Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, and that one great shot

If you want to discover what really matters to a cubicle goon of the modern era, gaze kindly upon whatever framed pictures they possess inside their hovels.  This impact is magnified where I work, for we have no windows.  It could be 70, sunny, with a bird, squirrel, and komodo dragon frolicking playfully together outside in the grass.  But inside for us, it’s the same stale air, harsh light, and incessant office sounds.

A lot of people put pictures of their family there.  I’m a weirdo who lives alone with his dogs, but I suppose I could put pictures of them in there, or of my Parents, Brothers, and Sisters.  But I guess I’m too much of a closed book for that kind of public display.  So instead I’ve got two pictures in there, the first a few folks may have seen me post a while back, which is essentially my Parents’ backyard.

The second photo is of Kiyomizu-dera.




I breathe every part of this photo: the forest, the winter haze, the isolation, the distant pagoda (Koyasu Pagoda).  This is Kyoto in February.  This is Japan.

The dirty little secret of this shot is that to my left, right, and behind me is a sea of humanity.  My Parents had come out to visit me for my birthday that year.  And I took them to Kyoto and Nara, because it had to be done.  I haven’t gotten into it at all on this blog, but I lived in Japan for three years.  I guess it’s just too close to the heart to write about much, or something strange like that.

Anyways, I’d been to Kyoto before and so we visited some of my favorites, but Kiyomizu-dera was new for all three of us.  We’d visited Chion-in that morning, for that was the one place in all of Japan I wanted to show my Dad (more on that later, eh, maybe).  Then we cabbed it south to Kiyomizu-dera probably after just randomly picking it off a map.  The place was mobbed, almost subway style.



Looking back west toward Kyoto


Started in 778, the main temple buildings date from the early Edo period, about 1630.  Elaborate temples and a return to emphasis on traditional Japanese religion were among the Shogunate’s many methods to get out of the business of perpetual civil war.  It’s awfully hard to be in the sword killing trade when Shogun needs that seven year temple building project completed in three years.  And you don’t want to disappoint Shogun, do you?

Translated as “Pure Water Temple” it sits atop of mountain waterfall that you can still drink from in various attempts to cheat the Gods / Nature out of the path they’ve set for you.  What do those dudes know anyways?  All they do is make all the rules of the universe.  And rules are meant to be broken, right?  [shakes fist at sky]

My memory is truly horrible (photographs help save me), so I’m not sure where we went next.  But given the time of day, we probably went back downtown for dinner.  Which knowing Kyoto, it was undoubtedly unspeakably awesome.



Kiyomizu-dera Main Hall; this was taken after the crowds had begun to thin out




looking east up the mountain you really get a good idea of how perched the temple is upon the heights



looking up from the base of the Main Hail through the branches of a random unrelated species of Japanese tree; these pillars stand as is despite the fact that they didn’t use a single nail in the construction

the weirdest things can make us feel better

I got up at 2am this morning and was on the road within the hour for work.  It seemed to make more sense than spending another overnight away from home.  And the dogs came with me, because why not.  But then it was raining hard for the entire automobile based journey.  I always forget, and am reminded when in progress, just how unfortunate it is to have to drive in the dark when it’s raining.  I think it drops the chance of survival by like 83%.  My statistic on this is beyond reproach, I got the numbers from the WHO, so you know they’re good.

Anyways, about halfway through while downhill on the highway and at a low point across a bridge I ended up skidding on what must have been a puddle built up with the heavy rain.  So I was along for the ride for maybe 1.5 seconds.  Luckily, I didn’t get my one way ticket to Valhalla.  But then I couldn’t get it out of my head that I’d somehow screwed up.  Either through poor driving, or driving too fast.  I probably uttered one or more words that usually would be rather appropriate on this blog, but don’t feel like repeating them now.  And all the dogs did from the backseat was open their eyes briefly, wonder what the hell Daddy was so upset about, and then go right back to sleep, totally unaware of the troubles that could have awaited them in Doggy Valhalla.

But then ahead of me, a FedEx truck towing a pair of those dual-connected trailers started to skid out too.  His second trailer started to fishtail in and out of his lane.  I thought he was done for.  I actually started to slow down in the expectation I’d have to pull up behind him and run out to pull the driver out of an overturned semi.  But somehow he got it back under control and carried on.  And other than relief, my next thought was to feel better.  Surely, this guy is driving every day, and even he nearly trashed it on this road.  So it was somewhat okay that I’d nearly done the same, and I took my foot of my throat about that puddle.  The weirdest things can make us feel better.

Eh, maybe neither of us should have been on that road to begin with.  3am in the dark, in the rain.  Neither his job or mine is worth that insanity.  And yet we were both there.  And I bet you we’ll both be doing it again some day, no matter how stupid it is.

Halloween costumes – when did this go off the rails?

When I was a young useless lad, mine own dear Mother made me and my Brothers into orange Crayola crayons by hand. These costumes undoubtedly took her hours to make, but probably cost $8 in material. And nobody’s ever forgotten them. But now this quaint, wholesome activity has been conquered by, by what?

