Thursday, January 01, 2015

How much does a polar bear weigh? Enough to break the ice. Hi, my name is Lee.

Time. Energy. Access to a computer.

When these three entities are in temporal alignment, a celestial event referred to as a Blog Posting can occur. Such events happened with greater frequency in times past, but two hyperspace anomalies recently supervening in our quadrant have been sucking all resources and material toward their gaping maws, wreaking general havoc on all that was once good and peaceful in the galaxy.

Their names are Ashley and Alex.

Since last posting, much has happened in the world of the Farrand family. No news is good news, as they say. We continue to do very well, despite having neglected my old friend The Blog, who at one time dearly comforted my ego as a friend in whom I could reliably confide.

I am aware that there may no longer remain any remote interest in the life and tribulations of a single expat in the cybersea of one million foreigners currently residing on the Koryo Peninsula

But I can say that I've recently bought an iPhone 6, and no longer have photo storage issues.

A veritable catacomb of myriad orifices may be a good way to describe the daunting labyrinth of unposted photos residing in my desktop image folders.

New folder. New Folder(1). New Folder(2). New Folder(3)... ad nauseum

So what I'll do is post about past events incongruently, and imagine the software-based forensic historians of the future can patch up any inconsistencies, should they care.

I'm of the persuasion that anything we publish online these days has no reason to find itself deleted, save for deliberate action. The reason being that although what we say is of only minute historical significance, the economy of modern memory technology effectively renders deletion a needless activity.

I was recruited by a Korean pharmaceutical company after graduating from SNU in August 2013. The job was lined up from February 2013 due to a lucky mix of contacts and a man called Anthony Nguyen, who serendipitously introduced me to my current boss on the sidelines of a symposium.

And I must say, it's one of the best things in life that has happened to me. Apart from growing up in Australia, moving to Korea, marrying my wife and having kids. 

My company, which will remain nameless for search purposes, is an excellent place to work. Sure, the working culture has it's own differences and peculiarities, but nothing is a match for the insanity of Korean graduate school. Having spent more than four years within the immalleable bureaucracy of the SNU machine, nothing is too much for my now experience-hardened and immutable patience.

The work is stimulating, but most importantly, the people I work with are people I like and respect. They make me want to work harder. Although I'm the only foreigner in our company (of 1,500 employees), and despite my sketchy Korean skills, I've never once been made to feel sidelined because of it.

I have a variety of duties including business development, communication with overseas parties and medical writing. I also spend some of my time doing cancer screening experiments in the labs. Each week brings something new and interesting.

An oddity I've observed at this company is that normal work statistics do not seem to apply. My previous formulation of Lee's Law states that, "For every 10 researchers that exist, at least one will be difficult to get along with."

This does not seem to hold true for my current company, as I've yet to identify a difficult person. There could, however, be a secret enclave of difficult people all working together in a unit of the company somewhere, whom I have yet to meet. This would fulfill the requirements of Lee's Law, statistically speaking.

These two gentlemen are both directors in my unit, called the R&D Strategic Planning and Operation Unit. We three went hiking soon after my induction, and ended up walking about 13 km, stopping to drink makkeoli at a cemetery and eating pajeon on the way home.

Nothing is better for bonding than talking about the intricacies of work politics while tipsy in a cemetery. 

I started an English conversation club that's held during Wednesday lunchtimes, which has continued for a year now. It's been a good way to make new friends, and the company has been kind enough to support us with a dinner budget to celebrate every six months.

I joined the company with a group of new employees, and we've bonded well as dongi (fellow inductees). We had a housewarming party at our new apartment, and one of my colleagues brought his two daughters over as well.

I like it when guests play with my kids.

And then there are the company 회식, or work dinners, which are an integral part of Korean corporate culture. At these mythical events, one is expected to get tipsy and become more frank with others, thereby serving an important social function - to maintain harmony amongst co-workers who would otherwise have no appropriate venue to vent or fraternise. 

Although dreaded by some, I tend to enjoy our work dinners immensely. It's free food and alcohol.

Heather continues to be an extremely impressive mother. She is stalwart, steady and comforting. Our relationship has always been remarkably good, and only seems to be getting better. That may also be because I'm losing some of my unseasoned tendencies with age. May time continue to mellow the immature tannins of my personality.

