Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pineapple Champagne

For Christmas, we received two bottles of Pineapple Champagne from the Maurice Car'rie winery in Temecula, CA. We consumed one of them on New Year's Eve, the other we finished just before moving to Seoul; figuring we would have a difficult time bringing in wine and other foodstuffs, we consumed any wine we had sitting around.

The pineapple champagne was good at New Year's but it was even better on a hot summer's day. It was light and refreshing. And excellent when very, very cold on a hot, humid summer afternoon. It has a light, slightly sweet taste, with a hint of fruit.
"A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."
-- Roald Dahl

Books I've Read Recently...

Books I've recently finished (15 hour long plane flights allow for plenty of time to read!):

  • Wolves of the Crescent Moon, by Yousef al-Mohaimeed -- not very memorable
  • Girls of Riyadh: A Novel, by Rajaa Alsanea -- a Saudi version of Sex and the City
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum -- the first in the Wizard of Oz series, these are very quick reads, and very enjoyable, I'm slowly making my way through them
  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  • The Emerald City of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  • Ozma of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  • The Road to Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  • Bangkok 8, by John Burdett (mystery) -- murder mystery set in Bangkok, couldn't put it down, had to make sure the Kindle was charged before Tropical Storm Fay hit Jacksonville so I could finish this if the electricity went out
  • Plane Insanity: A Flight Attendant's Tales of Sex, Rage, and Queasiness at 30,000 Feet, by Elliott Hester -- along the same lines as the Prep-School Mommy Handler, Chef, Waiter first-person memoirs; probably not the best reading material immediately prior to getting on a 15-hour long flight, but I really enjoyed it
  • Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freething Dog, by Ted Kerasote -- excellent memoir of life with a dog, interspersed with information about dogs, their history, their descendence from wolves, have tissue at hand for the end of the book
  • This Charming Man, by Marian Keyes -- good novel, not as light-hearted as her earlier books, she seems to be digging deeper into emotional territory
  • What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank -- interesting discussion of how Kansas went from being on the leading edge of anything new and "liberal" to one of the most "conservative" places in the United States

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What I had for lunch yesterday...

I went on an apartment tour with a lovely lady from the relocation company yesterday. We looked at full-service apartments, which are kind of like living in a cross between a luxury hotel and a dorm. They have cleaning services and they provide breakfast in a dining room downstairs.

In between looking at places, she took me to lunch at a Korean restaurant and we ate traditional Korean foods. Below is a short list of what I can remember:

  • pumpkin soup (hot)
  • seawood/soy soup of some kind (cold)
  • rice with black beans on pumpkin
  • potato noodles with julienned ginger, carrots, green onion
  • some sort of jelly thing with vegetables
  • potato with a "mild" red pepper sauce
  • crab that had been fermented in soy sauce
  • green vegetable pickled with soy paste
  • green vegetable pickle
  • radish pickle
  • egg souffle dish
  • pork and squid eaten with lettuce (spicy)
  • some sort of fish dish -- fermented
  • another vegetable pickle
  • kimchi
  • black beans boiled then fried or baked
  • boiled rice (the crispy brown rice from the bottom of the pan boiled with water)
  • steamed rice
  • miso soup with vegetables
  • seaweed soup with oysters (hot)
  • iceberg lettuce salad with thousand island type dressing
  • white fish in a red sauce
  • cinnamon/ginger tea type drink (dessert)
  • slice of green apple (dessert)

The majority of the food was spicy. At the end of the meal, I wasn't sure I'd be able to taste anything ever again, and it took a few hours for the roiling volcano in my stomach to calm down.

The seaweed soup had a sort of gelatinous texture, but it was good. It tasted like the outside of a sushi roll. The crab, I tried, but really couldn't eat. Basically, they take a live crab, put it in a bottle, then pour boiling soy sauce over it and let it sit for a few weeks. The edible part ends up being gelatinous in texture. To eat it, you put the cut end of the claw in your mouth, bite down, then suck out the edible part. The jelly sticks were not spicy, and they tasted like whatever else you grabbed with the jelly. So if there were sesame seeds on it, they tasted like sesame. Or like the vegetables. The potato noodles were my favorite, and are apparently a standard western favorite. I think I have the recipe for it somewhere. They weren't spicy either.

The pickled vegetable with soy paste was what I call a stealthy spice dish. It tasted a bit vinegary, then after swallowing, this rush of heat came over me. Made me break out into a sweat. The pork was good, and the first bite wasn't so bad, but the second was definitely sweat inducing. And I even left off the extra red sauce they provided.

The only thing I couldn't bring myself to try was the fermented fish. Not because of the fermented part, but because there were clearly recognizable pepper parts mixed in. Although apparently that's not something that most westerners like.

There was also a white fish dish, which was really tasty. I don't know how they cook their fish here, but I haven't come across a dry fish dish yet. In the US, often I find that fish gets cooked to the point where it's dry, and you have to put some sort of sauce on it to add moisture. But here, the fish comes out very nice and moist.

The boiled rice was also good. They take the browned bits that stick to the bottom of the pan when you cook rice in a pot (not an electric rice cooker), and add water and stir it up until it boils, then serve it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

2 Days, 4 Cuisines

In two days I've eaten Korean food, Indian food, Italian food, and Thai food. Unfortunately, I've only managed to get photos of the Thai food (from Buddha's Belly). Below is the pineapple fried rice and the fish with sweet chili sauce. And yes, it's a whole fish. My whole fish eating skills require some practice as it was difficult for me to get any nice bite size chunks. But I did manage to pick out enough to eat.

