Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Month 2 Down, Many More to Go

Progress Made
2. Read 101 books. (12/101) Life of Pi, Tokyo Cancelled, Fox Girl, Borderliners, Plainsong, Another Roadside Attraction, Naked, Practical Demonkeeping
3. Read 50 children's books. (0/50) Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
5. Spend 30 days reading out of the house for at least one hour. (1/30)
12. Complete a month of posts each year (NaBloPoMo or other month.) (2/3)
14. Send 60 handwritten letters or postcards. (5/60)
16. Send Christmas cards. (1/2)
22. Stop saying THAT word (the one Martha doesn't like.)
27. Play 5 board games. (4/5)
35. Take the good camera out once a month. (4/30)
46. Try 10 new foods. (1/10)
57. Eat at 25 new restaurants. (3/25)
68. Go to a sporting event, a play/opera/ballet, a museum, and an art gallery. (1/4)
76. Take the subway to or from work once a week. (9/38)
77. Walk into Itaewon to get coffee at least 15 times. (3/15)
84. Finish all my multivitamins.

15. Complete Postcrossings.
23. Win at any of the quiz nights.
26. Learn to play a new game (Backgammon, Bridge, etc.)
53. Eat chicken wings in a bar for the first time.
64. Visit a country from the Axis of Evil.
78. Buy a round for the bar.
83. Buy a frickin' toothbrush.
97. Buy a new iPod.
99. Find a charity I believe in and donate/join a protest for a cause I believe in.
101. Wash Martha's dishes.

I'm on a Roll

Well, I made it through December. There were a few posts that I prewrote and set to auto-publish because of the holidays, but I would say that only happened a couple of times. Since I've become fairly accustomed to blogging daily and I enjoy it, even if it isn't always terribly enlightening for you, I might shoot for the 75% in 2009. It's possibly not going to happen - I might have plans to travel starting in September that would likely carry me through to the end of the year. If that's the case, I doubt that I'll manage the 75%, as some of the places on the fantasy itinerary are not the most wired, nor do I plan to do things in those countries that seems Internet friendly - I highly doubt that Mongolian yurts are even on dial-up, after all. However, if my potential travel buddy doesn't decide to do it, I'm tentatively thinking of trying to stay in Korea through to the spring and then doing the trip, as Russia in the late fall/winter is an adventure that seems considerably less fun solo. So, might as well start off on the right foot and see where the year takes me - I've totally given up trying to do any long term planning. My life just doesn't lend itself well to that!

So, January, here I come!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When You Charge Things to Your Canadian Visa in Seoul

You get some interesting vendor names on the bill:

NEW PILIZ = New Phillies
SOHO HOF = Soho is not at all a hof.
ROFT RESTAURANT = I'm pretty sure they don't even serve food at this bar.

Granted, all those years in Scotland, anyone back home seeing all my charges to BOOTS may have thought I had developed a shoe fetish, when the reality was I spent a lot on shampoo and condoms.

What I've Been Reading - Online

I love to blog. It amuses me, I like being able to read the posts from years ago and giggle all over again at the silly things that have happened, and frankly, it just gives me something to do. Thus, doing NaBloPoMo was a logical choice. As for the reading of blogs, I came to that considerably more slowly. Because I started my blog intending only to have friends and family read it, it didn't really occur to me for some time to read blogs of complete strangers. In fact, I still generally restrict my blog reading to the blogs of people I have interacted with in some other way first. However, I've slowly been discovering blogs that I find amusing or thought-provoking and since Grace has mentioned on her blog that she enjoys reading as much as the challenge of posting in November, I decided to try that out a bit too. Given the anal way I approach all reading, I started at the beginning of the blog list for the month and worked my way down. I've found a few cool blogs that I will probably start reading regularly and I thought I'd post about them.

My First World Problems - I love the idea of this blog. It also amuses me how my ideas of the author slowly took shape. When I started reading, I assumed the writer was female. Then I read about a girlfriend/fiancee and assumed the blog was written by a lesbian. Suddenly it occured to me that maybe the blogger was a male. By the end when I read the intro post, I finally discovered that the blogger is indeed a woman. It was interesting to go through that cycle of wondering about the author - it brings me back to a conversation with Mr. Ruddy, my highschool history teacher. He once asked if I tended to read/relate to more male authors or female ones. He said he prefered female authors and after some thought, I came to the conclusion that I did too. I'm not sure these days that I read more women, but I still suspect I enjoy female authors more than male ones. I'm now quite curious to see if that guess is correct, so I may pay a bit more attention the genders of the authors I love and hate.

Over the month I also commited myself to try to read and comment on all the newbie NaBloPoMo blogs. One thing that meant is that I was reading a lot of blogs by people I have very little in common with. A lot of the time that was a great experience - even when it wasn't, it was certainly interesting. However, I noticed one thing - it makes me very nervous to comment on the blogs of Christians. After all, some of them might follow the link and read my blog and I am not sure what they are going to think of the blog of a bisexual atheist. I don't want to end up with nasty comments, frankly. Opening myself up to reading Christians isn't a huge problem for me, but somehow the idea of open myself up to them reading me is a concern.

Since I originally wrote this, the First World Problems blog has been deleted.

It's Been A Year, Alright

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

2008 - got divorced for real, barehanded ice fishing, thought I flushed my own keys down the toilet, went paint balling, ate beondegi (yuck!), flew a plane.

2007 - Hahahaha. I've already been asked this one. The Hong Kong incident. Got divorced (I think, anyway!) Taught kindergarten.

2006 - went on holiday with my sister, bought a red bra

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

2008 - the 101 in 1001 List, maybe a couple more

2007- No and Yes. It's not the keeping of the resolutions that is necessarily important, I think, but the making of them. The taking stock.
2006 - I didn't make any last year. I will be making some this year, though. I like thinking about my goals and where I am and where I want to be. I was too depressed to want to think about my life last January.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

2008 - If they did, it's escaping me, but it's also very late at night.

2006 - My childhood friend, Shannon. My brother's girlfriend. A couple of other people I don't know as well.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

2008 - No.

2006 - No.

4. What countries did you visit?

2008 - Boracay, Taiwan, Bamboo/Tea Plantation trip, Canada, Japan, Dokdo, North Korea

2007 - Thailand, Hong Kong, Canada, North Korea, The Philippines.
2006 - Scotland, Canada, Korea, Thailand. Only Thailand was for the first time.

5. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

2008 - This one is going to remain secret, but there is something I'd like.

2007 - More of all the good things, less of all the bad, I guess.
2006 - I don't think there was much that I lacked entirely over the course of the whole year. There were lots of things I lacked during different parts of the year though. I guess I just want more of the good things, more often.

6. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

2008 - January 3rd - finally divorced!
Friday, August 8th - the Ferraro Rocher countdown ended on my last day of work at Poly

2007 - April 10th - I left Heritage, thank fuck!
May 18th - Surprise arrival back in Canada.
August 10th - Back in Korea once more.
December 14th - All my loose ends were finally tied up!

2006 - February 14th, when I finally, really knew that I had to leave Alan. April 10th, when I flew into Seoul.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

2008 - Well, I collected the entire set of Hello Kitty magnets. And found my own place in HBC.

2007 - Tying up those loose ends, perhaps.
2006 - Getting over the embarrassment of leaving someone only 5 months into marriage and doing it anyway because I needed to do it. Rebuilding my entire life all over again, in Korea.

8. What was your biggest failure?

2008 - Also will remain a secret. But it's related to the other one.

2007 - Perhaps being so stressed by the Korea/Hong Kong decision.
2006 - Not listening to my instincts and the warnings of other people.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

2008 - possibly I discovered I have a malformed eardrum, hairline fracture in my foot after dancing drunk in my apartment, Broken Toe Part I - The Sink, Broken Toe Part II - Martha's Dancing, recent sickness with is no fun, so we won't bother talking about it.

2007 - Nothing terrible. Did a transatlantic flight with a messed up ankle, did some North Korean hiking with pneumonia.
2006 - Yep. Some of the most notable - my first ever hickie and my now completely fucked up ankle. I'm a klutz, though, so there have been a few.

