Solipsism and Me

Idle reports from an idle fellow

Tuesday 11 December 2007

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Day 3 begins with my mental clock repeatedly kicking me into action a little prematurely, i.e. at 4 am, 5.30, and 7.30, when I reluctantly rise and shower, and discover, oh horror, that although my suit is quite presentable I have forgotten to pack a tie. To appear before the Minister of Culture without a tie would be unthinkable. Fortunately, however, this is the Hotel Posh, and they have a shop offering a wide choice of overpriced and horrible neck wear even before breakfast. The nice lady recommends me a blue one “to match my eyes” and I proceed triumphantly to breakfast. This time I am not quite so late, and therefore there is bacon to go with the scrambled eggs, and the room is full of busy business people, even some exotic looking westerners.

I rush downstairs just a few minutes before my minder arrives at 0900, a taxi is hailed, and off we go to the Korean National Museum for the “21 Year Sejong Corpus” Launch.

This is a major media event, featuring TV cameras, lots of men in suits, girls handing out bouquets of flowers (yes I got one) etc. There is an interesting exhibition with little booths displaying Korean NLP software of various flavours, complemented by a lady making souvenir printouts using rather older technology. The morning consisted of a very loud and incomprehensible video about the project, followed by incomprehensible speeches in Korean from the Ministry and the top boffins behind this 21 year old national corpus project, followed by a very bizarre concert, featuring traditional instruments, drums, bowed fiddles, harpsichords, etc. together with an electric piano, and a conductor in a frock coat. Energetic but weird. Oh, and then I gave my talk, very slowly and clearly, only getting a bit lost in the middle on account of forgetting whether I was supposed to finish at noon or 1230. In the event I stopped at 1220 and no-one complained, to me at least.

Then I was rushed off for lunch in the Museum resto, which turned out to be kimchi and bone soup, with rice and noodles, quelle surprise. Kiyong Lee then bought me a decent cup of coffee in the museum coffee shop, and we had a chat about TEI/ISO work till he returned for the afternoon session. Being officially excused attendance from this since it consisted of real work reports in Korean, I then spent a couple of hours pottering around the museum, mostly enjoying the displays of buddhist paintings and calligraphy, since I still don’t see what all the fuss about porcelain is for, and learning a bit about Korean history which I will probably forget quite soon. It’s an impressive building with lots of space and many dramatic vistas.

I returned to the conference proper a decent interval before it finished; had my photo taken numerous times and exchanged a few business cards (It’s what we honky celebs do, you know) and then we all trooped out to get the bus to the posh restaurant for dinner. Good thing about dinner: we didn’t sit on the floor. Not so good: I was mostly surrounded by people who didn’t speak English and I didn’t discover till very late that at least one of them spoke quite good French. Korean banquets in my experience follow much the same pattern as Japanese ones, though never say that to a Korean; they have slightly different weird ingredients (kimchi, for example) but the procedure is the same: harassed ladies bring lots of little dishes of strange things to eat and plonk them down in front of you. Some of the strange things are accompanied by strange sauces to dunk them in; others are not. Some of them are meant to be assembled into little parcels before dunking (not so easy with fiendishly difficult Korean chopsticks); others you can just eat. There is a sweetish rice-wine or beer or tea, but you are not allowed to pour your own drink. There is soup, usually a bit fishy and spicy. The strange things today included delicious raw fish, boiled beef ribs, and really quite nasty rotted fish. And just when you think everything’s over, they bring on the so called main course which is… ta daa, rice, kimchi, and assorted pickles. A few slices of snow pear and some rather nice fruit juice, some closing words from the chief boffin, and we’re out of there.


Written by Lou

December 14, 2007 at 18:08

Posted in Uncategorized

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