Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ave, Rory!

I don't know how Rory got this shot of me and my girlfriend, but it's not bad.


pics from the US trip

And now: a few pics from my three-week trip to the States. Missing are images from Texas (the first four days of my trip) and pics of various life forms at the Villainschloss (exact location deliberately undisclosed), though I did snap pics of the Villainschloss dog and have some tantalizing glimpses of Mike the Maximum Leader at home, plotting villainy. Also: Mom didn't want her face on camera, and although I took a "revenge" shot of my brother David sleeping in his underwear, he deleted the pic when he found out about it.



cool comments

I've received a slew of cool comments over the past few days, but wanted to note Galen's thoughtful comments, from a Cali perspective, over at this post.



It's thyme.

Friday, June 29, 2007

to tide you over

Photos from the States are on the way. Meantime, feel free to copy this animated GIF, but do give credit with a link to this blog.

The above image is courtesy the Drudge Report (or whoever Drudge stole it from). My animation is a little homage to Annika, who was a master (mistress?) at these.


lesson planning woes

It happened yet again. It happens every semester, so you'd think I'd be used to it by now: earlier today, my supervisor told me that at least one of my upcoming classes has been cancelled, and that one or two more might also get the axe. Low enrollment.

The problem is this: we don't find out about cancellations until the last minute. This means that teachers who care will plan out their semester, only to find out that much of their planning will have to be tossed. The reason this happens is that the class registration period runs up against the semester itself, which is something I have been politely campaigning against since my second semester at Smoo. An earlier registration period-- is two weeks asking too much?-- would allow us to gather the numbers and lock in which courses we'd be teaching.

Do other university instructors suffer through this same charade every semester?


Ave, Jelly!

Inspired by this post of Jelly's, I went out and bought a can of morn rambutan stuffed with pineapple. I need to find me some lychee fruit again, because for the life of me, I don't know that I can taste the difference between the two. Part of the problem may be that my experience with both fruits extends only to the canned varieties. The canning process probably deadens a lot of the flavor.


it... is... ALIVE

Or it soon will be.


postal scrotum: from an unexpected source!

I had no idea that the online commenter who goes by the screen name "I Heart Blue Balls" (see his[?] frequent comments over at The Marmot's Hole) was a Hairy Chasms reader. But IHBB just sent me the following:


You may want to reconsider your Giuliani Lashes Out post, or at least update it to more accurately reflect Giuliani's opportunistic flip-flopping on 9/11 blame. If Giuliani was "restating his position" from 2002 with new Clinton-blame, then why would he have said this in September 2006:

"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it," Giuliani said during a stop in Florida. "I don't think President Bush deserves it. The people who deserve blame for Sept. 11, I think we should remind ourselves, are the terrorists — the Islamic fanatics — who came here and killed us and want to come here again and do it."

YouTube link

USA Today link

I'm sure you have your reasons for backing Giuliani, but let's not pretend that he's anything more than another douchebag politician willing to say anything to anyone to get applause, even when he directly contradicts himself. He's bashing Clinton now because he's trying to be a tough-guy conservative. No doubt whatever event he was at in Florida where he said blaming Clinton was "just wrong for many, many reasons" was one at which that tough-guy Clinton-bashing persona wouldn't play well, so he softened up and pretended to be reasonable.

Giuliani is a pandering jackass just like the rest, who seems to have forgotten those "many, many reasons" in less than a year because it suits his campaign. Giving him credit for consistency is ludicrous.


As a coworker of mine says, "They're all dirty bastards," so yes, Rudy probably is "another douchebag politician." There are no white knights, and it would be naive to believe otherwise. But as the wisdom goes, politics is often about holding your nose to make the choice, and I think Rudy's ability to (1) rehabilitate NYC's reputation, (2) largely rehabilitate NYC's economy, and (3) be undiplomatic toward the right people are marks in his favor.

As for consistency-- I don't doubt that Rudy, like all the other politicians, will trip over his dick more than once. But the fact is that he did take a certain position in his 2002 book Leadership, which he is reaffirming now.* You're right that his above-linked quote can be interpreted as inconsistent-- I felt this way myself last September. But we have to separate the narrow issue of Rudy's consistency between Quote A and Quote B from the larger issue of how consistent Rudy is and will be as a politician. What I wrote was literally true regarding the narrow issue: the facts are that Rudy's recent dig is perfectly consistent with an attitude he expressed in 2002. But I agree with you regarding the larger issue: of course Rudy's gonna be a ho. He's a politician. At the same time, however, I don't think Rudy is without an agenda. His 2002 quote and his recent quote are in line with his basic orientation.

[NB: After I had written my September 2006 post, I got a couple responses, which I blogged here. Respondents seemed to think Rudy was simply being civil. Now the gloves are off. Is this really a surprise to anyone?]

So out of curiosity, I put the question to you: whom, if anyone, do you back, and why? Who is a better choice than Giuliani? I know some of my readers have a visceral dislike of Giuliani, and I'm sure they have their alternatives in mind. But for IHBB, who is the best candidate on the menu? (I say "on the menu" because I'm trying to exclude answers like "my parakeet"-- heh.)

Me, I've never backed anyone before now, so this is all quite new to me. I'm not a Republican or a Democrat; I see merits and demerits to both sides. There's still the chance I might become disenchanted with Giuliani, because I'm a reasonable person who takes a fairly empirical approach to life. If evidence mounts that Giuliani is little more than a sham, I will shop elsewhere.** But what counts as "evidence" requires sifting through an enormous amount of media bullshit, so I won't reach conclusions hastily. If a few instances of inconsistency are enough evidence to declare a politician unworthy of office (is that what you were implying?), then by rights the US should drop all pretense at governance and switch to benevolent anarchy, because no politician-- no human being, for that matter-- will ever meet the standard of perfect consistency. But that cynical posture is an easy and lazy one to adopt. As I get older, I find it less appealing.

I admit I was impressed with Giuliani's guts on 9/11, a day when Bush was floundering (and recall that it took our president a few days to get off his ass and go to Ground Zero, where he then stood safely on the smoking rubble and barked platitudes through a bullhorn; the people of NYC deserved better, faster). And I'm doubly impressed at Giuliani's results with regard to crime reduction, handling of international matters, and economic recovery in NYC. In all, I remain a political cynic, so I agree with your basic stance. Douchebags, the lot of them. But as my old sophomore-year biology teacher said, "It's the law of the septic tank: the biggest pieces rise to the top." My appreciation of Giuliani is along those lines: of the pieces of crap out there, he's the floater for this voter.

*Giuliani, Rudolph. Leadership. New York: Hyperion, 2002. The relevant text, regarding Giuliani's handling of Arafat's attempt at party-crashing, can be found on pp. 332-338.

**To be frank, I don't understand people who cathect politicians. That's just weird.


Ave, Rory!

Rory writes a touching post on the effects of global warming. I admit it: I wept.


jet lagged, I admit

I find myself awake at 3:30AM, Seoul time. For the past two days, I've been going to sleep a bit after dinnertime and waking up like this. Double plus ungood, though I'm sure the coming routine will help snap the proper rhythm back into place. Don't mind my old-fart grumbling.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

the errands continue... and the weather sucks

It's jang-ma (monsoon) season, and the rains finally fell today, though not enough for my taste. I want a nice, constant, oppressive rain-- one that cools the place down. I'm still doing errands around town, and lemme tell you, it's fockin' hot and humid here. I'm hatin' life and taking taxis short distances just to stay near an A/C. I have to go out again in about an hour. May it rain again-- long and hard this time.