10. What was the best thing you bought?

2008 - new iPod, G-Whiz, North Korean honey

2007 - It wasn't what Oprah recommended ;) I'm not sure I've bought anything all that fabulous this year.
2006 - my laptop. my plane ticket out of Scotland.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration? Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

2008 - Martha has been a rock star in the last couple of months! The pricks at Phillies being homophobic assholes and everyone who voted for Prop. 8 and like-minded resolutions appall me.

2007 - Many people's merited celebration. I find that sometimes the most surprising people will do fantastic things. Based on some info I recently found out, my ex is on the appalled list.
2006 - my friends and family, who have been very supportive of me. appalled: alan's. my own

14. Where did most of your money go?

2008 - You got me! I guess the trip to Canada was the biggie, plus the shopping trip that resulted. The iPod.

2007 - Vacations!!! Clothes. Having fun in general.
2006 - into leaving Scotland.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

2008 - Seeing my nieces. Going to a city in North Korea. Moving to Haebangchon. Teaching teenagers. Leaving Poly.

2007 - Hiking in North Korea. Seeing my nieces.
2006 - being single again, meeting new people, teaching again, knowing that I made the decision to live my life the way I want to, full of travel and adventure.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?

2008 - Whatever You Like, T.I. but in particular, that one the kids made about voting however you like. Made me cry.

2006 - The Mercy of the Fallen, Dar Williams

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

2008- happier
2007 - happier or perhaps about the same
2006 - happier

b) thinner or fatter?
2008 - same same
2007 - maybe about the same - I'm not sure, to be honest.
2006 - fatter, a bit

c) richer or poorer?
2008 - moderately less poor.
2007 - Hmmmm. Again, perhaps about the same.
2006 - maybe about the same

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

2008 - beach holidays, time at home with the family, coffee with Jenn

2007 - Exercise. Travelling. Decisive getting-stuff-done.
2006 - laughed

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

2008 - overreacting, stress with friends over silly things, dealing with Korean immigration, teaching at Poly.

2007 - I'm not sure I regret too much from the past year. Maybe the odd drunken moment, but nothing in particular.
2006 - beating myself up for things I couldn't change and things that weren't exactly my fault

20. How did you spend Christmas?

2008 - Eggs Benedict with Liz and Martha, Geckos with Brian, Cleo, Martha, Melissa, Rebekah, then Seoul Pub, then a taxi with a TV on the ride home!

2007 - Brian, Samarra and I went to see the Golden Compass, wandered around iPark, went to dinner at Geckos and then had drinks with people at Queen. Oh, and I got to talk to my adorable nieces :)
2006 - A turkey buffet at Geckos with friends and coworkers and later on some phone calls home.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

2008 - Yes.

2007 - Hahahahaha. No!
2006 - i thought i did, I'm as subject to rebound relationships as anyone, i guess. didn't last long, which was for the best!

22. How many one-night stands?

2008 - A few. They can be one hell of a lot of fun.

2006 - I don't kiss and tell.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

2008 - Big Love, My So-Called Life, Grey's and Private Practice, Ugly Betty, Brothers and Sisters

2007 - Grey's Anatomy, I think, though I am now equally into Private Practice. I've been watching the first season of Lost recently and been impressed since about halfway through. Flight of the Conchords is hysterical. Oh, and I finally got around to watching Buffy - it was really good.
2006 - America's Next Top Model in Korea, before that Alias/The L Word/Desperate Housewives

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

2008 - This year homophobia has upset me more than usual - but I hate the game, not the players. No point in hating the haters.

2007 - No. I don't hate anyone at all right now, though there are certainly those I don't care for.
2006 - perhaps my boss, though hate is far too strong a word. i can't bring myself to hate my ex, though sometimes I think that might actually be kinda a step forward.

25. What was the best book you read?

2008 - S: A Novel About the Balkans, by Slavenka Drakulic
The Little Friend, Donna Tartt
This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood by Hyok Kang
Dreams of My Father, Barrak Obama
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Life of Pi, Yann Martel
Maus, Art Spiegleman
Kafka on the Shore, Murakami

2007 - "The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank" by Ellen Feldman. It was maybe the best power read - one of those I-can't-put-it-down novels.
"Eva" by Peter Dickinson was the best children's book and it was a reread from the Poly library.
"Oscar and Lucinda" by Peter Carey for the best I-should-have-known-but-didn't ending.
“The Friar and the Cipher” by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone for best historical non-fiction.
“Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore was the funniest.
“The Brooklyn Follies” by Paul Auster for introducing me to my newest fav author.
"Lucky" by Alice Sebold for the best sad book.
"A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of A Boy Soldier" by Ishmael Beah for the most gut-wrenching emotional response.
"Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert for personal resonance.

2006 - picking just one is so evil. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Everything is Illuminated, The History of Love and those are just the ones that come to mind...

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

2008 - The Genius button on iTunes.

2007 - Not sure. I love "Smile" by Lily Allen, and the new Alicia Keys album is pretty damn cool. Tons of stuff, really.
2006 - Jack Johnson. I had heard of him before, but never got around to listening until this year when I discovered downloading...

27. What did you want and get? What did you want and not get?

2008 - I'm not sure, but they are both wrapped up in the same thing.

2007 - I didn't get a job I wanted, though I suspect that worked out for the best, particularly from a financial point of view. I wanted a new wardrobe and I got that.
2006- What did you want and get? a computer, a job in Korea, out of a relationship, a trip to Thailand (I even got two!) What did you want and not get? an easy breakup

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

2008 - Juno, Children of Men, Kung Fu Panda were the best, but nothing really moved me.

2007 - The Golden Compass, I think. I don't actually see many films, in the cinema or out of it.
2006 - Everything is Illuminated, Tsotsi, The Constant Gardener, Hotel Rwanda

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

2008 - A longer trip home.

2007 - A year long trip around Asia, with the magic ability to pop back in on the family for a couple of days at will.
2006 - if Alan had stayed in Scotland. if i had left him earlier.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

2008 - 30! I drank shots out of a porcelain penis. Then I skipped out on the big Saturday night extravaganza.

2007 - 29 in Hong Kong, went drinking and dancing.
2006 - I was 28. I went to TinPans and drank too much tequila, I went to Stompers and don't even remember being there, I met a cute boy.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

2008 - Many t-shirts, but I will have to wear something Martha hasn't stolen!

2006 - a concept implies I was thinking about this in some sort of orderly way. The same 7 or so outfits to work (with flip flops in summer and black shoes in winter), the same 7 or so low cut tops to bars, and my fave comfy socks whenever I'm home.

33. What kept you sane?

2008 - Martha and other friends. Pure stubbornness.

2007 - Who says I managed to stay sane? My coworkers, perhaps, when I was back in my old job. My friends. Lots of navel gazing.
2006 - a combination of good friends and too much booze.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

2008 - Hillary Clinton. Jennifer Beals.

2006 - i don't really fancy celebrities.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

2008 - Prop. 8, the Democratic Leadership Race, proroguement

2006 - i have been too busy navel gazing to really pay too much attention. Perhaps the possible nuclear weapons test by North Korea.

36. Who did you miss?

2008 - everybody, but especially Sarah, Emily and Chloe.

2006 - Most people. I live overseas!

37. Who was the best new person you met?

2008 - Martha

2006 - All the new people I've met have mostly been amazing, though in totally different ways.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?

2008 - Be stubborn. Love.

2007 - When travelling, follow the noise.
2006 - No one will judge me as much as I will judge myself. Trust your gut. People you don't expect to will do little things that will make you believe in goodness again.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

2008 - 9 to 5, Lady Sovereign

Ok yo....
I wake up late every morning
managers calling I'm still yawning
Get up wake up hair and makeups
Waiting for you don't be sawing
This performance is important
I don't think I can put my all in
Hold on I was drunk last night
Now its all kicking in and I don't feel right
Gave my number to a breh who wasn't my type
Now my phones on silent I'm being polite
Now private callers get no love from me
Just let me be...

