Monday, June 30, 2008

Andre Kim

On my recent trip to the USA, I was re-directed at Incheon Airport from the Business Class lounge to the First Class lounge. Apparently the Business Class lounge was overcrowded. I was relaxing in the lounge, when I decided to go visit the toilet. Well, both toilet stall doors were locked, but one fellow was unsuccessfully either trying to lock or unlock his door - there was a lot of rattling of the latch. I just waited for a minute, in case he was on his way out. Suddenly, the door opened up and there I was face-to-face with Andre Kim.

Actually, Andre Kim is a famous Korean (fashion designer) that I had heard of long before I ever came to Korea. His style / appearance is, um, unique and unmistakeable. At first I thought I was looking at an astronaut! Anyway, later in the lounge I saw him departing, and noticed that he doesn't carry his own luggage, either. He has an assistant carry it for him. But then again, if I live to be 73 years old, maybe I'll NEED an assistant to carry my bags.

Now I can claim that I've used the same toilet bowl as a world-reknown fashion designer...

(photo shamelessly stolen from YeinJee's Asian Journal)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hammer Food

A new restaurant "stall" opened up in the food court downstairs in our office building. It sells Chinese-style food. They had an item on display in the glass case where you choose your meal, identified as "Hammer Food". Actually, instead of the word "Food", they used the Korean word Tang-soo-yook, which is basically sweet and sour pork with vegetables. I was curious why it was called Hammer food, and CH couldn't understand, either.

Now, being from the USA, I can use a knife, fork and spoon. Having travelled around Asia and having lived in Seoul, I can also use wooden, plastic and stainless steel chopsticks. I have even tried eating Indian food with my hands in Singapore. But I have NEVER eaten with a hammer!

Turns out there was a fried tortilla "cone" covering the dish, and you are supposed to crack it open with the wooden hammer. Interesting gimmick. But it was delicious. And now I can add hammer to my eating utensil repetoire.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Kitty Kountries

I have now accumulated 26 different countries in my Hello Kitty "country national flowers" collection. According to Wikipedia, there can be up to 193 different countries in the world, depending on your definition of "country". But should I get all those magnets, I'll need a few more refrigerators!

My count of 26 doesn't include the 35 or so duplicates. When I buy my diet cokes in the morning, the man at the store has taken to giving me a big fat handful of the magnets at one time. Today I hit the jackpot, getting 5 new countries and only 1 duplicate!


I happened to be taking out some trash early Wednesday morning, which is the next day after Recycling Day on Tuesday. I was surprised to see just how much recycled material was bundled up ready to be carried off:

Friday, June 13, 2008

Questions, Questions

I saw something that one of my cousins would be interested in, and I was trying to search for it on the internet. I found it, but I needed to register on a Korean website. I went through this long process, only at the very end to be told that I had previously registered and didn't need to do it again. Well, this morning I visited an American website, and was suddenly prompted that my profile needed to be updated - they needed answers to some "security questions", or else I would be denied access to their site in the future. How are these incidents related? Well, in each case there was a long list of questions from which to choose, and you were requested to provide an answer.

American-based Web Security Questions:

  • What is the name of the first school you attended?
  • What is your paternal grandmother’s given name?
  • What is your father’s middle name?
  • What was your favorite place to visit as a child?
  • What is the name of your first pet?
  • Where did you meet your spouse / partner?
  • What is the phone number you remember most from your childhood?
  • What is the name of your childhood best friend?

  • Korean-based Web Security Questions:

  • What is your place of birth?
  • What is my motto?
  • What is my number 1 treasure?
  • What is the name of my most memorable teacher?
  • What is a secret about my body that no one else knows?
  • What is a date I want to remember for a long time?
  • What is a memorable gift I have received?
  • What is the name of my most memorable friend?
  • What is the name of the book that left a deep impression on me?
  • What is a phrase I like from a book I have read?
  • Who do I look up to?
  • What would I be if I were born again?
  • What is my favorite cartoon character?
  • What was my dream during elementary school?
  • Who is number 3 on my cell phone?
  • Where did I go to elementary school?
  • What is the name of my pet?
  • What is my favorite Karaoke song?
  • What movie left a deep impression on me?
  • What is my favorite sports team?

  • What struck me was the difference in the questions between the Korean and the American website. To be fair, there were a few identical questions, such as "what is the name of your first pet" or "what is the name of your first school"? But most of the questions were SO different, I'm sure it says something about the difference between the two cultures. But being an engineer and not a social scientist, WHAT it says about the culture differences I have no idea.

