korea

Tough Questions: What’s the Worst Thing You’ve Paid More than $50 For?

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Every week we ask everyone who hangs out around here to answer a tough question. This week:

What’s the worst thing you’ve paid more than $50 for?

Rules are simple: What do you regret blowing half a c-note on? We all spend money on things we regret, but when did you really mess up? Did you get into an eBay war and lose sight of just how important collectable glassware is? Did you buy a plane ticket to somewhere you didn’t even want to go? Did you go to grad school, like, at all?

Alex Russell

Every year I go to Vegas with a few friends. We go in March, both because Chicago is miserable in March and because March Madness in Vegas is always full of degenerates, but mostly your happier, saner degenerates. A regret story about Vegas is nothing new, but it’s hard to pin down a “bad beat” any easier than this one. We were early for a dinner reservation, because your life in Vegas revolves around when you’re supposed to be where for what, and there was a roulette table right outside the restaurant. Vegas wants you to play, of course, but they want you to play impulsively. The $100 bet on black because I was hungry and frustrated was straight out of an anti-gambling PSA, and even though I know in my heart that Vegas is smarter than me… it’s rarely that damn obvious.

Alex Marino

Remember netbooks? It was that awkward time between laptops getting smaller and the iPad’s debut. People swore that netbooks were going to be the next big thing. I bought it because I wanted something for taking notes on in graduate school. I only installed what was absolutely essential for school stuff to keep it running fast. Well, it wasn’t fast. It sucked. And now I have a $200 dinosaur collecting dust in my closet.

Mike Hannemann

When you go to Epcot, sometimes you will want a drink. When you want a drink at Epcot, you’ll notice each country the park is divided into has a beer from that country. When you figure this out, you will want to go on a beer crawl of every country. When you do this, you will drink nine beers with high alcohol content. When you complete the beer crawl you will go to the Japan portion of the park and buy a $75 backpack that is a Goomba from Super Mario. When you do this, your parents will think you need to go back to therapy.

Andrew Findlay

I bought a pair of Mephisto shoes for 150 dollars. I was in Europe with a group for my friend’s wedding, and after they went off on their honeymoon we went to Paris. I had a pair of old, ratty tennis shoes, and I was ironically worried about them causing foot pain from the miles and miles I would walk there. My solution was to go to a shoe store and buy those damned Mephistos, which are like the Cadillac of supportive shoes. Seriously, podiatrist-recommended. They felt great for the first day and a half, and then I started experiencing sharp pains in the balls of both feet. One day in particular, waiting in line to go up the Eiffel Tower, the standing for more than an hour really did a number on me. Once we got up there, I immediately sprinted to the nearest bench and sat down without informing my friends of what I was doing. Because there are a shit-ton of people at the Eiffel Tower and because I’m an idiot, I did not see them again until we all made it back to where we were sleeping. I spent the rest of the vacation limping around, complaining about my feet, and being generally annoying to my companions. To this day, the balls of my feet still cause me pain, ranging from slight to significant depending on the day. I’ve bought a lot of crap I regret, but these motherfuckers ruined my vacation and gave me a lasting injury, and I paid out 150 dollars for the privilege. Clear winner.

Brent Hopkins

Fifty dollars was much harder for me to figure out than I would care to admit. I am a fan of saving money and spending it on big purchases, so I rarely have things that I am just disappointed in. There was something recent that didn’t sit well with me, and that was a motel I stayed at when my sister came to visit. Now, this motel was 38 dollars per night and we stayed two nights, so it amounted to over 50 in total, but I would have rather roamed like a vagabond than stay there. There was nothing aesthetically pleasing about this place and the bathroom looked like it had seen the Korean War in its prime. This was supposed to be a relaxing vacation but we were both awake by 7 a.m. and out the door to spend as little time as possible there. I was around there a few weeks ago again and just looking at the facade of the motel made me feel dirty. Never again will I go that far by my purse strings again.

Pay Day and Pineapples

 

Brent Hopkins

There is nothing quite like the feeling of getting paid monthly or biweekly, depending on your job. That is the main incentive people have of going in and grinding 40 hour weeks for the majority of their lives. I am like most people where the synapses in my brain fire when I check my bank balance and see the money is a few grand higher than before. I always felt this was unrelated to other outside influences and that the feeling of getting paid would always have that endorphin buzz attached.

