Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Is volunteering illegal in Korea?

This is my third post this evening, but it is the one I find to be actually important for foreigners here.

Some foriegners in Busan put on a play or comedy performance and were busted for not having the right visa or permission for it. I'm neutral on the subject but while being questioned by the police, they were told volunteering without first asking for permision from a customs office was also not allowed.

Volunteering is a fairly important part of my life. I guess I shouldn't say whether I am currently volunteering in the current atmosphere (although I did a few posts -back in those happier times).

The Korean blogosphere is active on the subject with the best post on the subject coming from Nathan, the Seoul Hero.

Nathan also comments in a separate post about students asking for better grades. I guess it is common to be able to do so in Korea as my university has the same policy. Now, I do make mistakes so I don't mind the ocassional student asking me to double check my math but there are also students who want to suddenly make up for a semester of slacking. Twice now, once this year and once a few years ago, I had students offer to do a new assignment over the winter holiday if only I would increase their grade. This semester, four students have asked me to change their grades. For two of them, I am sympathetic and will see if there is anything I can do; they were hard workers in class and I am happy to return to their exams and see if I find a mistake on my part for them.
For the other, I will make the effort but with less sympathy. In one such case, the student's father called me and asked if I could make changes. That student is in for a rough winter break if I can't but that isn't my problem.

News on swimmer Park Tae-hwan

The Chosun describes Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan, who picked Korea's first swimming golds at the Pan-Pac games and at the DOHA games as "one of the year's top newsmakers in the sport according to Swim News dot com. "

Swim News does indeed praise him.
The sight of so many nations making international podiums and helping to elevate swimming to a truly global sport, that trend epitomised by 17-year-old Korean Tae Hwan Park's distance freestyle victories at the Pan Pacs and Asian Games.

It also describes a challenge China's swimmers had at DOHA (my highlighting):
China's top swimmers have a tight turnaround in terms of acclimatising in time for the start of racing at the Asian Games in Doha on Friday: they landed in Qatar at 3am on Wednesday and at Thursday training Zhou Yafei, there to defend the 100m butterfly drown, said: "I am still tired from the jet lag, so I don't think my form is very good right now - but for me, it maybe good news because the best form should be reserved for competition."

I competed in the 100m butterfly but I don't know about the 'drown' part!

USB powered slippers

Every USB port in my notebook is filled and I have two more USB peripherals that I plug in as needed. Still, the USB market is where electronics makers can be creative and I'm always looking just to see what's out there.
No more freezing feet in front of the computer: here comes the USB (Universal Serial Bus) to your rescue! These slippers heat up using two USB connectors that you connect directly into your computer. Using the small electrical power supply of the USB, small elements keep your feet warm while you're on the computer.

The writer describes being surprised and amused by the thought of businessmen in formal suits wearing slippers at their desks- clearly s/he has not been to a Korean (or probably, Japanese) cubicle-farm.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas at the Kwandong House

Christmas was a relatively low-key affair- of the four in our home, I am the only one with (somewhat distant) Christian roots and the little guy is still too little to understand that one day is special -I guess they all are for him. Still, he did receive gifts and is more interested in them than in the boxes they arrived in. Here are photos displaying the parts of his gifts that I particularly enjoyed:
The first one seems fit for Jay Leno. -Ah, does he still do the Tonight show? Do they still have a feature with ridiculous signs and such?
Anyway, here is the packaging for a gift for all ages (but not under six) (click to read the fine print).

Dr Seuss was ahead of his time!
Hmmmm. Big nose: check. Big belly: check. Thin pencil-pusher arms: No comment. I guess I'm a Blogger.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Sook (숙) tripping

KwandongAlex was scratching his head yesterday so we cleaned and reloaded the humidifier, figuring the air was dry. Just before we connected the tank to the humidifier, Kwandongmotherinlaw brought out some broth to add to the tank.

The broth was dark brown; it reminded me of consomme. I'm not a fan of hanyak (Korean home remedies) but in Canada we might have added some sort of menthol (Vicks was the first choice at my house) so I didn't mind.

In the middle of the night, I was hot, I was cold, I was dizzy and having some strange dreams. Eventually I turned off the humidifier.

I woke up with basically a hangover. It was then that I learned the broth was Sook tea.

Probably there is no connection but I remember hearing that Korea's sook (a roadside weed) is very similar to Absinthe, a European plant. Is absinthe the same thing as wormwood? Anyway, the European version is infamous as a hallucinatory drug that can cause madness.

I guess I had better beware of cravings for humid air for the next while!

Oh, I learned about sook from Steve Roney. He used to run tours in Seoul but I beleive is back home in Canada now. His site is/was mysterytours.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Snow in Sokcho

At first, I was a little jealous of the Nomad who had snow early in the morning and felt Sokcho might get no snow at all.

Soon after ten this morning it started to snow here. Actually, it started to hail. Iceballs rattled the windows for a while and gradually became snow.

