Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

There is no doubt that Christmas in Germany is magical.  The Christmas Markets are terrific to visit.  There are websites set up that track the various Christmas Markets in Germany.

And every year I post this video.  The music is being sung by a choir in the Dresden Hauptbahnhof.  I managed to record it.  I had just arrived from Freiberg, on my way home.  So, the first few photos are of the choir as they sung the song, among otheres.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sainsbury AD depicting WWI impromptu Christmas Truce.

I still marvel over the fact that this is true.  One of the most poingnant moments in war history.

Here's a more historical perspective of the time:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Americano coffee. American Coffee?

There is a big difference between American coffee and Americano Coffee.  And it behooves me to say the latter is becoming more prevalent overseas.

I first encountered the term in Reading, England.  In fact, the restaurant was nice enough to provide the definition:  Coffee diluted with water.  Well, that didn't make any sense.  I don't like my coffee diluted water.

The most prevalent form of coffee in the US is drip coffee.  You find it everywhere.  Every little diner to the largest restaurant serves drip coffee.  The result of dripping hot water through a bed of ground coffee is a rather mellowed bitter flavored coffee.

Americano Coffee (or Cafe' Americano in Italy) is produced differently.  The beverage is merely espresso diluted with water.  That's it.

But the flavor is different.  And it's not my favorite.  It's stronger and has a flavor that is a forgettable bitter.

So, I get excited with I see a coffee shop in Seoul that actually advertises "Drip Coffee".  In fact, the phrase we use in the USA is that we are brewing coffee.

Here is a great website that discusses some of the methods for brewing drip coffee. 

I find the flavor of coffee from a French Press is the closest to Americano coffee.  But still far enough from it to be enjoyable.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Beer Braised Pork Tenderloin With Cabbage And Apples

If I haven't mentioned it yet, Seoul has very nice looking pork.  So, I try to find recipes that use it.  The local grocery here also has some good looking ground pork, so I try to fine recipes for that as well.

So, the very available ingredients here in Seoul are:

- pork
- cabbage
- apples
- beer.

This particular recipe also calls for dijon mustard, among other things, which is probably available here, but you sort of get tired of hunting after a while and just use substitutes.  So, I just used regular yellow mustard with is everywhere.

This recipe was a hit with my wife and daughter.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Korean supermarkets are a sea of green leafy vegetables.  It's pretty remarkable.  But many of the spices or herbs we take for granted just aren't here.

Flat leaf Italian parsley for one.  Very hard to find unless it's in a package of a few sprigs....garnish.

So, I go to my go-to website for finding recipes with whatever ingredients I have on hand.

Yummly is a meta search engine that allows you to search for recipes based on ingredients.  Recipes are from all kinds of websites:  Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Serious Eats, All Recipes and many more.

OK.  So, I have some pork tenderloin.  And I have some cabbage.  Yummly will help me find recipes with the ingredients I have on hand.

What can I make?

And this is where Yummly really shines.  Yummly will pour out recipes that have as the ingredients pork loin and cabbage.  Put you mouse over each recipe truncated ingredients list and the rest of them appear.  Now you can just peruse the recipes until you find one that lists ingredients you're pretty sure you can get.

You can add ingredients to the list and the recipe selections narrows.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Korea and Fried Chicken

This is one of those things that just comes out of left field.  Fried Korea?  Yes.  And it is tastey.

I stopped off at this place on teh way home from shopping and picked up some great fried chicken for dinner for the family.  It appears to be run by a mom and pop.

Since we started eating the local stuff we haven't set foot in KFC which is here also.

Filming in Seoul

We were all excited when we heard some filming for Winter Soldier was going to be done here (I think that's the movie).  But obviously it wouldn't be at any time near us at all.

But still, snippets of filming and modeling sessions popup in and around the Itaewon area.  These guys were trying out some really cool camera stuff.  I don't know what it's called, but the effect is the extreme panning affect you see that pans a person and then quickly zooms in on the person at the same time.  

