Sunday, August 09, 2015

aaah... so after Yvonne left for the Empire in Decline I drank until the weekend and then through it. The place was pretty boring without her and alcohol does consume time, if even at the cost of a few brain cells and more notches back out the belt.

That became pretty damned boring and mornings horrible. So Monday I began going back into work (even though there still wasn't hot water to shower and the electricity was only on in half of the apartment - thank god the half of the electricity with the AC). Work provided me with good entertainment as I had to work on a paper co-written with two other professors about the difficulty of translating allusions from a minor culture to a major one. This took all the way til the last day, the Friday, and the time working on things was good. Still, boring at home, as the weekend reminded me, and I was still trying to get the smell out of the refrigerator from the rotted food (dating back to when we returned from China to find 0 electricity, a nightmare I have skipped right over). I was mopey even though I was busy.

Last week we began another paper, so again there was stuff to do, and when the weather was good I walked in and out of work to try to keep the Vitamin D and endorphins and what not swirling. This was all good til Friday when I got utterly drenched in a sonagi of epic proportions. It blew in, blew up, blew away, and left me a rag. I had all my electronics double wrapped so they were safe, but the clothes weren't. LOL.. I ran from bus stop to bus stop catching them when I could and scurrying to the next stop when I had to. Inconvenient, but rain in 30 degrees is actually refreshing, and it was my pride hurt more than anything else.

It all cleared up so Saturday I could go shopping & take a nice long walk prefaced by a bibimbap breakfast. These were involved, as I walked the Itaewon/Gyeongnidan loop to the cheapest store around and then lay down for 20 minutes that turned into a 2-hour, drooling, snoring sleep. Woke up logy, but had an academic event to go to. Skidded down the hill and had a piece of pizza for dinner (first piece of remotely unhealthy food this week) and got to the place with 10 minutes to spare. Kept circling where it should be according to the map(s) and only kept ending staring at the Finance Center. IM'd the organizer, and I was in the wrong part of town. By now the event was 30 minutes over, and my nap-head had cleared, so I didn't want to go a lecture on the Joseon Dynasty and its architecture. IM'd my regrets and headed for the 405 before remembering in the other direction, the 402 would drop me off just above my house, without need to walk uphill or take the maul bus. Start toward Deoksu Palace, beyond which lay the bus stop.. and thought I heard a burst of electric guitar and bass.

It quickly went away. But when I passed Seoul City Hall/Library I saw a massive setup for a drum show. Not much going on, but I thought I'd wait, the night was nice and people were being cool. Then, early, a high-school rock-band jumped on-stage and began playing an odd bit of the old rock n roll. And I mean *really* old rock n' roll... like this (Note particularly, the old dude at the end who was drumming along - he was mad into it and went spectacular when the drums went solo):

I even stayed as they played "Hold the Line (Love isn't Always on Time). You don't really realize how many "L's" are in that song until you hear a Korean try to sing it.

Quite a few, actually

Still, they were quite palette cleansing as was the next chant/drum bit... but when the drum circle came out I began to have Grateful Dead flashbacks and had to get the hell out of there. The 402 bus came just 2 minutes after I hit the bus stop, and I flew home. Began work on my video for the LTI Korea contest. Super Productive day.

Today downloaded an album that only had one seeder (so I feared disconnecting as the dude hadn't been online for days. Once that concluded went out for coffee and writing, and walked down to the Hangul museum to give it a full look. Pretty nice and I'll be talking about in on tomorrow, for anyone interested. Content and lots of glitz for the kiddies. Also went over to the bookstore of the national museum, bo make sure something I'm already certain of, that they wouldn't have any fiction for sale for foreign visitors (something I did see in China, and that caused me to buy a book of Chinese fiction - haven't started reading it or anything^^ but I do have it and will someday read it). Of course, even though the Hangul Museum had an entire floor dedicated to the writing process and a cafeteria/book/Made in China store?  No books.

Again the god of city busses was with me, whisked home, light cleaning, and sorting the photos from the last few days. Turned the fridge back on, and now it smells of bleach not rot (I suppose I'll have to swish that out next week or so), but for the moment can hold vegetables again, which is "A Good Thing I Suppose!"