You might be surprised that a Canadian would be so excited about snow. It was KwandongAlex's first snowfall he could be outside for.

He was not excited nor happy. We came in very quickly. As we expect high winds all day, I doubt he will spend much more time outside. We'll see.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dae Han Brit People

The Korea Times has an article on DNA tests on human bones believed to date back to the Bronze Age reveal similarity with contemporary British sources.

The results are 'very, very rudimentary' and need to be cross-checked before conclusions can be drawn.

The edition of the Korea Times that carried this article also carries news that Dr Hwang is making a quiet comeback. He might just be the perfect person to carry out the cross checking above. Now all Koreans have to do is decide which result they would prefer and Dr Hwang will find it.

I'm not sure of the proper segue for this, but I can see at least a tenuous connection to the recent outcry in Korea with racism on TV. If there were Caucasians here in the Bronze Age, Koreans are a little more heterogeneous than previously thought.

Incidentally, I expect the results are in error- either the similarity in the DNA or the age of the bones.
On the subject of racism on TV, the Metropolitician has an important post that is worth reading - and more.

Two North Korean boys rescued near Sokcho

The ROK Navy -possibly with assistance from the Coast Guard - rescued two North Korean soldiers on the weekend.
The soldiers are in poor health and will likely need significant care before they can leave their hospital.

Monday, December 11, 2006

More exam answers and more ...stuff

Below are two questions and a few answers from my first year final exam for medical students. Their English is quite strong so it is the answers themselves that are interesting or amusing. Where neccessary, I made a few corrections.

What would you do if your friend cheated on his exam and got the scholarship that you should have gotten? I am a Christian, so first I pray to God that father please forgive my revenge. After that, I go to the teacher and saying about his unfair action. And in midnight, guietly following him [I think this is the cheating friend he refers to], I hit him in the back of the head.

I wouldn't tell him that I saw him cheating on the exam. Instead of being against one of my friends, I would congratulate him for his scholarship. I think cheating is a skill that not everyone can have. The important thing is that he got the scholarship by his own hand. This answer might be a sort of response to the claim made in the last answer below. Either the student is extraordinarily open-minded
or is furthering an ugly Korean stereotype.

...And one of my friends (S.R.) cheated again on physics exam... I actually changed the initials - because I think there is only one person in his class with the initials he gave. Its funny to me that students either trust me or don't care about me enough that they give me this kind of specific information.

What do you think will happen in Korea if Japan wins the Soccer World Cup? ...However, respecting the rules and regulations, Korean people will appreciate their work... I honestly laughed when I read this one. This is the middle of what otherwise was a very common answer which followed this form: Koreans would be angry - possibly commit violence [quoted material here] and then really pour money and concern into the Korean soccer team.

The computer is working again; it was fine, we just needed the modem replaced which KT did quickly. Thanks Masan Mark and others for suggestions.

Looking through old photos, I found this one and couldn't remember posting, so here it is.

A bus had squeezed and knocked over a paper collectors cart. After the police got there and harranged the paper collector, the police let the two parties go. The crowd of bystanders immediately jumped in and began picking up the cardboard. I was happy to see civic minded people roll up their sleeves. Click to enlarge.

More recently (yesterday), The Kwandong family, complete with mother-in-law, went to Naksan Temple. For the first time, I ascended to the peak of Naksan. There are many seedlings planted but without their leaves, the mountaintop looks quite barren.
Also on the weekend, I took this picture of Ulsan Bowi. I love the clear air that comes with the cold temperatures.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Again, I'm fine, just...

...lazy, grumpy and having trouble with my computer and the internet connection.

Before I start whining, let me talk about errors. I can (and frequently do) make typos like this, "an dthe ansert is..." Here, we see a space in the middle of the word 'and' and 'ert' instead of 'wer' in answer. The first error is from over-fast typing and the 'ert' is next to the 'wer' so it is the result of sloppy typing. Both are the result of sloppy proofreading. The point is, they are purely typing errors. It is hard to imagine handwriting those errors (actually, my handwriting is bad enough that one might mistake my 'r' for a 't'). No one thinks I think 'answer' is spelled with 'ert' - the error is diagnostic as a typo.

Here is an interesting set of answers a first year student gave me on his final exam:

Write the time as words ('1' as one, '2' as two...)
Morning 8:25 -Sleep it is a pine nut from the house.
Evening 5:40 - Study new all from the library

How's the weather today?The wind swells up today

Tell me three things you did yesterday.
Yesterday, the girlfriend and the rice the in budae chigae.

The answers are wrong but interestingly wrong. It is the way they are wrong that seems diagnostic. My student's errors seem diagnostic of an internet translator -and of misunderstanding my questions, but the two aren't exclusive. I watched the class fairly closely; I don't think he could have used a translator on his phone. Still, this is why I don't worry that much about cheating on exams. I have not yet found a cheater who had answers better than expected compared to classwork.

