Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006: Good Riddance

I am not so much looking forward to 2007 as glad to see 2006 go into the history books.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Why Is South Korea Soft On The North?

The WSJ ran an interesting editorial saying that the reason South Korea is soft on North Korea is because deep, deep down, it is all about nationalism and race :

The South Koreans have compromised their nationalist principles in a quest for wealth and modernity, and while they're glad they did, they feel a nagging sense of moral inferiority to their more orthodox brethren. They often disapprove of the North's actions, but never with indignation, and always with an effort to blame the outside world for having provoked them.

Having worked for a Korean company and still doing a lot of business there, I think there is a lot of truth in this article. I have had conversations with Koreans who are totally oblivious - or don't really care - to the danger just sixty miles north of their capital city. In fact, most young South Koreans view America as a bigger threat to their security than North Korea. And you can point to South Korea's economic might, improving living standards and fully functional democracy for hours, but it falls on deaf ears.

Update Dec 29
- Maybe I spoke too soon, or SK finally realizes what's going on: South Korea Calls North Korea a Threat

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

PEAS On Earth

The Christmas season is supposedly the time for stress, depression and anxiety (which is somewhat of an urban myth). But assuming you have one of these issues now, or at any time, there is a helpful acronym that can bring PEAS to your life:

Pleasure - Do things you enjoy
Exersize - In some studies it does better than medication to reduce depression
Achievement - Give yourself goals and work towards them, giving yourself purpose
Socialize - Spend time with friends, relatives and others; connect with other people

I think the only one missing here is religion, which gives people a framework to structure their lives.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Airline Miles: How Did I Do This Year?

One of the perks of air travel is that it is supposed to get better over time. As you accumulate miles on an airline you move up the pecking order for upgrades, early boarding, and other special accommodations.

While I did put in a lot of miles on the road this year, unfortunately it was spread out across multiple airlines. This is due to the fact that my company is smaller and has fewer people traveling. So instead of negotiating a package deal with one airline, my travel department just looks for the lowest cost, making it a bit of a crap shoot on which airline I might be on.

The net result to me is that instead of being Super Special Primo Magnum Platinum on one airline, I am just first or second rung on a bunch of them:

American - Gold - It used to be like the Olympics: bronze, silver, then gold. But now gold is the BOTTOM rung of the American Airlines system which goes Gold, Platinum, Executive Platinum (why not use another metal?). I will add that I got this one the hard way: using segments instead of miles (takes 30 of them).

United - Premier Executive - United got rid of metals all together and uses Premier, Premier Executive, then the elusive "1K", or 100,000 miles ("executive" makes its second appearance in these programs, so some consulting company must have come up with a reason for that). I managed to steer my travel department to United for overseas flights for the back half of the year and I am going to try to go for the 1K club in 2007.

Continental (and Northwest) - Gold - Continental stayed with three metals, but instead of staying with the Olympic standard they go with Silver, Gold, then Platinum. I guess this is to make the bottom rung feel better than they are, but the perks are what is important, not what it is called.

The interesting part next year is if something really happens with a United/Continental merger. As a business traveler this looks like a good deal for me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Starbucks Hegemony

The nice thing about living in The OC was that there were three major coffee chains (even though I am decaf now): Starbucks, Diedrichs and Pete's. Now there are only two: Sale of Diedrich cafes to Starbucks approved.

This sucks for another reason: Diedrich offered free internet (with a cup of coffee), while Starbucks charges.

At least Pete's is still around, and their coffee is better than Starbucks.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

How Many Pads Could You Crash In?

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

This is true of home, but also true of relatives and certain friends.

So here's the question: How many homes could you show up at 8pm, knock on the door, and get a bed (or couch) for the night? How many of those doors belong to non-relatives? How many different cities could you do this in?

Monday, December 11, 2006

My Ski Vacation

It was hard to tell from my blogging and work output last week that I was actually on vacation. I just have a hard time relaxing and getting away - either that or I can't think of what to do with my free time, even on vacation.

Place: Park City, Utah. Activity: Skiing. For those of you who forgot, Park City was one of the venues of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Mrs. Director and I took a morning off to take a tour of the Olympic facility near town and it is definitely worth the time. It is here that they held the bob sled, skeleton, luge and ski jump competitions. These days the facility is used for training by teams from around the world, so we actually got to watch a few members of the German skeleton team do some training runs.

We also got a look at the ski jump, which made "the agony of defeat" replay over and over in my mind (which shows my age). When I brought up this up to our gen X guide, he told me he told me that ski jumping is the second safest winter Olympic event after curling. I guess ice dancing has more injuries than I realized.