There are so many different types of restaurant near the office. Immediately across the street is a Japanese noodle shop and a Vietnamese noodle shop. Up near Iteowan, which is a busy shopping area within walking distance of the office, there are Austrian restaurants, Paraguayan empanada restaurants, the usual American fast food restaurants, Indian restaurants, Thai restaurants, Japanese sushi restaurants, Korean restaurants, British pubs, and lots and lots of other stuff.

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Miro the Office Dog

This is Miro. He's a little dog that hangs around our office. He's a bit shy, and won't let you touch him (just as well considering the Health and Safety folks warned us not to pet dogs in Korea). He prefers plain, raw meat with no spices, but will eat bread if that's all he's getting.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I've made it to Seoul...

Well, it was an uneventful trip -- just the kind I like to have. But here I am, in Seoul.

Someone brought a cat with them on-board the flight from ATL to Seoul, and it voiced its displeasure at the experience all through passport control. Every few seconds, MREORW, MREORW, MREORW.

And this time, who ever was sitting behind me on the flight, THANK YOU! No one hit the back of my seat, they didn't kick, they didn't reach around, they didn't put their feet up on the armrest. It was downright pleasurable, or as nice as it can get back in coach class. Now if only Delta had Do Not Disturb stickers like Singapore Air and would let people sleep through meal service. Some of us prefer to eat before we get on the plane and avoid the airline food.

Now, my goal is to actually get some sleep during the night-time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Hurricane Watch, Amazon Kindle, Olympics, and Other Observations

So, we're stuck in a hotel. There's a tropical storm hovering over us. We've been watching the Olympics. I've been reading.

Fortunately the electricity is still on, but since I've just written that, it will undoubtedly go out at any moment. That's ok, we have our water and our canned, non-perishable food to get us through a day or two. We've been in a hotel now for almost a week, with another week or more to go depending on how things work out. Things to do -- find laundry services that will not exhaust my daily laundry per diem. Fortunately we're in a place with a microwave and refrigerator so we've been able to go to the store and get a few things so we don't have to eat restaurant food all the time.

Yes, I know, some folks eat out at restaurants all the time, but I find that as I get older, restaurant food doesn't sit so well with me. Some places I get a stomach ache, and some I just end up with that over-full greasy feeling. So having the option of going to the store is really, really nice. It isn't home cooking, but it's better than fast food or over-priced entrees on a daily basis.

We've been watching the Olympics. Go Trinis!! Anyway, we're limited to the channels that the hotel has, which is pretty much the basic network and cable channels. I enjoy watching the Olympics. I admire the athletes so much -- the time, energy, and effort they put into their sport of choice to get to this level is quite impressive. That being said, why is it that every time a US athlete fails to get the gold, the interviewer puts them on the spot and punches them in the stomach figuratively? Ok, you've spent months, years of your life working so hard to get to this point, and something happens and you don't make the final, and to get back to the locker room, you have to pass the NBC interviewer, who is going to ask you some of the most insensitive questions I've ever heard. And in addition to watching these incredibly uncomfortable and insenstive interviews, why is it that the network has to show you every single fall or stumble from every single camera angle available? I know the gymnast fell off the apparatus, I don't need to see it from every single angle, the left, the right, from above, from below, from 45 degrees to the side. She fell. We saw it the first time. We don't need a gazillion replays. Please, move on.

When we're not watching the Olympics and I'm not working, I've been reading. I splurged on an Amazon Kindle and am thoroughly enjoying it. I've had a few issues where it hasn't been that responsive and I've had to re-set it. But I have a 2 GB SD Card in there, and room for many, many books. It's actually almost too easy to flip between books because now I don't have to get up and physically go to one of the piles of books I used to have sitting around the room. Now, I just press the home button, and select one of the many other books available to me.

Anyway, it's now raining, the wind is still blowing, and we're stuck here for a while longer.

Tropical Storm Fay

High tide -- the water is all the way up to the dunes, at the foot of this wooden walkway.

Low tide, where there's still some beach. This is more normal at high tide.

Even the surfers with surfboards didn't stay in for long today.
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View From a Hotel Room Window - Jacksonville Beach, FL, August 2008

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Miss Zoe the Great White Beast

This was the best shot I could get of Zoe. She's not too fond of the camera and doesn't pose like other dogs I've known. But she is a sweetie, and has a most unladylike bark.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hurricane watch

Still windy, but not unbearably. Ocean now not so inviting -- yesterday some surfers were taking advantage of the increased wave sizes (i.e., greater than 6 inches). But now it's white and rough. Some rain, but nothing like the torrential downpours they're talking about. Schools closed.

My first hurricane...

TS Fay -- my first Florida hurricane experience.

We picked up water today, and some food. But our food storage options are limited since we're stuck in a hotel for now. For now we're watching the palm trees blowing in the breeze. If it gets up to Cat 2 strength, we'll probably head inland.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait....

Well, it seems there are some circumstances beyond our control, and we are stuck for two more weeks in an ocean-front hotel room in Jax Beach. More details forthcoming if/when I get any. But the big adventure has been postponed for two weeks.

In the meantime, I'm definitely looking for book recommendations -- I splurged on a kindle from Amazon, and am looking for books to read. If you have a favorite you'd like to share with me, please add a comment.

Also, Olympic observations -- is it just me, or does it seem like the sports commentators fail to use their 4 year break to actually come up with new and interesting lines? Every four years, it's always the same -- this is the best, greatest, etc. And please, cut out the cheesy stuff and show more of the athletes actually being athletic. And why only show the host county athletes and the US (obviously I'm watching this from within the US)? Why not show some of the others? Some of us are actually interesting in seeing something other than Phelps win his umpteenth gold medal.

Sunday, August 3, 2008