Shoutout to Korea Blogs

A friend has asked me to point out some good Korea-related blogs in English.
Cosmic Buddha is a fairly avid reader of Korea blogs. My interest stems from KAL stopovers and short visits, including one 2-day stop on the way back from the states this year. I started my exploration into the Korean Blogosphere sometime last year with the Marmot’s Hole and Incestuous Amplifications, following their exodus from Blogger to Blog City (and in the Marmot’s case the final move to TypePad), and eventually started branching out to others:
Seeing Eye Blog (Writer for the JoongAng Daily who “lives in and savors Seoul’s sleazy foreigner ghetto of Itaewon.”)
Goldbrick in Seoul (This post was responsible for the UV-resistant coating of milk sprayed on my monitor last year.)
Cathartidae (Who, with his GF, and only after some discomfort, has opened Korea’s first internationally owned and operated board game cafe, Universalis.)
Drambuie Man (Who I unintentionally stood up on a Korea Blogger night he scheduled to accommodate us at his shop, hubble bubble. Sorry! Make that multiple drinks I owe you, next time!)
Korea Life Blog (Many good photos. ’nuff said.)
Budaechigae (Adding a GI’s perspective to the Korean blog scene. Recently posted about the movie there were ads for everywhere in Seoul last week, Shilmido.)
Big Hominid’s Hairy Chasms (If my nearly defunct band [Cosmic Buddha – It’s a Band! A Blog! And a Buddha!] ever changes its name, “Anger Poultry House” is a sure contender.)
Flying Yangban (Fellow Clavell fan; I wonder if he likes Michener, too?)
Ruminations in Korea (Pretty much mirrored one of my brother’s spoken thoughts about Shanghai.)
Kyungnam to Kyunggi Journal (Apparently leaving Korea soon – Good luck!)
Blogs above are listed in order of white blood cell count of authors. There are many deserving others who I have not mentioned above; I have to do some work on Mondays or they lock me in the leaky mainframe room with the other slackers and non-purebloods (“muggles” in Pottspeak).
A comprehensive list of Korea blogs written in English is maintained at the Korean Blog List.
I plan to post pics from my trip after I have the chance to review them, but for now I’ll just say that it was a shock, even though it was expected, to step off the plane into the Korean winter after spending weeks in the sunshine back home. And everybody told us it was unusually warm for that time of year!

