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...