Friday, October 29, 2010

Because I don't have anything interesting to say

and these people do. And because they encouraged me to include this in my blog. Well, not just me, I guess. Anyone and everyone, really. And they made it really easy. So here ya go: Is Google a monopoly? Anybody's guess, at this point.

UPDATE: and.... Blogspot made it difficult. Stupid blogspot. Anyway, just click the damn picture and it'll let you see the whole thing, I promise. It is pretty interesting.

Is Google a Monopoly?

Research by

Monday, August 2, 2010

Last published on April 17

Wow. I suck. Hm... not much has happened since then, I swear. Heh...

Teachers trip to Geoje-do and various and sundry other islands was fun. I think there are even pictures up here, so take a look. Yes, one whole island is a manicured garden. It's nuts. Also, we visited a Korean War POW camp memorial site, hence the plane. Also, and I can't emphasize this enough, Koreans love to drink and sing karaoke when they're riding on buses. The first thing that happened when we got on the bus (at 8am) was the vice principal pouring me a full(!) cup of soju. Keep in mind, soju is right around 20% alcohol... so half the strength of vodka, let's say. A full cup. And it was all downhill from there. The singing and drinking pictures all took place before noon. Good stuff.

Went swimming with my students one day in July, which was awesome. Sadly, there aren't any pictures from that -- sorry. But it can't be helped.

Caught a baseball game in June with Mi Sun and a few of her friends. Apparently, unlike America, here they don't really give a shit if fans get drunk and run around like idiots on the field. It happened not once but twice, and the second time they let the kid run from the right field fence all the way to second base. He proceeded to slide into 2nd, get up and go to 3rd, where he slid again. He actually made it across home plate before they escorted him off. And there was none of this tackling or chasing business either... they just waited till he got tired and then took him by the arm and led him off the field. This happened just a few days after that kid got his ass tased in Philly, which I think was why it stuck with me. There are pictures from this little adventure, it's just that I don't have them yet. This will probably develop into a running theme pretty quick here.

English camp just finished up last Friday, and I feel like it went pretty well, all things considered. There are pictures from this, but I don't have them yet. Will probably have to wait until school starts again next semester. Also, vacation!!! Right now, actually, and for the next three weeks, which is awesome. I'm planning to spend about 4 hours every day at the gym; we'll see how long I can keep that up, huh? No big travel plans, just a few small ones. Also, thinking about squeezing in a trip to Japan, finally. Can't believe I've been here for almost 2 years, and Japan is literally a boat-ride away (or an hour~ flight) and I haven't been yet. Gonna have to fix that.

Last weekend I went on a little weekend getaway with Mi Sun and her siblings. Brother/wife/2 sons, sister/husband/1 son, and me. Yay for family time! It was actually really nice -- we got this little pension, they call it, by a river near 양평. We spent a day drinking, barbecuing, and playing and fishing in the river. It was a quiet, relaxing weekend... more importantly, I'm pretty sure I made a good impression on Mi Sun's brother and sister, which will help things when I meet her parents. Right...?

I'm going golfing on Friday! Whoo-ee! First time in Korea. Normally it's absurdly expensive, but I guess we've got some kind of hookup so it's only gonna be like $50 or so... which isn't too bad, all things considered. I would love to link to the website of the golf course, but uh... can't seem to find one. Anyway, I'll try to take some pictures of my first (and only) Korean golf experience.

Finally -- this past weekend Mi Sun and I celebrated our 1 year anniversary! Crazy, right? I can't believe we've already been together for a year... it's amazing. To celebrate, we spent the weekend in Seoul -- got a beautiful exective room at the Millennium Seoul (got a helluva deal too!), did some shopping in 명동 (for a bikini, so that was fun for everyone involved), ate dinner at La Plancha, a Spanish restaurant in 이태원, and took a cable car up to the top of 남산, the central mountain in Seoul. We rode up to the top of N Seoul Tower, which is... I mean, great views, but totally not worth the hassle of getting all the way up there. It's like an hour and a half of waiting in lines for a 2 minute cable car ride and a 2 minute elevator ride and then you just look at Seoul. I don't know -- it was a nice view but doesn't compare to the experience of the Eiffel Tower or even the Hancock Building, where you can usually just ride on up and relax and have a drink. Definitely my least favorite part of the day, and I wouldn't recommend anyone do this on a summer weekend evening. Nonetheless, it was pretty much a perfect anniversary celebration, and I can't wait for the next one. Same deal about pictures though -- they're coming one of these days.

