Who am I?

I’m an Agilist, a former software engineer, a gamer, an improviser, a podcaster emeritus, and a wine lover. Learn more.

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  • The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses
    by Eric Ries
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    The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.
    by Daniel Coyle
  • Alexander Hamilton
    Alexander Hamilton
    by Ron Chernow

Paul Tevis

Monday
Jan262009

Korea: Where Am I Now?

When I woke up in Seoul, I was a little confused about where I was. In addition to the unfamiliarity hotel room, South Korea has a seventeen-hour time difference from Santa Barbara, and it's on the other side of the International Dateline. This means that despite leaving home on Saturday morning, when I woke up it was Monday. And of course, because my body was confused about what time it, I woke up around 5 AM. Once it got light, though, I was able to see this out of my hotel room window:



Where was I staying? That requires a brief explanation of South Korean addresses. There's a good overview here, but the short version is that Seoul is divided into twenty-five gu, or districts. These districts are further divided into dong, or neighborhoods. My hotel was in Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu. So far pretty straightforward, right? The tricky part about this is that while some streets have names (like Olympic-ro, the one in front of my hotel), most addresses are simply given as a number within a dong. (This number apparently comes from the land lot records, but my sources are little confusing on the matter.) So my hotel's full address was 40-1 Jamsil-dong, Songpa-gu, Seoul, Korea. Kind of makes it hard to find, no?

Fortunately I was staying at a local landmark: the Lotte World Hotel. The Lotte Group is one of the largest of South Korea's chaebol. Chaebol are large, family-run, government-assisted business conglomarates, similar to the old Japanese zaibatsu. To the outsider, they're companies that do everything. So Lotte, in addition to running a theme park, makes fast food (I saw a fair number of Lotterias on my trip), issues credit cards, owns two baseball teams, and operates a chain of department stores. And when you looked a little further out my window, it was easy to see where I was.



With that mystery solved, I headed off to meet one of my coworkers for breakfast.
Thursday
Jan222009

Korea: Getting There

On December 6th, Gwen and I moved into our new house. On the 8th, my boss's boss came into my office and asked me if I had any personal commitments in the next few weeks. It turned out that one of our customers in South Korea was having a problem with our software, and they were asking for someone to come and fix it. I wasn't his first choice to deal with it, but for a variety of reasons I was the best available choice. The timing was less than ideal for me, but I knew it was a great opportunity.

The only problem was that my passport was due to expire in a week. Gwen and I had originally gotten our passports to go to London as a part of a college class, and that turned out to be exactly ten years prior to the start of my trip. (Amusingly enough, every time I looked at my passport photo my first thought was not of how ridiculous my hair was but to memory that Gwen and I had had a huge fight right before we went to the Kinko's in the Rice Village to get our pictures taken. The mind is strange.) Fortunately, it is possible to get a same-day passport renewal if you go to one of the nine or so passport agencies around the country. There's one in Los Angeles, which is why I found myself driving over the Sepulveda Pass at 6:45 AM the next morning. Gwen and I had gone to down to Newbury Park to have dinner with our friends who live there, so I just stayed overnight there, cutting about an hour off of my early morning drive. Once I got to the agency, everything went smoothly, and I walked away from the Will-Call window a few hours later with my new passport in hand.

Over the next few days, the details got ironed out, and I left Santa Barbara on Saturday heading for Seoul, with a connection through LAX on Asiana Airlines. Sadly, my in-flight entertainment console was broken, so I didn't get to watch the various Korean films that were available. On the plus side, I did get this:



The menu (yes, they gave me a real menu on this flight) had two choices for lunch: Western style or Korean style. I got the Korean style lunch, consisting of bibimbap, fish soup, steamed sweet pumpkin, fruit, and, of course, kimchi. I'm a big believer in eating as locally as possible when I travel, and this was a great start. I was pleased to discover that the gochujang, the red chili paste that is very common in Korean food and is normally mixed with bibimbap, came in a tube, allowing me to add as much or as little as I wanted. I'd not had a lot Korean food before, so I wasn't sure how spicy it could get. As it turned out, I was able to add to the whole tube without dying, thanks in part to the various Korean beers on the plane (including the three major brands: Cass, OB, and Hite).

What did nearly kill me, however, was the flying time. From LAX to Seoul Incheon took fourteen hours. The longest flight I'd been on before was ten. At the ten hour mark, I was actually feeling pretty good, but the last three were pretty rough. I didn't want to sleep because it was going to about 6 PM when I landed, so I was determined to stay awake. Thanks to my supply of books, audiocourses, and podcasts, I was able to make it.

One more note about the flight: because of the prevailing winds, we flew much farther north than even the Great Circle route would have taken us. We basically followed the US coastline all the way to Alaska, cross the Bering Sea, and down the Kamchatka Peninsula. That was unexpected and certainly contributed to the length of the journey.

Once we landed in Seoul, I got through Customs and Immigration with no difficulty, and I headed immediately for an ATM. I'm always nervous about trying to use my credit cards in foreign countries, as it sometimes seems to require black magic to make them work, so I always like to have cash on hand. The first ATM I walked up to had a whole bunch of instructions written in hangul (the Korean alphabet) and one big button labeled "English." A minute later, I walked away with 100,000 won, which sounds like a lot but is only about seventy dollars. (Making this problem worse is the lack of any note over 10,000 won. No wonder they do so many electronic transactions.) I headed to the bus terminal, where my destination was thankfully marked in both hangul and Romanized script, bought my ticket, and climbed aboard. About thirty minutes later, the bus dropped me off at my hotel, where I checked into my room and subsequently passed out.
Monday
Jan192009

Slow Progress Is Still Progress

I'm once again working through The Artist's Way.

I say "once again" because this is either my third or fourth attempt. It's not that it doesn't work for me, it's that every time I try it, I get a little farther, I learn something new, and then I fall out of the routine. (I'm pretty much guaranteed to have some schedule-rattling interruption in any given twelve-week period.) Fortunately, I do keep coming back to it, and I keep learning and growing.

As I've done every time, I've started from the beginning, re-reading the chapters and working through the exercises. And today I encountered this in chapter 2:
As your recovery progresses, you will come to experience a more comfortable faith in your creator and your creator within. You will learn that it is actually easier to write than not write, paint than not paint, and so forth. You will learn to enjoy being the process of being a creative channel and to surrender your need to control the result. You will discover the joy of practicing your creativity. The process, not the product, will become your focus.

I've read that passage two or three times before, but this is first time it's seemed profoundly true.
Thursday
Jan152009

Korea In Pictures

I've uploaded most of my photos from my trip to Seoul to my Flickr account. I haven't yet added descriptions for all of them, so for now you'll have to guess what some of them are. Now that I've got these online, I'll start writing about my trip here.

Soon.
Tuesday
Jan062009

Kimchi, Etc.

Gwen and I spent this evening making strange Asian foods.

I got sent to South Korea for work in December, and I quite liked the food. So tonight we tried out some recipes for two of my favorite things that I had while I was there: mul kimchi and ggaktugi. On the whole, the trip was very cool, and I hope to post more about it soon. But for now you'll have to content yourself with knowing that there are vegetables fermenting in my cabinets.