Settled science

So, where did I leave off?  Oh yeah, I was talking about my so-called social life which revolves around the interesting characters I encounter in the bars of Itaewon.

One of my favorite people is Bradley who happens to be a scientist by trade craft profession.  Neuroscience to be precise.  And what I know about neuroscience is pretty much what I read on the link above.  I don’t know why smart people tolerate me, but I’m glad they do.  I’m always learning hearing about the most intersting things.

For example, I encountered Brad on Wednesday at Shenanigans and he was celebrating a pretty significant discovery in his field.  In his attempt to explain said discovery he re-purposed the dart scoreboard and drew scientific diagrams replete with arrows, lines, and circles demonstrating how the nervous system, or more precisely, the brain, responded to specific electronic probes in ways they had never previously observed, and well, hell, I was pretty drunk by then so all I can say is it was like being in the presence of Einstein or something.  Brad was very excited and animated as he tried to get my mind to wrap around the concept, I know that much.  When I asked him about some practical applications for this discovery he indicated it was far too soon to know, but one possibility being better able to target drugs for various disorders.  Suffice to say, he’s doing some big stuff and is getting recognized for his work in high places these days.

Of course, given my limited expertise we talk about more than science.  Like politics for example.  It should come as no surprise that Brad having been indoctrinated educated in some of the best institutions of higher learning (including Yale) America has to offer, leans more to the left than I do.  But we both seem to enjoy the hell out of going back and forth on whatever topic we put on the table for discussion.  And our debates are always pleasantly respectful, which is all too rare these days.  No Othering whatsoever.

Wednesday we got into how (in my view) science has frequently become politicized, and I threw out global warming as my prime example.  He disagreed that that was the case, but conceded that in today’s politically charged environment, contrary views on the subject tend to be drowned out.  I in turn granted him that pumping pollutants into the air was not an ideal situation, irrespective of whether it is causing the earth to warm.  My big gripe is that the “solutions” being proposed by the warmists disproportionately impact the poor and downtrodden in the third world, and that we should be pumping more fossils fuels to drive prices down and invest those savings into research for cost effective renewable energy sources.  Well, you get the idea of how our discussions go.

We keep it lively by talking about women and religion as well.  I’m going to say this right here and now–that whole “the lonely lives of scientists” meme is pure bullshit, unless Brad is the happy exception to the rule.  The stories he tells about some of the people he meets are beyond fascinating and I must admit evoke within me more than a fair amount of envy. Lucky bastard.

I'll go for that ride!

I’ll go for that ride!

Met another guy at the bar who is “biking” around the world.  He started in Japan, is now in Korea, and leaves next week for Russia.  I had to admire his passion.

Last week I enticed Young Chun out to Itaewon.  I’m not sure he was impressed by my drunken persona.  I let loose some of the lamest jokes in my repertoire and he just smiled. A sad smile I do believe.  Still, I enjoyed his company and some of my bar buddies engaged him as well.  One even bought a book on the spot.  Another friend kept calling him “Arthur” which Young managed to take in stride, or at least ignore.  I’ve ordered up a couple of more hard copies of the book at his request.  Will he come to Itaewon to fetch them?  We shall see.  Speaking of the book, Young’s doing a free download promotion through this Sunday (May 31).  So now’s the time to order!

Ran into another fellow (didn’t get his name) at the bar and he professed to be a big fan of LTG, which is always nice to hear.  I pretty much assume I’ve got 3-5 regular readers, but another guy I know saw me in Dolce Vita and said he had read about my trouble there and was happy I had made a reconciliation after my disappointment a couple of weeks ago.

Also got a nice email from a Matthew in Florida who is also waiting for his security clearance to finalize so that he can take a DoD job in Korea.  He’s also a scientist so I reckon we’ll get along just fine.  He said he finds my blog “helpful and pretty funny”, so of course I like him already!

The wife is off with the family tonight and I reckon I need to find something to do to keep me entertained on a Saturday night.  Itaewon beckons!

 

Remembrance day

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 30 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

finished-with-engines.jpg

Four years ago I wrote about my father’s death in a post called Finished with Engines.

foltz.JPG

Three years ago I wrote about my great Uncle Frank who gave his life in the service of our nation during WWII.  Killed just a couple of months before Germany’s surrender.  On Memorial Day I pay respects to a man I only know through my grandmother’s stories. Remembering Private First Class Frank D. Foltz.

The ghostly faces on the wall at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC.

The ghostly faces on the wall at the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC.

Six years ago I marked Memorial Day with a post called A day to remember.  It included this verse that I’ve always found hauntingly appropriate as we remember our fallen heroes.

Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.

–Alfred Edward Housman

Thank you for your sacrifice.

Thank you for your sacrifice.

 

Oh, damn!

So, the preceding post was twice as long.  I had added to draft I had previously saved. But everything I wrote after opening the draft failed to publish.  Curse you WordPress!  I ain’t got the time or inclination to attempt to recreate what I’ve lost, so you’ll just have to take me word for it that it was perhaps the most outstanding material you’ve never read.