First off, let’s start with a little history. Halloween is a cult Pagan festival honoring the dead; likely in a creepy grinding ritual that back in 553 BC probably involved a pile of bones, human sacrifice (which seems to defeat the purpose), or at the very least a bunch of club beatings.  They probably did this for three days straight, because what the hell else was there to do back then?

In order to quickly attract converts, the Catholic Church allowed the adoption of Pagan rituals into the Christian calendar. Depending on how you count, this emerged as All Hallows or All Saint’s Day around 1400 years ago. Thus the original purpose of involving the dead, leads us down the road of horror, vampires, fear, boy bands, gargoyles, Miley Cyrus, etc.

But this costume thing is only about 150 years old. And it always seems to have taken on a rather tame tact that gives one the impression that the culture mostly left to whole violent death concept behind. Here’s a photograph from 1924, not too many decapitated horror movie themes going on here:


In my youth days, I remember the parents walking around in street clothes. All the kids wore either homemade or rather bland costumes which were actually street clothes just slightly altered. Maybe other kids wore ridiculously elaborate costumes back then and I just never saw it? I’m not sure, we didn’t exactly live in a rich neighborhood and so who knows what folks were wearing on the Giant Octopus mansion street.  Maybe those kids went around in $600 Monopoly Man costumes?

The Monopoly Man

“Terribly sorry Sir, but my Father is very wealthy, as the saying goes, and states that if you peasants do not provide me with the very best candy I am to slice you.”


But as to my home,  I just remember loving the simplicity of it all.  The family and neighborhood flavor of it.  When you’re wearing a homemade crayon around, your expectations of life are formed accordingly.  And I’m the better for it.  So are my Brothers.

Well, that was fun, for those days are over.  When did this go off the rails?

Culturally the planet’s gone from:


Pagan death ritual => Catholic soul day => wholesome costume culture / candy day => what?


What’s it now? Well, here’s a pair of screenshots that I think answer’s that question. And I hate the answer.



1) sex

2) sex

3) Diz-Nee

4) Mon-Nee

5) Other generic Giant Octopus product

6) Mon-Nee

7) sex


Uh, [shakes head], I want my crayon costume back.

so I guess I’ll have to stop eating meat now?

So that pork dish from Saturday night? Off limits. My Brother’s tasty chili accompanied by his own homemade hot sauce? Not going to happen. That leftover Indian dish I made last week? It’d be like I’m eating shards of glass.

All of this is the path you shall now take. For the World Health Organization (WHO) has decided that meat causes cancer.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that the WHO is tackling this urgent meat-flavored issue when they otherwise seem to have trouble executing their core mission.

Per the BBC:


Processed meats – such as bacon, sausages and ham – do cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.

Meanwhile, it said red meats were “probably carcinogenic” but there was limited evidence


That’s kind of exact if you ask me. Exactly 50 grams of processed meat equals a 18% chance I commute to Valhalla? How could they possibly get so specific?

That’s like telling me a scientific study has proven that if I drive exactly 13 miles per hour over the speed limit my chances of a twisted metal death are increased by 14%. Would you believe such a stat? I wouldn’t.

And then they go ahead and say straight meat, non-processed variety, is “probably carcinogenic” but then admit they can’t prove it. Well, I say that listening to Justin Bieber is probably carcinogenic, but I can’t prove it. But just take my word for it, okay.

So I guess I’ll have to stop eating meat now? Because they said so?

Let me lay this out for a second. Every human who has consumed food, any food at all, has died. The fatality rate for the consumption of apples is 100%. Everybody who’s ever eaten a piece of fish will ultimately become a bleached skeleton. That’s science you can bet your soul on. It’s 100% guaranteed.

Just ask this guy. He hate some hummus in 69 BC, and look what happened to him:


So is this a license to dip your coffee in bacon fat each morning? Or drive down the road 34 miles over the limit while drunk and listening to Bieber at top volume? I mean, you could, I guess?

But no, not really. Common sense does apply. You don’t need the WHO to tell you that.

But I guess this pseudo-science really does bug me. Because it gives decent, legit science a bad name. And it could convince people to change their behavior for all the wrong reasons.

It’s your life. Live it.

As to me, so I guess I’ll have to stop eating meat now? No, not a chance. The leftovers to this excellent dish is what I’ll be eating tonight. It’s 100% guaranteed.


peppers unto happiness

My Brother gave me a Thai red pepper plant last spring because he is well aware that I like spicy cooking that melts my brain.  Unfortunately I travel so much for work and have so little direct sunlight into my place that the plant didn’t reach full quality this year.  Maybe next year if I leave it outside.  But I took three smallish peppers to cook with tonight before I leave again for work tomorrow and through the weekend.


Thai pepper

I yanked a pair of Indian recipes off Saveur so we’ll see how this goes.  I’m cautious but looking forward to trying some new techniques.



As you can see, the addition of four random habaneros should tell you how wrong my Bro was about my preferred level of spiciness.  I also have all those usual Indian dry spices.  And some cayenne, which I have sitting atop a spice pedestal under a white light ready for action.