Oh my gosh my days are getting longer
There's no turning back cuz I'm working da 9 to 5
To keep my contract did I say 9 was getting of 1:30
I'm no early birdy I'm lazy dats all dat I can say
So make sure you heard me
And deres no turning back cuz I'm working a 9 to 5

2006 - The Mercy Of The Fallen
Dar Williams

"Oh my fair North Star
I have held to you dearly
I had asked you to steer me
'Til one cloud-scattered night

I got lost in my travels
I met Leo the lion
Met a king and met a giant
With their errant light

There's the wind and the rain
And the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim to know what's right

There's the weak and the strong
And the bets that have no answer
And that's where I may rest my head tonight"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Thank Maude for Coffee

I have been having incredibly vivid dreams the last couple of nights. I normally never remember my dreams, but the new "sleep" cycle (more of a lack-of-sleep cycle really) is likely the reason for the change, as these days I am jolted awake by my alarm, rather than sleeping long enough to wake up ten to fifteen minutes before it.

At least I have something interesting to think about in the early, dark hours of the morning.

Grumble, Grumble

I did the "grown up" thing and did my dishes and laundry and tidied up the clutter from the weekend, in spite of being overtired and decidedly not in the mood.

I've also been wondering if I'll save money in January with all this taking of subways. The math seems obviously - 4~5,000 minus 900 twice a day certainly indicates savings might happen. The doubt comes in with the fact that cutting out booze has not seemed to have saved me so much as a 50 won coin.


"I Still Haven't Seen the Tranny Show" was a Great Trivia Team Name...

I am so grumbly - I hate having to wake up at 7 a.m. to get to work by 9 and I hate that it involves using public transit because with all the traffic at that hour, a taxi would be expensive and take way longer than it should. I am sure all of you back home are laughing your ass off at me for dealing with what I fully realise is a normal, day-to-day requirement for most people, but there you are. I've been spoiled by cheap taxis or houses only minutes away from work and afternoon teaching schedules. It could be worse - even with my overtime hours, I work less than I did last year.

I've been meaning to update the world at large about my holidays, but have been too busy or too lazy and sometimes both simultaneously. Christmas Eve I managed to make it over to Liz's for some lovely turkey and great company. After that, I also managed to make it out to Stompers to hear her friend's band - she's been raving about it for ages, so for all that I was not in any mood to have to move from the sofa I stuck myself in, I did get to listen to some great live music and everyone else knocked themselves out dancing.

The next morning, Liz popped over and she made Eggs Benedict (when she heard, Martha arrived very promptly!), even making mine with turkey, since I am no fan of ham. Martha then disappeared off to shop for our Yankee Swap at Kobawoo, the local convenience store/base black market store - and I ended up with the KD, Toblerone, toothbrush and Tabasco Sauce (immediately regifted to Cleo) - before we watched a bit of The Office (that US version isn't too bad, considering how much I loved the first and thought I would be unable to handle a remake) and got ready for Xmas dinner at Geckos. Liz's food had been much better the day before, but I had a good time and the conversation was nothing short of hilarious, alphabet exes and all. Melissa spent a great deal of time with a bemused look on her face while Cleo, Martha and I talked. Brian and Rebekah had to leave earlyish, as they were working the next day, but we moved on to Seoul Pub once the staff kicked us out of Geckos (while I was attempting to talk with my family in Canada, no less). Will was there, which was fun, and everybody but me was very drunken. The pictures attest to that nicely. We even had a cab complete with TV for the short ride home, which was quite Christmasy.

For Boxing Day, Martha, Annie and I went over to Liz's once again, where she made us clam bake, scallops in pesto, and we wrapped it all up by spontaneously making some shortbread cookies - I hadn't baked cookies since I was about 13 I'd guess and this year I've ended up doing it twice. The cookies weren't as good as we hoped, due to some unexpected substitutions, but they are delicious anyway. A friend of Martha's showed up and we ended up popping over to Soho, as you do. It was the night that I was not pleased to be the sober one - O. was hit on a bit and I really hated the way he choose to respond to that. Liz pointed out that she doesn't know many straight men who would go to a gay bar in the first place and not freak out when hit on in the second, but that isn't my experience at all, so I have to admit to being really annoyed and disappointed. I wanted to bitch at him about the fact that gay people in Korea have so few places where they can hit on people and assume that they aren't doing so in vain and he should be fucking respectful of that, but since he was very drunk there seemed little point. I threw off the remark that I wasn't comfortable with what was happening and grabbed my coat to go.

I spent the entire next day trying to read about 60 pages of the end of a book, Borderliners, but I kept drifting off into naps. It was very relaxing, but I finally dragged myself out of bed and into the shower so I could meet Liz for dinner at Indigo before she headed to Busan on vacation. Talking with her recently has really made me think about things - she has such an interesting story (which is how she, as a writer, refers to everyone's life) and it provides a lot of illumination and things to think about for me. One of the things that O. annoyed me by saying in Soho had to do with him stating that people shouldn't put themselves in boxes by choosing a sexual identity. Coming from a straight man who conveniently found himself happy in the box that society had him in in the first place, I found that comment obnoxious. I would say it took me about ten years between the first crush I ever had on a woman and finally being comfortable coming out as bi. I liked having a box - because boxes that you put yourself in are different. They aren't restrictive in that same way - after all, if ten years of thinking resulted in a box change for the better, I obviously have no problem with the idea that I might box hop again. However, in the meantime, I like the identity I have claimed as my own and, yep, when I wonder if it does require a rethink, I don't always love the idea of having to leave behind that certainty for the creative confusion that comes with change. Listening to Liz relate her experiences has been really helpful for me lately - beyond being an incredibly generous and warm person, she really has managed to come into my life at the exact right moment.

After dinner, I joined Martha and two of her coworkers for a birthday night out in Queen, which was supposed to culminate in finally seeing the Tranny Show at Trance that I really have been meaning to see for several years. We did go - however, even though I had a great seat on the ground at the front, I didn't see any of the show. You might be wondering how that is, and the truth is that I participated in the most PDA I have in years. Not only did I make out for what felt like at least a half hour, but they put the spotlight on us during the show. Thus, I haven't seen the Tranny Show, but I have sort of been a part of it. I probably shouldn't admit these things on the Internet, much less on a blog my poor mother reads, but there you are. An experience on par with having my vibrator catch fire...

After finally finding the time to eat a turkey sandwich, because we all know that the leftovers are almost better than the meal itself, we came in third the next night at trivia - by one damn point! - so no free pitcher of beer. We played with Garret, one of the quiz masters, which was fun, and then went on a hunt for Martha's missing phone, which happily turned up. After that, I tried to get to bed early, but couldn't fall asleep, making my first day of Intensives incredibly crap and tiring. I don't mind my new classes, though a couple seem really light on curriculum. I don't fancy having to do that much supplementing, what with also covering a class for Sara while she is forced to teach biology, but I am happy to see that I will not be required to teach calculus, something I attempted to wipe from my brain about ten years ago. I am teaching a decent mix of older and younger students once again and no bloody Gogo for at least this month.

In spite of having a three day week this week and only a two day one at the end of January, I'm still dreading the work days between now and February, when I will once again be able to return to sleeping in until noon and drinking coffee in bed until at least one, like a civilized person.

Until then, I hope all of you and all of my students can put up with the grumpiness.

I Believe...

...that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Postcard: KR-2318

Username: mschinook
Country: Korea (South)
Sent on: 18 Dec, 2008

Username: gabis2
Country: Germany
Received on: 27 Dec, 2008

Distance: 8,570 Kms (5,325 Miles)
Travel time: 9 days

Nature Is Seriously Cool

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I Like Rainbows

i killed jennyOver the break, I've started to watch a new show, Exes and Ohs. To be honest, so far I've found it mostly to be a copy of the L Word, though I'm 6 episodes in (which is actually the entire first season) and it's starting to grow on me. Come to think of it, it took me awhile to get into the L Word too, since Jenny's character has always annoyed me intensely. Conviently, she's dying in the upcoming season! Anyway, it's worth a watch and you can find the first six episodes here.

Your rainbow is shaded green.


What is says about you: You are an intelligent person. You feel strong ties to nature and your mood changes with its cycles. Those around you admire your fresh outlook and vitality.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Friday, December 26, 2008


That's how I feel about dealing with very drunk people at 5 a.m. when I am very sober. It was not so fun, which is too bad.

