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.

can you see me now?

All I'm getting is a plain, blank screen.

sleep in class, get posted on the web!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More on Hormone Mimics

I blogged recently about hormone mimics in pollution causing various reproductive problems. That post was about fish and bio-magnification and I refered to the book 'Our Stolen Future' by Colborn. She also wrote about the use of plastics and the hormone mimics they contain.

The book is about ten years old but the news has just reached Korea, and hard.

Plastic phobia is sweeping the nation after SBS broadcast a two-part special on environmental hormones on Sept. 10 and 17. The show says environmental hormones in plastic products can cause menstrual cramps, genital abnormalities and precocious puberty. Heating nursing bottles made of polycarbonate generates an environmental hormone called Bisphenol A.
Polycarbonate is used for a wide range of products including bottles, sunglasses, blow dryers and electronic fans because it is both transparent and thermostable. Bisphenol A is also used to coat the inner part of cans and water pipes and to produce bottle caps. Environmental hormones are also detected in detergents, perfumes and cosmetic products.

Look what the Yankabroad has started.

Recently, the Yankabroad was nominated for an award for his vigilance regarding pollution on his local beaches. Now this.

From the Korea Times (paper issue -I was unable to find it online so no link):

Coast Guard, Fisheries Institute Sign MOU

The Korea Coast Guard and the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute signed a memorandum of cooperation in preserving the marine environment.
...The MOU calls for active cooperation if either party needs equipment for vessles, aircraft and test facilities for the preservation of the marine environment.

I hope the institute is truly committed to protecting the environment and not a front for fishing groups. I've posted before that fishermen are as moral as any of us but are under sufficient pressure to have trouble looking at the long term. "Catch fish now!" might be a good slogan for professional fishermen around the world, but severe limits are important now to preserve fish stocks for future generations.

Friday, September 15, 2006

See Mom, I shouldn't wear a helmet

This article reminds me of reports that better protective clothing for sports (shoulder pads and the like for football and hockey) leads to harder hits, making the value of the protection questionable.

In England, drivers of cars gave cyclists with helmets less room to maneuver than bareheaded cyclists.

I agree with the report's conclusion that a cyclist with a helmet looks better prepared and probably has more experience, skill and awareness than a bareheaded cyclist. These assumptions may not be true; I personally am not (and was not) the hotshot on a bike I once thought I was. Still, I do my best to position myself on the road with a driver's-eye view of where I will be most visible and I try to be predictable.

Two weeks ago I was squeezed a little, possibly because I wear a helmet. I was approaching a parked Bongo or other flatbed truck on a multi-lane citystreet when I noticed another truck passing very close to me. The mirror didn't touch me but it was close. Strangely, the truck wasn't flying past me but seemed to be slowing down and getting closer. As my elbow rubbed on the back of the moving truck, I shrieked (in an embarrassingly shrieky falsetto) and banged my arm on the side of the truck. It stopped. The driver had been parking it in front of the first truck so it was at a sharp angle in front of me. At very low speed I struggled between the front bumper of one truck and the bed of the second and went on. The driver had a really annoying foolish grin on as I went by.

A few minutes later, a car behind me honked at me to get out of the way. As there was a slow-moving bus in front of me and nowhere for either of us to go, I just gave him a glare. We stopped at a red light a few meters later and, full of anger from the previous close call, I actually got off my bike and turned to face the now-very-apologetic-looking driver. I calmed down, satisfied that the big foreigner had possibly scared the unprepared driver. Then I went home.

Anyway, here are some quotes from the article.

Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by
passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests.
The study found drivers tend to pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than those who are bare-headed.

"By leaving the cyclist less room, drivers reduce the safety margin that
cyclists need to deal with obstacles in the road, such as drain covers and
potholes, as well as the margin for error in their own judgements.

"We know helmets are useful in low-speed falls, and so definitely good for
children, but whether they offer any real protection to somebody struck by a car
is very controversial.

Dr Walker thinks the reason drivers give less room to cyclists wearing
helmets is because they see them as "Lycra-clad street warriors" and believe
they are more predictable than those without.

The researcher had also worn a long wig and found drivers gave a female-looking rider an average of 14cm more space. The researcher was wise enough to say he could not yet say why but that possibly drivers felt a female would be less predictable.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thanks again, Melvin

This evening, I had an incredible craving for Kyochon chicken. I looked through the house for a flyer and couldn't find one. with Kwandongson sleeping and Kwandongwife away, I couldn't leave the house. So, naturally, I looked online. All I could find on the first page of google results was a link for Kyochon stocks. Useless. I couldn't think of where to go next.

After a few pages, I saw a link that looked a little familiar. My good friend had blogged about wonderful Kyochon chicken and included a photo of the box- with a website in plain view. Woo-hoo!

I had been trying but the suffix actually was .com .

Soon, I will be enjoying Korea's best chicken.

Pak-the-Elcamino on swimming at Anmok

Melvin must be a great photographer; somehow I don't look fat in his photos.

He wanted to try swimming through October but the current cold spell is really getting to him.

