Korea Dispatch: Back and there again; or, a consultant’s long non-holiday in Seoul

Here I go again.

I’m back in Seoul, South Korea for work.

I was slated to return for months. My repeated delays and cancellations were due to combinations of bureaucracy, incompetence, miscommunication (in English), inability to communicate (in Korean), apathy (mine), and a lack of urgency (not mine).

I shall spare you, Dear Friends, of the trials of the earlier travel attempts. At least, I shall spare you of them for now.

This final, ultimately successful journey came out of the last failed try. We shifted the Korean consulate handling my paperwork from Atlanta (I’m still not sure if anyone actually works there except for one woman who spoke no English) to San Francisco. This bit of rehoming required me to fly on 2 distinct itineraries: CHA – ATL – SFO on Wednesday morning, and SFO – ICN at 23:55 Wednesday.

Aside: the late night flight to Korea had me leave on Wednesday and arrive on Friday! Thank you, International Date Line!

For my itinerary to work I needed my COVID-19 quarantine exemption certificate from the San Francisco Consulate. The idea was that it would be ready for me when I landed in SFO. I would saunter to the lounge, print it off, and be ready when I could check into my flight some 8 hours later.

There was no COVID-19 quarantine exemption certificate from the San Francisco Consulate waiting for me in my inbox when I landed. Word was that it had not made its way yet from the Ministry in Seoul.

Two options presented themselves to me: return home and try again with a brand new submission; or lay up in SF and hope the paperwork arrives before the next day’s flight. I went with option 2.

Which brings us to my packing for this trip.

I wanted to bring only carry-on bags this time. The new 2 itinerary approach made it important to not check a bag. To do so would mean having to leave security, claim the bag, check it in again under the second itinerary, and again claim it at Incheon Airport.

I got very close to achieving this goal.

On my last trip I worked on a second customer. I was supposed to continue to support them from the US. That didn’t pan out, but the 2.2KG (about 5 lbs) laptop and charger I was given for the support still made it home with me. I have to return it on this trip, and that extra bulk was the tipping point.

Not that I didn’t try to carry on/gate check the suitcase I used. Sadly it is the biggest of my suitcases and Delta made me check it through to San Francisco. See below for the things I brought for my 5-ish week stay.

Another complicating factor was that I booked my flights through Delta but the SFO – ICN leg was on Korean Airlines, a Delta codeshare partner. Korean only flies the one flight out of SFO, so their ticketing desk does not open until about 3 hours before boarding with no on-line check-in option.


The suitcase contained:

  • 4 sets of socks, underwear, t-shirts, and handkerchiefs
  • 2 sweaters
  • 3 button down shirts
  • 2 trousers
  • workout shorts/swimsuit and shirt
  • lightweight trainers
  • puffer coat, gloves, hat, and cap
  • 2 Raspberry Pis
  • camera tripod
  • 2 camera lenses
  • 2 Roost laptop stands
  • Tom Bihn Freudian Slip for my Synik 30 backpack with carious pens, cables, and power adaptors
  • set of collapsable plates and bowls
  • 50 packs of instant Starbucks coffee in a plastic bag
  • toiletries
  • belt and neck tie
  • electric beard trimmer

The Synik 30 backpack had, among other things:

  • work MacBook Air
  • personal MacBook Pro 15
  • afore mentioned heavy laptop
  • camera with lens
  • Beats pro headphones
  • power cords, adaptors, and cables
  • emergency food stash
  • business cards and ID badges
  • water bottle
  • coffee travel container
  • 3-1-1 bag of liquids and meds
  • Logitech Anywhere MX mouse
  • copies of my COVID vaccination, quarantine exemption certificate, COVID test results
  • Apple Watch, series 2 (work) and 5 (personal)
  • travel towel
  • shemaug 

Tom Bihn Le Grande Derrière had:

  • wallet with cash, credit cards
  • flashlight
  • notebook
  • pen
  • Apple Magic Keyboard (JIS)
  • Apple Magic Trackpad
  • Apple iPad Mini 5
  • battery pack
  • Onyx Boox ereader
  • various cables and adaptor
  • emergency med kit (sanitizer, bandages, aspirin, &c.)
  • COVID-19 vaccination card (in a rugged clear plastic bag)

Tom Bihn Handy Little Thing had:

  • playing cards and dice
  • eye mask
  • Apple headphones
  • crystalized lime and lemon packets
  • wipes
  • beverage holders
  • pens
  • hot sauce

On me:

  • Clothes: shoes, socks, trousers, underwear, t-shirt, button-down, travel vest, travel blazer
  • travel wallet: passport with visa, receipts, cash, business cards
  • phones, iPhone SE 2020 (work) and XS Max (personal)
  • Garmin Instinct Tactical watch
  • sunglasses

What did I leave out that I should have had?

  • HDMI cable
  • Raspberry Pi power adaptor
  • powered USB hub power cord
  • Logitech K810 keyboard
  • beard trimmer power cord
  • nail clippers
  • drain stopper

Korea Dispatch: week 1

There is a mountain outside my front door.