Down, ass-crack sweat! Down!

The new term starts Monday. It's plain to me now that I'll have to arrive for classes an hour earlier, to allow my ass crack (and by extension, my pants) to dry out before lessons begin. Shite. Fook. Diddle.


postal scrotum: more on fugliness

UPDATE: Blake's response to my response is now at the end of this post.

Blake N. emails:

Hey Kevin,

Your brother writes, "I remember seeing a disproportionately large proportion of ugly white men with pretty Korean girls. It's obvious that so many of these men could never get a date with someone as pretty in their own home countries..." And then you yourself add, "For my part, whenever I see a pretty Korean lady with an ugly-ass Westerner, I think: Woman, how can you not see what a freak that dude is?"

There seems to be an implication here that ugly guys simply don't deserve good-looking women, and that an ugly white guy who comes to Korea and succeeds in scoring a date with a pretty Korean girl is guilty of gaming the system by taking advantage of a girl who is "predisposed to liking western things and finding them exotic." I'm wondering: is it just ugliness that makes these Western guys unfit for these Korean girls, or is there something else wrong with them?

Also, I thought maybe you might be interested in this article:

Why White Men Prefer Asian Women

It's only tangentially related to the issue at hand, and I think the author oversimplifies matters a bit, but I also think he provides a better explanation for why some Western guys are interested in Asian women than the old "they're submissive" canard, which your brother mentions.

Anyway. Love the blog; keep up the great work.

-- Blake

Thanks for writing in.

I disagree that the implication is "ugly guys simply don't deserve good-looking women." That would be, as philosophers call it, an uncharitable interpretation of what Sean and I are saying. As Clint Eastwood grated to Gene Hackman before blowing his head off in "Unforgiven," "Deserve's got nothing to do with it." No: the reality is that like usually associates with like. We see this played out all the time: a good-looking lady is on the lookout for an equally good-looking man. Athletically inclined men, more often than not, aren't looking for slothful, out-of-shape couch potatoes as partners. As the doughy but honest Carlos Mencia famously noted in response to his wife's question, How did I end up with you?: "I was the best you could do; you were the best I could do." Or something like that. Evolutionary psychology seems generally to support this rationale. Bizarrely enough, so does the culturally iconic movie "Shrek," in which the object of Shrek's desire must become an ugly ogre herself before the couple can be truly happy. I think, though, that this general rule is unclear when dating is cross-cultural. You might be right that Sean is implying that some ugly white dudes could be "gaming the system," but my own take is a bit less cynical: I'm simply shocked whenever I see what appears to be Beauty and the Beast walking hand in hand.

(Personally, I sympathize with the more romantic notion that ugly guys can win the hand of the fair princess, but in reality, ugly guys who bang hot chicks are usually rich and powerful, or potentially so. Keith Richards, Steve Tyler, and Bill Clinton come immediately to mind as examples. I admit I didn't like the ending of "Shrek" for this very reason: it spoiled the romance for us ugly guys. Fiona should have stayed human; that would have been a statement! Considering all the interbreeding that has occurred over the course of three Shrek films, I don't see why Fiona and Shrek had to become the same race. But my point is that a hugely popular movie confirms the general wisdom that like pairs with like. Americans in particular may find that notion hard to swallow, but living in a more homogeneous culture brings that point home pretty clearly. Here in Korea, danil-minjok is a prominent catchphrase. Whether we're talking "like" in terms of race, or personality, or socioeconomic level, or religion, or language community-- birds of a feather generally flock together. I'm not saying that's good or bad; it's simply how things usually are. Note, too, that "Beauty and the Beast" is the template for "Shrek": the beast becomes a handsome man in the end.)

I read the interesting post over at Fred On Everything, and largely agree with it, though I know it's going to drive some of my female readers nuts. For me, the best support for Fred's thesis is the American culture of shoulder pads-- an abomination we still haven't gotten away from. Large shoulders suggest a surfeit of testosterone-- not a charming quality in a lady. Once again, I have to drag out Camille Paglia and say that Paglia offers a better form of feminism for women-- one in which women don't have to equate "equal status" with "being masculine." In Paglia's worldview, biology matters, and women should capitalize on their virtues, all without becoming pawns of patriarchy. That said, I agree with your assertion that Fred is oversimplifying things, though I suspect such oversimplification is inevitable if the object of the game is to write a brief, pithy essay. We bloggers are almost all guilty on that score.

Thank you again for your email!

Blake responds:

I'm actually willing to admit that Sean is probably right about Korean girls hooking up with Westerners because they find them exotic or whatever. I guess I was just a little irked by the instant cynicism you both seemed to exhibit: you're right that hot girls usually prefer hot guys and vice-versa, but occasionally people DO look beyond outward appearances, and I think it's possible that at least a FEW of the hot Korean girls you've seen with fugly Western guys successfully did that.

As a stunningly handsome man, this is all academic to me, of course.

-- Blake

PS. My website is Check it out if you're ever bored.

NB: Blake's site includes a well-written and perceptive review of the late Shawn Matthews's memoir, Island of Fantasy. His site also reviews plenty of animé... which leads me to believe that Blake's got Da Yellow Fee-vah! Admit it, Blake!

By the way, for those turned off by cynicism, heed the Jedi Master:

But as we grope our way through the tunnel of doubt, uncertainty, restlessness, dissatisfaction, and physical and mental exhaustion, we must remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and remind ourselves of the feelings of hope and happiness that got us into the tunnel in the first place and the beauty and inspiration that make this light worth fighting for. We must remember that anything worthwhile in life can only be achieved through hard work and dedication, and that the truly valuable ideals and passions that we yearn for must be earned, not taken, through diligence and perseverance.

Carpe diem.


bookkeeping and books

I don't have my records right with me, but after depositing $1900 (corrected from $1920) from the initial buying wave for Water from a Skull, I received another $220 in checks from subsequent buyers, and finally got my $115 CafePress check (this is money from almost two months ago; you have to wait 45 days to receive payment from CP, to allow customers their mandated 30 days to return any defective or otherwise unsatisfactory CP product). My 96 books sold out, and 20 more have been ordered in case more folks are interested in buying.

At this point, then, it seems I have sold, with the kind help of my family, friends, and the local Korean community:

96 books at (and just after) the book signing*
19 books through CafePress
approx. 10 books through the Korean printing service
22 books in the longer aftermath of the book signing

This puts me at a rough total of 140-some* books sold since mid-March, when the book was initially put on sale. I've got until St. Patty's Day 2008 to sell another 60 or so books and fulfill the literal goal of selling "a couple hundred" copies of Water from a Skull. Can I, should I, aim for 300 in a year? 500?

In the grand scheme of things, what we've accomplished up to now is small potatoes, but it's a great start, and I'm thankful to all the people who have helped me with this initial push-- especially to my parents, who took a major financial hit in order to allow me to earn 100% of the book's cover price during the book-signing event.** I'm no expert, but I'd humbly advise that, if you're considering self-publishing, you should look to your network of friends and relatives for help. You might be surprised at the personal resources already available to you, and at the generosity those folks will show a bloke who's just starting out.

