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Showing posts from August, 2007

it's around here somewhere

YONHAP NEWS: "The South Korean government said Friday that it has failed to find traces of 2.7 kilograms worth of uranium samples mistakenly removed from its storage area and destroyed in May."

S. Korean ambassador lambastes Samsung’s ‘sandwich theory’ : National : Home

This is an interesting concept--low wage China on one hand and Japan as 800 pound tech gorill as major challenges to Korean prosperity.

You will notice that bloated, consumerist, military spending USA is not part of this sandwich.

S. Korean ambassador lambastes Samsung’s ‘sandwich theory’ : National : Home: "BEIJING - South Korean Ambassador to China Kim Ha-joong has strongly criticized the so-called “sandwich theory,” a warning on the South Korean economy, of Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee. Chairman Lee observed a crisis in the South Korean economy earlier this year by saying: “Korea is being sandwiched by fast-growing China and technologically-advanced Japan.” Then in June, he said that “The nation’s economic situation is worsening.” In a lecture at the Korean International School in Beijing on August 28, Kim said, “Some South Korean figures have frequently mentioned the ‘sandwich theory,’ but it upsets me whenever I hear it. South Korea can’t be sandwiched and there is no …

North Korea flooding is the worst in history : National : Home

Losing a million tons of food in a country where people have been observed eating grass is unfortunate, to say the least.


North Korea flooding is the worst in history : National : Home: "New reports from North Korea show that the country has suffered the most serious flood disaster in its history. As of August 26, more than 600 people are either dead or missing and over 400,000 residents are homeless. Damage to farmland was also severe, causing a loss of approximately 1 million tons of this year’s harvest."

The Seoul Times

Not a bad question to know the answer to:

What Does Coca Cola's Dasani Bottled Water Have in Common with Death by Lethal Injection?

The Seoul Times: "The third largest ingredient in Dasani is potassium chloride. If you are to be put death, first you get a barbiturate, then a paralytic agent, and then the chemical to stop your heart (what a coincidence!) you guessed it: potassium chloride! 'If you take everything out of the water, you don't get the crisp, clean taste that consumers desire,' was the sanguine comment of Kim Price, spokesman for Coca-Cola. Question from Student at Oregon State University: I just noticed potassium chloride was listed as an ingredient in some bottled waters (Dasani, for example). But I remember from Chemistry and other sources of information KCl is used for lethal injections and is often times hazardous... so why would it be in bottled water? "

▦▦ 까사로까 ▦▦

A Mexican restaurant in Seoul that brags it doesn't use lard? Yup, here it is ▦▦ 까사로까 ▦▦

Apparently, the not-so-secret fact that lard is a pillar of Mexican food hasn't made it past the international date line.

Although they do make their own tortillas, fresh salsa and guacamole so it seems like some place I'll have to try out.

I took a short cut through an alley today behind a bunch of restaurants. It is always a mistake to peak behind the scenes in a restaurants. These were all tiny places, more like stalls. All of them, about 8-9 in a row, were cooking split pig heads. I don't know if it was the time of day or week, but it was definitely pig head cooking hour. I am sure it makes everything taste better.

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Sogang has this online Korean training program, for those of you blog readers inspired to start up with hangul. It also has a link so you can get the hangul letters to work on your computer. You know you've been waiting for that.
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I made my way to Tapgol Park today. Or, rather, I was on my way to the music merchants market in Insadong where I had heard there were hundreds of instrument dealers crammed together (which there are) and realized that I was luckily right at Tapgol Park, one of the places I have been wanting to see.

This is the place where on March 1, 1919 about 5000 Korean students first called for independence from the imperialist Japanese.

One of the reasons you may not have heard of the date is because independence was not achieved at this point. The Japanese ruthlessly crushed it. And Woodrow Wilson, the George W. Bush of his day in most every way, never really meant for all of that "self-determination of peoples" stuff to apply to non-white peoples anyway.

Since one of the big reasons I have been interested in Korea is because of their unique experience of Japan's brutal colonial empire and much more benevolent but still quite real US informal empire, I took a special interest in t…
It is too bad there is no way to make money off of text-messeging while you walk, the Koreans would make a mint. You have to be impressed with their abilities to weave in and out of enormously crowded sidewalks without loosing rhythm with their thumbs.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

The problem is spreading.

