Sunday, May 30, 2010

Die deutsche Sprache

From this week's Economist:

Signs of the Zeitgeist: Defending the German Language
« In the fight against English, France is famously out in front. Now Germany is joining in. Guido Westerwelle, its foreign minister, has begun a campaign to promote German as the "language of ideas." The European Union’s diplomatic service should hire German-speakers, he told its chief, Catherine Ashton. Peter Ramsauer, the transport minister, plans to expel anglicisms from his domain. Ideensammlung will replace brainstorming; meeting-points will become Treffpunkte.

Germans have been resisting foreign words ever since they began writing, says Falco Pfalzgraf of the University of London. German is “watered-down and oversalted” with foreign words, said the founders of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft (“fruit-bearing society”) in 1617. Such groups taught Germans to prefer Abstand to the French Distanz and Augenblick to Moment. (Some coinages failed: Meuchelpuffer was shot down by Pistole.) The Napoleonic wars and, later, the German empire brought more linguistic cleansing. Second-class status was a spur.

...Even scholarship succumbed. Archaeology, a bastion of German-language research, is buckling, lament scholars at the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut. So have teenagers, who now chillen and smsen.

Since reunification in 1990, Germany has pushed back. A Neue Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft was founded in 2007. Mr Krämer’s Verein, with 31,000 members, publishes an index of 7,200 anglicisms, four-fifths of which, it claims, crowd out good German words. A pet hate is “blockbuster”, originally a 1942 coinage for city-destroying bombs. Mr Krämer, who lost six relatives to Allied bombing, prefers Kassenschlager (“box-office hit”).

A famous 19th-century postmaster fended off Adresse with Anschrift and Kuvert (envelope) with Umschlag. But Germans hesitate to follow France in making laws in favour of their language. The government considered but discarded the idea of making German the official language. It may let courts hear international cases in English. Perhaps Germans realise that English poses little threat to the mother tongue of 100m people. If alien words could kill, English might not have survived the Norman conquest. »

Reminds me a bit of the Wise Guys song "Denglish", which I included at the end of an earlier post.

Family Pictures

Aunt Judy and Uncle Rick from New Mexico

adorable cousins - Josh and Maxi

the whole gang

Saturday, May 29, 2010

18 Years Later

Congratulations, Class of 2010!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Houston: Model City

In his latest Forbes column, writer Joel Kotkin describes Houston as a model "city of the future" and advises, "If you want to see successful 21st-century urbanism, hop on down to Houston and the Lone Star State."

« You won't be alone: Last year Houston added 141,000 residents, more than any region in the U.S. save the city's similarly sprawling rival, Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past decade Houston's population has grown by 24%—five times the rate of San Francisco, Boston and New York. In that time it has attracted 244,000 new residents from other parts of the U.S., while older cities experienced high rates of out-migration. It is even catching up on foreign immigration, enjoying a rate comparable with New York's and roughly 50% higher than that of Boston or Chicago.

So what does Houston have that these other cities lack? Opportunity. Between 2000 and 2009 Houston's employment grew by 260,000. Greater New York City—with nearly three times the population of Houston—has added only 96,000 jobs. The Chicago area has lost 258,000 jobs, San Francisco 217,000, Los Angeles 168,000 and Boston 100,004.

Although it also attracts a large number of low-skill migrants, Houston has considerably expanded its white-collar workforce. According to the Praxis Strategy Group, Houston's ranks of college-educated residents grew 13% between 2005 and 2008. That's about on par with "creative class" capital Portland, Ore. and well more than twice the rate for New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

But Houston's biggest advantage cannot be reduced to numbers. Ultimately it is ambition, not style, that sets Houston apart. Texas urbanites are busy constructing new suburban town centers, reviving inner-city neighborhoods and expanding museums, recreational areas and other amenities. In contrast with recession-battered places like Phoenix, Houston remains remarkably open to migrants from the rest of America and abroad. »

Kotkin summarizes, "Innovation, job growth and immigration put this Lone Star city ahead of New York and Boston."

