Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Taiwan follows in South Korea's footsteps with visa waiver to the United States

In a lot of ways, South Korea and Taiwan are fraternal twins with a major sibling rivalry. Both were former colonies who saw considerable economic and social change during nearly half a century of Imperial Japanese rule, only to become military dictatorships after the war but emerge as economic powerhouses. Both enjoyed the defense umbrella provided by the United States, and both spent decades defined, confined, and refined by a Communist menace at the doorstep.

Although South Korea sees itself as nipping at the heels of Japan, much of the rest of the world sees the ROK and the ROC as nearly interchangeable second-tier nations. Well, those who see Taiwan as a nation at all. And it is in this context that it seems natural that, just a few years after granting South Koreans visa-free entry into the United States, Washington would see fit to do the same for Taiwanese.

Indeed, starting November 1, 2012, Taiwanese will be able to enter the US of A without a visa.

This kind of thing can be a huge boon for Pacific states like Hawaii, California, and Nevada (I'm throwing the Silver State in since they're in the Pacific Time Zone and seem glued at the hip to the Golden State). Los Angeles is rolling out the red carpet for them (note the odd choice of photos for this story). Perhaps more local tourism departments and service providers will recognize that the average Taiwanese is far richer than the average Chinese and will thus start seeking them out, as Hawaii has done with South Korean travelers.

This could also help the bottom line for Asiana Airlines and Korean Air, which may seek to take advantage of a thaw between Taipei and Seoul and start offering more routes from Taiwan to America via Incheon International Airport or even Kimhae.


L’il L’il L’il Kim


Is Kim Jong-un pregnant? Nah, though he does look as if he has eaten a small child.

But CNN says that there are rumors floating around — if such a thing is possible for the foreign media to accurately detect — that The Young General's twenty-something bride is sporting a baby bump.

Could this spawn be a future Eternal Generalissimo of Korea? Stay tuned for about forty years (when KJU's diabetes does him in).


Hurricane Sandy puts a damper on early voting

Hurricane Sandy has given me an epiphany: Not only do Republicans actually believe global warming is real, but in fact they and their petroleum-burning buddies engineered climate change and all its havoc as a very complex form of voter suppression.

(By the way, here in Hawaii we get a day off on Election Day, just like in Korea. I'll hit the polls and then hit the beach.)


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hyundai slips in Consumer Reports quality rankings

Hyundai and its sister car company Kia used to be the butt of jokes — "Hyun-DIE" and "KIA = killed in action" — but both in recent years have climbed to the upper echelon of safety, reliability, style, and overall quality. A Hyundai Sonata or a Kia Sorento gets you a good-looking vehicle that's safe in a crash, won't break down on you, and looks good.

So it's a little disturbing that Consumer Reports, the venerable journal of product quality and safety, has noted that Hyundai has slipped a few notches in its ranking of overall fleet quality. Toyota remains at the top.

I'm a bit optimistic, though. For starters, CR can be harsh on products that are actually pretty good. My iPhone 4, for example, was rated as "do not recommend" by CR owing primarily to Antennagate, a problem that didn't affect most users until they read about how to deliberately drop your antenna signal by holding the wildly popular smartphone with your hand shaped like a claw.

More importantly, however, is that Hyundai and Kia both do very well as underdogs. That prize of top-spot makes the company work harder and employ more innovation in order to get the brass ring. In fact, this kind of news report is a great kick in the pants.


Saturday, October 27, 2012


  I'll write up something on this later. 

