Day 10,396

Every day on Facebook comes with a smattering of birthdays posts flying left and right, and the occasional revelation from one of my friends that they’re  “getting old”. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to have become more frequent over the years. For most, it seems that every year feels old when it starts, only to seem young when it’s past. Given this, years ago, I found it silly to be on the “feeling old” side of that equation (especially in your 20s!) and decided take a lifelong outlook to age, and have frequently wrote in terms of “Day or Year X of my life” as a subtle reminder that it’s a unique moment in time, with unique opportunities. Weird? Maybe, but to me, calling today Day 10,396 helps me treat it more significantly, than if it were just another Thursday.

Checking in today, as of November 8th, 2013, I’ve lived a good 28.46 years upon this great Earth. A simple life expectancy calculator estimates a reasonably long 92 years of life, telling me that as of today, I’ve lived 31% of my life in raw time.


For me, the time ahead seems simultaneously long and short. It’s nearly a century of time, long enough for you to speak of the currents events of today as history. Still, rather than being an abstract big number, a century almost seems managable. Looking at that, I can say that I feel about right for my age, and am excited for the years to come. The median age of the world population is 29.4 years old, and the median age in the US is 37.2 years old, so I can’t really complain there either.

As a whole, I’d say it’s been good so far, and that the remaining 63.54 years may just be enough to do everything that I need to do. If not, I may just need to buy myself some more time… ;)

“Fuck you and crowdSPRING too.” – Who’s hatin’ on crowdsourcing now?

Here’s an old article, but since I’m sitting at a talk discussing the wisdom of crowds, it seems appropriate. Crowdsourcinging has become an increasingly dominant force on the internet ever since “social media” became a meme. Anyone can produce anything, and distribute/produce it for a fraction of the traditonal cost. This is a big win for consumers of content and the advertisers that support it, since distribution is basically free and the directory of content on the internte massive. People who believe in open-source, free access, and free content are nearly religious in their support of it. One simplely needs to observe the sheer number of manhours going into the Linux, or Mozilla project so see how much people care, and love to hate on things like DRM. Some are killed off publically by the old model of business (Napster comes to mind), but they’re quickly replaced by analagous services that make it even harder to derive value out of consumers of content.

Whether this is good or bad for the world at large is debatable, and there’s an increasingly vocal group of individuals, organizations, and companies opposing this disruptively open world, and their ranks seem to grow with each new web service designed to leverage the masses. The claim is made that today’s internet model is devaluing the work of traditional creative forces everywhere, music, movies… to which the average American consumer (and certainly, moreso elsewhere in the world) discounts as corporate greed. While the local-culture movement has helped sustain small-scale artists, ultimately if/when they get signed by a larger label, the ultimate value that can be derived from their work is declining.

However, now a couple new startups, crowdSPRING and 99Designs, are quickly bring this to another group of creative forces: artists and designers. These services allow a content consumer (for example, a business needing a logo), to connect with a huge number of designers. For each post, submissions can be received from several designers, for which, only the poster selected work receives compensation. Clearly, this is great for the consumers of content, but what about the producers? Judging my the backlash against these sites, designers don’t seem to like being reduced to doing “speculative work” without any guarantee for pay. Then again, maybe this is just market forces at work. Jeff Howe writes that, “The demand for low-end design has ballooned in recent years… so has the supply of what we might call “low-end designers” (amateurs, recent grads and the like).” He goes on to mention that there are some eighty thousand freelance designers in the U.S., a shockingly high number, but if there’s demand, why not create the market?

The two startups are certainly doing well–and for creating a marketplace where creative forces can meet consumers, why not? Apple did it with it’s App Store, and Microsoft with Xbox Live. Yet there’s a fundamentally different dynamic here; in that while the aforementionde two services help producers find a market of consumers, crowdSPRING exists more to level the playing field for designers. “Professional” designers now compete in the same space as freelancers, and that’s where the complaint’s come in.