(To that list, I would add delicious cuisine, Southern hospitality, great schools, beautiful women, and general quality of life.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

House of Pies

I've been having a somewhat nostalgic craving lately for the Houston hangouts that we locals miss when we're away from home, the richly storied local institutions that grace our sunny city, our favorite spots for brunching or late-night munching or anything in between.

For example, The House of Pies:

Nobody seems to know exactly how old it is, just that it's "older than us." This Houston diner is famous for its big breakfasts, freshly baked pies, and friendly 24/7 service. And its interesting clientele mixas the Houston Press notes, "after hours, it fills up with gays and goths."

From CultureMap:
« The old-school hospitality and comfy booths offer a small sanctuary amid the ever-changing landscape of Upper Kirby. Even the prices haven't changed in a really long time.

Back then...we called it "House of Guys"which shouldn't really need any explanation for true Houstonians.

...House of Pies has plenty of loyal customers, and for good reason. »

sweet potato pie
a.k.a. "a slice of heaven on earth"

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beautiful Sunday

Tallowood/brunch/family walk with Niki/phở/foot massages/mangosteens/sweet tea/Bach/temaki/eucalyptus bath/Kleist/Personal Taste finale/sleep (at a reasonable hour!)

the men

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May/June Reading List

Books I'd like to read before I leave for Seoul:

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Spanish) - Gabriel García Márquez
A Gesture Life - Chang-rae Lee
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
The Marquise of O - Heinrich von Kleist
The Emigrants - Winfried Georg Sebald
Beautiful Boy - David Sheff

Let me know if you've already read or are planning to read any of these books and would like to talk about them!

Listening to:
B.o.B - "Airplanes" (feat. Hayley Williams)

« Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars? »


There she is — my baby.

This week I'm mostly just practicing Carl Flesch scales and working through some Gaviniés etudes.

But it feels great to be back.

15 years of my life

Grandmother still calls them bean sprouts.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Memorial High School

Last night, my family and I attended Memorial High School's Senior Awards Night, where a general from the United States Air Force Academy presented Michael with his appointment to the Class of 2014. Congratulations lil' bro!

I was also struck by the incredible talent of the school, which has been ranked among the best public schools in America. Awards ranged from entrepreneurship competition prizes to scholarships offered by Vinson & Elkins LLP and the Marine Corps. There was also special recognition for the top-ranked junior golfer in the entire country, the best tennis team in the state, All-State Orchestra members, a long list of National Merit scholars and finalists, and many other distinctions in academics, athletics, and the arts. The principal also announced that this year's 500-some seniors have reported over $10,000,000 in college scholarships—and I'm certain most of them are merit-based rather than need-based—of which students plan to use around $3,000,000.

Not surprisingly, the school's college matriculation statistics are impressive, with a handful of students who head to the Ivy League each year, a fair number at schools such as Stanford, Duke, and Vanderbilt, and large groups at great in-state options, including Texas, A&M, and Rice.

Maybe I shouldn't have left for boarding school?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gym Affairs

Bad news: I weighed myself for the first time today since last fall, and I've lost eight pounds. Presumably of the scant amount of muscle I had to begin with. Depressing indeed.

Good news: I've been going to the gym almost every morning. I actually enjoy heading to the gym when I'm at home: it's the small, unimportant things
—flat screen TVs, good music, dark wood paneling, friendly staff members, fresh cut flowers, the café, generous locker space, the squash court gallery, 7 am yoga classes—that make me want to spend time there. I also realize that these things spoil me and make most other facilities, including Yale's, look like something between a hospital wing and a prison.

Incidentally, my parents want me to start a regimen with my brother's personal trainer. They also want me to eat more protein. And do two-a-days. And more squash with the padre. And pilates with Mother. (I don't think any of these are very likely to happen, except for squash. Maybe the protein, but I'm also planning to give up beef for the summer.)

Yes, my family takes fitness very seriously.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

HRFF: The Son's Room

Continuing with the 2010 Hickory Ridge Film Festival, we watched Nanni Moretti's The Son's Room (La stanza del figlio). Despite the depressing subject matter—the death of a son and brother, and the ensuing trauma—the film was ultimately uplifting, and it showed that healing can come in unexpected ways.

