Monday, July 30, 2007

Pizza Disk

Some years ago, I bought an external USB hard disk drive for archiving. It has worked well, but the past year or so it began making a horrible noise frequently. Usually this noise comes from the disk itself, but on closer inspection I figured out it was the fan in the power supply for the external disk drive, not the disk itself. I just kept on using it, and finally about a month ago the power supply died. We consulted with CH's computer store owner friend, who recommended we simply buy a new case online, "internet shopping" as they say here. CH ordered it on Friday, and to my surprise it arrived on Saturday morning!

Also surprising is how small the new unit is. Some of that size reduction is because this new case will only hold 3-1/2 inch disk drives, while the old one could also hold a 5-1/4 inch drive. But more amazing is how small the electronics have become. The old unit had a fairly good sized circuit board full of parts for the interface, this unit only had ONE chip to do everything! Well, I'm not complaining. And the new unit powered up just fine and now I can access all my old emails going back to 1994 from the archive.

Another interesting thing this weekend is that I decided to branch out with my telephone food ordering experiences. Previously I had only phoned in an order to the pizza shop across the street, and then only after I had visited the store often enough that they knew me. Sunday I decided to call Domino's Pizza and order a pizza all by myself. It took me three calls to get to a person. When I called, there was a recorded voice speaking to me in rapid Korean, then nothing but silence. After three calls, listening carefully to this message, I realized it was asking me to press the number "1" or "2" on my phone (although I don't know WHY). I took a chance and pressed "1", then I got a real person on the line. I told her in Korean, "Speak slowly, I am an American". She replied that she understood, but her speech was anything but slow! Maybe her normal speech is double-fast? Anyway, I ordered a pizza, and was momentarily stumped until I realized she wanted me to give her my address. I told her that in Korean, and the deed was done. I think they really have my address from Caller ID, and just wanted to check that I was not a prankster.

Well, the pizza arrived and it was delicious. I chose something called a Double Crust Steak Pizza. After eating it, I could not exactly figure out why it was called a "double crust". I went to the Domino's USA website, and it was no help. Apparently the menu, even the basic crust styles, are completely different in USA and Korea. It has been pointed out to me (and after a taste test, I agree) that in Korea the Domino's and Papa John's Pizza shops are top quality, whereas in the states we tend to lump them at the bottom of the quality barrel. I've read an interview in the newspaper with the Papa John's president here in Korea, and it sounds like they have a very strong commitment to high quality. On the down side, these pizzas tend to be the most expensive in Korea, whereas they are among the cheapest pizzas in the USA.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bump Will Remain

Today CH and I finally got around to visiting the doctor who sewed up my leg after the subway accident last November. I think I may have mentioned that I still have quite a nasty bump at the site of the injury. Well, the doctor poked around the bump with his fingers, and examining it with an ultra-sound machine. He proclaimed that the bump was simply a collection of blood and fluid. The reason I have this bump is that the outer layer of my muscle (facia?) is missing right there where I was cut. He said he could open it up and try to sew the facia back together, but in his experience there was a very good chance that it would not work well, and I would still have the bump even after a second set of stitches.

I'm not sure I'm completely happy with that answer. But it is not causing me any problems for the time being, and it is not dangerous, so I'm going to live with it for now. By the way, the total bill for the doctor's visit and the ultra-sound examination was only $20, and remember that I am paying full price because I don't have Korean health insurance. And I was in and out of there in less than 15 minutes TOTAL time - that includes waiting, the doctor's visit, the ultra-sound, and the payment. Completely amazing.

After the doctor's visit, we ate ice cold noodles, a traditional Korean summer-time dish that I'm going to learn to like this summer. It isn't the taste that bothers me, but I have mental-block about eating cold food that is, um, well, food. For some reason, my mind insists that cold food should be a beverage, something sweet, or salad. I hear that some western people immediately take a liking to this food, so maybe I'm a little bit unusual (no comments, please).