Time to begin whining.
I have mentioned before that I need to upgrade the security on my computer. When I was no longer able to connect to the internet, I blamed the computer first. Now that it works from a work connection, I am relieved of that worry. On the other hand, a new program icon appeared on the screen a few days ago. It is (English words in Korean) 'Vaccine Plus'. It automatically starts upon starting the computer and neither my wife nor I downloaded it. I'm worried but I need the computer to work until I enter all my student grades, then I have a few months to try to solve the problem.

Second, my mother-in-law is visiting. She is one of the kindest people I have met but she does things old-school. Korean old school. The most obvious example of this (and the one I am most comfortable sharing) is the sudden appearance of many basins of water around the apartment. What is the fascination of older Koreans with basins of water?
I am glad she is spending time with her grandson but this joy is tempered every time I find my cheese sitting in a cupboard to make room for an open glass of unnamed liquid in the fridge. Perhaps I will do more housework so things are prepared my way. Jeez, I now need a new excuse not to do housework.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Suggestions for next year

I had a November homework assignment for my third year class listed on the syllabus. It was titled 'Common Midterm Exam Errors" and in other classes it was a good way for me to remind students what they needed to review.

For my third year class, however, the midterm exam was oral and students did not recieve the same questions. Taking an oral question and repeating it as a written question also seemed contraindicated; spelling would suddenly be a factor while it had not been a testable, and the grammar of conversation is at least a little different than written grammar.

Suddenly needing a new assignment, I asked the students to write about their six semesters of English at my university and also to add a few sentences about my class in particular. I told them I wanted advice on how to teach classes next year.

Although I specifically said I did not want, "I love KwandongBrian's class because..." type statements, I recieved a few. Gratifying and not completely useless: enough of them seemed sincere and indicated my current style and content are satisfactory, at least.

1) I also recieved responses that were clearly done with babelfish or another online translator. Here is a sample:
First time studying, it enjoyed a game all togather and the study which participates listen to person But study listen to old the time look in class appears to be being exchanged not togather.

This was handwritten and I blame the grammar on the translator and the spelling and punctuation on the transcription.

I think the fact that the student used a translator (for the second time) tells me something about my teaching but the criticism I draw from the response itself is something like, "I enjoyed the group activities at the beginning of the semester but later in the semester we students were more distant, separated by major". Certainly, I did more group activities in the first few classes and the rest of the classes were mostly spent with the students staying in their seats. The students self-segregated- they chose to sit in groups and with some distance between groups.

Next semester, I will be sure to add more activity to my classes. I join the students in prefering those classes and it was my lazyness in planning that resulted in more sedentary classes.

2) More than one student wanted "man to man" teaching. I do speak to almost every individual, every class and try to spend extended periods with different students each class but after reviewing the grammar, vocabulary and conversation models, and saving time at the end for whole-class demonstrations, I only have a few minutes to share with individuals and small groups. Still, I am interested in Sook-myoung University's (the bloggin'est university in Korea since Masuro from my university closed up shop) individual tutoring program. I think its called 'The Write Spot' or something and students can voluntarily visit for assistance with english.

Perhaps I need to require students come to my office for chats ouside of class time. I was going to put 'chat' in quotes because required speaking will never be as spontaneous as chatting should be, but requiring "private office time"(quotes deliberate) already sounds, um, possibly icky -quotes would only accentuate that.

3) One student wanted more content beyond or outside the textbook. I wil try this and it fits with my ideas for #4. On the other hand, university students seem worse at holding on to loose pages given them than elementary school students and their note taking ability is not much better.

4) More movies, video and music in class (and improve classroom facilities). Two different suggestions but the latter allows the former. My second year students (second year is a listening class, in which they watch 'Connect with english', a PBS ESL series) are not thrilled with watching video every class. Most of my 'sleeping students' photos come from these classes.

Still, there is good video content available now. I will show and discuss these videos with discussion about how they relate to class on the first day and give Kiwi! and others as homework. I will also continue to create my own content.

5) "Korean professors and Foreigner professor's teaching is insufficiency of connection." - This is true and a big subject for me to improve on. For second and third year classes, I teach one hour and a Korean teacher teaches one hour. Although we use the same basic material, I typically only exchange pleasantries with my co-teacher during the semester and my grades after the semester. I clearly need to communicate more with my co-teachers. In my defence, my co-teachers make little effort to contact me, either.

Students also need to evaluate their professors before recieving their grades but the evaluation is in Korean and also contains items that are beyond the control of teachers. I do not control which text is used, nor the duration of class nor the credit value for my classes. I think I have recieved some useful feedback here and hope to work on these things next year.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Saving time

Its hard to judge ahead of time, when heaters will be needed. I don't really blame the maintanence staff for filling the heater's gas tank after a few days of uncomfortable coolness.

I guess, after recieving many complaints and requests for prompt service, they felt they needed to save time. Here are two men filling the heater's tank while the heater is currently on - the flame is very close to the nozzle of the gascan.