As a side note, I was somewhat distracted during the movie by the profession of the father, who works as a psychoanalyst for a colorful group of dysfunctional patients. I couldn't help but think about Psychology 110 and the history of psychiatry and anxiety disorders and the range of current treatment options and medications and the therapist-patient relationship and confidentiality and cognitive behavioral therapy...

...Now back to summer vacation.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Gart

After a lunch date with Grandmother today—dim sum and foot massages in Chinatown—we decided to do some gardening to fill in a few bare spots around the pool.

Ficus benjamina (also known as Weeping Fig or Benjamin's Fig)

Salvia splendens

Chili pepper
(because a Korean family's garden can never have too many peppers)

César ain't got nuthin' on us.

Well, except for these new topiary pots of which I'm a fan:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hickory Ridge Film Festival 2010

The Crew and I have decided to watch the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or winners in chronological order from 2000 through 2010.

Here's the line-up:
  • 2000 - Dancer in the Dark
  • 2001 - The Son's Room (La stanza del figlio)
  • 2002 - The Pianist
  • 2003 - Elephant
  • 2004 - Fahrenheit 9/11
  • 2005 - The Child (L'enfant)
  • 2006 - The Wind That Shakes the Barley
  • 2007 - 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săptămâni şi 2 zile)
  • 2008 - The Class (Entre les murs)
  • 2009 - The White Ribbon (Das weiße Band)
  • 2010 - ?
We're starting tonight with Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, which features Icelandic singer Björk. Crabcakes will be served.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Scarsdale Convention

sushi/300/spinach artichoke dip/Settlers of Catan/LaGuardia/love

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Halfway Done

And then I was done with half of college...

What a year. I'm too exhausted to be nostalgic at the moment, but I feel that I should at least record some of milestone experiences of the year.

I declared a major in the fall—Cognitive Science (hopefully with International Studies as a second major)—and I could be more excited about the expected direction of my studies for the next two years. More specifically, my concentration within the major is Reasoning and Decision Making. Being a cognitive science major has allowed me to take some amazing courses this year.

Two particularly fascinating standouts were Thinking (Prof. Woo-kyoung Ahn) and Psychology and the Law (Prof. Kristi Lockhart). Psychology and the Law was less about the law (and more about personal biases and the etiology of criminality) than I had h
oped, but it was still a great course. Thinking was probably my favorite course this year, which is saying a great deal considering the 9:00 am starting time. What other course at Yale involves chocolate croissants, blickets, Paris Hilton, investment tips, and an enthusiastic professor who coordinates her outfits with lecture topics?

Also, deciding to pick up a new language this year
Portuguese*—was one of the best decisions I've made at Yale.

*Special blog post soon to come.

I haven't been terribly busy with extracurricular activities at Yale,
which is perfectly fine with me, especially after the mock trial/poetry magazine/literature club/model UN/orchestra/linguistics club/yoga/community service craziness of high school. I did realize this year that I truly miss playing the violin. I found out freshman year that the Yale Symphony Orchestra, while impressive, wasn't quite what I had expected and hoped for. I hope that taking chamber music for credit next year will be an enriching experience.

It seems ridiculous and almost futile to try to reduce the incredible people I
've met this year into a single paragraph, so I won't. In short, I've made some incredible friends this year. There are also those I wish I could have gotten to know better, but I suppose this is yet another thing to look forward to in the fall. And of course, I'm always grateful for my group of friends I've known since childhood.

Die Mannhöhle (Man Cave)
Too many great memories. I-22C, you shall be missed.

Extremely happy to be home for a month. Also excited for my internship in Seoul.

"Memoria est thesaurus omnium rerum e custos."
"Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things."
- Cicero, De Oratore (I, 5)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Plea Bargaining

Written for my Psychology and the Law class:

“You should watch this,” said the middle-aged lady leaning against the wall outside the door to the courtroom. “It should be good.” Pointing at a tall, blond woman standing in the corner, she continued, “That woman ruined my life. I want to see her go to jail. I want to see them wreck her life.”