As a follow-up to the sandal scandal post, let me state that my Korean engineer friend JI told me that while it was indeed the style to wear socks with sandals in Seoul, it was only an OLD MEN's style! Thanks, JI. (If the sock fits...) Well, given my reportely permanent leg disfigurement, and my ignorance of footwear ettiquette, I believe I must now give up any ambitions I may have had for becoming a sock and sandal model!

Above is photo of my ugly legs proudly showing my subway accident "bump", and also displaying what I've now been told on two continents is the proper method for young men to wear sandals.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cracked LCD

Quick story, again praising the Samsung phone service center. Last night when I got home from dinner, I noticed that my cell phone display screen looked weird. Some of the colors were backwards, almost like a negative. I decided to reset the phone by removing and re-inserting the battery. Well, when I did that, the main screen was a complete blank and the small outside screen had two odd looking shapes. I have no idea what happened, I don't remember dropping my phone. Anyway, CH made another reservation for me at the Samsung service center this afternoon, and I went by myself to have it repaired. The man examined my phone, and told me it would require that the LCD be replaced, and would cost about $50. That may seem like a lot in the USA, but here in Korea a cell phone can cost between $500 and $800. He told me it would take 40 minutes, but in fact he was finished in only 30 minutes. I brought along a book to read while I waited, and during the wait the staff went around service iced tea to all the customers waiting for their repairs! That's definitely a little step up from cell phone service I've experienced in the USA.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Temp Wars

Every morning when I check news and blogs on my computer, I always notice the daily temperature forecast for Seoul and my hometown. It always seems to me that Seoul is cooler. I looked online today to see if there was any archive data easily available, and to my surprise it is both available and easy. I was looking for high and low temps, but only found daily mean temperature. That is fine to prove my observation. Here is a chart I quickly made in Excel showing the temperatures for this year only (the data goes back to 1995, but that made the plot too busy).

I've shown it above in both temperature scales. Except for a few days recently, Seoul seems to be consistently cooler than Huntsville.

Mogi Killer

Mosquitoes (MOGI in Korean) have been bothering me lately. I don't leave my windows open, so I have no idea how they are getting into the apartment. My only guess is they fly in through the door when we go in and out. Or maybe twice a day I will open the window for maybe 30 seconds, lean out and check the weather. If this is how they get inside, they must be always hovering right outside the door or window just waiting for a chance to come in.

When John and I first moved here we had some "Mogi Killing Machines". I still have one, but I question how well it works, especially after 2 years. There is some kind of chemical inside, and I think perhaps it has lost it's effectiveness. Here is that machine, which is battery powered:

Yesterday, I got tired of being bitten so much, and CH recommended another style of Mogi Killing Machine, which is shown below. This one plugs into the wall, so no batteries to replace. But, there is a small piece of blue cardboard that contains the "Mogi Yak", which I believe translates to "Mosquitoe Medicine". It only last about 1/2 or 1 day, which is a bummer. The verdit is still out on this device. I had it running all night, but still found three mosquitoes flying around this morning.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sandal Scandal

This photo is to show off my new sandals I got in Hawaii, and to make Young Stumbler #1 cringe. She always tells me you cannot wear socks with sandals, but that is very popular here in Seoul.

What a Waste

I tried a recipe I found last week in the Korean Herald newspaper. Summertime Watermelon Milkshake. Since watermelon is one of my favorite fruits, and I love ice cream and milkshakes, I was eager to try this. With all apologies to the author, this milkshake was a complete flop and I didn't enjoy it. It was a waste of good watermelon and ice cream. At first, the shake tasted pretty nice, but it left an aftertaste that I didn't like, and when I finished the glass I felt kind of sick from the something - could be the sweetness, I just couldn't put my finger on it. I won't publish the recipe, but if someone really wants to try it please comment and I'll send it.

Here are the indgredients:

The finished drink, after sitting in the freezer for 1 hour per the recipe instructions. It looks surprisingly like the tomato juice I made last week for the vegetable soup!

