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I was really touched when Misun told me Yonghee searches for me when he gets up in the mornings and I'm not there. He would come out of his room yelling: Appah! Appah! He would look over to my desk and then totter his way into the kitchen, repeating Appah! Appah! and sometimes start crying a bit. Then, when he got to the door to the garage, he would generally get distracted by Kimchi's food and water bowls and start making a mess of those (that poor dog). Recently, however, it's come to my attention that the word he's using could very easily be construed as the word for: pain. So now I'm not so sure: is he really searching for his dad or just lamenting the pain of existence?
So, it seemed that all the damage to our car in our recent accident was external and cosmetic, but now I'm not so sure. Last night, seemingly for no reason at all, a whole mess of lights on our dashboard went on and have not gone off since (unless the car is turned off). It also started making a strange sound. The insurance agents already declared it a total loss, but we figured we could take the money, fix some of it and keep driving it at least until I finish my dissertation, but now I think that's no longer an option. It could be something small, but do we want to spend the money on even diagnosing a problem in a car that's already a total loss?

New car shopping is definitely not convenient for us at the moment.

As an added bonus, today we're seeing a massive snowstorm and I really want to take Mattie and Yonghee out in it. Mattie will go sledding and I really want Yonghee to have his first opportunity to play in the white stuff that falls from the sky. However, he is going into his third day being sick and, with the roads the way they are and the way our car is, Misun won't let me risk taking him out if we can't easily get him to a doctor/hospital if things get worse.

So, after doing lots of research, I've decided to purchase Microsoft's new Surface Pro 2. Although it's far from perfect, it seems to really match my specific use case: the iPad doesn't do enough for me and I don't want to be stuck with the laptop form factor all the time. My iMac is currently about 7yrs old and not cutting it any longer, so, after months of deliberation, I've decided to go for it. Unfortunately, Microsoft's broken store is making it really tough.

My cart shows a device and a type cover, but when I go to check out, it tells me they are experiencing technical difficulties. When I subsequently talk to support, they tell me they are out of stock – then why can't their site tell me that? Not only that, but they have no idea when more devices will arrive and they cannot take my order for shipment when it arrives. How silly is this? I just have to keep checking back to see if maybe it's come back in? Really?

Maybe I should just pick up a tried-n-true MacBook Air…

Awful adventures with Android

So, Misun decided to switch her phone out for a 5S instead of a 5C, but there was a 2-3 week wait for them, so I figured I'd use my own upgrade to pick up an Android phone and that would leave my 4S available for her to use until her 5S arrived. After lots and lots of research, it appeared that a Samsung Galaxy 4S should be a solid option and they were on sale, so I picked one up. The next morning I was pretty sure it would be going back.

The machine comes with all these neat-o, almost magical features — like eye tracking, the ability to detect fingers that are not actually touching the surface of the huge, vibrant display… They seem to work OK, but I can't really be sure because they are inconsistently applied throughout the experience. Since Samsung loaded up the device with so much of their own software, it is tough to tell which items are actually a standard part of Android and which ones are just the non-standard crap Samsung put on there. Therefore, the fact that the hover stuff doesn't always seem to work may just be because most apps don't have any idea that it exists or how to use it? I don't know. In fact, it seems that the device comes pre-installed with multiple competing versions of the same time of software. For example, I have a GMail app installed as well as an email app, and it seems that my Exchange (work) email goes to the latter while everything else goes to the former. I miss the unified Mail app and Inbox of iOS! Also, I'm pretty sure there's three different music apps, a Samsung store in addition to the Google Play store, an AT&T messaging app plus a more generic one, multiple navigation apps, Google Now as well as S Voice… as someone new to the OS, I have no idea which one to use for what and often find myself using subtly different versions every time — leading to an inconsistent experience. Plus, different apps seem to launch others as plugins that subsequently don't show up in the app switcher, so I have no way to recognize (or get back to) wherever I was. On iOS, in addition to the fact that the standard apps are really quite good, they don't overlap in functionality so if I don't like something, I know to look for an alternative. Also, I don't have to try out each different app to see if I want to delete it or not. Of course, it goes without say that I have yet to find a podcasting app that meets my needs.