At the sentencing hearing inside the courtroom, Susan Cantin and her lawyer pleaded nolo contendere to two misdemeanors stemming from the theft of $107,512 from Amity Regional School District student activity accounts. During her time as a secretary at Amity, Cantin frequently altered checks and deposited them into her own bank account instead of paying vendors for items such as yearbooks. Her attorney, William F. Dow III of New Haven, negotiated a plea bargain that allowed her to plead no contest in exchange for a suspended prison sentence with three years’ probation in addition to 100 hours of community service. Since her arrest last year, she has paid back all but $11,000 of the stolen funds. During the sentencing that immediately followed the no contest plea, the judge explained that Cantin must repay the remaining $11,000 by April 2012 or else be subject to a violation of probation charge, which would result in the three-year suspended prison sentence.

What made the no contest plea and sentencing particularly interesting to observe was the presence of the woman who had advised me outside the courtroom to sit in on this case. I soon discovered that this woman sitting behind me was Ann Celotto, another former Amity School District secretary who had been fired in 2005 after money that was supposed to be deposited in the school accounts vanished from the main office. Last October, Celotto lost a lawsuit against the school district claiming she was made the scapegoat for others’ negligence. According to Celotto, Cantin’s name was originally not submitted to the police as an additional person who had access to the main office safe because Cantin was being protected by the principal and superintendent. Cantin was eventually arrested when money continued to disappear from the office, even after Celotto was fired. Celotto argued in her lawsuit that her reputation was unfairly tarnished and that she suffered emotionally as a result of the crimes and negligence of others.

After the sentencing of Cantin, Celotto was fuming outside the courtroom. “There’s no justice,” Celotto said to a newspaper reporter. “I’m just really disgusted. She should have done jail time for what she did and what I went through.” Turning to me and two other students, Celotto grimaced and then continued, “That’s William Dow,” pointing at the defendant’s lawyer. “He’s really good.” She then mentioned that we should look up not only Susan Cantin’s case but also her own lawsuit in online archives. “It’s all there. Just type in my name. C-e-l-o-t-t-o.”

Despite the well-intentioned design of the plea bargaining process, the often negative impression of plea bargaining has a strong influence on the way American citizens view the criminal justice system. As highlighted by the visibly upset reaction of Celotto at Cantin’s trial, plea bargaining may result in sentences that are not considered commensurate with the scale or degree of an offense. Indeed, Cantin’s sentence effectively amounts to little more than having to return the funds she stole from Amity. The judge reminded Cantin and her attorney that, without the plea bargain, Cantin would have faced up to two years in jail and an additional $6,000 in fines. Compared to the prospect of a two-year-long jail sentence, Cantin does seem to have received a relatively light sentence for her misdemeanor of larceny.

While the plea bargain was mutually beneficial for both Cantin and the prosecution—she received a light sentence, and the prosecutor’s work was expedited—there are several components of Cantin’s case that epitomize many of the problems with the current U.S. plea bargaining system. One major area of concern is the motivation of prosecutors to plea bargain:  because trials are much more time-consuming than plea bargains, prosecutors have a strong incentive to offer concessions in exchange for a no contest plea. In addition, prosecutors’ salaries are not directly related to the number of cases handled or their outcomes, so self-interested prosecutors may not invest enough time in plea bargain cases, in which more work and less readiness to offer generous concessions might lead to heavier sentences that more accurately reflect the gravity of defendants’ offenses. A related concern is the importance to prosecutors of win-loss statistics. Due to the fact that this metric is widely used to judge a prosecutor’s effectiveness, prosecutors have additional incentive to pursue plea bargains. In effect, because the statistic of conviction matters more than the resulting sentence, prosecutors may prefer the certainty of plea bargains to the uncertainty of adversarial trials. This tendency is further exacerbated when the prosecution believes its evidence is weak or insufficient.

The appeal of plea bargaining to prosecutors has resulted in a set of tactics that further skew the criminal justice system. One procedure involves “overcharging” defendants with a relatively large number of offenses in order to induce cooperation toward a plea bargain. By charging a defendant with more serious crimes than they could likely prove at trial, the defendant may be falsely led to believe that he is receiving a lenient bargain. Research using role-playing procedures has confirmed that this strategy is quite effective (Gregory, Mowen, & Linder, 1978). Indeed, Susan Cantin originally faced 19 felony charges before plea bargaining, which reduced her charges to two misdemeanors.

