Thursday, December 29, 2005

Korean is the most...

I couldn't finish the statement, even though I am quoting someone else, for fear that my blog be vilified.

I am now at Minjok Sagwan High School preparing to teach middle school students at a winter english camp. I am reluctant to speak much about the camp; this is my fifth consecutive camp here so I obviously do like working here, but to allow myself to comment on it, I fear would open up the strong emotions I often feel at the interesting organizational practices here. I dare you to count the euphemisms in that sentence!

On campus are other camps and I feel more comfortable commenting on them. One of the camps is a ten week camp for university age students and it enforces EOP (English Only Policy). Students are encouraged to stick to English. People who slip up and speak in Korean have to pay a fine (the camp recently donated 400,000 won to a needy family- the money coming from preceeds fo Korean speakers).
In addition to the fear of penalty, I found a slogan written on the stairs: "Three months is not - long enough to improve - your english, wasting - time speaking - Korean is the most stupid - thing you could do". The hyphens indicate a break in the line; 'Three months is not" is on one step, "long enough to improve" is on the next.
The slogan is a good one and captures the urgency camp teachers feel. However, there are spaces between the steps so 'Korean is the most stupid" is all alone and I noticed it long before I put the sentence together. A little unfortunate, that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


In my previous post, I expected to reach 10,000 on Dec 26. In fact, I made it on Dec 27, sometime around 7:40 am (Korea time - which is still the 26th in North America).

Number 10,000 was from Tacoma Washington and apparently visited 4 pages in 40 seconds. I know my posts are short, but that still seems fast.

Of course, the number isn't really 10,000. As stated before, possibly as many as 1000 visits are mine. I would post to my blog, then visit the blog to see how it looked or use my blog to access the links to friends when on a different computer. Every time I self-linked, for example in my two or three posts about the re-introduction of bears to Chili Park, I added another visit to my counter. Ah, 1000 self-visits seems high but an average of one or more a day is ballpark- that's 500.

Since Alex was born, my output has dropped significantly. I suppose that if I kept up a strong posting rate, I would have reached this milestone faster. Well, I'll be discussing that in the inevitable end-of-year post coming soon.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Today I will reach 10,000 hits.

..and only a thousand or so are mine!

This morning at 9:00am, I was at 9,974 visitors.

I have no prize, but I may check the counter again later to see where it's at.

And the Marmot gets, what 10,000 in a day? It's taken almost a year and a half to reach this milestone.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas from KwandongAlex

And from Kwandongbrian and the whole Kwandongfamily!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Take that, ID!

In October, there was a trial in Dover, Pennsilvania about whether Inteligent Design could be taught in public schools. Personally, I find the ID hypothesis to be weak but it could be considered separately from fundamental Christianity in the same way Communism could be considered separately from the USSR or China. The problem is, with Communism or ID, there are no other examples to be seen. ID doesn't have to be promoted or researched by fundamental Christians but they are the only ones doing so.

Judge Jones passed down his ruling today on the case. He tore ID, as practiced in Dover, to shreds, in a very fair and well-documented way, with links to the evidence involved throughout his ruling. From Panda's Thumb

Judge John E. Jones wrote:
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.

In other words, Evolution is good science and ID is not, and you can accept both Christianity and evolution - they are not opposed to each other.

One of the problems with ID is that even the top scientists supporting ID say it is only science if you change the definition of science. From Pharyngula:

First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to "change the ground rules" of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces.

Call me vindictive or too eager for strong punishment, but I would like to see one of the defendents, Bonsell, face perjury charges. In his deposition before trial he said one thing and changed his story in the witness box.

I may feel lonely in wanting him charged Immediately after the trial, he lost his seat in an election - but not by much: Source here.

Bonsell got almost 2500 votes in spite of having been on the witness stand the week before and showing himself to be a liar -- 2500 people _like_ the lies he told.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What kind of fuel do they use here?

Here are two pictures of exhaust marks on the sidewalk in front of my apartment. The weather has been unusually cold but is that enough of an explanation? I don't remember such marks in Canada.

Darwin's posse just got bigger.

The Metropolitician has joined the posse. You will find a button on my right-hand side links column "Darwin has a posse" that will take you to, a mainstream science approach to the purely political controversy surrounding Evolution/creationism/ID.

The best quote I have found that really shows the way the argument is set up comes from Pastor Ray Mummert of Kansas; as defender of creationism and ID ( as quoted from kuro5hin).
"We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of
the culture," says Pastor Ray Mummert...

When you call your opponents names like that, you might be in trouble.

Friday, December 16, 2005

My apology to Baduk

A long time ago, Baduk made the claim that Dr Hwang, of cloning and stem cell fame, was lying and making false reports.

I thought he was wrong and disregarded everything he said. Surely, a famous and prestigious journal like Science wouldn't print an article without full review of it's claims.

Baduk, I apologize. You were right, you were right, you were right.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

My little guy is much better

Thanks for the healing thought, Skindleshanks. Alex seems better, not so hot, not so much snot pouring out.... Well that is probably already too much information. Soon, he'll be fine.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My little guy is sick.

No penis jokes - this is serious.

Well, not that serious. My son, Alex, has a fever and a URI -Upper Respiratory Infection ( a cold). This is his first illness since coming home from the hospital. He has had a cold for about a week, with trips to the doctor, a partial recovery, then another day or two of cold symptoms. The fever is new.

Just after Alex was born and when he was still in the hospital, he was sick for a few days. That was a difficult time because my wife was so upset that I couldn't understand what the problem was. The doctor saw our teary faces and kindly explained that it wasn't serious. It WAS serious enough to require an IV in his forehead. His Mark McNutt (an longtime friend) hairline has finally mostly grown back in.

About the time my wife and Alex came home, my mother-in-law told us we should either call him, or tell him, 'Bootdoora' (hang on). I'm not clear on whether this is a nickname or a command. Anyway, not too long ago, Korea had a relatively high infant mortality rate and the name (or commad) 'Hang on' was a common one.

He's going to be fine but after a looong night, I find myself whispering Bootdoora.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Spanish at school translates to suspension

During my summer and winter breaks, I work at Minjok Sagwan or Minjok Korean Leadership Academy, teaching at a camp for middle school students. One key to the camp is EOP or English Only Policy: students are required to speak only English; in class, in the cafeteria, the dormitory; everywhere on campus. Of the three hundred plus students, more than two hundred are caught violating the policy frequently enough to receive punishment - typically duckwalking and pushups and such.

You might think that the students are caught having long conversations in Korean. No... Well, sometimes. Many are caught making exclamations; they step outside and say (please forgive my terrible Korean), "Ah, Chupta." (It's cold), "Geopchagia" (I'm surprised) or "baebula" (I'm hungry).

I am mentioning this because I found an MSNBC an article about a Hispanic American violating an (unwritten) English only policy at his school.

16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are "like," "whatever" and "totally".

He was suspended from school for speaking Spanish. Not in the classroom, but in the hall, on restroom break. What did he say? "No problemo". Heck, I might have said that a few times.

Comparing English in Korea and English in the States is a little like apples and oranges but the rationale on both sides sound familiar from camp:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) made that point [it is particularly important for students from immigrant families to use the nation's dominant language] this summer when he vetoed a bill authorizing various academic subjects to be tested in Spanish in the state's public schools. "As an immigrant," the Austrian-born governor said, "I know the importance of mastering English as quickly and as comprehensively as possible." ... Since then, the issue of speaking Spanish in the hall has not been raised at the school, Zach said. "I know it would be, like, disruptive if I answered in Spanish in the classroom. I totally don't do that. But outside of class now, the teachers are like, 'Whatever.' "

I particularly like, Zach's final statement; "...the teachers are like, 'whatever' ". That's Greek to me! I have no idea how the teachers feel from his remark.

