Wednesday, October 31, 2007


To answer Young Stumbler #1's question recently, YES, the book on Einstein that I am reading is written by Walter Isaacson. I am really enjoying this book, but that may not be surprising since I often like biographies and books about history. Even if you are not an Engineer, Physicist, or Mathematician, this book is very enjoyable and interesting. At least through the first half of the book, which is as far as I've read.

What really surprises me is that Mr. Isaacson has made some of Einstein's concepts very clear to me. Apparently Einstein himself wrote several books aimed at the layman to explain his theories, and just the few quotes in this book really helped me. I was exposed to these theories in Physics classes at Engineering School, but I had a difficult time grasping their meaning. I only wish our teachers had taken just a few minutes to put these discoveries in their historical context, and present some of the very simple thought experiments that Einstein himself employed to explain these things. If my crusty and stubborn 45-year-old brain can still understand the theory of relativity, imagine how much more so my 20-year-old brain could have understood it.

Speaking of the aging process, I am embarassed to show my other reading material these days. I'm not embarassed about the book, but about the reading glasses that I must wear! Somehow I ended up with this very old book from my parents home MANY years ago, and decided to start reading it. The problem is, the print is SO SMALL! With great embarassment, I found a pair of cleap reading glasses and I must use them to read this book. In my defense, I don't use reading glasses for any other reading. For some reason, this particular edition has REALLY tiny printing.


I am going to join the trend here in Korea amongst celebrities - and admit that I was posing as a graduate of a university which I didn't attend! Well, I was only an impostor for one night, and I was a pretty bad impostor, since I openly admited being an impostor. And lest anyone get worked up, I really AM a university graduate, just from a better another engineering school.

During The Stumbling Parents' visit to Korea, I mentioned that we met with KA and MA, the visiting professor and his wife. In order to tell this story, I must further reveal that KA is a professor from Mississippi State University (MSU). As luck would have it, this week they had the first ever international MSU alumni chapter meeting here in Seoul, and KA invited me to come along! [ for my Korean friends, "XXX alumni" are people who graduated from XXX university - my dictionary calls them 졸업생들 ] We had expected it would be about a dozen men getting together for an official 30 minutes or less meeting, then adjourn to a Korean BBQ restaurant. Was I in for a surprise.

I arrived at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul, which was my first time to visit this place. Wow, it was a huge hotel and really nice inside (I'm glad TSP didn't see this place, or they would have been disappointed with the Niagara Hotel). I realized this was going to be a big deal when they told us to go to a meeting room on the 36th floor of the hotel. There they had namecards for everyone (me included), and we were introduced to the MSU President and Alumni Director, both having traveled to Korea specially for this meeting! KA/MA brought WB, an American MSU graduate (not an imposter) who is teaching at a university in southern Korea, near where KA is teaching.

All of us westerners were seated together at one of the front tables while we listened to the speeches and ate dinner. I was further surprised when the speaker thanked me personally by name for attending the dinner, and then realized my name (along with the other Americans) was featured prominently in the evening's program! WB and I were thanked for "being active in Korea as the MSU alumni", and KA and MA were thanked "for being together at this place today". It was too much.

Here is KA and MA, pointing to my name in the evening's program:

Here is the MSU President giving his speech:

WB trying to put on his MSU baseball cap:

Trying to cram everyone into one big picture:

But no, there was more. After we were finally finished with speeches and dinner, the brought out presents to give to all the Americans attending the meeting! I will confess that I did admit the truth to the MSU president and alumni director - I am NOT an alumni from MSU, but rather I am a Rambling Wreck. However, I do have some connections to MSU. I have two family members who are alumni, the engineering director at my first company of 12 years was also an alumni, and my current company's president is an alumni (he's the one who introduced KA to me, since they were college friends many years ago).

Well, here is the nice gift bag I received:

Cufflink and Tie Clasp set:

Wallet and Belt set:

Here is the program cover from the evening:

And the non-Korean menu. It was delicious.

I was worried about eating duck jello. I expect my jello to be sweet. Once I got over the shock of jello tasting like meat, it was actually pretty good. The rest of the meal was first class. MA especially enjoyed it - she has been having a tough time adjusting to Korean food.

We finished up about 9pm, and my friend JI called me. Last night was his infrequent dinner out with fellow students from his English Academy. They often request that I join them so they can speak English with me, but I've only gone once or twice in the past 6 months. Since it was only a few subway stops away, along the way home, I stopped by for an hour or so and spoke English with a bunch of Koreans at a Chinese restaurant - how strange is that?

I told them my story about being an imposter at the MSU alumni meeting. These guys immediately reminded me about the recent scandals here in Korea which I mentioned at the start of this post. If the press catches me being an imposter, I will have no choice but to return these nice gifts. I don't mind returning the cuff links, since I don't have any French cuff shirts, nor the belt, since it is too small for me (or should I say my belly is too big for the belt). But I'd like to at least keep the tie clasp and the wallet... please....

