Monday, December 26, 2011

Fresh Air

Ran into this interesting article in today's paper. I feared things might get this bad, but it looks like it's for real:


SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonyap) Amid recent smoking restrictions, the Seoul City Council announced new “enhanced” measures to further protect citizens from the health effects of poor quality air - and not just from smokers! Phase one is called “Jump and Ride”. Beginning March 1st, buses will no longer be allowed to stop at center-street bus stops, thus minimizing exposure to hazardous exhaust fumes. Drivers will slow down to 10kph within 150m of the stop in both directions. A representative of the “Drivers' Union of Metropolitan Buses” says some drivers will complain about the new procedures, but most welcome the change, as it will protect the children and elderly.” The ban will expand to all bus stops from early June.

Phase two, called “No Poop, No Stink” begins on May 31, and is modeled after the successful 2007 Korean Animal Protection Act. Under this program, citizens will no longer be allowed to defecate in any public restroom, including office buildings, shopping malls, or any bathroom with more than one toilet stall. “The eradication of harmful sewerage gasses such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, methane, as well as dangerous bacteria, has long been the goal of the World Toilet Association”, says it's chairman Mr. Kim Seu-koop, who spearheaded these efforts from behind the scenes. “We knew we had to eliminate smoking first, but now it it time plunge ahead and attack the next biggest polluter of Korea's most beautiful toilet environments”. He also hints that flatulence, urination and expectoration will be on the blocks in future campaigns. “We considered starting with the ban on spitting this year, but frankly thought it would be too difficult for citizens to accept. So we only lobbied for a ban on defecation from this year”. Mr. Kim's dream is to see every restroom in Korea completely free from all bodily wastes, be they solid, liquid or gas. This ban will be expanded to all restrooms in Seoul of any size or location, public or private, by October. Similar legislation will be considered by the National Assembly this spring, to be implemented country-wide.

Another benefit of the legislation will be the creation of the new “Freshie Air Reinforcement Troops”. It will be manned by the thousands of retirees who were recently discharged from the Parking Lot Corps, as more and more building complexes became fully mechanized. The Chief of Staff of the Ajossi Ministry reports that all members will be transferred to the new organization with full benefits, and will retain their previous rank and pay grade. These heroic pioneers on the front lines against dangerous smells will be stationed at bus stops and toilets throughout Seoul, and are empowered to issue citations on-the-spot.

This new legislation, “Wind Like 10,000 Roses”, passed last Friday just before the Christmas Holiday. At the press conference today, Mr. Park Gung-ho, an official of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, said the new law is intended as a present to the people of Seoul. Mr. Park said the Council had considered the creation of a Yeouido Noxious Fume Offset Market, where citizens with fresh smelling bodily emissions could sell and trade. But this proposal didn't smell right to many legislatures, and was tabled until 2016.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tapa De Botella, or 뚜껑

Bottle caps. When I was 12 years old, my Mother took me on a trip to San Francisco for a conference, returning via Mexico City. Her story was that this was the last year I could fly on a discount children's air fare (do they even have those anymore?) When I was 12, I also had started a bottle cap collection in the basement. I gathered bottle caps from wherever I could find them, and stored them in this big cardboard cheese "box". Actually it was a huge circular box, and really sturdy - the cheese it once contained would have fed several families for a year. Naturally, I was excited for the opportunity to collect bottle caps from Mexico (or rather, "tapa de botella", as I called them, correctly or not). I particularly remember leaving Mexico, passing through the metal detector at the airport and setting off the alarms. The guard asked me if I had any metal on me, and I sheepishly emptied my pockets, which held about 1 liter of bottle caps each (it was a large, winter coat). I think that was a first for the security guards. They got a big laugh out of it, and let me through with my stash (today, bottle caps might be considered a concealed weapon).

Fast forward to last night, when I met up with my friends Tuttle and Gargamel for dinner. We began eatcing some delicious lamb meat skewers, where we set next to the manager at the Coca Cola office, who has been working there since it's beginning in Korea. Tuttle and I couldn't pass on this opportunity to complain about the scarcity of Diet Coke here in Korea, and the nastiness of the more common Coke Zero. We'll see if our complaints amount to action, but I won't be holding my breath.