In my mind, all this yelling is a sign that traditional economic models are changing; some win, some lose, but those doggedly holding onto the old will most certainly fall. If you, as a professional designer, can’t compete against new college grads, and hobbiests, too bad. There area couple instances where I feel the model fails, for example this story, where it’s said the Twitter “bird logo” designer only got paid $6 for his work, seems a little unjust. But this may be just a matter of too much supply–when you have 80,000 freelance designers, it’s not too hard to find someone that will work for just a little less.

Ultimately, it’s still a free market; if designers don’t want to work for $6 then they don’t have to. Tough luck for design firms; hopefully they’ll be able to find a way to differentiate their services. I do have one small consolation for the $6 designer; he might as just made the Twitter bird for $6, but I bet his next assignment will come a lot easier.


There’s something very magical about the largest cities of the world; whether it’s in Asia, Europe, or North America, every time I’m in one, I’m inspired by the energy of the citizens, enthusiasm of travelers, to a point where I’m completely content just to walk the streets and watch people go about their day. I’ve felt this in Seoul, Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and now finally, New York City.

Of course, out of all of these, New York is probably the only place in North America that can compare with the other “major” cities of the world in terms of sheer size and pace. The entire downtown of Seattle could probably fit in one East/West strip of midtown Manhattan, and it was incredible seeing endless rows of skyscrapers knowing that there are just as many rows behind them. From the Avenue of the Americas, to the Canyon of Heroes, to Broadway, New York doesn’t disappoint when it comes to showing you how big Manhattan life can be.

NYC also had the unique feeling of being the Mecca for all things that matter in the mainstream America. San Francisco has it’s tech niche, Seattle has music and art (and some tech), but get to New York and make it big; that is, success in America. Whether it’s in finance, performance, international politics, tech success, culinary mastery, fashion, entertainment, get recognized in New York and it’s the world giving it’s cheers. I’ve got to hand it to New York for being one of the world’s living, beating centers of human existence. I wonder if I would perceive it’s glory if I had grown up there, but for an outsider, taking my first real taste of the city, it’s truly something else, and a place that everyone must see.

That said, in the midst of all things grand, it was still the little, human things that got to me most; The hardworking street vendors closing up their shops; the crazy hobos spreading their the world-is-coming-to-an-end FUD; NYC subway crews smiling (or not) at people passing by, and so on. Instead of being a statistic in a city of nearly eight million souls (something that many from smaller towns seem to fear), each seemed to be raised up by the combined energy of the city.

The most awesome thing is, despite having spent nearly 5 days in New York, it feels like I’ve hardly even scratched the paint; there’s so much I haven’t done there that I know that I’ll have to be back. A month, or maybe even a year. I haven’t seen the nitty gritty yet that I know is out there, perhaps just off on another block, and I wonder if I’ll eventually be disillusioned by what I perceive now to be grandeur, but I’m pretty thick-skinned, and my passions die hard.

And once again, I come back to my life routine, having witnessed something awesome, and inspired by something grand–work is a little more meaningful here, and I’ve been reminded about why I love to travel.

Okay, so that’s enough of my summary, I’ll post more details next.

“(c) 2010″ is already on the web for massively scalable services? How?

As someone avidly interested in web services and their path from concept in a vision planning room, to the point where they leave their impact on the world, I find it fascinating that Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have changed their (c) 2009 to (c) 2010 on their front pages, but Yahoo, Twitter, Amazon, and even Yelp still read (c) 2009. I have my own reasons for finding that interesting, but that’s not important. What IS important is when the flip happened, and the deep understandings of each that the answer to ‘When?’ represents.

Sure, I don’t expect most people to care. This might seem like an utterly trivial, ‘who the hell cares?’ question to many, but when you think about it, at any given point, every piece of the a page’s visible design and text has to pass through one person’s yes/no decision, and one computer (likely unencrypted). Since there are so few software companies operating websites at distributed scales like this, there isn’t a lot of non-proprietary software that can manage these gargantuan services. This probably means the service management software isn’t very well updated with the latest data visualization software. Every change that might occur is either a bug, or something that was approved in a very deliberate fashion. Which is why when I see that several sites have already updated their copyright year to 2010, I realized that they must’ve had a team of people that discussed the importance of changing to 2010 immediately after the new year.