Well, I think that gets us more or less caught up. And now I won't have to see "Last published on April 17" anymore, so that's a plus. More pictures coming soon, and I'll post to update you when they become available.

Thanks for sticking with me, ya'll.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's been a great week

or however long it's been since I wrote last. But I'm talking especially about the last 168 hours. Ready to dive in with me? The water's warm. Here we go.

Last weekend, Mi Sun's friend Ji Sun got married. I caught a bus early Saturday morning and met up with the girl at the bus terminal near her village... we drove toward Yeoju and picked up her friend, whose name I've completely forgotten but was cute and very eager to speak her limited English with me in between catching up with Mi Sun. I guess they hadn't seen each other in like 7 years, so they were all chatty gabby on the drive. It took about 2 and a half hours to get to Gangneung on the East Sea (or Sea of Japan, as it's known everywhere else in the world. But trust me, don't bring that up to a Korean). The drive was beautiful. Fields, forests, rivers and mountains rolled past, unheralded, like an old-timey film turning to reveal each new scene. We arrived in Gangneung about an hour before the wedding, and it quickly became apparent that neither of my car-buddies knew where in the hell we were supposed to go. After many (many) phone calls and a couple stops to ask directions, we eventually found our way to the wedding hall. There were several weddings scheduled for the day, so it took us a while to find the correct chapel(? Actually, they weren't really churches. Just wedding halls. But anyway). After going into the bridal display room... I have know idea what it was called, but for hours before the service the bride has to sit on a couch in a little room while people come in to gawk at and take pictures with her. Then lunch. I don't recall the name of the noodle, but it was a plain noodle in salty broth, and is a traditional celebration food in Korea.

Next we went to the service. We walked in about 10 minutes after it started, and then stood in the back and chatted (well, they chatted, I just stood there awkwardly and smiled for some pictures and took others). Most people paid no attention to the service whatsoever. I asked Mi Sun if we weren't being rude, and she said "yeah, but it's really boring." I couldn't disagree. Anyway, after the service it was picture time for the bride and groom, then with both families (Moms wearing hanbok, Korean traditional dress... dads wearing suits), then with all their friends. I hung back to take pictures, and got to see Mi Sun catch the bouquet. Know, it's not at all like we do this particular part of the festivities. People say that Koreans acquired all of our driving laws without the etiquette or rationale to back it up -- red lights are mere suggestions, lane lines mean nothing... Korean behavior takes over when they're actually driving, regardless of the civilized laws that are supposed to govern behavior. Well, this was similar: they knew about tossing the bouquet, and they knew that it should have some significance. However, instead of the bridesmaid catfight we've all come to know and love, they simply decided that Mi Sun would catch the bouquet, brought her out in front of everyone, and then let the bride toss her the bouquet. 3 times. Because the camera guy screwed up once and then the bride threw it too far the second time. Cracked me up. Anyway.

After the wedding we went to a restaurant owned by a friend of the groom. Before entering, I got to witness a Gangneung tradition. Upon getting married, a guy gets his ass beat by his friends, apparently. So, before we went into the restaurant, his friends made him take off his shoes and then tied a giant pink bow around his waist. He was then put in a harness and tied to the back of a van. As the van started driving, he had to run along behind it while his friends sat in the back of the van and smacked his legs with long wooden sticks. I mean, it would have been brutal if it had continued much longer, but I think they only went around the block. So, back to groom's-friend's restaurant. This guy could throw down, and he wasn't screwing around. We had like a 5 course meal accompanied by beer, wine, soju, and several other liquors. Raw fish salad, chile-fried shrimp, pork that was coated in donut-batter and deep fried with candy sprinkles, plus a few other things that I don't even remember. At some point during the meal, the groom took off his shoes and socks and his buddy picked him up over his shoulder. Another friend recited what sounded like a litany of blessings while repeatedly smacking the bottom of his feet with another cane. Ji Sun, the bride, looked scared. Everyone else laughed. I joined in... what else could I do, right?