Damn it.

The remains of the day

Martin

A dart buddy back home in Columbia had a heart attack and died yesterday.  I’d only known him a couple of years, but I always admired his sarcastic sense of humor.  Even after I moved back to Korea he was cracking me up with his FB posts.  I don’t think he could have been more than 45 years old which is way too young to go.  You’ll be missed Martin.

Life as I know it goes on and that’s a good thing given the above referenced alternative. Not that I’m doing much with the blessing of waking up each day.  My purpose of late seems to be drinking and darts, which for the most part is enjoyable if not particularly meaningful.  I think getting back to work will be a good thing as I’m craving some purpose and structure that I can’t seem to carve out on my own.

Now, when I drink it’s a social activity.  In other words, I don’t drink just for the sake of drinking or to get drunk.  In fact, I almost never drink at home.  I’ve many bar friends and acquaintances that I genuinely enjoy spending time with.  In fact, those folks constitute probably 90% of my human interaction these days.  So in may case it might be said that drinking cures loneliness.  Which now that I’ve said it does strike me as being pretty fucking pathetic.  Yep, I need to get back to work!

 

 

Lager heads

Here’s what’s happening.

Security clearance paperwork submitted.  Man, what a pain in the ass that was.  Took me over five hours to complete.  They basically wanted to know everything I’ve said, everywhere I’ve been, and all that I’ve done (or didn’t do) for the past seven years.  Well, not quite.  Where I’ve worked and lived had to go back ten years.  And then I had to provide basically the same info on my dead parents, my brothers, my kids, my wife and my in-laws.  The latter three being foreign nationals opened up a raft of additional questions.  Oh yeah, they wanted to know about my ex-wives as well.

It was especially frustrating because for every place I’ve lived and worked I had to provide the name, address, phone number and email of someone who could verify that information.  Later on, they asked for the names and associated information of three people who “know me well” (i.e. for seven years or more) that preferably live in the USA, and they couldn’t be anyone I had previously listed.  Hell, I’d used up my limited circle of friends for my address verification.  Which made me feel kind of sad.  Anyway, it’s done and now I wait.

What else? Some day I’m going to write the story of my life. Already have the title.

Some day I'm going to write the story of my life.  Already have the title.

Sunday I was on the escalator at Gireum station and two women stood side-by-side preventing me from walking down as is my custom. Sure enough, when I reached the platform the subway doors were just closing. Two minutes later I’m on the next train. Arrived at Samgakji and just missed my connection to Itaewon. Eight more minutes waiting. Which by my reckoning is ten minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Not counting the time I’ve spent writing about it now. Guess I need to learn to say “get the hell outta my way” in Korean.  And after all that, I got a message between Samgakji and Itaewon that my dart opponent was canceling. Nothing to do but drink some OB Lager’s, right?

Said dart match was rescheduled for Monday night.  A friend was jonesing for some beers after a stressful workday so I agreed to meet him at Shenanigans at 4:30.  We drank some OB Lager’s and threw some darts.  When it was time for my dart match at 7:30 I was feeling pretty buzzed.  Of course, I drank more OB Lager during the match, which finished around 10:30 with me taking home a 13-3 victory.

Except I wasn’t finished and didn’t take it home.  At least not right away.  I decided to pop into Dillinger’s where my pub league teammates were purportedly practicing for next week’s playoffs.  They had all already left, but I sat down and chatted with the owner and his partner for a bit.  They bought me an OB Lager.  And about the time I finished that one, they bought me another.  And then it was midnight and I’m like oh shit, I’ve got to get home!

Well, I figured my best bet was going to be the 110B bus.  So, I sat down and waited. Pretty soon the 421 comes by.  So I wait some more, and another 421 comes and goes. I figured the 110B would surely arrive soon, but nope, the next bus was once again the 421. It’s 12:30 now and I deduced there weren’t gonna be any more 110’s on this fine Monday night Tuesday morning.  So, I stopped a cab and told him Gireum station and he didn’t give me any crap about it.  Of course, during the week there are more cabs than people wanting cabs.  It’s Saturday night that’s tough.

So the cabbie did what I told him–he got me to Gireum station.  He went some weird ass way I didn’t recognize and dropped me at the subway entrance furthest from my apartment.  Well, no big deal.  I did a nice walk through the park and took a leak there just like any drunk ajusshi would do.

And the fact that I had a massive hangover on Tuesday had nothing to do with the amount of time it took me to complete my security clearance paperwork.  I swear.

This is me at 21.  Could be I was more suited to massive amounts of OB Lager back then.

This is me at 21. Could be I was more suited to massive amounts of OB Lager back then.

Everything worked like magic

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 31 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

disney.jpg

Two years ago I had just returned from a vacation trip to Walt Disney World and I wrote about the experience in a post called “The wonderful world of Disney”.

I guess most Disney fans enjoy the safe and happy fantasy world along with the thrill rides and faux cultural experiences provided in the various theme parks.  Me?  I liked the fact that the buses ran on time, the streets were clean, and the employee’s were competent, helpful and friendly.  In short, Disney does everything the government can never seem to get right.  Why that is shouldn’t be a mystery if you’ve been paying attention.

