Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Violent Dentist

I had to take a photo of this new dentist's office moving into our building complex. I saw an advertisement for this place the other day, and couldn't believe the name "Violent Dentist"! Yesterday they hung this huge banner advertising the new office, so I had to take a photo. The banner shows us that the owner's intention was to spell the English word "BILANT". I don't know if that is someone's family name, or perhaps it is a dental procedure? Anyway, when you spell it in Korean, it sure looks like VIOLENT. I wonder if (s)he'll get much business?

EDIT: One Korean friend suggested that "BILANT" might be an abbreviation for BICON IMPLANT, something I've never heard of.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Good Bye McD's

One of the few reasons I occassionally visit McDonald's in the USA is their breakfast menu. I really like their Sausage Egg McMuffin. Similarly, that is one of the only times I will visit McD's here in Seoul. I thought it was a good thing that there was a branch right in the subway station I use every morning. In order to keep the unhealthy food at a minimum, I limited myself to stopping there once a week. Twice now I've eaten the Korean version of the Sausage Egg McMuffin, and it is no good. It doesn't taste bad, it just doesn't taste at all. There is no flavor. If I had to guess, the sausage patty they use is different, surprisingly it must have less spices that in America.

Anyway, last week I noticed this small shop across the street from the station, where this lady was making egg and toast sandwiches. I stopped there this morning. The taste wasn't bad, and while different than an American Egg McMuffin, at least it HAD a taste. The eggs were scrambled and mixed with vegetables. She put a slice of ham and cheese on it, and served it folded in half stuffed in a paper cup! I got that and a small box of milk for about $2.50, whereas the sandwich alone at McD's was about $3.00 I believe.

The front "door" was intentionally low like that because it was freezing and windy outside. This lady proceeded to tell me how she had been on a vacation in America. When I asked what city, she started rattling off a list of at least a dozen or more cities, all spread out around the country (from LA to NY to Atlanta, plus many more). I asked if this was in one single vacation, and turns out it was. But it was a 1 month long vacation/ tour.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Chicken Enchilada

I made some Chicken Enchilada Casserole in my new oven tonight. It worked out pretty well. CH was here in the early evening as the blind man installed the roll screens. He helped teach me how to defrost in this new oven. The casserole turned out pretty good. I added a new garnish this time, cut up some fresh tomatoes and put on the top.

I bought some green grapes at the store this weekend for snacking on:

Answer me this, Batman... when the tap water is not safe to drink, should you rinse off the grapes in the sink? Or eat them straight from the store? (I won't tell my answer, lest I confess to a sanitary faux pas...)

Light Snow Day

A nice snow fell today, and I hope it will continue falling all night long. Here are some photos from the office window:

Patriotic Recycling

The new apartment doesn't have anyplace to keep the recycling, so I got this amazing rack for recycling bags. Notice the patriotic (well, for America at least) color scheme:

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Stroll

I woke up this morning and decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. First, here is the mandantory statue associated with my new home. On closer inspection, this statue appears to be a fountain, but it looks unused.

As I continued to walk, I stumbled onto the building that we almost chose for the office. The office space was on the very top floor of this building, and had a spectacular view, surrounded by a large patio. The one problem, this building is otherwise entirely occupied by a kindergarten, the Rhino school:

I found myself heading towards Costco, and encountered this unusual Tea Shop building:

I made it to Costco, got a few small things like cheese and milk, and headed back home by taxi.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

View of the Office

A couple photos of our new office building.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Celcius or Centigrade?

I had a chance to use my new fancy combination microwave / oven this week as a real oven. Sunday night I went to the pizza restaurant, and brought back some pizza to eat the next night. I decided to heat it up in the oven. I thought, hmmm, let's reheat this at 350 degress. I began playing with the oven controls, and saw I was able to set the temperature with the knob, but it wouldn't go any higher than 230 degrees! Ah ha! This is in Celcius, not Fahrenheit. I got out my calculator, and decided to use 175 deg C. Clearly baking in the oven will require a temperature conversion chart, similar to the one I had for the weather.

Therefore, as a public service, I am posting my ever-handy temperature conversion nomograms today in this post. The general weather one is posted on my fridge, and the oven chart is posted on the top of the oven.

The reason for the break in the scale is that the oven jumps from 40 to 100 degress, then from 100 to 230 it is settable in 5 degree increments. I'm not sure what 40 degrees is for, maybe just warming bread?

BTW, is it Centigrade or Celcius? When I was in school we used Centigrade, but everyone uses Celcius these days.