Bankrupt, Phillip Toledano

These images document the human costs of economic failure. The experience was more like economic archeology, than photography.There was an unsettling , Pompeii-like stillness to recently abandoned offices. A coat hanger waiting patiently for a coat. A flattened gym sock. An inspirational poster, with no one to inspire. Everywhere, signs of life, interrupted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas All!

I hope everyone has a great day.
All the best in 2009!

Not only is this a great version of the song, this family is so cute:

Wishing You a Merry 'Vintage' Christmas! from Jared Foster on Vimeo

I opened my presents and I must say, no matter how old you get, there is something fantastic about ripping through paper to reveal the surprise inside. My sister got me some DVD sets, so I'll have plenty to watch. Kari, Andrew and the girls sent me the most incredibly delicious smelling Lush products ever - they smell just like Christmas. My brother gave me two books - Pyongyang (which I've wanted to read for ages) and one about the Golden Compass. My parents sent me a ton of stuff - two more books, chocolate, Lush and Body Shop products, the requisite socks, popcorn and dill pickle flavouring, taco and fajita seasoning, new mascara, and more. I'm going to be well-read, well-watched and yummy smelling for the rest of the holiday!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? This all depends. If I do stuff in advance, I tend to like to wrap. However, I'm also a slight fiend for a certain brand of environmentalism - I hate buying what I already have and could reuse. So, I wrap first in whatever stuff the kids wrapped gifts to me in that can be reused. Then, time and supplies permitting, I would go to paper. This year, everything was super last minute. I also very much reuse boxes to mail stuff in - I think my mom and I passed one box back and forth about five times.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Due to a highly allergic family, we always had artificial at home. Now, I have a charming tree made only of lights and some candy canes - you gotta make do. At least this year I didn't get bored halfway through and just make a star ;) One of these days I'll have a real tree.

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever I have spare time/it strikes my fancy. This one was put up super late at night because I couldn't sleep and needed some holiday cheer. As children, I think it was often the weekend of Daniel's birthday - which also coincided with the Santa Claus Parade in Bolton.

4. When do you take the tree down? Sometime in January, I think, whenever I stop feeling lazy. I wonder if I can rejig it somehow for Lunar New Year?

5. Do you like eggnog? I have only ever liked it once - when Meghan made it here in Korea.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? The Emily of New Moon books.

7. Hardest person to buy for? It differs. I find that I am either very inspired or not at all. Maybe my mom lately - I find her easy to buy for when I'm around her, less so when I live far away. I send my father books - no idea if he likes them, but they are always ones that I have read that I think he might find interesting - so, not hard for me, but who knows if I'm any good at picking them. My brothers are sort of hard, though Daniel tends to get very odd gifts and generally ones I have bought in convience stores. Lindsay always provides a list, so she could be incredibly easy, though I don't ever shop using the list 'cause I'm diffficult like that. The girls are super easy - the only time I have found it hard to find them something is on Borocay.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Myself? I admit, I get myself gifts too. This year I bought myself fancy coffee (and yep, the cheaper stuff is just as good), many, many books, and a G-Wiz. And no, mom, you don't want to google that to find out what it is. For people not my mom - I really like it and Shawn will enjoy hers once it arrives!

9. Do you have a nativity scene? I don't believe in God, so no. Nor would I consider myself a Christain of any kind, even a lapsed one. However, I love the idea of a holiday dedicated to family and friends and keeping in touch - which is why I normally embrace Christmas cards and gifts and would love to make it home for the holidays one of these years. However, if I found a cool nativity scene when travelling, I'd totally buy one - after all, I have more than a few Buddhas and I'm not Buddhist either. Possibly my most Christain souvenir so far is an icon I bought in Greece.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Both. I mail cards to my close friends and family. Then I email everyone on my contact list. This year I admit that I pared down that list tightly - life has been busy and so I didn't ever get around to buying new Christmas cards. I had some left over from last year and that is what everyone got. However, there are a few people who will be getting New Year's postcards.

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? There really isn't a worst gift, is there? After all, even if the thing itself sucks, there is always the thought behind it. The most hilarious would have to be the whitening cream from one of my students a couple of years ago - I wasn't sure if I should point out to them that being quite white already, my goal in life is actually to look tanned - though without any risk of skin cancer, naturally.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Miracle on 34th Street. The original. I like Home for the Holidays too, though that's a Thanksgiving movie.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Whenever a) I have a trip back to Canada planned, to save on postage later or b) I am in a new foreign country with cheap souvenirs (so, not Japan, though I did grab something for my brother Andrew there that will hopefully amuse him and some waaaaay too expensive dolls for the girls.)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, I have. First off, I always trade in any books I don't love - and no one need be insulted, because I do it with books I buy myself too. I have to really have loved a book to be willing to pay its fare back to Canada and one must assume that one day my parents are going to get fed up of the library that lives in their house (though I'm hoping I've got at least ten more years of tolerance left!) I regularly regift things my students have given me - especially when they give me traditional Korean things that I either have bought myself already or am not interested in. I don't think regifting is a bad thing - I think that if you do it thoughtfully, then it is just a wise redistribution of things that have already been produced and paid for. Things should not go to waste simply because I don't love them. I also quite happily buy people used books as presents - after all, I'd love for people to send me used books. I am quite happy for people to show up at my parents' house demanding some books from my unread pile to mail to me too! My parents' might not be as amused, but there you are.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Turkey!!! I'm not sure how I survived those vegetarian years and the existence of a full turkey dinner is the reason I will never be a strict vegetarian again.

16. Lights on the tree? Naturally. It'd be fun to try candles if I ever get a real tree.

17. Favorite Christmas song? I'll be Home For Christmas. But really, anything by Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby, because they remind me of the only two Christmas albums we played when I was growing up.

18.Travel at Christmas or stay home? My last holiday season at home was in 2000. The last two years I was in Korea for Christmas day itself but off to Thailand and the Philippines just after. This year I'm staying put, though hopefully continuing the Gecko's turkey dinenr tradition. Assa!

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? I can and I did on a recent pub quiz. And I know they were all female.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Not only do I not care, I can't recall what my parents did.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? My parents are evil and made us wait. And then when I got to be a teenager, I was super evil and refused to get out of bed early, making my siblings wait. Now, well... I usually wait. Sometimes I just rip them open when they arrive in the mail. Last year I seem to think I opened them early in a homesick moment - which seems a better idea than waiting just to wait, I think. To be fully honest, I did that this year too.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? The weather. Only if there is going to be snow is winter weather pleasant. And even then, I don't see why it has to last more than a month.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Do I sound like a gal who has an ornament theme? Dudes, I have a poster from the Seoul Drum Festival on my door because the tag line for the festival that year was "Beat it! Feel it! Enjoy it!" I support the Cocks, which I think are a football team, though perhaps I have the wrong sport, because Smithie sent me the magnet and it is the MOST AWESOME MAGNET EVER! This year my ornament theme is the three unbroken, over-priced candycanes I bought at the Filipino store when I went in to put some credit on my phone.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? TURKEY!!!

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Better health, which I think is coming, and the love of family and friends, which I already have.

'Tis the Season to Be Generous
By Katha Pollitt

This article appeared in the January 5, 2009 edition of The Nation.
December 17, 2008

Money's tight this year, I know. But tradition is tradition. So here's my annual list of suggestions for your end-of-year donations. Read on to learn about some great groups that help people who are worse off than you are.

1. Commune des Femmes de Kamanyola (CFK). Ann Jones's recent Nation story about the horrific wartime rapes, often followed by mutilation if not murder, of hundreds of thousands of women in Congo highlighted the work of this grassroots organization. Founded by a mother who refused to accept in shame and silence her teenage daughter's rape by soldiers, CFK takes rape victims to the hospital for treatment and drugs to prevent STDs, HIV and pregnancy; pressures their families to accept them; works to prosecute rapists; and educates communities that rape is not men's right--or women's fault. Make your check out to IRC, with CFK on the memo line. Address: Heidi Lehmann, director, Gender-Based Violence Unit, International Rescue Committee, 122 East 42nd St., New York, NY 10168-1289.