We will be in trouble at camp if the parents take this approach:
Said Rubio: "I'm mainly doing this for other Mexican families, where the legal status is kind of shaky and they are afraid to speak up. Punished for speaking Spanish? Somebody has to stand up and say: This is wrong."

Another comment on the "like," "whatever" and "totally" element of Zach's (and most Canadian and American students) vocabulary. Did you ever use 'Go' as a synonym for 'Say'? I think it drove my parents to distraction when I would tell a story like this:
"And then I go, "You can't do that!". And Kevin goes, "Yes, I can. I did." And I go, "...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Korean university students think they can relax after the entrance exam.

Others in the Korean blogosphere have discussed this issue already but I want to share my experiences.

First, for those outside of Korea (hi, mom), Korean high school students go through Hell to study for the University entrance exam. The exam is so challenging because simply getting to the right university sets up your social position for life. My wife has a masters but was unable to teach TOIEC in Seoul because her university was not one of the big ones.

A student entering university has likely been to a single-gender high school and gone to hagwons until late every night. Personally, I love a good sleep and to hear the experssion '4 in, 5 out' fills me with sympathy for the students (if you sleep four hours a night, you will get into a good university; five hours and your won't). They have no experience with social activities, especially with the opposite sex. At university, they have the experiences I had (okay, I was a nerd: ...experiences my classmates had) in high school for the first time at university. Boys being mean to the girls they like, the girls shrieking.... I feel like yelling, "grow up!", sometimes.

The students who choose to study in China have had a rude shock. Apparently, Chinese students actually study. From a Chosun article titled, "Korean Students in China Must Stop Wasting Time", some Chinese universities have
"started requiring Korean students to take separate entrance exams in English, math and general humanities or science, because so many of them have fallen behind in class or taken to absenteeism. Some schools now reportedly organize separate classes and exams for Korean students."

I have just finished exams at my university. Cripes, what a mess. The oral portion of the exam was a converation the students were to work in pairs to create and act out for me. About a third came in with no preparation at all. Another third read from their textbooks. The final third did fairly well to very well, although the 'fairly well' was mostly in comparison to the slackers. I know these students don't plan to use English in their future careers but the oral should have been an easy 10-15% added to their grade.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sidewalk ettiquette for the holidays from a New Yorker

People obstructing the sidewalk or other pedestrian lanes isn't a big problem in Sokcho. Still, the people who, at the escalator ramp at E-mart, place their shopping cart in the centre of the conveyor belt so I can't get by do annoy me a little.

In two weeks or so I will go to Seoul. Now, I don't live there but I did for two years so I know where I'm going usually and I'm a fast walker. MSNBC's Clicked linked to a blog with 15 'suggestions' - followed by threats - for how people should use sidewalks or any pedestrian area.

Number five seemed particularly apropo as other bloggers in Korea have complained about 'moving roadblocks':
5. When moving in a group, don't occupy the entire width of the sidewalk by walking six abreast. Especially if you're planning on walking at a snail's pace. When people come at me doing this, and I have to go, say, to work, it seriously tempts me to punch them in the throat. Each and every one of them.

The others seem like common sense to me but maybe there is a cultural difference that makes Koreans ignore such basic politeness to others. Ah, I should be careful here. Maybe there are only a few pedestrians who stop suddenly in the middle of the busy sidewalk but their effect spreads as others avoid them.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


A few years ago we lived on a street of pig farms (did you know they can sound like dogs howling and barking?) in Kyounggi-do. We got a little sick; some diarrhea and discomfort, so my wife reccommended taking anti-parasite pills.

The pills are well-known in Korea, easy to get (no prescription) and user-friendly - we didn't have to worry about taking before of after a meal, avoiding alcohol or other substances, nor taking a course of pills for days. One pill was sufficient. That makes the anti-parasite pill easier to take than any other in Korea. If you catch a cold here and visit a pharmacist, you will get a package with four different kinds of pills, often with different schedules.

By the way, we soon felt better, but I don't know if we really had parasites or not.

Parasites are back in the news due to contaminated kimchi, domestic and imported.

The news reawakens fears that older Koreans have because parasites were everywhere in the 60's and 70's. Since the early '90s, Korea has been mostly parasite free.

Doctors interviewed regarding the contamiated kimchi are not particularly concerned: Chai Jong-il, parasitology professor at Seoul National University, said, "I would like to cautiously suggest that a few parasite eggs are not worth making a big deal about."

If you are concerned, the Jungang Ilbo suggests:

Prevention of parasites
1. Be careful when eating raw fish and meat, which can be a route for parasite

2.Wash your hands frequently to avoid pinworms, especially if you have children.

3. Do not let your children share toys with other children in at-risk or dirty areas to avoid pinworm infection.

4. Regularly take your pet to the veterinarian for parasite checkups.

5. Take anthelmintics regularly once or twice a year.

The advice to take ant-helmintics suggest that the main fear is of platyhelminthis, information of which can be found here.

How much is a Masters worth?

I read this article twice trying to figure out why getting a Masters degree would result in a lower average wage than that of a simple three year degree.

One possible reason is the comparison is to others in the same cohort - the the same block of people who started university together. Holders of Masters degree would naturally enter the work force two or more years later and perhaps the wage gap is an artifact of this later start.

It is also possible that there are simply too many Masters degree these days- with most Korean's constant push for more education, perhaps the demand for Masters degrees doesn't match the supply.

According to the article, Master's holders are more likely to take the first job offered, or anyway, take easy-to-get jobs, while college degree holders are more picky.
About 55 percent of jobseekers with masters’ degrees or
higher tend to aim at jobs lower than their educational standing, the report
Meanwhile, only 36.9 percent jobseekers with college diplomas apply for
jobs that are easy to get rather than what they want.

Some good news for those in my profession:"The study also indicates that college graduates with a B-grades minimum and a TOEIC score of 800 or higher find it much easier to obtain jobs after graduation." - Is that good news? I don't have much to do with TOEIC. Still, interest in English is interest in English.

I have been considering working on a Masters myself. I felt it would help my job prospects back home (whenever I do go back). Now, I wonder.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Winter is here

We had snow in October, but it melted. I think this snow will stay for the winter.

Last year we had snow about the same time, Nov 27, 2004. In 2003, we had snow on Nov 14. You can find pictures here.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Tano is now a UNESCO recognized event

The local signs usually say Danno, but however you spell it, UNESCO's recognition of the celebration as a part of our world heritage is big news hereabouts. All the Korean papers are carrying the news; I looked at the Times.

The grump in me needs to point out that probably fewer than one in five attendees will know about or watch the rituals honouring the mountain spirits that now join ``Chongmyo Cherye,’’ royal ancestral rites and Pansori, a traditional one-man narrative opera as UNESCO intangible treasures.

David Mason has written a coffee-table book describing the worship of San-shin that includes information about Danno. I don't know if his website specifically discusses Danno, but if you want to learn more, it would be a good place to start.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Boss' Chair

When I worked at a hagwon in Seoul, I taught a TV class in which we watched 'Friends' and discussed why certain lines were humourous (or not). We also compared Korean culture with what we saw of American culture.

By the way, Americans don't really sit on the arm of their sofa with their shoes on the seat cushions, do they? I just thought that was a TVism.

One thing we looked at was Joey and Chandler's EasyBoy chairs or Barcaloungers. I think Easyboy is a brand name and am not sure if Barcalounger is or not. Anyway, I commented on how strange it was to see two in one house. Growing up, dad always had a big fancy chair and the rest of us sat on the sofa or a smaller chair. I saw the same scenario in my friend's houses.

My wife has a Cyworld page but I am the computer nerd of the family. In my defense, I also do schoolwork on the computer. In our small apartment, we don't have room for a full sized Easyboy. I bought a smaller substitute but it didn't take long for me to lose control of the chair.