The set-up was with one persono operating the camera on the subject.  Then two people, each sporting their own device, would control the tilt and zoom.  You can see it all in the video.


Monday, June 23, 2014

I've found heaven

I take the 405 bus every morning to work and pass several Paris Baguette stores.  And only ONE stood out as being stocked "early".  The PG is located feet from the 405 City Hall Bus stop.  It's 7:36am and I just got finished eating one of the freshest croissants I've ever had in my life.  It was still warm.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

COEX Aquarium

We had a great time at the COEX Aquarium.   It was good to see my daughter get excited about something.  The photos below are from one of the more bizarre looking fish.  These are called the Garden Eels.  

Just weird.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fifty shades

I think S. Korea probably has some of the best looking green leafy vegetables I've ever seen.  Actually, green anything vegetables.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Fifty shades of

Yes, there are exceptions.  Few red cars.  Few blue cars.  Few yellow cars, except maybe taxis.  But the RULE...the rule is what you see below me.

The BEST breakfast sandwich in Seoul!

Since Paris Baguette finally wakes up around 8:30am I find myself without having eaten anything.  When that happens I just cross the street and order a wonderful $2 toasted sandwich made with ham, egg and slaw from this wonderful woman.

It's...wonderful!  And I get service with a smile.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paris Baguette: Where's the Croissant? Heck, where's the food?

I arrive at the Paris Baguette at 7:15AM. By American standards this is already very late.  By Houston standards due to all of the heavy traffic, people hit the road as early at 5am to get to work, 7:15AM might as well be noon.

So, I am just shocked that there really is no breakfast-type foods.  Right now it's 7:30AM and a truck has arrived and the workers are wheeling out the empty cartons that brought in the pre-prepared food.

Croissants, which are baked fresh, won't hit the shelves until about 8:00am at the EARLIEST.

I'm not used to this and it sort of amazes me that Koreans put up with this.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pizza in Korea and Germany.

Friday night is Pizza Night at our house.  No matter where we are.  Houston, Dresden and even in Seoul.  Especially in Seoul.

We've settle on Dominos, but we still buy Pizza Hut Pizza.  But if I had my druthers and if I could, I would buy German pizza from Calla Pizza.

When we first moved to Dresden and decided to order pizza, it was rather daunting.  We had flyers from various places around town.  A couple of places I called and simply asked "sprechen Sie English?" was met with "nein!" and then a hang-up.  Finally, I found a pizza house that could take our order in English.  Lucky for us we discovered the ease and beauty of ordering pizza online and we never looked back.

I still have a scan of the Calla Pizza flyer we got back in 2005.  I was stunned.  American pop culture finding its way to the old East Germany in the most bizarre way:

We settled on Calla Pizza as the go-to place to order delivery.

We never ate pizza from Pizza Blitz but I loved this front cover of their menu.

Freddy Fresh had some crazy menus, too.  I'll have to see if I can find them.

In the meantime here is a rather dated Calla Pizza commercial:

And now, in Seoul, we've found Pizza Hut and other franchise parlors have taken pizza to a new level.

Here in Seoul, trying to order delivery from the website, even in English was a little daunting.  At first, we would try to order delivery from Pizza Hut, but the Seoul address system is a little Byzantine.  We just couldn't figure out how to input our address.

So Pizza Night started with me ordering pizza for pickup.  The assigned store to our area was awkward to get to by bus, so I would walk down to the street, hail a cab and have it drop me off at the Pizza Hut.  Then I would try to catch another cab to take me home.  Sometimes it was easy.  Many times it was not. This had the effect of adding another $10 to the cost of the pizza.

Some of the pizzas...well..don't look like pizzas I've ever seen.  It's like South Korea took possession of The Pizza and made it its own.  So, here is a snapshot of Korean Pizza at Pizza Hut's website:

Now, they don't all look like this. They still sell the normal stuff, too.