I wonder what would happen if US universities cracked down.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Prosecutors have asked the Korean Research Foundation, an organization that keeps track of doctorate degrees held by South Koreans, for information about hundreds of people they suspect hold degrees from unaccredited U.S. colleges. The Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors’ Office said it received reports that several people had received the bogus degrees and asked the foundation for the documents those people submitted. Prosecutors also asked for a database of people who had doctorates from dozens of U.S. diploma mills. Earlier this month, prosecutors received documents from about 276 people who reported doctorates from 23 U.S. diploma mills since 2003. Prosecutors are also investigating dozens of professors from that group who are currently employed at local universities."
Walking through Sinchon Rotary today I stopped at a street DVD vendor (they are absolutely everywhere in the city) because I was surprised to see not just the expected new releases like Bourne Ultimatum and Spiderman III but also small independent American movies like "SherryBaby".

That caught my eye because my good friend's wife wrote it and directed it. I wouldn't have expected to see it on the street in Seoul. It seemed somehow significant. Being an object of piracy means you made it, in a way.

These movies sell for 2000 Won, which is about 2 bucks. They are not the low quality pirate DVDs that some dude made by sitting in the theatre training a video camera on the screen. They are completely professional affairs, including chapter headings, language selections, very high picture quality. Pretty amazing.

Not that I would ever purchase such a thing, these are copyright violations....
I have managed to return to my largely nocturnal lifestyle in Seoul, after several days of waking bright and early as a residue of jet leg. Partly this is because I am back to writing lectures, which is of course best done in the middle of the night.

Staying up all night is easy in this city because it doesn't really shut down. Bars and restaurants are open late to all night, no surprise there. But in many small ways this is really a late night city.

I just went jogging on the path next to the crick underneath the Naebu expressway that I mentioned the other day. At home I often jog late at night and just hope I am not either shot or attacked by a dog (or both, I suppose), and it is always kind of dicey. But here, between 10-11 pm, on that path were hundreds of other people biking, running, and walking. It is a nice resource, that path. You don't have to worry about playing frogger at the corners, and because you are lower than the street the air pollution is significantl…

Korea to Have Shorter Winter(The Korea Times)

I am not going to complain about this:

Korea to Have Shorter Winter(The Korea Times): "Korea’s four distinguishing seasons have been regarded as one of the attractions of the nation. But recent research suggests that the country is losing this charm due to global warming. The gloomy forecast is based on research reports by weather experts who gathered in Seoul to attend the ``Workshop for Experts of Climate Change,’’ held on Wednesday and Thursday. According to the National Institute of Meteorological Research the nation will have shorter winters and longer summers. The winter season in Seoul, which typically begins in early December and ends early March, will be much shorter. By 2090, it will begin from late December and end around the middle of February, 36 days shorter than the summer in 1920."


And the warming may also explain why samchi is so inexpensive (it is a kind of mackerel)

The increase will effect fish species. Subtropical fish species will slowly become rare a…

Soju Sells Best on Thursdays(The Korea Times)

Thank god it's Thursday!

Soju Sells Best on Thursdays(The Korea Times): "Thanks God, it’s Friday? But now Fridays seem to have given way to Thursdays as the best day for drinking after the introduction of a five-day workweek system. Latest statistics show that soju, a Korean distilled liquor, sells most Thursday nights. According to Jinro Wednesday, a total of 31,547,000 boxes of soju were taken out of its warehouses for sale from January to August and 6,076,000 boxes of them, or some 19.2 percent, were delivered on Thursdays. A box contains 30 x 360ml bottles. Fridays came next with 5,783,000 boxes, or 18.3 percent, followed by Mondays with 5,654,000 boxes (17.9 percent), Wednesdays with 5,334,000 boxes (16.9 percent) and Tuesdays with 5,174,000 boxes (16.5 percent)."
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I had my first day of class for my "American Regionalism" class, and it was extremely interesting.