Side note: I looked into getting Publisher's Weekly to do a review of the book, but their submission requirements state that manuscripts must be turned in to them two months before the book's planned release date. That would have been impossible in my case: my release date kept bouncing around!

This, by the way, will be my last finance-related post for a long while. I don't want to keep beating people over the head with figures, but because I blog a good bit about my personal life, and because this entire book-writing and -selling experience has meant a lot to me, I felt you were entitled to know some of the gory details.

*This book count isn't accurate because some charitable Koreans at the book signing actually paid more than the asked-for $20 per copy. I received, for example, several checks for two books that were made out in the amount of $50, not $40. One or two people also paid for x+1 books, but asked for only x books. This charity makes accounting a bit difficult. In any case, immediately after the book signing, I had $1900 in cash and checks; I then received a secondary wave of payments totalling the aforementioned $220 (and that was for 22 books), and my CafePress check was indeed for $115 and change. I mention all this because, if you do the math and try to total up the number of actual, physical books I've sold, the numbers obviously don't add up: my folks purchased 116 books, but not all of them have been sold. So when in doubt, just relax and follow the money. Heh.

**Technical info for those interested in using CafePress: CP offers a bulk-buying discount of about 35%, where "bulk" is defined as "over 15 of the same item." My book's cover price is $21.95; with the author discount (the author doesn't pay the markup on his/her own book when purchasing it for him-/herself) and the 35% bulk discount, my parents paid about $11 or $11.50 per copy. All told, they bought 116 copies of the book, of which 100+ are already gone or spoken for, and more are selling as church members and Mom's coworkers become aware of the book's existence. More aggressive marketing will have to follow if I'm to sustain this wave. Meanwhile, thanks to Mom and Dad for taking a $1300 hit just so I could pocket the profits. Had I done this another way, I would have seen much less revenue-- about $700 less. Wow.


postal scrotum: for you to ponder

Before I went to the States, my brother Sean emailed me the following:

Dr Bigglesworth,

Here's something to address on your blog that bothered me when I was in Korea.

I have come up with a theory that many (not all) male foreigners working in Korea are there just to get a date. I remember seeing a disproportionately large proportion of ugly white men with pretty Korean girls. It's obvious that so many of these men could never get a date with someone as pretty in their own home countries so they come to Korea to get a date with women from a culture that is predisposed to liking western things and finding them exotic. Any self respecting korean-american girl would never be caught dead with these men. This really bothered me because the men were taking advantage of this cultural predisposition and it also bothered me that the pretty korean girls would fall for it. I also think that a lot of these ugly men just have yellow fever and want a more submissive woman (which is obviously the western stereotype of asian women).

What do you think of this theory?

I know that this sort of question provokes lengthy comment threads at places like The Marmot's Hole. Anything of a "they're here to fuck our women!" nature does that. My own take is that, yeah, a lot of foreigners are here to scope, but that there's nothing inherently wrong with being a guy on the lookout for chicks. The cultural problem you refer to-- the one about the "submissive Asian woman" stereotype-- is less of a problem than it might seem at first blush, because Westerners who go into the game with the wrong conception about Asian women usually get straightened out pretty quickly by the women themselves: they're anything but submissive for the most part. That might explain why some Western losers, unable to deal with that reality, turn to the hos. But as I'm sure many expat commenters will point out, Koreans can't really blame foreigners for the bustling sex industry: the sex business is fueled primarily by Korean clientele. Blaming foreigners for a systemic internal problem is an easy way out. Not that these foreigners are helping the situation, of course...

For my part, whenever I see a pretty Korean lady with an ugly-ass Westerner, I think: Woman, how can you not see what a freak that dude is? But the funny thing is that this works in reverse: by Korean standards, many of the girls who date Western men seem not to fall into the Korean notion of what counts as pretty. A big international example of this aesthetic disconnect is Lucy Liu, whom many Western guys find beautiful, but whom East Asians mostly regard as plain. Some veteran expats here, whose senses have been recalibrated more along Korean lines, might agree that Liu is plain. I, too, agree she's no big shakes (though I think she's a great actress), but I do believe she's blessed with a fine, fine ass. It will never be mine, alas. I'm the wrong income bracket, belt size, and sperm motility level. Anyway, my point is that this aesthetic disconnect cuts both ways.

Notions of beauty and ugliness are globalizing, but we're not totally globalized by any means. So maybe it's appropriate that a guy who's ugly by Western standards should meet up with a girl who's not that pretty by Asian standards. The black sheep from both sides of the cultural fence can meet up, get busy, and produce racially superior hybrids who will eventually take over the planet and rule forever.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

how sad

Readers of this blog already know I hate cell phones. Now there's a report that claims one-third of UK cell phone users would not give up their cell phones, even if they were offered a million pounds (about 2 million dollars) to do so.

Pitiful. I'd give up a testicle for two million dollars. (Though I would want a neuticle replacement.)


Ave, Stafford!

A big congratulations to Stafford, who is now CELTA-certified and looking for fresh minds to twist.


heat and humidity

The taxi driver who drove me to my dorm yesterday said that there hasn't been much rain since jang-ma season officially started, but that there should be some rain in the next couple of days. I hope so: I hate heat and humidity. The week I was at the Villainschloss, we enjoyed three amazing, low-humidity days in northern Virginia; I was reminded of summer in Switzerland. Now, alas, I face the awful reality of weather on the peninsula. I've got quite a few errands to perform today, all of which require me to leave the safety of my concrete abode. I'm not looking forward to this.

May the rains come soon.


Giuliani lashes out

I had blogged that excerpt from Rudy Giuliani's book Leadership earlier, the one in which Giuliani takes Bill Clinton to task for being soft on people like Arafat. Consistent with what he had written in 2002, the Rude-meister now restates his position on Bill Clinton and terrorism:

Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday accused former President Clinton of not responding forcefully enough to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing or later terrorist attacks.

The former New York mayor criticized Democrats, accusing them of weakness and naivete in dealing with terrorism. Giuliani made the comments to about 650 business, corporate and political leaders at Regent University, the conservative Christian college founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson.

"Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before Sept. 11. Many people think the first attack on America was on Sept. 11, 2001. It was not. It was in 1993," said the former New York mayor.

Giuliani argued that Clinton treated the World Trade Center bombing as a criminal act instead of a terrorist attack, calling it "a big mistake" that emboldened other strikes on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, in Kenya and Tanzania and later on the USS Cole while docked in Yemen in 2000.

Giuliani is the man I'd vote for because his interests dovetail with mine: remaining vigilant about terrorism (treating the situation as what it is: a war, not a police action), doing something to halt the American economy's slide toward the cliff's edge, and being clear about who our friends and opponents are. I suspect that Giuliani would get along well with the likes of Merkel and Sarkozy in Europe, and we would see more united action on the terrorism front with all three leaders working in concert, much to the chagrin of the European Muslim community (for more on the issue of Islam's role in today's strife, see this article, which I found through Dr. Vallicella's blog here; I don't agree with some major points in that article, and might discuss those disagreements in a later post).