On the other hand, although the display is huge and gorgeous, I find myself frequently tempted to simply snap the thing in half. This is not only out of frustration with its failings, but largely it's because, as I hold it in my hand, I'm pretty sure that I could do it with very little effort. It's got a wonderfully flimsy feel to it — especially now that I'm so used to the glass and metal brick that is the iPhone.

But there's more! I've had the phone for less than a week and Misun and I've already had numerous apps crash on us (she's been trying it out as well). Plus, although the processor is supposed to be better, it definitely feels slower and jumpier than my iPhone. This means that I'll try to do something, think it hasn't registered and try again — then I wind up having taken an extra action and pushed way ahead of where I should be. The universal back button is kinda' nice in these situations, but I always forget about it and would need to get used to its availability for it to become truly useful.

I feel like I've stepped back in time to the times when you'd buy a PC with all sorts of crap pre-installed that you'd have to spend a day or so getting rid of. I'm also feeling old because some of these comments sound reminiscent of those I often hear from my mom about any sort of technology. The big difference is that I don't feel inept as a result because I am quite confident that it's them that have screwed up the design (rather than me being too stupid to use it or something).

So, it's going back today. In spite of all this, Misun has decided that she wants one of these instead of the iPhone she was planning to get — everyone's got different needs, I guess.

Relatedly, I don't see anything compelling in the 5S and plan to keep my 4S until the next round of hardware updates — unless it dies. It is clear to me that Apple belongs on top with respect to the rest of the field of junk that's out there, but they are starting to get bloated and silly (what's that about swiping from the middle of the screen to search? How does that make sense?) — the most recent update is mostly just visual and little of it makes my life any easier (the one exception that comes to mind is the control center — and that's partly because of the flashlight feature).

I'm also amused by the fact that I'm actually find myself very seriously considering the new Microsoft Surface. We budgeted for a new computer for me because mine is quite dated at this point (about 7yrs old) and I've been doing a lot of research (including borrowing the previous version of the Surface for a bit). I really like the ability to use it as either a viable laptop or a tablet. It wasn't super-stable (crashed more than once while I had it) and Windows 8 needs greater acceptance (i.e. developer acceptance and application adaptation) before it reaches its potential, but I can see a lot of potential there. It's probably not for everyone, but I am really liking it in spite of its problems. I've really got to hand it to Microsoft Research on this one.

Why can't Apple get podcasts right?

I am very glad that Apple decided to embrace podcasts all those years ago (2006 was it?), but it still feels like they are the ugly stepchild that gets no love. Why?

All I want is to have a playlist that is always, automatically populated with all the podcast episodes I subscribe to and to which I have not yet listened. Since a lot of what I listen to is news, I'd like to hear the oldest episodes first so I can build up an understanding chronologically. The problems in the latest version include:

  • Many episodes frequently fail to download. No reason given.

  • Episodes that did not download still show up in playlists and the app throws a halting error when it reaches one, forcing me to manually move to the next episode. This is awful when I'm running.

  • We have an option to play the most recent episode first or manual — but nothing else! How does this make any sense?

  • When previous versions of the podcast app were crappy, at least I could revert to using my smart playlists, but Apple has decided that podcasts should no longer appear on the Music app. Not sure why not.

  • Not sure this is related, but ever since I've started using the podcast app with RunKeeper, the latter's audio cues are erratic. This could just be an iOS 7 thing or an "I've got an old device" thing — not really sure.

Apple, please give the app some love and test it in real-world scenarios.

My son's name is what?

One of Misun's tasks in Korea was to register our son as a citizen there. At this point, he can be a dual citizen until 18 and we want to let him make his own choices. So, Misun's dad drove her over to the government offices to fill out the paperwork and whatnot.

Korean names tend to be two syllables and each one is represented by a single Chinese character. One of those syllables is usually shared among all the boys of a particular family generation — in our case, that is 희 (hyee) with a Chinese character representing happy or joyful. Combined with 용 (Yong), which means dragon, he is happy dragon. Dragon is a strong animal and also represents both the year he was born and the year I was born. Add to that the fact that he was born smiling and it is perfect for him — I love it!