I had a whole lecture prepared around theoretical approaches to the question of region and of regionalismin American history and American studies (don't worry, I won't detain you here with it) and then it turns out that the students are utterly unaware of the geography and regional cultures of the US. Absolutely no idea in what ways Minnesota might be different than Mississippi or NYC from Hell-fer-Sartin (or even where they both are relative to each other). They do not have any association for concepts like "red state" "hillbilly" "Peoria" "New Jersey" or even "Chittlin Cookin' Time in Cheatum County," or any other standard conceptions Americans maintain. It isn't a surprise, of course, but for some reason I didn't fully anticipate the depth of it.

This makes my class significantly more interesting and cha…
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More adventures in eating

I finally saw some honey for sale today ("kkul" in Korean) and was astonished how surprised it was: 38000 Won for 2 kilos, which is roughly 40 bucks. I sell honey for $5 a pound and 2 kilograms is 4.4. pounds. So, honey is expensive.

hmmmm, I sense an opportunity...

Now that I know the word samchi I of course felt compelled to go use it at another fish market between Sogang and my house and buy some. The price differential between fish and meat is amazing. I got two whole samchi, (which was apparently the only way it was sold, in pairs), cleaned for 3500 Won ($3.50 approx). A little foam tray of some unknown-to-me cut of meat is about $14.

Also for sale all over the place are bags of dried fish of varying size. Here is a bag of small ones (they go about three to four sizes smaller):



This seems to me like the ultimate zone diet meal-pure protein and, uh, whatever else is in little fish. I rfesolved to keep a bag on my at all times, for my hourly fe…

Japan's Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future - washingtonpost.com

I see three parts to this story: it is another clear reminder of the ways the United States is being superceded by the dynamic economies of Asia, it is a reminder of the death grip certain corporations have on innovation in the US, and finally, most obviously, the multiple and cascading failures of the Bush administration.

For all of its many inadequacies, the Clintonites did do a reasonably good job in facilitating the technology boom of the 1990s. The Bush administration, wedded to the oil-national security nexus, has disastrously allowed the US to both ship virtually its entire manufacturing economy to Asia and to lose the advantage in high technology.


Japan's
Warp-Speed Ride to Internet Future - washingtonpost.com
: "Americans invented
the Internet, but the Japanese are running away with it. Broadband service here
is eight to 30 times as fast as in the United States -- and considerably
cheaper. Japan has the world's fastest Internet connections, delivering more
data at a lo…
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This picture looks like a perfect old socialist realist print but it actually ran in the Korea Times today.
Maybe this is how the North Korean regime will keel toward the ashheap of history, on a path lined with synthetic nail tips.

Hundreds of
firms plan to open in Kaesong


Hundreds of companies are lining up to operate in North Korea’s Kaesong
Industrial Complex, but an economist said in a seminar yesterday that the
current economic cooperation with South Korea won’t bring any significant
changes to the communist country.More than 200 companies have signed a contract
with the Korea Land Corp. to join the 33 domestic companies currently operating
in the industrial park, according to Kim Du-bok, an employee at the state-owned
company. Korea Land Corp. is responsible for assigning space in the industrial
complex. Among the new companies are a couple of firms with foreign connections
that hope to open next year.A Korean subsidiary of Tianjin JCI Cosmetic Corp., a
Chinese producer of synthetic nail tips and other cosmetic goods, agreed Monday
to lease space in the section allotted for foreign companies.“Tia…

Foreign Affairs - The Long Road to Pyongyang - Michael J. Mazarr

This critique of Bush's policy toward North Korea is a useful reminder not to get too carried away with the current seeming success given the overall failure and, yes unsurprisingly, total incompetence of the policy

Foreign Affairs - The Long Road to Pyongyang - Michael J. Mazarr:
But a look back at the history of the Bush administration's approach to North Korea highlights a somewhat different aspect of the White House's foreign policy. The portrait that emerges is not one of a confrontational, militaristic administration; what instead becomes apparent is an image of a White House with extremely poor conceptual strategies and decision-making processes.From the beginning, President George W. Bush, as the nation's chief strategist, has failed to articulate a coherent policy for dealing with North Korea. The administration as a whole entered office without a clear foreign policy doctrine. The president himself appears to have been attached to a number of basic principles: …
Buying fish at a Korean fish market is quite an experience. If you have ever been to any Asian fish market then you know that the array of fish you can get there is exponentially bigger than anything in an American market. It really highlights how limited the American diet is. In addition to a huge array of fresh fish species (some of them quite fierce looking)and cephalopods there are long and expensive strings of fish tied together (200,000 Won, about 200 bucks) and also a whole universe of dried sea creatures of every description. It is quite wild. I passed by a fish monger on the street yesterday in the interestingly named Jogno5ga area in central Seoul who was selling all of these huge dried octopuses and other animals that I couldn't identify and can't really imagine how you eat them.