They did the same thing last year, but spilled gas on the floor. Only the foreigners seemed to notice- I have to admit being a little sheeplike; seeing the Korean staff ignore the spill and the smell, I stepped over it myself a few times, preparing for class and did not leave the room.

In both cases, there were no negative consequences but I remember a similar situation of gas fumes filling a room and being ignited in a small town next to my hometown.
A couple were removing carpeting from their basement. To soften the glue, they used gasoline. Later, the gas fumes were bothering them so they turned on a fan. The sparks naturally given off by any fan's armature ignited the gas and the couple were severely burned. I cannot remember if they died. I sincerely hope not but that would be a case of fan-death I would not be sceptical of.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Altruism, behavior that helps others to your detriment, has long been claimed as a refutation of evolution. It is claimed that evolution dictates or requires selfishness so if selfless behavior exists, there are problems with evolution.

Social animals, as I was taught, and have in some small part have observed, do indeed help each other sometimes for abstract or distant reward. Seagulls make an alarm cry when danger approaches, attracting attention to themselves. This behavior is advantageous because other gulls will perform the same activity at other times. Is this altruism?

On BBC4's "In Our Time" is another interesting podcast with academics discussing altruism. As the [in]famous Richard Dawkins is one of the speakers, I suspect altruism will be shown to, or at least claimed to, have evolution roots. The recording will be available starting this Thursday, for a week.

On an unrelated note, this week I start volunteering at a Sokcho church, teaching English.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I'm fine, just bored and lazy

Its been a while since I last posted. In the last month or two, I haven't posted much, either.

I'm fine, mostly healthy, work is going well, the little guy is a joy (again, mostly) and all the rest.

Previous years, I blogged about travel. Nearly every week I had a cycling or hiking trip to tell you about, nearly as excited as a little boy.

There also seemed to be more news that seemed important to me. I discussed Gangwondo, Korean rice, farming, work, and more. These days, I feel as if my whole blog is about students that sleep in class, smokers lighting up in the 'no-smoking' area and people who can't park their cars properly. These are all interesting, briefly. To make a steady diet of these subjects is not what this blog is about.

I'm comfortable with who I am, I know what I am about, but the content areas this blog covers are changing and I don't know what to write about.

I've seen lots of fractured english signs and probably somewhere is a post having fun with one but I have resisted going wild on the subject.

I want the blog to be useful- to other residents of Korea, to new and experienced ESL teachers and others. This is not a baby blog, although I will continue to post occassional photos of the little guy.

I enjoy the Big Hominid's blog and find what he shares of his personal life to be interesting yet this is not exactly a diary of my life. I wouldn't be able to compartmentalize what should be public and private as well as he does and the result would be either creepy or bland.

After all this, I may find three new subjects tomorrow. I'm just saying I'm fine and don't stop visiting my site everyday.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Red Jellyfish

I know the white or translucent ones I see are safe, or relatively safe, but this red one, found in Cheongcho Lake, just looks dangerous. Most of the jellyfish I see have been pounded by surf along shore and have probably already fired their cnematocysts (I am not sure about the spelling but I mean the poison darts carried in their tentacles); this one looks hale and ready for trouble.

Melissa asked about the jellyfish that Koreans eat and I have no idea what kind is eaten. I once bought Hae-pari mustard with bits of jellyfish in it, but again, I don't know what kind it was.

By the way, Pari can mean 'insect' in Korean. Is haepari (해파리) 'ocean insect'?

Click on the images to enlarge.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Students showing their love for their school

Three buildings at a Gangneung university form a 'U' so I was able to look from one building into the windows of the next. In fact, this was almost rubbed in my face as it was the view coming down the stairs, where everyone passing by is facing.
What I feel makes this worse, is this is a club room, a room that a varsity club gets to use and set up as they see fit. They will be staring at their own handiwork.
-Yes, I undestand that if a group is truly allowed to decorate as they see fit, they then have the freedom to do this. Perhaps I should be impressed they chose to use an english word. If I return to that campus, I may report on the club's name.

If foul language upsets you, the post below should cheer you up.

Cruising across the linoleum in his box-boat

In case the above post upset you, here are some pics of KwandongAlex to set you right!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Kotesol Annual International Conference

Its been several days since I attended the conference but I've been a little busy. I've wanted to write about the conference but I guess I'm not as energetic as Nathan who posted his impressions each night (Saturday, Sunday).

In general, I can't say that I learned a lot of new information. However, many half-baked ideas that I had considered but not thought through had been thought through by others. As loyal readers have not doubt noticed, I am interested in using video and other web-based sources and materials in my classes. Colin Skeates, working in Japan, gave a great seminar on the subject as did Russel Huber, also working in Japan, and I'll go into more detail below.

Many of the seminars were more edutainment than educational. My own teaching techniques lean heavily toward entertaining my students but that is because my class is not an elective and many students are not internally motivated; I have to make the material interesting. Attendees to this conference had personally paid to be there and, in my case, had travelled for several hours. I feel we were eager for information and what we got was sometimes diluted.
Perhaps I am being crotchety. I certainly enjoyed the seminars and laughed heartily many times. Even the legendary Dr. Jack Richards gave a lecture full of humor.

