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Showing posts from November, 2010

Selective Memories

I recently read the New Yorker's piece on procrastination, and what resonated the most was the amazing complexity of Indian bureaucracy that prevented George Akerlof from even attempting to mail a package of clothes back to his friend in the States. My life over the past month has been an endless string of dealing with such bureaucracies and inefficiencies in Korea, and I can fully sympathize with Akerlof just giving up and not even trying. Bureaucracies in foreign countries are really complicated to deal with, even for seemingly simple things. And what I've noticed more and more is that almost everyone I talk to has an extremely selective memory about how to accomplish tasks. Most people like to say, "Oh, it's easy, you just go to so-and-so and it's done."

Oh really?

I remember back in middle school science class (or was it elementary school? or was it repeated in an intro math or cs class in university? hmm....) having an assignment to write instructions fo…

American Nexus One in Korea

Yes, it's possible to use an American-purchased Nexus One in Korea. But it ain't easy. All you need is:

A long-stay visa. You're on your own for this one.An Alien Registration Card. The only way to get one of these is to get some sort of long-stay visa.A Korean-issued credit card. Get this after you get the Alien Registration Card. Since you have no credit rating in Korea, you will also need to open a Korean bank account as collateral. You can do this with a passport when you arrive, or with your Alien Registration Card later on.A Korean citizen. Not for keeps - you can return them after signing up your phone.A Nexus One.
Then simply go to the KT Service Center and have your Korean friend tell them you want to register your American-bought Nexus One on KT's network. Two hours later, they'll sell you a sim card for 5500 KRW (about $5), charge like a $30 registration fee, and you're good to go. Better than spending $600 for a new one.
The main point of this is that …

Install AppEngine Python SDK on Ubuntu 10.10

AppEngine is still stuck on python2.5, but recent Ubuntu distros don't even have the python2.5 package available anymore, which makes getting AppEngine up and running a bit cumbersome. There is a third-party package available, but I like knowing the contents of what I'm installing. Here are the steps to install python2.5 on Ubuntu 10.10 without overwriting the existing python installation. This worked for me, but no guarantees it will work on your system. It's a good idea to try it first in a virtual machine to make sure it'll work. You can install VMWare Player for free from http://www.vmware.com.

This is mostly based on http://code.google.com/p/googleappengine/issues/detail?id=757#c51, but fixes some problems in that post.

1. Install some necessary libraries:

> sudo apt-get install libssl-dev           
> sudo apt-get install libjpeg62-dev        
> sudo apt-get install libfreetype6-dev     
> sudo apt-get install libsqlite3-dev       
2. Install the latest o…

Communicating With Non-Native Speakers

It doesn't take much traveling around the world to learn that most people are really bad at communicating with people who don't speak their language. No rocket science there, but it's interesting to see how people's abilities to communicate differ.

First, a broad stereotype - men are much worse than women, and old people are much worse than younger people. Adding these up, older men are the worst, although older women tend to be pretty bad too.

You might ask, "But if you don't speak their language, then how could you possibly communicate?" Well, people who are good communicators follow a number of patterns.

First, they understand how to modulate the speed of their speech. This might sound dumb, but most people are really bad at this. You ask them to please speak slower, and they'll say the first 2-5 syllables slowly, and then revert back to full speed ahead.

Second, they understand that not knowing a word sometimes really just means not knowing a word…

Address Systems are Broken in Korea and Japan

Japanese and Korean people like to contest my assertion that the address system is broken in their countries. "It's not broken, it's just different", they'll say. And of course they don't have any problems with it, since they're fluent in their respective languages.

BOOM. There it is. If you need to be fluent in the friggin' native language in order to get from one place to another, something's wrong with the addressing system.

For background, Korea and Japan both have a strange system whereby street numbers don't mean a damn thing. Okay, they mean something - they're the order that houses/buildings went up on the street. That's super useful, perhaps if you're a street historian.

As a result, most conversations over addresses go something like this:

Person 1: Hey, can you meet us at X? It's right by Yeoksam Station.
Person 2: Sure. How do I get there?
Person 1: Just go to the station, go to Exit 7, walk diagonally across the st…

My Lame Superpower

If I had to choose a lame superpower, it would likely be the ability to displace inefficient walkers. Like, a simple Darth Vader hand motion to just push them to the side of the road. Clearly this is just a limited form of telekinesis, and the real thing is way better, but that's why it's a lame superpower and not a full-fledged superpower.

Which brings me back to inefficient walkers. Man, I really hate these people. Bear in mind that I have absolutely nothing against slow walkers. I personally enjoy walking slowly, taking in the scenery, digesting lunch, chatting with a friend, whatever. But I am always conscious to not impede the progress of everyone else.

Here are some warning signs that you're an inefficient walker:

* You dart into an opening between people, and then slow down 50%.

* You are holding hands with people on both sides, and the road or path you are walking on is less than 500 meters wide.

* You enter a moving walkway that moves slower than grandma manages w…