So tonight I decided to try cooking one of these fish and the local seller (after conferring with his compadre) recommended one called samchi. It was very good pan fried with garlic a…

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

The Korean's reputation for anti-globalization protests proceed them:

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "request by Japanese police for a list of liberal Korean civic groups and their leaders who might protest at an international forum in Tokyo next year has been denied, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said yesterday. An official of the agency who declined to be named said a Japanese police delegation visited Seoul at the beginning of this month and asked for intelligence on the liberal civic groups. However, citing the sensitivity of the issue, Seoul decided to withhold the information ― at least for now ― on the grounds that it might be seen as getting involved in internal affairs. Tokyo is scheduled to hold the annual G-8 summit meeting next year. The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States are expected to participate. The official said the Japanese police cited violent protests made by South Koreans at a 2005 general mee…
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Almost all the walk signs feature a different figure around here. Some of them are quite buff. I need to take some pictures to illustrate.

On the campus, the bathroom doors feature this stylish cholo-esque figure for the men's rooms:

One of my new students found my blog and came up to me after class today because she read that I'd miss eating Mexican food when I left the states. She told me that in Sinchon rotary there is a Mexican restaurant. Near a Krispee Kreme, no less. So, I'll have to investigate.

The stores here all sell one brand of tortilla chip and also Pace Picante sauce. Those are universals in the food stores I have been in, and I have seen people buying them too. I don't think the hot pace even comes close to the Korean standards for hot.
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Songang has a very nice campus. As I said, it is built into a steep hillside. But the amazing thing is far up up the hill goes. It is deceptive because from near the top of campus it looks like this


which doesn't really look that steep.

This is standing already up a steep hill from the main entrance (where the Albatross is). Behind me looking up here is this view of the new science building and soccer field down below:


The size of the people give you an idea how high up this is. There is no grass on the field, nor on the soccer field at Hongik University either.

Anyway, when you walk into those woods the hilltop gets amazingly steep. There are some nice paths to the top., many of them twisting through the trees.


This is on the way up looking back down.

There was a dimunitive old woman walking up this path backward, which I am sure is good for some muscle group, I won't venture which.

Toward the top you can see what I think is NE, where there are even taller wooded hills in th…
Now I've met all of my students here and they seem both bright and engaged. Contrary to the claims I heards that Korean students od not like to participate, I have found them to be quite responsive.
The apartment I was given for the year has windows all along one side and heated floors and is generally nice even if it is a 30 minute walk to the subway.

What the apartment doesn't have is a closet, any closet at all. So, there is no place to hang clothes. I generally don't worry about hanging clothes but occasionally it comes in handy, like when living in a country advertised to value dressing well.

The Fulbright office tried to help out and delivered a wardrobe today. However, it has no bar on which to hang clothes.

It did feature a moldy blanket though, which might be useful if I see a cold homeless person who needs such an item.

Since it isn't going to get cold for a few months, I will keep the moldy blanket in the useless wardrobe and allow the mold to blossom to even richer shades of color.
I have an office at Sogang now with new furniture. They moved the old furniture, nice solid wood standard academic office furniture, out and moved in a new set of brand spanking new pressboard and veneer furniture. This is nice looking stuff, and the desk chair is a nice one. It is striking though that standards here in terms of the furniture are the same as in the US: new is better than old, inherent quality aside.

I am supposed to get a computer today. What I won't be getting is a printer, these are not provided to faculty members. I can buy one, however, and the school will pay the electricity for me to use it. The same goes for an office AC. My American colleagues will be surprised to hear that there is also no access to a copy machine. You can have copies made, but it is done by a little privately run business located in the building and the department is charged per copy. The rates seem high: 20 copies of my syllabus cost about 3 bucks.
A friend pointed out that I likely can claim to be the best old time fiddler in the entire country. I hereby make such claim and welcome any challengers...

