The world is a wonderful, if very wacky, place to be.

Archive for February, 2011

Tzang-Eop Guk-Ga

So I just finished reading Start-Up Nation.

“But Malkie”, you ask. “Why were you reading Start Up Nation during your time in Seoul?”

The answer is simple. I have already finished reading Learning to Think Korean so I decided to read what everyone else in Korea is reading right now. The Prime Minister told everyone to read this book. Everyone is reading this book. Including me, because I’m just that sort of concerned citizen tourist.



I would have gotten you a photo of the book itself but the giant mega-bookstore downstairs is sold out.

The book Start-Up Nation (or Tzang-Eop Guk-Ga, as it is known here) presents a fairly accurate representation of Israeli start up culture. It describes how quickly ideas move in Israel, the impact of the graduates of elite intelligence and engineering units, the utter disregard for formality and hierarchy in the entire culture, and how all that combined with government incentives creates a hotbed of startups. It also describes how our little country essentially forms its own economic cluster where people can easily talk ideas with others related to but not directly in their field in informal settings (this is why we alway leave from synagogue last when Cloud Man is at home). This book has done a lot for promoting Israel in a positive, and well deserved, way.

Amazingly, the Koreans are attempting to transform their culture with this book as a blue print. South Korea is looking to the future and they want what we’re having.

Now if only we could convince our own people to want what we have we would be good.



For some of us, birthday cake consumption is a full body contact sport.

If you don't need a bath afterward, ur doin it wrong.

Sagitta, 1; Cake, 0.

Kohen Gadol

It had to happen eventually; inevitably there would be a homeschooling post. After all, that’s what we do in our spare time.

This week’s parsha is about the clothing that the High Priest wore in the Holy Temple (or, if you talk like I usually do, “it’s what the Kohen Gadol wore in the Beit HaMikdash”). There is a fabulous download at of a Kohen paper doll that you can dress. I edited it to be a jpg file, and I also changed the paper doll to be more consistent with how we believe he would appear. Some people asked if they could have the file, so here it is. You can just copy him from the file here:

Click on the picture, and you should get the full size file. Print and you’re ready to go. (I checked for copyrights, and there were none).


You’ll need some heavy weight paper for the doll himself; I used brown card stock to help give the doll color depth. We did this as an activity to get ready for Yom Kippur last year. This sounds like it’s a good activity for younger children, but the truth is, I don’t recommend with most children under the age of 7. Even though my girls love paper dolls, both my daughter and her first cousin (5 and 6 at the time, respectively) did not find this activity at all compelling, but my daughter who was seven did. Also, if it bothers you that the Kohen Gadol might end up with pink hearts on his pants and green hair, wait until you child is older.


Happy 37th Birthday, Cloud Man.



Here’s to a scalable and elastic future together.

Seoul Watching

It turns out that if you hold a six year old upside down, she doesn’t instantly turn nine.

Aquila snoozed on the couch with a fever for most of the day, Sagitta has a cold, and Lyra is just fine, may she remain that way. Volucris returned to the War Memorial (he says that now he feels like he’s seen it) and Lyra and I went stir crazy trapped in our apartment with a bunch of sick people. Cloud Man helped as much as he could, which is how we came to the aforementioned insight, but he had… you know… work to do.

So since I’m stuck at home with some sick kids, let me at least show you where I’m stuck. Just for the record, none of the photos were taken today. Volucris had the camera and I had to keep sick people entertained.


We are staying in Coex, which is a giant conference center/mall/hotel complex on the south side of the Han river, which snakes through the city bisecting it. Most of the tourist attractions are to the north of the river (which, ironically is referred to as “downtown Seoul”) but most of Cloud Man’s work is on the south side, so we have gotten to know the subway very well (that’s another post). Everything anyone could ever want to buy is downstairs in the mall, including a lovely but impractical lime green leather handbag I’ve been eyeing. I could never wear it around my Vegan friends.