It’s not strictly my front door. I’m staying on a hotel. And yet the mountain is there, all indifferent to the distinction.

The mountain is Mt. Namsan, South Mountain. Namsan Park encompasses the mountain.

Namsan modest in demeanor and elevation (262 meters or 860 feet). Historical signs sprout along the manicured paths and steps. It’s delightful, and yet the mountain is there.

I tried walking up it three different times. I’ve made it to the top exactly zero times. All three of my walks end-to-end might summit me. And yet the mountain is there.

Groups of puffer coated elderly women chatter up the mountain. Besuited business people traipse up it. School children play running in circle games summit. And yet the mountain is there.

That wheezing puddle of sweat on the side in the shade? That, Dear Friends, is me. I am there on the mountain. Namsan is there, too, under me being indifferent.

Opposite of Namsan is Seoul Station. I visited it several times on my last trip including a sojourn on the departure steps waiting for my train to rapid me away to Busan. There is a big COVID testing tent there.

There are homeless at Seoul Station. There are homeless along the walking way to Seoul Station. Much like in Japan, they are visible but not soliciting. Today I saw some of them at the station in worship in the lovely fall sun singing hymns.

Above them is the walkway I took from the hotel to the station. Large circular planters house plants of all kinds. There are at least 3 pianos along the path. Sentries patrol the walk. In the before times there were cute coffee shops and trinket purveyors.

My work week was typical pandemic – I worked from my hotel because I needed a 3rd negative test to go to the customer site. Many WebEx and Teams calls were executed.

Less than 4 weeks to my return home.

Korea Dispatch: week 0

I’m back in Korea. I do not want to be here.

I retuned to Seoul for work, to finish off a project I started in April on my last trip. It took 5.5 months to get me back, and the clock on the 5.5 months started before I left the last time. Had I been successful earlier, I would be on my way home by now, forced to return because of the magic 180 day threshold over which tax implications become expensive.

I don’t believe in this project even though it will succeed, but that’s not all of why I don’t want to be here.

The COVID numbers here are 4-10 times what they were when I left. The country says they’re about to reach 70% vaccination and about to enter their “living with COVID” phase. The 70% are of people with at least one dose, and that is adults. The government will change their reporting to focus on hospitalizations and deaths instead of positive tests. Restrictions will relax.

South Korea is a great example of hygiene theatre being hand waiving – the mandate on hand sanitization is all for show, for example – but that is not all of why I do not want to be here.

I’m working face-to-face with colleagues from all over. They are smart, capable people. In the before times I would enjoy hanging out with them, getting to know them, and establishing relationships.

I’m reluctant to do that kind of hanging out in these times, but that isn’t all of why I don’t want to be here.

For the first time in longer than I can remember, I am homesick. My illness began before I left. I’ve put down roots, you see, and I’m not happy to leave them. I definitely do not want to rip them up.

UPDATE: this was a post I meant to send a week ago.

TIL cerise

# cerise

## Noun

1. a red the color of ripe cherries
– Synonyms
– cherry
– cherry red
– Less specific
– red
– redness
– Related
– red
– reddish
– ruddy
– blood-red
– carmine
– cerise
– cherry
– cherry-red
– crimson
– ruby
– ruby-red
– scarlet
– red
– reddish
– ruddy
– blood-red
– carmine
– cerise
– cherry
– cherry-red
– crimson
– ruby
– ruby-red
– scarlet

## Adjective

1. of a color at the end of the color spectrum (next to orange); resembling the color of blood or cherries or tomatoes or rubies
– Synonyms
– red
– reddish
– ruddy
– blood-red
– carmine
– cherry
– cherry-red
– crimson
– ruby
– ruby-red
– scarlet
– Similar to
– chromatic
– Related
– scarlet
– vermilion
– orange red
– crimson
– ruby
– deep red
– cerise
– cherry
– cherry red
– cerise
– cherry
– cherry red
– cardinal
– carmine
– ruddiness
– rosiness
– red
– redness
– red
– redness

Officials Double Down on “Let ‘Er Rip” Strategy, Placing Undue Faith in Vaccines as Regions With High Vaccinations Suffer Infection Spikes

Officials Double Down on “Let ‘Er Rip” Strategy, Placing Undue Faith in Vaccines as Regions With High Vaccinations Suffer Infection Spikes:

Again and again, all over the world, we’ve seen public health officials all too willing to relax Covid restrictions too early, resulting in an eventual spike in infections and hospitalizations. As we’ll explain, regulators are repeating the same experiment and expecting different outcomes, The classic example was the May CDC “Mission Accomplished” policy change of telling the fully vaccinated they could go about unmasked, even as Delta had become the dominant strain, had viral loads 1000x that of the wild type, and not surprisingly also had a much higher unmitigated R0. Yet at the same time, the CDC also told state and local authorities to not report cases among the vaccinated ex hospitalizations. The CDC backpedaled on both policies thanks to the summer surge. But considerable damage was done thanks to many of the middle and upper middle class vaccinated still seeing non-mask wearing as a perverse declaration of virtue, that they are doing so to show they are shot up, disregarding the new CDC guidance for the vaccinated to mask up indoors.

