What do you like to do?

I have an article in today's Korea Times. I wrote it Sunday afternoon as I ate lunch at the Isaac sandwich shop in Suwon.

In it, I mention meeting Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. I'm sure that most Koreans will have no idea who he is. But according to surveys, most Americans don't know he is, either, and aren't familiar with the other 8 justices.

What do you like to do?
By Casey Lartigue Jr.

When I was working as a policy analyst and radio talk show host in Washington, D.C., I had the honor of meeting U.S. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas on several occasions.

The first time, at a dinner party, I listened as others asked him serious questions about recent court cases. When it was my turn I started to introduce myself, but he interrupted me to say, ``Casey, I know who you are. You are that young man at the Cato Institute causing so much trouble about school choice."

What a surprise! Justice Thomas knew who I was! Instead of choosing one of the difficult policy wonk questions swimming around in my head, I asked him: What do you like to do?

It is a question that we don't ask others often enough. Justice Thomas burst out laughing with the deep powerful laugh he is known for. It turned out, among many things, that he loves bodybuilding. Whereas he was careful with his responses about court cases, he gave a hilarious and animated impromptu lecture on the history of bodybuilding.

I was reminded of that conversation with Justice Thomas as I recently prepared to be the MC for a networking event in Seoul hosted by the Korea Foreign Company Employees Human Network (KOFEN at www.kofen.org) on June 18. I usually revise my prepared remarks for speeches after I meet with audience members so I chatted with Korean staff members and guests who arrived early. They gave serious, almost apologetic, responses about their jobs. But when I asked them ``What do you like to do?" I got the same types of responses I got from Justice Thomas: Laughter and joyful discussion!

I scrapped my original remarks, encouraging everyone at the event 1) not to be shy 2) not to sit or talk with friends/colleagues and, most importantly 3) to ask each other, ``What do you like to do?" I stressed: Many people dislike their jobs or do them to get paid until they can find something else better. So why spend this wonderful evening discussing something you don't really like? ``What do you like to do" became the evening's theme, as people gleefully discovered similar interests.

At work, we must report to and work with superiors, clients, coworkers, customers. But our free time is our time to do what we like so it should be fun. And talking about it should be fun. Eventually the ``what do you do" questions were asked, but they were by people who felt they already had a connection.

Very often when I ask Koreans what they like to do, I get two responses. One, ``sleeping." Two, they don't have (or lack time for) a favorite activity. I'm surprised when people must ``think" about what it is that they like to do. I rattle off mine without thinking: Sing, dance, read, write, talk. You could wake me up at 1 a.m. from a deep sleep and I could answer the question (and would be ready after a quick shower to go out after I figured who you are and where you were!).

I'm also surprised when Koreans who have ``known" each other for years know very little about each other. I recently started meeting with two Korean linguistic professors who have known each other for a number of years. We discuss politics, life, education, Korea, history. At our first meeting I asked both ``What do you like to do?" They were looking at each other, shocked at what they learned about each other. The second time we met, we celebrated by doing things they both loved to do.


Reporting live, from Hankook

The Republic of Hankook

Michael Breen suggests that South Korea should change its name to differentiate itself from North Korea. It may make sense, but it is so unrealistic that if it happened, Breen would probably be the most surprised. He suggests the name be changed to Hankook.

Okay, I'll play along.

Mathias Specht writes about the importance of branding Hankook for tourism purposes. Specht, unfortunately, is not a very clear writer. He does finally say: "In the case of Korea, a similar storyline could rather convincingly (and truthfully) be built around its recent economic achievements, which are nothing short of breathtaking."

Does he seriously believe that people will want to visit Korea today because of its economic improvement?

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Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were Charles Schumer. But we repeat ourselves

Charles Schumer, idiot Congressman from New York, is determined to force American consumers to pay more for honey. Of course, that's not what he says, but that's what his actions cause. He's upset because Chinese honey sellers are trying to get around stiff U.S. tariffs on honey. Of course, Schumer focuses on the Chinese and that they are "breaking" the law, but the consequence is that he and other members of Congress force American consumers to pay more for honey.

Mark Twain famously said, "Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."

Meanwhile, there's a news story about millions of Americans waiting for food stamps. What type of mischief have Schumer and others engaged in to cause so many people to be dependent on government?

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Disconnecting from Facebook

Lacey Klingensmith has disconnected from Facebook. While we did the same action, we have completely different reasons for doing so.

He writes some silly stuff, such as: "If the general consensus admits a suspicion that these technologies are not really paving the way toward better communication, then why are we still keeping them around?"

We keep them around because we like them. We can pick and choose which ones we like. Those who don't like them can drop out. I'm not on Facebook, that doesn't mean I want some type of a vote or U.N. resolution to determine we should keep it around.

S/He concludes, somewhat dramatically:

"All I know is that somewhere in the midst of this confusion, I realized I forgot who I was. I chose to disconnect to reconnect with myself, and through myself, to rediscover the world of others.
For real communication to take place, it takes a self to know a self.'

1) I have no problem with people clicking over to talk to someone else and leave me hanging. I usually start counting. After 10 seconds I am likely to hang up. People I know become aware of this. So they don't feel the hurry to click back over to me and they know to call me back.
2) He/she may be right that he is not a good conversationalist. If he is as whiny with family members as he is in the column then there may be a good reason others look to get off the phone or click over to others.

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Message to Jeremiah Masoli: Stop breaking the law, asshole!!!

He has been kicked off the football team at the University of Oregon. He's talented, but he also keeps doing stuff to attract the attention of law-enforcement.



Upcoming events

I'm scheduled to be a featured guest on Mind Yo' Business hosted by Brian Higgins on XM 169 The Power.

Briwn will be interviewing me from America, I'll be talking on my cell phone from South Korea, I should be on the air from 9:15 or 10:15 a.m. ET (10:15 or 11:15 p.m. Korea time).

I'll be talking about a number of things related to South Korea, including traveling and working here, Korean politics, North Korea, education.

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June 18 I will be the MC for a Wine Business Party of Korean and American professionals in South Korea. Will give more details. I've convinced them to give a discount to anyone who mentions my name.

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At the end of the month I'll be speaking to a group of freshmen reporters at one of the universities here.