I have no photos, but also last night I failed at cooking my dinner. I thawed out some chicken meat and stir fried it with some 2-week old squash and onions. I have run out of most of the food in my kitchen, partly because the folks at the nearby store are still on strike. I ate my stir fried chicken with a bowl of rice, and it really was not good and had no taste. So last night my cooking ability was off, my taste buds were failing me, or both.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Club Zoo

For the past month, my friend JI has been trying to organize a group of us to go to his favorite "live club" at Hongdae to hear some bands perform. Finally 2 weeks ago he set the date as last night (Friday). I've been with JI and some of his friends a few times to this place over my time in Korea. Once in Feb 2006 I posted some photos in this blog entry. As usual we all had a great time, the music was great, although my ears were ringing for awhile since our seats were right by the speaker!

First, we went for dinner to a new restaurant that JI had recently discovered. It serves the usual BBQ meats, which were particularly fresh I might add. But, the main reason he chose this place was that it had a "new" style of 된장찌개, duenjang chigae, which is translated into the mouth-watering English name "Fermented Bean Paste Stew". What made this variey special was two-fold: first, the stew included the rice inside the soup, rather than being served in a separate bowl. JI told me that he immediately thought of me when he first ate this dish, because I always mix my rice into the soup. Secondly, the soup itself has a slightly different flavor than normal. I have no idea what they did to change it, but the resulting taste is really good. CH reported that he recently ate some of this stew (normal varitey, not with the rice), and it too had a new flavor. He searched carefully in the bowl, and determined that they had added some special meat to the mixture to change the taste. Anyway, whatever the reason, this new dish called 된장말이, duenjang mari, was well worth trying. I know that whenever JI invites me to dinner in Hongdae, I will certainly request this restaurant again.

Here are a few blurry, low-light photos taken with my cell phone of the three bands which performed at the club last night. Having played the electric bass in my long distant past, I'll give a few technical comments.

This first band featured a lead guitarist who played a Gibson Les Paul guitar. His skill was really good, although I wished for only one soft song so I could focus on hearing his playing and the sound of the Gibson. This band also seemed to have the longest hair of all three groups performing, and took advantage of it in their performance. I'm not sure I can describe it, but several times after shaking his head the lead guitarist looked like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family.

The next band featured a bass player who used a Fender Jazz, which was the same bass I played in High School and College. This band was overall a little better than the first band.

The final band seemed to be the best. In hindsight I think they must schedule the bands according to skill. These guys had the right combination of skill, talent, and showmanship (is that a Konglish term I've picked up?). They were really working the crowd, getting everyone involved by clapping and singing along on some songs.

We finished the night by stopping at a Hof nearby and having what is called a Soju Cocktail. Basically it is soju mixed with a fruit juice, in this place it was plum juice I believe. The side dish I chose had such a funny name. In the section of the menu which featured the Korean-style "pizzas", they had one fusion item which translated roughly to "cheese vs. potato", or maybe "mr. cheese meets mr. potato". The name was so intriguing I had to try it, and indeed it was delicious (probably not very healthy).

Let me wrap up this post with a taxi driver story. I have had some agressive taxi drivers in the past, but none of them comes close to the fellow who drove me recently. He was driving like a mad man. Whenever someone would cut him off, he would start shouting a long string of Korean words. I don't recognize Korean cussing, except maybe 1 or 2 words I have been warned not to say, but I can only imagine this guy was cussing like a sailor. He was whipping in and out, cutting off folks, yelling, honking, etc. At one point, it seemed to me he was yelling at another car for cutting in front of the line of traffic waiting at a red light, which was EXACTLY what this taxi driver himself was doing. He came to a busy intersection and decided to "avoid" the delays of the traffic and take a side street instead. I can't say the shortcut resulted in less time, but it certainly raised my anxiety level even futher as we sped down the very narrow street with people, cars, bicycles, only inches, uhm, excuse me, centimeters, away from both sides of the taxi. I was very happy when the ride was over. I hope not to have this guy again as a driver.

Edit: One last photo of the third group, a little better than the ones I took.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Only Oil?

