Saturday, January 24, 2009

Road Warrior

I've been meaning to post the various gadgets that The Stumbling Engineer takes with him on travel as a Road Warrior.

From left to right, let me introduce each item and briefly discuss the merits and demerits of each.

First you will see my USA cell phone. It is a Samsung Katalyst slider phone, used with T-Mobile service. This phone is a little bit special because besides being a usual GSM cell phone, it also can operate over a Wi-Fi internet connection, using a new service called UMA that T-Mobile introduced last year. In theory, when everything is working correctly, when I am in Seoul I can use this phone over a Wi-Fi connection just as if I were in the USA, with no extra overseas charges. In practice, the service is still new and having growing pains, and is not 100% reliable. But when it works, it is amazing.

Next is my Korean cell phone. It is also a Samsung model, a flip phone. It has a few interesting features not found on normal USA cell phones. First of all, it is a TV receiver for the satellite DMB broadcasts so common in Korea. I can watch TV from my cell phone. One other very helpful feature is the built-in dictionary, Korean to English and English to Korean. Many Korean phones have this feature. On the downside, I think this phone has caught some type of virus - I can't download photos from it anymore. I've been too lazy to take it to the service center to be fixed. It also has a few cracks, and the external display is damaged.

I should point out that the cell phones in Korea are largely incompatible with those in the USA. It is possible with a few phones these days to roam in the other country. However, it is not quite possible to have just one phone, and pop in a SIM card depending on which country/account you are using. But I think this will be available within a year or two.

Next in the photo you will see my digital camera. This model, a Canon SD-550 was recommended a few years ago by our freelancer graphic designer. I've been pleased with it. It is simple to use, and the 7.1 megapixels seems to be good for the kinds of pictures I take. Usually I need it for documenting work-related things, such as photos of circuit boards, electronics assemblies, etc. Or else taking photos of things I see in and around Seoul.

The next item is my iRiver MP3 player. I've had this about 4 years now. It ws originally a 20MB model, but about a year ago I ran out of disk space. So, I did a little surgery on it and replaced the disk drive with a 75GB one! It holds my entire music collection, both Korean and Western music (and a few podcasts - I like to listen to Car Talk). It can also store photos and music videos, but they have to be converted. It has a radio and built-in voice recorder as well. It can also be used as a simple external USB disk drive. And it has great sound!

Finally you can see my PDA. This is an HP iPaq hx4705. It is a full featured general purpose PDA, although I have not been very happy with it over the few years I've had it. It frequently just dies completely, and I have to re-install all the software all over again. In fact, I just did this last week before this trip. And as I type this post, I tried to turn it on, and it was dead again! Sometimes, I can guess what happens - I noticed on the airplane that the memory card had accidentally popped out of the socket, which causes the unit to turn on, which in turn runs down the batteries. When it works, it synchronizes with my PC and stores all my contact information. I have a Korean <-> English dictionary for it, and also subway map software for Seoul (you can calculate the best route and time of travel). I can also watch Slingbox TV on it! If I could just keep it alive, it would be a pretty good device.

Will there ever be one device that can handle all these functions? In my lifetime?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On The Road Again

Actually, that should be IN THE AIR Again. I'm heading out today for a trip to the USA. Should be a fun and busy time. Here you can see my Happy Faces Tie I am wearing for the occassion, clean-shaven as well.

I'm taking the Delta non-stop flight from Seoul to Atlanta. Even though I prefer Korean Air, I have some free upgrade coupons to Business Class that can only be used on the Delta flights. Fourteen hours, but at least I can recline at a decent angle and will have some legroom. Last time I flew economy across the Pacific my knees continually scraped the seat in front of me, my seat didn't recline fully, and I had a backache for 1-1/2 weeks upon landing.

Here's one more photo of me, just before boarding the airplane. You can see I've changed into my flying clothes before getting on board...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Irritated Eyes

For the past few days my eyes have been irritated. I have had eye problems before, but this was a completely different feeling. It felt like I was about to start crying, and my eyes were teary (not actual tears, but moister than normal). Maybe slightly itchy, too. Finally I went to the drugstore today, using body language I explained I needed eyedrops. Using my cell phone's electronic dictionary, I showed her the word "irritated". She produced this bottle of eyedrops, 4 times per day. So far only one day and I don't notice any improvement or worsening. I'll give it a few more days before I start to panic.

Burrito for Breakfast

Burritos aren't so bad for breakfast. I made another batch this week, this time using Red Kidney Beans, a slightly different style of spicy chopped tomatoes, and fresh chopped pork meat. I remember now why I had that pork meat - I had bought some for making Curry Rice (not Korean soup). You tell the butcher that you want it for Curry Rice, and he'll chop it up into small cubes for you. I think next time I want to make it with beef or chicken. Or (gasp) vegetarian with just the beans and sauce.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Homemade Burrito

I had a chance to eat at Dos Tacos last night, and tonight I was still in the mood for more Mexican food. So I decided to try to make a burrito. I should point out that this was facilitated by the recent change-over of our local Homever shopping mart to the new Home Plus mart (Home Plus having bought all the Homever stores). This is good because, in my experience, Home Plus has a larger selection of products. Including beans!!!!

Those are Chili Beans with spices from Home Plus on the right, and on the left a can of seasoned tomatoes that I found in an import store last month. I also had some diced pork meat in the freezer, left over from a Korean soup that I made. Mix them all together and you get an acceptable burrito sauce:

Let me confess here that I have no idea what really should go into a burrito sauce. But this came out pretty good.

Next you need rice (available in every Korean home), tortilla (available at Costco), shredded cheese (commonly available as "pizza cheese" in most stores)

Finally put on the sauce, cheese, and roll up the burrito (I sprinkled a little hot sauce over the top before rolling).

You can see my tortilla tore a little bit. Probably because I over-stuffed it. I ended up eating it with a fork. But by overstuffing, I was so full I could only eat one. Not bad for a meal with no advance planning at all. It was only missing sour cream and salsa sauce, neither of which I had. But still I'll give it an Stumbling A minus.