Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Much needed jokes

A Monday back at work after the Olympics and my brother sent an email full of jokes. Just including a couple of my favorites:

I think that's how Chicago got started. Bunch of people in New York said, 'Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough. Let's go west.'
--Richard Jeni

Our bombs are smarter than the average high school student.
At least they can find Afghanistan
--A. Whitney Brown

Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so?
There's a support group for that.
It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar
--Drew Carey

Do you know why they call it 'PMS'?
Because 'Mad Cow Disease' was taken.
-- Unknown, presumed deceased

Bad cell phone service providers

I doubt that this has ever happened with AT&T or Verizon. I gotta give the man props for this though!
Man Smashes Mercedes into Cell Phone Office -- A man in his 40s, upset with his cell phone service, drove a Mercedes Benz into the front door of the head offices of SK Telecom. Kim, 47, plowed the Mercedes S500 into the lobby of the SK Telecom office in Euljiro 2-ga in Seoul at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. No casualties were reported but a revolving door was seriously injured.

Monday, August 18, 2008

No erooing at the Great Wall

An afternoon at the Great Wall of China, and let me tell you, the most amusing part of the whole experience was the list of rules next to the lift on the way down (yes, we walked up but took the lift down...)

An Olympic weekend

Last Friday was a holiday in Korea, and I made the most of it by taking a trip to Beijing for the Olympics! I had tickets to the rowing finals on Saturday and Sunday and to preliminary lightweight boxing matches (that is what they had online, and the boxing was a lot of fun to watch even if it was not exactly clear HOW they awarded points). The Chinese fans were amazingly passionate, and you had everyone from 5 year-olds to 70 year-olds cheering. The only downside is that once the Chinese competitor was done, they would leave the stadium. But I did love the nationalism and we definitely thought it affected one of the boxing matches.

I stayed with a friend from high school, Joyce, and her husband. They were excellent hosts, organizing cab rides (very needed given their lack of English and my lack of Chinese), taking us to great places to eat and providing me with a bed! I hadn't seen Joyce in about 6 years, and she is due in a couple of months! She was quite a trooper, and watched both boxing and stayed out late on Friday. We had some amazing Peking duck, ate dinner outside next to a lake (it has been a long time since I have enjoyed that type of experience!) and ate dim sum in a racous restaurant while watching China vs Germany basketball.

Beijing was a fascinating place, about 1 hour outside of the city (on the return from rowing) we saw a herd of sheep. There was hustle and bustle, but nothing that crazy (I think it was less for the Olympics actually). There was a slight over-service problem (read Dave Barry's column to understand more of that, but in general there are about 5 waiters to every table in Beijing).

I made the most of my time in Beijing, also visiting the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. I wanted to see the summer palace, but even I knew when I was over-extending myself. Next time I plan to spend more time eating good food, getting a few massages, and doing a little sightseeing. But it is all a question of when I feel like giving the Chinese too much money for a Visa ($140 to be exact).

Rowing was great to watch, I ended up spending a good chunk of my time with one of my best friends, Bill, who rowed with me from 2000 until 2004. He rowed at Oxford for a year, and knew a bunch of the British team. Their whole group went wild as the British won two golds and two silvers. The US came out with a gold, a silver, and a bronze. I was very happy for Michelle Guerette (silver in the Women's 1x) who was a couple of years behind me and is coached by my college coach. We chilled out with some of the alternates on the lightweight men's four on Saturday night (teammates of mine from 03 and 04), and Bill decided to order a drink called the Flaming Lamborghini (think Sambuca, Kaluha, Baileys, Blue Curacao liqueur, all lit on fire). It was an exciting couple of days though, and really great to catch up with old friends!

The last morning involved dragging ourselves out of bed (Bill stayed out until 5:30, I left the bar early, ie 2:45). The great wall was a lot of fun, I still can't believe that it is so long (6,400 km!) We walked only a small portion of it, but it was well worth it when we were able to read one of the best Engrish signs ever on the way down.

My last experience was watching the medal ceremony for the US Women's 8. When they play the national anthem, the fans sing along. Unfortunately the US section consisted of pretty much me and Bill. And neither of us knew much more than 50% of the Star Spangled Banner, which the Brits with us decided to videotape while heckling us. Maybe I will learn that for the next Olympics ;)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ah yes, this is my industry

Children, 12 and 13, treated for addiction to mobile phones
• They spent six hours a day on them, says psychiatrist
• Spanish cases may be tip of iceberg, expert warns
I feel lost without my mobile phone at times, so I can understand this! I did have a scare on Sunday when I turned on my phone and discovered a broken LCD screen (now the 2nd time, the first was my digital camera). It was fascinating to know I had a text message, and to be able to see who it was from, but to be unable to read the text. That and the inability to screen phone calls. What can you do? Thankfully I was able to fix it with very little hassle on Monday morning. Back to my addiction!