Nut Eating Day

Yesterday was Nut Eating Day here in Korea. As the name implies, you were supposed to eat nuts. I had this fact forced on me when I stopped at shop in the food court that sells Pizza, Coffee, and Soft Serve Ice Cream (what a combination). I ordered an ice cream cone, and while I was waiting I noticed they had the little plastic coffee stirring sticks. I've been looking for these, and couldn't find them anywhere. I asked the ladies behind the counter where they bought them. They asked why I needed them, and I explained for my office. Suddenly one lady began climbing up a ladder to some storage shelves, and the other lady got out a thick binder full of documents and began searching. Well, turns out they were going to sell me one package of these sticks, because they have so many. One lady was getting a package from storage, and the other lady was looking up the price in her book of receipts.
I now have enough stirring sticks to last me a decade or more:

As I was paying for this, I noticed a large basket on the counter containing individual bags of peanuts in the shell. Each bag had a walnut, too. The ladies starting saying something to me in Korean which I couldn't understand. It seemed that they were insisting that I buy some nuts. I kept saying that I didn't want any nuts, and finally they opened one of the bags and gave me a big handful of nuts at no charge. Later in the day, CH was munching on the peanuts, and explained to me that it was Nut Eating Day. Apparently it is the first full moon in January of the lunar calendar. Later I asked one of my friends about "Nut Eating Day", which was misunderstood as "Not Eating Day".... Do I need a diet?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I have never taken the bus by myself in Korea, unless you count the airport limousine "bus". I've noticed a few buses at a stop next to my apartment, and they seemed to be going to the subway station which is about a 12 minute walk. That's not too bad in fair weather, but in the freezing cold it's a long way. Also, I recently discovered an english-language website for the Seoul Bus System. Between observations and studying this website, I determined I could ride the bus to the train station and transfer for no additional cost. I can now report, it actually works. The transfer is handled seemlessly, mainly because I have a special T-Money widget on my handphone (sorry, that's cell phone for my American friends). I remember in college in Atlanta, when you transferred from the bus to the subway you had to take a slip of paper from the driver... here it is all done electronically. (It probably is eletronic in Atlanta, too, these days).

Today at lunch I had an interesting experience. I was eating alone in the food court of my office building, and a lady and man came up to me. The lady spoke to me in English, and said that the man wanted to meet with me when I had finished my lunch, and that she would translate for us. He was the developer of our building, and wanted to talk to me about his development and his dreams. Hmmm, okay. When I finished eating, I met them at the nearby coffee shop. He is indeed the developer of not only our office building, but the entire complex of buildings surrounding the station. His dream is to have a place where Koreans and Foreigners live and work together. Apparently I am the first foreigner to live or work here, so he was eager to talk to me. We had a nice conversation, then they took me on a tour of the 5th floor public outdoor garden. Even though it is only one floor below our office, we had no idea there was a full garden and park out there - there is even a carpet golf course! Next, it seems the lady is the owner of a health club which occupies the 4th and 5th floors of the building, and we took a tour of the facilities. It was a pleasant experience. So how did they know that I was a foreigner working at the building, and hadn't just wandered off the street to eat lunch? you might ask... because I was wearing my office slippers to lunch, that's why....

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Drawers Finally

The new home has a couple of built-in closets, but no drawers. In my bedroom, there is only one small closet. When we were apartment shopping, this place seemed to have a small kitchen table. However, in hindsight it appears this belonged to the previous owner. I didn't fully appreciate this until moving in, so early this week we ordered a closet and kitchen table.

Hopefully this is the last furniture delivery, unless you count window shades as furniture. They should be installed next week I hope. At first, I was really bothered by everyone being able to see me. But after being here one week, I just don't care anymore. But there is another reason for the blinds, and that is the sun. My window looks to the west, and gets a VERY strong afternoon sun. It's so strong I can't see the TV or computer screen from say 2pm until 5pm.

I've already initiated the table this morning, by eating some Korean Ramen Noodles (see photo below, which I shamelessly stole from Dave's House O' Ramen website, where he reviews several different brands of Ramen. This photo might be of Shin Ramen made in America, not the actual package I ate this morning). Now I'm off to hang up my clothes and fill my drawers....

Saturday, February 16, 2008

No Dirty Cups For Me

Bought some disposable paper cups this week. Apparently there is a standard size for paper cups in Korea, and you can mix and match cup brands and dispenser brands. We chose to buy the "Clean Paper Cup" brand from Homever (as opposed to the "Dirty Paper Cup" brand):

Here are the cups in the special one-handed dispenser, magnetically mounted to the side of the microwave oven:

You press the yellow button, and a cup drops into the holder below, from where you slide it out. At first, we thought it was going to drop on the floor, but it is a clever design and can be operated with only one hand.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Just returned Sunday night from a whirlwind trip to the USA. I am proud that I did not take a nap at all during the return, which usually happens and results in completely messed up sleep times. Instead I made it until about 9pm each night, and woke up around 4am or so each morning. I had a great time, and was insanely busy with appointments and work.