I think I'm getting into the swing of this bachelor thing. Next big trauma... move to smaller place. At least it can be put off til after Yvonne swings through again and when she leaves I have to repeat the cycle described above.^^

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Park outside my front-door is prettier than yours^^

Walking over Namsan to work today and the Ajjeoshi have been busy planting (All photos can be embiggened by clicking)...

Flowers that would never naturally sit next to each other

The Korean "Azalea"

Tulips (They are original to Korea, doncha know?^^)

The occasional potted plant^^

More flowers..

And a shot of Seoul Tower I should have taken when the trees were covered with blossoms (and with a phone better than an iPhone 4^^)

All this splendid beauty will last about one more week, until the jangma comes. Alas.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Another Day in Pure Land Buddhism

Wandering around the campus today trying to find the hunger striker rumored to be in the monument to Buddha. Couldn't find him, but with Buddha's birthday coming up I was able to snap a photo of the three elephants in the quad with lanterns rampant.

Also.. did find a different protester, a student who has built a small encampment on the top of one of the lights on our outdoor basketball court. Like the phantom hunger-striker, the student is protesting against the totally botched presidential succession process (in, what, month 3?) here at Buddhist U. He promises not to come down until the problem is solved.

The sign on the left says to rebuild democracy (or democratically) and the sign on the right says not (or do not), but as the sign is twisting in the wind, I can't see what is not to be done.

Fun campus.^^

Friday, March 20, 2015

Flashback Friday

The trip of 1000 miles begins in the martini monkey bar, at least at San Jose International airport. And I didn’t take my anti-psychotic drugs so my stomach should be in a fine acid-fueled frenzy by the time I hit Houston, much less land 4 hours later in Harlingen (completely non) International airport.

I went and found my gate.. passed the security check without a hitch.. and discovered that there was no bar once you passed security. So I had to pass back out of the secured area in search of a drink. No doubt this will ensure that I will have to undergo a complete cavity search on the way back in. While I will enjoy this to the fullest, I think it is also proof that the terrorists have already won.

The martini monkey (monkey martini?  I’m too lazy to stagger outside and check) bar features an odd combination of reggae tunes and truly bizarre retro covers of classic rock – think The Doors covered by a cocktail lounge band and you’re getting close. “Come on baby light my fire” just doesn’t sound as convincing coming out over the desultory tinkling of a melody-murderess playing a thin piano.

Or perhaps I have expectations that can’t be met. And maybe that is what this particular trip is about. Escape from work as it just seems completely wrong to give a flying fuck if the incompetent can teach the ineducable the idiotic. Why should I care if more morons flock to De Anza to sooth their fever dreams of success through education? It’s all the same system, and I suppose it keeps a few people out of jail.. god knows it is much cheaper than our jail system.. anyway, this kind of existential navel-gazing can, I know, be destroyed by alcohol, so I think I will have me another beer.

Gack! Now we have a reggae-based cover of a classic tune. I can recognize the tune but can’t even begin to name it. Sounds like a drum-beat ripped from “Little Drummer Boy”..
Aah.. “All I need is the air that I breathe.”  A terrible enough song when it was performed the first time (I have a hard time giving it the credit that saying it was “written” would confer).

To add to the unreality, there’s a tv in the corner with the sound turned off and a dyslexic in charge of the captioning…  they just referred to someone’s bout with cancer as “a testicular Kansaser.”  Glad now that I’m not traveling to Kansas.

And a news flash from the war on people.. Minnesota reports that corporate profits have hit an all-time high while corporate tax receipts are declining. Bush’s work is done, I suppose… Minnesotans in positions of authority are “confused” by this news, since to understand it would be to admit that they have sold their constituents down the dirty river with a combination of tax-cuts, relaxations of protective regulations, and the slow gutting of unions… 

Anyway, that’s merely a diversion from the “what the heck am I doing?” question. Closely related to the “what’s wrong with drinking and reading your life away?” question.  And the “why work?” question which flows naturally from the previous two questions.

And then… then.. while in the bathroom I hear the redoubtable bass line to “Watching the Detectives” and it’s also coated in a nasty piano and string treatments.  My world has ended.

And even almost 3 hours of napping on the flight to Houston could not bring it back. This may be because I woke up in the land of the processed hair and twang. Maybe, maybe not. It could just be me.  I sit here in the margarita bar at Chili’s trying not to drink another damned beer, but probably certain to do it.

And now the flight to Harlingen. Did get to observe a bunch of angry people, pissed off about previous flights and taking it out on current airline employees, or heating up on big old plates of nachos and bitching about their close personal friends and relatives…

Ya gotta love people, as some 1970s song once posited. Or negatived.

I can’t be certain.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Why I love Korea #3027

Because someone invented soju-based toothpaste!

OK.. not really.. but sure looks like it.^^

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Strangely? I will likely not be surprised.

Random click-baiting for an article

LOL.. why in the name of Gawd would Adolph Hitler's past surprise me?  Did he work for a Jewish charity? I thought pretty much everything was known?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Day Five - Not very exciting

Shopping, massage, and the trance-dance/fire show. 

The first two just as you'd think they would be, and then during lunch the power went out in Ubud. Inconvenient timing as I hadn't been to the bank, but up at the top of town there was a bank that was running on generator and somehow also had a satellite connection, so the ATM's could work - other places had generators, but were apparently reliant on local Internet relaying that was also down.

With money in hand, we watched the show, which was interesting, though not what we expected from a "fire dance", with a lot more narrative and chanting about the course of true love and the devil's interference with it. Again, cool dancing. Then a short but awesome segment of some dude in bare-feet kicking burning
coconut shells around and stomping on their embers.

Power finally came on, so a quick dinner, and then back to the hotel.

See.. not very exciting

I bet you wish you had that 3 minutes back.^^

Dinner by Torchlight

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tour-ette's Syndrome "Bali-Bali is NOT "bbali-bbali"!

Day 4 of full tourism was spent on a, tour, because if you don't put the 'tour' in 'tourism,' what do you have?

We got up for a pre-tour breakfast and the lovely fellows who run the hotel had made us something special to mark our anniversary, Balinesian pancakes, mangos, strawberries, and a scoop of ice-cream, all formed into the shape of a heart. Yvonne was entirely swoony about the breakfast, though not so much that she didn't despatch it with great vengeance and furious anger.

Then, into the shuttle bus (this time it was only the two of us), and off to a painting cooperative, wood-carving place, and silversmith. Here we bought a few things (no doubt earning our driver a bit of a kickback), and then piled back into the van to head to the Museum of Natural History (I think?) in Denpasar. On the way, it began to rain furiously, at points flooding the road. Snug in the van, we just enjoyed how it changed the scenery.

The Museum was pretty ordinary, and for the first time here we were kind of hounded by an artist/tout who wanted to sell us an Indonesian calendar for 20 dollars. What he thought I'd do with an Indonesian calendar was unclear, though he vigorously lobbied for it.

Then, the traffic jam from Hell and the decision to cut out the visit to "white sandy beach" in order to make sunset in a temple on the ocean, and then dinner on the beach. Even cutting the one destination, were were at least 2 hours in a traffic jam, part of which was caused by a police action that inexplicably stopped traffic on one of the main arteries downtown.

The temple was cool, if overrun by Chinese tourists, who make Korean queuing and walking behaviors seem highly civilized, and one stupid young woman even got into a threat/fight with one of the local monkeys, which the monkey won in resounding fashion, screeching and baring his teeth, which caused the girl to almost fall over in her retreat from the concrete path to the dirt.

We waited for a sunset that was pretty obscured by clouds, and then high-tailed it out ahead of the people watching the fire-dance (we have tickets to a local version for tonight) and off to the beach, which was quite nice. The tables were on the sand, there was traditional Indonesian mask-dancing, one of which was really awesome. It features super-scary music with a gamelan, drums, and some other instruments I couldn't name. There was a 5-6 note central riff that almost sounded like the tune to a children's sing along, but it was surrounded by menacing (think Sympathy for the Devil) drumming, and slightly off tone music surrounding it. The dancer was also wearing some amazing vibrating extend-fingernails, and the whole thing was quite chilling, though for all I know to Indonesians it was the innocent story of young love.

Tragically, no photos of that until I return to the homeland.. I took them with the iPhone, and can't find a decent software to get them on Yvonne's computer (and dare not call down roaming charges).  Instead, below, find pictures of three more monkeys.

It was a seafood restaurant, so Yvonne ordered steak and beef sate.^^

Back to the hood for one drink, exchange of gifts (all carved wood, since it was our wood anniversary) and then sleep, as we were both still pretty burnt from the previous day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lord of the Rings (of sweat)

Thursday was to be our toughest day in Bali. Together, we would climb grim Mount Doom Batur, and the day before my wedding anniversary I would toss the hideous gold ring I had been carrying for nearly 5 years into the oblivion of the pit. I would be free from the tyranny of the elder magicians (In this case John Fike) of our world!

Yvonne in the coffee shack
Because we wanted to take the 'Sunrise Tour' we had to get up at 1:40 AM and catch a small vehicle to to the eco-park which contains the volcano. On the way, we met our party, 4 savage warriors from the East (Ok, Chinese Singaporeans) and one pipe-smoking Hobbit (a Canadian, but I think I'm being accurate with the first description. We had to rather pile in to the van, since originally there had only been two Chinese Singaporeans expected but they had, as they do, multiplied over the night. As we got in to the van the driver whispered to us, conspiratorially, "don't talk price, they paid more," a notion I'm sure he passed along to the other two groups as well.

The trip up was dark and on a road that was largely unpopulated except for an amazing number of unconcerned dogs, who lollygagged, slept, fought, and ambled, always in the dead center of the road. At about 3 we stopped off for a quick breakfast of coffee and Balinesian pancakes. For some reason we were the first tour group to the spot, but also the last to leave. This gave us, I suppose, a chance to get to know each other.

Then it was up and over, to the base of the volcano, and for some a trip to one of the most odoriferous toilets in South East Asia. Nicely done, Bali!

Sun breaks free
Then, mustering and  a handing out of flashlights, one of which Yvonne touched, so it instantly went dead. She got to walk about half the way up the volcano without a light. I tried to walk behind her and illuminate for both of us, which kind of worked. The walk started out flattish, but quickly picked up angle as it went and the oldest of our group, a Chinese grandfather, quit early on when he spotted a bench near the side of the trail. His wife, who was probably a few years younger than he was, was surprisingly spry, and clambered up the trail like a spider, particularly rocking out on the way down. By the end of the trip up, on of our guides was practically carrying Yvonne, whose legs wore out and whose height was a problem on some of the bigger steps/steeper pitches. The volcanic rock was sharp, so you had to be careful using it for handholds, and by the time we got down we saw a lot of people with bloody finger and knuckles, among which Yvonne was one.

Still, the view of the top (at a hair under 6,000 feet) was pretty spectacular (and I'm glad I brought as sweatshirt as I was soaked in sweat and it was pretty windy). You can look out for about 270 degrees with the top of the volcano behind you, and as you are above the clouds, you get to watch the sun ascend from them. You are also looking down to the lake, which is an amazing view even before the sun rises as it reflects the lights on the shore all the way up to the top of them mountain.  Many of the tours prepare a small breakfast for their customers, and enterprising children are at the peak selling Cokes to weary trekkers - in fact, two of the guides were quite young, one probably barely 12 years old. Once the breakfasts start being prepared our old friends the monkeys show up, and they are well behaved to humans, but fight with each other and are quite intimidated by the free-range dogs that also live on peak and beg for scraps. They are
also fearless, quite content to take food directly out of your hands.

Indonesian rural
The trip down was quicker, though no less fraught, and again the tour guide was aces helping Yvonne - actually holding her hand most of the way down. The middle of the walk out is through various fields of crops, insolent chickens, random dogs, and trees.  Then a long, flat walk out to the parking lot, and a trip back leapfrogging scores of sand-trucks which are attending to the massive construction (alas) taking place in the area.

When all is said and done, you are back at your hotel by about 10 in the morning, feeling you have accomplished about two days of things, so we spent the rest of the day wandering about town, coffee, lunch, beer, and a relatively early sleep after splitting up to shop for anniversary gifts.

The volcano trek was certainly worth every Rupiah we paid, though I think it is one of those, "They told me it was fun, but I think I'd only do it once" events.^^

Having survived that trial by fire? Tomorrow is my 5-year wedding anniversary...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A flea-bit peanut monkey, and other thrills of the road..

Tuesday began with a breakfast on our lovely veranda. Then it was off to explore greater upper UBUD. This
"They killed Kenny! Bastards!"
actually took a lot longer than we expected, partly because there are quite a few stores, and also because Yvonne insisted in going in each one, inflaming the hopes of shopkeepers by having them pull down clothes until the pile or rejected clothes towered above her, and then smiling, thanking the shopkeeper, and saying "today we're just window shopping" (pointing at me, in an attempt to include me in her behavior) and sailing out the door like the Duchess of Windsor into a high tea.

We succeeded in getting all the way up the street and then back down to the Monkey Forest. There was a very small used bookstore, and because the hotel has no TV, and the weather report called for rain, we each bought a big book. Eventually, we also did buy some clothes, Yvonne getting a pair of traditional-ish pants and a shirt, and me a batik shirt. We also had coffee and drinks along the way, and for lunch suckling pig and Chicken-rice. The previous night Yvonne had ordered Crispy Duck, which turned out to be crisped in some horrible fish-oil, but the lunch was quite good and the restaurant overlooked a rice field ringed by scenic farm buildings/wreckage

Then, as it was the absolute middle of the day, we headed to the hotel for an hour or two, to cool off.

At about 2:30 off to the Monkey Temple, where Yvonne must have taken the opportunity to smear banana creme in her drawers, because she became the immediate interest of every monkey in the place. This meant being mugged for a banana just as she bought it from the vendor and  jumped on and stolen from by a monkey in the temple area. But this was merely a case of saving the best for last, as when we were about 2/3 of the way through the place, and unfortunately I was a bit ahead, so could not photograph it. Yvonne stopped and got jumped and pickpocketed by a monkey who she let unzip her purse and steal all her Indonesian Rupiah! Fortunately, the monkey quickly determined it was not edible and dropped it on the ground. But, that action had alerted all the other monkeys to the possibility that there was something good going on, and as Yvonne scurried around trying to pick up the loose bills, she found herself in the middle of a bunch of monkeys hurrying towards her to get in on the alleged bonanza. After scooping up all the money she could see, Yvonne scurried off to catch up with me and wonder why I didn't stay to take pictures of her attempted donation.

We left and Yvonne, over a calming gelato, counted her money, which seemed to all be back in her purse.
One kind of cock
Then it was off to another cafe which overlooked yet another rice-field which was alternately filled with cavorting chickens and dogs, although the dogs never went after the chickens as we (well, I) hoped. On the way out the help came hollering down the stairs waving my hat, which I had tried to leave behind. We immediately headed off in the wrong direction, which I quickly realized when I spotted an enormous liquor store that I had never seen before. I fought back the urge to spend a lot of money there^^ and we walked back to the cafe across from our hotel.  There, I realized I didn't have my reading glasses. A short moment of panic, and then I asked Yvonne to order mea daquiri because, well, why not? and ran back to the first cafe to see if I had left my glasses there. No luck, and on the way back I stopped in a drug-store where they did not have reading glasses, and could not produce the name of a single store that they thought might have reading glasses. Ooops.

Another kind
Got back to the cafe where Yvonne was sitting, received a daquiri that tasted exactly like the margarita I had got the night before, and noticed that my glasses were sitting on the table. Yvonne shrugged, "They were in my purse." And watched with interest as I drank my margarita. It was happy hour, so I finished it and ordered again, this time making sure the waiter knew I wanted a daquiri, and, when my margarita came, I drank it anyway. Then, off to an overpriced dinner of Nasi Goreng and the Indonesian version of beef-stew, and back to the hotel, as usual.