I researched an amazing new method for using my cell phone yesterday, after receiving an alert from Mother Stumbler. If it works, I'll publish the results in a blog post. But in the meantime, I needed to order a new cell phone and number for Young Stumbler #3. Part of my crazy scheme involves swapping my current Samsung phone for the new Nokia phone she will be getting. My current phone is a slider phone, the Samsung t809, and the sliding action has become a little bit stiff. Since I am here in South Korea, the home of Samsung Electronics, I figured that this would be the easiest place to go get some oil put on the slides, instead of making YS#3 try to have the repair done in the USA. My buddy CH contacted a nearby Samsung repair center (VERY nearby, in fact) and made a reservation to go visit them at 6pm last night.

I show up, CH introduced me to the repair engineer, and then he has to leave to go home. So, I sit down with this man, and I expect him to pull out a bottle of oil or graphite lubricant. Well, to my complete shock, instead he begins dismantling my phone. And I do mean DISMANTLE! I was a little worried, in fact. Since The Stumbler himself is an electronics engineer, I am keenly aware just how fragile and sensitive these parts are. So the phone is now in many pieces, exposing only the mechanical frame itself. He does some cleaning of the sliding grooves and mechanism, some gentle carving of some kind with a knife, and begins to re-assemble the phone. It was obvious to me that this guy had done this before, but still it made me VERY nervous.

He got it re-assembled the first time, but was not satisfied with the result. So he proceeded to take it apart AGAIN for more manipulation of the slide. Finally, when he got it all back together the second time, he let me try the action. It was improved, but still not perfect. He volunteered to take it apart again and keep trying, but I politely refused. I really was afraid that something was going to break if he kept taking it apart over and over again.

I'm tempted to just put some oil on it myself, but I'm afraid I would screw up something. I will send the phone to YS#3 today, and hope it is satisfactory and will work for a couple more years before breaking completely. Well, that was an interesting experience, especially to find a room full of cell phone repair engineers just a 10 minute walk away from my apartment. I understand there are dozens of these shops around Seoul, whereas in the USA we usually have to mail in the phone for repair, which results in quite a few days of delays.

Finally, I should point out that this guy worked on my phone about 45 minutes. I waited either right with him, watching him do his work and talking in broken Korean and English, or otherwise resting in the comfortable lounge where water, tea and coffee were available for the customers, along with free computers and internet access. When he was finished, there was no charge for the repair. Remember this is an American Samsung phone, not in anyway covered by the Samsung Korea warranty centers. I was truly impressed.

Well, that's all from the homeland of Samsung Electronics.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Yesterday was the first of three Korean special summer days. If I understand it correctly, there is Chobok which markes the beginning of summer, Jungbok is the middle, and Malbok which is the last day. I'm not sure if all of these days are considered very hot days or not, but certainly summer heat is the theme on these days. Folks flok to various restaurants for special dishes, first among these are Samgyetang. I was among that flock last night, waiting for about 40 minutes to be seated at a really crowded and bustling restaurant. THe samgyetang was delicious, if a little bit hot (I burned the tip of my tongue). Just an idea of how good the service was, I had just sat down and was telling one waiter that I wanted to eat samgyetang, when another waitress arrived delivering the soup! I guess they assume everyone on chobok night wants it.

Oh - samgyetang is a chicken broth-like soup with a small hen inside. The hen is stuffed inside mostly with rice and a few odd spice "things" (one of which I was able to identify as a garlic - the others looked like they belonged in some bean family). Sorry - no photos, as this was not really a special food for me anymore, I didn't think to photograph it. Here a link to it on one of my favorite Korean food websites.

Now, there WAS a special "food" which I DID photograph last night - It was "color beer". I could chose a color, although my first choice, blue, was not available. I thought the beer would simply be colored with dye, but it was actually flavored. I got "red" beer, which tasted like a very sweet cherry snow cone! For me, this is a great way to cut down on drinking. The taste was so sweet, I could only drink one glass. The green beer was supposed to be lime or plum (couldn't quite figure out the Korean on that one), but the taste was weird. Actually, it almost didn't have a taste. It was like the lime/plum flavor neutralized all taste, even the beer taste!

