The agony and antipathy

I submitted our final assignment bid list today.  If you recall, Dear Reader, on January 19 and February 11 I discussed bidding on our next assignment.  Our bid list is (in order of preference):
  1. La Paz, Bolivia
  2. Damascus, Syria
  3. San Salvador, El Salvador
  4. Asuncion, Paraguay
  5. Shenyang, China
  6. Athens, Greece
  7. Montevideo, Uruguay
  8. Quito, Ecuador
  9. Caracas, Venezuela
  10. Kuwait City, Kuwait
  11. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  12. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
  13. Panama City, Panama
  14. Managua, Nicaragua
  15. Windhoek, Namibia
  16. San Jose, Costa Rica
  17. Belize City, Belize
  18. Sydney, Australia
  19. Hamilton, Bermuda
  20. Bogota, Colombia

This list is quite different from our initial draft bid list, because some of the most attractive assignments in places such as Beijing, Hong Kong, and London were already assigned to other individuals.  Frankly speaking, we were only left with about 35 possible assignments to bid on based on the jobs available and our own preferences.  I monitored the assignments list today and noted which places are most popular with bidders.  Among the 20 bids I submitted today, 17 are competitive, and 14 are highly competitive.  As expected, Sydney, Damascus, Athens, and Montevideo are wildly popular.  (Note to Tortmaster:  Dude, I am not going to Windhoek.  I would be very lucky to be assigned there.)  While I left them on my list, I deliberately ranked them lower, acknowledging the fact that I have virtually no chance of being assigned to these places.  These assignments will be long gone before my bids are considered.


Only three of the 20 assignments are realistic options for me:  Shenyang, Kuwait, and Managua.  La Paz, San Salvador, and Asuncion are also possible but not likely, because they are much more attractive to bidders.  I don’t mean to spoil the fun, but barring any unforeseen anomalies, we are likely headed to Shenyang, China in 2007.  While not our first choice, we will make the most of the opportunity we are given.  Shenyang is a place with a negative reputation and a reality that is apparently far better than perception.  But we will need to buy some thick parkas for wintertime.  We will know our final assignment in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, the agony of trying to put together our bid list is over, and the antipathy of second-guessing the outcome lies ahead.

A moment for time

I’ve been very busy lately.  As I drove home tonight, I thought to myself, I wish there were more hours in a day.  Well, why can’t there be more hours in a day?  If there were more hours in a day, wouldn’t time seem to slow down?  Dear Reader, you may think this random musing is an exercise in futility, but consider this.  Time is an artificial construct defined by by society.  For example, this is the month of February.  It has 28 days–fewer than any other month of the Julian calendar.  During Leap Year, February has 29 days.  Still, February is always two or three days shorter than the month of January.  So much of what we do is bound by time constraints that one could surmise that time passes by more quickly in February than it does in January.  Two months that are virtually identical in a calendar year differ in their length of time.  Deadlines in February–from mortgage payments to work assignments–must be met at least a couple days sooner this month than they did in January.  Certainly, work volumes vary from month to month, but given the same amount of work, February feels more hectic than a month like January because it is shorter.
I believe the same is true when subdividing time by hours, minutes, and seconds.  If you varied the rate at which they pass, time would seem to pass by faster or slower.  If your life is constraint by time, this can have profound impact on your life.  I recall reading about efforts during the Industrial Age to adopt digital, or metric time.  In the Nineteenth Century, the French introduced a decimal time system that replaced 86,400 standard seconds in a day with 100,000 seconds.  Here are the conversions from standard time to decimal time:
  • One decimal second is 86400/100000 = 0.864 standard seconds.
  • One decimal minute is 1440/1000 = 1.44 standard minutes, i.e. 1 minute 26.4 seconds.
  • One decimal hour is 24/10 = 2.4 standard hours.
  • A decimal day has 10 hours, and a decimal hour has 100 minutes.  Each decimal minute has 100 seconds.  If we all used decimal time, our day would only be 10 hours long.  Think of the implications!  You might sleep three hours on average (2.4 x 3 = 7.2 standard hours on average) and work for four hours (2.4 x 4 = 9.6 standard hours).  A standard four-hour work day (including lunchtime, of course) would translate into a 9.6 hour workday.  A five-day work week would be 48 hours (9.6 hours/day x 5 days) per week.  You would probably work more and sleep less.

    So what? you might ask.  It means that if we could redefine time to include more hours in a day–say 25, or better yet, 30–a day would not pass by so fast because there would be more time in a day.  Right now, I would love to have 25 hours a day.

    The notorious K.I.D.

    A subtle social barrier exists in Korea than few recognize–the Korean identification number, or KID number.  Each Korean citizen has a unique seven-digit Korean national ID number akin to a Social Security number (SSN).  KID numbers are assigned to individuals based on age, gender, and place of birth.  Usage of the Korean ID is far more prevalent here than the Social Security number is in the United States.  While usage of the SSN has been on the decline in the U.S. because the private sector is moving away from using SSNs, the Korean ID number remains omnipresent in Korea.  It is difficult to integrate into Korean society without a KID.  When you open a Korean bank account, you need to furnish a KID.  When you subscribe to a Korean cell phone plan, you need to give the provider your Korean ID number.  If you want to join Cyworld, the hottest Web site in Korea, you need to give them your KID number.  (If you want to read more about Cyworld, read BusinessWeek’s article about the wildly popular Korean social networking website.  Cyworld is absolutely fascinating.  Unfortunately, you need to read Korean to be a member.)  
    Last weekend my wife and son tried to visit the Children’s Museum at the National Museum of Korea.  My wife was told that she needed to buy tickets online.  When she tried to buy them, the web site asked for her KID.  This happens virtually anytime you visit a Korean website that requires membership.  If you’re an expatriate in Korea who does not have a KID, you are not only hamstrung if you don’t know the Korean language, but you’re also hindered by not having a KID.  It’s very frustrating.  The KID is a useful way to distinguish people with the same name, which is a frequent occurance in Korea.  The surnames Kim, Park, and Lee and related combinations comprise the vast majority of Korean surnames.  The KID is an easy way to distinguish Kim Seunghee 1234567 from Kim Seunghee 7654321.  Unfortunately, the KID can lead to discrimination, as those who do not qualify for KIDs–namely foreigners, must cope with living in Korea without a national ID number.  Of course, if you’re a privacy advocacy, perhaps not having a KID is a good thing.