Misun doesn't get much practice with Chinese characters these days, so she asked her dad to write his name on the papers. After she gave them to the clerk, she picked up a dictionary(?) to take a look and then had to ask her dad to verify what he put down. It seems he chose the character for shiny instead of joyful. When pressed he simply said he liked it better and that he'd had her brother use it for his son, too! He just changed our son's name on a whim and, honestly, I think it's pretty hysterical.

Our Yong-Hyee will always be my Happy Dragon, but now he has one more story to tell — and it involves his grampa.

Mattie had a great summer at the pool

It looks like they are getting ready to close up our pool soon and Mattie's not here to enjoy it now anyway, but she had a great summer of swimming!

Mattie has always love to play in the water, but in the beginning of the summer, that involved a life jacket and hugging the sides (or daddy) for dear life. We went to the pool nearly very day after I got home from work and most weekends, too. Now she's swimming by herself, jumping in, diving down (a bit), swimming with her face in the water and she can swim all the way across the pool in the deep end! I am so proud.

Towards the end, I was bringing Yonghee (Maverick) to the pool with her and we would float around together in a tube while Mattie had a blast. I love being their dad. I can't wait until their back.

When she showed gramma, she gave her a dollar – like what grampa used to do for us in upstate New York.

Daddy! There's a yak in the sky!

A couple of stupid stories from me today:

This morning, on our way to religious school, Mattie pointed out that the clouds looked like a yak. I was shocked that she got so specific with what I think of as an obscure animal, but she was right. — it was a yak with distinctive horns and all.

Our sleeping configuration is a bit odd these days maverick is much safer on the floor now, and therefore Misun is often found sleeping on the floor as well. She often starts off in bed with me and then goes to him when he starts playing her song… at the top of his lungs. Occasionally I will follow her later on because I enjoy sleeping with the woman I married.

Sometimes, Mattie gets up in the middle of the night because something has spooked her (it was darker than usual because her door had been closed by someone), and this happened two nights ago. With my mom in town for a bit, Maverick's bed was on the floor in our room and I'd followed Misun there when she went to him. Mattie's crying finally woke me up, but I was so disoriented that I must have spent five minutes trying to figure out wht I couldn't get out the door before figuring out it was actually the window on the opposite side of the room. On the plus side, Mattie's tears vanished and were replaced by laughter as soon as I explained what happened. Win?

In other news, I am very nervous for Misun during her flight to Korea at the end of the week. Mattie will be great, I have no doubt. Yong-hee is a sweetheart, but he is very mobile now crawling and climbing and practicing standing. Henson the cusp of walking, too and I'm afraid it may even happen this week! I think he is going to make life very difficult for Misun and all those around her on the plane. Good luck, Misun! At least he only goes in bursts of about two to three hours at a time between naps…

Kimchi and the vacuum – evolved

In one of Paula Poundstone's early standup routines (the Pop Tarts video, actually), I seem to recall her asserting that the primary difference between us and our pets was our ability to use a vacuum cleaner – instead of running from it in fear. The whole thing should be linked below in a playlist, but I didn't have time to go through the whole thing and find the bit.

When Kimchi, our dog, was little, he was terrified of the vacuum. Whenever I would turn it on, I could count in him to run away and hide. However, in the last year or so, I've noticed that his relationship to the device has changed. He now seems fascinated with it. Now if I turn it on in another room (I don't think I had other rooms at that point), he runs to me! He watches intently as I move the loud machine back and forth across the floor. He's still afraid and if it gets too close, he'll hop back, but he's definitely interested. Paula, is my dog evolving?

When I was growing up, it was made very clear that we should chew with our mouths closed. This makes a lot of sense to me because no one really wants to look at the masticated meal in our mouth. However, as Mattie has grown up, we've realized that this was at odds with our efforts to make meal time one for family togetherness as well as our desire to encourage our verbally inclined young girl. Also, in Korea, it was my experience that people didn't mind talking with food in their mouths (but ladies would cover their mouths in these situations. These things are a higher priority for us and as a result, we have set our own rule for our family — chew with you mouth closed unless you are talking (but try to cover your mouth).

Anyone else do the same?

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January 2014


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