Also, I recently lost my subway pre-paid card. It was a small card about 1/3 the size of a credit card which attaches to your cell phone. My string broke and I lost it. So finally last night I bought a new one, and was surprised at how small the new style was.

Brief Korean cell phone culture note – almost everyone has some kind of “accessory” dangling from their cell phones here. While this “ring” thingy may look weird to Americans, this style of “accessory” is quite common. I guess people who carry their phone in their hands all the time will have some security that they won’t drop it if they have this ring on their finger. Kind of like the idea of a wrist strap for a camera. But in my case, except for my pinky, my fat fingers won’t fit!

Finally, my last comment about the vegetable soup. Below is the photo of the blended up soup I made from a few cups of the finished soup. I poured this back into the soup as instructed, which gave it a really thick texture. For my own reference, in case I lose my notes, here are a few facts I have scribbled on the recipe

(a) you don't have to peel the tomatoes when putting them in the blender to make tomatoe juice (although I saw a few skins floating in the soup, but these were from the chunks of un-peeled tomatoes I added)

(b) 3 tomatoes made about 2 cups of liquid

(c) green beans should be steamed for 10-12 minutes

(d) corn should be steamed for 8-10 minutes. I question this, the corn seemed not quite ready after 10 minutes. But since I was going to be boiling my corn in the soup anyway, I didn't worry too much.

(e) after much head scratching about the korean instuctions, the Da-si-da soup broth powder should be used 1 spoon for 3 cups of water.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Vegetable Soup

I had a craving for vegetable soup, so today I printed a recipe from the internet and proceeded to try to make it. As I'm writing, it is simmering, which according to the recipe it should do for at least 1 hour 45 minutes. That's almost how long it took me to prepare all the vegetables! Here you can see almost all the vegetables ready to put into the soup (well, I added 2 cubed tomotoes that aren't in that photo)

Most of the above is standard vegetables, but I should explain about a couple of them. While I have seen it for sale in the park, in general I don't think corn is featured in many Korean dishes. I bough three ears of corn at the local shop, and decided to try to steam them. Since I have that huge 24cm pot from the king crab feast, I decided to give it a try. I was impressed - the corn cooked really well, although it was hard to cut off the kernels with the cob so hot. Next time I'll wait for it to cool down first. Another vegetable that I have not seen in many Korean dishes is the green bean. After I washed and cut them, and since the water was already boiling in the pot from the corn, I decided to steam the beans, too! Let me say, that was the most successful. I don't remember if I've ever eaten fresh steamed green beans before, but that is the way to go. I am not a super big fan of the green bean, but the couple of bites I stole were delicious. Of course, in hindsight, I wonder why I even bothered to cook them at all, since they will be boiling for 1 hour 45 minutes in the soup. Anyway, I'm probably 100 years behind the times, but I recommend steaming after my simple experiment. Also, if I could read the Korean instructions, my electric rice cooker can also steam vegetables without the fuss of getting out the big pot.

Next, I needed some tomatoe juice. I put 6 tomatoes in the blender, and voila! I had instant tomatoe juice. All my life I have had an "allergy" to tomatoe juice, because at some point in the long ago past I drank something called V-8 juice and hated it. I mistakenly equate V-8 juice with tomatoe juice, and just wouldn't drink either. Well, the tomatoe juice that I blended up today looked COMPLETELY different from V-8, so I tasted a little bit. It is not at all bad. I think if it were served very cold, I would even like it. But, this batch was not for drinking, it went into the soup.

Side comment - in the USA people will often debate, "is the tomatoe a fruit or vegetable?" Well, in Korea, it seems to be universally thought of as a fruit. Maybe that is why I've seen it sold frequently at juice shops? I remember sometimes Young Stumbler #1 would make fruit drinks in the blender, but I don't recall using tomatoes.

Also, I cheated a little bit. This is not entirely vegetable soup - I added some of the Australian ground beef that I have left over in my freezer. Gotta use that up. And I have seen "vegetable" soup served in a restaurant before that had beef or ground beef included. Speaking of beef, as of Friday I believe USA beef went on sale at some of the local stores again here in Korea. I'll keep an eye out for it next time I need some, but for now I'm well stocked.