Furthermore, the current plea bargaining mechanism has become retaliatory against those wishing to exercise their right to trial by jury. Chief Judge William Young of the Federal District Court in Massachusetts filed an opinion that summarizes and criticizes this inconsistency:

Evidence of sentencing disparity visited on those who exercise their Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury is today stark, brutal, and incontrovertible. Today…that disparity has widened to an incredible 500 percent. Criminal trial rates in the United States are plummeting due to the simple fact that today we punish people severely simply for going to trial. It is the sheerest sophistry to pretend otherwise. (Lynch, 2003)

This 500 percent disparity, which effectively translates to the difference between a four-year sentence from a plea bargain and a 20-year sentence from a trial by jury, violates our norms of distributive justice. Does cooperation with the prosecution somehow justify a 500 percent disparity in sentencing? Each defendant, after all, has the right to deny charges, but in the case he is found guilty, the focus on the sentencing should be on the nature of the crime committed rather than the defendant’s decision to be tried before a jury of his peers. Thus, by favoring defendants who choose to plea bargain rather than go to trial, sentencing disparity seems to provide another avenue of criticism of the plea bargaining process and the inequities it perpetuates within the criminal justice system.

In some ways, Susan Cantin’s plea bargain case is not terribly alarming, despite the leniency of her sentence. She has paid back nearly all the money she stole during her time as secretary at Amity Regional School District and is expected to pay the remainder shortly. In addition, she has been fired from her job and lost all retirement benefits. Additionally, Cantin has no prior criminal record, and it seems unlikely that she will continue to pose a threat to society.

Nevertheless, more subtly disconcerting was Ann Celotto’s comment that William Dow, Cantin’s lawyer, is apparently known for his skill. Inequalities stemming from economic differences are an unavoidable fact in many facets of the law, but the variability of defense attorneys’ skills seems especially salient in the context of plea bargaining’s intricacies and opaqueness. Because much of the plea bargaining is not transparent and, furthermore, is mostly between the prosecutor and defense attorney rather than before an impartial jury, the experience and ability of the defendant’s lawyer arguably play a more important role than in conventional trials. As a result, many critics of plea bargaining echo Celotto’s suggestion that the process unfairly favors individuals willing and able to pay for the most experienced defense attorneys.

In his review article “Plea Bargaining Outside the Shadow of Trial,” Professor Stephanos Bibas proposes a number of solutions that would alleviate some of these negative aspects of plea bargaining. For example, he suggests that fixed hourly rates, rather than fixed salaries for public defenders, could help offset the current disincentive to invest sufficient time and energy defending each case. Bibas also criticizes the uncertainty of indeterminate sentencing and recommends an expanded role for sentencing guidelines and statutes. He argues that, despite their imperfections, “Guidelines quantify both the size of the range and, in the federal system, the discount for pleading guilty” (Bibas, 2004). The predictability and transparency of sentencing guidelines would diminish uncertainty for both prosecutors and defense attorneys while simultaneously narrowing the disparity between plea bargain sentencing and trial sentencing.

Despite its shortcomings, plea bargaining serves a critical purpose in the legal system and is intended to be mutually beneficial for the defendant and the state, but the need for reform of the current plea bargaining system is particularly urgent and relevant in light of the importance of procedural justice and transparency for victims and others affected by any offense. Of course, the focus of the U.S. criminal justice system lies between the defendant and the state, but the importance of long-term justice and public perception of the judicial system should not be overlooked. In the case of Susan Cantin, her actions affected not only herself and the school district’s accounts but also individuals such as Ann Celotto. In addition to filing a lawsuit against the school for the emotional damage she suffered, Celotto was present at the sentencing hearing because she wanted to feel that justice had been served. Whether or not one considers Cantin’s sentence distributively just, perhaps even more significant in terms of the legitimacy of the justice system is the opaque and uncertain manner in which plea bargains are negotiated. Reforming the plea bargaining process, such as with Bibas’s proposals, could go a long way in improving the perceptions of individuals such as Celotto of criminal justice and thereby solidify the authority and legitimacy of our legal system.