What kind of mindset is needed to get this resolved? I mean, at some point, close to the end of the year probably, some person had to stand up and say, “Hey, if we don’t do this when the year runs around, then we’re gonna look stupid.” And because of the yes/no process that ended in agreement with this guy, someone had to stay up and edit the year in, sync it across all required web-facing servers hosting the site, and then finally, produce it on demand, to the world. What I’m really curious about is speculations on the drama that could’ve surrounded this process.

I wonder… Did the engineer really stay up that late at work (on New Year’s Eve, no less) just for this? Or was there a decent chunk of dev/test resource time spent to make it happen with server-side code? Could he just pay Chinese gold farmers a couple bucks to press the button at the right time?

Let’s remove one simple but hugely complicated problem just to make the scope of the 2009->2010 challenge easier to understand than it actually is, and assume that there’s only one timezone to care about. (Actually, this might be more true than not, since most sites only have a centralized team managed page). Or maybe there was a legal team that warned the product groups that there was a potential for lawsuits if the year was misrepresented on a site with their logo. Nevermind the ridiculous legal precedent that must’ve been quoted to give the lawyers fear in the first place, or the BS they must’ve used to convince the PG it was important enough (heck, maybe the legal department was just playing a practical joke). Okay, fine, that last one is a little too unlikely.

I’m going to bet that this miraculous change was the decision of a single engineer, with a religiously singular internal desire to see this ridiculously low-pri task completed, and sitting on the cloud by 1/1 12:00. Probably a program manager, but with the collaboration of someone with world-server access. They probably worked with someone in operations that snuck it in at the last second before the RTW VS. [This could never happen at any of these, now-massive corporations... or could it? ;) ]

Of course, my now immersed-in-the-web mind wonders some more: How was this change done? I wonder if a clever engineer decided to hardcode a date change script into the next build. What did this code do?
Would it still do it’s thing when the year rolls to 2011… and not throw some unexpected exception and take down the livesite? Could it really have been a Find-Replace that just changes all instances of “2009″ to “2010″? Nah, it wouldn’t be that stupid, or we’d be seeing at least a few random instances of 2009 (that is specific to 2009) turn to 2010.
Maybe he/she made the change and had a script upload the new version at the right moment? Would they be able to secure buy-in from the deployment team for that?

[to be continued...]

Thoughts on American citizenship

I just got an email from my company’s Global Migration team about U.S. Naturalization Workshops they’re hosting. I laughed for a bit and then smiled at the fact that this is relevant in the company and then that something like this would be offered for free. It would be a 30 minute session, 1:1 with a naturalization attorney to discuss the family situation, and the process (there’s a LOT of process).

Then I realized that this actually applies to me too. For those who don’t already know, even though I’ve lived a total of 18 years (our of my 24) in the United States, I’m still technically a citizen of the Republic of Korea. Sure, I’ve been a visa holder, and now bear a Permanent Residency, but in some ways there’s always been some sort of invisible barrier, or mark that subtlely reminded me that I was still an outsider. Growing up, this wasn’t something that really seemed to matter, other than being a mental note and a BIG inconvenience when applying for colleges, jobs, etc. When I first came back to the U.S. in 2000, I as a J-2 dependent, under my dad’s J-1. J-visas, I believe, are for foreign contract workers, without the intent to immigrate; in other words, not allowed to apply for permanent residency. At some point, I shifted to R-2 under my mom, and had it until moving to PR status. Yes, what an honor; I am now a resident alien of this country, and have my fingerprints in some database in the Department of Homeland Security. Yay.

Not surprisingly, I’ve always felt that my relationship to the U.S. government and the country itself was a bit conditional; despite growing up taught that my story is one of many millions, and virtually every person with an immigrant story in their family history (yes white people, you fall into this category too–*gasp*), yet something seems to happen to those people bearing the U.S. Citizen title, and enjoy privilages not available to the millions of other non-citizens living in this land.

Let me say in advance, that I don’t quite use the terms “American” and “U.S. citizen” interchangably. I know U.S. citizens that haven’t spent more than a few weeks of their adult lives in this country, and certainly don’t relate to the culture, as well as non-citizens that are working for the political campaigns, pay dues to the NRA, and have kids in American public schools. Who’s the more “American” one of those two?