The leggings you just bought at Forever 21 may have more problems with them than an excess of sequins. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Forever 21 clothing is being produced in "sweatshop-like conditions" by workers in Los Angeles-area factories, the agency said in a press release on Thursday. "We have proof that the goods going to Forever 21 from certain garment contractor shops are being sewn by people who aren't being paid properly," Priscilla Garcia, director of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division in West Covina, Calif., said in an interview with The Huffington Post. The Department of Labor subpoenaed Forever 21 in late August, demanding information about working hours, wages and overtime among its suppliers. So far, the company has ignored the request, according to Garcia. Forever 21 did not respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon. The privately held company, which produces low-priced, trendy clothing, is rapidly expanding in the U.S. and abroad. Its owners, Korean-American devout christians, print the phrase "John 3:16," a Biblical verse, on the bottom all of the store's yellow shopping bags. The Department of Labor's investigation into the company's suppliers, which began earlier this year, is part of a larger project to better regulate Southern California's garment industry, which employes many low-wage immigrant workers from East Asia and Latin America. In the past five years, the agency has conducted 1,500 investigations in the region, 93 percent of which uncovered violations, according Garcia. The violating companies owed a total of $11 million in back-wages to about 11,000 employees, the agency found. One big problem in California's garment factories is that employees are paid per piece they sew instead of per hour, which doesn't always yield a minimum wage, according to Garcia. Meanwhile, "there's an ignorance of the law among retailers," she said. Typically, a company like Forever 21 sends designs to manufacturers who in turn employ various contractor shops that sew the goods. "When [retailers] are purchasing an item they sometimes have no clue of where it's actually made," she said. Forever 21 has gotten in trouble for unfair labor conditions at Los Angeles-area factories before. In 2001, 19 Latino garment workers, aided by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, sued the company, saying they had worked 10 or 12 hour days without overtime in dirty and unsafe conditions. In 2004, when the case was settled, Forever 21 committed to improving conditions in the local garment industry. Garcia says the Department of Labor wants retailers like Forever 21 -- as well as consumers -- to have more "social awareness of where goods are being produced and whether the people sewing them are being paid properly," she said.

This succinct email was sent from my iPad. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Twitter feed

Does anyone read my Twitter feed?

I set up my account a long time ago but it's only recently — after Apple started incorporating Twitter into its mobile iOS (on my iPhone and iPad) and OS X (on my Macs) that I've really started using it. Lately, after getting a Siri-equipped iPhone 5 that allows me to verbally dictate tweets, I've really been tweeting the heck out of things.

Many of the tweets are things that are worth noting but don't quite hit the time-energy threshold where I would write a post on it. Other times it's a way for me to catalog interesting things I've read that I might want to visit later.

But am I the only one reading it? Or am I on the verge of having one of the most influential Korea-related Twitter feeds of all time? The Oppan Gangnam Style of Tweetdom?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Requiem for a dream of hope and change

I'm walking back to my dorm room from the parking. I'm dictating a blog post as I'm doing it. I'm gleeful from the debate earlier in the day.

I'll make no bones about it: I do not want Romney to win the election. Back in 2008, I didn't mind if John McCain won, but I was rooting for Obama. Even though I didn't vote for him

Romney simply seems to be regurgitating right-wing talking points that have no factual basis. They seem to be mean-spirited and, more importantly, they are utterly lacking in factual basis.

Obamacare repeal would not save any money. In fact, it would cost money.

More importantly, it would cost lives. And Romney knows this, because he put in place nearly the exact same program when he was governor of Massachusetts. And it is the worst kind of politics that someone would know that and yet run against it simply because his own party is so vehemently against it.

Obama is not a perfect president, but he is close to the mark or right on the mark on just about every issue. If people are disappointed in him, it is usually not based in something that is verifiable reality. He was right in his handling of Libya, he was right in his handling of Syria, he is deftly handling China, and North Korea, and he is working strongly with all of our allies.

His policies put the brakes on a freefall, the worst economic situation of the last 80 years. The problem is not that he doesn't know what he's doing, but that his opponents are counting on people to not realize just how bad things were, or that they would forget how bad things were.

Even worse, they deliberately muddle the dates things happened in order to blame Obama for things that happened because of Bush or under Bush. This is how they come up with the idea that Obama tripled the deficit, when in fact he has reduced it by 35%. This is how they get their followers to think that Obama has raised taxes on the middle class, when in fact he has lowered their taxes. In fact, this is part of his stimulus package.

If we did not bring the unemployment rate down to 5% or 6%, this is because the Congress, the Republicans in Congress, were hell-bent on preventing him from getting a second term rather than working to get America back on its feet. And that is disgusting.

Obama deserves a second term. He will finish what he started in a second term. The people who seem to have no clue how we got into this mess are asking you to turn around and vote against Obama. That would be a mistake.

Moreover, Obama having only one term would be rewarding those who have engaged in the most atrocious of smear campaigns. The people who would derail this country just for the sake of political gain. That cannot stand.

And now I'm home. Good night.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NPR on deaths in Vietnam of two native English teachers from Korea: Were they poisoned?