Bibas, S. (2004). Plea bargaining outside the shadow of trial. Harvard Law Review, 117(8), 2469-2545.

Gregory, W., Mowen, J., & Linder, D. (1978). Social psychology and plea bargaining: applications, methodology, and theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(12), 1521-1530.

Lynch, T. (2003). The Case against plea bargaining. Regulation, 24-27.

Tinley, James. (2010, April 17). Ex-amity secretary avoids jail in $107g theft. New Haven Register.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dearest Mother

Today is Mother's Day, and I am grateful. 엄마 사랑해요!

P.S. New obsession: Ethiopian food.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

"I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion."
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


In his talk “The Role of Experiences and Beliefs in Affective Forecasts,” Professor Nathan Novemsky argued for the importance of top-down processes in affective forecasts and memories. He provided extensive evidence for his belief that hedonic forecasts are heavily influenced by beliefs that may not correspond to past experiences. Novemsky contrasted this top-down theory with the bottom-up model, which suggests that past experiences are directly remembered and summarized in our beliefs. He explained a study involving fat-free cheese, in which he found that subjects who enjoyed cheese they believed to be fat-free—it was not actually fat-free—quickly forgot about this pleasant experience and returned to their generally undisturbed belief that fat-free cheese is not tasty, except for the subjects who were asked to rate the cheese during consumption. He also showed that hedonic ratings are particularly fragile and that beliefs drive hedonic forecasts more than experiences, unless individuals are forced by an external cue, such as a rating, to pay attention to an experience. In a related study involving movie scenes, Novemsky found that individuals remember the hedonic value better from a typical experience than from an atypical experience. Citing other studies, he showed that people may retain specific memories, such as the texture of allegedly fat-free cheese or the sweetness of chocolate, but that it can be difficult to “bootstrap” these memories to more general hedonic evaluations. Real-time evaluations, even when unreported, can greatly increase the influence of experiences on beliefs and forecasts. Novemsky has also found that people do not intuit the role of attention in their own experiences or the pervasiveness of lay beliefs in affective forecasts.

Novemsky’s research is highly relevant to real-life situations because it shows how we can make more accurate decisions. On the one hand, top-down decision-making has obvious adaptive value, especially when our limited experiences are not representative of a larger trend or tendency. On the other hand, Novemsky suggests that we do not pay enough attention to our experiences when making hedonic evaluations. In the case of fat-free cheese, for example, or for any other food product, it might make more sense to pay attention to our individual experiences. Paying attention to hedonic experiences, even when they diverge from our beliefs, could help us improve our thinking when deciding whether or not to purchase a certain item or make choices in other domains.

Novemsky’s line of research may have far-reaching implications not only for product evaluations but also for the legal system. According to Hastie and Pennington’s story model of juror decision-making, jurors select the verdict that best matches the stories they have developed. This theory has been corroborated by more recent studies that show higher recognition among mock jurors for statements in their accepted version of a verdict story versus the other verdict story. In addition, jurors have false recognition for inferred statements that are consistent with their verdict story but where never presented as evidence. Although jurors’ decision-making processes are not completely analogous to the hedonic evaluations studied by Novemsky, I believe there is significant overlap and room for further study. By improving our understanding of jurors’ attention and memory for certain kinds of evidence, we may be able to improve the deliberation process. For examples, perhaps judges could give specific instructions to help jurors be aware of and hopefully counterbalance these phenomena.

Two Down

Two finals down, two to go!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Seoul Livability

This Financial Times piece is a bit unfair to London, in my opinion, but it has me even more excited to be in Korea this summer.