Damien Contandriopoulo in The Year Public Health Lost Its Soul explained how we got here:

Most jurisdictions in Western countries adopted “balanced-containment” strategies regarding COVID. This approach is characterized by the ambition to balance, on the one hand, the number of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths and, on the other hand, the economic and social disruptions caused by strict infection control measures such as lockdowns…

As I have noted several times before, what is happening right now is due to the fundamental political economic conflict that dealing with the pandemic requires setting extremely dangerous precedents threatening the foundations of the current order — paying people not to work and canceling debts, none of which can be allowed to even be contemplated. So mass death it is instead … [emphasis mine]

… More specifically, we know that relying on vaccines and not much else isn’t adequate to combat Covid. We and readers have cited the NIH article Increases in COVID-19 are unrelated to levels of vaccination across 68 countries and 2947 counties in the United States, specifically:

Key point: The sole reliance on vaccination as a primary strategy to mitigate COVID-19 and its adverse consequences needs to be re-examined, especially considering the Delta (B.1.617.2) variant and the likelihood of future variants. Other pharmacological and non-pharmacological interventions may need to be put in place alongside increasing vaccination rates. Such course correction, especially with regards to the policy narrative, becomes paramount with emerging scientific evidence on real world effectiveness of the vaccines.

… The US is opening up to countries in the midst of surges and/or rising case counts despite high vaccination rates like Singapore, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands (although in the latter two, from a much lower level than their last peak). Peruvians can come to the US even as Lima is showing a rise in cases. Australia’s New South Wales (with the Sydney airport) is ending its quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated foreign entrants. Colonel Smithers reports that Mauritius will open to fully vaccinated travelers this month.

It would be better if I were wrong, but I don’t expect a happy ending. The only tiny silver lining might be it would be harder to scapegoat Bubba if as with the initial Covid spread, a new wave starts from cities with major international airports.

(via naked capitalism)

Great article analysis, and the source material is spot on.

Weatherphone lives!

Peace Communications announces its sponsorship of the local Chattanooga Weatherphone service.

The trusted service has been a part of the Chattanooga community since the 1960s and still receives a daily average of 4,000 to 5,000 calls, according to Randall Hinton, spokesman for The Weatherphone Company.

The number, 423-265-1411, will remain the same going forward, and Peace will use its own Hosted PBX Infrastructure to add additional overflow numbers to handle the fluctuating call volume.

“The service was on the verge of going away forever if the Weatherphone Company didn’t find a new sponsor,” said Jim Peace, founder, and CEO of Peace Communications. “We are happy to step in and support this valuable community service for Chattanooga and surrounding Hamilton County.”


Also, I didn’t know we had a weatherphone. Analog FTW!

Missouri governor vows criminal prosecution of reporter who found flaw in state website • Missouri Independent

Missouri governor vows criminal prosecution of reporter who found flaw in state website • Missouri Independent:

Chris Vickery, a California-based data security expert, told The Independent that it appears the department of education  was “publishing data that it shouldn’t have been publishing.

“That’s not a crime for the journalists discovering it,” he said. “Putting Social Security numbers within HTML, even if it’s ‘non-display rendering’ HTML, is a stupid thing for the Missouri website to do and is a type of boneheaded mistake that has been around since day one of the Internet. No exploit, hacking or vulnerability is involved here.” [emphasis mine]

Strong, accurate analysis by Chris.

I suggest Missouri voters elect someone smarter than Gov. Mike Parson.

Brian Krebs has more.

One Complaint Per Table

Recorded lunch with Orson Welles in 1983:

Orson Welles: I hate Woody Allen physically, I dislike that kind of man.

Henry Jaglom: I’ve never understood why. Have you met him?

O.W.: Oh, yes. I can hardly bear to talk to him. He has the Chaplin disease. That particular combination of arrogance and timidity sets my teeth on edge.

H.J.: He’s not arrogant; he’s shy.

O.W.: He is arrogant. Like all people with timid personalities, his arrogance is unlimited. Anybody who speaks quietly and shrivels up in company is unbelievably arrogant. He acts shy, but he’s not. He’s scared. He hates himself, and he loves himself, a very tense situation. It’s people like me who have to carry on and pretend to be modest. To me, it’s the most embarrassing thing in the world—a man who presents himself at his worst to get laughs, in order to free himself from his hang-ups. Everything he does on the screen is therapeutic.

(Via Laura Olin & via Jason Kottke)

Fear in America

We’ve become a nation so afraid of everything that we just lash out erratically, hoping big shows of strength will somehow keep the scary things at bay. On one level, that observation is depressingly true — and the Trump years only exacerbated that reality, as immigrants and other persecuted groups were held up as scapegoats for the country’s dumbest citizens to demonize. Hell, “Evil dies tonight” could have been a rallying cry the former president’s supporters yelled at, say, journalists. 

(Tim Grierson via Mel Magazine)