Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's So Hard About Spelling

Watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee tonight and Michelle asked me, "what's so hard about spelling? All of the kids are American, they should know how to spell."

She had a hard time grasping the concept of 12 and 13 year olds not knowing words, which is understandable if you are familiar with the Korean language.

Hangul, the Korean language, was developed to be easy enough for everybody to learn. Hangul came about from the fourth king of the Joeson Dynasty, King Sejong, completed around 1444. Sejong wanted a language exclusive to the Korean people. At the time Korea used the Chinese writen language, which was too difficult to write for common people and only male aristocrates could normally read and write it. The majority of Koreans were mainly illiterate prior to hangul. The language consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. Documents from the time explain the design of the consonant letters according to articulatory phonetics and the vowel letters according to the principles of yin and yang and vowel harmony.

After facing opposition hangul flourished, and was first adopted for official documents in 1894 (mainly because the Japanese wanted to seperate China's influence from Korea.) Later, Japanese was the official language and hangul was banned from schools in 1938 as part of the Japanese cultural assimilation. (Japan on several occasions has tried to eliminate Korean culture and history).

All hangul letters follow the rules of Chinese calligraphy but in simplistic form. Each group is one sylabell. Which brings us back to spelling. If you pronounce a word clearly, seperating each sylabell, it is very easy for each and every person who knows hangul to spell that word.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Prop 8

A little delay in getting these up.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Classical DJ

Had an amazing night at the SF Symphony last night. The featured peformer was pianist Yuju Wang from China and while she was outstanding it was an earlier set that stole the show for me. Mason Bates is a 32 year old composer living in Oakland. He blends electronic music with classical resulting in an amazing experience.

It is great to see a young guy in a black short sleeve t-shirt with an Apple computer on stage right alongside a full symphony dressed in tuxedos and black dresses. Mason uses unique and natural sounds alongside classical compositions. Last night's work included actual sound recordings from the Gemini space mission, a broom, and a typewriter, among many others. The broom sound came from a guy near the percussion area actually sweeping the floor and to see Mason finger bounding this little mixer hooked up to his laptop was mesmorizing.

Certain parts of the performance incorporated electronic beats and it was amusing to see a few violinists bobbing their heads to the rhythm. Equally amusing was seeing the reaction from the blue hairs in the audience who Mason won over. It was one of the best live performances I have witnessed in years. Check him out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kimchi - Bound to Happen

It was bound to happen. Michelle made homemade kimchi. It wasn't as bad as I imagined. I had heard horror stories of the smell and the huge undertaking. But since it is only the two of us she only made a small amount. Usually making kimchi in Korea is a massive production with the entire family involved. I found you don't need a clay pot to put the kimchi in, you don't even have to bury it. (this was done before refrigeration as the earth maintains a temperture of 55-degrees and is still done, albeit to a lesser extent). A simple container and a fridge will work just fine.

Kimchi is the most popular side dish, the most popular being cabbage kimchi but kimchi can be any vegetable that is picked and stored. Radish kimchi and green onion kimchi are two other popular types.

Kimchi styles vary by region in Korea (like BBQ here in the states) with variations in spiciness and flavorings but the base remains the same.
After soaking the cabbage in salt and making a red pepper paste all you do is rub the cabbage with the paste and slam it into a container. Pretty simple and very healthy. The magazine Health named kimchi in its list of top five "World's Healthiest Foods" for being rich in vitamins, aiding digestion, and even possibly reducing cancer growth.

While you can eat the kimchi right away it is best to let it sit and ferment for a few days. Kimchi can last for a few weeks to be eaten raw or for several months if used in a stew.

Gloves and Ear Muffs

Damn it's cold. I tell you, if San Francisco did not have so many other things going for it nobody would live here because of the weather and wind. It is nearly June and I wore gloves and ear warmers on my run tonight. The temperture is not cold, the WIND is. It is foggy and downright blustery along the coast. This City teases you with one great week of weather every three months. The rest of the time it is a bitch. But boy, those nice days can not be beat and I would rather than this than East Coast blizzards.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Go Commit Voter Fraud

I voted in today's state special election on bonds and was reminded about a glaring CA election do not need an ID to vote! How is that possible? It is so easy to commit voter fraud especially in races for small local offices. Michelle could have walked in and made my vote and she' not even a citizen.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

World Transit Superstars - Not the U.S.