Another chain named "Mr. Pizza" has some rather exotic pizzas as well:

I hope you're also paying attention to the hair-raising prices.  It's pretty close to 1,000 wan to $1.  So, the large Seafood Island would cost about $38.

Again, to my relief, Mr. Pizza also has the old standby Pepperoni Pizza for whimps like me.

Here's a Dominos Pizza Commercial in Korea:

The dancing you see in the Korean commercials is a little on the rigid side.

And a Pizza Hut Korea commercial for your enjoyment:

빙그레 아카페라 CF 소지섭So, Ji-sub _ 30'

I put the title just as it appears in the Youtube video.  I'm not a lover of instant coffee, but these cannisters of coffee come in handy.  In the 7-11s and GS25 stores you can often find them in glassed warming cabinets.  So, you reach in and take out a nice, warm metal container of coffee.

What intrigues me and amazes me is the use of American or British music in a foreign commercial.

Something you will never ever see in the USA. And the government would do anything to stop it

I was in Tokyo, Japan to complete my work visa for South Korea.  I wasn't there longer than a day.  On my way to my terminal I saw this very, very intriguing banner.   The idea was amazing and so foreign since the US is now the #1 Nanny state right behind the likes of Venezuela and maybe Cuba.

Vitamin C sprayed at you from your car?  I'm not sure the idea would catch on. But would an American entrepeneur even try?  I doubt it.  He'd be afraid the heavy foot of the regulators would come crashing down on his neck.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tokyo Train Station

You can easily get lost in this giant station.  I found myself wandering aimlessly checking out all of the stores. I finally made my way outside to see just how big it was.  I took this panoramic photo.  Now, this is just the front.  The train station is deep, very deep, too.

It looks like I goofed up the left side of the photo.  It looks like it has two towers when there is only one.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Buddhist Temple decorations

We're out for a stroll near where I work.  This is a buddhist temple nearby.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Coffee Houses of Seoul

Just crazy.  I mean crazy.  There are cafes and coffee shops everywhere.  I was told that when Starbucks moved to Seoul it created hundreds of copycats.  Thus, Seoul has got to be one of the best cities for coffee.

And the names of these places defy description.  This is one of my favorite names:

I'm sure there coffee is fine.  But the name.....well....not so good.

Snow with a view

Besides the steep hill we have to endure, the view out our front window is very nice.  It's not Winter now, but here are a couple of photos I took of the view.

If you noticed, the house in the first photo is almost at our level.  We live on the 5th floor.  And if you notice, the wall.   These walls range from a few feet to maybe 20 feet tall.

Coffee at the EPC's office

With all the crazy coffee shops all over Seoul, I was stunned to find this in our office:

Well, ok.  The tea was nice.  But instant coffee?  This is a joke, right?  We've put up with this for several months. 

Then just last week, we had a pleasant surprise:

OK, I had to buy the coffee.  And the filters.  And the measuring spoon.  But the contractor provided the coffee pot. 

When you go to the grocery stores you find out how much Seoul residents love - or rather, buy (I don't know if they really like the stuff) instant coffee.  It's a LOT.  The local market near our house has all kinds of instant coffees, but only two brands of ground coffee.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pets and a Pet Fail

Like I mentioned, dogs are found everywhere in Seoul.  I should add that you find more in some parts of Seoul as compared to others.  For instance, in the Itaewon/Hannam dong area they are everywhere.  I hear dogs bark at night.  I see other owners with dogs, walking them.

The photo I posted of a woman with a dog was taken near the Gangnam area.

We visited the section of town that has all of the pet shops.  There must be an easy two or three dozen pet shops.  Here is one of my wife and daughter perusing one.  This is typical.  Just crammed full of all sorts of pet stuff.

But later, we happened on a store that had this box we could see from the store window:

I have no idea what it is.  I don't care to know.