Crazy Parking

Last summer, a friend and I were at a 'Family Mart', eating lunch. A boy parked his bicycle right across the entrance and went inside, unconcerned that other customers would hav eto move his bike to enter the store. We thought, "oh, those crazy kids. Around the world, they're all the same."

A few minutes later, we were walking home and saw a car parked right across an entrance to a side-street. It was probably the boy's father, we decided.

Here are another two examples of strange parking, their only connection being that I saw them the same day.
I guess there was a car parked inside the one shown but it looks pretty strange (or, it should look strange; I'm not sure it does in Korea) in the middle of the laneway. In the corner is a bike parked in an intersection a good metre and a half, maybe two metres from the sidewalk. It wasn't locked either, which is strange but irrelevant to the story. I passed it going to E-mart and around an hour later it was still there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The best persimmon in the country!

Before I came to Korea, I had seen the word 'persimmon' in a few books (is it in the bible?) but I never heard the word pronounced. After close to seven years here, I still don't know the proper pronunciation.

The persimmon (does the plural need a final 's'?) in the picture are sweet persimmon or Dan- gam (단감) in Korean and I'm telling you that they are the best in the country. Alright, I wouldn't know how to rate persimmon if my life depended on it; these persimmon are simply from my father-in-law's farm in Jin-young. Still, without knowing my background, students have volunteered Jin-young as the location with the best persimmon.

Go out and buy some.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Still Here

I've been busy lately so I haven't posted in a while. Just want you to know you should still check in everyday to see what's new.

I've updated my links. I put in the Marmot's new (old) URL and tried to describe the blogs I link to. I also included my friend Skindleshanks on the blogroll and moved three blogs from the Gangwon category. Now there are only two blogs I am aware of in Gangwon and both are in Sokcho- is it time for a showdown ("This 'ere town ain't big enough fer the two o' us!")? I wrote up the descriptions at 5:00am after feeding Alex so if you want something different, let me know.

I was in Seoul on the weekend and saw the Cheonggye-cheon. I had heard again and again that it was downtown but I still thought it was north of Kyoungobkgung, maybe in Hong-je. No, it really is downtown, between Ulchi and Jongo. I still can't believe that the whole thing fed by pumps; the stream is beautiful but extravagant.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Another Bear Down

I still hope that bears can be reintroduced into Chirisan National Park but it's the same strength of hope as I use on my chances for winning the lottery.

A bear left the park in Jeollanam Province and fell prey to a farmer's trap. The same thing happened in August. The more recent one though, fell into a hell of a trap. Even after being rescued and taken away for care, it suddenly suffered siezures and died.

How pretentious is it to quote your own blog? Well, here is an excerpt from August before the first bear died:

I wish it were otherwise but I just can't see the wisdom in reintroducing bears to Korea. They need more room than this crowded country can really afford to give. The bears are unlikely to stay in the wilder section of the park or even in the park at all. Then we will have bears in the nearby villages. And this is without concerning ourselves with the value of bear gallbladders and such.

Good luck to the rest of those bears.

Gift giving in Korea and Canada

Although the title ends with "... Canada", I do mean Canada and the US and possibly most of Europe, although I can't describe with certainty European gift giving traditions.

My wife and I were discussing gifts again. Her birthday is coming up; she'll be 29 again. Anyway, she never gives me any hints or clues as to what I should buy her for special events. She prefers money. She is not mercenary about this, she just finds money easier. I typically want a gift; I want her to pick something out for me.

One gift she liked was when, for Valentines Day, I emptied the candies from a heart-shaped box and refilled it with rice. That was a good gift.

My wife isn't unique in prefering money. In my experience, most Koreans want money. There are NOT greedy, they just like to pick their own gifts.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Where are the eggs from?

These photos were side-by-side in the Korea Times. I haven't placed two photos together for a joke or anything.

Anybody else even briefly think that they were looking at Crane eggs?

Apparently, the eggs are in fact from chickens and are being given away as a way to encourage people to not be afraid of them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

defeating darwinism

Another blogger (and friend) commented that I seemed to display some hostility toward Christianity. I'm a little ashamed to say he might be right. I actually don't feel hostility toward Christians in general but I do have hostility toward the anti-education and anti-science types that make this kind of book:

I don't know what the Korean title is, and I couldn't read the book itself, so I have to judge the book by it's cover. Update: Johnson's book 'Defeating Darwinism...' is well known in evolution/creation circles and reviews and critiques of the English version are easy to find.

The book is written by Philip Johnson and my understanding is that he is more interested in closing minds and shutting curiousity down than opening anything. Christians like him try to give science a bad name and end up making people like me hostile toward the religion. I can't say that Johnson lies in the book but the critique above gives an example of 'quote mining'; using elipses and selectively quoting someone to make him argue against themself.

Perhaps you have heard the expression; 'Sports create good sportsmanship'. The expression is true but sports also create bad sportsmanship. The former is to be lauded; the latter to be criticized.

The same is true for religion. Christians like Philip Johnson need to remember not to 'bear false witness' and be examplars for their religion or stop damaging the religion they claim to love and follow.

Ironically, I found the same comment describing a Alan Bonsell and the other defendants in the Kitzmiller Vs Dover case. Argento is saying that since the defendants lied, they must not be Christians so their requirement that Intelligent Design be taught isn't religiously motivated.

... school board members can use this to defend against the charge that they were motivated by religious belief in introducing intelligent design or creationism into the biology curriculum. If they were motivated by religion, how come none of them ever heard of the Ninth Commandment — you know, the one about bearing false witness?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Hallowe'en all!

I'll be scaring a few students tomorrow - more than usual and deliberately this time!

According to the Landover Baptists, I might be in big trouble for enjoying Hallowe'en. Oh, don't click on the link if you are "unsaved".
"If you are unsaved, you are not allowed at our church, or
our website."

Sorry about the early post

I thought I could write the post below early and have it up in the evening. I changed the time stamp but it posted this morning (Sunday) anyway. Something more to learn.

The Korean Mail System - ya gotta love it!

This (Sunday) morning, the mailman delivered a package from home. It was dated the 24th so that's less than a week from Canada. Canadian mail usually takes more than a week IN Canada, even inside of one province.

Put this one in the plus column for Korea!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Police Administration sleeper.

Sleep in class; get posted on my blog!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Let's follow Singapore's example (warning: sarcasm ahead)

In a letter to the Joongang editor, someone suggested that Korea change it's English Teaching System to be more like that of Singapore and India.

Korea may indeed find places to improve it's language classes but the writer chose two strange examples; Should Korea be part of a regrowth of the British Empire and be ruled by London? Hey, it worked for Singapore and India.

Open water swimming to return as an Olympic Sport

There will be no women's boxing in Beijing (none official, anyway) but there will be a 10km open-water swimming race.

Although I am over-the-hill for such an event and watching such the race would be even more boring than most speed-swimming races, I am happy to hear about the inclusion of the 10km swim. I have competed a 12km swimming race and in several 1 mile, 3 mile, and 3 km races.

I hope this news reinvigorates a summer sports camp I worked at back home. We'll see how many Camp Chikopi (boys) and Akomak (girls) alumni will be in Beijing.

Tourism to eliminate poverty

I commented earlier on plans to build a canal system connecting Seoul and Pusan (I was not in favor). The use of tourism to reduce poverty is related in that they superficially sound like good, even great ideas, but aren't. Dho Young-shim isn't the first person to think of encouraging the tourism industry of poor countries; the reason it isn't being done now is it doesn't work.

From the Korea Herald article:
Amb. Dho is well known and well regarded on the diplomatic circuit for her work organizing trips for diplomats to different parts of Korea and also managing the "Singing Ambassadors," but there's much more to her job.
I served as a tour guide for a group of ambassors to Naksan temple and Seorak Park. While I have never met her, perhaps, in a sense, I worked for her.