Korean Table Manners

That all said, I have noticed that in terms of food the etiquette books are right on.
(some are listed here: Korean Table Manners)

Getting used to the stainless steel chopsticks, which are ubiquitous, is quite a trick. I thought I had some facility with chopsticks from years of using them, though I had in the back of my mind my sister telling me that when she first ate in China upon moving there that people would gather and point and laugh at her for holding the chopsticks like a child.

Stainless steel offers a whole new set of challenges beyond the child-grip--they are heavy and slippery. When I asked if anyone uses wood, I was told, with pride, "the Japanese use wood, Koreans use metal." And, thus far I haven't seen wood ones.

You really do not see people eating alone here that I have seen. So many of the style of restaurants are geared toward big groups, like the barbeque places.

Food in restaurants is amazingly cheap (at the restaurants you might find me, that is). You ge…
I read a few books on Korean etiquette before I came and they all detailed innumerable little rules for interaction. My experience thus far, limited as it is, pokes a few holes in what were presented as absolute essentials. These are all exceedingly minor things, but it is the minor things that make you look like even more of a gringo, of course.

1. Hand your business card to people with two hands. Accept their business card with two hands. Study it carefully.

Nobody has done this at all, and when I have handed my card over with two hands I am given one in return frisbee style with one hand and fingers raised, every time.

2. Koreans all dress well and will really look down on you if you do not.

Nope. At least not as I was lead to believe. The general range of clothing is as you see in the states, though most woman wear astonishingly high heels. Nobody at the university was dressed unlike people at any university in the states, except for me. I was wearing a tie, which I never do (and was …
Blogger has now made my whole blog apparatus Korean because of my IP address, I guess. If something weird comes up it is because my Korean is, uh, limited.
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This is the main entrance to Sogang University:



and this is the albatross I showed before:





Tomorrow is the first day of class.
I did find out that Sogang's symbol is the albatross. If they had a sports team it would be "the albatrosses." Good thing they don't have teams, I guess.
Concord grapes are everywhere in this city. You can't find them at home any more, which is a tragedy as far as I am concerned, but here there are fruit sellers all over the place and the major fruit seems to be the grapes.
Future Now

(I actually did see a kid with an MC5 shirt yesterday, I was astonished to see it. (Of course there is an MC5 Japan webpage, but this is Korea).

The futuristic side of things has been really striking.

Probably many of you have used Skype, and for years too, but allow me to be massively impressed with it. Even if their webpage is difficult to understand and navigate. The program itself is cake.

I have used it to speak to my lovely wife, currently in NYC, several times with great clarity, and all for free. And with video too.

The whole videophone thing is definitional of the future realm, no?

When I spoke with her this morning, there were 4 million users speaking on Skype. This evening there were 6.5 million. That this is commonplace is just stunning.
This seems to be a well run city, at least in terms of basic management (lack of street signs aside).

For instance, every curb has a ramp to the street. I noticed this riding my bike around. I never came up to a curb that was 8 inches high and imposing. Also, the lights all work, the crosswalks all have operable lights and the subway does not smell like a sewer or like that nasty subway smell. In fact it is odorless, quiet, and simple to use.

You have to pay 50 Won for plastic bags at the supermarket, which is about 5 cents. Most people use their own bags. Not a bad system if you are interested in waste reduction. Seoul also has curbside recycling three times a week (as opposed to Norfolk: which is once every two weeks with a 20% usage rate, or say, Chicago, which has none.) There are even recycling bins in all of the subway stations.

This is a huge and heavily populated city with polluted air to be sure, but there is virtually no trash in the streets. People put their garbage o…
This is the end of my first weekend in Seoul.

One big difference from home is that I didn't hear gunfire once, which would be a rare weekend indeed in Norfolk.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

The Korean hostage sin Afghanistan story is huge news here even if the US has totally ignored it. There are billboards of several stories high on the sides of buildings in central Seoul swearing to support for the hostages. It will be interesting to see how it plays out this fall in the presidential elections.

UPDATE:

The Korea Times is now reporting that the Taliban is going to free them all
If you are wondering where 80s music went, the answer seems to be Seoul. It is blasting all over the city, usually remade into Korean language versions.
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The folding option on my new bike was nice. I took it on the subway across the city and rode home.