2. Bronx Freedom Fund. This year-old organization posts bail for indigent people awaiting trial on misdemeanor or nonviolent felony charges in New York City's poorest borough. These are men and women who without the fund would languish in jail for perhaps six months for lack of $500, including many who are innocent and would plead guilty just to be free. Of all clients bailed out, 95 percent have returned for every court appearance and half have had their cases dismissed. Bonus: money used to post bail is returned when the cases are over, so a single gift can keep on giving. Address: 860 Courtlandt Ave., Bronx, NY 10451;

3. Iraq Veterans Against the War. The little group you supported last year through donations to Vietnam Veterans Against the War has doubled in size and is walking on its own. Help IVAW organize vets and soldiers against the Iraq occupation, develop support networks for war resisters, present Winter Soldier testimonies about the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations, and run truth-in-recruiting education in schools. IVAW supports reparations for the Iraqi people and full benefits for returning vets, including mental healthcare. Address: Box 8296, Philadelphia, PA 19101;

4. Resurrection After Exoneration. An outgrowth of The Innocence Project of New Orleans, RAE is run by John Thompson, who spent eighteen years on Louisiana's death row after being wrongfully convicted, and provides housing, training and life opportunities to innocent people released from prison. Did you know that Louisiana has one of the highest exoneration rates in the country as well as the highest per capita rate of incarceration, with a recidivism rate of almost 50 percent? You can help exonerees start to rebuild the life the state did its best to destroy. Address: 3301 Chartres St. New Orleans, LA 70117;

5. Health in Harmony. Two years ago, Nation readers helped kick-start this small group with a big idea: provide poor Indonesian villagers with healthcare in return for giving up illegal logging in the gorgeous, fragile rainforests of Gunung Palung National Park. It's working. People and nature can flourish together, with your help. Address: 6114 La Salle Ave., Suite 752, Oakland, CA 94611;

6. The Lambi Fund of Haiti. This year's hurricanes have devastated Haiti's poor and deforested countryside. The Lambi Fund works with grassroots groups to plant trees, start organic vegetable gardens, give pigs and goats to malnourished families, build cisterns to provide safe drinking water and teach methods of farming that prevent the erosion that has made recent storms so deadly. Building women's leadership is a part of everything they do. A dollar goes a long way in Haiti. I'm just saying. Address: Box 18955, Washington, DC 20036;

7. Godparents Association. Founded in 1998 by a Ugandan and an American, this group helps Ugandan girls who resist female genital mutilation by sponsoring their education so they can grow up and change their culture from within. It's working: the first girls have gone on to become nurses, midwives and, just this year, graduates of Kampala University. $575 pays one year's tuition for one girl (or boy--because men need to be part of ending this tradition). Smaller donations are welcome, too. Address: 409 Waldemere Ave., Bridgeport, CT 06604;

8. Women for Afghan Women. As I've written in previous years, WAW does on a shoestring the work that is the only way to bring peace, democracy and progress to ordinary Afghans: clinics, schools, women's councils, orphan sponsorship (only $50 a month--think about it!), small-scale economic projects that simultaneously let a woman feed her family and improve her status within it. WAW fights forced marriage, domestic violence, rape and other abuses of women's human rights. If you're disturbed by the resurgence of the Taliban, this is the way to fight them. Address: 32-17 College Point Blvd., Room 206, Flushing, NY 11354;

9. This web-based organization lets you choose among thousands of public-school classroom projects--maybe one in a school in your neighborhood. Books, musical instruments, sports equipment, class trips, calculators, paper--paper?! It's truly shocking how many essentials kids are expected to do without. Gift certificates make a great last-minute present.

10. The Modest Needs Foundation. For struggling low-income people, one unexpected event--an illness, a fire, a car that dies, a missed child-support payment--can quickly lead to poverty, even homelessness. MNF stops that process by offering financial help up to $1,000. The website ( lets you decide where your donation goes. In these harsh economic times, there's probably no better way to offer a lifeline to a stranger.

Merry Christmas Martha!

Just click here for your present!

Incoherent Babbling

I wrote this a couple of days ago. I've debated about posting it, partly because most people will be left scratching their heads in confusion, since it won't make much sense to anyone, not even most of the major players involved in the various bumps that have brought me here; partly because it barely even makes much sense to me yet; and partly because I told myself that I shouldn't need to hit publish to feel a sense of having gotten it out, but it turns out that maybe I do. Also, my grammar is atrocious and I've undoubtedly used far too many commas, but I don't know how to make this post any better, so I'm going to leave it as it is.

J. is here visiting, which has been incredibly helpful in terms of some of what my mind has been ruminating over and at the same time has added a whole new layer of doubt and confusion. J. is an ex from a long while ago. He was a lovely boy and is just as lovely a man. Unlike many of my exes, J. is someone I left on good terms - as good as terms can be when one person knows it's time to move on and the other doesn't feel the same. What saved the friendship we now have is time and distance, but especially that distance. J. and I seldom keep in contact when I'm not in Canada and that has let us move on with as much grace as is possible. He is, in some ways, one of those people who will always understand me in a way that most never will - as deep as our differences go, we finish each other's sentences and have always been able to be there for each other in a way that is easy and always just right whenever one of us has had a crisis. My relationship with him was significant to who I am now, but unlike with that other ex, all of what I learned from him was positive. I will always love him deeply.

In the years since J. and I dated, so much has happened to both of us. We both got married and divorced. I started dating women as well as men. He wanted children very badly and hasn't had any but has a career that he really loves. I have moved continents and started to feel that I have really hit my groove as an expat. At the beginning of those five days our conversation was dominated by the relating of funny stories - we both think ourselves to be quite hilarious - and reminiscing, but that inevitably led to an incredibly serious discussion. Our discussion started out articulating as well as we could what it feels like to love someone who doesn't love you, or at least not in the way you want them to. It was a tough discussion, one that brought me to tears more than once. We discussed who we are, who we were and who we want to become - it was incredible to hear the perspective of this man who knew me all those years ago, when I was younger, more naive, more trusting of life, perhaps more hopeful. It was good to hear, also, the perspective of someone back home; life here in Korea is so odd sometimes.

Way back in October, which feels like years ago with all that has happened since then, someone said something to me. It was in the midst of a drunken fight. Not even a fight, a rant really, as it wasn't really until the end that I even participated or really got upset. I did feel very bad, because when all was said and done, I had let someone down. I hate that - I actually think that there are relationships in my life that have been incredibly strained beyond my knowledge of how to fix them because of how much I can't deal with letting people down, disappointing them. But while the rant was largely directed at me, much of it had little to do with me, and I got that at the time. By the next day, in terms of forgiveness, I had more than moved on. However, my mind keeps returning to part of what was said. I can't let it go - not out of any sense of anger, but out of confusion. I have no idea if I agree with what was said or not. I can't decide if it is something I need to work out within myself or if it is something that can just sit in my brain, percolating until it solves itself, as so much of the confusion of life does. I don't know if that evaluation of who I am was valid and illuminating or just a drunken remark. I tend to feel that there must be something in what was said, because my head just keeps on returning me to it whenever it stills enough to allow for contemplation.

Since that comment, the one that haunts me, other people keep relating things to me that feel so relevant to the confusion in my brain. My friend L. has related the story of her path through marriage and divorce to how she has ended up with such a great person, in order to impart advice, or knowledge, or just a sense of "it's not just you" to someone else entirely. And yet, every time I hear the story, every time L has this discussion with this other person, I feel increasingly uncomfortable. In the beginning, it was a conversation I could participate in, one I thought I understood where I was in. Slowly, that confidence of knowing has disappeared.

It took me years, years to find a self-description that made me feel happy and comfortable in my skin. It then took more years for me to be able to share it - and in classic me fashion, I managed to share a lot of it by accident - damn Facebook! - and perhaps more casually than I could have (should have?). There are important people who I am not even sure I have had enough of a conversation with that I am fully sure that they understand what I was trying, in my own hamfisted way, to say. To be honest, who I am now, the me that makes me comfortable just being and existing, is something I am now so readily able to share I keep forgetting that there are people out there who I may even be incredibly close to that still don't know, because I haven't seen them enough in the time since. I worked through so much confusion to have this label that I could apply to myself, that made me at ease in what my life was. And slowly but surely, one comment has shaken that foundation of me that I built.