Most people don’t really think about citizenship this way–they’re either born into one country or the other, and they don’t bother doing anything else. If they choose to stay in the United States, they’re generally happy about it enough, and their citizenship status to care. Even activist Americans that seem to treat the term as if holding a little bit of shame don’t deny that they’re Americans. For most people, it’s really simple–it’s something associated with the country you happen to live in; it’s something you’re born with, and no more changable than the culture you live and breathe. Having spent 2/3rds of my life in this country (and probably 90% of my formative years), and yet still not being a citizen, I’ve always thought of the concept very archaic, and with regards to the process of changing citizenship, it’s filled with rules that I never really bought into logically. As a teacher, what do you teach a kid that’s learning about Thanksgiving in school, if there are non-citizens in the room? Do you call them out to recognize that they’re different, or that this history doesn’t apply to them, or teach that there isn’t anything different, and that many cultures come together to make this country? My second grade teacher (Mrs. Halversen, Willard Elementary; Evanston, IL–if you ever see this, you’re awesome!) chose the latter, and it seemed to make sense; for natural-born and naturalized Americans, as well as foreigners and hybrids like me.

Well that’s great when you’re growing up, or in college, grad school, med school. You’re paying money (or your parents are in the form of taxes) to get an education, and people will generally assume that you’re a contributing member of society. Growing up, many of my friends were in a simlar boat, and that made it very easy to discuss the challenges, and work through the ambiguous. Besides, our pride for Naperville North, the Fighting Illini, and Chicago was far more feverent than this abstract concept of national pride. Much of that changes if you choose to work, and take those skills/knowledge that you gained while in school to make money in the great U, S of A, like I’ve chosen to do. Sure much of the multi-culturalism is there, but now that taxes, elections, and societal impact are concerned, it seems to matter so much more what color your passport is. I believe I’m contributing to the larger world, but I’ve definitely been privilaged to have grown up, and to work and live where I do.

Do I consider myself American? Haha, that’s a tough question. Historically, I’ve said no, and understood that my status made me somewhat different. Do I consider myself Asian-American? Absolutely. The feelings, privilages, and difficulties as well as my story fits very closely. Is citizenship tied to it? It probably should, more than it does, but I feel my experience would have been the same even if I had been born as a citizen. If my parents I had moved to Chicago a year earlier, I would have been a natural-born American, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation. As for citizenthip, despite the fact that it should be the ultimate representation of your heart’s loyalty to a culture, usually, the reasons why someone is one or the other is completely arbitrary, and influenced far more by practical reasons than one’s loyalty to the words of Francis Scott Key.

And you know what… I think I’m okay with that. Kind of like software patents, it’s an archaic system that’s broken in so many ways, that it might as well be scrapped. But it provides some value, and in a noisy world where we need to label and generalize to live and make sense of things, it helps a great deal. It’s not a problem that many have to even think about, my parents certainly didn’t, and my kids probably won’t–but as a very small segment of the story, I feel a need to write about my experience. I’ll do that some day. In the mean time, I’ll check out this workshop =).

Thanks Global Migration team!

Thoughts on black-asian race relations coming from A Good Day to be Black and Sexy (2008)

A film by Dennis Dortch; A between-the-sheets peek at Black Love and Sexuality.
A film by Dennis Dortch; A between-the-sheets peek at Black Love and Sexuality.

I had a chance to watch A Good Day to be Black and Sexy (2008) earlier today; let me definitely say “Thank you Netflix!” If it wasn’t for you, I would never have the fortune to find completely random stuff like this that I would come to enjoy. I’ll admit, before I watched the film, I was expecting something along the likes of Soul Plane, a ‘unique’ (if not utterly ridiculous) film, exemplifying (and exploiting) the over-the-top hip-hop archetypes of material worship and what some would call misogyny. In stark contrast, Black and Sexy is a delicate film depicting six related vignettes to show an interesting cross section of indiviuals and relationships in different states of stress as they go about defining moments. I particularly enjoyed Tonight (Part II), and American Boyfriend, both of which I thought showed rarely depicted yet universally understood relationship interactions. The latter, which I’ll speak on here, deals with the only interracial couple throughout the film, with Jesse (Alphonso Johnson) being the illicit black boyfriend of Jasmine (Emily Liu), who is a second generation Chinese-American.

