Back in business

Picked up my new DVD player today so I am back to normal. I play my CD’s on it too, so right now I am playing some Korean music CDs that I got for my birthday. They are actually quite good. Mostly easy listening stuff, and I don’t understand the words, but soothing nonetheless.

Also watched Hitch tonight. Not bad, but kinda predictable. A review in 9 words. Hey, pixels ain’t cheap!

In other news, I went to a meeting of Koreans who want to learn English last night. I have been helping a woman named Ji Yong with her writing through emails and she invited me to come as her chingu (friend). It was different kind of thing for me to do, but it was in Itaewon and it was at a bar, so I felt right at home. Actually, it was interesting. And I have to give credit to the effort these folks are making. The concept is for people to just sit around and have conversations in English. I had a few questions about life in the States thrown my way, and I tried to be helpful. Some of the people spoke very good English, and everyone seemed to be trying hard to improve. The other native English speakers were a couple of Canadians who teach in local schools. I’ve considered getting an English teaching gig part time, just to fill the hours in a healthy way. We’ll see. I’m not looking, but I’m receptive to the idea.

I am immersed in a pretty good game of CIV these past couple of days. It was a good way to recover from my hangover yesterday. Nice safe outlet to vent a little agression too I suppose. I had it out with the Aztecs. We fought to a standoff, then I regrouped (and acquired the calvary advance, and all I can say about the Aztecs now is rest in peace you S.O.Bs.

Work is work. I’ve been that bad combination of busy and unmotivated. This too shall pass. Good night.


Crap. Today I plugged in some lamps that my co-worker Corine gave me. In doing so, I had to re-arrange some of the plugs. Somehow I managed to take the adapter off one plug and stuck it in the 220 outlet.

And when I turned on my DVD player to watch one of my new movies…..snap, crackle, pop along with smoke and that special smell associated with fried circuits.

I replaced the adapter and plugged into the 110 outlet, turned it on again and got a picture. No sound though. And the Hangul subtitles help me not one bit.

Geez, I feel stupid. Could this be the first indication of that old timers disease I heard about?

Ah well.

So far today

I cleaned my apartment (even the toilets), did laundry, picked up my dry cleaning, stopped at the commissary for groceries, and bought 4 DVDs in Itaewon. Special huh?

So, I bought The Magnificent Seven, Hitch, Crash, and A Dirty Shame. Only one I’ve seen is Mag 7, so I’ll have to find out if I chose wisely. At five bucks a pop I figure I’m not out much if they suck. Of course, I’m assuming they will be watchable, it’s always kind of hit and miss when you buy from vendows on the street.

Well, I reckon I’ll go watch one then take a nap so I will be ready for my big night on the town. I’ll probably hate myself in the morning for the soju shots I anticipate will be forced down my throat, but you are only 50 once I suppose.

Happy Birthday to me….

Today I turn 50. Hard to imagine, I still have so much to figure out. Well, having a birthday sure beats the alternative…

Anyway, my agenda today includes laundry and grocery shopping. Tonight my military buddies Jeff and Scott are convinced they are going to get me drunk. They say no wussie beer, you are doing shots. If that is the case, it will be an early night.

I don’t have any great insights upon achieving this milestone. I feel mostly just very alone, but I am dealing with it. I will not succumb to sadness on this day. I promise!

To those I love, know I am with you in my heart and wishing we could share this occasion.

And the seasons, they go round and round
and the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captured on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game.

—Joni Mitchell

Steyn on Sheehan

A commenter took issue with my passing reference to Cindy Sheehan in a previous post. My point was she does not represent the views of the vast majority of Americans, nor does she speak for all mothers who have lost a “child” in the war on terror. Of course, our soldiers are not children, they are adult volunteers. In the case of Casey Sheehan, after his first tour in Iraq he re-enlisted. He also volunteered for the rescue mission in which he lost his life. He was brave. He was a hero. He was where he wanted to be doing what he wanted to do. He represents all that makes America great. I do not believe his mother speaks for him either.

