2017 Review

2017 was a year mostly taken up by wedding planning, and arranging for mine and Meg’s families to visit us in Korea during the Chuseok vacation. It was a successful year professionally, in which I added 10 scientific publications to my CV, including a whole book. It was also the year that I discovered – despite the public nudity –  I love Korean Spas.

January. On year’s day, we went to Ox and Bone, an American style BBQ restaurant.  The year started well, professionally, with the previous year’s research work being accepted for publication. Meg and I also found somewhere to live in Pohang.


In February, Meg and Muga moved Pohang so we spent a lot of this month slowly moving them from Ulsan to Pohang. The move went mostly ok, although we were confronted with a cockroach problem from a pre-owned fridge. By the end of the month, we had settled in though.

March started with Holi Hai, an event hosted by Indians in Korea.  My birthday is also in March, we went for a bbq beef platter and had planned to go to a shooting range in Daegu. It turned out, though, that it was closed on the 4th Saturday of the month we ended up going to downtown Daegu and experienced a Raccoon café and a great little Thai restaurant. March also saw the beginning of my side project for this year, the Pohang Restaurant guide. Since starting it, we have reviewed 54 restaurants.





In work related news, a commentary article that I co-authored was released as part of Accounts of Chemical Research’s issue on Holy grails in Chemistry. After many Sunday afternoons driving around the Gyeongju area looking for a pension to host our wedding, we finally came across Pension Haemil; a lovely little pension up in the mountains. Unlike many pensions in Korea, it was quite secluded and offered some privacy.

In April, the cherry blossoms bloomed once again, the weather was not as glorious as last year, but we did at least get to visit Yeongildae even though if it was a little overcast. We also decided to visit Pohang’s premier tourist attraction, Homigot sunrise plaza, which has a claim to being the Eastern-most point of the Korean peninsula. The main attraction is a statue of a hand coming out of the sea. After seeing it, it became apparent why the promotional pictures only show at sunrise: it hides the fact that the statue is not that impressive and covered in bird poop.





A review article that I co-authored appeared in a special issue of Chem Soc Reviews. I was quite pleased with this one, not only for the content but also because I prepared the artwork that would appear on the backcover of the issue.

On May 4th, Meg and I were legally married the date should be easy enough to remember, especially given that she is a Star Wars fan. The weekend after, we had our engagement photos taken by Roz Cruz photography at the scenic Ulsan Taehwagang park.

MJ Engagement S-48

In June, Meg and I kept our yearly commitment to see at least one play a year. This year went to see Busan Theatre group’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Busan’s outdoor theatre. Our peak millennial couple moment of the year was getting our dog’s DNA tested. We found out for sure that Muga is a Jindo-mix, but the rest is Korean mystery meat.





July saw us visit Centum City in Busan, the world’s largest department. It houses many high-end shops, restaurants, an ice rink, a cinema and Spa Land. The reason we went there was to visit Spa Land. The spa has two parts, there’s the bathhouse where you can bath in different temperature baths and steam rooms. The second part is a large relaxation area with various rooms set to different temperatures and humidity, massage chairs, games room and a restaurant. Despite the initial awkwardness of the public nudity in the bathhouse,  I really enjoyed it.

In August we both crossed off visiting Jeju island from our Korea bucket lists.

September was all about wedding ceremony preparation. Although the month started with Muga hurting her back and us having to put her on crate rest for a couple of weeks. On September 30th the wedding day finally arrived. The previous day, we picked our families up from Incheon airport and then moved them down to Gyeongju on the high-speed train line.   The wedding ceremony itself, we were really happy with; Meg did a great job of organising it. For our after party, we had a Korean BBQ and drinks at the pension and many of our guests stayed the night there with us. Again Roy Cruz did a great job on the photography.


With the wedding over, October allowed us to have some vacation time with our families First in Pohang, then in Seoul. In Pohang, we took our families to some of our favorite restaurants, a meerkat café, and for a walk along yeongildae beach.In Seoul, we took them to Dragon Hill Spa, Lotte World Tower, to try the street food in Myeongdong and on a daytrip to gapyeong, where we rode a zipline and had authentic Chuncheon Dakgalbi (spicy fried chicken).


In November, the book we have been working on for most of this year was finally submitted and is now in production with the publisher. November also saw a 5.4 earthquake hit Pohang– the 2nd strongest recorded earthquake in Korea; the strongest being the 5.8 that struck nearby Gyeongju last September. We came out of it unscathed in South Pohang, but some of the older buildings in North Pohang were badly damaged.

In December, we returned to Centum city for a Christmas visit to Spa Land and to watch.  Star Wars on the Starium theatre – supposedly one of the biggest screens in Asia. Saying nothing about the movie itself, the experience of a watching a movie on such a large screen was very impressive. It wasn’t quite as good as the Imax in London that we watched a Force Awakens on, but it was much cheaper. I wouldn’t go and see everything on that screen, but the large screen certainly enhances the space battles in a Star Wars movie. At work, the CSC had its end of year celebration at an all you can eat buffet in downtown Pohang. For the first time during an Ashes series, I was in a timezone that didn’t require me to lose a lot of sleep to follow it; unfortunately, England surrendered the urn at the first opportunity.