Here are some photos of the new office. It still has not been organized well, but it is starting to look like a real office instead of piles of boxes (well, there is one box you can see in the photo).

In this first photo above, you are looking into the office from the door. The large windows on the opposite wall look roughly northeast, directly at a large building under construction. But when you are standing at the window, you can see other things and the view is nice. On the left side of the photo is the electronics lab bench, where most of the engineering work is done. That is the most disorganized part of the office at this time. Yesterday I hooked up the electricity to the lab bench, and also installed grounding wires to the mat. In the process I discovered a bad multi-tap outlet. This outlet put about 100 volts onto the ground wire for some reason. Discovering that fact was quite a shocking experience! I've thrown that outlet away - don't want anyone else to get shocked by it.

Further down on the left, past the lab bench, is my desk (you can't see it well because of the stereo microscope on the lab bench is blocking the view). You can also see our small conference table by the window. On the right are cabinets and shelves, holding our various projects, samples, parts, all the kinds of items found in engineering office.

In this photo, you are looking back towards the entrance. The desk in the corner is for CH, and there is one empty desk for future growth. You can see my coat hanging on the cabinet door - I haven't bought a coat rack yet. I hope to find one that I can screw into the wall. I have a free-standing coat rack at the apartment, and I've never been quite happy with that style. It seems always ready to tip over... maybe my coats are just too heavy.

Finally, here is what it was all supposed to look like, when I was in the planning stage. Most of the items shown are here. We still don't have a water cooler (well, the ones here in Korea are both water coolers and heaters). We also have one shelf missing, which will be delivered today. That should pretty much fill up the place for now. More storage and/or people could be added, but the layout would be more complicated. As it is, this place is really simple, just a long rectangular room with no walls or rooms.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Lazy Lazy

Despite great plans of organizing everthing today, I was simply tired and lazy all day. I slept poorly my first night here. The past three days I have been breathing a lot of dust, and that finally started to bother me last night. Also, I kept waking up with a very dry mouth. I've since found the humidifier, so hopefully tonight will be better.

I did manage two important tasks today, I washed my clothes and towels, and assembled the drying rack (featured in yesterday's photo). Just as CH predicted, I had it assembled halfway, when I realized I made a mistake and had to take it apart and start over!

I had planned to have my suitcase all packed by now for my short trip to the USA, but all the clothes aren't dry yet. I guess I'll pack tomorrow. I'm starting to worry, however, that tomorrow will be so busy, my attendance at the Monday night Super Bowl Party might be at risk.

Here is the view from my new window, looking back towards my old neighborhood.

One diet point - the convenience store at this new building doesn't sell Diet Cokes. I was about to ask for them to order some, when I decided to give them up and drink only green tea. We'll see how long this lasts...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Moving Day

Well, it happened. The big move went down today. Both home and office items were moved to two new locations - you guessed it - new home and office. It was everything I expected; it was nothing at all like I expected. The movers showed up at exactly 8am as expected. And they went RIGHT to it. Things were flying out of the rooms faster than I could imagine. While 95% of the items were clearly separated (home / office) by what rooms they were in, there were a few exceptions. We managed the best we could. There were three guys and one lady. The lady did all the kitchen items, and the guys handled everything else. Amazingly, we were packed and out of there in 3 hours by 11am!

Goodbye Room 1211....

After packing up, we first went to the office, and unloaded everthing. It was amazing, they completly unpacked and stored all the items in 30 minutes. Here's a shot of the office as we found it this morning, before moving things in. We only had some electronic items and parts that we moved Thursday, and some new shelves and cabinets that were delivered Friday. I'll try to post more complete photos on Monday.

Here are some photos of the new home. Again, the unpacking went surprisingly fast. Also carefully orchestrated were the deliveries of the refrigerator, the oven, the TV table, and the telephone / internet installation. By 4:30pm the movers were done (and that included a very thorough scrubbing of the bathrooms and kitchen, along with vacuuming and wet-mopping the floors).

Here's a photo of the intended entertainment center. Problem is that I have too much A/V equipment. It simply wouldn't fit in the space provided. With this alternate furniture arrangment, I have the ability to look out the window and enjoy the view at the same time that I watch TV (but I can't see the TV from the treadmill). Also I can watch TV from the kitchen while cooking or eating.

In this shot you can see the small kitchen, the space for the yet-to-be-purchased kitchen table, and also the clothes drying rack I had to buy today (see the blue box - it isn't assembled yet). I need to wash some clothes tomorrow, I hope I can figure out the buttons. The new washing machine is the same brand, but the buttons and knobs are in completely different locations.

Well, I'm beat. Going to take a shower in my new bathroom, which should be an experience. One bathroom in the front hall has an ordinary shower, but the one in my bedroom is strange. Basically the whole small bathroom becomes a shower. Then I'll go eat a sandwich and crash. I need some rest.