A Rant against East Coast Bias

I keep up with American sports primarily through the Internet, especially via ESPN.com.  After reading the prognosticators’ views of Sunday’s NFC Championship match-up between the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks, I’ve developed faulty thinking that the Panthers are headed to the Superbowl.  I’ve read this ad nauseum online.  The Panthers are the pre-season NFC favorites.  Wide Receiver Steve Smith is unstoppable.  Panthers Quarterback Jake Delhomme is a gambler in the playoffs with the highest quarterback rating of any quarterback in the playoffs.  The Panthers won two games on the road against the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears.  The Panthers outclass the Seahawks in more head-to-head matchups, including offense, defense, and special teams.  Shaun Alexander, who?  Matt Hasselbeck, who?  If you read the armchair quarterbacks’ predictions, the Panthers might as well skip the game in Seattle and start practicing for the Superbowl in Detroit.  The same goes for the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers.  According to the spin doctors, the Steelers are going to roll in Denver this weekend.
I have a different theory.  I believe the sports media is deliberately rooting for East Coast teams to go to the Superbowl.  ESPN.com, CNNSI, and their ilk don’t know what to do with themselves if teams other than East Coast or California teams make the playoffs.  A Denver-Seattle Superbowl is their worst nightmare.  I mean, Denver?  Seattle?  Who outside those cities even cares about those teams?  The fact is, the East Coast and California are where the largest audiences are.  If New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or San Francisco are eliminated, then Carolina (Charlotte) and Pittsburgh will have to do.  The media hyped the Chicago Bears before Carolina beat them and the Indianapolis Colts before Pittsburgh eliminated them.  Then they hyped the Washington Redskins over Seattle.  Now they’ve switched to rooting for the teams closest to their target audiences.  Well, guess what?  Seattle and Denver are both very good teams.  Perhaps they will lose on Sunday.  As a true blue and green Seahawk fan, I have to say that I never have confidence the ‘Hawks will pull out a win.  But ESPN and other oversubscribed sports media should not be jumping on a bandwagon like fair weather fans.  Their "experts" get paid the big bucks to be knowledgeable and report fairly.  Anything less is tabloid journalism.
If you think I’m dreaming, let me give you a nice little sampling:
"I would rather eat fish eyes than see Seattle’s Seahawks in my beloved Super Bowl. The Sea-frauds have had the luckiest road to the Super Bowl this side of a fast food contest winner. I’m convinced they’re the destiny-driven product of the NFL’s easiest schedule and weakest division, the NFC West."
"Surging Smith Gives Carolina the Edge."
"Carolina WR Steve Smith should line up on the right side often this week, meaning Seattle CB Andre Dyson will have to play the game of his life for the Seahawks to advance, Jeremy Green writes."
Five out of six Sports Illustrated experts pick the Carolina Panthers to beat the Seahawks in Seattle, which has a perfect record this year at Qwest Field, including wins over the Colts and the Redskins.  The same experts pick the Pittsburgh Steelers to steal victory from the Denver Broncos.  Incidentally, both Denver and Seattle have identical 14-3 records.  The Panthers and the Steelers are 12-5.  Odds and higher win totals apparently no longer mean much to sports media.
I can deal with hearing about the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in gory detail, because I expect nothing less of outlets based in Connecticut (ESPN) and New York (Sports Illustrated).  But there’s no reason for the sports media’s sudden conversion to Panthers and Steelers fandom.  I’d rather side with the Las Vegas odds-makers, a Western locale that picked Seattle as a 3.5 point favorite.  The odds are that if Seattle wins on Sunday, the sports media will pick the AFC champion, first Pittsburgh, then Denver, to win the Superbowl.  The further east, the more likely to be favored.  It’s completely bunk.  Which is completely fine if all this trash talk helps the Seahawks play better this weekend.