Anyway, Mark Steyn’s column in the Chicago Sun Times pretty much captures my views on this issue.

What he said…

I came across this post over at Idiot’s Collective and found myself nodding in agreement. One of the big differences I’ve noticed in my Korea life is that almost everyone here strives to look and act the same. This is compounded by the fact that when I leave the relatively safe environs of Itaewon, I am very self-conscious about how different I am from the teeming masses that surround me. Not to mention that people literally stare and gawk.

Ah well. Go read the link. Aaron nails it. The quote from P.J. O’Rourke is hilarious.

A beautiful day

Just dropped in to comment on the weather. It has been miserable…hot and beyond sticky. Last night it rained and today is near perfect. Mid-70s and clear. On those rare days when the air is clean and/or not filled with moisture, Seoul is a beautiful city. The skyscrapers framed by mountains in the background is a quite pleasing view.

No other news to speak of. Well, I am making plans to go to Busan for Labor Day weekend. Its past time that I see the “second city” and enjoy the ocean. Hopefully, the crowds will be gone by then.

I know, another worthless post. I am having some political thoughts, but better writers than me are covering those topics. I may chime in if I have an original thought, but what are the chances of that?

More from New York….

Ok, I *think* I have the problem fixed, so here’s some more photos from my week in NYC.

Let’s see, we left off somewhere in the middle of Times Square….

And for those who like chocolate, the Hershey store is inviting….

I didn’t actually try to get tickets to see Letterman, but I did get this picture….

Um, I didn’t see a comedy show at Caroline’s either. I really took this photo in honor of my friends at Sweet Caroline’s, one of my Itaewon haunts. A friendly place where everyone knows my name (well, that’s what I tell myself anyway)….

As long as I am posting boring pics of business marquees, here’s the new Hard Rock Cafe in TS. I did go inside and buy some trinkets as gifts for my Korean friends who like “authentic” American pop culture. Which means they were easy to please….

I was wandering around the streets of Manhattan one afternoon and came across this sign (which my lack of skill with a camera makes hard to read, it says Korea Way in English and Hangul) quite by accident. Lo and behold I had discovered “Korea town”. It was quite fascinating to be amongst Koreans again. I even took advantage and had a lunch of bulgogi bimbibap with all the sides. Not as spicy as I have become accustomed too, but still good…

Like a true tourist I also visited the Empire State Building….

Actually, I had tried to go to the observation deck on a previous visit to NYC but because of low cloud cover I was advised to save my money. This day had clear skies, so up I went. And here is what I saw….

Later in the week, I took the ferry to Ellis Island. Damn, the security was more rigid than at the airport, which made for an hour wait to board. I took some photos while I waited, including these buildings surrounding Battery Park in Lower Manhattan….

And the Merchant Mariners monument. My father was a merchant marine so I thought this was pretty cool…

Made it on board the ferry finally, and caught this view of the skyline as we pulled away. Something will always be missing, but I take strength in knowing that the blood spilled here is being avenged. Our response to the haters of freedom was to help bring freedom to the oppressed. Two towers, two freed nations. It’s the American way….

Lady Liberty in all her glory….

On the approach to Ellis Island, I thought of all the people who had passed this way, following the call of the heart that yearns to be free….

God bless the USA….

New York, New York…

Ok, I finally got around to getting my photos from New York City together…nothing you haven’t seen in postcards before, but these just scream “I was there!”

Actually, I have been to New York several times, but never got all that touristy like this time. I guess I just felt a lot more confident walking the streets after spending the past few months in an even bigger city….Seoul.

So here we go (I hope my bandwidth can take it, but then I have alienated most of my readers by a proven combination of infrequent posts and boring ones like this)….

Let’s start in Central Park, an amazing greenway amid the urban sprawl:

You can’t really see them in this pic, but this pathway is lined with the statues of the great writers in Western literature….

I also had a little sax in the park….

And then wandered over to Strawberry Fields and checkout the John Lennon shrine….