Seven+ hours on the bike takes its toll.

On the way I got to go past some beautiful palaces and also through some incredible markets. as well as a staggering number of huge buildings covered in neon. I have barely scratched the surface of the city. The markets are not dissimilar from NYC Chinatown, only much bigger and stranger. There are tanks filled with live squid and stores of all variety. These are local markets, the tourists markets are something else entirely and quite dull in comparison.

Here is a view of the mountains as you approach Gyeongbokgung. This is facing roughly north.


The US embassy is up ahead and to the right. I rode past it and was astonished to see hundreds of police with riot gear, three foot long sticks, and the riot shields familiar to me from the Korean student protests of the 1980s. There were about a dozen huge buses with metal screen windows as well.

I…
I bought a folding Chinese bike today at a local store in my neighborhood. The bike has many great English phrases on it, like "trendsetter" and "Passion and inspiration." Since most bi9kes in the good ole USA are Chinese these days, I wasn't surprised that everything in the store came from there.

The guy in the store, who told me it was his store so many times that I didn't really believe him, (esp. since another guy took care of everything, set up the bike, put through the payment, etc) spoke much better English than my lesson-three-Pimselur's-Korean, was either a graduate of Sogang University or a current student (it seems like he said both at various times) and so that greased things pretty well and it was a fun experience buying this thing. They threw in a lock and some lights. The latter is actually something I haven't seen used on other bikes, though admittedly they have tended to be of the "beater one speed bike piled high with huge s…

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

This will sound familiar to those in the US familiar with the constant capitalist search for cheaper labor:

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Maniker Co., South Korea’s second-largest poultry processor, plans to build chicken farms in North Korea to take advantage of cheaper labor in the communist nation. Maniker officials will be traveling to the North in the middle of next month to finalize details on building several farms near the border of the two countries, the company said in a statement yesterday. The project will help Maniker lower costs while giving North Korean workers opportunities for increased income and high-protein food, the statement said."
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Through my neighborhood and continuing quite fa both north and southwest is a jogging and bike path alongside a little crick underneath a huge elevated highway. It is used fairly heavily.

There is also a long path alongside the Han river, which gives a nice view of the southside of Seoul


There are a lot of bicyclists and joggers on the path. Periodically there are exercise stations that are heavily used (with free weights, pull up bars, etc.) Overall, Seoul does seem pretty well set up for outdoor exercise despite the heavy traffic and crowds in parts of it.

Her eis a guy fishing with multiple poles:



The path runs right to the foot of what is called "Beheading mountain" which was both the ferry point in historic Seoul and, more directly, the place where Catholics were dispatched in the early days (hence the name).

There is an interesting garden of trees being held up by supports.



Here is a large statue of the first Catholic priest from Korea


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The strikingly busy streets of Seoul are the main ones. Step off into the neighborhoods and things are almost silent, people are growing peppers in pots and drying them on the sidewalk, chickens walk freely in a few places I saw yesterday, (as in the picture above) and old men play some game that looks like a cross between checkers and dominoes played with round black and white stones and a grid board. I'll have to learn the name.
My colleagues at VWC will be amused to know that the head of the department here apologzied to me for the heavy teaching load- 2 courses a semester.
Koreans don't distinguish between breakfast and other meals in the day, which gives me a perfectly reasonable excuse to eat superhot kimchi for breakfast, which is a great kickstart to things, and since it is supposedly the "world's healthiest food" or one of them.

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

INSIDE JoongAng Daily:
Politics Anger up over sea line dispute


The Defense Ministry wants the Unification Ministry to stop discussing the sea border in the Yellow Sea that has stood between the two Koreas for over half a century. “In light of the upcoming inter-Korean summit, it is not desirable that the Defense Ministry and Unification Ministry should show signs of friction,” said Kim Hyung-gi, the Defense Ministry’s spokesman, yesterday. “The debate [on the sea border] should stop.” There has been tension between the two ministries ever since Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung’s recent comment that the Northern Limit Line, the border drawn at the end of the Korean War to separate the two countries in the Yellow Sea, is not considered “territory.” Lee also said the South needed to “reconsider” the reason that a 2002 sea battle was fought after a North Korean patrol boat crossed the line into South Korean waters. Sources said that Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo on Tuesday told th…

INSIDE JoongAng Daily

Sure, it saves the rest of the world from formaldedhyde poisoning, but it paints rooms with certain death to those few of us out there allergic to nuts!