Next -- the noraebang. The best man decided on a game. After singing, you get a score from the computer; each person who scored over 90 had to donate 10 bucks to the pot... each person who scored under 90 had to be a backup dancer for the next person to sing. I only did one song (guess which one?) and I duly paid my 10,000won. A drunk guy fell on the floor; a drunk girl fell onto me, twice. I'd have thought she was sending me some kinda signal if I thought she had any idea what the hell she was doing, but sadly, there's no way that was true. Finally, we ended up at a raw-fish restaurant (we were on the coast, after all) for a shitload of fish, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, and several things that we don't have words for in English, but are all mostly just horrifying monsters anyway, so it's probably for the best. All raw, except the clams, which were delicious and in a nice brothy soup. I mean, everything I tried was good. Like sushi (sorta) without the rice, seaweed wrap, vegetables, or any pretense of being anything but raw fish. Also, there was soju; I think I mentioned that. That helps.

Went back to the hotel (with ocean-view rooms, according to the sign... although you had to practically climb out the window to see the water) and crashed. Next morning we went out for tofu soup, which is the other specialty of Gangneung... it's not bad. Just has very little flavor. Once you add soy sauce and chili paste, and eat a bunch of kimchi dipped in it, it's quite good. Had some coffee... walked to the beach, and took some random pictures while watching the waves crash in. There are lots of big rocks dotting the coast there, and some solid surf. So there were lots of those "ooooh" moments when a big wave crashed against a big rock and sent up a spray of white foamy surf. And that was the weekend. Highlight of the trip home -- Mi Sun was sleepy (from my snoring, apparently? shocked? haha) and let me drive all the way home. I succeeded. Even managed to negotiate a crazy Korean rest stop for cookies, chips, and coffee to keep me awake (also from my snoring, I have a feeling. It's a curse, I tells ya).

The rest of the week was tame: work, lessons, working out, dinners with the girl. She came over and cooked me this awesome like... meat thing last night. Not sure how to explain it: ground pork and beef with scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce, and diced mushrooms, all mixed up with salt and pepper and pressed into little mini-burgers and then fried. Served over rice with more sauteed mushrooms. It was awesome, whatever it was. I had the leftovers with a fried egg on a sandwich this morning, and also with rice for dinner tonight. Watched the Cards game today (Go Lopex! Grand Salami baby!) and went to the gym... tonight I've just been studying Korean and I'm going to bed soon. Actually, I think I'm gonna call my mom first. So mom, if you're reading this, it was (preemptively) nice talking to you this weekend!

A good night to all, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

OK -- time for a little perspective

I realize that last post sounded pretty whiny and bitchy. Well, I guess I was in a bad mood. I definitely feel better since classes started this week. Not suffering under the soul-crushing boredom I'd been growing accustomed to. Yep, I totally just used the words soul-crushing. I like hyperbole. Deal with it.

I got my class materials for TESOL Certification. Should be able to rip this out in a couple weeks... once I download the test I have 24 hours to complete and submit it. I've always been pretty good at test-taking anyway... and also, it is entirely open-book. I could probably go ahead and do the thing right now and be ok. Meh, what the hell, I guess I'll spend a few days actually learning something first. I ain't got much else going on anyway.

Don't know if you guys are still reading this (or if anyone is, come to that), but congrats to Stu-dawg on getting accepted into 3 law schools thus far. I didn't actually talk to him or read the blog to find out if more are on the way, but 3 outta ... um, probably lots, but anyway, it still ain't bad. So way to go man.