We are on the 23rd floor of the serviced apartments complex. There is someone from everywhere here, including a family I saw checking in that included more than one wife (we admired each other’s babies). Some people I meet in the toy room, like the Chinese woman who taught me a really powerful Chinese meditation technique. She was really evangelical about it, actually. I may have just joined a cult. I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

(On the subject of evangelism, so far, two people in the city have tried to share “good news” with us. Once because the woman understood what the head gear on our men means, and in the other because she thought my little ones were too cute to go to hell. We could not communicate with either woman, but the second and I agreed in gestures that G-d is good. I think the literature she gave us (all in Korean, she wasn’t properly prepared to save English-speaking souls) is still floating around in my bag).

The apartment itself is largely Western (and as a result makes me appreciate local homes even more, with their wood floors, in-floor heating (invented in Korea centuries ago), recessed lighting and absolutely no shoes, ever.

As you can see, the apartment is largely unremarkable, all taupe and grey and inoffensive (except that painting in the hallway next to Volucris, which if we stayed here much longer would have to go). I love the apartment anyway, partially because of Mrs. Yoon, who comes daily to clean, and partially because the master bathroom is a slice of heaven (if you’ve never used an Asian toilet, you are missing out on one of life’s little joys. I don’t know why the electric toilet hasn’t caught on in other modernized nations. It’s so civilized). I also have a fondness for the steam sauna in the shower, especially with congested kids. Sagitta loves it.

What’s really amazing about the apartment, though, is the view. We can see clear across the city.

This is what Seoul looks outside our window, to the north of us.



You can see the Bongeunsa Buddhist Temple, right alongside the skyscrapers, with the giant mountain in the background. This is Seoul: old, new, and nature all side by side. You see those residential skyscrapers? It turns out that those apartments are much more expensive than those in the smaller buildings alongside them. Those skyscrapers are whole neighborhoods that often include an elementary school and a shopping center. You never have to leave the house. I completely understand the attraction, as someone who just moved from the country to the city largely because of the need for efficiency since Cloud Man travels so much.
The kids often sit on the window sill, watching the city.

It’s better than television.

Thus experienced Volucris

Today we are going to have a special guest blogger. I stayed in Coex with the girls (which was good, as Aquila ended up developing a fever at night) while Volucris went alone on two subway trains across the city to the War Memorial of Korea, which is a giant museum complex that houses the artifacts of all of Korea’s military history.

Here is Volucris, to share his War Memorial experience with you.



When my mother said, “you can go by yourself”, I thought, wow, this will be a very different experience from most of the trips I’ve been on. Most of my constraints, like having to move as a group, are gone. I can walk, run, slug, and awe at something without having to wait, catch up, or stay with someone else. When I got to the War Memorial of Korea, I thought, I’m here… HERE… here. I walked around the outside exhibitions for a bit and climbed on tanks and looked inside of airplanes. Then I entered the museum, got a little briefing from one of the ladies at the desk, and found the turtle ship.

The turtle ship was the ultimate naval ship of the Koreans during the Japanese invasions from 1413 to 1592. It helped the Koreans maintain independence from Japan in a series of naval battles. turtle ship in the museum is a 1:1 scale replica. After admiring it and rubbing my hands back and forth on its smooth surface and finding the DO NOT TOUCH sign I began to admire it from a distance. It is as long as three city buses, as tall as a giraffe, and as wide as an elephant– an African elephant with its big ears spread. You feel its presence.

The turtle ship has a dragon head that can turn from side to side and release poisonous gas from its mouth. It also has hexagonal armor plating on top and ten cannons on each side with two in the front and one mounted in the dragon’s head. The ship was heavy but fast and almost invincible. Because of its armor plating on the top boarding parties could not penetrate to the crew area. All the enemy could do was chop off the mast, but even then the Korean marines could pull in the canons, deploy the oars, and row away. Its dragon head could turn and look like it was a real dragon. It had a battering ram on its front with a iron mask that looked like a charging warrior, and could lay a huge amount of small caliber cannon fire all at once. It was also very effective at blockading.

On my way home while having my face smushed into the glass window of an overcrowded subway car I felt like I had had a full day.

Public Service Announcements

Here is a message that I’d like to share with you from today’s amusement park at Children’s Grand Park, Seoul.

I’m sure we all feel relieved at that one. It applies to so many life situations.

And here’s one for all my readers with teenage daughters:


Is it just me, or do these need to go on T-shirts?

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