After dinner, we visited a new HOF called "The Beer Bottle Cap". This place is really unusual for Korea, and was great. The decor is simple, wooden tables and benches. One wall is lined with coolers of beer, sorted by price, and from every country in the world. A few simple snacks are available (we had a bowl of Cheese Balls), but most guests order food from outside restaurants by delivery! As Gargamel pointed out, it's a much different business model than the typical places, and it seems to be working very well, judging by the crowd.

I've since lost the bottle cap collection passion that I had as a young boy. And The Stumbling Brother disposed of my cheese box of bottle caps many years ago when cleaning up the basement. But after last night, I may need to return to my old hobby. But first, I need to buy and eat 100 pounds of cheese...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Measuring with Anchor

One of my recent projects involves an electronic weight scale, and I've been using various items for rough calibration. I thought I was onto a "Great Milk Conspiracy" when I discovered that my 1 liter bottles of milk only contained 950 cc. But upon further investigation, it turns out that my trusty Anchor Hocking Company measuring cup (bought from a Walmart, in Hawaii I think) is not accurate! After lots of head scratching, I finally weighed various levels of water on a commercial, precision scale. You can see the data here:

Bottom line, there seems to be an offset to the printed scale - for kitchen purposes let's call it 10 cc. For scientific purposes, I would say don't use this - get an accurate graduated cylinder or beaker instead. Well, at least I have solved the milk mystery. Next, I'm going to solve the rice conspiracy (5 out of 5 bags of 1Kg bags weigh EXACTLY 990 grams)...

Friday, October 21, 2011

We'll Always Have Paris...

...NOT. Since I've lost some weight over the past couple of years, my pants have been getting looser and looser. Especially my nice wool pants, which I got from my tailor in Itaewon - Paris Tailors. Since I remember he told me alterations would be free, I've been threatening to take them in for some time now. But during the summer it was too hot to worry about wool pants. I finally got up to Itaewon last night.

But I arrived in front of the tailor shop, only to be totally confused. Instead of a tailor shop, there were two men grilling meat out in front of a Turkish restaurant. This was not a good sign. I tried to ask the men what happened to the tailor, and they couldn't speak English. One guy was about to run get the owner, but I told him never mind - I thought that three Turkish men who didn't speak English wouldn't be any better.

So I tried to find the phone number by calling my colleage CH, and also searching on my smartphone. After about 15 minutes of research, I found the number. Called it, but it was not a tailor at the number. I was about to give up hope, and decided on a whim to just pick a nearby tailor at random and ask him what happened. The Paris Tailor had been around for almost 20 years, it seemed unlikely they would close. I was guessing instead they had moved. If not, at least the random tailor I chose could alter my pants.

I must note something about this short section of street. In just this one front, there used to be 4 tailors, let's call them A, B, C, D, and E (Paris Tailor was A). I was about to walk into tailor E, but he looked busy. Instead I went into tailor E and asked him for help. He immediately realized the problem, and informed me that Paris Tailor had really closed. However, they had sold they customer list to another shop across the street, the "London Tailor". He sent me there to have my pants altered.

I arrived at the London Tailor, and the fellow was very confused. He basically told me I was crazy, that they had no relationship to the old Paris Tailor. Furthermore, he told me that there was no way he would alter clothing made anywhere else but his shop - even if I paid an alteration fee! So even more confused, I headed back to tailor D one more time, if only to tell him he was quite mistaken about the Paris Tailor customer list.

When I confronted tailor D with this information, he immediately apologized and explained his confusion. Apparently, TWO tailor shops had recently closed on that street front, shops A and B. B's customers were transferred to London Tailor, but Paris' customers it turns out were transferred to tailor C. Unbelievable. At least it was close, literally two doors down. The fellow personally escorted me to the tailor shop to explain things.

Now here's where the story get really strange - as we're walking on the street, who do we see in front of us but the former owner of Paris Tailor - WHO IS NOW THE OWNER OF THE TURKISH RESTAURANT! I never could get a straight answer as to why he closed the tailor shop and opened a restaurant, but at least he went along with us to tailor C and took care of everything for me. So, tailor C now has my pants to be altered, and I should get them back Monday or Tuesday.