Last summer, two native English teachers in South Korea, one of them a Canadian from Ontario and the other an American from Wisconsin, took time off from their jobs in Kyŏnggi-do Province for a vacation in Vietnam. Tragically, both women would end up dead while visiting Nha Trang, with poisoning suspected.

News of the sudden deaths of two of their own spread through the English-teaching community. Meanwhile, Senator Al Franken from Minnesota, where one of the women had gone to college (at my grandmother's alma mater), called on the US State Department to look into the deaths.

Though it happened in late July, I'm writing about it because NPR this week discussed the case as part of a larger story on tourist deaths in Southeast Asia:
In late July, two women in their mid-20s were backpacking through Vietnam. Kari Bowerman, a 27-year-old American from Wisconsin, and Cathy Huynh, a 26-year-old Canadian, were on vacation from their jobs as English teachers in South Korea.

The companions arrived in Vietnam one day, and the next day they were in the hospital, Blum says. "They were, both of them, suffering from symptoms of what looked like acute poising."

Huynh was discharged from the hospital, but returned later that night to visit Bowerman — only to find out she had died. Huynh herself died in the hospital two days later.

A pesticide called chlorpyrifos is being blamed for the women's deaths. Though commonly used to treat bedbug infestations in Asian countries, it's banned for use in residential buildings in the United States because of its link to developmental problems in children.

[Science writer Deborah] Blum says the theory that Bowerman and Huynh died from careless fumigation at their hotel doesn't add up.

"If you're doing widespread fumigation, it's not like you're just doing one room," she says. Why didn't hotel workers or other guests die?
The deaths of Ms Bowerman and Ms Huynh are not the primary focus of the NPR piece, but are depicted as possibly being part of a bigger picture involving murder. It highlights the "gruesome" deaths of sisters Noemi and Audrey Belanger during their visit to Thailand and from there suggests that rather than accidents, someone is deliberately killing Western travelers in the region, perhaps a dozen of them over the past few years. The aforementioned Deborah Blum wrote about it in Wired:
Two of these deaths occurred in June in Thailand, two in June in Vietnam. All four women were diagnosed with the symptoms of acute poisoning. And while some explanations have been offered by the authorities, these have been either vague, improbable (see my recent post on the deaths in Thailand) or opaque (see CNN’s Friday story on the deaths in Vietnam). My favorite statement is one from the Thai police declaring that it could be “months before official results are revealed if ever.” (Emphasis mine).

If ever? What kind of a police response is that? Does it mean that investigators know something they don’t want to tell? Or that they don’t have a clue? It’s no wonder that the rumor mills are spinning stories of murder, of a serial killer stalking female tourists in Southeast Asia, of a police cover-up to protect the valued tourist industry. The serial killer idea, of course, builds on earlier mysteries: the 2009 death of a Seattle woman, still unsolved today. The similar and also unexplained death of a 22-year-old woman from Norway the same year. An odd cluster of deaths in another Thai city during winter of last year, including a 23-year-old woman from New Zealand.

The other theory circulating is that the police are covering up the careless use of insecticides by Asian hotels; an explanation denied, of course, by the hotel industry. It doesn’t explain, of course, why most of these deaths involve females in their 20s. But there’s some support for it from an independent investigation into the 2011 death of New Zealander Sarah Carter.
And those particular cases are not that of the two teachers from South Korea, which are addressed later in the Wired article:
The possibility of chlorpyrifos or some other insecticide poisoning has also been raised in this summer’s deaths of American Karin Bowerman, 27, of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Canadian Cathy Huynh, 26, of Hamilton, Ontario. The two friends – both working as English language teachers in South Korea – were backpacking in Vietnam, when they were admitted to a hospital in the beach town of Nha Trang in late July, suffering from vomiting, dehydration and difficulty breathing. Bowerman died that day; Huynh two days later.

But so far no information seems to be available about how they might have been exposed to that or any poison. “No police report. No hospital report. No nothing,” Bowerman’s sister, Jennifer Jacques told CNN in a fury of frustration. The lack of information has led friends of Bowerman’s from Winona State University in Minnesota, where she graduated, to launch a letter writing campaign to U.S. officials, begging for help.
I hate to sound alarmist, but if Ms Blum's suspicions of young Western women being targets have any validity, many expats in South Korea may wish to reconsider their vacation plans to Southeast Asia.