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Last night I met my friend JI and one of his buddies JM for dinner. JM suggested a fusion chicken restaurant, which sounded good until I heard that they tried to eat there previously but got lost and didn't find the place. We walked quite awhile, but eventually found it. My first impression was that the place was closed. The lighting was very dim. We sat down and ordered our food, and as I looked around I realized I was eating on the set of the TV show M*A*S*H. This place was decorated to look like an army camp. I was even more surprised when they brought our beers to use in metal canteen cups:

This cup is from the standard US Army WWII canteen (maybe Korean War, too). Back in the USA, I have one of these exact same canteens in the garage!

The place is called The Flying Chicken, but I can't quite connect the name to the decor. They have a website, but even knowing a little Korean I can't figure out how the website is related to the restaurant. There are no photos of food or menus that I can see. Strange.

When I went to buy a loaf of bread today, I noticed some bagels for sale. They had blueberry ones, but I don't really like blueberries. So instead I got a sweet potato bagel! It's not exactly our American sweet potato, but a similar one famous here in Korea. I'm planning to eat it for breakfast, but I don't have cream cheese. Either I'll eat it with jelly or melt some cheddar cheese on it.

Finally let me show this interesting fried snack that came with a place of french fries the other night. I thought it was a weird onion ring, but actually it was potato. Happy Potato.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


A new restaurant opened up this week on the 1st floor of my building. It is called U9, and apparently is owned by the BHC and/or BBQ chicken restaurants (I don't understand the whole story). They serve Donkatsu (something we ate on The Stumbling Parents' visit) and Chobap. I don't understand the sushi / sashimi distinction very well, but I believe Korean Chobap is closest to sushi. It is slices of raw (or marinated or smoked?) fish served on top of small balls of rice. I had been craving this for a couple weeks now, and we never had a chance to try this during the trip. So tonight I had nothing to do so I went down to eat Chobap along with Einstein (I'm reading a super-thick biography of him). I didn't have my camera, so here's a photo I snitched from their website:

I didn't get too much read in Einstein, however. A nice old man came and sat down next to me. I recognize him as a resident in our building. He told me all about his international travels - he has family and business in Germany and USA, besides Korea. And he served in the Vietnam War in the Marines.

When I finished up, after I paid for my food, the owner gave me a box. She said it was a present. Later I figured out it was because it is a new store. When I got back home and opened it, it was a hand towel!

It was good. Next time I'll have to try the Donkatsu, although I think it is much less healthy than Chobap.


Oops - I forgot the best photo yet from TSP trip! In their hotel room, they had a luxurious bathtub, with whirlpool jets and bubble bath soap. Living in an officetel, I don't have a bathtub, and I was very jealous. Here is TSF soaking in the bubbles:

By the way, I think the second best photo from the trip was of the pumpkin duck food. Neither of these top two photos were taken by me - I need to work on my photography skills.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Trip Summary

I prepared a summary of The Stumbling Parent's trip. CLICK HERE to see it (I also added a permanent link on the blog sidebar below). I did something interesting with this summary - I added Google Earth placemarks for all the various places we visited. If you have Google Earth on your computer, you should be able to click on any of the "Location" links, and you will be "flown" to that spot automatically. Pretty cool.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Today was the last day in Korea for TSP. I went over to their hotel in the morning, and helped them packing, and also I installed Asian fonts on TSM's computer.

After getting all packed and the car loaded, we walked down the street and ate Korean fast food at the Kimbap Heaven - you could call this the Korean McDonald's. Then it was off to the Airport. Here's the bridge to Incheon:

You can see that after 10 days in Seoul, even TSM was giving the "V" sign for photos:

I asked the Korean Air clerk to please make an exception and allow my parents to use the lounge. I told her that I was a Skyteam Elite Plus member with over 1 Million Miles. My mother came to Korea for sightseeing, and broke her toe. Could they please allow them to stay in the lounge? To my surprise, the manager easily agreed to that request. But she actually seemed more worried that she couldn't offer them adjacent seats. But TSM reported back to me that once the plane took off, the seat next to her was empty, so they got to sit together afterall. And it was a bulkhead seat, with extra legroom.

Well, that's all for the trip reports. I have prepared a trip summary, which I will post about next. We had a great time, and TSM was already making a list of places to visit "next time"....

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tea Fight

Well, for the last full day in Korea, the Yongsan Electronics Market and the traditional Korean market at Namdaemun was on the agenda. My colleague CH had been busy attenting some continuing education classes the past few days, but he was able to join us for today's outing. But before we could begin sightseeing, we had to go ONCE AGAIN to Itaewon to pick up the suit and shirts that TSF and I had made. I couldn't get TSF to pose in his new suit, but here's a photo of my shirts.