This Sunday is White Day in Korea. On Valentine's Day I got chocolates from the girl, so this Sunday is my day to reciprocate. Apparently non-chocolate candy is the norm, but Mi Sun informs me that if I'm at all attached to our relationship, I will ignore this mandate from the masses and just buy the damn chocolate. So, chocolate it is. Other acceptable gifts apparently include white chocolate, white candy/mints, marshmallows (which I gotta say, I've never actually seen here... hm) and white lingerie. Also, apparently, it's considered cute to the point of hurling to buy a special matching outfit to wear when you're out on your White Day date. Well, it's not just for White Day. Korean couples do this all the time, but I guess even if you don't normally do it, White Day is like, a good day to start. Or something. It's like guys who never want to be seen buying flowers for their girlfriend in the States don't feel so self-conscious on V-day because everyone's doing it. Now, I know this sounds a little gay to you, and I totally agree with you, but I'm still fucking doing it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to wear matching clothes with my girlfriend and not be mercilessly ridiculed. It's gonna happen. End of story.

I made an awesome chicken fried rice for dinner tonight. Orange and red bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli and chicken all sauteed in sesame oil, mixed in with rice in the skillet, and then hit near the end with soy sauce and eggs. Damn was it good. My regrets are twofold: I totally forgot to put onion in there (oops!) and I wish I would have used more broccoli. That was my favorite part and there just wasn't enough of it.

Just a short post today, trying to get back in the swing of writing more. Let's hope it takes this go-round. I gotta study my TESOL stuff now. Whoo-ee.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Continuing with my Awesome Blogging Schedule

In my head, when I typed that, I pronounced it "shedule." My uncle says it like that sometimes, to be funny. I usually don't. I guess you could say I'm feeling a bit homesick.

Really, I'm not sure what my problem is... On the surface, things are fine. My job is (and has been recently, especially) easy. It's also really boring. Not at all what you would call fulfilling. On the other hand, Mi Sun no longer works there and I spend an inordinate amount of time just reading articles online or watching American TV. I miss working with my sweetheart, what can I say? I'm sure there's a cure for this, which will be next week when we finally begin actual classes. However, the fact that I can only see the little lady for like a half-hour when she finally gets off work at 9:30pm isn't really cutting it for me.

I quit smoking a couple weeks ago... yes, for serious. It had been getting steadily worse for the last few years. 2007, I think, was the last time I made a serious effort to quit and managed to for about 4 months. So I'm pretty much riding the ridge of mental meltdown all the time right now. That'll pass, of course, but in the meantime, I'm feeling especially on edge, which makes everything seem a bit worse than it really is. I've also gained like 5 pounds in that time, which makes the whole easier breathing thing at the gym seem like less of a benefit than it really is. I mean, seriously, when I'm home, I'm eating. Probably doesn't help that the market down the street started stocking bags of tortilla chips and I've made it a point to buy more American foods the last few times I've been in Seoul. Yeah, burgers, bacon, salsa, burrito-sized tortillas, giant pre-cooked ham, pepper jack cheese, Kraft mac n' cheese, Valentine's candy... all those things are technically comfort foods, especially when living outside the US, but it sure makes for bad eating habits.

Just today, actually, I finally registered for an online TEFL class. I am... how should I put this... not excited about the idea anymore. Sure, it was less than $200 and it will mean I get an extra 100 bucks a month at my job after I finish; and yes, it will allow me to find at least a decent part-time job in pretty much any big city after I finish working in Korea... I don't know. Yay for semi-pointless career advancement, I guess, right? =) I mean, hell, I'm here, I might as well go ahead and do this, for the extra money if nothing else. Of course I should've done it a year ago. Still, better late than never.

What else is new? Um, the Olympics were awesome! Especially living in Korea... get this. Perhaps you noticed, but Koreans tend to excel in speed skating, especially the short track. So, for the first 10 days or so (basically until the figure skating happened and Kim Yeon A went all ballistic on history), whenever there were no live events on which is pretty often due to the time difference, they would replay the speed skating events that Koreans won. And I'm not talking about no once-in-a-while thing here either. I mean over and over and over again. The same race. I must have seen that Korean guy win the 500m like 45 times. It was absolutely asinine. I mean, I can totally understand making it a point to show the Koreans more often than everything else, but we would literally watch a portion of the race -- the people who finished in the top 4 or 5 followed by the winning Korean -- and then a minute later watch the same thing over again. It was... hypnotic and mind-boggling, all at once.