First, I attended a seminar by Lee Jolie, who discussed Communicative Language Teaching. I am still not completely sure what CLT means but I'm interested in researching more myself.

Next, a terrible lecture by Lee Hyun-joo on the subject of Cultural Imperialism in ESL Textbooks. She made a good point that local cultural images and information, in English, should be used to some extent in class. As a counter image, she described a book from a well-known publishing company in which every chapter started with American-based example. The book had information on international subjects but any time there was a datum from outside of the US, it came after an American datum. She thought there was something wrong with this but I feel most ESL students specifically want cultural information from English-speaking countries.

Then, I attended the Seoul Hero's lecture on common errors made by Korean learners of English. It was interesting to see the catalog but I've been here a while, there wasn't anything new for me. The catalog would be of value to new teachers here and can be found here.

Jack Richards talked about listening to English in class requires two skill sets: listening for information and listening to learn English - these are two overlapping but different sets of goals.

I've spent several years here but still don't have TEFL qualifications. My teaching qualifications are real but for a different subject. This year, its time to decide how to improve myself as a teacher so I went to the University of Birmingham Distance MA programmes seminar. Since that time, I have also learned of a program called DELTA which also appears to be of value. We'll see.

Tim Thompson have a useful and amusing talk entitled, "Examining Korean University Students Expectations of Native Speaker English Teachers". The three most important things his subjects want in their NS teachers are: "Speaks to students in a friendly manner", "Plans every minute of class" and "Explains things clearly". The three things they cared least about were: "Wears a suit/dress", "Is handsome/pretty", and "doesn't hesitate or say 'ummm'". The last bothered Mr Thompson so he wanted to compare his own experiences with his student's. Students also wanted "an expert in his/her field" but ranked "Has a masters degree" and "Has a Ph.D" very low in the list. Thompson and his standing-room-only audience discusses this and suggested that perhaps 'Native Speaker' equals "expert" to the students.
Smile and look organised, don't worry about the suit or the Masters - I need to talk to my employer about the last two points.

I had dinner with the Gangwon Kotesol group at 'Oktoberfest', near Jonggak. I've always been a fan of dark beer and the microbrewed Duenkel was fantastic.

On Sunday, Skeates talked about video journaling. He has spent three years requiring the journals as homework and has worked out how to organise the projects to get valuable learning without going crazy. In his first year, he had seventy students each make 15 one-minute videos and exhausted himself commenting on them. By the third year, he required only eight videos per student but expected them to be of increasing length.

I attended a few other seminars and enjoyed the whole thing but I am tired so I'll finish by saying I missed my family and knew Kwandongwife would be exhausted after working all week and taking care of Kwandongson so I went home early.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I use Hallowe\'en as an excuse to (try to) scare students smoking in a \'no smoking\' area.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

First snowfall 2006

The first snowfall atop Seoraksan was Oct 24.

Last year, we had snow in Oct but it melted quickly. I expect this to do the same. The first lasting snowfall last year was Nov 29.
Previous years: Nov 27, 2004, Nov 14, 2003 (photos)

The historic rise and fall of Chinese technology

*Blogger is having difficulties tonight. I cannot edit my writing well - no hyperlinks or bolding, etc.*

I have a long commute three days a week and I find listening to podcasts a good way to fill the time.

On such podcast is BBC4's "In our time".

Despite the title, the speakers mostly discuss historic events (I think the title refers to how the subjects are researched and understood 'in our time'). The most recent episode questioned how or why China was far and away the world leader in science and technology from the twelth century to only a few hundred years ago. European technology only pulled ahead in the nineteenth century.

One item of discussion was gunpowder. The Chinese understood how to use it as a propellent in fireworks but the main reason it was made was as part of Chinese alchemy and medicine. Once the secret of gunpowder reached Europe, its usefulness, um, exploded.

Also mentioned in some detail were printing presses and ceramics. Although Korea itself is not mentioned, the parrellels are clear.

"In Our Time", as a download, is available for a week. After that, you can still listen as a stream but not a download.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Storm Damage

The parking lot at Daepo Harbour was apparently washed out from below. In many places the paving stones are buckled up in an arch that seems to indicate pressure from below. This parking lot is right next to the ocean.

These merfolk are normally sitting vertically on a rock just out of frame on the left. The whole meaning of the statue is changed with it in a horizontal position. Only those nineteen and over can view the ocean from this vantage point, now.

On a much grimmer note, here are the remains of a fishing boat and navigation bouy.

According to that wimp, Melvin, swimming may be over for the year. I don't want to swim amongst the stuff I saw today, but I'm still eager to try one one time.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

two streets in one light cycle

Giving you the details the major guides won't. Forget about Moon guide or Lonely Planet - get it here!