National Geographic released the results of their annual Greendex consumer survey yesterday, ranking the environmental friendliness of housing, transportation and eating habits in nations around the world.

Sadly, only one nation can boast that a majority of its population rides transit at least once a day...

Russia ranked the highest on the Greendex scale, with 52 percent of respondents reporting daily or near-daily use of transit. Hot on its heels was China, where 43 percent reported very frequent transit rides. More than four out of five Chinese surveyed ride transit at least once a month, according to the Greendex.

On the flip side, only one nation reported a majority of travelers who never use transit: the U.S. An eye-popping 61 percent of Americans steer totally clear of rail and buses, with just 11 percent riding at least once a month.

Americans also ranked the lowest on the Greendex's walking-or-biking scale, which measured how many people reported frequent use of either mode of transport. Just 26 percent of U.S. travelers use their bikes or their feet most often, a far cry from Mexico's 48 percent and Britain's 52 percent walking-or-biking scores.

Yet the Greendex isn't all bad news for the U.S. Asked for the reasons why they forgo transit, the number one reply from Americans was that the option simply isn't available -- suggesting that a sustained investment in expanding transit options would have a significant effect on traveling habits.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spa vs. Spa

(This is my 200th post on this blog)

It is not everyday one can go to a spa in Korea one week and here in the states the next. It has given me a unique perspective on the whole spa concept. Needless to say in Korea I stick out like a sore thumb...all the kids look and stare. There's the first differnce, the kids. Dads take their kids to sit in the various heated pools...everybody in their birthday suits. In Korea (as well as Turkey...I am still trying to cool off from my stay on the hammam) they are more of a regular routine and all all about cleansing. Michelle tells me her mother goes about once every five days. Here in the states it is all about the pampering and it's too stuffy, too exclusive and way too expensive.

One can enter a spa (and spend all day) for anywhere between 6 and 15 dollars. You can then get the various services. I got a complete body exfoliation for 12 bucks. Not bad. Try to get that price here. Sure the wages and cost of living are different but adjust for this and it is still affordable to the majority. Whereas a day pass with a massage at a popular Wine Country spa will set you back nearly 200-bucks. Not too affordable for most. In both you get your own locker, your own special clothes, heated pools, saunas, and various amenities. It is just that elsewhere you get to keep more of your money than here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Satisfying San Francisco

I am not back in San Francisco more than 30 minutes and I see why I love this place so much...diversity. After being in homogenous Korea for over a week it is nice to see some variety. Don't get me wrong, South Korea has just about everything we have here, heck, there are probably more Starbucks in Seoul than in SF. But the cultural diversity is not as open as here, for obvious reasons.

I am on BART and these two arguing Vietnamese women board the train. In the middle of arguing in Vietnamese, one turns to me and asks what train it was. Only in the states. It didn't strike anyone else on the train as special but to me it was wonderful welcome home.

Later in the day I am reminded on what bugs me about living here. I board my normal bus towards downtown, the 38 Geary. On the back of the bus are these rowdy, obnoxious, rude teenagers. They're fighting, singing and yelling at each other, all the while using language not suitable for most bus riders. This would never happen in Korea.

Lastly, back to what I love, this morning I am in Seoul and tonight was able to be in SF and watch a Korean movie at the SF International Film Festival. And to top it off there was a mention of San Francisco and the legendary Bill Graham in it. San Francisco's impact is felt around the world. It is good to be home.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Soju in Seoul

Just had one of my best meals in Seoul in a second floor BBQ place . Lots is salary men after work, lots of soju and lots of great inexpensive eats. Korean baseball on the tele...did I mention the soju? Sitting on the floor isn't so bad after a awhile... thanks to soju. Great last dinner in Korea.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Last Day in Korea

Today is my last day in Korea. As anxious as I am to return to the states I am a bit sad to leave. Korea is such a welcoming country to visitors, especially Americans. Many of the transit signs are in English, the subway announcements are in English and the people are overly friendly helping you out. There is so much to see and do here I could probably stay for a month and not be satisfied.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

On a Train In Korea

This is coming from a train in Korea traveling from Daecheon to Seoul. Just spent a few days with Michelle's parents and had a small reception celebrating our marriage. What a wonderful time. 50-cents for 15-minutes of Internet access on the train. Not bad.