This month, I started a new job and I am the only person who gets paid on the 25th of the month. I was pretty excited for this because I had taken a bit of a break from work and had not been paid in awhile. I was pretty surprised to find that I was almost completely unenthused when I checked my bank account and it took me awhile to figure out why.

A large portion of the glee from getting paid is tied to all the people around you getting excited about the day, without that it is like clapping at the end of a movie with no other spectators… it just feels a bit empty. I wonder if I got paid more would this sentiment be different, but I don’t think it would. Pay day is one of those few things that are a regular celebration that goes across language barriers and cultures; it really needs to be shared to get the full benefit.

This is how I expect my next 11 pay days will look.

I love fresh pineapple and I have gotten quite good at carving them up as opposed to buying them pre-sliced. Pineapples aren’t the cheapest of fruit but I managed to grab some for three dollars each. I felt like I had just stolen them from the pineapple plant (not tree) they were so cheap, so I took my bounty home to make some smoothies.

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Incredibly disappointing compared to the tree most people have in mind for pineapples.

These pineapples were small so when I got to carving I got rid of the outer layer of armor and about 20% of the fruit was gone. Then I cored the thing, because biting into that is akin to chewing sweet bark. After all was said and done I was covered in juice and had about a cup of pineapple. This is the most disappointing ratio of work to delicious in the fruit world, hands down. Maybe it’s because I live alone and I have to converse with myself but I looked down at this thing and seriously considered ways to use the remains of the pineapple. It took all of me not to blend that core into a gummy mess and consume it. I honestly believe there are few things worse than feeling like something you invested in was wasted – small pineapples will do it to you every time.

Off to my sad corner

Images: Funky Space Monkey, Corbis

A Visual Travelogue of Chinese Food

Brent Hopkins

Good day folks, it is time for yet another non-gaming article from yours truly.

Today I want to chat about Chinese food. I am coming back from two years living in South Korea and one of the main things you miss when you live overseas is the food. South Korea has decent international cuisine and plenty of American chains like Subway, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell. That being said, there are still a ton of things you just can’t have in South Korea without spending an arm and a leg — like cold cuts and fine cheeses. I traveled a lot in my two years, so I was able to get sated on many things in countries like Japan and Taiwan which have dirt cheap imports on those kinds of goods.

The thing that I want to really focus on here is Chinese food. Chinese food is unique in that every country you visit tends to have drastically different cuisine that is considered “Chinese.” In Korea there are two or three main dishes that are considered Chinese. The stigma behind the food is much the same as it is in America, though: tasty, cheap, and not entirely healthy. That being said, the food is delicious just like in America but it is drastically different. My favorite dish happens to be jjambbong:

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Seafood and spice, so very nice!

This is a spicy seafood soup with rice noodles and lots of veggies and seafood, mainly squid octopus, and mussels. This is absolutely divine and is probably the only Korean-Chinese dish I really wish I could find in America. This will almost never happen because the seafood in America tends to be less fresh and more expensive and generally speaking spicy soup isn’t something you see, as we go for creamy and savory soups. This gets five stars, and in any country this should be on the Chinese menu.

Next we have bokumbap, which is just good old fried rice, though they do tend to throw a fried egg on top in Korea. Three stars, because honestly the plain rice in Korea is so good that this just doesn’t really hit the spot

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Great picture, but you won’t be craving this wherever you’re from.

Lastly, we have jajangmyeon or black noodles. These things look vile but actually taste pretty decent. The problem is this is the cheapest main dish you can buy and it is known for being made with old oil in less than street-legal kitchens. I personally got violent food poisoning from this dish but would recommend it nonetheless as it is very Korean-Chinese. Three stars. I dunno if I can love myself giving a higher rating to something that led to an IV drip.

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This looks a bit like alien insides. Their insides become your insides! ^_^

Hong Kong is now a part of China proper but even there the dishes are slightly different due to the heavy British influence. This is closer to the mainland of China in cuisine and you can have some amazing meals on the street in little alleyways.

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This is actually open air in an alleyway even though it looks like a shop wall.

This turned into super cheap fried noodles. The perk here is that you can choose the type of noodles and the type of meat and the lady fries it up and gives it to you to go in a matter of seconds. These noodles are delicious and were better than a lot of sit-down restaurant meals I have had.

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Look at this handsome man with his farm worth of animals in the background.

Next, I got to have some pork, goose, and duck meat in what appears to be a butchery/restaurant. This is an odd combination as you tend to want to keep the dirty work away from patrons but I say if you can’t handle seeing where it came from then you shouldn’t be eating it anyways. This meat was smoked goodness and I can’t recommend it enough. Also the price was reasonable compared to going to a place with a prep room and a closed off kitchen. Four stars. The taste and the value can’t really be beaten here.