Does anyone recommend a new tailor? I'm not sure I'll continue using this tailor C or not, but frankly it doesn't really matter for now. I very rarely use a tailor, and I've never even had a suit made. At most, I expect I might have get some shirts in the next 12 months, although even those I might mail order from the USA. It's kind of sad to see a 20-year old business close. But in the scheme of things, there are just too many tailors there in Itaewon.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Pair of Orsons

Somehow this obscure thought came to light during dinner with friends this week - I used to get these guys confused:

Orson Welles:

Orson Bean:

One was morbidly obese, one was morbidly thin. To be fair, looking at some photos from their younger days, the contrast isn't so striking:

And if we can believe Wikipedia, Mr Bean is still alive. All this thinking about Orsons reminds me that I've never seen Citizen Kane...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Tiger Farts

I got a fresh supply of Tiger Balm last week (more on that later). Although you can smell me coming from 4 blocks away, this stuff is great for my back aches. I happened to unfold the impossibly thin piece of paper that comes in the box, and among the 2 dozen languages I found some English instructions:

FLATULENCE???? I can't begin to imagine. Well, actually, I did have one vague idea: if you apply enough of this cream to your body, you will smell like a menthol/camphor factory. Perhaps that would mask even the worst possible gaseous emissions? I'm still puzzled about the dizziness, any ideas?

Those who like these unusual claims, I've written about two similar ones before:

  • Sansachun wine bottles

  • sliced bread at a local bakery chain

  • Friday, August 26, 2011

    Democraziness - TNSTAAFL

    Now I don't follow politics very closely, not in the USA, and even less here in Korea. However, there was an election held this week in Seoul over a controversial law to require free lunches for all school children, poor or not. But that isn't the reason for this post.

    This law was opposed by many, including the Seoul city mayor. Presumably he was so opposed to it, he spearheaded a referendum, giving the citizens an opportunity to overturn the law. Not content with that, he then announced that if the referendum fails to repeal the law, he would resign his post as mayor. But even that isn't the reason for this post.

    The election was held on Wednesday, and indeed it failed to repeal the law. In fact, it failed to even attain the necessary 33% of voter turnout necessary to make the results valid. But I believe THE REAL STORY was buried in was the following tidbits from the news coverage of the election.

    1. The folks opposing the referendum to repeal the law (folks who support the law) were ACTIVELY CAMPAIGNING FOR CITIZENS TO NOT VOTE !!!!!!! This is absolutely unbelievable. Don't these parties have an obligation, implied or explicit, to support the very basic form of their government? Or at least, not to subvert it? It seems astounding that any citizen of a democracy would encourage citizens NOT to vote. It's one thing to promote your cause, but it's another to encourage citizens to abandon their most fundamental civic responsibility. If that's not illegal, well maybe it ought to be.

    2. It gets better. Apparently, the rules of the election are such that if the threshold of 33% isn't met, THE VOTES AREN'T EVEN COUNTED! That, too, seems crazy. Maybe it's the engineer in me, but who wouldn't want to know data like this? It might or might not be helpful. But you won't know unless you count them. Say for example the results showed that 99% of the voters were on one side or the other. Isn't this something that the officials would want to be aware of? You can never have too much data.

    I don't really have a strong opinion about the whole free school lunch program. It seems entirely reasonable to provide lunches to students from poor families, indeed it seems this has been the case, even before this new law. I'm not really opposed to the concept of free lunches for everyone, but with limited government funds (which I hear is the case), I'm not sure it would be extremely high on my priority list. Furthermore, I've learned to be suspicious of things which are supposedly "free". TNSTAAFL, as Robert Heinlein wrote years ago ("There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch").

    I will say that throughout this whole school lunch controversy, it is painfully obvious to me that the fight HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH FREE SCHOOL LUNCHES. The whole reason for this supposed crisis was that the current system provides free lunches to children from poor families, but it makes them ashamed to be seen by their friends getting lunches for free. If that's the only problem at hand, then the solution is obvious - issue prepaid lunchroom cards to everyone. Parents who could pay would, the government would pay the others. Any Korean could immediately come to this conclusion after one minute's thought. Koreans use electronic cards like this for nearly everything in their daily lives - subway and bus cards, parking lot cards, there are even cards like this built into many cell phones, not to mention the ubiquitous credit cards. No, the fact that such a program was not quietly implemented in the first place tells me that this whole circus was for some other reason. And since I don't follow politics, I couldn't even begin to speculate what that reason might be.