Navigating the undercareerents

Dear Reader, I’ll let you in on some of the impending career decisions I have to make in the next month that will significantly impact my career–and our future overseas.  I call these "undercareerents," or those ongoing career activities one has to do to keep their career afloat and livelihood intact.  I’ve alluded to these undercareerents in some of my past blog entries.  One is bidding on my next assignment.  Another is my quest to improve my German language skills.  The third is my career evaluation, which I must write and update each year.  All three of these ongoing undercareerents come due next month.  Between now and then, I will be very busy finishing all of them before I drown in the undertow.
Last fall I talked about bidding early for my next assignment.  If you recall, I submitted bids on ten jobs in China and was turned down for every single one of them.  Now my own bid cycle has come, and I must choose 20 jobs worldwide on which to bid.  I will be assigned to one of these jobs in 2007, after we leave Korea.  Everyone who will bid on assignments next month received the master bid list yesterday.  Over 350 jobs are listed for approximately the same number of bidders.  I reviewed the list and eliminated over half of the assignments on the list, including ones that start too soon or too late or require proficiency in a foreign language I do not speak.  I whittled the list down to 38 assignments in 24 countries that fit my schedule, my language ability, and my job preferences.  The list is only preliminary, and my wife and I have to research each assignment further to see if they meet our needs.  What surprised me most is how few attractive jobs are available in China.  I fully intended to bid on many China jobs, but after reviewing the bid list I found just two that really appeal to me, one in Hong Kong and the other in Shenyang.  I did not find a single job in Shanghai or Beijing that interested me, primarily because the work is far too similar to what I do now.  I really enjoy what I do for a living, but one of the joys of my line of work is the variety of opportunities available.  In my next assignment, I want to do something far different from what I do now.
Following is my preliminary list of assignment preferences.  This list is bound to change, but for now, this is my own wish list ranked by preference from 1 to 38:

Wellington New Zealand
Athens Greece
Hong Kong PRC
Berlin Germany
Damascus Syria
London UK
London UK
Montevideo Uruguay
Bogota Colombia
La Paz Bolivia
La Paz Bolivia
Belize City Belize
Asuncion Paraguay
Shenyang PRC
Buenos Aires Argentina
San Salvador El Salvador
Montevideo Uruguay
Bogota Colombia
Kuwait Kuwait
Panama Panama
Windhoek Namibia
Quito Ecuador
Sydney Australia
Shanghai PRC
Shanghai PRC
Hong Kong PRC
London UK
Managua Nicaragua
Tegucigalpa Honduras
Hamilton Bermuda
Santo Domingo DR
Santo Domingo DR
Havana Cuba
Mexico D.F. Mexico
Mexico D.F. Mexico
Beijing PRC
Guangzhou PRC
Guangzhou PRC