I think Giuliani would also continue in the John Bolton tradition of undiplomatic rhetoric, but unlike the current president, he wouldn't make an inarticulate hash of things, nor would he give in to the Bush family impulse of trying to keep most of his important dealings secret. I also think Giuliani would take a more considered approach to potential military matters instead of rushing us into a war. In other words, he would openly and forcefully reorient America's priorities toward both economic recovery and hawkish-but-modulated foreign policy. Bush made the mistake of choosing one over the other. As always, my fear is that an elected Rudy would owe a Faustian debt to GOP interest groups, and as my buddy Mike D pointed out, Rudy might have to deal with questions about corruption during his mayoralty (as is already happening: viz. Bernie Kerik).

I'm not sure what chance Rudy has of winning the presidency; his own party is often leery of his positions on hot-button issues like gun control and abortion, but to my mind Rudy's stance gives him crucial cross-demographic appeal. I think he remains the GOP's most electable candidate. The current blind rush to Fred Thompson (who has proved to be articulate, laid back, and more media-savvy than most of his peers) smacks of desperation as harder-line Republicans anticipate a continuation of the Dem backlash in 2008 (I have no reason, yet, to change my prediction that the backlash will continue, and that we'll likely see a Dem in the Oval Office... unless, of course, the Dems front Hillary, which in my opinion would be a huge mistake).

For Giuliani on the issues, see here. For Fred Thompson on the issues, see here. This is a fairly extensive documentation of Thompson's voting record, so you can see quite clearly where he stands and why he appeals to GOPers who fear that people like Giuliani may be giving away the store. Thompson, contrary to my previous and incorrect assessment of him, is not a cipher. His position on most matters is pretty clear, and there's a lot I don't like. A few examples:

Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Sep 1996)
Voted YES on defunding renewable and solar energy. (Jun 1999)
Voted YES on cap foreign aid at only $12.7 billion. (Oct 1999)
Voted NO on background checks at gun shows. (May 1999)
Voted YES on authorizing use of military force against Iraq. (Oct 2002)

Thompson actually takes a number of positions I agree with, but the above issues represent areas where he and I deeply disagree. His overall record shows he is consistently old-school GOP on most matters, hence his current appeal. I like his overall federalism, but am very leery of some of his specific positions.


Rory: rearmed

Rory's back, and he's ready to provide you with "fresh inanity, stupid shit I don't mean, even stupider shit that I might mean, and long run-on comma-separated lists that go far beyond the point of being informative or entertaining, every day."


crisis at 40,000 feet

I normally avoid airplane lavatories because I'm now too big to fit in them properly. While inside the cabine, I might be able to achieve the docking maneuver that plants my ass firmly on the toilet (extra fat helps me achieve a good vacuum seal), but wiping my ass in such a confined space is a frightening logistical problem, usually solved by kicking off my shoes and pants, standing up, and propping one leg up somewhere (the sink, maybe, or the raised area beside the toilet) to allow enough cheek spreadage for me to access and clean ol' Harry Enos. This whole procedure involves a lot of grunting and shuffling, and heaven help me if I'm drippy with diarrhea. The operation also takes time, because I'm basically dressing and undressing inside that cramped space. Skinny people, count your many blessings.

I can usually get through an entire trans-Pacific flight without having to see the inside of an airplane lavatory, but today, a combination of circumstances conspired to prime me for a high-altitude download.

If there's anything in my colon, heat and cold don't mix for me. When I got on board the flight from Narita to Seoul, I was hot and sweaty from sitting inside Narita's Terminal 1. Then the plane's blowers started up, and as we began taxiing toward the runway, I felt the first seismic rumblings that indicated an impending cataclysm. Cold has that effect on me for some reason: if I have to go, cold air accelerates the whole process; it magnifies the urge to purge.

I spent the first half-hour of the flight trying to quell those shit pangs. I did breathing exercises, counted to 200, tried analyzing the poop urge in an effort to make it go away-- nothing worked. When the meal service rolled around, I seized my chance: while everyone else was chowing down, I heaved myself out of my seat and lumbered over to the lavatory, which was mercifully close to row 10, where I was.

I locked myself inside, undid the shorts, sat upon the cramped throne, and let fly with several mighty bursts of brown. After the initial quakes, I rode the two or three aftershocks that followed, then began the complicated wiping procedure, which involved almost all the steps described above.

That was when disaster struck. After wiping my bum thoroughly, I flushed, but not everything was sucked out by the toilet's powerful whoosh. Stubborn clumps remained. So I took a paper cup from a dispenser, filled it with warm water from the sink, leaned over the toilet bowl, and began pouring the water onto the remaining bits of brown in an effort to make the second flush a suck-it-all winner. But I leaned too far over the toilet bowl...

...and the contents of my shirt's breast pocket spilled out.

By "contents," I mean the following:

a pen
boarding passes and stubs for this and the previous flights
my Korean Customs declaration form
my disembarkation cards, and--

my passport.

Thank God the passport fell on the floor. But the pen, the Customs form, one boarding pass, and the disembarkation form all fell into the bowl.

Imagine, if you will, what this looked like: a fully wiped Kevin, with his shorts around his ankles, gasping in horror at the tableau within the toilet.

I decided the boarding pass was a lost cause; after all, I wouldn't need it at Passport Control. I dragged it out of the bowl, rinsed it, then chucked it in the tiny waste paper bin. The pen and landing forms, though, were a different matter. As it turned out, the slips of paper didn't hit any of the remaining clumps of shit, but the pen... oh, the pen took it full-on. Grimacing, I pulled the fallen items out one by one, saving the wretched pen for last. The slips of paper were sniffed to make sure they weren't transmitting shit odor, but the pen needed a complete washing, which I accomplished as carefully as I could in my distraught state.

Then, the evil deed done, I pulled up my pants and rejoined the rest of the plane in shame, unable to look anyone in the eye.

Our cruising altitude was 40,000 feet. The computer screen was relaying all sorts of flight data: altitude, headwind speed, ground speed, outside temps, time to destination, etc. I couldn't help comparing my experience to that of William Shatner in that Twilight Zone episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." I think I had it worse than Shatner.

Heh. Shatner.

I pretended to sleep for the rest of the flight.



I spent most of my three weeks in the northern Virginia area, and noticed two major changes since December of 2005: (1) traffic sucks even worse despite the various construction projects (Woodrow Wilson Bridge, the Mixing Bowl), and (2) there are self-service checkout counters at the local groceries.

I'm still trying to figure (2) out. Self-checkout sounds like a good idea at first, because it obviously gives you, the shopper, more positive control over what you're doing. From the boss's standpoint as well, it's a boon because you need fewer cashiers to do the work. But the major problem seems to be that Joe and Jane Shopper aren't always going to be competent cashiers. There's a significant likelihood that they might hold up the line as they struggle to ring their items up. There's also the question of how honorable these shoppers will be: what mechanism is in place to stop someone from shoplifting by simply neglecting to ring an item up? For that matter, what mechanisms are in place to distinguish unscrupulous shoppers from those who simply make a mistake?