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Korean researchers have developed a cheap, eco-friendly paint from cashew shells that does not use formaldehyde, a state-run chemical technology institute said yesterday. The team, led by Song Bong-geun of the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, said cashew shells and biocatalysts such as peroxidase and hydrogen peroxides were used in manufacturing the new paint. Ordinary paint is usually manufactured by mixing phenol and formaldehyde. Such substances, which have been blamed for causing cancer in humans, are also the main cause of the so-called sick house syndrome. “The new paint is not only ecologically friendly, but has excellent chemical and heat resistant qualities,” Song said, adding that the new paint protects the material it covers and dries much faster than most formaldehyde-based paint…

US Doctorates in Question(The Korea Times)

It is interesting that the negative multipliers of the the burgeoning theocratic movement in the US have an impact in Korea as well.


US Doctorates in Question(The Korea Times): "According to Rep. Yoo Ki-hong of the United New Democratic Party, 4,199 people reported their U.S. doctorates to Korea Research Foundation (KRF) between January 2003 and July 2007. However, after examining their degrees through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), 276 of them are said to have earned them from unaccredited institutes. The figure is equivalent to 6.6 percent of U.S. doctorate holders and 3.6 percent of all 7,765 foreign doctorate holders. Among the 276 people, 140 had it in Christianity-related fields. Education administration, hotel management and art sectors followed behind. Those 276 went to 23 universities. Midwest Seminary of Bible Theology had the most with 39 degree holders while Cohen University and Theological Seminary and American International University (AIU) …
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Jet lag being what it is, I was awake and aware at an unusually early hour for me (more like the time I usually go to sleep) and so set about seeing as much of the city as I could before meetings in the afternoon. I thoroughly enjoy walking in cities and this one definitely does not disappoint given its size and the amount of activity on the streets in all directions.

The motorcycles driving on the sidewalks and the optional traffic stops at red lights keep you stepping lively.

One interesting thing for me to learn is that the streets do not tend to be marked, save for the large ones. You are on your own finding out where you are. I thought maybe I was missing something, but several locals told me this was the case. According to what I have been told, people navigate by landmarks and area of the city, not the street. Even my apartment address does not correspond at all to the street it is on or the number of the building. I couldn't use a map because not one store I stopped in…
I arrived in Seoul last night and was driven to my apartment for the year by the Fulbright driver. He spoke very little English, although it was more understandable than my extremely limited Korean. The Ford van beeped incessantly and loudly whenever its speed fell below 10 MPH. This led the driver to drive as fast and continuously as possible even in slow traffic, better to avoid the beeping. When we were driving in heavy Seoul traffic, however, the beeping was constantly.

The driver patted the dashboard of this and said, with a smile, "Made in the USA!"
The most critical piece of the puzzle of getting ready to leave for Korea finally fell into place this weekend with the birth of my daughter. Now just to get her a passport (no small task!) and we'll be off for what is sure to be an especially fascinating first year of life.
About the only two things (besides family) I am going to miss not living in the United States for a year are eating Mexican food and playing old time music.

I am still holding out to see if there is Mexican food in Seoul, it is certainly possible. But trading a year of good Korean food for Mexican food seems like a good trade.

I haven't tracked down any old time musicians in Korea, but have exchanged emails with Japanese old time musicians. I hope to get over there to play some music as well as tour the country.

As you might expect, there is a lively and very talented old time scene in Japan. Once I played with a banjo player from there at the Clifftop festival in West Virginia and he was quite a great player.

Here are some Japanese old time music web sites sent to me by my contact there. I will certainly post as I find new musicians in Korea.

K-bayashi's Old-Time Music Page

The House of Fiddler

Uncle Gryphon's Old Time Music Cabin
This is a new blog documenting some aspects of a year I am spending in Korea. Welcome and come back often.

My wife hates the name, I am still considering its relative merits.

I am not actually in Korea yet, but it is easier to create this new blog than it is to pack all of the stuff in my house that needs packing before we leave...

I leave three weeks from today.