There it is above as it begins to boil. The recipe had one unusual step in the cooking process. After 45 minutes of boiling, I'm supposed to take a few cups of the soup, put it in the blender and mix it up, then pour that back into the soup and let the whole thing boil another hour. Sounds fun, I like the blender.

I have no idea how this will taste. All the time I was cooking, I kept thinking over and over again... "I have no idea what I'm doing", but that didn't stop me. Taste report next post.

Edit: The soup turned out wonderful. I want to give credit to an interesting website on which I randomly found this recipe. I made a joke a few posts ago about whether cook books were obsolete or not - well, this website is quite a move in that direction. You search for a recipe, and when you like it you can save it in you personal virtual cookbook. The site is called the Cooking Cache and the recipe I followed is called Basic Vegetable Soup. I even wrote a "review" of the recipe. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


Alternate Title: The Stumbler Brings His Chopsticks to Biology Lab

I've been wanted to try some more sushi-style seafood besides tuna, which is very popular here. There is a chain restaurant that specializes in only tuna sushi, but I wanted to branch out. Also, in preparing a list of candidate sightseeing locations for the Stumbling Parents' trip this Fall, I realized that after all this time in Korea I have never visited the famous Noryangjin Fish Market, which surprisingly is pretty close to where I live.

I had a short outing there yesterday, and brought home some seafood to eat. Alas, I forgot to bring my camera to the market. But fortunately, I discovered an excellent article from another Blogger, the FatMan Seoul. He appears to have quit blogging, but his articles are still around. You can see great photos of the fish market here.

While the purpose of my trip was to buy a crab to eat, I ended up bringing back shrimp and various strange see creatures as well. Next time, perhaps with the Stumbling Parents, I'll have to try out the on-site "restaurants" that cook your purchase for you.

Here's the crab being rinsed off prior to boiling. By the way, this was a King Crab, which according to FatMan's article comes from Russia. This was my first time preparing a live crab, so it was a little freaky cutting off the legs of a wiggling critter. But, I guess it is no different from when I fillet fresh fish.

Here is an annotated photograph of the various "other" seafoods, before and after preparation for eating. I did my best to translate the Korean names into English. Some of these might sound more familiar to my American friends as subjects of study back in high school Biology class, not from the local restaurant menu.

Now here are the more normal foods. This is the crab and shrimp (which are probably well hidden under the crab). You can see it was a tight fit for Mr. Crab. My biggest pot is only 24cm diameter, but the crab was much larger. That is why I had to cut off most of the legs to make him fit in the pot.

Here are the cooked shrimp. These little guys were HUGE, and they were not even the largest shrimps available at the market. No, I don't eat Tootsie Roll Pops with my shrimp, I just put that on the plate as a size reference.

Next time, if I can pass up the crabs and shrimps, I really wanted to try some of the many fishes. Although I have in mind a fried fish fillet, not sushi. I'm sure one of those restaurants will oblige me.

Edit: Reviewing the annotated photos, I may have a mistake. I'll have to do more research - I'm sure of the names of the critters, but I may have two of them swapped in one of the photos.

Edit#2: Correction Made. I had two of the seafoods in the bowl under running water swapped around. The annotations are now correct.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tree Hospital

I was taking a short walk this morning, and saw the strangest sight. In the park area of the new Hyperion II apartment complex, I noticed something out of place. On close inspection, two of the trees had IV bottles feeding them some kind of tree medicine! Actually, someone had pulled the IV line out of one of the trees, probably a case of arboricide I think.

Here's a close up that's a little more clear:

Lately, I've been disappointed in my cell phone camera, despite the fact that it has 3.2 Megapixel resolution. In all fairness, I think it takes pretty decent photos in good light. Only in low light situations does the quality drop off. Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems that the low-light quality drops off a LOT faster for my cell phone camera than my normal digital camera. Part of that reason is the flash, but the cell phone camera also has some kind of "flash" system (it seems more like a light than a flash). But my uneducated opinion is that the fundamental reason is size - there is only so much light you can gather with the very small lens system in a cell phone compared to a larger camera.