Despite being "safe", these guys are truly crazy to go hurling down one of these runs:

As for the skiing, the snow was surprisingly good so early in the season.

Much to Mrs. Director's dismay, however, I discovered cross-country skiing and really enjoyed it. I didn't realize that there is a bit of a rivalry between the two sports, and Mrs. Director - a down-hiller through and through - is upset that I am looking to spend more time in this heart-pumping activity (which reminded me a lot of long distance cycling). However, both activities do share one thing in common: utter contempt for snow boarders.

I give a big Thumbs Up on the location for skiing. However, due to the distance and difficulty to get to from SoCal (compared to Colorado or California itself), I have a feeling that it will be some years before I ever return here.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Self Declared Consumer Advocates

I found this headline rather ironic since it would make a typical lefty's head spin: Apple Slammed by Greenpeace.

Greenpeace noted that Apple is an exception and that many companies are following recommendations (Ed: Whose "recommendations") to eliminate the hazardous chemicals from their products and are adopting progressive recycling policies, such as financing the take-back, reuse or recycling end-of-life products.

My question is this: who made Greenpeace the arbiter of who is doing right and wrong in this area? There are already substances banned by governments, so called "RoHaS", or Reduction of Hazardous Substances programs. Those are monitored by various governments and we can be sure that Apple (or really it's subcontractors, since they don't make anything themselves) have dozens of people to make sure they comply.

No, these "recommendations" are Greenpeace's alone. So this is a group that makes up programs then slams entities that don't follow them. And the only reason they have any power is because the press publishes them.

This is like other busy body groups like "Center for Science in the Public Interest" which wants to dictate what sort of food everyone eats.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Pretty Good Self Assessment Test

Coming at the end of the year, I thought I would take a few self-assessment tests to see if I am doing the right thing with my life, because based on my previous post maybe I am supposed to be a yak herder or something.

The last test I took was a bit vague, so I next tried the free "JASPER" test offered through Monster. This was a much better test, and actually fun to take. The results are several pages covering different aspects of your "work personality". For example, I thought this bit was pretty darn accurate for me:

While the test seems accurate in pulling out your work strengths and style, it doesn't address where you would best fit in this great big world of ours.

Ode To My Computer

My computer has become the interface for my life.

I work through it. I entertain myself through it. I express myself through it. I communicate through it. No creative thought or plan is done without it. It brings me information that I process and send out as newer, better information.

I spend more time with it than my wife, my child, my co-workers or friends. It is one of the first things I see in the morning and last things I see at night.

It is with me on trips and vacations; it makes long trips less fatiguing, evenings alone less boring. It is my constant companion. My income and lifestyle are largely dependent on it.

And sometimes I want to crash it with my bare fists and heave it out the window.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Blogging Pointers

A fellow blogger sent me an email complaining about writers block and wanted some advice on keeping the blog entries going. Here is what I wrote:

As for writer's block - it's sort of like trying to remember something: it comes to you when NOT thinking about it. By stressing over what to write, you are creating the very block you are struggling with. My recommendation is to relax and not worry about it - and something just might come to you. Other hints:

  • Read other blogs and comment on something someone else wrote. These can be short posts like "This is an interesting article", but you might find that a comment agreeing or disagreeing on a topic can turn into a whole blog entry.

  • Expand Your Reach - You may have to branch your blog to other topics - which is what I have done to my blog, which has become just a general topic blog.

  • What's On Your Mind - To be quite honest, my blog is a form of "therapy". I blog on things that are on my mind.

Of course I left out one method I use whenever possible: turning reader email into an blog entry

Friday, December 01, 2006

Followup: Does Glucosamine Work?

A reader finds my earlier entry on glucosamine and wonders if it worked:

I found your site by searching on "glucosamine" and "tae kwon do"; I'm a middle-aged tae kwon do student (7th gup, after about 1 year or so of classes) with crappy flexibility, also trying glucosamine. I'd be interested in what you found. I don't see your follow-up. Did you post one?

In one of those little life coincidences, I was looking at my bottle of glucosamine and thinking about writing a followup entry about an hour before I saw this email. Weird.

At any rate I have to say this: my flexibility definitely improved after taking glucosamine. This wasn't a scientific test, but it seemed to work for me. And this is was after seeing a big improvement in my flexibility which seemed to plateau.

When I first started taking Tae Kwon Do two plus years ago I could barely touch my toes. My flexibility gradually improved, but the improvement seemed to stall. The glucosamine did seem to help, and today I can sit with my legs out straight, cup my hands beneath my feet, and put my forehead on my knees.

(Submitted for cross-posting at Karate Training)