But the below is his work, both in terms of growing, photos, and bottling.  He’s above my level of pepper awesomeness.  I’ll try and get there.

bro peppers


His peppers are: “Ghost, Thai, Scorpion, Choc. S.B., Trinidad Perfume, 1 Reaper”

His bottling is a Caribbean recipe.

we support increased selfie fatalities

I knew folks were getting themselves killed taking selfies, but I didn’t know this was now a more common way to die than have a shark chew on your bones. But according to the BBC, 12 people have transitioned to Valhalla this year taking selfies while only eight have had the opportunity to lose a water wrestling match with one of nature’s most historically effective killing machines.

This still requires some perspective. Depending on how you count, something like 20K humans are culled from the flock via snake bites every year. Over one million of us go via twisted car wrecks. But apparently, 12 selfie deaths are enough for folks to want to change government policy to prevent them.

I think that’s foolish, just like it’s foolish to play bear baiter to get that one awesome selfie. I say we just let the process play out. If somebody’s dumb enough to place their own life into danger over a selfie, they deserve the outcome, whatever it is. And this kind of stupidity is something we should be happy to get rid of.

So here’s a list we want folks to implement as the one selfie that’ll make you famous:

– Throw rocks at a cobra and then try & kiss him

– Go base jumping off the Eiffel Tower

– Stroll about Tiananmen Square holding a placard adorned with the Imperial Japanese Navy battle flag and the caption, “We look forward to Round Three” written in Hanzi characters

– Fire a handgun at an oncoming hurricane storm surge

– Get yourself atop the Eurostar’s lead engine so the shot is just seconds from entering the northbound tunnel

– Don a three piece suit where the vest is permeated with bacon cologne (because everybody loves bacon) and go hiking in Alaska

– Stand in a Manchester hooligan pub wearing a Barcelona sweater

– Sprint toward any modern Western politician screaming “I’m crazy about you!” and attempt to hug them to show your joy at meeting them in person

– Sit alone in a dark room on your couch and contemplate the existential downfall of a human life spent attempting to acquire 15 minutes of fame on social media for no beneficial purpose at all

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to think about what I’ll post here next.

camel bite

I actually have a picture of me in this exact same position, but the camel is smiling, and I’m standing five feet away for safety purposes. And I had another human take the picture of me. Folks used to do that you know.

you will be made to pay

The other day I strolled into my neighborhood shopette to purchase a pack of alcoholic beverages known locally as beer. I struggled to determine which style I desired to buy as I’m generally indecisive and as there are so many delicious options. But then I was shocked as I felt a sharp pain at the base of my back and I quickly found myself being led down the beer case aisle with a firm hand on my shoulder.

“Just right this way, Sir; just right this way,” the man said. I thought about struggling but it seemed as if the man could read my mind for as I made to break free the pain in my back increased and I realized I had a knife to my spine. I managed to glance over my shoulder and I was aghast to find my captor was no less than The Monopoly Man.

Our journey concluded in front of the ubiquitous Bud and Miller case. For of course they’re usually side by side. “Pick one,” The Monopoly Man whispered seductively in my ear. Sweating, and scared out of my mind, I meekly uttered, “Which one?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he firmly responded. Five minutes later I departed the shopette with a six pack of Bud or Miller. I can’t remember which as I was too concerned with the fact that I’d soiled myself shortly after The Monopoly Man returned the switchblade to his pocket and disappeared behind a Grolsch display case, never to be seen again.


Why yes, yes it is.

$104B is a lot of money for a beer company. $104B is a lot of money for anything. $104B could buy you ten nuclear aircraft carriers or 20 years of budget for America’s PEPFAR anti-AIDS program. But AB InBev is using it to absorb SABMiller. Why? Straight cash, folks.

Should you care? After all, nobody is made to buy beer. Alcohol is scientifically a poison to your body. It’s why you get drunk. So technically speaking, I don’t suppose there’s any reasonable difference between deliberately ingesting alcohol, and deliberately ingesting drain cleaner. It’s just that one is more poisonous than the other. Except that beer is tastier, so there’s that.

But this purchase is the latest in a trend. Depending on where you live, there are only about three mobile phone providers you get to choose from. The health insurance companies are merging now too. Experts predict that eventually instead of having five health insurance companies that there’ll be only three soon enough.

The health insurance companies claim they need these mergers to keep costs down. So good news, your health insurance cost will go down over the next five years. Guaranteed. They’ll swear to it.

The problem with capitalism is you need genuine competition for it to work. Otherwise you get something other than capitalism.

AB InBev has shelled out $24.3M in political campaign contributions equally split between the parties, as well as $102.3M on lobbying the government. SABMiller’s numbers are $2.1M and $21.0M, smaller, but still equally split between the parties. Hmm, why would they give an equal amount of cash to each party?

You certainly shouldn’t really care about AB InBev and SABMiller. Instead, you can just always buy tasty Yuengling.

But I suspect you do care about health insurance. Or the cost of your phone plan, seeing as how you can’t compete in the modern knowledge economy without one. How about the cost of your Internets? Or your power bill?

The same thing is happening to them all. You will be made to pay. The Monopoly Man is sure of it.

The Monopoly Man

“Terribly sorry old chap but you’ll be made to pay lest you force me to slice you open.”