 

Nucking futs

My period of unemployment has been extended yet again.  The soonest I can start now would be June 1, but I’m already feeling like Charlie Brown with the Army playing the part of Lucy holding the football, so I ain’t getting my hopes up too high this time..

This time it’s all about the security clearance.  I submitted paperwork back in January for the old job, and I have a piece of paper saying my “secret” clearance is still active, but that’s apparently not good enough.  So, I need to repeat the entire process.  Which I’m prepared to do, but can’t do until The Personnel Security Investigation Center of Excellence (PSI-CoE) (no shit, that’s their name) sends me the log-in info so I can transmit the required documentation.  On May 7 I received an email from PSI-CoE saying the log-in info would be sent once my request “had been processed”.  I got up at 0400 on the 14th to ask why it hadn’t been transmitted as promised.  After the not unexpected obligatory time on hold, a representative advised that they were working on packages from May 5 so I could expect to hear something in a couple of days.  Once I’m finally able to submit my documents, my case will be adjudicated on a “first come, first served basis”. Ah, excellence in action!

Anyway, I’m stuck.  I resubmitted my fingerprints and now I wait. I’ll be waiting off post however since my base access expired yesterday.  In preparation I did a $220 commissary buying spree, so at least I won’t starve.

You can tell this is my blog because my fingerprints are all over it...

You can tell this is my blog because my fingerprints are all over it…

As frustrated as I am, my new boss to be is livid over the delays.  She really wants me on board to take on some of her workload.  Damn, I hope I turn out to be worth waiting for.

UPDATE:  Commenter Kevin notes the almost Orwellian meaning behind the name Personnel Security Investigation Center of Excellence = PSI-CoE = psycho.  Oh, and I hadn’t noticed that when I titled this post “Nucking futs”.  I love when that happens.

Othering

As I’ve gone through the LTG archives for the “ten years of blogging” series I’ve been pretty surprised at how much I used to write about politics.  And now I almost never do. Which got me to thinking about why that is.

One obvious answer is that I really didn’t have anything unique to say; others had already made the arguments much more articulately. So it was getting to be an exercise in posting a link and a “what he said” type thing.  I also became painfully aware that a blog post was never going to change anyone’s mind irrespective of the facts, logic, or common sense rightness of your argument.  And that’s fine as well I suppose.  Sometimes it’s all about the debate–the back and forth of having your views challenged, being confronted with new ideas and concepts you might not have considered, and coming away with at least a better understanding of your opponents position.

Except these days that almost never happens.  Instead, if you express a contrary viewpoint you are simply labeled and put in a box with those “others”.  Sometimes it’s extreme.  I posted a comment on a blog challenging the concept of “settled science” as it relates to global warming and the response was “I have zero respect for you people and I hope you all contract cancer and die painful and slow deaths.”  Alrighty then.

Want to talk about limiting the power of the federal government and/or tax reform?  You’re a filthy teabagger.  Have a policy disagreement with President Obama–you must be racist.  Question campus rape statistics and your are a misogynist rape denier.  If you want to call evildoers of the Muslim faith to task for their atrocities?  You must be an Islamaphobe.  Hell, you can be the President of the United States, but if you call out a senator from your own party over a policy dispute–yep, that’s sexist.  Anyway, you get the idea.  There’s no such thing as having reasonable contrary opinion, your motivation for disagreeing is always suspect.  Of course, as a white male my feeling this way is most certainly a failure to check my privilege.  For those not in the know, being told to “check your privilege” translates to “shut up, I don’t want to hear what you have to say”.

checkyourp

What this really is all about is an attack on the diversity of ideas, or more precisely, an attempt to eliminate free speech.  When simple disagreement on a topic becomes “hate speech”, free speech ceases to exist.  You see this manifested most often at those bastions of open-mindedness–universities.  Stray from the accepted way of thinking, no matter how small the transgression, and face banishment.  Just ask these uninvited commencement speakers.

Someone should write a book about this.  Oh wait, they did.  In her book aptly called The Silencing, lifelong liberal Kirsten Powers laments the “Left’s forced march towards conformity in an exposé of the illiberal war on free speech. No longer champions of tolerance and free speech, the “illiberal Left” now viciously attacks and silences anyone with alternative points of view.”  As you might imagine, the response from her fellow travelers was as swift as it was harsh. So much for speaking truth to power I suppose.

By now you must be thinking, why are we being subjected to this diatribe?  I go days and days without posting and then I start in on this post and don’t know when to stop.  Well, I’m getting there.  But I’ve actually been thinking about this topic for quite some time now.  And I started thinking about it when I read this post over at Kevin Kim’s blog.  The topic was the Supreme Court hearing regarding gay marriage rights.  Kevin took issue with his friend Malcolm’s post basically saying the court should leave the matter for the state’s to decide. Both made good and reasonable arguments, and it appeared to be a situation where they would agree to disagree and move on.