London: Not As Liveable As I'd Like (Tyler Brûlé)
« Spend two days in Seoul and London starts to look and feel like a sleepy, stagnant backwater. At Incheon airport you can spy UK designers flying in to work on high-profile projects for South Korea’s biggest technology players. At the headquarters of a major financial services company the chief executive is meeting a Pritzker Prize-winning architect to embark on the creation of a concert hall for his credit card holders. Beneath the streets, rails are being laid for an expanding metro system and stations are being overhauled into gleaming hubs to serve the citizens of one of the hardest working capital cities in the world. At the Park Hyatt Seoul staff deliver a level of service that’s mirrored across a variety of sectors in South Korea’s economy. As the nation becomes less competitive as a manufacturer its financial, retail, transport and technology companies are all sharpening their skills to take their respective games global. Even Mayor Oh’s promise to make his city greener or more design-minded seems to be coming good.

[Seoul has] fashioned itself into a major passenger and logistics hub, is home to some of the best hotels in the world and crackles around the clock. Korea Inc’s executives want to work and learn from the best and leaders at both the local and national level have embraced the liveability mantra to retain and attract talent.

As I crossed Oxford Street on Saturday afternoon there was little of this sort of crackle – just a lot of crack. Up and down the street tummies were hanging out over jeans, food was being stuffed into faces, and bums were falling out of trousers. Was this a nation at rest and play on a gorgeous spring day? Perhaps. Was this also a fleeting snapshot of a nation that’s lost its dignity and sense of pride? For sure.

As a chronic low-scorer on global liveability surveys it’s surprising that none of the UK’s political party strategists have embraced a message that’s become central to leaders elsewhere. A manifesto for “A More Liveable UK” would surely be a vote and inward-investment winner. »

Igor Hath Returned

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dream: Marbles in the Sand

It was a cloudy but warm day at the beach. I walked barefoot along the shore at the distance from the water where your feet get wet only when the strongest waves hit the sand. After walking for a bit, I spotted a wooden board sticking out from the sand further along the beach. As I neared the board, I saw an unfamiliar girl walking toward the board from the opposite direction. We reached the board at the same time and noticed that it was holding back the water from a small pile of identical green marbles. Silently, we sat down and pushed the marbles into the sand, one by one, until they all disappeared.

And then I woke up. Damn birds and their chirping.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Another beautiful spring day in the Haven.

I woke up at 10:10 AM to participate in a bizarre psychology study. (Even after the debriefing, I'm not quite sure what the purpose is, but I sincerely hope its usefulness outweighs its weirdness.)

After lunch, I participated in another psych study, completing the 5 participation credits I need for PSYC 110. This one was much more pleasant—it involved taste tests of healthy gourmet snacks.

Shortly thereafter, however, I regretted having eaten the snacks because they paled in comparison to the home cooking at Professor Choi's end-of-term barbecue party for our Korean class. Professor Choi prepared a delicious feast of galbi, kimchi, japchae, topokki, and miso cabbage soup. After dinner, we sat by the stream that runs through her backyard and enjoyed strawberries and green tea while chatting about our summer plans.

We made it back to campus just in time for the WORD Performance Poetry show. (Incidentally, it was my first time at the Afro-American Cultural Center—great place.) The poets/performers were absolutely incredible.

Now heading to Miya's for Jen's 20th. Happy Birthday Jen!


1. Dear Joobie, what is your major?
Cognitive Science, International Studies. (Refer to "Post #140" for additional information about my confused academic interests.)

2. Summer plans?
  • Houston (5/13-6/11)
    • Sunshine, sleep, parks, cars, museums, Chinatown, fajitas, tennis, Buffalo Bayou, and Michael's graduation. And barbecue and sweet tea and Ghirardelli brownies and pecan pie. And Russian cosmonauts.
  • CT/Long Island (6/11-6/14)
    • Γ.Γ.C.
  • Seoul (6/15-8/24)
    • In July, I'll be interning at the headquarters of Kim & Chang, one of the largest law firms in Asia. I also plan to work with an NGO in Seoul. Other than that, I'll probably spend most of my time eating tteok and kongguksu.
  • Gyeongju(?)

3. Are you single?
Yes, but my grandmother has informed me that I should find 색시감 (saekshigam, literally: "bride material") this summer. Wish me luck...?

4. Pets?
One day I shall write a saga about the rise and fall of my illustrious petdom. For now, meet Johann: