Saturday, June 22, 2024

Where to?

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When I'm in a foreign place I use Google Maps all the time, but intersections give me headaches. To be honest I'm not sure if my navigation skills will take me anywhere if you handed me an actual map. The app tells me, say, to right in one corner, but I won't be certain if I'm in the right place until I see the blue pin moving in the screen, approaching the correct vector. You will see me walk straight for 10 meters, scratch my head, go in another direction, and continue on if the arrow tells me I'm doing it right. I did that on my way to Gwangjun market. The old Korean man wondered what I was doing. 

[Google Maps works best with mobile data, which I activate through esims. Holafly or Airalo (thanks for recommending, Sir Will!) offer the best deals and can go cheaper than roaming.]

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Thursday, June 20, 2024

A full day in Seoul

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While watching—or pretending to watch—the changing of the palace guards in front of the Gwanghwamun Gate of Gyeongbokgung Palace, I overheard two sixty-something Ilongga women in thick, colorful hanbok say to each other, "Daw malipong na ko. Puli na ta." Like me, they hid under the shade of the police lookout station.

"Taga-diin kamo, Ma'am?" I asked.

"Sa Roxas kami," the older lady said.


I then met Abby at Homie Café. The small store displayed a portable typewriter and served great coffee. The writer Jessica Zafra wrote about how easy it is to score a good cup of coffee in Seoul than in anywhere else she had been to, including Italy. Now I see her point.

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Abby, who graduates from internal medicine training this year, is our chief resident from St. Elizabeth Hospital. She had just presented our case report in a huge oncology meeting in South Korea today. When I met her yesterday, she was apologetic. She got lost because she took the wrong train. I brushed it aside, told her that happens all the time. There are worse ways to spend a conference trip, and that includes losing your poster in the airport. Yes, I'm talking to you, Roger Velasco.

We had traditional and mango bingsu in Gyedong. We were thirsty from all the walking. South Korean heat, like a tropical morning during Monday flag ceremonies, is nothing compared to GenSan's, which feels like the artisanal ovens they cook pizzas in. But I would have preferred sweater weather.

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We went to the Starfield Library in Coex, Gangnam. By this time, we already had better grasp of the train system. 

Oh, if you plan to visit Seoul, don't go on a tour group. It's better explored on foot. On your own. Unless you're with my mother, who prefers to sit all the time. Download the Naver app. Google Maps and Apple Maps don't work well. Get a Tmoney card from any convenience store and add credits to it through a machine in the subway. The machine does not accept credit cards, only cash—a lesson I'd learned the hard way, which required me to go up and down three flights of stairs four times. I could have easily taken a cab, but my pride got the better of me. If I was able to figure out the Japan train system, I certainly could do South Korea's, too. I did, eventually, after what felt like a major leg and cardio day in the gym.

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Everything, it seems, is translated to Korean. The books are lovely, the paper creamy and smooth. I experienced a Dark Matter-ish kind of disorientation when I saw Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tail in Korean and with a better book cover. 

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At 4 PM, we couldn't decide if it was too late for a proper lunch or too early for a proper dinner. We bought pork skewers from this smiling man in Myeongdong. The teriyaki sauce dripped on my sneakers, but the street food tasted so, so good.

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Full, Abby and I decided to call it a night, parted ways to our own hotels, and agreed to meet early the next day for day one of the conference. I felt like running because I'd forgotten I was lactose-intolerant until my bowels demanded to be evacuated as soon as possible, many thanks to the bingsu splurge.

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Abby did such a great job at the conference today! Congratulations, Abby, Rhea, Felise and Dayanara, for a job well done.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Two friends

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Mural along Judge Alba Street.

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Friday, June 7, 2024

A dad's sperm affects his son's metabolism, Nature study says

I'm always on the lookout for illustrations that might find some use in the classroom. Here's one, for example, about how diet affects epigenetic expression. 

A dad’s sperm records his diet — and this record affects his sons’ metabolism, according to a study of mice and humans.

Giving male mice a high-fat diet raises levels of some types of RNA in their sperm, the study found. The research also showed that the male offspring of male mice on this unhealthy diet had metabolic problems such as glucose intolerance, a characteristic of diabetes. The sons of human dads with a high body mass index (BMI) exhibited similar problems, according to epidemiological analysis.

The study was published in Nature on 6 June.

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