    I've had my say. I know a lot of crazy things go on in politics all around the world, sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes out in the open. But this really pegged my absurd meter.

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    Read My Lips

    An interesting buzz in the news this week was the proposal by lawmakers to make it illegal for performers to lip-sync, although apparently there is an exception when the performer informs the audience in advance. This of course got lots of people talking. I think I heard at least three different discussions of this topic on the radio, and that's just on the English station.

    I tend to agree with the majority of the people I've heard, that is, the this is NOT an area where legislation is needed. However, if the government must legislate this for some reason, I think the law should be reversed. That is, it would be assumed that everyone IS lip-syncing, and require artists to announce when they are singing live.

    For some reason, this silliness brings to mind these phrases from an old Tom Lehrer song,

    Yes, now that he’s a senator,
    he’s really got the chance
    To give the public
    A song and dance!

    Monday, May 02, 2011

    Speed Racer

    "The difference between men and boys is the size (and expense) of their toys".

    I wandered across the street on Sunday, and noticed a large crowd out in front of the Technomart. On closer inspection, it was racecars! Not real racecars, but radio controlled cars.

    The first race was pretty tame. But a later race was really cut-throat. Cars were crashing into each other, rolling over, and there were several complete wipe-outs. Unlike real car racing, apparently doing a couple of barrel rolls doesn't faze these cars. I remember one mini-cooper (car #7) rolled two or three times in the air, landed "feet down" like cat, and just kept on racing. This happened several times in just a few minutes.

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    Not Simian

    I decided to take a walk yesterday. I was tempted to go up around Yeouido and see the cherry blossoms, but I heard on the radio that they are running busses from out of town to bring people to that park. I decided to stay away. But instead, I took a walk along Do-Rim-(trickle of a)-Stream running by my neighborhood. This is a minor stream which runs into the larger trickle called Anyang Stream, which itself empties into the Han River near that strange tiny island near the Niagara Hotel.

    Despite some bridge building construction which I couldn't quite figure out (was it for pedstrians, trains, or cars) the stream-side walk was really pleasant. The walking "park" was almost the same calibre as those along the Han River, complete with the same heavy, fear-inspiring bicycle traffic. I took to the stream walk a few weeks ago, when we had another false-start of Spring, going the opposite direction to the south. That walk was really interesting, because it was almost underground. Most of the walkways were recessed and gave an almost cave-like experience. This walk to the north was much more open. And, I still got to see the cherry blossoms. Just like the Anyang Stream walkway when I lived in Mokdong, they have an elevated, tree-lined walkway parallel to the stream walkway below. Very relaxing.

    Many of the parks and walkways here in Korea have these public exercise stations. I stopped at one yesterday, spent a few minutes on each of the various machines, some of which really scare me. Not because of my poor fitness level, but rather because of my poor coordination. Some of these machines are quite easy to operate, but I can so easily see myself slipping and flying off into the concrete. One which simulates huge walking strides which standing still comes to mind. I did find one I really liked, kind of an eccentric (off-center, not strange) body twisting apparatus.

    What nearly DID kill me was not the exercise area, but instead an innocent set of monkey bars along the tree-lined walkway. "Oh, monkey bars!" I thought to myself, "These bring back such happy memories from elementary school". That should have been a warning, not being simian nor an elementary school student. Rather, I'm an overweight man with back problems. Cautiously, I approached the bars, grabbed the first one, and started a gentle swing. Not gentle enough, it seems. I was not prepared for what happened next. I felt an incredible stretch somewhere along the sides of my back, almost like something snapped! I immediately ceased all monkey activity. Actually, I think the stretching would have been great, had it been administered slowly (like from midieval rack torture). But coming in one sudden jerk as it were, I'm still feeling it this morning, almost 24 hours later.

    Dog owners here tend to pamper their dogs. And small dogs seem to be most popular (I guess small dogs go better in small homes with no yards). I've seen well-groomed dogs, dogs with hair-dyed ears and/or tails, and even dogs wearing clothes. I have even heard stories about The Stumbing Aunt's dog wearing a backpack. But for the first time, I saw a dog wearing walking shoes!