She describes an African project:
"In Nigeria there's a project called 'One Village, One Product' in which we help out a village to create one product that can be sold in the tourism market," said Dho.
The problem is, how many wooden dolls, priced for a mass tourism market do you have to make before you can go to university? How many straw elephants to buy a water filter? Skilled craftsmen can usually set their own prices but how many craftsmen can be in one village? I don't know a lot about economics but I understand that the further you get from raw materials, the more value you have. A few kilos of various ores are valuable as a doorstop. If you make a computer from them, the unit price is as unrecognizable as the computer is from the raw ore. A block of wood has low value. Cut it into lumber and the value increases but is still low. Make a table or other furniture and you have a valuable product. How many people go to Africa to buy mass produced furniture?

Tourism does bring money to a region but most flows back out. If you book a tour to China in your home country, most of that money will go to translators from the city and to the hotels on the route - but the hotels are chains owned by international companies so the money again leaves the rural communities.

There is one kind of tour that does leave substantial money in the areas it goes through; but only if it is done right. Ambassador Dho gets this one right (and it is a tour I would love to do):
One of her future projects is a bicycle trip along the Mekong River. It will start and Laos and work its way through Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), and Thailand. [Brian: not Vietnam?- is my geography off?]

So far there are over 100 riders due to take part in the trip. But the kicker is that local people will be used along the trip route to deliver water, food and other supplies, thus creating small jobs for a large number.
Maybe there are other kinds of tours that would work as well; I am just against big-bus tourism and for self-guided tours.
Very few organized tours do leave the money along the route. This one sounds like it will. But consider the last phrase; 'small jobs for a large number'. Waiters and waitresses in the west can, with tips, make good money. Will the Cambodian waitstaff do so well? The deliverymen? The laundry workers? Assorted ticket takers?

The problem is, tourism is 90% low skill work. If locally owned hotels are used, that will help a little, but not to the point of sending more people to improve their education, for example.

I could well be wrong. I hope I am. Perhaps a supply of constant work will be created and people will be fed and clothed. That is a good first step; I just see it as a bottom rung kind of step with no promise that the ladder extends very far.

An important point here is that I have no better answer. Perhaps, like democracy, her solution is the worst one there is...except for all the others.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The sea was angry, my friend... an old man at a deli, trying to return soup.
(one of my favorite Seinfeld lines)

While I was struggling up the mountain, several people nearby wished they were higher on the mountain.

From the Times:
High waves along the east coast killed four people, including two children, and overturned dozens of fishing boasts on Sunday, police said.

More than 20 houses were also submerged after being hit by the waves.

The 7-meter-high waves swallowed two children, ages four and seven, while they were playing on a breakwater in Pohang, North Kyongsang Province, according to police.

Another man was found dead in Jumunijin.

The Korea Meteorological Administration forecast larger than normal waves but the actual waves were even larger and now the KMA is in big trouble.

I recall they were also critisized for their lack of warning during an earthquake-driven tsunami (40 cm) in the spring. In that case, I don't think they can be blamed as the tsunami waves move so fast. In this case, I don't know. They knew large waves were coming and gave a warning for 4 metre waves. They were off by almost 200%. I am not a meteorologist but weather reports are often off a little and affected by local conditions. I really don't know if they are at fault but it would be comforting to blame someone...I guess.

I want to be sick

I don't even know what comment to make on this article. Read the Nomad for details.

A 45-year-old woman was Monday sentenced to five years in prison for forcing her teenage daughter into prostitution at bars.
The Seoul Central District Court handed down the prison term to the owner of a teahouse in Kyonggi Province for handing over her daughter to bars and clubs for money.

In August 1999, the women, identified as Kim, sent her daughter, then 12, to a bar in Chunchon, Kangwon Province, to work as a prostitute.

PIne beetles on the coast, on the move

I have frequently seen signs on the edges of pine forests saying, "Pine Gall Midge Control Area". I am not sure if the worms in this article cause pine gall and the vector is a beetle, not a midge, but either problem seems troubling and the location is about right; near Jumunjin.

A type of roundworm called a nematode (info here) is parasitizes beetles and pine trees. I am not sure how the beetle is affected by the worm but the worm is known as the "AIDS of pine trees.[because] there is no cure".

The flying sawyer beetle carries the worms but the situation is complicated by humans carrying infected lumber around the country.

From the article:
However, Korean officials believe that humans had more to do with the spread of pine wilt disease than insects, considering that the sawyer beetle moves less than three kilometers from its hatching ground during its life span.

``It is important to control the movement of timber coming in and out of infested areas. We believe that is how the disease spread north in the first place,’’ said Park.

The Korea Forest Service will cooperate with the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, to trace the movement of timber in 152 expressway tollgates nationwide.

The management of pine wilt disease is primarily limited to prevention, as there is no cure for it once a tree becomes infested the nematode. Korean forestry officials have been attempting to prevent the disease from spreading by spraying insecticide between May and June, the season when the sawyer beetle emerges, despite concerns about water pollution.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Bataan Deathmarch would seem easy compared to this!

Yesterday, I finished a challenging hike over Seorak's main peak, Daecheongbong. If I'd been in shape and a little better prepared, it might have been fun. In fact, large portions of the trip were fun but by the second half of the trip, I simply left my camera in my pack and marched, doggedly, painfully, grumblingly on to finish the damn thing.

My hiking partner, a coworker of my wife's, in contrast, was full of energy throughout the hike and leapt from rock to rock like a mountain goat.

I don't normally like to hike on the weekend, especially on a weekend when the nation's attention is focussed on the mountain. The news of early snow brought the crowds out and just before we reached the summit, it was buzzed and filmed by a KBS chopper. Actually, the crowds weren't so bad and when we caught up to other groups I had a chance to rest before we passed them.

That's right. Even though I am whining and complaining about how painful the hike was, we passed more than a hundred people.

We started at O-saek and went up the south side of the mountain, reaching patches of snow at about 900m and walking in continuous snow at about 1500m. The last bit of the ascent was not that steep and our footing was secure.

The top was windy but not too bad. Except for the top, I was in shirtsleeves throughout the hike. We waited in line then posed for the required photos (I didn't take any at the top) then hiked down to the mountain hut to eat.

Then we started down the north side. There was continuous snow to about 800 m and patches almost all the way down. The first part of the north slope is steep and we didn't bring any spikes. We had to hop and slide from exposed rock to exposed rock. Also, and I'm not proud to say this; from tree to tree. WhenI had the energy, I felt bad for smashing into the trees but I soon gave up caring.

Here are a few of my pics. I may post more when my hiking partner gives me his (click to enlarge).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Snow on Seorak, photos at 11 (tomorrow)

From downtown Sokcho, snow can be seen dusting the nearby peaks. I plan to climb to Dae-cheong-bong (Seorak's main peak) tomorrow so if the snow remains, expects photos then.

This is really early for snow, although I normally look for snow from the south side of the mountain. From the south, the first snowfall was around Nov 14, 2003 and Nov 26, 2004. Actually, I forget the exact dates, look here if you really care.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Seaways, Canadian & Korean

Quebec sovereignists want to regain control of the St. Lawrence Seaway

This was the title of a Yahoo article I read at about the same time as this one:

Seoul Mayor Lee Pushes for Massive Cross-Country Canal

While at university I worked at a Welland Canal (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway) museum. Add that to my being a fairly rabid nationalist (Quebec is fine - those damn Bloc Quebecios) and my living in Korea and these articles obviously resonate with me.

About the Korean Canal (The Kyoungbu Canal). The Seoul mayor, apparently as part of a possible presidential candidacy, has been talking up a canal from the Han River to the Nakdong River, connecting Seoul with Pusan by water.

Of course, Seoul and Pusan are already connected by water in a mostly free waterway. The Han and especially the mouth opening into the Yellow Sea might need dredging but that's nothing compared to what the upper reaches of the Han will need.