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Had to eat the weak to get to the fish.

Last for Hong Kong I had some steamed fish, which is really hard to find in other areas of Asia. This is hands down my #1 Chinese dish and I try to have it any time the option presents itself. This thing is butter love in the esophagus. If you like fish, you will devour this whole thing’s body and crave more when you’re done. Face, fins, and inner bits are all fair game because it is just so friggin’ flavorful. I tend to understand disliking certain types of food but this is one I wouldn’t even invite a non-fish lover out for as I would feel its death was under-appreciated by the naysayer. All the stars. Seriously, there are only a few non-fish dishes I have had that can go head-to head with this.

Now, as most of the people reading this will probably be North American I am not going to go image search Chinese food since you know what is out there, but almost everyone has their favorite dish and their favorite place to go. There is nothing quite like Chinese cuisine around the world (please comment if you know any others) where the immigrants and the home nation always seem to create a fusion of dishes that would be the most appetizing within the country. I love Chinese food in every country I have had it but none of them taste or look anything alike except for having fried rice and dumplings. The one thing that is constant is just how similar it is to that country’s culture without just suddenly becoming American food or Korean food. It takes skill to be every nation’s entry into exotic dining, so props to the Chinese for making bellies happy.

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I lied these thing are so friggin good and I had to make mine in Korea to have them. Best appetizer from a Chinese place.

Image sources: General Google Image searches (first three) and the author (rest)

What is a Japanese Arcade Like?

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Brent Hopkins

Back again with a shorter entry. This one will be gaming related, but not a review. This one is a cultural story. Last weekend I went to Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto in Japan for vacation. They are about two hours away from Seoul by flight and it was my first foray into the land of video game history. I was with a friend who is not a gamer in the least, so I knew this wasn’t going to be a nerdcation. Still, we started out in Kobe and while we were walking around looking for some sweet Kobe beef we happened upon an arcade. Now, one thing about me that my gaming friends know is that I am an avid Sega fan — the Sega Saturn is my favorite system — and I’ve debated with myself over getting a Sega-flavor tattoo on my person.

This was a Sega arcade and when I walked in it was like all the synapses in my brain fired at once. I went from travel-weary to gleeful. The arcades in Japan are different than the ones I’ve been to in America and Korea in that the peripherals are extremely ornate. There are cards to save your profiles, there are fishing controllers, there are built in mouse and keyboards for PC-like gaming, there is just everything. Korea is close to this but as a PC-gaming nation the arcades are small and they focus more on dancing and light-gun games. America doesn’t really have arcades and the peripherals are almost always broken and mangled so it tends to be just light-gun, racing, and a few fighting games.

The thing I noticed most about this Sega arcade is the atmosphere of it. The men there (my travel buddy was the only woman) looked really serious and did not appear to be playing for fun. Some were grinding characters in games others were practicing combos in fighting games but the general air was serious gaming. I only had a short time to play so I say down and played some solo BlazBlue (a fighting game) and I had a blast. The games all appeared to cost about 100 yen (which is about a dollar, which is expensive) but there was no worrying about not having the right change after exchanging bills.

Later on in the trip we headed to Osaka where we spent most of our time and I got to go to a few more arcades. Sega has really cornered the market on the arcade scene in Osaka and Kobe at least with about 80% of the arcades being Sega branded. There was a large Namco (think Pac-Man and Tekken) arcade in Kobe but that was the only one I saw the entire time I was in Japan. The first Sega arcade I went to with the grumpy men was also the smallest I saw. The few Sega arcades I went to in Osaka were MASSIVE with the largest being a six-to-eight floor themeland with claw machines, pachinko, and photo booths. It felt closer to an amusement park than an actual arcade.

I love arcades and miss being able to go to them freely in America due to the console scene but they appear to be doing fine in Japan. There are plenty of really amazing games I wish would be released outside of Japan. The entire country is not as game-crazy as is oft perceived of Japan (especially not in the Kansai region) but you see Pokemon here and there and lots of anime characters (One Piece being the hands down most prevalent). I tried hard to pick up some nerd swag (goods, not swagger) while I was there and did find a few things, but it was hard (the best being Nintendo-brand playing cards, which is what the company originally made before video games). If you want your gaming fix I would recommend going to Tokyo, not elsewhere.