Taking Peeps to a whole new level

We took a quick weekend trip to Fukuoka Island in Japan.  It was close to Easter so all the shops were selling Peeps.  But these are Peeps like I've never seen before.  Here is a photo of one:

And here is a huge lighted ad for them:

But they really weren't much like the Peeps in the US other than a vague shape of them.  No marshmallow center.  No sugary crunchy/squishy exterior.  And they tasted....ok.

Preparing for??

This photo was a little frightening.  Maybe the Koreans really are concerned about the survivability of a fire in the subway stations.  Or maybe anything else that might happen in a subway.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tiramisu’s creator focuses on customer happiness

I don't want to abandon talking about food completely.  So I found this great article about the guy who invented Tiramisu.  I had never heard of the stuff until the movie Sleeping In Seattle.
Iannaccone was good at his work, and restaurants wanted his desserts. After success with a food distribution business, he moved to Baltimore to help a business contact launch an Italian restaurant. Although he and his wife, Bruna, had initially planned to return to Italy, events compelled them to stay. Now they run Piedigrotta on 1300 Bank Street, where everything is handmade with Italian authenticity.

In the midst of it all, Iannaccone invented tiramisu.

Or so he says.

A Washington Post reporter investigated the claim in 2007 and found it credible, although the dessert’s provenance is debated by food historians. With the same dismissiveness he applies to his age, he said of his world-famous concoction: “It’s no big invention. It’s not an airplane.”
AND he's modest!

At the end of the article is his recipe for Tiramisu.  Looks to die for!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Houston Mission Control in Tokyo Train station at Airport

I had to make a visa run to Japan a month ago.  I thought I would take the subway to the city center...until I saw this:


There was no way in heck I was going to figure this out.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The death of kimchee?

Who doesn't know what kimchee is?  Sort of the Korean version of sauerkraut, I guess.

But with garlic.  Lots of garlic.  Lots and lots of garlic.

So, when I saw this in the men's bathroom, it sort of reminded me of an alcoholic who had finally admitted he had a problem and needed to do something about it.
If you haven't figured it out, it's a mouthwash dispenser.  See the blue green color in the cup?  That's the mouthwash.

Now, the South Koreans still consume vast quantities of Kimchee, morning, noon and night.  But they aren't stupid.  They know their breath reeks.  But mouthwash only works for a little while, and the garlic breath comes back.  The real cure is to go cold turkey.  And I think they know that.

So, what I see is kimchee slowly over time being consumed less and less and only brought out for special occasions. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dogs in Seoul

So, before I left for Seoul I would search Goole to determine of owning a dog was common in Seoul.  From absolutely everything I read Koreans tolerated dogs.  They ate them.  Some were pets.  Many were not.

That was perception.  That was not reality.

We live in Hannam dong just beside the Itaewon section of Yongasn gu.

There are dog owners all around us.

Want an apartment that is pet friendly?  No problem!

And dog food? It's EVERYWHERE.  Pricey?   You bet.  but so is everything else in Seoul.

Not only all of that, but there is an area in Seoul with a couple dozen if not more pet shops and pet stuff shops.

Renting an apartment in Seoul

I received several text messages on my Korean phone from the agent.

Where are you?

Will you be here soon?

By the last text message, I was at the ground floor waiting for the elevator with a couple of minutes to spare.

I knocked on the door of the company and a woman opened the door.  I asked if this was the leasing agent.  Luckily, she spoke a little english.   Behind her was a room filled with some junk.  The plate on the door had the leasing agent's name on it.  How could I go wrong?

"No. Try next door".  So I did and it turned out to be the right place.  I was greeted at the door and ushered into the office.  There was a table with two well-dressed middle aged women seated side-by-side.

The agent greeted me and asked me to sit with the two women who he introduced to me.  After the greetings we just looked at eachother.  I couldn't speak Korean and they couldn't speak American english.

The agent came and sat with us at the end of the table.  He had three copies of the lease.  Luckily, the lease was in both Korean and English.  He laid them all side-by-side.