Oldboy Spike Lee style

I've written about it in the past, the tendency of Hollywood to remake popular Korean films for an American audience that eschews subtitles and non-White actors in starring roles. And despite a mixed record — whether one considers box office receipts or critical acclaim — Spike Lee is pushing ahead with his remake of Oldboy.

Spike Lee doesn't mind having Koreans swinging brooms in his films, but all the hammer swinging will be done by Josh Brolin. The remake is being filmed in Louisiana, which seems suitable from what little I know of the place (Katrina, corruption, jazz, jambalaya, gumbo, the French Quarter, and Anne Rice vampires).

Anyway, if you're itching to see how Lee elevates or trashes the legendary original, hammer time is next October.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Not lighter than Air, but cheaper.

Six of the Chromebooks is about the same cost
as one well-equipped MacBook Air. 

So, you lose a highly public battle with a major competitor (and consumer) of your products, to the tune of over a billion dollars? How do you retaliate?

You develop an answer to one of their most prized $1000 items — and sell it for $249.

That's what Samsung has done, in conjunction with Google. The ChromeBook looks an awful lot like the MacBook Air but sells for a quarter of the price. I'm sure there are some key differences in capabilities between CB and the MBA, but there is probably a huge market out there for a Web-oriented computer that costs the same as only about sixty lattes.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chinese fisherman dies after South Korean raid on Chinese boat that entered ROK waters

It is always a tragedy when someone dies in a confrontation like this, but the truth is (and the article notes this) Chinese fishermen have been killing South Korean Coast Guard quite a few times lately.

Not that that justifies anything. I think we need to know more about this raid to determine whether or not the South Korean side had done anything wrong, but past events indicate to me that if there was any wrongdoing it is more likely on the Chinese side than the South Korean side.

Unfortunately, Beijing is very, very good at riling up the Chinese people. In the past, we've seen the Americans, the French, nowadays the Japanese, and constantly the South Koreans used as bogeymen and whipping boys so that people will not pay attention to all the crap that is happening in the capital.

And frankly, I would not be one bit surprised if that's what happens here. A country that, collectively at least, has little sense of introspection, would make a huge deal out of one of their own getting killed (even if it was his own fault) but utterly ignoring their own people killing — no make that murdering — someone else.

And no amount of apology or explanation can then prevent South Korea's chaebol from losing lots of money as Chinese masses start boycotting Samsung, LG, etc., or start storming the gates as they did at Carrefour.

Still, it is a tragedy that the man died. I feel very bad for him and his family, regardless of what he was doing there. Trespassing should not come with a death sentence, but the reality is that it often does. The Chinese fishermen need to know where the maritime border is and stop crossing it. South Korean authorities have no choice but to do what they are doing. 

And that means the confrontations — and the deaths — will continue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

General Chesty pulled down

Over at ROK Drop, GI Korea highlights news of a North Korean general who was demoted after a series of defections (in which DPRK soldiers were killed). Now, a demotion in such a case would hardly be newsworthy, except that in North Korea it is unusual for a person to be demoted over an embarrassing incident and still be in uniform.

To put it bluntly, "demotion" usually means field work. As in, they take you out to a field and work you over and then put a bullet in your brain (and then ship your family off to a work camp).

As I noted at ROK Drop, I wonder if this could be another possible sign of a kinder, gentler Pyongyang regime. And if so, what does that mean?

Previously, even minor errors of judgement or just bad luck could result in imprisonment and/or death, but how would things change if there were considerably more leeway? Perhaps it might lead to the military feeling they have freer rein to ignore orders from up above, and that could lead to all kinds of interesting situations.

What's interesting is how the Chosun Ilbo discovered General Hyon Yongchol had been demoted. The regime has lately been C-SPANning the country, and now we can peruse all kinds of video and note changes, cracks, and shifts. The CSI found a difference in the decorations on the General's uniform.

Over at ROK Drop, this led to an entire discussion about the oversized uniforms common to North Korea's military brass (not to mention hats that look like they're designed to hide contraband).

Commenter Jimbob noted:
Somebody needs to show these guys how to choose uniform sizes that ACTUALLY FIT THEM.
The Nork logic may go like this:

Clothes make the man. Ergo, big clothes = big man.

The Korean equivalent of the above saying is "옷이 날개다" (oshi nalgaeda), literally, "Clothes are wings."

And by the looks of them, these guys would take off like the flying nun if they ever encountered a gust of wind. I guess that's why they wear all those medals.


CNN humorist:
"'Gangnam Style' should go away"

CNN's humorist, Jarrett something or other, has officially declared Gangnam Style dead. As he describes, he has taken it out to the backyard and shot in the head (maybe he has been watching too many North Korean videos). 

In case you are one of those people who is still working on a really great Gangnam Style-style spoof video, don't worry: this is more his fantasy that it is a reflection of reality.

In fact, the headline here at MI(AAP), which was taken from CNN's headline, says that Gangnam Style should die. And that probably indicates the author's own belief that Gangnam Style isn't going anywhere anytime soon. After all, the semester has just begun, school bands are preparing for football games, and there are loads and loads and loads of group projects and company outings which must include some sort of dance routine. (HT to kuiwon.)

Gangnam Syle is here for the duration.

I was saving this pic for an article addressing wasabi-induced
flatulence, but lately no such luck, so here it is.

This post originated from my iPhone, from where it was difficult to go back and forth to verify the name of the "Apparently This Matters" author of the CNN piece (Jarrett Bellini). My "Jarrett something or other" comment is in no way intended to be a dismissal of his elitist opinions about things he knows nothing about or a swipe at him for trying to impose himself as an arbiter of taste and pop culture. 


Monday, October 15, 2012

Hungry hama

With reboots, English-language remakes, mindless sequels, etc., dominating Hollywood, perhaps it's time we retire that old chestnut of a meme (meme #43) that it's Koreans who are the ones lacking creativity. 

From AV Club comes news that there will in fact be a movie version of... wait for it... Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

That's right, the game.

Okay, then.

[fake poster source]

Angry birds, I can see that (there's a backstory and multiple locales). But hungry hippos? No. Not even hungry, hungry hippos. 

My guess is that maybe some studio exec's autocorrect function got the better of him or her, and it's actually going to be a 1960s documentary on hungry hippies.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apple Maps app Seoul FAIL

Besides the use of the atrocious "Revised Romanization" system, can you spot the big fat FAIL with the iOS 6 Maps app rendition of our fair capital?


Friday, October 12, 2012

Arsenic and old rice

Late last month I reported on South Korea's decision to suspend imports of American rice because arsenic was found in the rice supply. Well, now just over two weeks later, Seoul has decided to resume the imports because the levels of arsenic do not appear to pose any significant health risks.

From Reuters:
South Korea has lifted a suspension of U.S. rice imports and sales, made on concerns about possible contamination with arsenic, after a test showed no significant risk for human consumption, the agriculture ministry said on Friday.

South Korea temporarily suspended imports and sales of U.S. rice last month after a U.S. watchdog group urged the United States to set limits for arsenic, a known human carcinogen, in rice.

"The arsenic levels proved not to be critical based upon the Korea Food & Drug Administration's evaluation of the danger, and discussion with an experts' committee," the ministry said in a statement.

The resumption started from Friday.

The statement said that South Korea would consider setting limits for all arsenic levels, including inorganic arsenic, in rice.

In the United States, tests of more than 60 popular products showed most contained some level of arsenic, leading Consumer Reports to urge the government to set limits for the chemical in rice.

South Korea imported 101,490 tonnes of U.S. rice last year, according to the agriculture ministry last month.

Out of this year's planned imports of 90,901 tonnes, the ministry said 30,000 tonnes had been imported before the suspension and stocks of U.S. rice stood at 81,000 tonnes.
Long-time Monster Island readers have seen me trot out my old chinboista post time and time again, but  for you newbies, I'll give the short version: This is one of those issues that, if it appears on their radar, the pro-Pyongyang, anti-Seoul, anti-American leftist propaganda machinery will see as a golden opportunity in their efforts to whip up the populace against Washington and their allies in whatever administration is in the Blue House at the time (à la Mad Cow Disease in 2008 or the deaths of the two middle school girls run over by a USFK vehicle in 2002).

That this is about rice makes it all the more volatile an issue. You see, this staple has always been a very touchy subject with South Korean farmers and their leftist sponsors (ditto in Japan). The forced opening of South Korea's (and Japan's) rice markets almost killed ROK participation in the World Trade Organization and later the ROK-US Free-Trade Agreement. Rice is seen as almost sacred, a bond* between the people in the land, and it was anathema to import far cheaper rice from California that would upend the rice industry in Korea.

(In accordance with this idea, most Koreans have been willing to pay a lot more for Korean rice than imported rice, at least for rice eaten with a meal, if it meant preservation of the Korean rice sector. Ditto with Japanese consumers and homegrown Japanese rice. Cheaper imported rice often ends up being used in processed foods.)

And so now the chinboistas have the prospect that American rice may be killing Korean consumers by arsenic poisoning, and that could be one of those throw-everything-against-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks issues that actually sticks. With Park Geun-hye poised to win election to the Blue House in December, they are itching for an issue that will galvanize not just the left but the squishy middle as well, enough that it could bring one of the candidates less hostile to the North Korean regime into the Blue House.

As I noted in my chinboista post, the modus operandi is to try whatever works, because every now and then some issue (and it's hard to predict which ones) will resonate not just with leftist sympathizers but with the moderate middle (and some conservatives as well), often because there is some there there**.

And because of that, the Korea Food & Drug Administration's decision to allow arsenic-laced rice into the Korean market will be seen as bowing to Washington, with the Lee Myungbak administration easily painted as putting their pro-US kowtowing ahead of Korean lives. If some clever slogan can be formed with the Korean word for arsenic, piso (비소), it's all over.

And the reason the issue will take off is that, as the Reuters article mentions, the US has been irresponsible at setting appropriate standards on the issue of arsenic in the food. Sadly, if the chinboistas do try to turn this into an exercise in America-bashing, the merits of that argument will be utterly lost on the defenders of the US (especially those who side with the US over Korea no matter what the issue). As usual.

*Shintoburi (身土不二), a "four-character saying" that is also the slogan of the Nonghyup Farmers Cooperative, literally means "the body and the earth are one and the same": body+earth+not+two.

**And there was some there there with Mad Cow Disease, even though the risk was very low. The more salient point was that American beef is typically factory farmed in ways that are hazardous to consumers, be they Americans or Koreans or Japanese or whatever, and the chinboistas were able to latch onto some of those issues to make a scary case that Americans themselves should heed. 


Thursday, October 11, 2012

If The Beverly Hillbillies taught me anything, it's that "Take your shoes off" is supposed to be a welcoming signal to relax and make yourself at home. In the post-9/11 world, "Take your shoes off" signals the under-siege state of affairs we find ourselves in.

When al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists threatened to target planes headed for New York City and Los Angeles on the very day right before Christmas that I was traveling to LAX, I was forced to take off my shoes no less than five times between Seoul and California.

And thanks to one Yongda Huang Harris, you can expect more of the same as you travel from the Land of Morning Calm to the Land of Fear and Loathing. Why? It seems that Mr Harris was wearing a bulletproof vest on his journey to Boston that made its way from Kansai, through Incheon International Airport (the extra e is or excellence), and then onto Los Angeles. He also had a slew of other no-nos that should have sent up red flags.

From AP, via The San Francisco Chronicle:
South Korean security officials screened a man with a bulletproof vest before he got on a flight to Los Angeles, but they never detected a banned smoke grenade concealed in his checked luggage with a cache of knives, handcuffs, a gas mask and other weapons, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

Yongda Huang Harris and his carry-on luggage were thoroughly searched, but authorities found nothing suspicious and he boarded the flight, said a Homeland Security official briefed on the investigation. The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Harris, 28, was arrested in Los Angeles last week during a stopover on a trip from Japan after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers noticed the bulletproof vest. A search of Harris' checked luggage uncovered the smoke grenade and an array of suspicious items, including leg irons, body bags, a hatchet, billy clubs, a collapsible baton, duct tape and a biohazard suit.

U.S. officials were working with South Korean authorities to determine how the grenade slipped through screening.

Harris is not cooperating with federal officials who are trying to determine why he was headed to Boston with the cache of weapons, authorities said. The smoke grenade was X-rayed by police bomb squad officers, who said the device fell into a category that is prohibited on board passenger aircraft.
The official South Korean response, after looking up "barn door, closing after horse has escaped" in the emergency response binder, will be to tighten security for all flights headed to the US of A. And that means we all get that extra probing. Thanks, Mr Harris.

I'm guessing that the ROK and Japanese authorities were unaware that the smoke grenade was a prohibited item, even though they've had the good sense, say, to specifically check my jar of coins (which they ultimately allowed) as well as the collection of matchbooks my friend who collects matchbooks tried to get onto her flight (which they didn't allow).

I suppose I should probably also speculate on just what the heck Mr Harris had planned with all those weapons and stuff. Frankly, it looked like he planned to disappear a person or two. Or maybe I've just been watching to much Dexter.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'll see your missiles and raise you some intercontinental projectiles

Just as we get news that the United States is allowing South Korea to develop longer ranges for its missiles, so that it can hit far more points in North Korea, Pyongyang has turned around and announced that they have missiles they can hit the US mainland.

The only silver lining I can see to this is that if they can hit Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, or Las Vegas, they're less tempted to trying it Honolulu.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Four Corners fail

Besides my own inadvertent misspelling of Arizona, I can name at least two things that are a big fat FAIL in this Apple maps app rendition of Four Corners, where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona meet.

(And I only decided to look it up today while I was watching a season four episode of Breaking Bad.)

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Tensions are high along the DMZ after a North Korean soldier killed two of his officers and then defected. 

While I'm always happy to see North Koreans make it across the border, I do have mixed feelings about them killing people in order to get there. Perhaps his DPRK superiors were people who deserve that kind of treatment, but how would we really know?

Here's an excerpt from CBS News:
A North Korean soldier killed two of his officers Saturday and defected to South Korea across the countries' heavily armed border in a rare crossing that prompted South Korean troops to immediately beef up their border patrol, officials said.

The soldier shot his platoon and company commanders before crossing the western side of the Demilitarized Zone at around noon, a Defense Ministry official said, citing the soldier's statement after he was taken into custody by South Korean border guards.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone. 


Comrade Kim goes dying

The Washington Post has a nice story on a film about a curious type of people who left Japan to go to North Korea.

It's something I will certainly try to catch either at the Honolulu international film Festival, if it comes here, or eventually on Netflix.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gangnam Style: Longer than Jesus

Someone at the HuffPo sat down and calculated how much time has been "wasted" by watching the "moronic" GS a total of 280 million times. 

We Have Watched 2,100 Years of 'Gangnam Style'
News Flash: People are wasting a lot of time online. No, really, it's true. While this may not be news to some of you (especially anyone with a "FarmVille" account), the sheer magnitude of the amount of wasted time may surprise even the most jaded among you.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone. 


The HuffPo says I'm supposed to see a swastika but I'm not so sure I do. 
  brenda song

   OFFENSIVE? Disney Star Steps Out In Controversial T-Shirt
Watch your back, MIley. There's a new former Disney star stirring controversy.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Revisionists marching Japan back to a dangerous place

I shall fisk this later, but naturalized Japanese citizen Arudou Debito, temporarily residing right here on Oahu, has penned a piece in the Japan Times that ties Japan's claims on Tokto and Senkaku to maltreatment of foreigners in Japan. Part of a grand and anachronistic movement to bring Japan back to the bad old days of dangerous nationalism.

This succinct email was sent from my iPhone.

Monday, October 1, 2012

OC's Angels on the brink of elimination

My beloved Angels are probably not going to make it to the play-offs this year. At this point their odds look only slightly better than that of Romney taking Hawaii. 

From the OC Register:

"Their only hope now is to go to Seattle, sweep the Mariners, hope the Rangers go to Oakland and sweep the A's while the Rays lose at least once in the next three days to the Orioles — and then they would have to play a tiebreaker in Oakland on Thursday (or untangle a three-way tie with the A's and Rays)."

Of course, if they pull this off, it will be one for the record books.


Gangnam contagion

I found this on a random iPhone 5 on display at the Kahala Mall Apple Store.

Korean Invasion

Will the craziness never end? Now we get news, from the BBC, that Korean rapper Psy (voice recognition writes it as "sigh") of Gangnam Style fame has topped the UK charts.

This is off-the-dial fame unlikely we've seen since Far East Movement came at us with "Like a Cheese Stick."