I don't at all think this is necessarily a bad thing. I don't even know if it's necessarily the case - J. pointed out a possible explanation for some of the changes I have noticed in myself and how I feel that hadn't even occurred to me, but perhaps makes more sense. Regardless of whether how I've been feeling lately is something that needs to be incorporated into how I define myself or not, I don't think that any of the thinking that will go into reaching an understanding of all this is at all a bad thing. Change has, in my life, always worked out for the best in the end, though it has sometimes been painful and confusing getting to that end. And if nothing changes and at the end I feel that I was right all along, all that means is that I can feel more solid about who I am. Contemplation has always led me to better things and I trust that it will again. It's just been so odd the last few months, the bad health combined with everything else that has been going on in my head, hanging out with a whole new group of people, contemplating the next step, and now, J.'s visit, bringing up the past and the present simultaneously, and even making me further question the future.

I am full of questions. I have been full of questions ever since that October night. Let's be honest, I've been full of questions for as long as I can remember. I don't think they are going away any time soon, but I'm okay with that. The one thing that J.'s visit reminded me of was that for all the drawbacks to my life overseas, for all those precious moments that I am missing as my nieces grow up and my grandparents grow older and my parents debate politics and develop adult relationships with my siblings around the dinner table without me, I did leave for a reason. Bolton just was never enough space for me to find out who I was. I thought when I left and moved into the city that there would be enough space there. But I'm not sure it was until I got to Korea, until I let go of that person I felt I had to be, that expectations led me to feel I should be, that I was able to let myself contemplate who I need to be.

I don't know if that night, that comment, was one of those on the road to Damascus moments or merely a moment of mental gymnastics of who else I could be. I'm not really sure that anything I've done since then has been the right thing to help me sort it all out in my head. I don't have much of a clue what to do about it all, actually, though I've made some attempts. The 101 in 1001 list started for more than just one reason, but part of it was to make me thing about who I am and what I want to spend my time doing. The more personal stuff didn't make it on the list, obviously, but I had to think it all through when I made that list. I'm a navel-gazer, so if nothing else, the need to contemplate, evaluate, synthesize comes naturally.

The funny thing about all this is that under all the homesickness I've been having of late, under all the confusion and emotions that keep wandering off along odd paths, under all the health problems I've had recently, under all that is a rock of happiness. I'm actually quite happy. Maybe content is a better word for it, but there it is. Life is, at its heart, essentially very good. Wonderful, miraculous, joyful. I have a lot of joy.

And one day, I hope, I will be able to move back to a more stable sense of me. Until then, I guess I'll just bumble along through it.

Liquid Came Out of My Nose When I Saw This

I don't even know where to start with a comment.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is this true?

cilantro = coriander

I Like

2009 TBR Challenge

So, this'd be the one I meant to sign up for last time...

1. At the Point of a Gun, David Rieff
2. How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster
3. Ordinary People, Judith Guest
4. The Yacoubian Building, Alaa Al Aswany
5. The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan
6. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Carcia Marquez
7. Race Against Time, Stephen Lewis
8. The Gate, Francois Bizot
9. The Truth About Stories, Thomas King
10. The Ethical Imagination, Margaret Somerville
11. Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
12. Swann's Way, In Search of Lost Time Vol. I, Marcel Proust
Alt.1. In Search of Lost Time Vol. II, Marcel Proust
Alt.2. In Search of Lost Time Vol. III, Marcel Proust
Alt.3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Alt.4. My Name is Red, Orham Pamuk
Alt.5. What Canadians Think, Darrell Bricker & John Wright
Alt.6. Crimes Against Logic, Jamie Whyte
Alt.7. Riotous Assembly, Tom Sharpe
Alt.8. Epileptic, David B.
Alt.9. Navigating the Golden Compass, Glenn Yeffeth
Alt.10. Pyongyang, Guy Delisle
Alt.11. The Essential 55, Ron Clark
Alt.12. Bodily Harm, Margaret Atwood

I bought a Hello Kitty Slinky today

I'm kinda bored.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yet Another Seriously Moment

U.S. balks at backing condemnation of anti-gay laws

NEW YORK - Alone among major Western nations, the United States has refused to sign a declaration presented Thursday at the United Nations calling for worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality. In all, 66 of the UN's 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration - which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with any-gay discrimination. More than 70 UN members outlaw homosexuality, and in several of them homosexual acts can be punished by execution.

Co-sponsored by France and the Netherlands, the declaration was signed by all 27 European Union members, as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries. There was broad opposition from Muslim nations, and the United States refused to sign, indicating that some parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


I like mail - both sending and receiving - so participating in Postcrossing seemed like a win-win for my 101 in 1001 list. It has taken me a bit to getting around to doing it - but I think that is the point of the list in the first place. Many of the items aren't difficult, exactly, but many of them are just things I'd enjoy doing but not ever prioritize enough to get around to doing. I meant to do this last week when I was sending out Christmas cards but I ran out of interest in writing, particularly the small talk necessary to come up with a message for a complete stranger. However, I've now written out postcards to go off to three continents, to women from 9 to 50. If you click around the map below, you can see where my cards are headed.

View Larger Map


A Sunday Scribblings post, only three weeks late. It's like most writing I have done in life - essays, belated birthday cards. Late. Which turns out to be this week's topic, so conveniently, with one sentence, I've managed to catch back up!

I was thinking a lot about the traditions prompt, but it's taken me awhile to come up with something to say. The thing about being an expat is that you generally have to leave behind a lot of the traditions you started back in your home country. I spent Canadian Thanksgiving eating galbi and singing cheesy songs at norae bang, for example.

My family has lots of interesting traditions. There's the naming thing - boys only get one middle name, but somehow all the girls get two. There's the British foods that we still all eat - like coddled eggs, which even the British have barely heard of these days. My egg coddlers may not be with me here in Korea, but I wouldn't be a part of the family if I didn't own a few. I'm hoping that the tradition of how the roll-top desk gets passed on continues, because I'm pretty sure I've got that one in the bag. There's the familiar socks and underwear tradition - and since my mother is quite honest on the customs forms, I know that one is being followed this year.

However, traditions don't have to have been around since childhood to be important. For the last two years, I've gone to Geckos for Christmas dinner. The turkey is good and the company has always been great. Each year I've gone with different people - Korea is a revolving door for teachers and army and those few other people here doing something different. It's the company that makes it special though - the first year I was there with Vanessa and Sheila and crew and the second with Samarra and Brain. I anticipate this year's being great too.

As much as I will miss everyone back home and all the things I recall doing for the holidays with them, tradition doesn't have to end when you are far from home.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Last Weekend

Turkey soup from Liz! Yum!

Baking Christmas cookies with Jenn - we substituted about 70% of the ingredients in the recipe but the cookies were awesome!

They didn't last long though!

Shopping in Insadong - it was fun, if a bit chilly.

This is why I should not be allowed in a bookstore, even supervised!

Geek Post

Archaeology's top 10 for 2008:

Mark Rose, Archaeology's online editor, is reluctant to call this list the "best of the year," but these are the reports from the past year that the magazine's editors regarded as relating to the most important discoveries:

The secret of Maya Blue: Scientists analyzed bits of the sacred blue pigment the Maya used during human sacrifices and other ceremonies - and concluded that it was made through the ritual burning of a mix of ingredients, including indigo, minerals and copal incense.

Masked mummy of Peru: An intact 1,700-year-old mummy, bearing a wooden mask with seashell eyes, was discovered in a burial mound beneath a busy Lima neighborhood. Archaeologists suspect the remains were those of a master weaver from Peru's Wari culture, based on the knitting needles and balls of yarn that were buried along with the mummy.

The stone with soul: Researchers found a 2,800-year-old funerary monument in southeastern Turkey that provided a fresh perspective on ancient religious beliefs. A 13-line inscription was chiseled into the basalt stone, in which a high official refers to food offerings that were made "for my soul that is in this stele." This proves that the Iron Age culture believed the soul was separate from the body and could inhabit a monument.