Three Days in Jeju

This summer we went to Jeju. Jeju is kind of like the Risa of Korea.

We started in Jeju city where the airport is. With a rental car, we drove to Manjanggul caves.  These are a volcanically formed network of tubes that you can walk through, it takes about 20-30 minutes to walk the whole route there and back. It was pretty cool, and only 2000 W entry, although it was quite chilly down there.

Next, we drove towards our hotel (Co-op city hotel) which was close to the foot of Seongsan Ilchulbong., the bowl-shaped mountain formed by a volcanic eruption. The roof of the hotel has a rooftop bar and some jacuzzis which you can rent for 30 mins, but most impressively it has a beautiful view of the mountain.

In the morning we walked up Seongsang ilchulbong. It is quite an easy walk but takes about two hours especially if you stop for photo ops. The summit has an impressive view of the interior of the bowl, and on your way back down you get some lovely views of Jeju.

For the rest of the day, we drove around the coast of Jeju and made stops at a couple of waterfalls. The first was Jeonbang falls, its claim to fame is that it is the only waterfall in Asia that falls directly into the ocean. It is really impressive, you walk around the bottom of it and paddle in the water where the waterfall mixes with the ocean water.  The second was cheonjiyeon falls, which has a very nice walk leading up to it. The waterfall itself is quite impressive and scenic, but not as dramatic as the Jeonbang falls. After that, we went to our hotel near sanbangsan mountain.

On the last morning, we went to a neat little spa, Sanbangsan hot springs. It is quite similar to most Koren spas but it also has some baths which are heated by a volcanic hot spring and is filled with carbonated water. They also have outdoor swimming pools and baths with the carbonated water. On our way back to Jeju city we stopped by a beach for lunch and a walk; the beach was beautiful with white sands and black volcanic rock.


We didn’t have time to go to see the lava columns. We also didn’t hike up  Mt. Hallasan mainly because that will probably take up most of a day and it was the height of summer too.

Jeju is definitely worth a visit at least once if you are staying in Korea for a reasonable amount of time. Although it has a lot of tourist attractions/museums (such as a teddy bear museum, a sex museum, and mysterious road), it is the areas of outstanding natural beauty that make it special. Three days is probably enough to see everything if you plan your time well; if you want to see Mt Hallasan, then add an extra day. Renting a car is also a good idea, so you don’t have to rely on the buses.




Review 2016

2016 was a year where everything changed, mostly for the better, for me both personally and professionally. I rolled the dice by moving 5000 miles to start a job as a postdoc in Korea to be with someone I’d only known from the internet, and a short vacation together in South Korea last summer. Looking back, it seems a little foolhardy, but a year later I’m engaged to that person and my career has developed here much faster than it was doing in the UK 2015. There’s probably a decent Toastmasters speech to be made from this year somewhere down the line. Here’s a short reviewer of other things that have happened this year.

January started at Chris’ new year’s murder mystery party and recovery steak the next day. On January 2, Meg arrived for her vacation in the UK. It had been 5 months since we had last seen each other in Korea. Together, we visited London, Edinburgh, Leeds, Newcastle, and Carlisle. On January 20 we left for Korea.

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Meg at Kings Cross; Leaving party in Leeds (photo credit: Chris); and my last supper in the UK.

In February, I started my new job as a postdoc at the Institute for Basic Science (the unintentionally chuckle-worthy, IBS). Meg and I took a trip to Busan.


Gwangali Beach, Busan

In March, we took a trip to Seoul. We went up Namsan Tower and ate Alabama BBQ in Itaewon.


Alabama BBQ in Seoul, Namsan Tower view.

In April, is the cherry blossom season in Korea, My lab went on a picnic at to a local park.


POSTECH campus in the Cherry Blossom Season; The center for Self-assembly and Complexity group picnic.

Nothing interesting happened in May or June!

In July, I returned to Seoul for the Supramolecular and Materials Chemistry Conference, which included a trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace. The weekend before we tried out an escape room in Seoul.


Part of Gyeongbokgung Palace

In August, I visited the United States. After a layover in San Francisco, I moved on to Tennessee to visit Meg’s family.  In Tennessee, we visited the Jack Daniels distillery. We also had a 3 day trip to Washington DC, via Knoxville. During my time in the US, I got a few things off my bucket list: I went skydiving and got to experience the US constitution’s 2nd amendment.

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Me with an AK-47; the view from the Lincoln Memorial; Meg and I at the Whitehouse

In September, we went to Eonyang for the Eonyang Bulgogi festival. Korea experienced its 1st and 4th strongest recorded earthquakes within an hour of each other.