A Korean lease is really very simple.  It was about three or four pages long, but if you remove the English, it would all fit on two pages.  Whereas, a Texas standard residential lease is 7 pages long.

"The owner has told me that she replaced the old air conditioner with a new one," said the agent.

I smiled to express my thanks.  The entire apartment had been refurbished and the aged, yellowed A/C unit in the corner of the living room of the apartment sort of stood out like a sore thumb.

Then he and the owner both took out what looked like a short, zippered pencil pouch.  They were about two inches long.  They unzipped them and pulled out what looked like a tube of lipstick.  The agent also pulled out an ink pad that looked like it had been used  a LOT.  The ink pad was mushed up and looked like someone took a hammer to the pad and distorted it horribly.  But all that ever occurred was years of gentle use.

Then the agent began taking an end of what turned out to be a stamp and stamped the inside edge or rather the two touching edges of the leases.  Then the owner did the same thing.

"Now it's your turn." the agent said to me.  But instead of using a stamp, that I didn't have, I wrote my signature.

The agent folded the first page exposing the back and placed his stamp on the edge so that half was on the blank back and half of the stamp was on the page under it.  The owner did the same.  They did this for each page.

"Ok, now it's your turn".  So I signed my name in the same manner.

The ceremony was over.

Now, the really horrible problem in S. Korea is that most landlords require anywhere from one to two years of rent/deposit in ADVANCE.  I was lucky to find someone who only required 6 months.

The agent looked at me with concern "Gary, when will the money clear our bank?"  From that point on until the money actually cleared the Korean Bank, the poor young agent was sweating bullets, daily texting or emailing me asking about the money.  I guess I must look like a real low life.

A few days later when the money cleared the agent's account I sent him a text message saying that he could finally sleep tonight.  He sent me back a smiley.

Riding the Seoul Subway

Depending on the time of day and which subway train you take, the ride could be easy…or it wouldn't be.

I don't remember which day this was and where I was headed.  But this is as bad as it gets on the subway here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's all in the marketing

In 2008 I was in Seoul trying to get my visa to Thailand.  I had just wrapped up some work in Ulsan which is at the southwest corner of South Korea near Busan (or Pusan).

I had trouble finding the Thai Embassy only to find out later I had walked past the embassy entrance about a dozen times.  The sign marking this as the Thai Embassy was about eight feet, putting it about 2 feet above me.  The only way I saw the sign was when I crossed the street and then turned around.

The Seoul subway system is pretty impressive and is state-of-the-art.  Most times crowded.  A lot of times not.  This particular day as I was out on yet another mission to find the Thai Embassy, it was pretty empty.  I sat on the train waiting to make it to the Itaewon station so I could make my connection to yet another subway train.  At each stop, the recorded voice of a Korean woman would announce the next stop.  After several sentences, she would be followed by another female voice in English.  This woman would speak maybe two sentences.  Was it the same as what the Korean voice said? I had no way of knowing.

At one of the stops was an old woman, bent with age, as the cliche goes.  She stepped into the train, pulling a small wire carrier on wheels.  At that point I stopped watching and went back to just staring at nothing in particular.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see she was moving to the far end of the train.

And then the music started.

And I mean, it was the saddest music I had ever heard in my life.

I looked up and saw that the old woman had set up what amounted to an impressive impromptu stereo system that pumped out clear music that would melt your heart.

She had her back to us and very slowly turned to face us.  She had in her hand an old metal cup or can and the saddest expression on her face. From that point, she started slowly walking the train.  Turning to each one of us,  holding out the can.  All the while the sad music played on.

And then it all made sense to me.

It's all in the marketing.

This is how EVERYTHING is sold to us.  Whether it be a new sports car, a vacation cruise, a poor old lady or dying children on the other side of the world.  Graphic images and sad music - or happy music -depending on what you are marketing - sell the story and make it easier for you to part with your money.

In this case, I didn't give her any money.  But that doesn't mean I haven't given to others.

Friday, January 24, 2014