Shopping Advice

I wrote about the art of bargaining (never say “haggle”, it sounds like a scavenging sea bird with Barbara Streisand’s face) in Japan in this post last year, and I’ll be drawing from the same vein here, the shop smart vein.
I really enjoy chasing down good deals on the net when there’s something I need. The majority of my online purchases are computer parts, books, music CDs, and movie DVDs. The latter 3 are often bought on Amazon, the inception of which has saved many a gaijin from the ridiculous cost of English language books in the few Japanese bookstores that actually have an English language section. For those of you living in Japan who can read Japanese, there are a few tips for online shopping I can share that can potentially save you a lot of money when compared to buying at a store.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of advantages to buying in stores, such as being able to actually run your greasy fingers over the products, talking to the staff, and having a physical location (instead of an address in cyberspace) to return to if things go wrong. Actually, the average floor staff member is pretty useless for answering technical queries so if you want details you are best off looking for a geeky staff member who can be goaded into talking about various pros and cons of the products. You know, the kind of guy who gets absorbed in computer magazines while dropping crumbs on himself during lunch break. There’s at least a few of these guys in every electronics store around the world, it’s just that they can be hard to spot because they sometimes herd together and hide from the customers. In this case, you can often find them either near the service counter or repair desk, or in the back room nursing sick appliances back to health and having rubber band wars. Also, some are known to hang large numbers of keys from their waistline, perhaps to attract a mate, so if all else fails, stop and listen for the telltale jingling as they pace their territory.
Note: When I was in the states over the holidays, I actually saw a subspecies of staff-geek (s. geekus minor) at Fry’s Electronics sporting a wrist watch calculator (the true staff-geek, s. geekus major, is born with a dedicated computation device in his shirt pocket, the type of which varies by region; interestingly, it can be dropped as a decoy to confuse attacking predators – and will grow back with time)! He was feverishly moving boxes around the shelves and mumbling softly to himself, and I made a mental note to work him into a post somehow. To the anonymous geek at the Fry’s in Fountain Valley: this one’s for you (BTW, please get your ass behind the returns counter – that goddamn line was so long, I swear there were people waiting to return Pong – and that was before Christmas!)
Site recommendations:
The de facto price comparison site for electronics in Japan is kakaku.com. So far, the only one of its competitors that is worth a damn is coneco.net. These are sites to go to when you want to find the cheapest price for a specific product. I have been doing extensive testing for various items on both these sites recently and would say that they should be used in conjunction because Kakaku is more accurate (there are less listed items with input mistakes) and is fuller-featured, but Coneco sometimes has cheaper listings and a better interface for doing certain searches.
One of the best features on Kakaku is the BBS (bulletin board) for each individual product where you can ask others for reviews or advice. It’s nice because a lot of people actually use it and you can scan for information or ask questions. Another Kakaku feature watches the price of a specific product and will send you e-mail if it reaches a price you designate. I’m not linking to anything I mentioned here because the pages are product-specific. Go to the main page and you will find everything I described plus a LOT more as you get deeper into the site and look up specific products.
Coneco allows shops to list “display” or “floor” models which are sometimes very good deals. My favorite thing about this site, though, is how quickly you can search for the cheapest item in a category. Visit the full category page here, click on a category, let’s use Laser Printers as an example, rearrange the listing order to “By price; descending” by clicking in the appropriate column, and POW! there it is ( just for the record, today’s cheapest laser printer is a Canon LBP-1120 being sold for 17,980 yen with an average price of 21,838 yen for the 38 stores that are selling it ). Sometimes you can get great deals this way by trolling the categories.
Another place to troll for deals are the bargain pages on sites listed on Kakaku here or Coneco here. On the front page of each site there is usually a link for daily specials or campaigns that are being held. This is how I scored my $2,500 VAIO for $1000 last year, by clicking a random link one day. Actually, if you have read this far, you deserve the keys to the kingdom, here. The links on that page go straight to the bargain pages. Now go forward, grasshopper, and shop righteously.
Amazon-specific advice:
If you ever order products through amazon.com’s Japanese site that require shipping from the US, look up the price on the US site first. Depending on exchange rate and shipping fees (actually very cheap for small items), as well as campaigns, discounts, and other variables, it can sometimes make a big difference. I saved about 25% overall on DVD box sets I purchased last year (Region 1 versions of 24, The Sopranos, and Alias – ) by ordering through amazon.com rather than amazon.co.jp. Also, I suspect that shipments arrive much quicker doing it this way – I’ve never waited more than ten days for a shipment from amazon.com, but amazon.co.jp sometimes takes up to two months to ship me items they originally claim they can ship in 2-3 days. And they take an equally long time to tell me when the item I ordered is out of stock and not scheduled for restocking, but would I like to order something else instead (this greatly irritates me; it feels a bit like false advertising). I suspect this time lag when ordering through the Japanese site is due to extra steps involving intra-company checks and balances, but who knows, it may be furry little creatures in the warehouse that go apeshit and delay my shipment out of spite when they discover the importation of western corruption into this virtuous nation of harmony, tradition, and respect. And tentacle porn.
Disclaimer: The accuracy of the site information here will probably change quickly (such is the nature of this great gift that Al Gore bestowed upon us.).

Smart Democrat

Living away from my home country for a decade has provided me a clearer sight in regard to politics. I left America as an angry youth totally disenchanted with my country’s political system. Ten years of seeing my country from afar and sometimes through the eyes of outsiders has given me a new perspective on many issues. It has in fact brought me closer to what it is to be an American. This rare political sentiment was sparked by a recent column written by one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card. His website is also full of interesting essays. I find his perspective rooted in reality which is really quite refreshing for a Dem. Most Democrats in the public eye these days seem hell-bent on destroying their own party by means of scuttling the decks we stand on (and sporting hats made of foil as a year-round fashion statement).

All Your Yen Is Belong to Us

It’s official:
The Japanese can improve on anything, even 99 cent stores. In Japan, the Hyaku-en store is sometimes referred to as the “video game arcade for adults” because one item costs 100 yen, the same as the price for one play at an arcade. You can buy pretty much anything there, from food and sundries (whatever the hell those are) to stationery to dog clothes to handy neoprene pouches for gadgets to cheap Taiwanese screwdrivers, etc., etc., etc. My favorite items at the Hyaku-en store are the ones that are obviously invented just for the Daiso. Maybe I can get some pictures up later, but these would include magnetic fridge signs with nonsensical Engrish messages, fake dead crows to keep real, live ones out of your rice fields, and hardware contraptions that would make Rube Goldberg smile. Yes, I will need pictures.
Update: Pastel plasticware and the wrench from TV shoppingland.