To be fair, I tried the process on one occasion and got the hang of it within seconds, which seems to mean that you don't need a genius IQ to learn how to run items over a scanner. But I have to admit I was lucky: all my items scanned perfectly, and that's not always going to be the case. I also had very few items to scan, and was at the store during a low-traffic time of day. How would things have gone had I had 50 items in my cart and ten huffy people in line behind me?

Anyway, a lot has changed in my absence, but traffic and self-checkout are what truly caught my eye this time around.


this is kinda cute

Start Trek: the undiscovered inspirational posters. I'm way behind the curve in finding these.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

uncomfortable thought

I was in the States from June 5 to the morning of June 25. This overlaps almost entirely with Paris Hilton's prison sentence. Which of us had a more enriching experience during that time? Heh.


...and we're back in Seoul

It's sad to be away from the States, but it's also good to be back.

I've got stories to tell, some of which will get told tonight because I plan on doing absolutely nothing productive this evening aside from eating, unpacking, uploading pics, and farting out thoughts about my all-too-brief time in the States.

In other news, my cell phone seems to have died off completely (no, wait-- it's working again, albeit barely), but the three items I had wanted fixed in my dorm-- the light above the kitchen stove, the leaky bathroom sink, and the second bathroom lightbulb-- all seem to have been fixed in my absence, per my pre-departure written request to our concierges.

The taxi ride from the downtown Lotte Hotel to my place was pleasant; the driver complimented my broken Korean. The various plane rides over (DC-Newark, Newark-Narita, Narita-Seoul), plus the limousine bus ride from Incheon Airport to the downtown Lotte Hotel, were almost-- almost-- without incident, and you can bet I'll be writing about that little issue tonight.

More later as I unwind, unpack, find some dinner, buy some supplies, and otherwise loll about.


Monday, June 25, 2007

to tide you over

Before I left Seoul, I put up a rather pretty graphic for you to contemplate. Now that I'm on my way back to Seoul, I thought I'd put up something equally pretty.


sold out

The book's print run (I use the term loosely; Water from a Skull is a publish-on-demand book, so there are no print runs, per se) of 96 seems to have sold out thanks to some more sales at my church and at my mother's place of work in DC. Amazing. I pronounce myself pleased.


last hurrah

After a much-anticipated outing at Five Guys yesterday (they were unbelievably slow in serving my parents their order, but the burger and dog I ate were nasty-good), I'm off to CPK today-- California Pizza Kitchen. The place serves a wide variety of personal-sized pizzas, many of them fusion-style.

After lunch, I'll be spending the rest of my day getting ready for the trip back to Seoul; some items buried in boxes need to be found and shipped over, and it's going to take a few hours to find them. I have to wake up pretty early tomorrow in order to be at the airport by about 6:30AM, so this is likely my final post from the States. Sorry about the lack of pics; I'll post them when I'm in Seoul. Sorry, as well, to my Georgetown buddies and to Jason, who had wanted to meet up before my departure. Next time, gents-- but it was good seeing you this time around, however briefly.


Sunday, June 24, 2007


I caught myself telling my folks that it would soon be time for me to be going "home."


In a sense, Korea has indeed become my home. It has fed me and sheltered me for about seven years now. I've had mixed feelings about being back in the States for reasons I won't go into here, but those issues notwithstanding, it's become a real question as to where "home" is.

The facile answer, I suppose, is that home is where your heart deems it to be. Why not simply say that both the States and Korea are my home? But life isn't simple, and the practical reality is that I have now spent almost a fifth of my life living in Korea.

I'm not having an identity crisis, mind you: I'm not questioning how American or how Korean I might be. I'm detached enough to be able to track how my culture-related sensibilities have evolved over time, and when all is said and done, I'm a Westerner. I know who I am. But the notion of "home"... that's a different issue.

As an expat who draws sustenance and income from another culture, I find that "home" has a lot to do with where my established routines lie, where my kosmos (order) is-- where the world makes the most sense. Whatever my complaints about living in Korea, whatever my joys, the fact of the matter is that seven years spent here means seven years of moving to a Korean rhythm. I'm often more aware of Korean holidays than I am of American ones; I can relate to the craziness of Korean traffic patterns at least as well as I grok the relatively sedate American ones; at this point, I shop more competently in Korea than in the States, because I know exactly where to go in Seoul to find what I need. I've established all these points de repère, reference points that allow me to connect the dots and navigate the Korean universe more or less competently, if not exactly fluently.

So it's a real question for me: what counts as home? I suppose my slip of the tongue indicates what answer I'm leaning toward. Monday morning is coming, and on that day I'm heading home.


with thanks to my brother Sean

Behold: Drama Prairie Dog.


it doesn't always pay to tattle

I saw this video and immediately thought: "Hermione's curse."


Saturday, June 23, 2007

book profits

The smoke has cleared; the initial buying frenzy is over. I deposited $1920.00 in the bank earlier this afternoon after I got back from my visit to the Villainschloss. Water from a Skull* continues to sell here; we're almost through the 96 books I had originally ordered, putting my total number of books sold somewhere close to 130. That brings me ever closer to the magic 200, which is about the number I had hoped to sell in a year (well, I had said "a couple hundred," which could be taken to mean more than 200 books).

UPDATE: Then there's this guy who, in two months, has sold over 10,000 copies of his latest book, which devotes a lot of space to trashing Korea.

*Apparently misnamed Walk from a Skull in a recent church bulletin. Oy.


back from the Villainschloss

An amazing three days with an amazing family. I've got pictures, but won't be blogging most of them, as they're for private consumption. In fact, I doubt I'll be putting up many pictures at all before I leave for Korea on Monday, as it takes time to cut the pics down to bloggable size. But don't give up hope-- I've got a couple amusing images I might slap up before Monday.

I'm definitely not looking forward to reverse jet lag.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

safely ensconced at the Villainschloss

A great, welcoming wave of children (and dog) swept over me when I heaved myself out of the car upon arrival at the Villainschloss. The day only got better as my girls (and their little brother) schooled me on the finer points of the "Cars" video game for the Xbox 360-- this after an excellent home-cooked meal. My compliments to the chefs.

The family is asleep (I think) as I write this; the dog peeks in on occasion to see what I'm up to. Not much to see here, dog: I'm off to bed. I imagine you folks in Seoul are enjoying lunch. You know, that reminds me... I'm not looking forward to the reverse jet lag I'll be experiencing next week. Yeah, I'm going back next week. How time flies.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

a few shout-outs before I go south

I'm heading off to the Villainschloss (the fortress abode of Mike of Naked Villainy) later today, and will be there until Friday, so blogging might be scarce. In the meantime, a few links for you to ogle:

1. First is Justin Yoshida's comment to my post on Thailand and the fork. Justin also has an interesting insight into Thai Buddhism, here.

2. Next is Charles's post on translation.

3. Check out Max's insights re: courses they should have offered when we were in high school.

4. Nathan has an excellent review of the movie "300" up. Take one guess what a classicist like Nathan might think of the movie version of the comic book version of the Battle of Thermopylae.

5. The Party Pooper squeezes out another one, this time on foreign English teachers being criminals, which we obviously are.

6. My buddy Mike, who does his own "100 Below" short stories, recently wrote one that had me chuckling... and then I went back to read it again, and found it funnier... read it again-- funnier... The story grew on me as I began exploring how many levels of humor had been squeezed into so few words, so Mike's post gets a place of honor here at number 6, Satan's favorite number.