I am getting ahead ofmyself here. Clearly, I don't like the idea of a Han-Nakdong Canal. I didn't start that way. I admit that as soon as I read the Bloc wanted control of the seaway, I immediately was opposed; that was a gut-instinct, predudice kind of thing. In the case of the Korean Canal, I put really thought into making my opinion although I didn't think that long about it. It just seems such a bad idea upon very short reflection.

Well, lets compare a few canals. I am most familiar with the St. Lawrence Seaway but the Panama Canal is probably the best one to compare to the Proposed Korean one.

First, in terms of speed and size of cargo; the St. Lawrence Seaway is really only profitable for very large cargoes.:

The St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes are thus mainly
used to ship heavy raw materials and limited general cargo traffic occurs past Montreal (a major container port). One of the main reason behind such a characteristic is that general cargo is now shipped through containers and that the railway system is faster to ship containers to eastern and western seaboard
ports than transporting containers through the Seaway. For instance, it takes a little more than 24 hours to transit a container by rail from Chicago to Montreal, while this operation would take around one week through the Great Lakes and the Seaway.

Ships going through canals are always going to be slower than cargo trains and most of Korea's large cargoes are either imported or exported; is there much in the way of heavy ore or multi kilotons of rice that needs to be shipped from Seoul to Pusan?

So, while not being an economist, I don't see how the economies of scale would benefit people using an inland waterway.

Panama is a good comparison for the Kyoungbu as both Canals climb to some significant altitude before descending on the other side. Panama has a natural lake that is used to proivde water at the highest elevations while Korea is not naturally blessed with abundant water for such projects. Where will the water come from?

From the Times:

Lee had deliberately commented on his plans to build a canal
that connects the Han River, flowing through Seoul and the metropolitan area,
and the Naktong River, which flows into the Korea Strait near the southernmost
port of Pusan. He first introduced the idea for the ``Kyongbu Canal’’ as a
lawmaker in 1996.

``The southern part of the Han River and the
upper part of the Naktong River is only 20 kilometers apart. If we are able to
connect Seoul and Pusan through an inner-country waterway, it will cut one-third
of logistics costs and help the economy by creating more jobs and balancing
regional development,’’ Lee said during a breakfast meeting last week arranged
by the Kwanhun Club, an organization of senior journalists.

I have not yet looked at a map but the two rivers come closest in Gangwondo and 20 kilometers can be a long way in such mountainous terrain. Panama had malaria as one of it's biggest challenges but it's mountain pass and the St. Lawrence's escarpment pale in comparison to the mountains in Gangwon for building a canal.

We need to remember that Seoul is the political capital and the economic capital but it is not the industrial capital. Again, what needs to be transported from seoul that needs ships?

Jobs will certainly be created and the country that is already number 7 in the world for total numbers of dams will jump a few rungs to build the canal and Korea's last natural area will be covered in cement for a canal with no real purpose.

Finally, Quebec never owned the seaway the Bloc wants to 'regain'. It was built with Canadian and American money and while I think of it as Canadian, it does, I guess, belong to both countries and not to a single province. I don't know if threatening the Bloc is a worthy way to maintain ties with the province they think they represent but they need to remember that if Canada is segmentable, maybe that means Quebec is too and southern Quebec (where the canal lies) is pretty strongly nationalist.

The story of the canal is a part of the history of my country; it shares that honor with the railways that also worked to link the giant nation together and I have to admit my irrational dislike of the Bloc is strengthened by their grandstanding on a national symbol.

UPDATE: GI Korea is also discussing the Kyoungbu canal and that's where the discussion seems to be. He posts every day; must be a military discipline thing. Anyway, he gets more hits and more comments than I do.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Some Canadians in trouble o'er here

Over at the Marmot, there's a post about Canadians, apparently all claiming to be from Arcadia University, have been working illegally with fake degrees. Well, not so many of them now.

The Globe and Mail has another piece on the “50 Canadian
citizens have been caught in a crackdown this month.” This time, it’s how dumb
asses without a college degree are getting arrested ’cause they don’t have a
degree from Acadia University, even though they told the delightful folks at ROK
immigration that they did.

Original story in the Globe here.

There were two stories at the Marmot but the second one wasn't coming up properly.

If I knew any of these people, I might feel sorry for individuals on a case-by-case basis, but I have no sympathy for people coming here to work without even the minimal required qualification. If this goes on, I may have to cut my hair even shorter and carry a black backpack.

Seorak Festival and mystery leather

What wonderful, all-purpose material is used in these works of art? (Click on the images for a larger picture)

Squid! Korean chewing gum is good for more than making buses fragrant.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bird flu and watchers

I guess that soon the Manchurian cranes will be stopping here on their way south for the winter. They are magnificient birds with great coloration. I don'thave any experience with ostriches but the cranes seemed as big as ostriches, although much slighter. They flew in 'V's and their huge wings semed prehistoric.

Sadly, I cannot recommend you go to Cheorwon to see them.

From the Joongang:

October 12, 2005 ㅡ Koreans will begin to go
bird-watching later this month, but government officials would just as soon they
stayed home and rented a DVD.Festivals celebrating the southward migration of
ducks, geese and other fowl will go on almost as usual, despite official fears
about the danger of avian influenza in the feathered flocks that will soon begin
passing through the nation.


Gangwon province, where about 100,000 migratory birds visit each winter, will monitor migratory bird droppings on flyways there.

This looks like fun

Researchers paddle in a boat on a 200-meter-long lake
discovered within a pseudo-limestone cave in Pukcheju County, Cheju Island. The
country reported Thursday that a research team headed by geologist Son In-seok
has found the lake, which is 7 to 15 meters wide and 6 to 15 meters deep, within
the cave.

(Photo and caption from the Korea Times)

Here are researchers in another cave. I hope Cheju's cave doesn't have killer-virus infected bats!

inappropriate use of sidewalks

I enjoy walking. I walk whenever I can. But walking seems to be discouraged in Korea.

I wrote about motorcycles on sidewalks in Feb. and I found an article in the Herald about a Korean who lived briefly overseas who shares my complaint. I mention that he lived overseas as those who have never left Korea may just accept parked cars and motorcycles on the pedestrianways as expected.

From the article:

Why are we sharing sidewalks with motorcycles and scooters?
Our Seoul government office has just spent billions revitalizing a river and
recently hosted a global mayor's conference. I was there. And I felt anything
but pride. It was embarrassing having mayors (and their representatives) from
Rome and Tokyo sidestepping scooters and breathing in their fumes as they walked
along city-center sidewalks. This doesn't happen in other large first world
metropolitan centers. A motorcycle zipping along the sidewalks of Chicago? A
scooter blowing on its horn for pedestrians to clear the way in London?

I don't usually have such problems in Sokcho but I do see cars parked at the crosswalks. When I start to use the stroller with my son, I expect to have to lift it over curbs as the ramps are usually blocked by parked cars.

I wish I could blame the police (and I frequently mumble about where they could be hiding) but for such a long-term and nationwide problem, I have to beg the voters to take the blame or create pressure to fix the problem.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

sleeping first year student

Sleep in class, get posted on the net.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

which dog did it?

While walking to the elavator this morning, I had to step over dog pee in the hallway. I would like to complain but there are three dogs on my floor so I don't know who to complain about.

Who knew dogs would be so aware of current fashion trends?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hwa am sa

On Saturday, I went on a picnic with my wife and her coworkers from the National Maritime Police Agency (Coast Guard). Completely unrelated to this post, I asked several Coast Guard officers if they could swim and the majority could not or could not swim well.

Anyway, we hiked on the edge of Seorak National Park, near Hwaamsa and it was beautiful. We drove to the main gate to the temple, walked a few hundred metres to the temple bridge, then turned away and went up the mountain and it was one great view after another. Up some steep stairs, takes you to an egg-shaped rock 30 metres tall that you could scramble on. I edged around the side and took this picture of the temple.

