Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kimchi crisis!

This could actually be a big deal here...

... because cabbage is the primary ingredient in kimchi. What will the Korean families do without their kimchi?!

(From the Joong Ang Daily)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It Gets Better

Dan Savage, that often-inspiring sex-advice columnist from Seattle, has started the "It Gets Better" project. His video and his explanation for the project are after the jump. Inspiring.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


At the base of North Seoul Tower, lovers lock their love together.

Chuseok holiday album

I have posted the full album of my touristy pictures! Enjoy.


Thursday, September 23, 2010


Merry Chuseok!

Chuseok is Korean Thanksgiving, which I've been enjoying over the last couple days. Koreans traditionally dress up in the Hanbok (see cute kid to left), eat with their families and pay respects to their ancestors. Being the dedicated Korean that I am, I decided to do a little touristing.

Wednesday I went to the traditional Hanok Village - well, as traditional as you can get with about a million Koreans and a gift shop. We saw lots of reconstructed Korean houses, a really skilled tightrope walker, many Koreans, and lots of reconstructed Korean houses.

Thursday was the Seoul tourist piece de resistance: 남산타워! (North Seoul Tower.)
This is a tower on top of the mountain in the middle of Seoul, which overlooks all of Seoul.

The story's simple: walk up large mountain staircase with many Koreans, wait an hour for an elevator, see all of Seoul, walk back down mountain staircase, see the sunset over Seoul, return home happy after Shabu Shabu. It was a fun day.

More photos after the jump.

"Is anybody out there?"

The first ten people who comment on this post will get postcards from Korea. (Email me your address if I don't know it.)

The View From My Window

My favourite blog, Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, has a regular feature called "View From Your Window", which is exactly what it sounds like. My contribution -- actually the view from the 15th floor elevator well of my building -- was posted yesterday. The blog is worth checking out.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

What Steve's Reading, Games edition

Games have recently fascinated me. Here's what I'm reading (or watching) about them:

Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre. Wired, 2009. Settlers of Catan is a fantastic board game - I've only played it a couple times, but I have friends absolutely devoted to the game.

Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom. NYT Magazine, 2010. An educational experiment building video games (playing and designing) into a middle/high school curriculum.

And finally, an insightful perspective on games as psychological tools, and how these may shape the future of the internet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

For Grandpa and Mom

As a thank you for taking me to my first Gilbert and Sullivan opera so many years ago:

Word of the Week


Use in a sentence: If I get a present I just unrappit in a second.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cool Math in Real Life

I get asked a bit about math being used in real life. What does group theory have to do with my life, anyway? (To pure mathematicians like my friend Victor, "applied" is a four-letter word, but actually group theory has applications in music, chemistry and physics.)

But here's a great example of a mathematical concept - fractals - being applied to a real life situation - inequality.

Fractals are geometric shapes that have the same level of complexity (or irregularity) at every level. Coastlines are fractals - no matter what level you look at, the macro or microscopic, they'll always show you a similar level of complexity. For a great mathematical example of a fractal, check out the Mandelbrot set.

William Easterly observes an interesting thing about inequality: that it is fractal. That is, whether you are mapping income inequality on a local, city, regional, national or global scale, you'll always find relatively similar disparity between regions.

The pictures here are income disparity maps at the world level (above) and in New York City (to right). Easterly's post has larger and more compelling pictures - check it out.

It's an interesting idea without obvious implications - but perhaps with deeper, more subtle ones. In any case, it's a good illustration of how math is relevant and important in life.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Korean that looks like English!

I have noted before that many words written in Korean signs are actually English words transliterated. However, recently I noticed a new, much more limited phenomenon: transliterated English words that are made to look like their original counterpart.

Here's the best example. This is my Yoplait yogurt. Try to guess what the big blue Korean word is.

Answer after the jump...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What Steve's reading

The ecstasy of influence: a plagiarism. By Jonathan Lethem (sort of); Harpers, 2007. A long but tremendously engaging read.

Mosque Notes. Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic, 2010. A much shorter albeit sharp reflection on the Cordoba community centre project proposed in NYC.

When Does Holding Teachers Accountable Go Too Far? David Leonhardt, NYT, 2010. A piece on teacher-grading and accountability that has pretty immediate impact for me.

Edit to include For the Love of Culture. Lawrence Lessig, TNR 2010.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The 15 most influential songs in my life

Some of you may have realized that my life is boring these days. Not boring in the soul-crushing way, but boring in the "not good to blog about" way. I work during the week, and I relax on the weekends. The highlights of this weekend were buying 1GB of new RAM for my computer and having a delicious Korean BBQ meal, both accomplished within three hours on Saturday evening.

As a result, I blog about things that are not my weekly activities. I have been thinking about music and my influences recently, and tonight I put together a list of the 15 songs I think have most influenced me. Perhaps I will write down the reasons for each song in another post, but for now here's the song list. Readers: can you see your influence in any of my choices? If so, you've significantly influenced my musical tastes!

In roughly chronological order:
1. Crash Test Dummies - Superman Song
2. Fleetwood Mac - Second Hand News
3. Don McLean - American Pie
4. George Gershwin - Summertime
5. The Killers - Somebody Told Me
6. Rufus Wainwright - Hallelujah
7. Seussical the Musical - Here On Who
8. Scissor Sisters - Tits on the Radio
9. The New Pornographers - From Blown Speakers
10. Guiseppe Verdi - Va, pensiero
11. Mika - Grace Kelly
12. Coco Love Alcorn - Revolution
13. Damien Rice - Accidental Babies
14. Dan Mangan - Sold
15. Carolyn Mark and NQ Arbuckle - Officer Down

These aren't my favourite songs, nor even songs from a certain point in my life. Instead, they represent the times when someone introduced me to a new artist, genre or source of music, that I then incorporated into my listening or playing - and that have survived to this day. I have (reluctantly) left out many songs I loved in high school that I just don't listen to any more.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

아줌마... finally driving!

A grandmother in South Korea finally passed her driver's test after trying really, really hard. This is a crazy country.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I had a bad night...

because typhoon Kompasu lashed Seoul last night.

I was woken up by the wind howling down the street, the trees whipping in the wind near the breaking point, and the doors to the closet that contains my air conditioner (usually open to the outside to allow the system to properly ventilate) banging open and shut.

The picture to my left is from my window late at night. The several seconds of exposure show the bent trees but don't do justice to the cacaphony of sound and violence of their movement.

Could have been worse, though.
A total of 1,333 trees, telephone poles, and signboards were felled. ... Apart from the numerous injuries, two deaths were also reported as of 2:30 p.m., Thursday. An 80-year-old woman was hit on the head in South Chungcheong Province by a roof tile and a 37-year-old man in Gyeonggi Province was struck by a massive tree, both sent flying by the wind. - Korea Herald