Using online resources is ... interesting. I had to record the audio separately - at ODEO - and upload it to Jumpcut. Jumpcut didn't recognise two audio files in one movie so I had to make one audio recording, counting silently to avoid stepping on the video's audio in the middle.
Another fifty of these and more than my mother will want to watch.

The pettiness of Kwandongbrian

I've written before about how annoyed I get when people park in the 'no-parking' zone. It's a small thing but it bothers me. The four signs are normally in a row along the curb but I dragged them around the Korando.
The good news is, I restrained myself from tying them to the front and back bumpers. That may be my next trick.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Driving from Pusan to Paris? Coming soon.

On my way home yesterday, I saw a sign just north of Yangyang describing the road as 'Asian Highway (AH6) and listing five countries it leads to: Korea, Russia, Kazakstan, and others.

I will take a picture soon when I pass it in good light (it's pretty dark after six these days).

I have on this blog suggested that Korean businesses and government don't always plan ahead. Clearly, the civil engineers here are looking forward quite optimistically, considering that the sign went up a week after the Norks tested their nuke.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another Thursday, another afternoon at the beach

Alternate title, "three amigos"

The water was fine but the air cooled quickly after three pm. I figure we'll get two more weeks in but conditions will be chancy after that.

Click on the photos to enlarge
Melvin in the surf.

I call this one, "hand or foot?" You can see that the waves were breaking right at the shore - his hand (foot?) is inches above beachsand.
Bill swam better than he looks in this photo - sadly it is the only one of him.

More terrible frisbee action featuring Kwandongbrian.
Hi there!

Bikes and buses

I started this post a few days ago and am finishing it today. The story is about my trip to work that day.

I'm not the idealistic young man I thought I was. Actually, I knew I wasn't that young anymore, the loss of idealism surprised me.

To get to work, I take two buses, a city bus from Sokcho to Yangyang and the university bus to the Gangneung campus. The city bus (route number 9, if you care), while pulling into a recessed stop on the side of the road, squeezed a cyclist and knocked him over.

Readers of this blog know that I am concerned with cyclist's rights and have commented on bike-unfriendly driving here. They may also know I am somewhat trained in first aid and that I am concerned about the lack of first aid knowledge of most Koreans and the strange actions of Korean ambulance staff here.

The young Kwandongbrian would have jumped out of the bus to check on the cyclist and possibly to harrangue thebusdriver.

The Kwandongbrian of today didn't want to give up his seat.

Eventually, like a frightened rabbit timidly leaving its hole, I stepped across to the window. A woman was pushing back to return to her seat so I blocked her path and scuttled back to MY seat. Later, I made it to the window and saw the cyclist with his shoe off, rubbing his foot. The bike looked fine, although a tire could easily have been warped enough to prevent use but not enough to be seen.

I returned to my seat and began to think, "Why doesn't the driver get back into the bus and get me to work?"

The driver did come in and tell us to exit the bus and hop in the one parked behind so I ended up standing anyway.

In Yangyang, I met the university shuttlebus for the ride to the Gangneung campus.

The bus reached a red light. It did not stop but moved as far to the right as possible, eventually making a shallow semicircle in the empty perpendicular lanes and continuing with only a slight dip in the speed.

As a cyclist, I used to do that very occassionally. I usually pay close attention to the traffic laws as a cyclist. I also hate it when drivers run red lights.

However, when my busdriver (or the occassional taxidriver) does it, I feel grateful. Oh, and a steadily decreasing sense of guilt.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Get a good sleep in class, still join the gallery

This guy fell asleep in class and I woke him. Then he fell asleep again. We continued about fifteen minutes of class and I finished class early, telling the students they could leave quietly. I went out and had a quick lunch and returned to the classroom and he was still there.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Found in Cheongcho Lake next to ferryboat racecourse.

Why park here of all places?

Parking here blocks the sightlines for two lanes of traffic and hides pedestrians as they start to cross the street. Why park here?

Well, there are two reasons. The first is a group of reasons that seem to be easily clumped together. They include "everyone does it", "pedestrians and drivers both expect it and know to keep their eyes open" and "no-one is ever punished for it".
The second reason is actually the unexpected consequence of measures to prevent parking elsewhere on the street. In the back-right of the picture you can see pylons dividing the two lanes. These pylons prevent people from turning except at designated points anyone who parks where the pylons are, blocks the whole lane. Both streets, on either side of the intersection, have pylons running down the centerline.

Because people can't park between the intersections they are forced to park at the intersections. Goshdarned annoying, really.

So, in a grumpy mood, I wheeled my son past the car and went to Expo Park. I took him out of his stroller and we walked at a grassy part of the shoreline. I became much grumpier when I saw the refuse some partiers left behind and planned to blog about that, too. My mood improved when I saw Sokcho City employees cleaning the walkway and heading to the mess the partiers had left. Kudos to the cleanup crew. Still, garbage cans would be nice.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ferryboat racing next week at Cheongcho Lake

A tourist attraction in Sokcho is the hand-powered ferry that connects Abai Village to northern Sokcho. The ferry crosses the narrow channel that permits boats entry to Cheongcho Lake. The ferry was featured in a movie or TV series; I think it was called, "Autumn story". Anyway, riding the ferry is mild fun and is part of a pleasant shoreline walk.