And a couple notes before I go:

1. The Maven is right. Rachel Ray has turned into a cthonian nightmare. She's still cute in that Joker-smiley sort of way, but she's no longer the woman I remember from a couple years back, when her program was just starting out. Those early episodes were fairly sedate, featuring a calm, rational Rachel bustling about her kitchen while offering common-sense tips to the viewer. The current instantiation of RR, however, looks as though she's hopped up on speed and sounds as though she's a chain smoker. Spittle-flecked stridency overrides everything on her show now; the meal itself takes a distant second place to Ray's personality. The only person with a body large enough to have such a loud stage presence is Emeril (who hasn't changed a bit). Rachel: I know you're in there somewhere. Turn it down a few notches, chica.

2. I watched my first (and probably only) episode of a show called "Hell's Kitchen" the other night. The premise seems to be that a master restaurateur puts young and eager restaurateur-wannabes through their paces as they vie for the status of Owner of My Own Restaurant. These young people aren't inexperienced chefs; they know what they're doing, but the point of the show seems to be to put them under pressure in an effort to see whether they can manage themselves and each other in a fast-paced kitchen. Inability to do this means elimination from the competition.

What struck me as I was watching this, though, was that "Hell's Kitchen" continues a rather disturbing meme in American TV: the "We Like Being Castigated By Pissy Brits" meme. Think about TV shows where Americans find themselves being put down by their fellows from across the pond: the US version of "Weakest Link" comes immediately to mind-- the host of the US version was British. Simon Cowell's presence on "American Idol" also comes to mind. Even the friendly and largely harmless Colin Ferguson is making us look bad by telling us what's what on late-night TV. And now there's this scary dude on "Hell's Kitchen." We Americans are bitches, pure and simple. I think a good revenge might be to start a show on which a bunch of untrained Brits are forced to work on an American cattle ranch for six months. Or a gaggle of British footballers are taken to the US, suited up, and put through the wringer of American football camp. That would be good TV.

Righto-- Bob's yer uncle, then.


thank you, thank you, thank you

My mother and I sat before the computer monitor earlier today and generated a thank-you card list that currently weighs in at around 60 people. That's a lot of thank-yous. I'll be printing out messages on blank thank-you cards, adding little ditties to some of the cards for a more personal touch, and hoping like hell that people will help me to continue to market the book (through reviews, purchases, word of mouth, etc.). I've made a tiny splash; now it's a matter of sustaining the ripples as long as possible.


negative perspiration

I'm sure you've heard the term "negative perspiration," which is simply a jokey way to say "no sweat." Well, get this: my dad signed me into the Fort Belvoir fitness center, and after I did a workout vaguely similar to the one I do at Smoo (including 230 calories' worth on an elliptical trainer), I came home and my mother remarked that the only part of my tee shirt not soaked with sweat was my armpits.

Gotta love that Gillette Clear Gel antiperspirant. I wish I'd taken a picture of the shirt.


Skippy versus Krauthammer

Two very different conservative views on illegal immigrants and the building of a Great Wall can be found at Enjoy Every Sandwich (Skippy) and Real Clear Politics (Charles Krauthammer). Both essays deserve your attention.


message to Dr. Steve


In the hopes that you might catch this, I'm writing to say that I tried twice to send you an email yesterday, but got "fatal error" messages back from my mailer daemon. Is there something wrong with your email address? I sent messages to other folks throughout the day yesterday, and had no problems. My email contained three hyperlinks to YouTube videos; is it possible that your email security setting somehow detects hyperlinks and treats such emails as spam?

Anyway, please contact me if/when you see this blog post. Gracias.



more pics on the way!

The house scanner is on the blink, so I took some pics of the local Korean-language Korea Times (not to be confused with the Seoul-based, English-language Korea Times), which published an ad for my book signing as well as "pre" and "post" articles about the event. I've also got some slice-of-life pics to put up (the dog and cat figure prominently). More later.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

at long last: pics from the signing

What follows is a series of pics in roughly chronological order, taking us from the book signing's humble beginnings to the speech made by the outgoing president of Mom's Korean-American wives' club to pics of my brother David playing cashier, me doing a reading, and various friends and family members milling about.

Pics 1-3 = The desk where David and I sat. Attendees signed a guest register, paid David the cashier, and got their new book signed by yours truly. The first pic also once again features my ass, visible in the doorway.

Pic 4 = Dr. Steve, my buddy since 8th grade, brightens up what could have been a dull photo.

Pic 5 = Food prep in the room off to the side.

Pics 6 and 7 = David and his big big brother at work, doing their thing. Christina Chong is in the corner, snapping her own pics. My brother Sean snapped many of the pics you see here.

Pic 8 = A glimpse of the gathering crowd. We ended up with close to 50 people.

Pic 9 = Another shot of the table where the action was. I signed books from noon to 12:30, then stopped to do my presentation: a spiel about me and my book, a reading of two passages (this was a snoozer for most of the audience), and a Q&A session which was somewhat livelier than the reading.

Pic 10 = A rare glimpse of the back of my head.

Pic 11 = Altered photo. Kevin gives himself a jawline as a joke.

Pic 12 = The outgoing president of the women's society gives a short speech before my 12:30 spiel.

Pic 13 = My reading, as seen from the back of the audience.

Pic 14 = Luminaries.

Pic 15 = In the back are Dr. Steve and my two brothers, Sean (left, black shirt) and David (right), along with a friend from church (foreground, left) and one of Mom's many Korean acquaintances (foreground, right).

Pic 16 = A surprise visit from my Georgetown friends! All praise to Mike D (tallest of the bunch), who reads my blog and who alerted the others to this event. I was floored when everyone from my past showed up. That really made my day. I've pixelled out my buddy Joe's son (he's got two sons, and a sister is on the way) based on other parents' feeling that one shouldn't display pics of the kids online.

Aside: along with my GU buddies, we had some stars from the blogosphere show up as well: Jason was there, as was Corsair, and somehow Charlie the KimcheeGI managed to show up despite his demanding job as a drill instructor, kicking ass and taking names. The amazing Pastor Bled also made it over, which was fantastic.

Pic 17 = Two big-shots, whom I won't name here lest they Google themselves.

Pic 18 = Many of the ladies in the Korean women's society, including Mom.

I was going to make the above into a Photobucket slide show, but you need Flash 9 to view it, which seemed like too much of a pain for everybody. I hope you enjoyed the above quick overview of Saturday's event. It was quite something. My thanks go out to the local Korean community for all their effort, and especially to Mom and Dad for having worked so hard to put this together. I literally did nothing but come, talk, and sign. (Yes, that's the correct use of "literally," Steve. But be warned: some "misuse" is warranted.)


Banky believes

The debate over whether the current global warming trend is anthropocentric rages on, but UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is a believer:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the slaughter in Darfur was triggered by global climate change and that more such conflicts may be on the horizon, in an article published Saturday.

"The Darfur conflict began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change," Ban said in a Washington Post opinion column.

UN statistics showed that rainfall declined some 40 percent over the past two decades, he said, as a rise in Indian Ocean temperatures disrupted monsoons.