Although, from what I could gather of NBC's coverage, this might not have been so bad. At least I got to see some curling and hockey and ski jumping and alpine events LIVE! Not on a tape delay interspersed with feel-good puff pieces. So, there was that. Also, the Korean figure skater. Her name is not pronounced Kim Yoo-nah. It just isn't... in Korean it's 김연아. The pronunciation of 연 really depends on the speaker, but it sounds fairly similar to yawn if you don't drag it out too much. Rhymes somewhere between yawn and sun. And the last name is just "A." Pronounced ah. Like, ah, it feels really nice to stretch and yawn when you first wake up. Anyway, that's enough of that little rant.

OK, that's all I got for now. Peace, ya'll.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One post in January... and now one in February. Hope I can keep up this massive pace.

Um, to follow up from last post, which... I dunno, I just got a comment on there requesting I go be on Korean TV, so, do me a favor while we're on the subject. Go look at the comments from that and let me know what you think. On the one hand, it sounds a little fake. On the other hand -- TV!!! So anyways, yeah, tell me whether or not you think that sounds legit.

Avatar was awesome. Especially since I'd heard a lot going in about how ridiculous the story was and to get any enjoyment out of it at all you have to pretty much turn off your bullshit radar and suspend disbelief and all that jazz... so I did. And it was freakin great. 3D. Beautiful scenery, intense action sequences... I had to consciously force myself to relax a couple times after I noticed myself squeezing the girl's hand way too hard. Anyway, do yourself a favor and go see it in 3D while you still can. And don't worry too much about the story, or you could easily get very annoyed with the movie and ruin it. So just relax and breathe deep and let that shit go man.

After the movie we went to a restaurant called Marche at 잠실역 (Jamsil Station) where they have this ginormous underground shopping mall. Several levels of shopping with restaurants, an amusement park, an ice rink... you name it. I think there's even a firing range down there. It's insane. Anyway, Marche (I just spent way too long looking for a link to the website, and failed -- sorry) is like an all-you-can-eat-in-2-hours restaurant. And boy, did we eat. Salads, soups, fried appetizers to start. Some sushi to cool off. A small pasta and risotto course, cause I didn't want to get too full. 2 courses of grilled meat with a few slices of roasted potato and sweet potato (pork and chicken... beef is too expensive in Korea to be giving it away in a place like this), then perhaps some steamed clams, bibimbap, and finally, at long last, desert. Which was cookies, brownies, frozen yogurt and some lychee fruit, which is actually kind of delightful. And that's saying something after like 90 solid minutes of stuffing your face. Also, a shout out to Mi Sun here: for someone who weighs like 110 at the most, that girl can put away just mind-boggling, jaw-dropping amounts of food. I think my portions were slightly bigger than hers throughout the meal, but she went back like 2 more times after I was writhing around in agony, clutching at my digestive system as best I could, you know, from the outside. So, other than those painful moments immediately following the consumption of roughly 3 times as much food as any human should at one sitting, it was a wonderful day!

A propos of nothing, I just found some really kickass FREE software to use with my Kindle. It's called Calibre. Go take a look at it. It works with any of the major ebook readers, converts files from and to (to and fro?) just about any format you'd ever need, includes its own e-reading software if you don't have a reader and just want to read on your computer (which I actually kinda hate, but it's there... whatever), and the coolest thing: you can schedule it to go online and fetch new articles off of about 200 different news websites. So everyday I'm now getting ESPN, The BBC, The NYTimes top stories, and (hopefully) the Onion delivered to my Kindle in some kind of device-optimized format. The Onion stuff I got didn't work today though, so we'll see if it was an aberration or if I have to cancel my "subscription." Anyway, this program rocks my world.

I just celebrated (actually, the celebration was pretty tame, but "had" sounds kinda weak) my 6-month semi-versary with Mi Sun. I'll wait for the cheering to die down before continuing...
I... oh, you're still going in the back there, ok...
That's enough!!! We'll never get through this if you keep screaming and clapping...
Actually, that's all I had to say about that. Go white boy go white boy go!