Next week, two replica ferries will be raced on a short course at Expo Park at Cheongcho Lake. The banner seems to say (my Korean language skills are not what they should be) that 32 teams can enter. A team consists of five members. Oct 14 and 15 are both on the banner so I don't know if the racing will take two days with heats on Saturday and finals on Sunday or what. The course is about 50 metres long and probably contestants have to travel to the bouy and back.

The race looks like a lot of fun. I have commitments next week so I cannot compete but I suggest the Gangwon KOTESOL enter a team (BTW, the next Gangwon KOTESOL meeting is that Saturday- perfect timing).

Oh, I said a team is 5 members, but I only saw four, uh, pull-tools. Maybe the fifth person cheers. I reccommend the fifth person bring a squirt gun to shoot the other team - that would be fun.

A cable is attached to the dock and to the bouy ( and anchored at both ends). The cable goes over the ferry. Simple metal tools with a handle and bent into a rectangle at one end are used to pinch the cable so one can tug and walk the cable to the stern, pulling the boat forward. A suggestion to contestants would be to ride the original ferry before the contest to be sure of how to hold the tool. I thought I was the sort to understand mechanical things but embarrrassingly close to half the time, I hold the tool backwards.

Here is the course:

And here is the banner if you want more information. The website (only in Korean) is here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Employment discrimination

In my listening class, we are watching a PBS ESL video series called Connect with English. It chronicles the life of Rebecca Casey. Information about the series, and Video-On-Demand, can be found here (I'm not selling the product; I certainly don't love the product, but the info may be of interest to co-workers who read this blog).

When looking for a job, she was asked some inappropriate questions. Homework for that episode was listening to various job interview questions and determining which were illegal (I made the homework, it had nothing to do with PBS- just wanted that clear). That same week, I found this poster advertising job openings at the local E-mart. The ad specifically requires men between 20 and 35 years of age.

Shopping at Di Feel Good Morning Mart

There is a supermarket near my apartment that I frequent. It is well-stocked and has about half the floor space of E-mart's grocery floor. Until two weeks ago, it was called 'D-mart'. Then the name changed to 'Feel Mart'. The staff, layout and stock did not change. On Tuesday, I noticed the name has changed again, to 'Good Morning Mart'.

Is this simply another example of how quickly things change here? In Canada, I was under the impression that frequent name changes were part of a bankruptcy process, or somehow a way to dodge creditors. Could that be what's happening? Any guesses?

Which radical religious group uses this image?

There are moderates as well as radicals in every group.
I don't mean to attack the more moderate members of this religious group but, WOW!
Religion of peace?
Thou shall not kill?
I don't want to link to them. The site's name is "answers in..." and often uses the initials, "AIG" -they don't sell any kind of insurance I would want to buy!

(Click on the image to expand)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Wild Animal Rescue Center has opened in Gangwon Province.

For a moment I imagined a sort of SWAT team or firefighting crew ready to rescue animals from kidnappers or stuck, like a kitten in a tree.

Probably, the initial contact with the animals they rescue will induce similar levels of adrenalin and the like. Injured herons have been known to kill, using their beak, driven through an eye-socket, to create a terminal lobotomy, and other animals may carry diseases from rabies to lyme disease (As an aside, the entrance to a local hiking trail warns of ticks and the diseases they carry). Also, the injured animals are unlikely to be sitting by the road, waiting for a pickup. They may receive the injuries by the road, but they won't wait there.

Anyway, Kangwon National University, Gangwon Province and the Environment Ministry have together built what sounds like an amazing rehabilitation center for injured wild animals. Currently, there are fifty animals receiving treatment, including a moose with a broken leg. I have to wonder how wild the moose is. Feral seems more likely.

Anyway, the Center sounds like a great place but visitors are apparently not encouraged. The Joongang tells us the center is in Gangwon Province but gives no further location information.
This is unsurprising. From the Aspen Valley Wildlife Center (located in my home district, Muskoka):
As our primary concern is rehabilitation, visiting is limited to: Wednesday and Sunday afternoons between 1 - 4; between the May long weekend and Thanksgiving weekend....Animals which we feel might be harmed by human attention are kept isolated - they must come first!

Volunteer organizations, like the Aspen Valley Center, have to keep some visitor hours simply to encourage donations. Perhaps the government-funded Gangwon center intends to keep animal-to-human interactions to a bare minimum.