Friday, July 06, 2007

O'Beer O'Clock

Finally remembered to take a photograph of Trevor at his new bar in Mokdong, Beer O'Clock, or as I jokingly call it "O'Beer O'Clock". About 2-1/2 years ago, when my colleague John and I moved here to Seoul, we ran across Trevor and a couple of his friends one night at the corner 7-11 store. They were at a table outside the 7-11 drinking beer, and this was our first time in Korea to see what we jokingly called the "7-11 bar". Since then I've noticed that this is a common thing, especially when the weather is nice. Trevor hails from Canada, but we won't hold that against him. Since that time John and I sat down at the 7-11 bar with Trevor, he has quit his teaching job, married a very nice lady MY and bought a bar that is popular with the foreign population here. You might think that is only Canadians and Americans, but surprisingly I've met folks from all over in just a few trips to his bar. One night alone, we met guests from Korea, America, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa! Quite the international watering hole.

As you can see from his website, he reportedly makes a mean sandwich on Ciabatta bread, although everytime we've eaten any food there it has always been a spicy chicken dish from the restaurant upstairs. The name translates as "Fire Chicken with Cheese". It's so delicious and I don't know any other place to buy it. But next time I'll have to try this signature sandwich.

As I was downloading the photo of Trevor and MY from my cell phone, I ran into this photo from a few weeks ago. I saw this spray bottle at the local mart:

The name of this product translated to English is "CHRIS COATING". Since The Stumbler's name is CHRIS, I was a little surprised. Why do I need coating? All joking aside, I still don't quite know what this product is for. It was in the automotive section, but I don't know why a coating product would be identified as "CHRIS" coating.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

No Wax Fourth

Since Wednesday was the 4th of July, a distinctly American holiday not celebrated in Korea, I decided to bring a little bit of the 4th to Seoul. I began by shopping at Costco this week, stocking up on hot dogs (actually Brats - thanks to The Stumbling brother-in-law for introducing them to me), hamburger (Australian), cheese, buns, watermelon, etc. On Tuesday night I downloaded a recipe from the internet on how to cook potato salad (are cookbooks obsolete?). Then I peeled, cut and cooked my potatoes and eggs, putting them in the refrigerator overnight (the recipe said the potatoes needed to be cold). So CH and I had our own very small 4th lunch party. Of course, I cooked too much food, so I'll be having leftovers for a few more days.

When shopping, I saw a small cheap charcoal grill, and was tempted to get it. However, two problems - I didn't see any charcoal for sale, and also I don't know where I could set up a grill since I live in an apartment. Maybe I could go down to the sidewalk or park and cook, but I think that would draw a lot of attention. So, the meats were cooked in the skillet. Also, I added minced garlic to the hamburger meat before cooking. That came out really good - I've heard of doing that before in the USA, so I can't claim that as my own idea.

Since I was shopping at Costco, the meat packages were pretty large, and I need to freeze some of the extra. Which brings me to the final part of the story - the lack of wax paper here in Korea. I asked many people about it, and went to two large stores, and just couldn't find any. At the last store, in broken Korean I explained to the two clerks trying to help me "you put wax paper between the hamburger patties or chicken breasts before you put them in the freezer". Once I established that they didn't have a clue what wax paper was, I told them "okay, I give up. We use wax paper in the USA for this purpose, what do you use in Korea"? They told me that they either use plastic wrap or foil. Well, I remember from my childhood (one of my jobs often was making and freezing hamburger patties) that plastic wrap will stick to the creases in the hamburger patty. But, I thought foil would not have that problem. As I was just beginning to pack up my extra meats for freezing, I realized that foil would be a bad idea. If you need a little help separating the meats, you can't put it in the microwave oven if foil is used as a separating layer. So, for now I just gave up and used ordinary printer paper, which is probably full of bad chemicals. I guess I'll keep on my search for wax paper in Korea.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hair Loss