But then something all too familiar happened in the comments.  After Malcolm thoughtfully responded to Kevin, a commenter named “Tony” weighed in with the nuanced view that Malcolm was a homophobe.  Malcolm responded politely by saying he was not taking a stand on gay marriage per se, only on whether this was an appropriate case for the Supreme Court.  Kevin defended Malcolm as well, saying he knew for a fact that Malcolm had no personal bias against gay folk.  To which Tony responded “nope, he’s a homophobe”.  Kevin eventually just shut down comments on that post.

Which I guess just goes to prove that the “othering” tactic works pretty much as intended. I don’t even bother responding to all the silly political memes on Facebook anymore for the same reason.  Sometimes I actually start, and then I think, no, what’s the point?  It will just end up in name calling.

A nice quote from the poet W.B. Yeats which I have shameless stolen from Kevin's blog...

A nice quote from the poet W.B. Yeats which I have shamelessly stolen from Kevin’s blog…

I do want to note that while I have pretty much given up on the internet as a viable forum for political debate, I have not been completely silenced.  I will on occasion engage with lefty friends and acquaintances in person.  This too has it’s frustrations.  One friend always insists that I’m just regurgitating Fox News talking points.  Which I find funny because I don’t recall the last time I actually saw a Fox News broadcast.  Anyway, I’ve had several beer fueled discussions with so-called liberals that were actually quite enjoyable and stimulating.  The odd thing is that once we move past the stereotypes and get down to the issue, we almost always find points of agreement on the problem, if not the solution.  The point is when people actually talk to each other as opposed to at each other, it often turns out that we are not as far apart as it may otherwise seem.

I’ll take whatever comfort there is to be found in that.

I do not have a drinking problem

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 32 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

I drink, I get drunk, I fall down–no problem!

Seven years ago I fell down in Metro Bar and I wrote about the event in a post called “Last night had me in stitches”.

Now, I know the impression that leaves is that I was falling down drunk.  But that is really not the case.  Yes, I had been drinking but I steadfastly maintain that was not the proximate cause of my balance issues.  Fact of the matter is I blacked out.  Witnesses say I stood up, started coughing, and then hit the floor.  Seems to me it was more likely an oxygen to the brain issue unrelated to the beers I had consumed.  It was the second time I had blacked out like that, and thankfully it was the last.

Some damage was done however.  The stitches in my head were the least of my worries. During the fall I had somehow managed to basically filet my pinky finger.  It wouldn’t heal properly, so I finally had to get a skin graft.  Hurt like a mother fucker too.

Ah well, it’s all healed and good as new now.  And I have the scar to prove it.

UPDATE: Here’s a fun fact:  Drunken falls kill more people in Wisconsin than drunken drivers.  And I don’t recall ever being in Wisconsin.

Week tea

Ah, it’s been a week since I last posted.  You ain’t missed much, trust me.  Truth is I’ve been in something of a funk.  Just tired and unmotivated and generally out of sorts.  But here I am and here you are so let me share some random-ass shit.

Jee Yeun’s aunt died on Friday.  Her favorite aunt, the one she used to stay with in the countryside.  Heart attack apparently, so she went quick at least.  I’d never met the woman, but it’s sad to see Jee Yeun grieving.  Well, I’m not seeing it now because she’s left for the funeral, which in Korea is a three day affair.

Today makes four weeks without a cigarette.  I have done some vaping when the urge for nicotine is especially strong, like when I’m out drinking throwing darts.  The new anti-smoking laws here in Korea apparently include vaping, or at least there’s enough confusion about the law’s applicability that most bars make me take it outside.  So far, my favorite bar has allowed me to puff inside which is nice.  The other day a guy came up to me and asked me what flavor oil I was using.  I honestly don’t remember, I’m all about the nicotine.  He laughed and said he and his buds had been smelling what they thought was someone baking cupcakes.  I was surprised because I was intentionally sitting near an open window so as not to be offensive.  I apologized, but he said no, it’s actually quite pleasant although he said he was now hungry for something freshly baked.

I had filled a prescription for Champix several weeks ago in anticipation of the day when I would again attempt to quit cigarettes.  So I added it in to my daily pill ritual.  I’ve taken the drug before and the only side effect was having some pretty vivid and intense dreams. This time around I found it difficult to fall asleep (my mind seemed to always be racing with random and disjointed thoughts).  Once I managed sleep, the dreams were much more intense (and more nightmarish) than what I’d previously experienced.  So, I’d wake up and repeat the cycle of trying to get back to sleep only to be reawakened by another bizarre dream.  Needless to say, it did not make for a restful and satisfying sleep.  Hence, I was always tired which may explain my lack of motivation.  I finally had to give up on the Chanmpix a couple of days ago, and things are going back to normal nocturnally speaking.

I’m between jobs which has also disrupted my weekly routine.  Who knew I’d actually miss getting up and going to work?  Presumably I’m still on track to start the new gig on the 18th.  I got an email on Thursday indicating that a security clearance has been initiated and I should stand by for further instructions.  And I’m still waiting.  It’s frustrating because I just did all that security paperwork (everywhere I lived and worked with names and addresses of people who can verify those facts) a couple of months ago.  But whatever, I have no choice but to go along to get along.