    Sunday, April 03, 2011

    Less is More

    Well, I finally got out to the Museum that I almost visited back on New Year's Day. (I wrote about back in February). I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. The exhibit featured the design work of Dieter Rams, a German industrial designer. He worked for many years for the Braun company, and it is said that his followers used his design techniques and philosophies in the design of the Apple iPhone.

    It should be clear from the title of the exhibit, "Less is More", that he espouses a simplistic, minimalist design. As an engineer, I've always wanted more and more functions on a product. The more buttons, dials, meters, displays, the better. But the elegance of his designs, convinces me otherwise. That, and years of operating OTHER people's products which were too complicated to understand. I definitely plan to read more about him and his design style.

    Let start with the most astounding design, in my opinion. I have not been able to find any details about it, and unfortunately my cell phone camera didn't catch enough detail to read the label. I call it the "one button TV set"

    Here are some other photos from the exhibit:

    Let me also say it is a bit unsettling to be in a mueseum exhibit, and see products that you remember seeing on the store shelves as a child. Make of that what you will.

    Thursday, March 31, 2011

    Organization Help

    From grade school, I am familiar with the Dewey Decimal System way to classify books in the library.

    I am aware of, though not familiar with, the Library of Congress, which has it's own catalog system for books.

    And in the world of computer file organization (which is where I'm heading with this), we have the traditional Unix/Linux style directory structure

    And of course the Microsoft directory structure, which I've tried to use for years now without any real success at organization. This must come to an end.

    I have half a dozen disk drives containing files, some of import, some just old backups. This happens as I change computers every couple years it seems. The old backups keep piling up. This isn't even counting the boxes of zip discs and floppy discs that I reluctantly had to throw away a few years ago.

    I want to orgnaize this better. I've looked at all these aforementioned systems, and none of them seem to be the right fit for my files. The Unix/Linux might be close, but it doesn't go far enough. I'm afraid the various Library systems might me too detailed, but not sure. I would like to be given a suitable framework, and then I can move everything over. Ideas?

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    The Idleness of March

    Nothing really exciting has been going on these days to post. This week was a little more active. First, I met up with Ben and Sandy for some Galbi in Itaweon, followed by a long overdue visit to Trevor at his new pizza place, Beer O'Clock Pizza (review here). Had a fun time, and met his French pizza chef Julian. Despite my four years of French studies in my younger days, I couldn't catch a single word of Ben and Julian's carrying on in French.

    Business must be good - several times during our visit he had to hop his scooter and rush the pizza order to the customers. We just had some garlic fingers, having just eaten dinner. But I'll go back soon and order something hearty - probably my favorites, the BBQ Chicken. Or I wonder if I could convince Trevor to learn to make CiCi's famous BBQ pizza???

    My friend Tuttle told me there was a free pre-season baseball game on Saturday. It was a last minute decision, but I decided to go join him and his friend Nick. This was only my second time to see the Heroes at the Mokdong stadium. And it was quite a let-down. Not the team, although losing 10-1 might be considered a let-down unless you follow the team closely. But I mean the stadium itself. First of all, looks like they had been changing all the stadium seats. One might thing that was a good thing, and it was, to a point. The seats were comfortable, wider, and in great condition - in the completed sections of the stadium, that is! Only about 30% of the seats had been installed. The remaining 70% of the "seating" was bare concrete, closed off with ropes and closely monitored by well trained and uniformed seating police.

    Furthermore, the sections between first base, home place, and third base were among the sections roped off. So everyone had to sit way out along the outfield (well after we were seated, we noticed they had suddenly opened those sections - not sure if people were sitting on concrete or what...)

    The other complaints include no food or drinks being sold in the stadium, either from people walking around nor any of the 650 shops lining the stadium. Obviously we missed the memo on that one. Fortunately, we contacted Nick who was en-route, and he managed to scrounge us three kimbaps, some beef jerky, dried squid, and beers on the way. It was an interesting lunch. Despite all this lack of food, it was amazing to see nearby Koreans feasting on huge meals of hamburgers, pizzas, fried chicken, and of course Ramyen noodles. I have no idea where all this food was coming from, but they must have brought it in from well outside the immediate neighborhood.