"This suggests that the drying of sub-Saharan Africa derives, to some degree, from man-made global warming," the South Korean diplomat wrote.

"It is no accident that the violence in Darfur erupted during the drought," Ban said in the Washington daily.

It's not until the fourth paragraph, above, that we see the phrase "man-made global warming." There might be a causal connection between climatic change and violence (in fact, such a connection makes a great deal of sense of me), but I'd have to know more about Ban's opinion before I agree that man-made climatic changes have sparked the conflict. The article doesn't convince me that the causal link has been established, or has even been properly argued for.


Thailand and the fork

I normally think of the fork as a Western implement, but after complaining about the lack of chopsticks at a Thai resto I visited a few days back, commenters have been writing in to say that both Thai restaurants and Thais in Thailand use forks when eating. My brain refuses to accept this, so I pass the question to those two unquestionable authorities, Justin and Nam.

What say you, J&N? Are Thais a fork people? And if they are, how the hell did they get that way? Is Theravada Buddhism somehow to blame?


purchases continue

Another 15 or so people are buying my book. Amazing. Looks as though I'm close to selling out.

In other news: happy trails to Dr. Steve as he heads home to PA.


Monday, June 18, 2007

ad changed

I've reverted to the previous banner ad, the one without the announcement for the book signing. Sorry it took so long to change back.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

no pics yet

The parents' digital camera burned itself out: it was used to take pics of the wedding the parents attended immediately after the book signing. I have to wait a few hours before I can upload the digicam pics: the battery is charging, and I don't know where the camera's power cord is.

A few stats from the event:

Number of attendees: roughly 40-50, based on the number of people who signed the guestbook.

Number of books sold: approximately 76 out of 96 ordered online. This puts me way ahead in my goal to sell "a couple hundred" books in one year's time. I've sold over 30 copies already; 30 + 76 = 106. 94 more to go to meet my goal, and I've got most of a year to achieve it.

Amount of money earned: $1600. No joke: that seems to be the count.

You may be wondering how one can have $1600 when the books were being sold for $20 each and the number of books appears to be in the 70s. This is because some of the nice ladies who bought books from me decided to give me a little extra money. Pretty amazing.

Actual profit: This one's a toughie to calculate, because the parents gave me $1100 to order those 96 books (with bulk order discount, the cost of the order was almost exactly $1100), but they don't want any of that money back for themselves. If the parents were to get their money back, my profits would be $1600 - $1100 = $500, which is not a bad haul. But because the parents refuse to accept what I owe them, the profit I take to the bank will be a whopping $1600-- probably going to my plane ticket to Europe for December. That amount of money for a few hours' work is not a bad deal at all.

More on the book signing later. Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.


and we're back

Back from the book signing. Just... wow. Quite an event. I'll blog more later-- with pictures, I hope. For now, I need to unwind a bit, and maybe hit the streets with Dr. Steve & Co. Amazing day, despite some gaffes on my part.

UPDATE: My parents aren't back from a wedding they had to rush off to immediately after the signing. As a result, I don't have their digicam, which contains all the photos of today's events. Veuillez patienter, s'il vous plaît.


Yeah baby

Preppin' for the signin'.

NB from Kevin: This post was snuck in by my brother David, who has posting privileges and wants to prove he can stalk me anytime, anywhere. Heh.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

last call for the book signing!

UPDATE: It's 10AM on Saturday (DC time) and we're about to shove off. Wish us luck.

One last time:

BOOK-SIGNING EVENT for Water from a Skull

Saturday, June 16

Korea Times Building, 3rd Floor
7601 Little River Turnpike
Annandale, VA 22003


I will be there early with my family, helping to set things up. Because we suspect many guests will arrive somewhat late (you know... Korean time), I won't begin my talk until 12:30, but will be signing books from noon to 12:30. At 12:30, I will give a brief talk (in English, but perhaps occasionally in broken Korean), do a short reading from the book (I'm unsure how much of my audience will actually understand the English!), and take some questions. After that, I'll simply be signing until 2PM, though I'm sure some people will hang on longer, as usually happens.

I have no idea how many people might make it to the event, but given the small size of the venue, I anticipate crowded conditions, so wear something loose and cool. I'll be wearing casual myself, so as to minimize sweatiness.

Dad's going to be videotaping (urk) and I suppose my brothers will be snapping some pics and helping me manage the finances. All the members of my immediate family will be there, and I hope you'll take the time to chat with them.

See you tomorrow, I hope.

Pic of the Korea Times building:

Pic of the room in which the signing will take place:


the information/wealth conundrum

In modern, postindustrial societies, the ability to generate, control, and distribute information is increasingly synonymous with wealth. This must present problems for people-- especially artists-- who believe that (1) wealth is something that should be redistributed to balance out current inequities in society while also believing that (2) an artist should earn what s/he deserves for the work s/he does.

Along come the copyright violators-- the people who, for example, have pirated Michael Moore's new film "Sicko" and placed it on the Web for free, thereby draining potential profits from Moore et al. (NB: Moore himself has claimed he doesn't mind pirating). Such pirating is a form of theft, I agree, but if you're a redistributionist, you're going to have a hard time arguing that pirating is harmful when it is, in fact, the next logical move in the campaign to redistribute wealth.

Personally, I think the war against piracy was lost long ago. The advent of digital information-- information that is both perfectly and rapidly replicable-- means it is now impossible to "contain" a work, to funnel the works' earnings to the people involved in its creation. It's a sad development, to be sure: individuals who spend so much time and effort creating great works should receive their due. But nothing can be done about the problem except, perhaps, to revise our understanding of intellectual property. In the future, it may be that artists will have only one-time rights to their digital creations: they will receive money only during the first wave of production and distribution, and after that point, their works will be free and available to the public.

But that phrase, "their due," leads us to the other side of the coin: while it may be that information is rapidly becoming the equivalent of wealth, it's also true that influence is its own form of capital. An artist might not gain monetary wealth from a work, but if the work is good enough and if the artist is consistent enough, it's possible the artist will nevertheless gain intangible capital in the form of influence. Ryan Wieber and Michael Scott, they of lightsaber dueling fame, strike me as an example of this. It's not just anyone who can do what they do. You can pirate their future works, but you can't be them. Wieber was picked up by George Lucas when the first lightsaber duel video won Lucas's fight choreography contest. That's influence, and it's a direct reflection of artistic and technical merit. The works might be copiable, but the work that goes into them isn't.

When we look at phenomena like blogging and YouTube, we see that people are more than willing to produce digital content for no money because most of them are, on some level, trying to earn that intangible capital, influence. The power to affect and to persuade is nothing to sneeze at. Those who do it well in the information age are often rewarded. How important will money be in an increasingly digital world? Where do you think we're headed?


yesterday's Thai experience

Yesterday evening, I hit a Thai restaurant called Mai Thai with my buddy Steve and his lovely wife Erangee. The resto is on King Street in Old Town Alexandria, not far from the water. The place gets a thumbs-up for good and prompt service, attractively arranged dishes, and high-quality cooking. My only gripe is that the resto doesn't automatically offer you chopsticks.