I’ve also been feeling grumpier than usual.  It’s just too bad that I don’t have a yard so I could yell at kids to  “get off my lawn” now and then.  Instead, I got a little angry at darts on Monday night when a hot-shot Korean was more interested in running up the score than in winning the game.  And then on Friday night I got pissed at Dolce Vita and walked out without playing in the tournament.  Here’s the thing.  I’ve been a patron of DV for ten years now.  That doesn’t make me special, but it does make me a regular.  And I’ve been ordering the same goddamn thing every time I’ve been there–a mug of Cass beer.  There were two other people sitting at the bar, but I set myself up at a table near the dart boards. Now, although the bartender (who happens to be the owner’s niece) made eye contact she didn’t offer a welcome or a greeting.  I don’t require those basic courtesies, but I do expect to be served.  And for whatever reason, I decided to take a stand by refusing to go to the bar to place my order.  It’s her job to come to me.  So after several minutes of a Mexican standoff, I packed up my darts and headed for the door.  One of the guys at the bar asked me where I was going.  I responded “somewhere where I will be served a beer” and walked on out.  Shocking, eh?  Keeping it all in perspective, I was no where near this angry.

After my early exit from Dolce Vita I hiked over to Sin Bin, the bar that has a competing Friday night tourney.  They’ve been trying to get me out there for quite some time, but I’ve stupidly always been loyal to DV.  And even in my pissy mood I couldn’t quite bring myself to play their tourney.  Fact is, I’ve been unhappy with the fact that Sin Bin chose to split the crowd on Friday’s rather than do a tourney on another available night (Saturday for instance).  Anyway, I chatted with some folks and enjoyed the promptly served beer. Afterwards, I went on an old fashioned Itaewon bar crawl, visiting some of my favorite old haunts from days gone by.  Got good service everywhere and had a pretty good time before heading home satisfyingly inebriated.

Last night I met up with my nephew Justin at Shenanigans and we had an enjoyable time shooting the shit, drinking beers, and doing shots.  I’m always trying to hook the boy up with one of the cute bar girls, but have not had much success in that regard.  There was a new gal last night so I got the ball rolling for him.  Turns out she has a boyfriend in Canada, but she still seemed to enjoy the attention.  She got off work about the time I was leaving and she invited Justin to join her and her friends for a drink.  He seemed pretty happy about that.

Living in Gireum is a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes.  The thing I like least is having to rush out of Itaewon with ample time to catch the last subway home.  I was taking no chances last night, so I headed to the station well before 11:30.  Got to Itaewon station just in time to board the train for my connection at Samgakji.  Where I waited and waited until a train finally arrived, which proved to be the last one of the night.  And it was only going as far as Hangsun University station, two stops prior to Gireum.  And so like magic, my foul mood returned.

So it’s after midnight, I’m without my Korean guide, and wasn’t exactly sure which exit would lead me to the right bus stop.  At least I knew I needed to catch the 143 bus.  The thing is, once the subway stops running you have hundreds of people exiting the station at the same time.  I guessed the exit that my drunken sense of direction told me was right, and sure enough there was a bus stop.  Swarming with people so thick it took my several minutes of salmon-like maneuvering to get anywhere near the place where buses were loading.  And there were lots of buses, but no 143.  I glanced over at the electronic sign announcing arrivals and didn’t see the 143 listed.  I figured I was at the wrong bus stop or the last 143 bus had already come and gone.  So I crossed the street in search of a cab. Ha!  I’m such a dreamer.  There wasn’t an empty cab in sight, and even if there was one coming, I’d reckon at least ten people were on the street in front of me hoping for a miracle.

My leg was hurting again so I was not feeling good about the prospect of finding my way to Gireum on foot.  As I stood there mentally cursing my foul luck, what should appear out of the blue–the 143!  Of course, now I was on the wrong side of the street from the bus stop. Decisions, decisions.  Do I risk jaywalking in heavy traffic or play it safe and potentially miss the only bus I knew was coming.  Fuck that, I ain’t missing the bus!  There was a fortuitous gap in the cars and I used my Frogger skills to make a successful dash for the bus.  Which I boarded and then stood (no seats available of course) feeling foolish while the driver waited for the passenger’s who had the good sense to use the crosswalk with the light.  I made it home though, so there’s that.

And that’s pretty much what you missed during the week I couldn’t be bothered to write a post.  You can thank me in the comments.

 

Come what May

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

Five years ago I made my way up into the mountains to visit a Buddhist Temple that Jee Yeun favors.  I wrote about in a post called A trek to Dosonsa Temple.

More pictures than words at the link if you are interested in that kind of thing.

a17.JPG

The remains of the day

Took my last bus ride out to the K-16 Air Base in Seongnam yesterday.  I was accompanied by my newly hired replacement so that I might show her the ropes.  Such as they are.