    Just an observation, when I was a kid, I rememeber my Grandparents had a number of thin cushions for using at the ball park. I remember them having the name of a gas station, so I'm assuming they were given out with a fill-up. Here's one I could find online, for the Arkansas Razorbacks:

    What surprises me is that I didn't see anything similar here at the Korean ballpark. It isn't because they don't want to carry stuff to the game - witness the plentiful food, and one fellow seated in front of us even brought a Hello Kitty scooter with him! It isn't like these cushions are unknown to Koreans - almost every home and restaurant have them, for sitting on the floor (bang-seok, or 방석). Maybe there's a business opportunity there for the enterprising cushion salesman...

    On the positive side, it was a beautiful day and the weather couldn't have been nicer. (I'm using my Blogger Writer's License to ignore the yellow dust level, which rose from Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups, to just plain Unhealthy, to Very Unhealthy and Hazardous during the course of the game).

    The restrooms were among the cleanest I've seen in a baseball stadium, or indeed in Korea. I'm guessing they were recently renovated as well, along with the new stadium seating. Fortunately all the plumbing fixtures had been installed, except for the hot water heater. There was even soap!

    As for the game, not being a huge sports fan, I can't comment well. I think Tuttle summed it up well when he said "the Heroes "magic" is still with us this season".

    Finally, Nick reports that a new stadium (with a full dome) will be opening soon neraby in Guro. I can't find the opening date online, but I see reports from the project's onset which said it would be open in time for the 2011 season. I was told Saturday that the season opens April 2nd, so if it's not finished now, looks like it maybe the 2012 season! That will make two ballparks nearby, Mokdong and Guro.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Time Lapse

    No, not a drunken black-out (what would be called a "film-cut" in Konglish). But rather, I had a sudden urge to make a time lapse movie from my apartment window. I have no idea what caused this sudden desire. Nor do I have any special technical knowledge about HOW to make a time lapse movie. Did that deter me? Not in the least.

    I have a movie camera I occasionally use for work, so I brought it home and set it up on a tripod looking out the window. So far, so good. Then I searched online for time lapse photography along with the model of my movie camera. To my surrpise, I found that one of the features newly introduced when my camera came out was time lapse photography! I was in luck. I just pressed a few buttons, and off it went. I chose the 80-second mode, which means it captures one frame every 80 seconds. Normal video is at 30 frames per second, so in the 80-sec mode, 24 hours works out to be 36 seconds of video (my video is a little shorter, because I didn't let it run a full 24 hours).

    Enjoy my silly movie, but don't expect to see me accepting any Academy Awards anytime soon.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Spinal Liberation

    Speaking of The Stumbling Mother, this article caught my attention recently. Japan has been slow coming to the ebook table, and a cottage industry has sprouted up. People's homes are overcrowded with books, and they are taking matters into their own hands - by scanning their books and converting them to electronic, PDF format! The company featured in the article charges just over one dollar to scan a book. Even though there are an estimated 60 such companies, there is still a 4-month waiting list to get your books scanned! This is amazing. I hope it catches on. Could this be the modern-day microfiche? I'm looking forward to seeing some of these companies start up in Seoul. Ah, the reason this reminded me of TSM, is that she would have been one of their top customers. I, too, have inherited the book pack-rat gene from her.

    For anyone interested in this technology, I found a few other cool links. This Japanese scientist has invented a machine which non-destructively scans a 200-page book in 1 minute! For the do-it-yourself-er, this fellow put together his own system at home. He doesn't say the total scanning time, although he says the processing takes about as long as it takes him to turn the page. But still, he must have a lot of patience. And finally, I like this term from the Wikipedia article on book scanning, under the section of destructive scanning:"...once liberated from the spine...[the pages can be scanned using standard equipment]".

    To spinal liberation...