Olympic fog

I am looking forward to going to the Olympics next weekend, and the latest article in the Onion just cracks me up:

Citing Poor Conditions, China Refuses To Send Delegation To Olympics

I have been watching the olympics on TV this past weekend, it isn't quite as easy given that it is in Korean with Korean athletes, but I have watched sports I would never have watched before (aka: women's archery, fencing, weightlifting). Fun to see the athletes, I definitely don't miss the craziness to get anywhere near that level. I do miss rowing, but more the college level of competition and sport for the fun of it (the exhaustion after a workout, the battles in practice, and working out outside!)

Summer, with a vengeance

It is hot. I mean really hot here. A 100 meter walk over here seems brutal and you are sweating just to get to the dining hall during lunch time! Speaking of lunch, what cracks me up about lunch here is the receiving line. In fact the whole lunch experience is interesting. First off each business has a different lunch time (ie this place CLEARS out at 11:30 to get lunch) so as to not overcrowd the cafeteria. After choosing between your three options (typically one is western), you put away your tray. Then you walk out and do three things, drink a cup of water (they don't drink water during lunch, that would be weird), use a toothpick in front of the mirror, and take a napkin from the dispenser on the wall. And of course when you get back you have to brush your teeth (you would too if you had as much garlic for lunch as most Korean dishes do!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympic fever

Apparently one of the Olympic fencer from Korea was kicked out of the training center earlier this year because she had eye surgery (to make her eyes more round…this is a very common procedure here). Bet that didn't turn out so well when she then won silver in the Olympics. More press for stupid rules...

The other day there was plenty of clapping in the office after the Korean swimmer came in 2nd to Phelps (work productivity?). Apparently at the ad agency there was also a 2nd round of clapping when Phelps took off the top of his swimsuit.

There is a good story for the Onion here. South Korean edges North Korean for 50m pistol gold in the Olympics. This is a especially "funny" when you consider the incident of a North Korean soldier killing a South Korean tourist a few months ago (while she was up north climbing a famous mountain).

Beginnings and endings

It is a strange time right now. There have been a lot of friends of mine with new babies, which I am so happy about. The most adorable little kids, and several colleagues will soon become new fathers next month (and my business school roommate will be a dad shortly as well). At the same time life has been reminding me of the other side. Our VP's father just passed away, and the mother of the SVP passed away (the wake was an interesting experience, as we were given shots of soju. Cultural experience definitely). Then the hardest thing to hear is that a good family friend is having big health problems. I realize that is the cycle of life, but it isn't always easy to be reminded of the second half.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Seeing friends and a whole lot more

A friend from high school was in town, and I went for drinks. I don't do well with the going out on weeknights, but I manage to see some interesting sights. Most specifically, a Korean man walked through the bar, and proceeded to lose the contents of his stomach against the wall one table away from us. Without missing a beat, he continued walking. My friends who saw it were dying of laughter, I don't think that the two guys at the table found it quite as amusing though. Ah Koreans and their ability to hold their liquor.

Crimes does pay

So I love this. When the president is a former head of a major conglomerate in Korea, there is no conflict of interest when he decides to give pardons to over 300,000 businessmen. YES, 341,000. That is an impressive number of businessmen who have committed crimes, and now the president implies that is acceptable. I love this commentary (from Autoblog)

In South Korea, economics trumps justice. Chung Mong-koo, the head of Hyundai who recently received a suspended sentence for embezzling and bribes has -- along with 341,000 other businessmen, bureaucrats, and politicians -- been given a full pardon.

President Lee Myung-bak, who said he was "personally against" the decision, decided to issue the pardons anyway. Mong-koo wasn't even in jail, but apparently the convicted and jailed businessmen were "having problems doing business overseas." Go figure.

So on Liberation Day, in hopes that "businessmen would take the lead in reviving the economy by creating jobs through active investment and exploring markets abroad," the bad guys got gifts even better than walking papers. In South Korea, crime does pay... if you have good business sense.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

If that was approval, I don't want to know what rejection was like

Yeah that pretty much sums up what my first meeting with the head of mobile phones was like. Apparently our creative was passed the president of the mobile division. And that is step 1, I have about 2-3 other steps with him before the product is in market. Ah the fun to be had!

Taking the law into your own bus

So we have the bus lane, which for the most part of respected. But not fully. And I was in the bus the other day and the driver decided not to tolerate the cars driving in the bus lane (and the police aren't out there pulling over a ton of people). So he moved over a lane, sped up, and moved back into the bus lane, almost running the car off the road. This move was repeated more than once to my amusement. I might not have been amused if I was in the car, but I respect the bus driver's decision to make it clear what the rules were. (That and the bus is much bigger).

Japan has a drinking problem

One of my co-workers found this, WOW. Kimchi flavored drink? And the kicker is that there are a lot of other very unwise drinks in Japan. (the commentary is from the website, not the advertising slogans, although they might work ;)

* Pepsi Ice Cucumber: It's lean, green and sounds obscene
* Hot Calpis: the drink that makes you think — about not drinking it
* Coolpis: Who wouldn't want to drink something with a name like Coolpis?
* Mother's Milk: the breast-tasting drink ever!
* Black Vinegar Juice Bar: dispenses acid trips
* Water Salad: for what, we're not sure…
* Diet Water: all the taste and none of the calories of regular water. Huh?
* Final Fantasy Potion drinks: for those who think life really IS a game
* Canned Coffee = Canned Laughter from wacky names
* Kidsbeer: the Popeye Cigarettes of children's drinks

Speaking of advertising slogans, as I am looking at cameras and camera phones, this came up about the Canon commercial fiasco with Maria Sharapova (over a picture that shouldn't have been taken), and the picture could lead to changing the tagline from "Make every shot a Powershot" to "Make every shot a crotch shot" Ah yes, the fun of advertising taglines...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just a 5 minute conversation

This happened twice this week. Just as I was about to leave, something came up, and wouldn't you know it, one hour later I left. So much for getting home early for a workout...I think I am slowly getting used to the 13 hour days (on the bus at 7 am, getting home around 8 pm). But it does mean my weekends need more downtime! The one thing I won't deal well with is working on the weekend, but I KNOW it will happen a few times, since the president of the company seems to not mind working on the weekend...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sanity in numbers

There are 4 of us from my group that do the long commute each day to Suwon. It helps to have others to adjust and learn from. It led to the phrase "Sanity in numbers" Either that or "Misery loves company" We'll see which one prevails…

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Change agent

Ask not how much you can change your company, but how much your company can change you. Yup, this spoken by some true believers in how much Samsung has changed for them. It ain't easy changing a 200,000 person company, and Korean society makes the whole situation that much more unique. I will say though, English apparently is a tough language, as referenced by these lines today: "I hope some day we can walk hand in hand, as true friends, more than co-workers" That might have been okay as a pick-up line, but unfortunately it wasn't (ie this was spoken by a male). SLIGHT cultural differences. They change us, just a question of how much. Perhaps not to the hand-holding level though...

Try this one on for size: A Korean-American woman would rather be treated as an American than a Korean. (and choose to speak to others in English). Why? Because while foreigners may struggle and not be let in, they still can be treated better than a Korean woman in the workplace.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Busy Saturday

After waking up with a little less energy than usual (blame the shots that I did the previous night, although I was in better shape than Gavin), I went to see the Magnum photo show. This is a group of photographers, a co-op, that documents many walks of life (and a lot of wartime photography as well). A group of approximately 20 photographers were given 3 weeks to document Korea, and this show was very impressive (and quite varied). I had to wait 30 minutes to even get in (doing anything remotely popular, or shopping, in Seoul on the weekend is NOT fun). But it was great to see what they captured. And on my way there I got a really cool picture of the sun behind the clouds!

Weddings everywhere

So a few weddings going on this summer. One for a colleague in September and another one in Seattle for a college friend recently. It isn't easy to travel to the states for a weekend to see them, but doing the best I can to at least stay connected. I do miss the days of when I could drive to a wedding, the world may seem smaller, but Seoul to NYC still is not a short flight!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Intern going away party

So we had a little dinner for the interns who were leaving, and I decided I wanted to have some fun. This primarily focused on getting as many of the interns to do a shot with one of our colleagues, and after about 4 shots of Soju in 20 minutes he wasn't very happy with me. While he tried to get away, we managed to keep him going (until apparently he fell asleep near to a speaker at a dance club). The dinner was a blast overall, and there was a whole slide show (including video) of drunken karaoke. They had quite an experience, and I was glad to have been able to make it to a bunch of the events (including "organizing" two of them)!