It was a relatively busy afternoon as we needed to change the passwords on every computer in the Multi-use Learning Facility (MLF).  The printer finally got fixed, so I had to set up all the computers with the printer’s IP address.  And at around 1430 we got our first customer of the day!

Said customer was a newly arrived soldier who had some stuff he needed to print, so I was very pleased that for the first time in weeks I was able to accommodate his request. He was having trouble with one document and he called me over for assistance.  Now, I’m the original techno-peasant so I was fearful the problem would be beyond my limited capabilities to resolve.  Seems he needed to print out a copy of his lease so that his state-side wife could receive payment of the basic housing allowance (BHA) benefit.  The problem was only the first page of the five-page document would print.

My resolution was to download and save the lease as a PDF.  And sure enough, all pages printed out just fine.  The soldier was happy/relieved and he told me “you just made my day”.  Which of course made mine.

And so ended my tenure with the Army Education Center.

 

Navigating the treacherous shoals of the government bureaucracy

As I mentioned previously, the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC) made me a tentative job offer last Friday.  Since tomorrow is my final day at my current job, it was critical to move quickly with the hiring process so I could start my new position on Monday.  The job offer email said I’d be receiving the required forms for completion from a Ms. Kim (not her real name).

Monday comes and goes with no sign of the forms.  I send an email and get no response. Same thing on Tuesday.  On Wednesday I email my old boss about the situation.  She made a call, and at about noon a raft of paperwork from Ms. Kim shows up in my inbox.  I’m pretty quick at filling out government forms, but it took me nearly three hours to complete it all.  Of course, K-16 doesn’t have a functioning printer/scanner so I couldn’t sign and return them.  Instead, I sent them back and told Ms. Kim I’d come by the CPAC that afternoon to sign everything.  I figured I was good to go, but of course that’s not the way of the bureaucracy.

Ms. Kim sent me yet another form to complete and also said I needed to bring in my passport and marriage certification.  The latter two would require another trip to the CPAC this morning, but the form pretty much blew me away–it was chock full of questions intended to establish whether I was an ordinary resident of Korea–i.e. a local hire ineligible for SOFA status.  Basically, no SOFA, no job.

Of course, the whole thing was ridiculous because I had established that I was an ordinary resident of the USA and was granted SOFA status in the position I currently occupy.  The regulation Ms. Kim sent clearly states that since I currently have SOFA status as U.S. hire, that follows me to any subsequent position I take in Korea.  I pointed this out to Ms. Kim when I returned the completed form.

I was pretty frustrated but figured I could straighten it all out when I visited Ms. Kim to sign the forms.  So when my bus arrived back at Yongsan, I hoofed it over to the CPAC as quick as my old legs could carry me.  Ms. Kim proved to be even less impressive in person than she had been in our email exchanges.  She took me to a conference room and asked “do you have some forms to give me?”  I was dumbfounded, but managed to point out that I had sent the forms to her, I just needed to sign them.  And then I realized she hadn’t bothered to print them out, even though I had told her I didn’t have printing capability at K-16.  She gave me a blank look, but then left to go print them out.  When she returned a few minutes later, I signed them all and asked “when do I start”.  She said we still need to do a security clearance.  I reminded her that I recently completed that process with the Security Officer, Mr. Ellin.  Ms. Kim said that he was the IMCOM security guy, I needed approval from 8th Army.  Of course, it’s all the same data base but I saw no sense in arguing the point with the uncaring entity before me.

This morning I was up bright and early and armed with my passport featuring a stamp confirming my SOFA status, the document proving I’m married, the employment letter from my current job showing I was hired from the USA, and a document clearly showing my “secret” security clearance was still active.  I gave all these to Ms. Kim who gave them a cursory glance and said let me get your servicing HR specialist to come in.  I considered that progress as it gave the impression that perhaps I’d finally see some competent “service”.

After waiting ten minutes or so, Mr. Jones arrived in the conference room (another made up name, I will have to work with these people professionally in the future).  Mr. Jones is the guy who sent me the offer letter last Friday.  After we introduced ourselves he said there’s still a form you need to complete–it was that same fuckin’ ordinary resident of Korea form I’d filled out yesterday.  Trying to remain calm, I noted that I had in fact completed that form even though it was unnecessary since I have SOFA status and I am not a local hire.  Mr. Jones told me that the “lawyers” said I had to complete the form and also go to the immigration office and get a record of all my entries and departures from Korea during the past five years.

I called bullshit.  I pointed out that the regulation clearly states that a person being hired from within Korea who has previously established ordinary residence in the USA and has been granted SOFA status is exempted from the process he was trying to put me through. I told him there was no way I was going to kill a day at immigration for a document that I didn’t need.  Whereupon he excused himself to consult with his supervisor.

After another ten minutes he returned with the not unexpected news that I was in fact correct.  He said I would only have to go through that process if I expected LQA (living quarters allowance).  As much as I would love to get me some paid for housing, I’m most likely not eligible and regardless, I “sold” myself to my new organization as being cheaper than bringing someone over from the states.  So I told Mr. Jones I was not seeking LQA.