Remmings

I stopped buying macs for personal use after they started charging for .mac e-mail accounts (after they had promised to provide them for free for life). I was the biggest machead until then, but that last act of treachery was the breaking point for me. I also greatly resented the dumbification of the OS and the ever-increasing teeny-bopper trendiness of the brand. That said, I work on a dual processor G4 at work and the G5 came today. And you have to check out this video of the line outside the new Apple Store in Ginza on opening day:
http://homepage.mac.com/hsk/applejapan.html
Also see this WIRED article:
http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,61513,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_1
Apple has become their 1984 commercial.

Yoshida

I was happy to see my brother’s name on Instapundit today, although the post wasn’t in reference to him at all. It’s not the first time this Adam Yoshida was mentioned there, but Glenn Reynolds expressed some strong opinions spurred by a recent blog post, which is always significant to a blogger.
I was surprised when I first discovered the existence of another Adam T. Yoshida in this world. I mean, what are the odds on that? They even have the same middle initial! And wonder of wonders: They both have blogs! My original post on the subject is here. Both Adams left comments, which is kind of cool. It’s little things like this that make me especially grateful for the web sometimes. That single comment, just two short sentences, is record of a connection that would never have been made otherwise (my grandchildren will one day assimilate this post with their cortex implants and wonder what the hell I am talking about).
I have a natural interest in the doings of Adam Yoshida Who-Is-Not-My-Brother because of his name, which seems illogical as hell, but what can I say? I read his work online (he is fairly prolific). I am interested in what he has to say even if I don’t always agree. Is it somehow silly or wrong to feel a kind of bond or affinity (I deliberated using the word “kinship” here.) for someone just because they have the same name as you?
I think about this in the real world when I meet other Yoshidas here in Japan. First of all, this is a fairly common occurence because Yoshida has to be one of the top 25 most popular family names here (I do not remember ever having met a Yoshida, of which there are relatively few, who wasn’t somehow related to my family in the states). I had a Yoshida as a counselor at Tenri University, have met some at on the job and others just out on the street. A “warm feeling” from having a common name has always been mutual, I think, although being Japanese (and thus having experienced it more often), they are more used to it, so I may have been imagining it in some cases.

Sushi = Sumo?

While preparing for a post on my moblog, I found a handy list of sushi terminology featuring entries in Japanese kanji/kana and respective romaji readings as well as translations in English and French. Might be handy when we finally visit Sophie’s uncle’s sushi bar in Bordeaux.
The shop is called “Sumo.” I don’t really understand the appeal of this as a name for a sushi bar because it’s said that sumo wrestlers have to eat at least 10,000 calories a day to keep their weight. You would think that trying to scarf down the equivalent in sushi (figure between 40 to 70 calories/piece depending on “topping”) would end gut-bustingly, like Inherit the Wind. Then again, it is a French sushi bar. Maybe they dip everything in mayonnaise? That would make up for the missing calories. Here’s a fun bit of trivia: In France, mayonnaise is packaged in a tube, like toothpaste, and yes, it does squirt like a milked salmon all over your friend’s carpet if you accidentally step on it.
Update: Figured it out. It turns out that Sumo is more than just a run-of-the-mill sushi bar. Its actually known for le repas des sumotori. For a full description, clicke vous (or however you say it in the country that banned the word “e-mail”). Note: It feels very strange to see the words, “le Chankonabe.”
Special Bonus Round Sushi Question: In Japan, the much-beloved fish (among sushi-otaku) called shima-aji is known as a “striped jack” in English and a “sutoraipudo jakku” in Engrish. What is it called in French?
Answer: clicke vous. Just kidding, its a caramgue demtue according to the page I started writing this post about. Unfortunately, I cannot really recommend it as a reference anymore as “caramgue demtue” gets exactly one hit on Google (Heh. Make that two in a couple weeks. I’m honored.) and “demtue” by itself does not appear to be a word at all. The outlandish construct “caramgue” is probably a misspelling of the word “Camargue”, a place in France “where the naked ladies dance”. Oh, it’s also famous for salt. I can’t help but wonder if it’s harvested off the sweaty nekkid dancing ladies, you know, squeezed from their armpit hair during smoking breaks or something.