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Of Oil and Hangnails

    The Lunar New Year was just celebrated here in Korea, indeed all over Asia. As for me, I enjoyed working in a very quiet city for a few days. Almost no people, no traffic, and unfortunately almost no restaurants were open, either. Koreans give all sorts of gift sets for this holiday, such as the SPAM gift set which I delivered to The Stumbling Brother a few years ago. Well, this year one of our kind colleagues Mr. H delivered a Holiday Gift set to me - three large bottles of Grape Seed Oil! Not sure whether that ranks above or below SPAM (can it get any lower than SPAM?). But now I'm all set for my cooking oil needs for the next year or more.

    I always have trouble with my fingernails, specifically the skin around the edges. Working with electronics, I'm always scratching or damaging my nails. I haven't had good luck trying to repair the damage with nail clippers, my teeth, or even wire cutters, either. So finally last week, I was walking by a fingernail manicure shop in the "Techno-Mart" shopping center near my home. Actually, it is hard NOT to walk by such shops - there seems to be a huge demand for nail care in my neighborhood, witness by the 3 dozen nail shop found on the B1 level alone!

    So, I stopped and got into a discussion with the owner about my cracked and broken hangnails. Using body language and my partial understanding of Korean, she explained that it was simple. She gave me a complimentary nail file, and explained what to to. This file was smoother than any I had seen before (I suppose not to sand away all your skin). She told me to file the skin with this file, but to coat the file with oil first. My eyes lit up so brightly when I heard that. As you know, I am the proud new owner of 3 large bottles of Grape Seed Oil. But, when I explained my plan, she told me I had to use Baby Oil, not cooking oil. So, I've added one more bottle of (Baby) oil to my collection. And I have nearly hangnail-free fingers, too.

    The Stumbler is not a sissy, and wants to emphatically deny any rumors that he was recently seen receiving a manicure at the Techno-Mart....

    A Walk with Mom

    First, I want to welcome myself back to my blog. I was unusually busy the last half of 2010 with work. Then The Stumbling Mother suddenly became ill, and passed away after 5 long weeks in the hospital. My life is slowly returning to normal, and it is time for blogging to resume. I will start off by posting a short memory I wrote about Mom back on the New Years Day weekend.

    I decided to get some culture this weekend. There was an exhibit at a museum which interested me, so I took off towards downtown on this clear, crisp first day of 2011. In the back of my mind, I heard my Mother teasingly scolding me for living in a city full of galleries and museums but rarely visiting them. But surely she was happy that I was going to a museum, relaxing and taking a break from work. I walked around searching for the museum (there are dozens and dozens in this area, so it can be a search). Again my Mother was with me, as I recalled her spotting a small sign in this very area, "Silk Road Museum, 300m". She just had to visit, no matter that the 300m was entirely uphill. We had better luck on that day compared to today - at least the Silk Road Museum was open. This museum I tried to visit today was closed. I don't know if it was becase of New Years Day, or because the exhibit was not yet open. Not to get too discouraged, I stopped at a coffee shop and regrouped. Sipping my coffee, I remembered just how fun that unexpected 300m uphill walk turned out. The tiny museum featured relics collected along the silk road, collected by the owner herself. We were the only visitors, and received a personal tour by the owner. She even served us hot tea. These unplanned stops can be as rewarding or more so than the planned ones.

    I then decided to take a random detour to nearby Insadong. Took a stroll up and down the artsy (and touristy) street, and once again I could hear my Mother shouting at me to wait up, while she went shopping at the 15th pottery store of the day. I passed a store displaying the beautiful long scroll paintings, just like Mom brought back to America to adorn her walls. Next on the street I saw the old tea shoppe sign. Again I was hearing my Mother as she insisted that we stop there, because her friend Tom had told her this tea shoppe had monkeys. None of us believe her story, until we finally asked the owner, whose face lit up when she told us that not only did they used to have monkeys, but racoons as well! We never should have doubted you, Mom. Then I passed the silly oil-can-man, who had posed for a photo with me and Bill while Mom snapped the picture.

    Finally for dinner I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant, and ordered the rice paper wraps (lots of chopped vegies which you wrap in rice paper and then dip in sauce). As they brought out the food, I heard Mom telling me how delicious it looked, and how were were planning to enjoy this very meal together on her next trip so Seoul. I thought to myself, "Mom, you won't be able to visit Seoul anymore". But then I realized, she had been visiting with me all day.

    Thanks, Mom, for joining me on this first day of 2011. I love you.