28 Aug

pack rat

Who taught : Sujata

pack rat

pack rat

While working at a government agency in Korea, I used to write a lot of reports. I mean really really a lot. Almost every process requires one or more reports in Korea. One big difference here in the U.S. is that there are so many things that can be done simply by sending emails. So much easier but that does not mean that you do not need to worry about how and what to write.

I am still working on it but it has gotten better. My colleague professor, Sujata, and I communicate a lot through emails. Yesterday, she sent me an email and she said, “I am quite a pack-rat.” Even with the context, I was not able to understand what “pack-rat” means. So, I had to look it up.

Here is the first definition that I found.

Any of various small North American rodents of the genus Neotoma that collect in or around their nests a great variety of small objects. Also called trade rat, wood rat.

With this definition, can you guess what Sujata actually meant? I believe you could. When this expression is used to describe a person, that means that person collects a lot of small and miscellaneous things, like keeping emails all the time.

Well, I am a pack rat too because I rarely delete my emails that I received or sent. How about you?

There is a similar one, hoarder. So…. I am not sure which one is worse, hoarder or pack rat. I think hoarder is worse. Can you enlighten me, my American friends?

P.S.: Today’s post is my 300th post. Some of my friends have suggested me to publish a book out of the posts that I have written so far. I thought I do not have enough posts but 300? That’s quite a lot. What do you think? Do you think I should go for it?

06 Dec

fan death

Who taught: Jake, Carol, Stan and Andrew

Fan Death (source: http://askakorean.blogspot.com)

Growing up in Korea, I have always been told from my parents, “Do not leave an electric fan run overnight. You could die.” Also, I swear I heard a few news reports, talking about possible deaths caused by an electric fan. Due to this, I have never doubted this so that every time I use an electric fan, I become very careful and always use a timer switch.

When I had dinner with my friends a few days ago, Jake asked me a question, “Hey Terry! So, do people die because of fans in Korea?” “Yes! In fact, my mother always told me to be careful with a fan every summer,” said I. Then, other friends started to ask me questions like, “Are you sure people would die because of fan?” I answered, “Yeah, that is what I heard and I am sure it is true.” They asked me again, “Why?” “I think I heard it is something to do with the lack of oxygen that can happen if a fan continuously running in a closed room,” said I.

While we are discussing this, Stan looked it up on Wikipedia using his iPhone and started to read what he found which I have never tried to look up. He said, “Fan death is an urban legend prevailing in South Korea in which an electric fan left running overnight in a closed room can cause the death of those inside.”

Here comes the funny thing which my friends really enjoyed!

As soon as I heard it, I said, “See! It is true. That is exactly what I heard.” Well, as I said it, my friends started to laugh. Do you know why?

Well, apparently, I did not know what ‘Urban Legend’ means. Thus, I thought Wikipedia describes a true story of the fan death. It did not take a long time for Andrew to ask me, “Terry! Do you know what urban legend is?”

Here is the definition for you!

A modern myth. A frightening untrue story in which the storyteller insists it is true, but has no evidence to back up.

Before I argue about whether the fan death is really a urban legend or not, I have my own theory about why the fan death became a big issue in Korea. I think Korean government tried to encourage media to talk about this to make people not turn on their fans overnight so that they can reduce overall electric power usage during summer. Back in 1980’s, Korea was still kind of poor in comparison to these days.

I have done a few researches about this fan death and found this blog post which includes a scientific theory to support the fan death.

Here is the science of how a fan could kill. Remember the conditions under which Fan Deaths happen – summer (=heat), enclosed room, fan directly on the body. An electric fan cools your body in two ways: by pushing cooler air onto your body, and by allowing your sweat to dry rapidly and take away heat in that process. But clearly, the fan does not generate the cool air on its own, unlike an air conditioner. And eventually — especially if you are a passed-out drunk who is already somewhat dehydrated from the alcohol — your body will run out of water to turn into sweat. So what happens when it is very hot, but the entire room is enclosed such that no cool air comes in from outside, and you have no more sweat to cool your body with? Basically, the entire room turns into a gigantic turbo oven. Turbo oven is a conventional oven that has a fan inside that continues to blow air onto the food. This oven is known to cook at lower temperature than a regular oven, yet cook more quickly. Similarly, in a heated room without an outside source of airflow, very hot air is constantly pushed directly to your body, which is a far more effective way of raising your body temperature rather than “baking” in hot air. If you get enough of this, you would die – of hyperthermia, or abnormally high body temperature. (Source: http://askakorean.blogspot.com/)

Would you still think the fan death is an urban legend? I think it is not.