He told me that they had everything they need and I asked if they were going to get me on board in time to start Monday.  He said that wouldn’t be possible since it would require a “late action” (my paperwork needed to be done by Wednesday, and here it was Thursday morning).  What’s a late action you ask?  Well, it’s a metric that is used to measure the CPAC’s efficiency and effectiveness.  Late actions are considered not good.  Better to disappoint the customer than have a late action.  Same theory the VA operates on when they deny service to our veterans.

Bottom line, I won’t be starting my new job until May 18.  Which gives me a two week period of unemployment.  No big deal in that regard, but losing base access will be a pain in the ass.

And so it goes.

 

As the dart flies

For those of you following the Itaewon dart scene, here’s the latest:

I managed a mirror image of the 16-0 shellacking I suffered in my previous Singles League outing, beating this week’s opponent 16-0.  Is the slump over?  Stay tuned.

In Monday night Pub League action, the Dillinger’s Dartitis Quarintine clenched second place in the Seoul International Dart League.  We beat Sin Bin 25-14 last night to earn that honor.  First place is securely held by our sister team, the Dillinger’s Dill Pickles.  They are just too damn good beat, but at least we won’t have to face them straight away when playoffs commence.

I went 6-0 in singles, and 3-3 in doubles.  I’ll take a 9-3 night anytime.

And that’s how things stand.

Well met indeed

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

One year ago I encountered the Big Hominid for the first time and wrote about it in a post called The nicest guy I’d never met.  We enjoyed us some Brazilian steak and conversation.  We’ve gotten together twice in the intervening year which I reckon to be more than I see most of the people I know and like.

Chances are good we’ll meet again one soon.

Carved right from skewer and onto your plate via Kevin's deft handling of the tongs.

Carved right from skewer and onto your plate via Kevin’s deft handling of the tongs.

 

And now for some good news

Yesterday I received this email:

Greetings Mr. McCrarey:

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected for the following
position in Seoul, Korea:

a.  Position Title, Series and Grade: HUMAN RESROUCES SPECIALIST-GS-0201-13.

b.  Organization: HHB, EIGHT ARMY
DIR HUMAN REOURCE MANAGEMENT
STAFFING, CLASIFICATION, AND BENEFITS DIVISION
Duty Location: Seoul Korea

(And yes, that’s a cut and paste.  So the typos and misspellings are authentic.  Proof that I’ll be working for the actual U.S. Government again!)

I’ve got a raft of paperwork to complete which won’t be a problem for me provided it is promptly sent.  I’m planning hoping to start on May 4 which gives all involved a solitary work week to git ‘er done.  Probably the biggest hurdle will be going through the security clearance process again.  Regular readers might recall the cluster fuck I encountered getting clearance for my current job.  I previously held a “secret” clearance which the new job requires.  I *may* have become slightly more critical of the government since then, but certainly no less loyal.

Speaking of the old job, I submitted my formal resignation yesterday effective next Monday.  The boss asked if I was really sure this time because he wouldn’t entertain another round of “never minds”.  I told him yes, this time I really, really mean it.  Truth is, he has a woman ready, willing, and able to take the reins at K-16 who has been patiently waiting for me to get out of the way.  If there is any delay in starting my new job I’ll just have to deal with the inconvenience of losing base access in the interim.  Time to move on.

In other news, I got up early this morning and journeyed out to Hannam-dong for my appointment with the hilarious Dr. Yu.  I told him about my persistent cough/sore throat. He listened to my chest and said “it’s not pneumonia” (which apparently is going around). I told him I was more concerned about cancer.  He pooh-poohed this notion, but told me he’d send me for a chest and sinus x-ray to alleviate my worries.  Actually what he said was “so your worries will fly away” while flapping his arms like wings.  Told you he was hilarious.

So, the x-rays come back and it turns out I have sinusitis.  And my lungs are clear, other than some mucous.  Looks like I dodged the cancer bullet again.  Woot!

Came away with some new additions to my daily pill regimen.  It seems like I'm becoming my parents.  And things didn't end well for them.  Although, if I make it as far as they did I'll have no complaints.

Came away with some new additions to my daily pill regimen. It seems like I’m becoming my parents. And things didn’t end well for them. Although, if I make it as far as they did I’ll have no complaints.

Dr. Yu sent me on my way with his standard entreaty to drink more water.  I told him I drink plenty of OB (my preferred Korean beer).  He agreed that OB “is mostly water”. Hilarious.

 

Coffin

It looks like I’ve quit smoking again.  Apparently.  As I’ve been known to say, quitting is easy, it’s the not starting again that’s the hard part.

What’s odd about this time is that I had no specific plan to give up cigarettes.  No psyching myself up with a target date, no drugs or stop smoking aids, and no more than the usual admonishments of the wife.  I didn’t make the decision to quit, my body did.

Saturday night I had a really bad coughing fit.  I went out Sunday morning for a smoke and it just didn’t taste good.  I tried again in the afternoon, got halfway through, and it was just yuck, so I put it out.  And I haven’t smoked since.  Now, I was a 20+ cigarette (sometimes twice that) so this has been a pretty significant break.  It’s not to say I don’t get the urge, but those urges are based on habits (like being bored at work or writing a blog post like this one) not a craving for nicotine.  I guess my body has just had enough.