Brown gold from Oregon: About that ancient poop ... the 14,300-year-old preserved feces found in eastern Oregon's cave provided the best evidence yet that humans had colonized the Americas that long ago. Researchers even extracted DNA from the coprolites - which could help clear up longstanding mysteries about the identity of the first Americans.

Oldest oil paintings: Researchers discovered the world's oldest-known paintings in a maze of caves in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley - yes, the same place where the Taliban blew up two giant statues of Buddha in 2001. (You'll find more about Bamiyan below.)

The first European? An excavation in a cave in northern Spain turned up a chunk of a Homo erectus jawbone that has been dated back to 1.3 million years ago. That suggests that the ancestors of modern humans made their way into Europe about 500,000 years earlier than previously thought.

The earliest shoes: An analysis of 42,000-year-old human toe bones from a dig in China provided evidence that the person, known as Tianyuan 1, wore some form of footwear.

Pristine Portuguese shipwreck: Geologists working on an underwater diamond-mining project off the coast of Namibia turned up something more scientifically valuable: a 16th-century cargo ship that was buried on the seafloor, safe from underwater treasure hunters. The find netted almost 50 pounds of gold coins, plus navigational instruments, elephant tusks and other treasures.

The colossal heads of the Roman Empire: Archaeologists are uncovering the monumental marble heads of Roman emperors at a dig in central Turkey, where a first-century metropolis once flourished. Last year, Hadrian's head was found at the site of Sagalassos' Roman baths. This year, the researchers recovered fragments of statues depicting Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Elder (wife of the emperor Antoninus Pius).

The origins of whaling: A 20-inch-long walrus tusk, found at an archaeological site on Russia's Chukotka Peninsula, bears the carvings of a seal, a bear and a boatful of people hunting a whale from a boat. The tusk dates back about 3,000 years, which would make the carving "the earliest evidence for whaling," said Daniel Odess, curator of archaeology at the University of Alaska Museum.
The bonus round:
Archaeology magazine's online editor, Mark Rose, told me that the list doesn't include several important discoveries that just didn't fit the year-in-review pattern (or came to light too late to make the top-10 list). One of the most important finds is a 60-foot-long (19-meter) reclining Buddha statue that was reportedly discovered at Afghanistan's Bamiyan site.

This discovery wouldn't measure up to the fabled 1,000-foot-long (300-meter-long) "sleeping Buddha" at Bamiyan, which was described by a 7th-century Chinese monk but has never been found. Nevertheless, there's "big, big news" out there about a monument that somehow survived the Taliban, Rose said.

The problem is that the head of the archaeological project is trying to keep the discovery under wraps, Rose said. "It ties into a funding organization that is well aware of the marketing value of this kind of thing, as well as the entertainment value," he said. (For what it's worth, the team is funded by National Geographic and the French Foreign Ministry.)

We'll probably hear more about the surviving Bamiyan Buddha next year. But in the meantime, Rose said, "To effectively censor is not really conscionable."

Here are two more of the bonus selections that will be posted to Archaeology's Web site next week:

Disappearing glaciers = reappearing artifacts: Climate change has caused glaciers around the world to recede. During a warm spell in the Swiss Alps, the ice shrank back from the Schnidejoch Pass, revealing shoes, leggings, arrowheads and other artifacts. Some of those artifacts have now been dated back to 4500 B.C., which would make them older than the famous Alpine iceman Oetzi. Rose said the find could shed light not only on ancient cultures, but also on "the ebb and flow of climate."

Stone Age figurines from Russia: Archaeologists excavating a site near Moscow have found figurines and carvings dating back to the Stone Age - somewhere around 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. The artifacts include two female-looking figurines, a mammoth rib inscribed with pictures of what appear to be mammoths, and a mysterious cone-shaped object.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Always Choose the Fun One

Today was such a busy day - my last day of the semester flew by for sure, which is what I like. My mind was fully occupied and not at all bored. We had to do all of the tests today, mark them in the classes, write all the marks on the report cards and then hand the lot of them in. Since my last two classes are elite classes and the tests normally take FOREVER to mark, I was ready to have the kids marking each other's tests if that's what it took to get me out of work on time at 9! However, it all got done, though I did work through my half hour break when I normally do a little reading, a little facebooking, and eat dinner. Instead I ate my oatmeal in class and I tell ya, for all that it's not terribly different in consistency to bonjuk, I've yet to meet a Korean child who didn't make quite a face when confronted with a bowl of it.

My schedule for January looks ok - if you ignore the fact that classes will start at 9 a.m. and that means I will have to get out of bed before noon - one week I may be doing some serious overtime, but that's alright I guess. Especially since though I'm not drinking, I'm somehow not spending any less money. What am I doing with the $200 I used to spend partying every weekend? For sure, I still eat out a lot, and there were Xmas gifts to buy and then send, and I did spend about $100 on books this month (I should not under any circumstances be allowed in bookstores. I may need to get other people to buy my bookclub books for me.) but... And I guess tonights "Slumber Party" purchases didn't help (for anyone who isn't my mom, that's code for sex toy parties. I was startled to find myself something of an expert of all the attendees...)

Anyway... I was an errand running machine this morning. I had to buy a cake first and then I went to the post office, where a very confused postal worker thought I was going to try to mail the cake to Canada! Ummm, no. I'm not THAT lacking in sense. The cake was merely the first stop along the way. After I mailed out some packages - January birthdays, in fact, so I'm all ahead now - I went to get coffee and a ham and cheese croissant (I'm addicted to these things because the cheese is so.damn.good.), only to mildly annoy the people by bringing in outside cake. Oops. Then I popped into 7-11 because I need some shampoo and stuff and I didn't have time to go elsewhere. I dropped off my cake and my coffee at the register so I'd have a hand free to grab stuff and the 7-11 dude looked mighty confused as to why it was all sitting there in front of him. I even made it into work about 3 minutes before class started - that hour of prep in my contract? Very much not mandatory.

Since the day has been mostly taken up with a series of speaking tests and listening tests, I have just been a marking machine. It wasn't until the last elite class that I tuned into what the listening class was about. One of the questions was about a girl who needed to study for a biology test but was being invited away for the weekend. Based on what she said, the kids had to decide if she was more likely to go out or stay in and study.

I started laughing my ass off because given the facts - she really, really needed to study - my answer would always still have been to go out and have fun, though that certainly wasn't the answer they were looking for. Man, I was such a bad student. Every once in awhile it really blows my mind that I teach now. Me. Really!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bring on the Bedtime

I am just so tired and I have so much to do still. I can't wait for the quality time with my bed that's coming soon.

I think, anyway.

I've hit another patch of, well sort of, homesickness. I'm not homesick, exactly. I can't think of any particular life I'd rather be living than my own. I just wish I could round up everybody I'd love to see and make them all magically appear here with me for a bit over the holidays, or me magically able to go see all of them, without any pesky planes or airports involved.

I'd like to have my brothers around to tease me and my sister around to drive me nuts. I want to go through the Tim Horton's Drive Thru with Kari. I want to make pancakes with the girls. I'd like to listen to my Grandfather's stories of his dog and here him say tootle pip, while my Grandmother asks me to join her in a glass of Guiness. I'd like to listen to my Nana and Aunt and Mom make dinner and yell for my father to come carve the turkey. I want to sit around after dinner over coffee and pie and shoot the shit with my family. I'd like my dog to be there, barking her head off and running around in circles through the kitchen and living room. Then I'd like to transport us all to a campfire out behind the cottage, roasting marshmellows. I'd like to crash at Jas's place and drink some chocolate martinis and talk about absolutely everything and anything. I'd like to be able to transport myself and Jenn to Togo to see Ortencia and then to Italy to see Jen. I'd like an afternoon in a Scottish coffee shop with Jenni and Andrea. I'd like time with Jacob that is stress free (and judging by that last visit, also booze free!) I'd like to go watch a movie with Ike. I'd like to sit with Samarra in The Laundry Cafe (it better still exist), while we wear all black and talk about intellectual university stuff (so maybe this never actually happened in university but I still wish it had.) I'd like Candace to wake me up singing that annoying song and demanding that I come drink Black Cherry Vanilla tea. I'd like to see Jane again - I associate her more with here than anywhere, but perhaps an afternoon in random Nowhere, NY, just chillin'. Either that or some "time" in a DVD bang. I'd like to take all my favourite people from all the years in Korea and go dancing with them all. I'd like to be at Sunday brunch, surrounded by everybody, all of them happy and healthy and discussing books.