01 Aug

watching the grass grow

Who taught: Jake and Carol

Seoul (Source: Wikipedia)

There is a street near my company where most of employees of my company park their cars. In my case, I walk from my house to the company and, sometimes, I meet my friends as I walk through the street. Last week, I met Jake and Carol on the street. We walked together to the office and we talked about Carol’s house improvement projects. She bought a house and Jake and Carol are working on a lot of different parts of the house. This is one thing I found very interesting living in America. In Korea, people do not want to buy a house which requires a lot of works. Instead, they buy a house which is perfectly fine as it is. In America, many people buy a house which might require some works and they actually work on those things by themselves. It is called DIY (Do It Yourself!). You can buy a lot of things such as paint, hardwood floors and even doors from places like Home Depot or Lowe’s. Literally, they have almost everything you need for your house.

Anyway, one of the projects they are working on is seeding lawns in their backyard. I saw some of the pictures she posted on Facebook and it was growing very slowly. We talked about that it would take a while to be looking good. During the conversation, I said, “It will take a while and needs patience, right?” And Jake said, “Exactly, it is like watching the grass grow.” At that moment, I did not know the expression and I just thought that the grass indeed grows slowly and he was agreeing with me. But then Jake asked me, “Oh! Do you know the expression?” “No!”, said I.

Jake said, “It means something is boring!” Carol added, “There is another one! It is like watching paint dry.” So, we were basically taking about the origin of the expression and it itself really explains the meaning of the expression. How funny it is!

We do not have this kind of expression in Korea! Do you know why? It is because there is no space for lawns in Korean houses, especially in Seoul. The city is almost like 10 times bigger than New York city and there are 12 million people living in the city. The population of South Korea is 48 million. So 1/4 of Korean population live in Seoul. According to Wikipedia, it is no 8 in the world largest cities, bigger than any cities in the U.S.

06 Apr

calling people’s name at work

“정육부 김과장님! 전화왔습니다. 3번 라인으로 받으시기 바랍니다!” (Jeong Yook Bu Kim GwaJang Nim! JeonHwa Wat Seup Ni Da. Sam Bun La In Eu Ro Bat Eu Shi Gi Ba Rap Ni Da.) Hew… This is the longest one ever. Can you even try to say this Korean? 🙂 In English -> “Manager Kim of the meat department! You have a phone call! Please take line no 3!”

During the easter weekend, Jessy and I went to Washington, DC to enjoy the annual cherry blossom festival.  First thing we did was going to a big Korean market, almost like Costco size, over there to eat some authentic Korean food. While we were having lunch, there were several announcements about phone calls and asking someone to take them by using a specific line. Of course, they spoke in Korean. Hearing them, I suddenly realized one thing about cultural differences between Korea and America. In Korea, when you need to call someone at work, you usually go by their last name plus their job title. As you may noticed from the announcement above, the announcer said, “Manager Kim!” Especially, if someone is higher than you, you never call their names at all. If you do, you might be fired. Always, last name + job title. Or, if you want to use their name, then full name + job title. Whereas, in my company here in America, I call my boss by his first name. I remember that, when I first met him, I called him “Mr. Kelly” but he insisted me to call him by his first name. I even use the first name to call my CEO and President. Maybe, this is very unique in my company since my company is not big. (Is it true? Or most American companies have the same norms?) So. I realized a big effect on decision making process due to this cultural difference. First, calling my boss by his first name makes me feel really comfortable and more closer to him so that I can speak my opinions out in meetings. This of course makes the organization more open to diverse opinions. At the same time, this may cause some decisions to be made slower, I guess. In case of Korea, I felt like there were some sort of limits I have in terms of speaking out my thoughts based on my job title. But, this sometimes leads to a faster decision making process. I do not think one thing is better than the other but it is just different and I felt so weird to hear calling someone by their title and last name for the first time after staying in America for four years. I am also very curious whether there are any differences in different countries. Could you tell your story if you have any differences in your country?

Speaking of work, there are two interesting acronyms you might be interested in.

1. PTO : Paid Time Off (Instead of saying vacation, these days, most of the American companies use this term.)

2. STD : Along with the PTO, there is another one, STD (Short Term Disability). When you are really really sick and cannot make it to the work for a specific period of time, you are under the STD. Funny thing is if you use this acronym in America, most people, I would say 9 out of 10 (maybe 10 out of 10), will think the other STD, Sexually Transmitted Diseases. So, be careful! 🙂