If I had to pass but one piece of advice onto the younger generation, it would be to work on making yourself good enough to deserve someone you admire.

And our two kids continue to bring us much delight, albeit with much energy displacement. The best way to describe them in common terms would be two heavy, spongy, variably-smelling, jumping jellybeans of mischief and entertainment.  

Ashley is speaking a fair bit of Korean and a little broken English these days, while Alex emits random vocalisations from which meanings can be discerned by pitch and duration.

As another new year dawns on us, I do wonder whether I'll be able to post more often, if not for the sake of tracking the rapid growth and development of my aggies. But then Lee's Korea Blog will inevitably become more of a Lee's Kids Blog. I am acutely aware of how uninteresting it can be reading about another person's kids. But what can you do. 

You are more than welcome to follow along if you are interested in seeing two little Korean kids grow longer bones and proportionally smaller heads.

Wishing you a safe and prosperous 2015.


Kevin Kim said...

Happy New Year! All the best to you and the family. May 2015 bring you nothing but happiness. 행복한일만 가득!

Brandon said...

Hey Lee - I used your blog again as an example of floating up the search results by writing about a particular topic...which lead me to read your latest post.

Hope you, Heather and the kiddies are doing well. Happy New Year!


Glen villar said...

Happy New Lee!

Almost everyday I look at this blog and check for a new post since I accidentally stumbled onto this.

And today, when I accessed it again and saw that the post isn't "%Gwanak%" I literally said loudly "woooooowwwww! new post!" here in the office.


pitchfest said...

Thanks for the comments!

조안나 said...

It's funny, but usually I hate reading about other people's kids, even people I know (sometimes especially people I know) because I am kind of an anti-kid kind of person. However, I always find my way back to your blog because you have a special kind of writing that whatever you write is fun to read... even if it is about kids.

I also have fallen by the wayside when it comes to blogging, you're still doing better than me.

Happy new year!

xenok said...


Glad to see you are doing well. Ashley is almost unrecognizable to me; not surprising, given that I haven't seen her in ages, and her short hair.

I'm reading Eat, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, so the language pedant in me insist on noting that fellow inductees should be romanized as dong-gi (fine, the hyphen is optional but it does aid readability!). Please feel free to ignore my pedantic rant (in fact, I insist that you pay no attention to my neuroses), but I do recommend the book, if you haven't already read it. Lynne Truss' mix of humor and grammatical minutiae will appeal to you.

I do have a bigger -- more philosophically, and definitely even more pedantic -- bone to pick with you. You argue that the economics of memory technology effectively makes deletion needless; but my philosophical posit is that data deletion will be just re-defined as irretrievable. While cost of (storage, at least) memory will continue to drives towards zero -- insert your own Zeno's paradox joke here -- the cost of retrieving any data will rise in a similar exponential manner. So it's the classic undefinable immovable meets the unstoppable problem. Or if you prefer to be more philosophical (pretentious?): if a photo exist in the digital ether, but is not retrievable, does it really exist?

This is actually my long-winded way of saying that we do need to catch up soon (over adult beverages preferably; accompanied by a hydro-filtered smoking device if possible). I do meet up with James and Jinkang with their kids, Stacey & Sean, so maybe we can do big meetup the next time I'm in the Koryo Peninsula.

Happy new year.

Lee Farrand said...

Interesting thoughts, Joseph. I get your points. Although as a temporary purist on the matter of data retrieval, I would say that it matters less that the expense would increase in retrieving such data, but that the possibility for its retrieval is essentially preserved. Thus, any Schroedinger type question about future historians can be answered - if some such person wanted to find a passage of written text at some point in the future, the finding of it would remain possible. Also, it's likely that search efficiency will increase to the point that the entire written history of humanity can be combed within an agreeable timeframe. But it should also be pointed out that by the time that these parameters become relevant, humanity, or whatever it's called by that time (cybermanity?), will probably be unrecognizable by today's standards. We would be like apemen hunting woolly mammoths to them ("Analyze here, GBX9324-Farrand, back in 2015, your ancestors used to wear nylon and cotton instead of cosmic biosuits. Hataw! How ridiculous!").

And as they may well read this discourse between us, let me take this opportunity to show them the finger, and remind them of their history, traceable to my humble loins.

TechGuySG said...

great update
glad to see the young sprouts are growing in leaps and bounds.
Best Wishes for 2015