Cities listed in multiple indicate more than one job assignment.  Some of these, notably Wellington, New Zealand and Athens, Greece are assignments I have virtually no chance of filling because they are highly sought after and will receive dozens of bids.  Still, I won’t know unless I try.  I hedged my bets by adding less desirable assignments in places such as Bolivia and Paraguay with excellent job prospects.  The Berlin assignment is contingent on whether I can improve my German score.  If I fail my exam next month, I will have to drop it from my bid list.  Until yesterday, I would never have considered working in El Salvador or Namibia.  I was certain we would head to China in 2007.  Now, we could head anywhere in the world.  One aspect of bidding that works in my favor is that many of my peers are obligated to bid on assignments in hard-to-fill places where they speak the language, improving the odds the rest of us will get a position we want to fill.
At the same time, I must complete my six-page career evaluation detailing why I am a good employee.  Six pages doesn’t seem like much, but it can be very difficult to complete.  You have to condense your entire career into six pages and work with your supervisor and a senior reviewer to draft the best evaluation possible.  It is not enough to claim that you walk on water–you also have to feed 5,000 people AND walk on water.  The key to writing a good evaluation is to show that you are very successful in a succinct manner.  Tonight I probably should have been working on my evaluation, but I was so excited to consider the possibilities of my next assignment that instead I dissected the bid list.  I will dive into the evaluation tomorrow night.  Enjoy your Friday night!  I will spend mine writing my evaluation and taking a break to write another blog entry.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!  I was happy to have the day off yesterday.  My family played so hard during the three-day weekend that I felt a bit weary at work today.  My wife felt the same way.  Of course, my son is always a bundle of energy.  Work was extremely productive despite my weariness.  I finished the monthly performance metrics and finished the first draft of a report on development assistance.  I’ll proofread it once more tomorrow and then hand it in to my supervisor to review.  I also met with the cafeteria operator to discuss adjustments to the cafeteria.  The cafeteria has received mixed reviews.  Most complaints have focused on the prices and food selection.  The vendor agreed to adopt some changes I hope will improve its image.
Last year, I wrote about Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and reminisced about my time walking on the National Mall and at the Lincoln Memorial.  In November, I dwelled on the passing of Rosa Parks and the start of the Civils Rights Movement.  Tonight, I want to focus on another aspect of Dr. King’s legacy, one that some may consider controversial.  I want to focus on Dr. King’s historical legacy.  Dr. King has become larger than life both as a martyr and as one of the country’s most revered public figures.  Only one other person, Christopher Columbus, has a U.S. federal holiday dedicated in their honor.  President George Washington and President Abraham Lincoln were each honored with their own holidays until Congress consolidated their birthdays into a single federal holiday, President’s Day, in 1971.  Officially known as “Washington’s Birthday,” it is actually the celebration of both presidents’ February birthdays.
As time passes, holidays that honor individuals seem to diminish in importance.  This is partly because their legacy fades, and reality mingles with myth.  The legacy of Christopher Columbus has been increasingly scrutinized as the remembrance of his legacy has shifted from his “discovery” of the Americas to the negative impact of his arrival in the New World, particularly the devastation of indigenous Native Americans by disease, conquest, and colonization.  His legacy has also come under fire from those who claim he did not discover the Americas after all.  The Vikings very likely “discovered” America when they arrived in Newfoundland from Iceland in the 9th Century.  Some allege that Chinese Admiral Zheng He “discovered” America in 1421.  Others have noted comparisons between the pyramids in Egypt and the Aztecs temples and claimed the knowledge arrived in the Americas from the Middle East.  The legacies of Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and others have also been tempered by the reality that they were in fact humans, men with flaws as well as virtue.  The George Washington who chopped down the mythical cherry tree and could not lie to his father also fought Native Americans and their French allies in 1854.  When he was defeated, the French showed him mercy and released him.  He regrouped and fought again until the British were victorious.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may very well suffer the same fate.  After all, between 1963 and 1966, President Lyndon Johnson was the public figure most admired by Americans, and in 1967, Dwight Eisenhower won the honor.  While President Johnson was instrumental in signing key civil rights legislation into law, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, his legacy is now overshadowed by his involvement in the Vietnam War.  Nowadays, President Eisenhower rarely tops anyone’s list of best presidents for reasons most people cannot explain (thank Eisenhower the next time you drive on the interstate–the U.S. Interstate highway system was largely built during his administration). 
Dr. King’s legacy may also fade with time and will likely grow tempered with a measure of reality.  Those who were with him and were most vocally supportive of him have aged.  His widow, Coretta Scott King, was too ill this year to publicly honor her late husband.  His family has been fighting over the future of the King Center.  Allegations of Dr. King’s controversial behavior have surfaced in many biographies, including some by former associates.  For now, Dr. King represents the embodiment of civil rights in the U.S., but I cannot help but wonder what will happen to his legacy as time passes and memories of the Civil Rights Movement fade into the history books.  Perspectives on civil rights and support for Dr. King’s ideals have already started to splinter.  People’s definition of “I Have a Dream” and its meaning have diverged over the years.  While it may not be politically correct now to tamper with Dr. King’s legacy, with time, his legacy will change.  The question remains as to whether Martin Luther King Jr. Day will still have meaning to future generations of Americans or whether it will become a minor holiday marking a specific time in U.S. history.
Blog Notes:  I didn’t have time to finish yesterday’s entry on Seoul Grand Park.  I added some more monologue for your reading pleasure.

For my 2012 post commemorating Martin Luther King Day, click here.