    However, having been in Korea so long, I guess I need to make a personal motto and try to remember my elementary school dreams, just in case I need to register again on a Korean website. As for the item I was searching for my cousin, I'm still waiting on a reply, don't know if I will be able to get it or not.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Costco Shopping

    Finally made it to Costco this evening. And I can confirm that weekday shopping is by far the best way to go.

    First, I found a pizza small enough to fit in my tiny oven. It is thin crust, and I mean super thin crust:

    I cut up some of this Italian sandwich meat and added to the pizza before baking. I thought this looked similar to pepperoni, and it worked out well.

    I break up the large package into two, and freeze one. There are three meats in the pack, and I can only identify the Salami. It was the meat in the upper-left of this photo that I cut up and put on the pizza - it must be either Calabrese or Capocollo.

    This was my first time to bake a pizza in the oven. I tried to pre-heat it as instructed on the package. Problem was, the display on the oven didn't show me the current temperature, only the set temperature. I just let it heat for about 15 minutes, then put the pizza in. The box said cook it 10-15 minutes, and I set the timer for 12. It was almost burned when I checked it at 11 minutes! I forgot that the convection oven cooks quicker than a regular oven. Fortunately, it was not ruined, and it came out pretty good for my first time.

    The standard hamburgers and hot dogs. I'll freeze all the hamburger tomorrow. The hot dogs were new - they used to sell a brand of Brats in this same size package. Besides these ones called Polish Sausage, they also had one called Cheese Dogs. I like cheese, but I'm suspicious about cheese that the factory puts in the hot dogs. If I really want cheese in my hot dog, I'll put it there myself.

    I considered getting a steak, but the cuts that looked like good grilling steaks (well marbled cuts) were packaged at about $50/tray. The price per pound was probably reasonable for Korea, it was just sold in a tray of 7 or 8 steaks - far more than I need. If (and that's a big IF) they resume American beef imports, maybe I can find a decently priced steak.

    Not shown here are the two large frozen bags of healthy meats, that is Salmon Steaks and Chicken Breasts.

    The other interesting purchase was "organic" peanut butter. I wasn't so much interested in an organic product, but instead I wanted something reasonably sized, and creamy style instead of crunchy. When I got home, I realized that organic peanut butter separates from the natural peanut oil in shipment. I tried to stir it back up, but it was too stiff to stir without making a mess. Finally I put it into the blender, and managed to mix it that way. Problem is, it made a big mess, and I lost a lot of peanut butter to the sides of the blender. When I was all done, the resulting peanut butter was WAY to soft and runny. I'm not very satisfied so far, and unfortunately it was a double-jar pack of peanut butter!

    Latch That Window

    After my recent visit to the USA, I returned to this scene in my apartment:

    Turns out I had shut the window, but not latched it closed. They had some strong winds while I was away, combined with the "yellow storms" and plain old rain. You can see the line of dust left by the yellow wind. Not visible are the small warped bumps on my sofa arm (it is wooden and contains a small drawer). That'll teach me.

    While I am not a good housekeeper, and don't dust and vacuum often enough, I can assure you that this dust photo is indeed yellow wind from China, and NOT the result of my poor cleaning.

    Thursday, June 05, 2008

    Hello Kitty Condom?

    It was pouring down rain this morning, and I forgot my umbrells. After getting out of the taxi, I ran into a 7-11 in my office's building. I don't usually visit this place, but I could get there without getting wetter (see below grammar note). I shook the rain off my eyeglasses and computer bag, and headed for the soda cooler. As I was paying for my Diet Cokes (excuse me, Coke Lights), the lady handed me what I thought was a CONDOM with my change! I asked the two clerks in my broken Korean, "What is this thing?" They both kept saying "Hello Kitty". Incredulous, I asked them "This is a Hello Kitty CONDOM?"

    They broke down laughing, and finally I realized it was one of these "discs" that you are supposed to collect, one from each country! Had I not read about this collection mania on another ex-pat's blog [scroll down to "I Have A Hello Kitty Addiction" and read up from there], I would still be wondering what on earth this thing was. As it stands, I now have a collection of 1 from Taiwan:

    GRAMMAR NOTE: speaking of "wetter", I learned some grammar the otherday while taking a shower with my new Shower Radio. They were playing one of these "Let's Learn English" program, and were talking about Comparatives and Superlatives. I learned that when the word has one syllable, say WET, the comparative uses the -ER suffix, for example, WETTER. But if the word has multiple syllables, say INTELLIGENT, then the comparative is made with the words MORE or LESS, for example MORE INTELLIGENT. Wikipedia says to "use MORE or LESS with polysyllabic words borrowed from foreign languages". I'm not sure about that foreign language part, but I don't trust Wikipedia 100% anyway. I knew this intuitively, but I didn't know there was an actual rule for it! Now I know why many Korean friends can't answer my detailed Korean language grammar questions!