The high point of the climb though, is the view of Ulsan Bowi from the local peak, another 20-40 minutes up. Ulsan bowi fills one quadrant of your view and on Saturday, it loomed ominously with the cloudy sky behind it. The other direction has Sokcho and the Sea of J...I mean the East Sea before you.

On the way down, I wanted to see the temple but we had to collect Alex from the baby-sitter so actually visiting the temple will be another trip. Another challenging trip as there are no busses that get get close. The best you can do is take #3 to Dae Myougn Condo and walk about 2 km to the temple. I may make it a day's ride.

It seemed to be one of the most beautiful temples I have ever almost-visited. A stream and gurgling waterfall cross the grounds and, as I have already described, the location is wonderful.

From a goseong website, I learn the temple grounds are over 1000 years old, there is an interesting fable about the dangers of greed and that a VERY challenging marathon is held here in September ( I missed hearing about it at the time). Hwaamsa has it's own website, only in Korean.

The Herald tells me that Seorak colors will peak around October 20th. I am lucky enough to be able to visit on a weekday because the main Park areas will be hideously crowded for the next few weekends. If you have to visit on a weekend, the Hwaamsa area seems less heavily used (until my millions of readers swamp and ruin it. Would you believe dozens? A boy scout with rabies? [goodbye Don adams]).

Pumkin? Really? One 'P'?

In one of my classes, I use a domestically produced textbook. It is published by a famous hagwon in Korea and it isn't Min Byoung Cheol. Anyway, it is full of spelling errors. If the book is to be trusted, fashionable women wear 'high hill' shoes and students can correct errors with an 'erazer'.

I thought this was another error but now I wonder if it is another American/Canadian/Other spelling mistake (Sorry Australia, England, New Zealand, for lumping you together like that). Is the big orange gourd, a symbol for Hallowe'en, spelled 'pumkin' or 'pumpkin'? Google finds websites with either spelling. The Korea Herald has this photo with the caption 'Pumkins for display only'.

The caption below (my coloring):

A Lotte Department Store displays a variety of pumpkins, a popular ingredient of "Juk," light porridge.

The Herald is giving both spellings in one article. Perhaps the editors were not sure and decided to be wrong once rather than twice.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

East Sea of Japan and pollution

Rick Raffin, over at A Yank Abroad wrote about the East Sea/ Sea of Japan and decided that the real controvsy is how much pollution is being dumped into it. A Hai Dong Gum Do friend of mine, Todd Vercoe, wrote about the same subject years ago (as described at A Yank Abroad). To be honest, I've found Raffin's viewpoints to be annoying in the past but these are subjects he is in a good position, geographically, to know about. He lives in Donghae (the same name as the sea) which has two giant cement plants and, though probably cleaner than Pohang, is a good place to see the effects of industry on the water.

After describing abandoned nets, he talks about the ships that carry cement:
These boats that come in and pick up cement at the Halla dock down the beach, and at the Port of Donghae in the other direction, flush their bilges of excess liquid before going out again. The major cause of marine pollution is not oil tankers sinking, but the hundreds and thousands of sea captains worldwide who routinely flush their bilges of excess water, and all the oil and diesel fuel that it contains.

Dumping of bilge water close to shore is an international problem and it is bilge water that brought the Zebra mussel and other invasives to the Great Lakes of Canada and the US. I think one of the invasives is from Asia; the snake-fish, a kind of superpredator that eats fish eggs. I don't know about if there are any invasives of note in Korea's coastal waters.

Raffin also describes the construction of a golf course next to the ocean. He simply complains generally about overdevelopment but golf courses are significant on their own. I recall a study from the 90's that showed Japan in one year having 4 deaths from pesticide and fertilizer use- all were golf course employees. The courses use, I forget, but four times or more chemicals than farmers do per unit area.

While Raffin's article mentions the East Sea/ Sea of Japan issue in passing and is devoted to the environmental problems of the Sea itself, Vercoe's article is the mirror image; most of it describes the name issue and ends with a short note on the pollution. His main points are every country has an 'east' and names don't confer ownership.

I think the first point is more interesting. The name "East___" doesn't tell us where the geographical object is. The North Sea is fairly easy to find. Although it is not at the far north, we could reasonably disregard the southern two-thirds of the globe in looking for it. This is not true with the East Sea. With the name "The Sea of Japan", we can probably turn to the right atlas page in one try.

From Vercoe's article:
Korea should assert such international pressure on bettering the ecology of the water rather than on unimportant nomenclature so that the people from all four nations would benefit in longer lives, better health and a more vibrant marine industry.

Maybe the pollution will cause Korea and Japan to use the names in a different style, much as my wife and I do when our son is good or bad. When he's bad, I will say, "Look what your son did!", most of the time, I say, "Look what our son did.", but if I'm really pleased, it's "Ah! My son!" Korea may say,"Fish stocks are declining in the Sea of Japan." or the converse, "The East Sea is much cleaner than the dirty Yellow Sea."

Friday, October 07, 2005

Checkin' in

Hey all (all three of you).

I'm fine; a little busy. Exams are coming up and I should be preparing them now. I do have one of four almost ready. Alex is relaxing in his stroller but we will have to do Something soon - I can't just roll it back and forth with my foot all day.

I haven't seen much in the newspapers lately that I feel like applauding or mocking or announcing so that's a dry well.

It's been months since I rode my bike out of town, or done any other exercise, so that's not very exciting either.

Should I make this a baby blog? No, I want people to read this.

Anyway, check in when you feel like it; there should be more here in a week or so. There should be...

Friday, September 30, 2005

Universities merging

Next year, Kangwon National University and Samcheok National University will be merged, as will three other provincial pairs and the total enrollment for the reorganized universities will drop by 2000. The universities will receive either 150 billion won or 124 billion won by 2008.

My university, Kwandong, will merge it's two campuses next year as well, with upper year students in Yangyang to continue there for another semester and first year students starting only at the Gangneung campus. I think that, as a private institution, Kwandong will receive no financial assistance, but I don't know. In the second semester, the Yangyang campus will be closed. The shuttle bus for students and professors will run for at least one semester and possibly both semesters.

I must admit, I am concerned. I live 30 minutes north of Yangyang and Yangyang is about an hour north of Gangneung. I make the trip to Gangneung twice a week and find it not-bad but four times a week would be annoying (and expensive after the shuttle bus stops running).

Alex is 100 days old!

Actually, he is 101 days old today. Here he is yesterday morning, in front of an offering my wife prepared. The three bowls contain seaweed soup, rice and water, which, after praying, she ate. She is not in the picture because she is shy and although I think she looks wonderful at any time, she feels otherwise in the early morning.

Alex, or Kim Dae-seong Alexander Cecil Dean, had a typical day but we went for portrait photos in the evening.

My mother has been here for three weeks, caring for Alex while my wife and I worked. She goes home tomorrow, so, doubtless with much crying from all involved, Alex will go to a babysitter on Tuesday.

Out of the ashes

A gangneung musical instrument maker has made some intruments from salvaged materials from the burned buildings of Naksan temple.

It took Mr. Lim more than 10 hours a day over nearly three months to build the cello and violin and cost him 3 million won ($2,892) for production.

"I felt extremely sorry that the temple's main building will disappear, so I just used some of my talent to keep it alive," Mr. Lim said. "The instruments have excellent sounds, so the cello will probably be worth 30 million won and the violin at least 15 million won."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I'm still here

I've been a little busy lately and haven't found anything special to write about. I now have a few things, but am still too busy to write more than a few lines to keep you all updated and reassure you about my health and such.