Contrary to many films dealing with an asian character in a supporting role, especially one in an “African-American romance” film, I felt that Jesse and Jasmine’s interactions, particularly the interracial quirks of a black-asian couple, surprisingly authentic. It’s beauty lies in the subtleties of the acting, and both performers play it well off each other (if not with each other). While the scene in the first half is ridden with mildly race-related undertones, it is done under the pretext of flirtatious banter and is certainly not an unnatural concept.

The interesting bit comes in the second half when her first-generation parents come home, and Jesse is hidden in Jasmine’s room. After failing to sneak Jesse out, she ends up going downstairs for dinner, leaving Jesse upstairs in her room to call a friend to discuss what he perceived as the ridiculousness of the situation. Meanwhile, Jasmine downstairs is confronted by her parents about her affair, and while she attempts to dodge most questions, finally concedes when asked “is he Chinese or American?” If it wasn’t understood already, Jasmine’s mother asks if he is a blue-eyed blond, making it clear that by “American”, Jasmine’s parents are clearly referring to “white”. Almost as if it was a cop-out, she says “American”, which is technically, if not semantically, true. While progressive minded second generation asians may cringe at the exploration of this theme, it is likely an experience that every asian raised in North America can relate to. “It” being the ever-present, either subtly or overly, racist undertones against those of African descent, ironic given the near universal recognition of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods among sports-watching native asians.

So how did this come to be? It’s hard to say, given that at the turn of the last century, there was just as much dislike of those of European ancestry. Perhaps it had to do with the various military incidents of Okinawa, the tales of the Rodney King riots in LA, the transported stereotypes from their native lands as multi-culturalism takes root, or, perhaps more interestingly, transmuted stereotypes from American culture finding interpretation among Asia. Regardless, racism of various forms directed at blacks are a reality among many first and zero generation asian immigrants. Now, I’d like to make a clear distinction between racism of first and second (and beyond) generations. The vast majority of second generation asians know full well the history of race relations in America, and are more prone to play racist among decidedly American stereotypes, though, I’d have to say, at a less overt level than that among white or black Americans (when is the last time you saw a group of asian people yelling racist slurs at a passerby? Probably a lot longer, though the reasons are debatable).

In any case, the struggle that Jesse and Jasmine are facing will be distinctly familiar to those of either decent, and I remember actually watching American Boyfriend in great suspense as I wondered how this conflict would flare up. As Jasmine is becoming more at ease with her “American boyfriend” story, Jesse becomes increasingly agitated as the minutes wear by. He finally snaps, he starts dribbling his basketball in an overt rejection of his covert status, and Jasmine becomes increasingly flustered attempting to divert the discussion somewhere else. Finally, he marches downstairs in an overt disruptive show, stomps around the dinner table and makes a point to kiss Jasmine right in front of her shocked mother, before storming out with a grin.

I really enjoyed this scene for what it depicted, a smack in the face at traditional-minded racist views of an oppressor. Yes, part of me wasn’t entirely happy with Jesse’s rejection of the subtleties of asian-black race relations, but I’ll admit, he was right to. Much to the direector’s credit, the depiction of the stress in Jasmine and her family felt authentic, and the righteous exit of Jesse was well justified. It did make me wonder though, about why race relations between blacks and asians are so tense and undefined in an allegedly “post-racial” society.

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t other sources of tension and mutual struggles for legitimacy in a society that is still very white-centric, but I need to ask: what factors contribute to the particular asian-black interaction? In particular, what is different that characterizes asian-black interaction versus asian-white or black-white race relations in America?

Who needs names when you have memes?

I had the most awesome fun discussions with some CouchSurfers last Friday. It was my first time hanging out with members of this massive community, and it was a great one. I swear, I think I’m developing a little bit of hippie-ness inside of me after living in Seattle for nearly a year. Meeting new people is so much fun, especially open-minded, accepting, less judgemental people that love expressing themselves, but also love listening just as much–sometimes I wonder why more of the world can’t be like this.