Since I have already mentioned Muskoka, let me try to fit in a self-serving reference to another Muskoka rehab center, this one for birds. A Wing and A Prayer, run by Janice Enright is another volunteer organization and one that I briefly volunteered at. They never called me out to pick up an injured animal so my main contribution was in performing some basic carpentry. I hope it was a contribution; I had to cut chipboard for the interior walls and I have never been known for making straight cuts. I think the room I completed was draft-proof, I hope it was. Anyway, tying this thread into the main one; at A Wing and a Prayer, they kept human face-time with the birds down to an absolute minimum and were nationally recognized for raising loons from eggs to maturity without the birds imprinting on humans.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Swimming at Bracebridge Falls

My first attempt with Jump Cut. Prepare yourself for a thrillride (well, it was somewhat thrilling for me) and try to ignore my friend\'s cheesy narration.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

ESL cartoon

Blogging has gotten boring lately. I haven't read anything in the papers that interests me and I seem to be stuck in a rut of posting photos of smokers next to 'No Smoking' signs and cars next to 'No parking' signs. I can do that forever but what's the point?

I will post a few cartoons, most as bad or worse than this one, simply to try something new here.

At work, we are using 'Talk it up' for our freshman classes. I don't really like it and my cartoon illustrates why. The book includes the line, "I always drink coffee." The sentence is fine but is strange on its own. If it came prefaced with a question like, "What do you do in the morning?", it would make sense. Without any context, this is what "I always drink coffee" means to me.

Kevin doesn't have much to worry about.

What is "Yong-gwa"?

I saw the box of fruit for sale at a local supermarket. The fruit looks otherworldly to me. Apparently, it is grown in Chejudo. On the right, is a fruit from a tree at Gwandong University. Clearly, the fruit are different but similar. Are these the cultivated and wild varieties of the same fruit?

Anyway, what is a 'Yong-gwa'? Do you peel and eat them? Are they worth buying? Or, does anyone dare me to eat one and can I make money out of it somehow?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Sleep in class, join the gallery

Not ready to learn English (2)

I don't know if anyone really checked the intersection to see which areas should be kept clear for safe cornering or what. And, I hate the people who park on the inclined curbs at crosswalks more. But, it just bugs me that people park in front of the "No Parking sign". Here's another Korean who needs to learn to read Korean.

Just in time to put your fans away.

The person who wrote the article on fan death at Wikipedia links to this blog for some reason. I didn't write the article, honest!

Anyway, having many visitors from wikipedia made me curious about the article. I was very surprised to read that a professor from my university is quoted in the article. About a week ago I met him and interviewed him on the subject. Here is how he is quoted at wikipedia:

Dr. Yeon Dong-su, dean of Kwandong University's medical school in South Korea. "Many people say that these victims die from lack of oxygen, but that is not true. Hypothermia does not only occur in the winter when it is cold. The symptoms can also take place if a person has been drinking and turns on a fan in a closed room. Most people wake up when they feel cold, but if you are drunk you will not wake up, even if your body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius, at which point you can die from hypothermia. It doesn't matter so much about the temperature of the room. If it is completely sealed, then in the current of an electric fan, the temperature can drop low enough to cause a person to die of hypothermia." Note: It is likely that the symptoms discussed by this doctor are actually due to excessive alcohol consumption, which can decrease body temperature.

As you will hear, he didn't really say all the things he said. I don't know if the article is the result of a bad translation or a reporter claiming Dr Yeon said things he didn't.

Oh, in our discussion, I talk about, and show a printout of, a post from the Marmot, dated somewhere around Aug 17 of this year. I couldn't find it to link here - sorry about that.

I tried to use a few sound effects - specifically me on the Danso to denote breaks in the interview. The recording sounded fine on it's own but really slowed down when pasted into this interview. Is that an 'Audacity' flaw or something I can fix?

Download the MP3 (Blogger is giving me trouble again):

powered by ODEO

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Not ready to learn English

I'm not saying the man in the bottom right wants to learn english, but he should probably learn to read Korean first, even if he doesn't care about English. The sign in front of the door of the truck reads 'No Parking' and the base for another sign is under the side of the truck bed.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Another Thursday, another afternoon at the beach

On our third trip to the beach, there were five of us in the water and waves big enough to bodysurf on.

Or possibly ski with. The waves broke so close to shore, we slid on the sand with our hands. After an hour of swimming and surfing, we started tossing a frisbee around, and then working on catching the frisbee while leaping into the surf.

Billy has trick knees and he thinks he has a good arm so he made the throws. On my first run to the surfline and leap, the frisbee was right there, a beautiful throw and (if I may say so) a beautiful catch.

Once the cameras came out, his arm tired quickly.

Nate was still catching anything that came near.

Here's one we both missed. Here are my legs after the surf tackled me.

Billy had made some great passes and I was consistently sure the next one would be just right so I tried again and again. It never occurred to me to change my approach, which was to take a long run to the water's edge. I thought I was giving Billy time to judge where to throw. Here I am struggling to my feet after the umpteenth wild leap.

Finally a completed pass. Here I am, just relieved that it was over.

The water was plenty warm and I am sure we will have at least two more Thursdays of swimming.