No No, the Stumbler is not going bald. Rather, Young Stumbler #4 recently removed her long locks of hair...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Live Cafe

I visited a place recently that is known for what is called "Live Cafes". I can't think of a single word or phrase to describe this in English. The one I visited was like a large restaurant with all the tables arranged to have a good view of the stage, where singers performed. My impression is that these places are where the older singers perform. I wanted to say "past their prime", but I don't think that would be fair. The singers I saw, and others that I hear about who play at these locales, are still excellent singers. This place is called Mi-Sa-Ri, and I think there were at least a dozen or more of these Live Cafes along the main street. Who knows how many more smaller ones there might me. The first act was a group whose name translates to "Treble Clef". The main singer was quite the performer. His manner and moves were so funny. If I had seen him on a silent film, I would have thought "this guy is only an actor, surely he can't sing", but in fact, he has an amazing voice. I really enjoyed that group, and while they performed some slow ballad songs very well, they excelled at the up-tempo songs.

The "main" act of the evening was 민혜경, or Min Hae Kyung. At first, she came onto the stage and sang two slow ballad songs. Her expression was a little odd, to me it looked like she was very tired. But, far from it. Suddenly the remaining songs showed that she was very full of energy, and was surprisingly fit and active for a singer who is probably a little older than the Stumbler. Her voice was very good, and I really enjoyed her performance. I think after seeing her for the whole show, I conclude that she naturally has a pretty serious expression on her face, and that is why I thought she was tired at the beginning of the show. A great singer with a lot of spunk still in her.


I suffered through another 10 days in Hawaii. I say suffer because this time was particularly hard on my sleep schedule. Sometimes my working schedule in Hawaii may be terrible for the locals, but works great for me having come from Korea. Well, this time that was not the case. I think this was the worst possible schedule as far as my jet lag went. I had envisioned lots of free time working on my Korean language studies and doing some odd work-related projects, but instead I spent most of my free time sleeping or feeling very groggy.

Here are the obligatory palm tree and food photos. The side dish with the Salmon steak is something I learned here in Korea, 야채볶음, literally "fried vegetables", but I would describe it roughly as stir-fried vegetables.

Here I am arriving at Incheon Internation Airport in Seoul

Paju Star

I took a short excursion to the Paju English Language Village on the weekend (can't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday). I heard this place is a pretend city where only English is spoken.

Indeed this is a re-construction of an American (or I should say Western) town. At first it seems to be kind of like a small amusement park, but quickly that notion is dispelled. Actually it is a working English language teaching venue. From what I could observe in the short 1-1/2 hours I was there, they have both day tours of student groups and also longer-term groups (I saw some student dormitories). They must offer English language “camps”. It all seems targeted to the elementary or middle-school students, and as a result it was not to interesting for adults. Basically all I did was walk around a short time, eat an over-priced lunch at an “English Pub”, and then leave. Although it was a little heavy on my stomach all afternoon, I must say that I haven’t enjoyed fish 'n chips with malt vinegar in a long time.

Now the wild part…. Apparently these kids have an “assignment” to accost every westerner they see and ask for autographs and photos! I could hardly walk 1 block without kids running up to me and shouting “hey mister, sign please”, or “can I take a photograph with you?” It was mildly amusing the first time, but after 10 or more times, it got downright annoying. You hate to be rude to these young eager kids, but I couldn’t stay all day and sign autographs either. The last time I was stopped, I took three photos with some of the kids, then I was thankfully rescued when another westerner walked by. Suddenly the group of kids took off after this poor guy, shouting to him “hey cheeseburger, can you sign please?” As I was walking away, I heard him protest "why are you calling me a cheeseburger?" I just chuckled and kept on going.

Since the purpose of the village is to teach English by total immersion I suppose, recently here on the news there was some scandal involving this place. Apparently sometimes the workers in the English village would (gasp) speak Korean to the visitors! I must say that I heard this happen a few times, but for the most part the workers I saw only used English.