I didn't actually post any of those pictures that I promised you last time yet. I'm doing to do that like... right... now. Yep, I did it. You can find them here. Thanks to momma for providing most of those. I know there are some more, and I need to go back and find some pictures from the Frye family Christmas. Updates coming soon. Really, this time. I'm all over it. Like ugly on an ape.

Work is still boring, so we're not gonna talk about that. In fact, that's about all I got. Skiing (I really hope) next weekend. Or, actually this coming weekend. Whoo-ee!

And finally, as a present for reading this far, Happy Birthday Scottie! You're celebrating the Silver Anniversary of your 25th birthday today, so that's pretty exciting. Don't get too crazy... don't do anything I wouldn't do. That still leaves you kind of a lot of wiggle room, I guess. I dunno, don't do anything Mom wouldn't do? Haha... anyway, have a good one!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Well, I'm back...

in Korea. The trip home was awesome. A bit stressful, especially physically, but awesome. I had fun hanging out with all of you. Thanks guys!

And now, I'm back at work. See, last year we did this thing at my school where, if we didn't have class or English camp, I didn't have to go to school. Well, apparently GEPIK, the governing body of education in this province, sent out a missive to all its member schools and whatnot that all foreign teachers have to be at school during breaks, unless we specifically take a vacation -- which we get 4 weeks of every year. Basically what this means is that I've had to go sit in the teachers room at my school (not even the same office where I work the rest of the year, because the Global Center is all locked up tight for the winter break), and hang out with the Vice Principal and the 3rd grade teacher. Neither of whom speak any English. All. Day. Long. On the plus side, I don't have to actually do anything, so... I mean, I can't really complain too much. It's just awful boring. I suppose I can do there exactly what I'd do at home... play online, watch sports online, read on my new Kindle (thanks Momma!!!), although it is a bit awkward trying to watch porn. Something about it, I dunno... just kills the mood.

And that's about the extent of work-related matters. Oh! No it's not! Winter camp starts on Monday. I had kinda forgotten about it because thanks to the hiring of Mr. Other Foreign Teacher (Leland) I don't have to plan anything! I just gotsta show up and get paid... it's how I like to do business. So yeah, that's for the next two weeks, in the afternoons. Should be fun. I'll try to take some pictures or something. Ha!!! We all know how well that goes, huh? I suck.

But speaking of which, there will be some pictures from home posted soon, I promise! I took all the pictures off my mom's camera, so there's some Christmas, some family birthday parties, and whatnot. I'll try to sort through those and post some within a few days. "Try" being the operative word there, naturally.

Fun fact: it's actually colder and shittier in Seoul and surrounding area than in Chicago right now. Although yesterday did feel a bit warmer, especially in the afternoon.

Fun fact #2: I'm going to see Avatar today with Mi Sun. Well, assuming we can get in, I guess. One theater we looked at was entirely booked, at least to see it in 3D, until 11:30 tonight. At which time there were 2 seats available. She tells me she has a coupon from a different theater that is only a couple stops down on the subway, and it's supposedly a really nice one... so I'm guessing they're probably all booked up as well, but we'll see.

Fun fact #3: We're finally (a smidge) out in the open with this whole relationship thing! I mean, we told a few people that we used to work with till the whole Global Center fiasco forced them to stop, you know, working there. And since Mi Sun and I are no longer working together, apparently it's all copacetic now. Although I still don't think she's told her parents. Chicken.

Alright, that's all I got. I need to go get ready for this excursion to Seoul. Keep it real.

Oh, no, one more thing! I've been getting a lot of spam comments on here, so I made a couple changes. You'll now see one of those CAPTCHA things (possibly, I haven't actually tested it out but it should be there) before you can leave a comment. Please don't let this scare you. Also, if you want to leave a comment on posts older than 2 weeks old (and again, feel free. Go back and read the whole damn blog if you want -- it's good!), then those comments need to be approved by me before they'll show up. No biggie, just didn't want to scare anybody. Alright, peace.