Seoul Grand Park

On Sunday my family and I visited Seoul Grand Park, a large family fun center in suburban Seoul.  It is one of three major attractions in the Yangjae area.  The Racetrack, which was crowded with would-be horse racing fans, lies nearby.  The Museum of Contemporary Art is adjacent to the park.  Inside the park lie two major attractions, Seoul Land, an amusement park, and the Seoul Grand Park Zoo, the largest zoo in Korea.  My wife and I considered visiting the park many a time, but we never had the opportunity until yesterday.  Other activities took precedence.  We thought the park was far from home, but it turned out to be an easy 15-minute drive from our home (in good traffic).  We may visit more often now that we know how proximate the park is and how little admission tickets cost.  5,500 Korean won admits you to the zoo and lets you ride on the tram and shuttle train that traverse the park. 
Seoul Grand Park is a very long park with a vertical component.  I estimated that the entire area is about three-to-four square miles, and from the entrance to the back of the park, there is a vertical rise of about 750 feet.  While not a difficult hike, it is definitely not an easy walk for a family with small children.  The park surrounds a small, scenic lake.  The roadway from the park entrance complex winds around both sides of the lake and subdivide into the amusement park to the north and the zoo to the northwest.
We took the shuttle train up to the zoo and disembarked.  We were immediately met at the zoo entrance by a scuplture garden filled with statues of animals made with recycled materials.  I really enjoyed the zebra sculpture made from recycled computer keyboards.  We wandered further and showed our son some of the animals he loves to play with as toys.  The cast of the movie "Madagascar," including Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo, and Melman the Giraffe, were all in the house.  My son had a great time viewing the animals.  The zoo itself is seems to be about as big as the San Diego Zoo, bar none the best zoo in the world, but the Seoul Grand Park Zoo is but a shadow of its San Diego counterpart.  I’m not sure the animals receive proper care.  I especially took pity on the hippopotamus.  It lay inside a dirty building in a dirty pen with all sorts of fruit scraps scattered around the pen.  The water was very dirty.  Perhaps some zoos appear cleaner than they really are, but I’m positive that the hippos at the San Diego Zoo receive better treatment than they do at Seoul Grand Park.  I also didn’t like the fact that some visitors threw food to the animals.  Some of the bears and monkeys begged for food.  It’s very unhealty when visitors start loading the animals up on the junk food they buy from vendors.
For the Shutterbugs:  I posted some new photos of Seoul Grand Park for your viewing pleasure.  Note the map of the park in the first photo.  It gives you a geographic sense of the size and layout of the park.  I also tried to sneak some action shots of vendors selling their wares at the park entrance.  Vendors such as these are very industrious throughout Korea.
One thing you may discover if you scroll through the photo albums is the change of seasons in Korea.  Korea is very beautiful spring through fall, luscious green from the monsoon rains, but during the winter when the trees are bare, the landscape can appear dingy brown when no there’s no snow.  Seoul Grand Park isn’t as beautiful this time of year as I’m sure it is during the summer and fall.

The holidays are officially over

Tonight I regretfully took down our Christmas decorations.  The Christmas star and ornaments went into a box.  The lights, garland, and beads were put away.  The fake tree went back into its box.  Everything went into storage.  The holiday season is officially over at our home.  We try to leave the Christmas decorations up as long as possible without drawing unwanted attention by antics such as leaving the tree up until March or leaving up the outdoor Christmas lights all year long.  The decorum adds a nice, festive atmosphere to our home.  After we disassembled the Christmas ensemble tonight, our living room looked too bare, and my wife and I talked about what we could to fill the gaping hole where the Christmas tree once stood.  Taking down the Christmas decorations and putting them away is always a chore, like cleaning up at the end of a party.  Eleven months from now, they’ll be back out of the box and back in our living room.  That may seem like a long time, but time seems to pass by more quickly with each passing day.  In fact, there are only 345 days until next Christmas!
Last night we hosted a group of University of Washington MBAs in our home.  Three of my classmates came over for dinner, along with seven others who also graduated from the UW MBA Program.  I met some of them for the first time.  All are very nice chaps.  We had a great time reminiscing about the program and catching up on how the UW Business School has changed since we graduated.  We also decided to form an official alumni association chapter in Korea.  The university, particularly the business school, has a very strong connection with Korea.  Each year, the business school’s executive program hosts dozens of executives from Korean companies such as SK Corporation and LG that send some of their best mid-level managers to the UW Business School for additional training.  The UW’s Executive Education Program is one of the best executive business programs in the United States.  Korea has a large number of UW alumni, and once a year many of them get together for an event.  The local chapter is not well organized, and last night we decided to form an alumni group to raise the profile of the university and energize local alumni.  We’re hoping to have a weekend retreat and host a few events each year, including a large barbeque at our home next Spring.  I’m looking forward to getting involved as much as I can as an expatriate who speaks discombobulated Korean.
Blog Notes:  A big congratulations to the 14-3 Seattle Seahawks, who defeated the Washington Redskins 20-10 on Saturday to advance to the NFC Championship game.  They will face the Carolina Panthers, who beat the Chicago Bears 29-21.  Tough luck to Indianapolis Colts and the two-time defending Superbowl Champion New England Patriots, which both lost this weekend.  If the Seahawks beat the Panthers and advance to the Superbowl, they will face either the Denver Broncos or the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Any dedicated Seahawk fan will be rooting for the Steelers to win, because as former AFC West division rivals, the Broncos routinely beat the Seahawks.  Those days are gone, fortunately!  I’m cautiously optimistic that the Broncos and the Seahawks meet in the Superbowl.  If they do, I think it would be the first time two former division rivals have met in the Superbowl.