And then it was on to Times Square. Actually, I stayed in a great hotel, the Marriott Marquis, which is right in the middle of Times Square on Broadway….

Samsung is everywhere, even the billboards of New York…

Good Morning America studio. You can’t of course get the full effect of Times Square without seeing it at night. You won’t see that here though. They have turned entire buildings into lighted billboards, don’t know how exactly…maybe a projector. You will just have to go see for yourself….

Hmmm, none of my TS images are posting….I’ll be back when I figure out why…..

Censorship in the ROK

It appears that the ROK government has once again taken a blunt intrument and applied it sqaurely upside the head of free speech. For the past several days expats using blogspot or typepad have had access to their blogs mysteriously blocked. The chief suspect is the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC). They pulled the same stunt last year in a futile attempt to keep the beheading of a Korean in Iraq from being viewed. It is unclear what the reasons for this current round of censorship are, but speculation seems to be growing that it has to d0 with Korea’s Independence Day celebrations. I guess I am so used to watching the leadership in this country kissing Kim, Jung Il’s ass that I didn’t think the fawning lovefest with the enlightend government up north would be cause for controversy.

Anyway, it sucks and it is pretty disgusting to see the government of a “free” country resort to such tactics. It is really a pathetic effort doomed to failure anyway, as most of us are still accessing our favorite blogs using a proxy server like unipeak (thanks to Nomad for showing me the way) to bypass the blocks KT and other ISPs have imposed. My original blog was on blogspot, but when I heard about last year’s outrage I purchased my own domain. Rest assured, LTG will not be silenced! (just in case I ever have anything of import to say here. Hey, it could happen!).

Although some folks appear to be apathetic regarding this outrage (absolutely no mention in the Korea media thus far) Kevin at BigHominid is poking the ROK goons with a big stick in a manner for which he is uniquely qualifed. Don’t miss this takedown, and keep scrolling to read all his posts on this topic. Of course, sometimes a picture can speak volumes, and this one captures my sentiments exactly….

I’m putting it on page 2 in order to avoid offending anyone with tender sensitivities…. Continue reading

Back in the ROK

Left New York City at 0800 Friday and touched down at Incheon at 1600 on Saturday. It was actually worse than that. I left my hotel at 0500 (after the 0400 wake-up call) which got me to JFK airport way earlier than I needed to be. Flight left the gate on time but we got in the back of the take-off queue so actually were running late by the time we were off the ground.

I figured there would be plenty of time for my connection in San Francisco but we didn’t land until 1230 local time and my flight to Korea left at 1300. As we pulled up to the gate the flight attendent announced that Incheon was departing from gate 92 in the International terminal. And that’s all she said. So I hoofed it through the airport and discovered to my dismay that I had to go through security to enter the International terminal. Fortunately the line was not very long, but doing the “taking of belt, shoes, watch, laptop out of the case and on the belt seperately” routine (and its reverse on the other side) took some time. When I finally made it to gate 92 the sign said “last call” and they were calling my name on the PA system.

The gate agent takes my ticket and asks “where have you been?”. I wasn’t a real happy camper at this point and I shared my opinion about the United’s short connection window and how screwed up it was to have to go through security again. He said we have a shuttle that brings passengers to the International terminal bypassing security. I said am I supposed to know that through osmosis? He responded we have “signage”. Well, I didn’t see any signs but it seems that would have been a good piece of information for the flight attendent to share when she announced the gate. Anyway I made the flight but didn’t get to do the duty free store or buy some comfort foods for the long trip across the Pacific.

The flight was uneventful (which is a good thing). I was seated next to a young Korean woman who was returning with a group of 50 Korean kids who had been visiting the USA. I was relieved that they were so well behaved because I was smack dab in the middle of them. The woman was exhausted and slept most of the flight. I couldn’t catch more than a couple of naps, maybe two hours total. I saw two movies “It must be love” with that Ashton Kutchner guy and “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”. Neither was great, but they helped pass the time which I guess is the point. I also made it halfway through a book called “Skinny Dip” which I am enjoying.