After picking up the suits, TSM finally went down the street and bought a special pot she has been talking about all week. This potter seemed to be pretty talented, and she did some research about him on the internet. He is a little bit out of place, there in Itaewon. Anyway, the pot will be shipped by ocean to the USA where it will hopefully arrive in one piece.

After those preliminaries, we headed first to Yongsan for some electronics shopping. But we were too hungry to begin shopping right away, so we searched out some Donkatsu at the food court. This is a dish from Japan that is popular here in Korea. This place was interesting, because there was a bowl at the table with regular and black sesame seeds. And a stick. While you waited for your food, you were supposed to crush up the seeds to make a seasoning - think mortar and pestle. To this was added a special Donkatsu sauce, similar to our BBQ sauces in the USA. The wiki page says it is called "Japanese [thick] Worchestershire Sauce", which is a pretty good description of it.

We were always photographing TSM with her mouth open, so I had to include at least one such picture:

So, we finally hit the shopping area. TSM was really in heaven, with floor after floor of electronic gadgets. She ended up buying a Bluetooth stereo headset for her PDA phone, and an external USB hard drive for archiving her geneological data.

After draining their pocketbooks, we left the car at Yongsan and took a taxi to the Namdaemun market.

Gee, The Stumbler is not looking very happy:

So we arrived at Namdaemun, and TSP were getting tired from all our walking. We went into a coffee shop to have some tea. Just as we were sitting down, some old women at the table behind us began to argue. Really loud. Suddenly one women threw her tea on the other lady! Then the waitress got involved in the argument and was shouting too. Finally they all settled down and left. CH told us they were arguing about money, and TSF thought he meant arguing about who would pay the bill! But the fight was too loud and angry for that, so we think it was about BIG money. Anyway that was a little excitement for the day.

We made it to the market, and got a few small things. I bought TSM an Italy Towel. We saw all sorts of interesting items for sale, and LOTS of clothes.

Well, that finished up our day. Again everyone was too tired to go out to a big dinner, so we ate again at the food court. We ate a fusion fried rice place, then drove back home.

Friday, October 19, 2007

War Memorial

War Memorial. When you see this associated with Korea, you invariably think of the still unresolved Korean War. However, this War Memorial Museum is both a memorial and a museum for all the various wars Korean has been involved in, from centuries before the Korean War to more modern operations.

Before I show the museum, let me take this time to introduce GiNi. She was the expert navigation system that guided us on our various outings this week.

GiNi steered us all around Seoul to our destinations with various chirps, beeps, messages (all in Korean of course) and error bells. She was so noisy that TSPs were reminded of a Casino! Actually, TSM is planning to buy her own USA-version of GiNi. Until you've driven around the crammed and unfamiliar streets of Seoul, you can't appreciate the joy of typing in your destination in Korean text while driving down the highway at 100 KPH! For all your help keeping us on tract, Thanks GiNi!

So, we arrive at the War Memorial and it is almost lunch time. Not seeing any lunch places on the streets nearby, we drive about 4 more blocks to Itaewon to search for yet another restaurant. TSF sees it, and insists that we eat at the Subway sandwich shop! I must say, this is one restaurant chain that is COMPLETELY like the original on America. Other than adding the Korean language to the menus, I didn't see any concessions to Korean tastes that I would see in other places.

Thus, with full bellies we drove back to the War Memorial Museum. Our timing was extremely lucky. According to their website, they have a miliary band and professional rifle and drill team performance once per week. We just happened to arrive exactly at the time the performance was getting underway!

A couple of things caught my attention, for example the multiple launch arrow system, and the cannon arrow(!)

All over the Museum there were these posters of Pinocchio. We never did figure out why.

Well, after touring the Museum we headed back to The Stumbling Apartment for a little rest. Then we joined my engineer friend JI, and one of his friends from his English Academy SH, for the evening. We started off planning to eat the Belly Pork dish that we missed last Friday night. I had another restaurant recommended to me, and we went there. Unfortunately, this place was pretty small and jam packed. There was a 30 minute wait, and we were hungry. So we went around the corner to another good place, Duck-Ori, which is a Duck restaurant.

There were many many courses of various duck meat. But the best was saved for last. Here is the duck pumpkin! They brought this to the table, and it looked like a whole pumpkin. Then she cut the sides and opened it up to reveal the baked duck meat inside. This was outstanding.

TSF caught the photogenic staff in various poses:

After dinner we stopped by Trevor and MY place, Beer O'Clock for a short time.

Finally, we adjourned to sing at a Karaoke place (Noraebang in Korea). TSP have been bugging me since their arrival to go there. Everyone except TSM sang songs, and as you can see below we had a great time. I think TSF wants to open a Noraebang back in the USA.