First, PSAs: This weekend is the Yangyang Songi mushroom festival. If you will be near anyway, it's worth seeing but it's not really worth long travel, unless you are knowledgeable about mushrooms.
Second, there is an 'Aquathlon' in Sokcho on Sunday. You could race in a 3km swim and 30km run or swim 1km and run 10km, if you are interested. I think the water is still fine for swimming, although I am sure the competitors will be wearing wet-suits.

Last weekend, I rented a car and took my mother to Kyoungju. It was my third visit to Kyoungju and it was okay, a wonderful place but I've seen most of it already. The drive there on the coast was fan-freakin-tastic! In fact, I think the Kyoungsangbuk coast is more beautiful and rugged than the Gangwon coast.

This weekend, I am off to Seoul with my mother for a few hours of last-minute shopping before she flies home.

I should be posting more regularly starting next week.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A newspaper review of Sokcho

I can't remember when I last wrote about Gangwon so I'd better say something now.

On that half-hearted note, last week Mr. Reeck of the Hankooki newspaper wrote about his trip to Sokcho. The story is more about his reasons for travel and high hopes that were, ultimately dashed. He spent some time here but never made it to Seoraksan; I'm not sure what he did here other than haggle for a good room.

He did do a good job of describing people's fascination with cetain places. Koreans sold him on Sokcho as a city both calm and peaceful, and wild and natural when there isn't much difference, as cities go, between Sokcho and any other small city. It is close to a lot of nature but it isn't really any kind of eco-city.

Actually, I think the north end is more natural and scenic - another example of grass-is-greener syndrome as I live in the South end and have not spent that much time in the north. Youngnang Lake (in the north) is prettier than Cheongcho Lake (near my apartment) but equally hemmed in by buildings.

Mr Reeck and I agree that the squid boats are a wonderful sight. Each boat has ten or twenty or more huge and expensive lights that attract squid to the surface (they are naturally attracted to the full moon and the lights are a super-attractor). As I understand it, there is a direct relationship between candlepower and total catch. He wrote that the fishermen lower the lights and that's possible but I don't see how. Also the lights are pretty hot and I think would explode in contact with even a moderate splash of water. He also expressed a wish to ride such a boat on his next visit. Apparently he speaks Korean, so I guess he might be able to manage it but these boats are not pleasure cruisers and I don't think they take passengers. If he does, he'd better bring some sunblock and dark sunglasses because those lights hurt my eyes when I am on shore a kilometer or more away.

Rest-home fatality

I certainly do not believe that westernization is poisoning Korea but one of Korea's best and most worthy cultural institutions is failing. Or possibly, I am seeing the dirty underbelly.

I have always approved of the way Korea cares for it's seniors, with grandmothers and 'fathers living with their family, instead of living in seniors homes. It seems that nowadays, there are more rest homes for seniors (I describe the other alternative below) and they do not appear to be well-regulated. The article in the Joongang is full of anecdotes without any hard numbers but the anecdotes are surely grim.

There have been many cases in which elderly residents of care facilities died in safety-related accidents or committed suicide, but no autopsy was undertaken. Some cases found evidence of malnutrition or dehydration from neglect, but the deaths were treated as ordinary.

Now, I find the stories every bit as horrible as the writers would want but I do not find them that surprising and I do not mean to badmouth Koreans. There are four specific cases described and I am sure we could find at least four similar stories from Canada. As a part-time ambulance driver in Canada, I saw one urine-soaked hell-hole...ah,that's too tough; it was definitely urine-scented but it seemed well run and I heard stories of teenagers working weekends who made tragic mistakes at other rest homes.

I do hope that seniors homes can all be wonderful oasis of comfort but profiteers are everywhere.

One place that I expect to be well-run the Yangyang campus of Kwandong University. It is the younger brother to the Gangneung campus and is likely to close the end of this year or after one semester next year. Plans are afoot to turn it into a seniors home.

I mentioned another alternative. Maybe there have always been senior's homes. After all, not every senior has a family to go to. The dirty underbelly of the Korean respect and care for family is that those without family can be left out. A case in point can be seen in the opposite situation; that of young orphans. I don't want to spread horrible stories but I trust this source. A photo exhibit of American GIs who adopted and helped Korean orphans was cancelled because it did not show Korea in a good light. From this article:

Lineage is everything to Koreans. These kids, lacking lineage were not a no-body. They were a nothing and “decent” Koreans were affronted by the expenditure of any public resources to help them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Feng Shui and the Japanese

I found a strange article in the Joongang about Fend shui and how the Japanese tried to use it to poison Korea's psychic environment by placing metal (a conductor? I'm not sure of the reasoning) in strategic places in Korea's mountains. A man named So Yun-ha has been cleaning the country of those damn Japanese relics. The article reads like the premise for a Tim Powers novel (if you're not a fantasy geek, that reference is wasted).

For the past two decades, he's traveled the country's
mountains and valleys to uproot metal posts, nails, rods or chunks, which he
says were planted by ultra-rightist Japanese during the colonial regime; the
shapes are meant to disrupt the flow of Korea's energy according to feng
shui. Feng shui, known as pung su in Korean, is an ancient Chinese form of
geomancy, a study of the flow of the earth's energy. Mr. So is a firm
believer.On his first visit to Mount Namhan, a site so vital to the peninsula's
positioning Mr. So dubs it "the wings of a crane," he followed a hiker named Lee
Jeong-hu who first spotted the suspicious metal lumps drilled into the heavy

As an example, he cites a story about the former
Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita who had allegedly confessed to Shin Se-woo,
a translator for the Japanese army during World War II, that the Japanese army
headquarters in Korea had assigned people to plant metal chunks throughout the
peninsula to harm the peoples' gi, or spiritual energy.

Having hiked on a few mountains here, I have found a lot of metal imbedded in the rock, most of it is orange and was put up recently as stairs here in Seorak. Some of it; I think near the Pusan perimeter, looks like military issue to get supplies up the slopes more easily. I wonder if there is good metal and bad metal, or if it is all about placement.

the FSM, Pirates and Preventing Global Warming

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I follow the evolution/creation debate in the US. A new player has emerged. The Flying Spaghetti Monster even has a scientific graph "proving" It's effects. From the Venganza website (I'm having trouble with the linking:

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of
Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief
that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who
created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the
overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is
nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.
I’m sure you now
realize how important it is that your students are taught this alternate theory.
It is absolutely imperative that they realize that observable evidence is at the
discretion of a Flying Spaghetti Monster. Furthermore, it is disrespectful to
teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full
pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately
cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already
becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.
You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes,
and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of
Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the
approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the
last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse
relationship between pirates and global temperature.

I don't know if there is any connection but yesterday was "Talk Like A Pirate Day". This cause was championed by Dave Barry, a Floridian who may well be knowledgable on the effects of global warming and on subject of pirates.

Arrgh! Avast them lot an' prepare de plank! (How do pirates talk? All my accents end up being Scottish or, nowadays, Korean.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

The passing of Ven. Bub-jang and donating organs and blood

There have been a few bloggers post (okay, I found only one, but I am sure there were others) on the death of the head of the Chogye Buddhist order, the Ven. Bub Jang. Although I am interested in Buddhism, read their accounts regarding the religious significance of his life and death.

It is Ven. Bub Jang's decision to donate his organs that caught my attention, particularly as described in this article. An excerpt:

Even though all of us ought to take part in the campaign, leaders in all sectors of society need to lead the van. A substantial number of them already made oaths and signed contracts to donate their organs in such campaigns sporadically launched by civic organizations. However, the general public is skeptical that their promises will be kept. Their distrust is understandable because most of them have broken their pledges, including the vow to cremate their bodies, without showing a tiny morsel of compunction. If their promises to cremate their bodies were faithfully honored by their families, our funeral system would have been already improved to the extent that the use of land for gravesides (Probably should be 'gravesites') is drastically curbed. In this vein, Ven. Bub Jang deserves unstinted respect and praise for his keeping the oath at the expense of Buddhist traditions.