Now the question is did I wait too long.  The cough is persistent and coming from somewhere deep in my chest.  The coughing fits are sometimes painful.  And my throat is sore.  So, I’m going to try and get an appointment with the hilarious Dr. Yu.  I’d like a chest x-ray and whatever other tests they might run to see if I’m dying.  I just read about some minor celebrity (who’s name I’ve already forgotten) who had a persistent cough, was diagnosed with esophagus cancer, and was dead within thirty days.  I’d like to avoid that fate of course, but if my time is up there are many things I need to take care of.  I’d rather know than not.

I also want to know what’s up with the intermittent pain in my left leg.  And now the arch of my right foot is also a source of pain.  I could barely stumble to the bathroom this morning.  I mean, I’m old, but not this old.  Yet.

Another one bites the dust

Yesterday I journeyed out to the countryside near Songtan.  It was a pain in the ass getting there, but my buddy James was doing the Korean wedding ceremony thing and it was my honor to attend.

That would be James...

That would be James…

The lovely Hyesun. I guess "better half" is pretty cliche, although in this case there can be no disputing who got the best end of this deal.

The lovely Hye Seon. I guess “better half” is pretty cliche, although in this case there can be no disputing who got the best end of this deal.

With the parents...

With the parents…

The waeguk table...

The waeguk table…

Hyesun shed some tears of joy...or relief that the ordeal was nearly over...

Hye Seon shed some tears of joy…or relief that the ordeal was nearly over…

Ain't they sweet?

Ain’t they sweet?

Our table put in a pretty good days work.  I'm quite certain no one came close to matching our consumption...

Our table put in a pretty good days work. I’m quite certain no one came close to matching our rate of consumption…

It turned out to be a fine day.

 

MT

In celebration of ten years of blogging here at LTG, each week for the next 5251 50 49 48 47 46  45 44 43 42 41 40 39 38 37 36 35 weeks I will delve deep into the sewer archives of past posts to bring you a tidbit of blog history.  I had originally planned to call this series “The best of LTG”, but damn, there just wasn’t much “best” to be found.  And mediocre is too hard to spell.)

Six years ago I wrote about my first experience with an MT (membership training) getaway with my Blue Bulls darts teammates in a post called from Back from Busan.

Lots of photos at the link.  We did food, drink, and darts and everything else is a little fuzzy.

We did stay at a pretty cool hotel, the Commodore.

busan21.JPG

And enjoyed our ride down on the KTX.

busan4.JPG

And by the end of the weekend we weren’t too much worse for the wear, although I do recall a couple of my mates sporting hangovers.

Good times!

Good times!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riding the roller coaster

As depressed as I was on Friday, I was equally manic yesterday. Which is not a commentary on the state of my mental health.

As I alluded to in an earlier post, the Resource Management folks at the G-8 had been sitting on my hiring paperwork for going on two weeks. The issue is that the Directorate of Human Resources Management (DHRM) where I hope to be re-employed has two overhires resulting from a previously imposed decrement. Which in non-Army English means that two jobs were taken away in anticipation of a major command reorganization that never actually occurred.  That fiasco happened many years ago during my previous tenure and DHRM has been fighting to get those jobs back ever since without success. The work has not gone away, and people are still on board doing that work, but as far as Army is concerned the positions are not authorized.  So now you know more about decrements and overhires than most right thinking people who avoid acquiring useless information.

What makes this situation especially frustrating is that the job I seek is not one of the decremented positions and the 8th Army commanding general had previsously signed a memo approving my hire as a re-employed annuitant.  Anyway, I sent an email to one of the staffers at DHRM seeking information regarding the status of my quest to rejoin the team.  He in turn called a staffer at G-8 (coincidentally someone I’ve had a long standing working relationship with) who agreed that there was no legitimate basis to hold up my hiring action.  He called his colonel who agreed to let my hire move forward.  Bureaucracy is a beautiful thing on those rare occasions where it actually makes things happen.  Even if it was bureaucracy that kept them from happening in the first place.

The upshot of all of this is that my hiring package now resides in the hands of the good folks at the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center (CPAC).  They are the ones who will actually make the formal job offer and process the paperwork facilitating my re-employment with DHRM.  In his reply email my hero at DHRM advised that it would probably take several  days for the CPAC to accomplish their magic.  Since the government is anal about bringing people on at the beginning of a pay period it looks like my start date should be on or about May 4.  I can live with that.

I was so ecstatic over the news that I invited my DHRM compadre out for some celebratory drinks.  We drank many, many beers and given the festive nature of the occasion we also partook in several shots of whiskey, something I rarely do.  Suffice to say I returned to my abode in a state of blissful inebriation.

I can’t imagine anything else going wrong at this point, but I’ve been disappointed before. Gonna keep thinking positive thoughts though.  I’m looking forward to rejoining my DHRM family more than ever.