons. The correct thing will kill you, it is certain; if not now, then later. After all, it has as much time as it'd like, and can bide while you must sleep, or blink, or yawn, or breathe. But you will die anyway, and the other scythes are neither sharp nor sensible. For as long as the burden-gift of life is upon you, it is your lot to seek to understand nature and to be heartbroken by nature's failure to be comprehensible.