Raw beef (left) and Eonyang bulgogi (right)

In October, southern South Korea was hit by a typhoon.  We visited a beach near Ulsan. I went to Busan for the Korean Chemical Society Fall Meeting.


In November, we visited the Eonyang amethyst caves. I went to my first Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

In December, we had we visited Ganjelgot cape, famous for being the place where the sun rises the earliest on the Korean Peninsula and the home of Korea’s largest postbox. On Christmas day we went to Busan for the Christmas tree festival. Meg and I got engaged.


The largest postbox in Korea; Meg and I (back in April, but it’s the best picture of us)

Korean Food Part 1


One of the best things about living in Korea is the food. Like many Asian cultures, food is traditionally shared in Korea. Often the main will be cooked in the center of the table  There are many side dishes (Banchan, 반찬) with most Korean meals. Kimchi 김치 is ubiquitous, often with many other types of fermented vegetable too.


sidedishes from a Korean restaurant.

Here are a few of the foods that I like:

Korean BBQ

One of the distinctive things about Korean food compared to western is that in some restaurants your meat is brought to your table raw and you barbecue it yourself. You can get many different cuts of meat, from belly pork at the cheaper end to Wagyu steaks at the more expensive.  The cooked meat is normally eaten by wrapping in a salad leaf with some other vegetables and sauce .

three different cuts of bbq meat (left), and Wagyu steaks (right).

Gamjatang  감자탕

Literally means potato soup, although there is often potato in it, is not the main component.  Gamjatang is pork backbone stew. It is very similar to rib meat, but it’s from the spine. Like many Korean dishes its supposed to be shared so there’s often served as a stew in the center of the table.



Dakgalbi 닭갈비

Literally means ‘chicken rib’ it’s actually chicken breast meat cooked in a spicy sauce, which often has noodles, rice cakes (ddeok, 떡), mushrooms and vegetables added. It is from a place a called Chooncheon the northern part of south Korea.  After you finish, normally the remaining sauce is cleared up with a portion of rice which is stir-fried into the remaining sauce. It’s delicious and filling. If there is one meal I think would do very well in the west, it would be dakgalbi. I doubt, though, you would be allowed to serve uncooked chicken in the UK. In Korea, it’s a popular meal and there some western fusion varieties where there it served with cheese fondue or cheese-filled rice cakes.

Traditional dakgalbi (left) and cheese ring version (right).

The Joe Rogan Podcast

Joe Rogan is a commentator on MMA, a comedian, and a former martial arts practitioner . He is also the host of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. The JRE is approaching 800 episodes, I’ve only listened to a fraction of them. His guests include his fellow comedians, MMA fighters and people who Rogan thinks are interesting.

Generally, his podcasts are around 3 hours each where he has a long conversation with a guest in the studio. What I like about them is that 3 hours is plenty of time to really talk to a person find out what it is that makes them tick, what they believe and why they believe it. In the podcast format is much easier to digest than reading a book, which means you can listen to people you wouldn’t normally invest time and money in by buying their books and read them.

He’s had some very rational guests: Michael Schermer and Sam Harris are recurring guests; Brian Cox and Neil Degrasse Tyson have also been on the show. The podcasts I’ve found most interesting, though, are the fringe characters such as Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake is a proponent of morphic fields, which is the idea that knowledge can be passed telepathically through nature and social groups. I’ve heard and read about him and I thought he must be delusional. After listing to him on the podcast – I still think he’s wrong- but he’s very eloquent and can explain lucidly and convincingly his experiment and strange phenomena that he has observed, but then jumps to the ‘magic’ explanation. He is a true believer, he’s done experiments with Steven Rose and Richard Wiseman, Sheldrake interprets the results one way, Rose and Wiseman the opposite. It’s fascinating that intelligent people can look at the same data and reach a different conclusion. In fairness to Sheldrake, he posts both papers by him and his critics on his website.

An interesting guest he had on recently was Scott Adams, best known for creating the Dilbert comic strip, he also predicted over a year ago that Donald Trump would win the US election in a landslide. Adams is also a hypnotist, and he believes that Trump is one of the most persuasive politicians there has ever been because he uses some of the tricks that hypnotists use. Also, Trump’s hyperbole and rhetoric give him a lot of  latitude for comprising somewhere in the middle in a way that a moderate candidate couldn’t.

A criticism of the JRE it’s maybe a little too open minded, some people can just say things that are obviously ridiculous, but he doesn’t challenge them that often. But  it is nice that you can list to different points of view (with very little effort) from people you would not normally hear from, especially in these days of social media echo chambers. The podcasts with comedians are often very funny too.

Some interesting people I’ve found through listening to the JRE:

Scott Adams (see above)

Dr. Rhonda Patrick: biochemist and health and nutrition expert (recurring guest).

Prof. Gad Saad: An Evolutionary biologist who studies the evolutionary basis of consumerism (recurring guest).