We ordered two appetizers: fried calamari and skewered shrimp. Both were excellent. Our main courses were crispy duck and two seafood-and-sauce dishes. The latter two dishes struck me as having been prepped in a rather French manner, with the elements laid out geometrically on the plates and the delicious sauces forming a bed beneath everything. Still, the flavoring was definitely Thai, and everything was delicious (I had a chance to munch some of my friends' dishes, which is how I know). You shouldn't expect Kevin-sized portions at Mai Thai, but you should expect some quality food.


Friday, June 15, 2007


I feel sad for our cat, Mozart. He's probably nearing 20, he's got only one eye, he's lost many of his teeth (including all of his front fangs), and now... he's been banished from the house. It's a terrible thing to be evicted at the end of your life.

Ever since Sean's dog Maqz moved in, it's Maqz who has had the run of the entire place, except for the basement laundry room, which remains the sole property of Mozart the one-eyed cat. My brother David feels sympathy for Mozart, and so do I. Maqz is a very cute, smart dog, but it seems unfair that the cat, who used to be king of Château Hominidé, has been, for the most part, shut out.

The reason for this, according to the parents, is the fear that a resentful Mozart might charge Maqz and put out one or both of his bulging chihuahua eyes. I think it's likely that Mozart would indeed react badly to Maqz's presence. In fact, Dad confirms that, on the one occasion that the two animals actually met, Mozart did try to scratch the dog. But I also think that, given the chance to meet, the animals would quickly come to terms with each other. After all, the cat tolerated the previous dog, Velcro (yeah; I named him).

I told the parents that, given how fast and smart Maqz is, it would be a good idea to allow the animals to meet, get their conflict out of the way, and then settle into a routine. Maqz would, in my opinion, survive largely unscathed. The parents, however, remain convinced that the cat would slash Maqz to ribbons. I disagree. Maqz has amazingly quick reflexes, and at two years old, he's not a naive little puppy, either.

Animals have distinct personalities, so predicting their behavior is as dicey as predicting human behavior. Still, I'm pretty sure that Maqz would be able to handle himself, and the cat would eventually condone Maqz's presence in the house. In the end, the cat would come to an understanding with the dog, and as a side benefit, both animals would have full run of the house.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

two days with Dr. Steve

My good friend Dr. Steve is in town, so I expect we'll be doing some damage today and tomorrow. If I can persuade him to come to the book signing, then all the better.



A very bad two days, diet-wise. After several binges yesterday (including a Chinese buffet, a convenience store run, and a drive-by McDonaldsing), I hit The Cheesecake Factory today with my brothers David and Sean. For those who don't know: TCF is a slightly higher-end family restaurant chain (we paid around $30/person for meals today) that is famous for-- you guessed it-- its cheesecakes. But as was true of my previous TCF outings, I came away most impressed by the appetizers. We had two: fried calamari and chicken-avocado eggrolls with some marvelous, cilantro-y dipping sauce. TCF knows its appetizers. I was less impressed with my main course, an obscenely huge burrito, but was mollified by the lemon/raspberry cheesecake I ordered for dessert.

And now... Sean is off tutoring cello, and David and I will probably be watching "Thank You For Smoking." Sometime later this evening, I'll likely have a walk.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

another day in pictures

I had the chance to spend a day with my brothers David and Sean. What follows is a smattering of images from Tuesday and Monday.

First up: the blackmail photo, below. David took this shot after I had stripped down (our house isn't nearly as cool as my dorm/studio in Seoul) and collapsed onto Sean's old bed.

David actually took a whole series of shots while I was asleep, and this was one of the tamest. Among the shots were some scary closeups of my toes and my crotch, which I refuse to air for fear that my readership's brains might explode after experiencing the sheer magnitude of my grossosity.

David would make a good stalker: he knows how to leave evidence of his own presence for others to find. Sometime Monday night, David quietly snapped and uploaded the damning photos to Dad's computer-- which was on when I fell asleep-- then "covered" the photos by activating some other screens, and left the computer on. Sure enough, I woke up early in the morning, started tabbing through various windows, and came upon those horrifying images of myself. I had a good laugh. It was only much later, in the afternoon, that I thought to see whether David had left the original photos on Dad's digicam. He had.

The next shot is more civilized. This one, like the one above, comes from my parents' 7.2 megapixel Sony Cybershot digicam. It shows me and my parents posing together at the Korea Times building on Monday. It includes a view of Dad, whom you didn't see in the photos I had taken.

The next five photos are from Tuesday's trip to Skyline Drive. Befoe I talk about that, let me back up and note that my day out with my brothers began with lunch at a Chinese resto called Harvest Moon, somewhere in Vienna, Virginia. Sean was able to accompany me and David, but he had to leave because he was teaching cello from 3PM onward.

After Sean drove off (we had taken two cars to the resto), David and I elected to hit Skyline Drive, which proved to be a good decision. We drove over forty miles along the Drive from its Front Royal, Virginia starting point. We saw a good bit of wildlife, too: a black bear, several deer (a dead one on Route 66 as well), a bunch of brown rabbits, sundry caterpillars and other insects during two short walks, and a few sightseers of both the car and motorcycle variety. Regular old bikers and hikers were scarce.

When we turned around, I noticed a gravestone in a mown patch of grass. We decided to pull over and see what that was all about, and the results of our reconnaissance were rather unsettling. See the following five pics.

A clarification about the above photo: the gravestone has four names on it. I wrote "same three names" in the caption, but should have been more specific, as I was referring to the three children's names.

David wanted to call the Skyline Drive info line to find out more, but we forgot to make the call. I bet there's some information about these folks online, but I have yet to look it up.

David and I got home rather late. We rented two DVDs, "Thank You For Smoking," which I've seen and enjoyed, and "Mission: Impossible 3," which neither of us had seen. We watched MI3, which turned out not to be all that great, but which had two things going for it: (1) more of a sense of humor than the previous two films, and (2) the stunning presence of Maggie Q, whose slave I would gladly become. I knew right away she was a fellow half-and-half, and that dress she wears to the Vatican left me drooling.

I've got one more full day with my brothers before I turn to other matters. Again, if you're in the Northern Virginia area on Saturday and have some time from noon to 2PM, please drop by the book signing at the Korea Times building (third floor). We're selling the book for only $20 there, which is much cheaper for you than ordering it online, where you will pay the cover price of $21.95 plus shipping.

More later.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

today's interview in pictures

I had the pleasure of interviewing with Christina Chong (정영희, Jeong Yeong-hui) of the local Korean-language paper, The Korea Times. She apparently knows my mother quite well (you'll recall that Mom is very plugged in to the local Korean community, and last year finished a term as president of the Washington Korean Women's Society). The interview took only a few minutes, as Miss Chong had had no time to read over my book. Most of her questions were about my background and education, my reasons for writing the book, my thoughts on living in Korea, and so on. The interview was conducted almost entirely in Korean, so it was a good thing that Mom was on hand to interpret when I failed to understand a question (which was distressingly often).

The following ten pics give you an idea of where today's interview took place and where the book-signing event will be held. An additional two pictures are completely irrelevant to the interview; they simply feature my brother Sean's dog Maqz (pronounced "max," but the dog insists on the contrarian spelling).

I hope the exterior pic of the Korea Times building will help people find it if they're driving to the book signing.

And now, the dog pics: