For Thanksgiving this year, by some process I understand poorly, I found myself agreeing to take my parents on a Korean bus tour of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks. They’ve been a little sketchy on the details, so I’m not sure whether we’re staying in Las Vegas or Utah… but hey, same difference, right? It’s one of my life goals to visit all the national parks, so I’m actually pretty excited. Happy roast fowl and stuffing to the rest of you!

Dream Song 385

November 23, 2005

Around this time every year, I rummage around for this poem:

My daughter’s heavier. Light leaves are flying.
Everywhere in enormous numbers turkeys will be dying
and other birds, all their wings.
They never greatly flew. Did they wish to?
I should know. Off away somewhere once I knew
such things.

Or good Ralph Hodgson back then did, or does.
The man is dead whom Eliot praised. My praise
follows and flows too late.
Fall is grievy, brisk. Tears behind the eyes
almost fall. Fall comes to us as a prize
to rouse us toward our fate.

My house is made of wood and it’s made well,
unlike us. My house is older than Henry;
that’s fairly old.
If there were a middle   ground between things and the soul
or if the sky resembled more the sea,
I wouldn’t have to scold
                                                my heavy daughter.

It was one of the last poems John Berryman wrote before he committed suicide, but even without knowing that it captures the regretful sorrow of late November.

Hangul Day in Seoul

October 9, 2005

Happy Hangul Day from Seoul! I was chuffed to find that the people still recognize their unique linguistic heritage in their hearts, even if it’s no longer an official holiday (the South Koreans had too many and had to drop some).

I’ve been here (actually about to come home in the morning) on a week-long bus tour with my mom and Tim — because really, is there any better way to spend the most crucial week of your young startup’s life than on a bus tour of Korea with your mom? Seriously, this is my mom’s 60th birthday year, which is a big deal in Korea because it’s considered one full turn of 5 12-year astrological cycles. Children are supposed to give their parents lavish gifts on this birthday, and this is what my mom wanted… so here we are.

Plus, it gives me a chance for a little recreational detox since anything imported costs a freaking fortune here. Coffee is unbelievably expensive — like $4 – 8 for a (small) cup, depending on whether you’re at a Dunkin Donuts or a posh hotel. No refills either. And good booze is like $15 per shot. And I never saw a single diet soft drink, so I even had to give up the aspartame. On the other hand, I did develop a small flirtation with a type of Korean soft drink flavored with pine needles, which Tim found a bit too reminiscent of the stuff you use to mop your kitchen floor.

Korea and especially Seoul are completely different from the last time I was here, as a teenager. It’s a global Pacific Rim city now, like Los Angeles or Tokyo, and thus a lot more comfortable than it used to be for visitors. On the other hand, there was a certain unique charm to Seoul in my girlhood… heavy military presence, civil defense alarms, incessant tear gassings, noodle-delivery boys on bicycles, washerwomen who insisted on ironing your underwear, lack of hot water 18 hours a day, and total unavailability of imported goods. The only thing left over from those days seems to be the rock-hard mattresses.

Will upload photos when I get home tomorrow, if I can figure out how to sync my Treo on Linux. Otherwise, enjoy the last vestiges of the world’s only former linguistic holiday.

Post Thanksgiving update

November 28, 2004

I resolved my bi-cultural food conflict by going traditional American for Thanksgiving itself, and Korean for the day after. The American dinner was from a restaurant too. I basically just heated it up, and Tim made stuffing. It came with cornbread stuffing, which we’d never had before but seemed like a pretty bad idea — you don’t want strange Southern foods on Thanksgiving, you want exactly what you’re used to, which in our case is french-bread stuffing with sausage and leeks and sometimes oysters. Getting a takeout Thanksgiving dinner turns out to be not that much less work than cooking the damn thing from scratch, except for the time involved in defrosting and/or brining the turkey.

Yesterday we went on a jaunt to Año Nuevo State Park to see the elephant seals. After trudging through the wind and mist for 1.5 miles, we reached the shore. We looked around, asking each other “Where are the elephant seals? I don’t see any elephant seals.” Then we suddenly became aware that there was a juvenile elephant seal within 10 feet of where we were standing, cleverly concealed as a sand dune. And the entire landscape before us was filled with female elephant seals lolling in the seaweed or swimming just off the beach.

My dad did a tremendous number of chores around the house — including assembling a new gas grill! — and my mom cooked a fabulous dinner featuring enormous quantities of galbi, ojinga bokkum (stir-fried squid in hot sauce), and eundaegu jorim (braised black cod with giant white radish). Korean parents are SO useful!

Thanksgiving foods

November 21, 2004

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but there’s one thing I’ve never resolved properly in my mind: turkey and fixings taste uniquely awful with Korean food. They don’t even look good together — the rich colors of Korean food make the American stuff seem even more doughy and colorless. We used to have them together when we were kids, but even now the thought of eating a slice of turkey with kimchi, or galbi with sage-flavored stuffing, makes me quiver with dread.

My parents are coming up for the holiday this year, so for the first time in many years we’ll be cooking. Any suggestions as to what I can cook? Should we go all Korean, all American, or is there a possible compromise?

Halloween parties

October 14, 2004

So… would it be tacky to mention that I don’t have an office Halloween party to go to this year? And I was kind of hoping wistfully that someone might invite me to their Halloween party? I am thinking of going as Mozilla this year. 🙂

New year

January 5, 2004

I can’t remember the last time I was so happy to see a year end. I appreciate that everyone needs rebuilding periods — without the forest fire, new sequoias could not grow and all that jazz — but 2003 still sucked. There was a lot of loss for me, and a distressing proportion of it was permanent. So even if it’s superstitious and silly of me, I was way eager to press the reset button on 2003.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Eve festivities — too many drunk people on the streets — so we usually just kick back with a bottle of champagne (Perrier Jouet this year, it seemed appropriately tentative) and chew over the past year. We also exchange modest gifts on the holiday itself: Tim gave me
the most fabo book and I gave him a huge box of replacement CD jewelcases.

This year I’m outsourcing the resolutions, by trying to do things with people I care about. Yes, I am actually listening to suggestions and doing things for others! (I can just hear my mother’s voice in my head right now saying, “FI-nally” in her adorably snide way.) So far, I’ve got this list:

  • Buy a house
  • Eat extra-carefully and exercise extra-hard for six weeks
  • Attend the Stitches West knitting show
  • Promptly attend to my parents’ requests

I also very recently switched jobs. I don’t want to say much about it, and the episode does not exactly cover me in glory anyway, but I should note that everyone at my old job treated me with unusual kindness and professionalism. My new gig is Java — ironic, because about a year ago I gave up on Java after concluding that my competitive advantage is more with C/C++ people because of Open Source.

So after a year of struggle, everything is in place for a year of potential fun. Here’s to the wheel turning again!