We spoke on all sorts of topic that somehow all seemed to point towards some common sense of spirit, be it a discussion on:

- American/Korean cultural imperialism across Asia
- A debate on linguistics and the relevance of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (which Zina claims has been disproven–whoooohooo!!!!)
- North Korea’s attempts to eliminate gov’t resistance by removing words that “fuel” oppositionm, and whether or not this is counter-productive since it creations social memes of generalized concepts
- The importance of language at communicating a movement of resistance to authority
- Whether or not Twitter’s “trending” topics are analogous to cultural memes outside of the web-context…
- Racism in Korea, Asia, and the *importance* of American imperialism to promote peace (i know Joyce would’ve loved this part of the discussion), and et cetera to infinity…) This could go on for so long about the awesome discussions we had, but from there, I gleaned a few important thoughts.

First, that I have this deep internal need to be social on an intellectual level. Sure, I have friends that I discuss politics, life, values, etc with, but not in a *long* time (at least since the debates on religion that I had with Nick/Jason) have I had that sense of making an epic scholarly journey through perspectives and life, but that was five years ago. I needed this discussion to spark my curiosity for now, and the future.

Second, (should I be starting a new paragraph???) I have a very strong sense of “sharing” what I believe and love with my friends, family, and the world. I knew this when I felt the joy of recommending a movie that moved me, or a story that somehow touched a part of my life, or even inviting a friend into a discussion that I passionately care about. That joy of sharing is so vital to my sense of contribution to the world, that if I didn’t have all these outlets to post Status Updates, Youtube / Article Links, Twitter updates, blog posts, I think I would be painting posters and hanging them off my apartment expressing the same. I had such happiness sharing ideas, listening to these peoples’ stories, that I knew I had to do it again. And I will.

Finally, I learned that in most places in my life, we highly-emphasize the importance of building relationships, building trust, and remembering names. We have this, “prove me your worth first, then we can be friends/collegues, etc…” attitude that is pervasely self-oriented, conceals personal agendas, and focuses on building “goodwill” i.e. the currency of soft-power. It might be necessary in social settings, but the CouchSurfing community blows that away completely. The hippiness that I loved was the implicit trust in people, that we can talk about personal details, share stories, without the concern of judgments or retributions because we all seemed to recognized that we were merely individuals, and while our common bond might be our language, there could have been any number of divergent lifestyles and viewpoints at that table. And somehow, it didn’t matter. I guess you kind of have to have this attitude, since people in this community come and go as fast as people you see on a bus. You might meet someone you could be best friends with, but their lives take them where they go, and that’s ok. Did I mention that after hours of passionate discussion that i hardly knew each others’ names, who they were, or where they came from? In the corporate world, asking someone’s name might have been an insult (“after this deep talk, you still don’t know my name?!”), but here, it wasn’t even necessary. As someone who can’t remember names for the life of me, I liked that :).

Anyway, the only point I wanted to make by this point is to be open, be sincere, accept those around you, and love thy neighbor. I remember reading once in a blog post a comment that some Brit had made, and it stuck with me as something to live by: “Live free and die free, fuck the powers that be, but respect your fellow man.”

Now there’s something I can live and die by.

Related Links:

Social Mores of the 21st Century

I’ve realized why I’ve been tweeting and Facebook PSUing so much: Because right now, I have an excess of a desire to share awesome things that I’ve read and experienced! So, instead of cluttering up my friends’ Twitter feeds, Facebook home pages, and incessantly getting CAPCHA challenges from Facebook, I’ll make a compilation post of the various things that’ve taken up my attention for the day.

First of all, I recommend everyone to immediately pick up the current edition of Wired, and read up on the “How to Behave: New Rules” section; besides being the best “How-to” from Wired in a long time, it’s a very revealing series of small articles about the social expectations of our techified / webified culture, and what to-do, what not-to-do. I love Wired. Seriously, it’s one of the most intelligent, well-written, relevant magazines in today’s age. I want it read at all my major Life Events.