I had a $70 AFFES cab ride home from the airport. Took a long hot shower and went into Itaewon to burn some energy. Ran into my buds Robert, Vance and Kelly at Sweet Caroline’s and we had some drinks before they headed off to Shooters for some live music. I wasn’t up for that so I went across the street to Dolce Vita and had a reunion with my pool league teammates. Seems they have been doing quite well in absence, winning all 3 of the matches I missed. I hope that was just a coincidence. Then I headed over to Bar Metro to play some pool and did alright considering I hadn’t played and was buzzed and tired. On the way back home I stopped off at Bar Episode for some darts. Got my clock cleaned by Jin Hee, one of the bar girls I chat with there. So it was midnight, I had been up about 30 hours and I got home and crashed hard.

Now its Sunday morning and I’m hoping I hear from Corine who I let use my car while I was gone. No food in the house so I need to hit the commissary today. Corine moved into her new apartment during my absence and I don’t have a phone number. So I’m kinda stuck unless she calls.

I had a great time in New York which I will post on later with some photos. I also want to post photos of Kevin and Lynn’s wedding, which was very nicely done. I don’t have any good photos from the wedding though, so I am waiting till they email me the professional pics.

So that pretty much catches you up on my journey home. I have a positive outlook as I begin my second six months in Korea. I am committed to making the most of my time here and I think the bumps and bruises I experienced during my first six months were the lessons learned as I adjusted to this new life. I’m going to try and get down to Busan over Labor Day weekend so I can get a taste of the second city. At least it is something to look forward to.


One of the best parts of my trip home was meeting my granddaughter Gracyn for the first time. She is a real sweetheart and had a nice smile for her granddad.

Here’s one of Gracyn with her Great Grandmothers…..

The proud parents, Mark and Renee…

And here she is with me. She has a good grip on my thumb, but I wasn’t going to drop her….

Talkin’ Baseball

Went into to DC last night to catch some major league baseball action. Seeing “real” baseball is something I have definitely missed. Oh, I have watched some of the Korean league games on TV, but the level of play is not much better than class “A” minor league ball in the states.

Anyway, for years I had been waiting for DC to get its own team again. I would go up to Baltimore two or three times a year to see the Orioles, but it was a major pain in the ass. Plus, I am not really into the American League with that wussy DH rule and all. So DC finally gets its team and I move to Korea. Go figure.

Last nights game between my hometown Nationals and my former hometown Dodgers was a classic. A real pitchers duel through eight innings, with the Nats clinging to a 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the eighth, the Nats loaded the bases, and with two outs and a 3-2 count, Wilkerson hit a grand slam. So I got to see some great pitching and some offense.

It was miserably hot and muggy, but being at the ballpark with a beer, a dog, and some peanuts was still a joy. I’m glad I got to see a game at RFK. I mean, it’s a pretty decrepit stadium built in the early 60s and it doesn’t have much charm (I really do like the modern throwback stadiums they are building now) but I thought of the history of some of the great Senators players who passed through here. Yeah, there were a couple. It’s good to have baseball back in the capital city where it belongs. We will have one of those fancy new stadiums in a couple of years. Last night we had 35,000 at the game and season attendance is nearing the 2 million mark, so all those naysayers who believed DC would not support a team can bite my shorts.

I grew up going to Dodger stadium during the glory years in the ’60s–the Koufax-Drysdale era when the Dodgers would scratch out a run and win 1-0. Dodger stadium is really beautiful and remains my favorite ball park overall. Although I must say Coors Field in Denver with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop is a close second. Fenway Park in Boston is also a great place to see a game.

Well, that’s my baseball report. I have other news from my vacation in the good ol’ USA to share, including my son’s wedding in South Carolina. As soon as I get around to uploading my photos I will do a post on that. Sunday I leave Virginia for a week in NYC then it is back “home” to Seoul.

More to say soon.