Instead, I'm gonna go to bed and then wake up and administer some tests and hope that once all this stuff passes, so does the homesickness. It doesn't come often, but when it does - man, does it hit hard.

Screw It, Let's Go Drink

Go Read!

The last paragraph of Brian's post on Baskin Robins is one of the funniest things I've read in ages.

Funnier than anything I've written since the Japan-isn't-in-South-East-Asia debacle and it might be sometime until I'm that stupid again, dear readers, so you will want to tide yourselves over!

I'm Well Prepared

For a siege, or some sort of run on foreign grocery items. I have no idea why I'm shopping for groceries in such an intense way leading up to this vacation, but there you are. My larder is well-stocked. Though to be honest, I've never been entirely clear on what exactly a larder is. However, my fridge and two cupboards are quite full. I've been an errand running machine and yet I still have a few to go!

You name it, I've got it. It's taken a tour of all the local stores, which carry a small and different variety of black market items from the base - since they all have a few different items, you are forced to shop at all of them. I wonder if they plan that? Then I hit up the stores local to my work, in Ichon. Finally, I finished it off with a trip to Itaewon to pick up some sour cream and about twenty other overpriced foreign goods that I had no idea I even needed. I now own apple sauce, for christ's sake! And rather expensive Mott's Apple Sauce at that.

I also went and bought myself a wee (or not so wee, really) Christmas present - I won a gift certificate for What the Book a couple of weekends ago and I finally went in and spent it. Perhaps I went a bit over the 25,000 - perhaps... I also bought myself some Starbucks coffee - which I consider a staple, as it's cheaper than buying a latte every day, but I did get myself one of the fancy ones I've always mildly coveted. I suspect the only thing that distinguishes this stuff from my normal, cheaper Starbucks coffee is the pretty packaging, but there you go.

While P.T. Barnum may not have been the one to actually say, "there's a sucker born every minute," I sometimes like to go ahead and prove whoever uttered those words right. After all, My excessive book buying is finally saving more than just my mind, which has been slowly atrophying after years of bank jobs and students:
Very useful shopping advice from Roy Blount Jr.

We all know that the retailers are in trouble because of collapsing consumer demand. (For years Americans spent too much; now....) We all know that the automakers domestic and foreign are in trouble because people don't want to buy cars. Real estate is in trouble because people can't or don't want to buy houses. The stock market is in trouble because people don't want to buy stock. And, arguably most ominous for the republic, newspapers are in trouble because people are losing the habit of buying papers.

There is not much any one individual can do about this. I'm not going to buy a new house or car just because it would have useful tonic effect on the market. There are only so many papers I can buy per day. But after the jump, Roy Blount Jr, through the years a frequent Atlantic contributor and current president of the Authors Guild, suggests a voting-with-your-dollars strategy that is within people's means and can make a significant difference.

Starting now, I've changing my Christmas shopping plans based on Blount's tips. The presents he suggests are good ones -- and although I can't visit independent bookshops myself where I am, the ones I like and have shopped at (Elliott Bay, Powell's, Politics & Prose, etc) have web-based order systems. Seriously, this is a good idea -- as are, of course, gift subscriptions to our own magazine.

Blount's letter to Authors Guild members* below.

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
Authors Guild

The Guild's staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We're coming! And we're coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We're spelling BOOKS!

* I got this via a friend, Robert Ellis Smith, rather than directly on the mailing list. I have been an AG member for years but, as with countless other details of my personal life, renewal forms etc have disappeared in the mail between the U.S. and China as the years have gone buy. Many strands to re-weave on my return.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Grumble, Grumble

It's really cold in my house, though the heat has been on for over an hour. The floor is all toasty and lovely, but the air not so much.

Thank god for Warren.

Now, all of your get your minds out of the gutter. Warren is the name Martha gave to my best blanket.

It's slightly odd having a blanket I refer to by name, I realise.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

But They're My Clothes!

I felt like I was copying Martha with last night's outfit. It was exactly what she wore last weekend!

Yesterday was fun, in spite of my extremely exhausted head. Martha and I headed out for brunch after the movie, which was lovely as always. Then Jenn came over to make Christmas cookies and I ended up getting some grocery shopping done at the same time - score!

The Christmas cookie baking was good, as I've been feeling a bit Scrooge-ish this year. Usually I love writing Christmas cards and doing holiday shopping, but this year it just hasn't happened. First off, I bought most of my gifts back before I went home in the summer and though I wasn't finished, I guess I kind of acted as if I was. I just didn't get around to figuring out what else I needed or who I needed to shop for. I also usually love finding bizarre Christmas cards in Korea - but this year I merely used last year's leftovers and pared down the list. Stuff went out on Friday and a few more things will hopefully go out tomorrow, but in general, I've felt a bit uninspired. I wrote some of my Christmas cards in the taxi on the way to the post office, in fact.

Our cookies are incredibly yummy - which is good, because we subsititued half the ingredients because we couldn't get them in my local grocery store and then managed to forget the brown sugar and just used more white sugar instead. There are pics, but I don't think I have time to upload them just now.

After the cookie making, I hopped in the shower to get ready for Melissa's birthday dinner. Martha and I were rather late, as we could not get a cab to save our lives and had to walk. If only we had just started walking at the beginnning, we wouldn't have been late at all. This just goes to show that laziness doesn't pay, I guess. The dinner was at Suji's and a lot of fun - Peter came along, which was great social multi-tasking for me, as I needed to see him before he flew back to Montreal (he's just visiting in a round-Asia trip.) After dinner, Padraic, Martha and I went to Soho, though we were incredibly low-key. Annie came later, but we all left around midnight.

I've had a ton of sleep, after a couple of episodes of the American Office last night, but I'm still crazy tired. However, more brunch, some Insadong, and some trivia are on today's agenda.

I guess I can sleep when I'm dead, right?

Friday, December 12, 2008


I slept incredibly badly last night. I went over to Liz and Lizzie's, theoretically for quiz writing, though I missed most of that. Instead I got fed some lovely snacks and the king of the snacks was the bacon-wrapped dates with almonds stuck in them. Yum. Martha and I watched Smart People after that - I liked it a lot, though in a rather low key way. Then after both of us couldn't sleep, we put on Into the Wild at 7 a.m. this morning... This is gonna be a long day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cloudy Characters

"When they write poems or sing songs in the West, they speak for all humanity. They're human beings - but we're just Muslims. When we write something, it's just ethnic poetry."
I've read two books recently where I spent a great deal of time very confused by the characters. I just didn't get why they acted as they did and both of the books seemed to be written in a very realistic style. Snow, by Orhan Pamuk, is said to be a novel that is supposed to open a window into the mind of Islamists and yet I have seldom encountered a book where I less understood the minds of the characters.
"If you write a book set in Kars and put me in it, I'd like to tell your readers not to believe anything you say about me, anything you say about any of us. No one could understand us from so far away... Oh yes, they do believe it... If only to see themselves as wise and superior and humanistic, they need to think of us as sweet and funny, and convince themselves that they sympathise with us as we are and even love us. If you would put in what I've just said, at least your readers will keep a little room for doubt in their minds."
The Crazed by Ha Jin - I'd didn't much like it. It drew me in for sure, but I really didn't understand the motives/emotions/conclusions of the main character in this one either. A university student cares for his ill professor, who is also meant to be his future father-in-law and comes to question his path in academics, except that I never understood why, really.
"Tell me, what is a useful life?"

"Not to be a piece of meat on the chopping board for others to cute. No, let me put it this way: I want to take my fate in my own hands, and when I die, I want to end with the feeling of content and fulfillment. In other words, I don't want to feel that my life should have been used otherwise."

"You're silly if not megalomaniac. Even Hamlet, a prince, cannot control his own fate. Who ever can?"