Actually, it was either the confusing grammar or the presumption of dishonesty that made me want to write about it. Did the leaders of society make the promise to donate their organs, then change their minds on their deathbeds, pass on their new wishes in sceanses or did the children not follow their wishes? The "If their promises...were faithfully honored..." sentence would seem to relieve the leaders of blame. I suppose, in a 청개구리 fashion, we could respect both the leaders and their children. The leaders for making such a promise and the children for choosing to show great filial respect in a traditional burial.

Anyway, I do respect Ven. Bub Jang's decision and want to do my part. In Canada, I donated blood as often as I could. I have seen blood donation trucks in Korea but have been wary of using them. The Canadian Red Cross has had it's troubles with reusing needles and spreading diseases. So far as I know, all it's problems were solved when I started donating. Can anyone tell me about donating blood in Korea? How easy or safe is it?

Henry Ford was on to something

<(The author, displaying his impeccable fashion sense).

If anyone reading has actually met me, they will know my sophisticated writing style hides a complete lack of fashion or sartorical style. In fact, of the two articles I am commenting on, the first one caught my eye purely because of it's possible racist message. "Black, British Look Is In For Men" describes new fashion styles inspired by British clothing styles and the increased use of the color black, not, well, I don't know; I guess afros or such.

The second article is also about the color black, in some new lines of cell phones. What interested me, in addition to finding two articles about black being 'the new black', was how the new style is thin-thin-thin, even to the point of losing the Swiss-Army-Knife range of features. Phones that are only phones are popular again.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Happy Chuseok from Alex and Brian

Here we are relaxing early Chuseok morning. I hope everyone can stay off the roads and enjoy time with their family.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I thought it was only a myth.

Apparently, a passenger on a flight to Sumatra used their phone at the wrong time, causing the plane to land at the wrong airport. Article here.

No one told the girl TV was a vicious game

I had thought that Korean 'talents' (TV personalities) were tough. A recent article in the Chosun suggests that they are merely unlucky or desperate for work.

The article describes "Challenge! World Expedition Party", a show that sends 'talents' to exotic locations to perform difficult tasks. The show is under fire for not caring for it's actors. Recently, Chung Jung-ah was in Columbia looking for anacondas when she was bitten by one. That's not so bad. The director then told her to do the scene again because it didn't come out right.

I'm not sure that is so bad either. If it were Jeff Corwin or Sir David Attenborough, I would definitely expect them to keep working. As Ms. Chung was not really working as a field naturalist, perhaps she does deserve a break. Anyone who comes into contact with anacondas without knowing if they are poisonous (they aren't) probably shouldn't be out there. Again, anyone who travels without a tetanus booster shouldn't be out there either.

I remember seeing an episode of "Challenge!" or one like it, in 2000 or 2001. A beautiful Korean woman, possibly a model, was in Alaska doing a kind of Alaskan Pentathlon. I hope that I can be a tough as she was, although I also hope I don't have to be. She spent a day learning how to bicycle in the snow with spectacular falls. The next day, she cried as she dressed and huge black bruises were everywhere. She got up and did another day of training. If she was hoping that would be her breakthrough into show business, I sure hope it was. She deserved it.

Although Ms. Chung is at risk of tetanus, she was vaccinated against malaria. A wise precaution after an actor on the show died of the disease six years ago.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

How old is too old?

I haven't been blogging much lately as my mother is visiting and my wife has just returned to work; we are kind of busy at home. I hope I can return to my average of two posts a week soon.

Today I used a typical role-playing game in my third year university classes. In this one, five people are in a balloon that is sinking into a shark-infested ocean. One person must be tossed overboard so the lightened balloon will remain above the water. Who will the unlucky person be?
That is enough of a story. The students could reasonably play themselves and debate who should live. However, to make it more interesting, I made a set of characters. As I made the characters in a hurry, I made changes in each of the three classes. Basically, the characters were:
1) a sick baby
2) an alcoholic woman
3) a thief
4) an old man --this is the important one
5) a 대마초 (hemp or pot) seller.

I commented that the fourth character was the important one and titled this post "How old is too old?" When I made the character 66 years old, three-quarters of the groups fed him to the fish. When I made him 60 years old, only a quarter threw him overboard. At 63, again only a quarter were sacrificed, so I guess the answer lies around 65 years old.

There might be stereotyping involved in my not being surprised about a safety of the alcoholic.

대마초 may be used for recreational purposes but older Koreans (none in my class) might think of it as medicine.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What Global Warming? A review of Crighton's 'State of Fear'

I read and enjoyed State of Fear although I was also annoyed and later, confused and worried. State of Fear tells the story of a philanthropist who finds his donations are being used for unsavory purposes; specifically, to fake evidence for an environmental catastrophe. He quickly fades from the story but his assistants and some federal agents continue to follow the conspiracy and foil the plot.

The story is good. There is a lot of action and close escapes, some memorable women and great exotic locations. There were some problems though. The close escapes are all of the kind that Austin Powers lampooned so well, "Aren't you going to kill him?" "No, I'm sure the sharks will. I will just walk away and assume that he did die." "But you've already assumed that five times."

Crighton's book always carry a message and his popularity stems both from these controversial subjects and from the way they don't get in the way of the action. Jurassic Park was a thrilling story of man vs monster, but it was also a story of the way man himself can be a shortsighted monster focusing on profits, and a glimpse of the ways our increasing understanding of DNA will change our lives.

State of Fear is a spy story of sorts, and an exciting one, but it also encourages us to question some strongly established views. For example, and least controversially, charitable organizations might not be so benign after all and charitable does not mean free of greed.

The controversial story in State of Fear is that Global Warming is a lie, or at least completely unproven. This is the part of the story that confused and worried me. Crighton backs up his claim with scientific reference after reference, which is good. However, in his book, the people showing global warming as an unproven or unsupported hypothesis are all brilliant, while the environmentalists are mean-spirited idiots, which is annoying.

The book made me reexamine my assumptions on the subject. I listened to Dr. Forbush speak out against global warming and big business (don't bother unless you want to learn how not to do a podcast) in the most boring, unsupported way possible.

I also visited Cooler Heads, a site that tries to show the global warming for the myth it is. To my shame, as soon as I saw it was a consumer site, and related to big business, I turned away. This is exactly what the deluded folk in State of Fear did. It did have references, if you are interested. One was the Marshall Institute, which has a Q&A with responses like this:
"15. Will global warming produce more violent storms? This is not likely."
They may be right in this case, but the bare bones answers were kind of annoying. Violent storms may be caused by global warming but the evidence for that will be statistical. One storm does not prove GW, not even a bad decade of storms is enough.

Three sites that felt they had evidence for global warming were Global Warming Early Warning Signs, The Earth Institute and the Global Warming International Centre. Crighton visited the Earth Institute and the scientists there apparently are dismayed that he didn't ask them their opinion (they feel GW is real).

One thing I'd seen before is the way one organization tries to hijack another's visitors. There is a "" and a "" site, differing only in the suffix. Which came first, I don't know but I have seen this used as an underhanded way to steal visitors who mistype the name.

Anyway, in my opinion, global warming is probably occurring but it doesn't matter. GW is caused by CO2 (and a few other gases) emissions and to stop emitting would be to stop all enterprise. However, reducing emissions of other polluting gases would automatically reduce greenhouse gases..

To reduce various fossil fuel exhausts would reduce pollution: smog, acid rain, and a number of lung ailments. For individual drivers to drive less or to carpool, would reduce the number of cars built and the energy that goes into constructing a car is probably as much or more than the energy that goes into driving it. Driving less would likely improve people's general health...

I have calmed down as an environmentalist as I learned a little (really, the least possible) about economics. I have a vague idea that reducing automobile production would not help people's total quality of living. Still, if people are concerned about global warming and pollution, leaving their cars in the driveway would be the reasonable thing to do.