And for the rest of you, un-Wired people (or those who only enjoy freebies), here it is in Online form.

They’re funny, short, and a refreshing read for everyone of this age. Here are links to my favorite ones:

Don’t Work All the Time — You’ll Live to Regret It

Never Broadcast your Relationship Status

Don’t Google-Stalk Before a First Date

Ignore the Ex on Facebook

Ditch the Headset

There’s No Such Thing as Too Many Friends

Texting in the Company of Others is OK

Don’t Blog or Tweet Anything With More Than Half a Million Hits

What I appreciated most are about the articles, besides being well written are that each is solidly grounded in some body of academic research, and provides links to relevant content. I thought only Wikipedia gave you that kind of linking joy!

Damn, reading all this is making me wonder about where to take my career from here. Everyone plays around online, enjoys good technology, and by working with web services as part of my daily life and job, I find it awesome that I’m in a position to be making a difference in how web services are used by people around the world. What to do with that position… is another story.

Anyway, that’s all for now; I have a lot I want to share about my experiences in Korea… till next time!

Entry 2 – 7/7/2009 – Korea, Korean, and Koreans

The more time I spend here, the more I realize that there is so much that I don’t know about the place, the language, and the people that I had called my home for 7 years. Having spend half of my elementary years and nearly all of my middle school years here, I often feel that I can speak authoritatively about the experience, yet there’s still so much that i didn’t experience while here, and didn’t experience; I don’t think I was ready to, nor willing to do so for fear of losing my American-ness. Things are a little different now; I’m very much established in my Asian-American culture, yet woefully out of touch with the things that make the Korean-American experience unique.

Life here in Seoul is facinating, and I realize that even though I might not understand it all, it’s very much a part of who I am. Despite the sense of “being in a different place” that I feel here, it doesn’t feel at all alienating, or foreign, and the more I spend here, the more I remember that there’s a lot to learn and like. Having travelled a bit over the years, I can finally note a lot of similarities and differences to the cities in Asia, Europe and the U.S. Seoul is definitely a lot more like Beijing than Shanghai, similar to Paris in the sociatal and political spectrum, and vastly different from any American city I’ve been to. You don’t see little kids playing at city parks without adult supervision well past midnight in Seattle; or junior-high girls walking in pairs late into the night across a major city center. It’s such a different kind of city than anything in the U.S. that you just have to see and live it. The size/scale/and proximity of everything forces people to live where they walk and work, and the city, isn’t just a place to go, but it’s very much a part of who they are. I like it here :)

Here, I don’t mind the cigarette smoke, the drunk old men on the street, or even the poor beggars petitioning for money as they go by. The old Confuscian heirarchy of society which I had been so strongly against when I was young now suddenly makes sense–and the sense of respect for your elders and your fellow man is so so beautiful to me now. The respect for people working for the public service, janitors and street cleaners even is so strong, that it feels like a society that just works. Despite the income disparities, and corrupt politicians, the overt view is one of a capitalist society balanced with a societal need to support each other. It’s very beautiful in what it can be, and something that I wish I could take back with me to the U.S.

That’s not to say that Seoul is not without it’s flaws; the lack of individualist expression and the fad/mob-mentaltiy to everything puts me off a bit, though I think this is more out of fear of expression than something that’s engrained in people. It’s like the whole popular society revolves around what the “sociatal leaders” say, and these “leaders” tend to be whoever gains the mob first. Trends rise and fall quickly, and despite the stability of the cultural heirarchies, the more transient lifestyles of people tend to change on a whim. The Americas and Europe seem to handle this a little bit more maturely.

Anyway, overall, I would love to spend a year or two out here, understand and contribute my peace to the world here. There’s a lot that I want to learn, and whether I like it or not, it’s a reminder that there’s much more to *being* than me, my hobbies, and my job: there’s also perspective of where you are, how you fit into the people and environment around you, and the world at large–something Aristotle knew very well, and something that’s been missing from my life for quite some time.

My grandmother’s passing and service was a very powerful reminder of the importance of family, parents, and heritage. I had never been to one before, and knew nothing of what it was like outside of movies and books. It was something that I feel unworthy to describe with words, and I won’t even try.