N Seoul Tower

Today my family and I drove up Namsan to visit a newly renovated Seoul Tower.  It’s my third trip to Seoul’s major landmark and my first since it reopened to the public.  The first two times, I climbed up from to the tower only to find it still under construction.  Not this time.  Today I knew it was open because the local media played up its grand reopening late last year with considerable fanfare.  The tower has officially been renamed the "N Seoul Tower," with the "N" standing for Namsan (in English, South Mountain).  I think it’s a bit silly, but apparently the refurbished tower had to have a new name.  If the name really needed to be changed, then I think the name "Namsan Tower" would have been a much better choice.
We drove up Namsan and parked not far from the tower.  We then walked the short, inclined distance to the tower’s base.  Along the way, we bought cotton candy for my son.  He ate it with a vengeance.  I also surveyed the lone remaining section of the old city wall.  Originally built in 1395, the section was mercifully spared by the Japanese, who dismantled Seoul’s walls during the Japanese Colonial Period (1910-45).  The wall runs along a public pathway that winds its way up to N Seoul Tower from the east.  The area on top of Namsan is fairly large and paved with flat cobblestones.  The area near the tower is covered with wood decking built during the tower’s renovation.  I thought it was very tastefully done.  The base of the tower has a fast casual restaurant and a spartan gift shop with very few trinkets.  Surrounding the tower are a few shops, including an ice cream and coffee shop, kitschy photo studio, convenience store, and a ticket shop.  I paid much too much for a tiny cup of espresso while waiting for my wife and son. 
Reading the N Seoul Tower coffee shop’s menu board reminded me just how much one company can influence the Korean language.  Although Starbucks Coffee borrowed many words from the Italian language, gourmet coffee terms in Korean such as "tall caffe mocha" very much follow Starbucks’ convention.  Virtually every gourmet coffee shop in Korea uses the same coffee terms as Starbucks does.  Even the Korean terms follow the Italian pronunciation very closely, right down to doubling up consonents such as "machiaTTo."  The attached photo shows some coffee selections and their Korean equivalents.  The Korean translation written in hangeul is virtually the same as it is in Starbucks’ Italian-English.  Koreans are crazy about gourmet coffee, and there are many competing chains.  None have had quite the same impact Starbucks has had.  It’s amazing that Starbucks has had such an impact in Korea that it introduced a new set of vocabulary into Korean.
We decided to forego visiting the tower observatory today because visibility was too poor.  When we were home the day did not seem so hazy, but the sunny blue skies were a bit deceptive.  The residual smog that blankets Seoul was very apparent when looking down from atop Namsan.  We decided to save time and money and view the city from the base of the tower instead.  The view from all four sides is rather nice.  The view of Seoul to the north looking towards downtown and Bukhansan National Park offers the best view.  The southern view along the Han River and Yeoido Island is also nice.  Today however, visibility was too poor to view Seoul in great detail in any direction.
Blog Note:  I couldn’t resist posting a photo of my son taken a couple weeks ago.  Proof positive that my son can walk on water.  And, he’s wearing mismatched blue and green socks, his favorite combination.
For the Shutterbugs:  I posted four new photos taken at the Seoul Millennium Hilton as well as photos of our visit to N Seoul Tower taken earlier today.  Enjoy!

Dear Reader, let’s get together

Dear Reader, with all the fun comments you posted on Seattle rain and the Top Spin over the past few days (mars_wolf, I read yours too), I started thinking.  What if we had a "World Adventurers" get together?  Where would it be?  What would we do?  Who would be the opening act?  What would be served for dinner?  Would we even have dinner?  I’ve met many of you, and some of you I have learned a lot about since you started reading my myriad musings about life in and outside Korea.  I love your comments.  Please post some comments and tell me your thoughts on a "World Adventurers" get together.  What would you do with this motley crew, Dear Reader?
Let me give you an example.  Let’s say I’m my cousin, Wade3016, who will probably read this entry tomorrow and post a whimsical response.  He will probably write, "Oh, don’t flatter yourself.  Come back to Seattle for a visit.  Let’s go watch the stars.  I’d rather be a stargazer than a World Adventurer."  Or something to that effect.  Or perhaps my buddy Exiled_Attorney1 will write, "Let’s all go out for karaoke and drinks.  We can watch you sing like Cartman."  Or something to that effect.  Maybe they’ll post different comments, but I’m doing my best to get a response from them.
Blog Notes:  "Do the Top Spin" was a song I made up in my head.  It doesn’t have any particular melody and isn’t a remake of a popular song.  It was just one of those days when I feel like I’m figuratively spinning around like a top at work.  Tonight is a quiet Friday night.  I just put my son to bed while his mom is working late.  I’ll try to think of something more eclectic to write about tomorrow.