Read it here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Swimming at Anmok Beach

After work on Thursday, I went to a Gangneung Beach at Anmok with coworkers. It's much more interesting to swim and chat than swim alone, that's for sure.

I used a disposable underwater camera; finished the roll, in fact. I was able to get it developed that night. Below are photos taken with an underwater disposable camera I bought in Canada (on the left) and one I bought in Korea (right). Click on the image to expand.

Both rolls were developed in Korea, but the camera bought in Canada seems to have taken much better quality photos. The water was reasonably clear in all the photos and the bottom-right was taken in a pool. I'm disappointed in the Korean shots. I just wanted to bring this up because Pak-the-elCamino was interested in a disposable, underwater camera.

We had a good swim, and for two of us, Bill and I, it was the beginning of the weekend so we could just relax. That's Bill in the top-right picture, by the way.

Before going home I had the chance to feel ten years old again. I didn't want to ride a bus for over an hour in wet, salty shorts so I went to the public bathroom to change, only to be stopped by a woman who didn't want sand on the floors. After threatening to get changed in the doorway, I gave in and looked for another place to change. I found a little changing shack behind the washrooms. The woman actually walked out back to be sure I wouldn't be sneaking in the back way. Here's the youthful part: out of spite, and especially because she had chosen to keep an eye on me just as if I were ten, after I got changed and she wasn't looking, I threw a handful of sand in one of the bathroom windows! Ya-hoo! That'll teach 'er!

Then I hopped in a car and got a lift to the bus terminal...but I'll be back.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Maybe they're not ready to learn English...

...They seem to not understand Hangeul.

These were the defiant ones, or those just not ready to head off. The cutie in the last picture actually posed for me.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Low Birthrates revisited

This spring I posted about Korea's low birthrate and it's decline in the size of it's workforce. I want to revisit this point today with a few other factors that may need to be considered.

In fact, I will be covering a lot of ground in this post and I hope I link my ideas together coherently (I feel under a lot of pressure to post SOMETHING soon; even my mother has commented on the lack of posts recently).

I read a remarkable and frightening book ten years ago called Our Stolen Future by Theo Colborn. It was about the effects of hormone mimics and other manmade chemicals.

What are the effects of these chemicals? One is an disproportional response to stress. Under normal stress levels, people affected by these chemicals behave normally. If they experience a little more stress, they can have wide temper swings. Who does this sound like?

Racial slurs aside, there are other effects and I'll touch on them before mentioning the sources of these mimics. Reduced sperm count and an increase in problems with pregnancies are the main effects. You may draw the same connection I did to reduced birthrates.

Another effect I suspect can be linked to hormone mimics is the measured decrease in penis size in polar bears.

Alright, here is the source. People who show the greatest effects had parents who ate a great deal of fish. Again, who does this sound like? Colborn's studies were based on Great Lakes fish but the results should transfer well.

Why are fish such a threat? Biomagnification. From Wikipedia: "
Fat soluble (lipophilic) substances cannot be excreted in urine, a water-based medium, and so accumulate in fatty tissues of an organism if the organism lacks enzymes to degrade them. When eaten by another organism, fats are absorbed in the gut, carrying the substance, which then accumulates in the fats of the predator. Since at each level of the food chain there is a lot of energy loss, a predator must consume many prey, including all of their lipophilic substances."
Fish are a threat because they are carnivores. Cows only have a cowsized load of pollutants. When we look at rabbits for example; a fox can have, I don't know, a load of 10 rabbits of pollutants. If a larger animal eats several foxes (strange, I know but this is only an example), it would pick up all the pollutants all the fox's prey had. And fish are carnivores all the way up: we don't normally eat bears or tigers, but we do eat fish.

As Colborn wrote, the only way for a woman to decrease her load of these pollutants is by giving birth (and transferring it to the baby). There is another way and it's horrible: What do we give babies that has a high fat content? Breast milk.

As I stated at the beginning, this post is about the declining birthrate in Korea. I hope it is driven by more couples choosing to be DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) and not be the result of environmental poisons. If I've scared you, read Colborn's book.

On another, still-serious, but much lighter note, here are a few links that suggest a decreased birthrate is a good thing.

Dr Rose, on CBC's Quirks and Quarks (bottom of the page for his interview), discusses how the lifespan of insects can be prolonged by an order of magnitude and how these results could apply to humans, over a long period. A very funny line comes up when describing how to reduce wear and tear on our bodies. It went something like, "The insects had to follow Graduate School social rules: All the sex they wanted but no procreation."

Dr. Rose's work will not affect us much now but only after several generations. Ray Kursweil (I think it should have a 'z' - maybe I mis-transcribed the name) suggests that our current generation may live forever. This Popsci podcast is amusing but I think I heard from him on NPR's Science Friday as well.

If Dr Rose and Mr Kursweil are right, we need to seriously reduce our birthrate, probably even beyond Korea's current rate. With a tiny deathrate, even replacement procreation needs to be carefully debated.


On a completely different topic. I've been thinking about Steve Irwin's death for the past few hours; since I first heard of it. I was never a Crocodile Hunter fan and I am ambivalent about his work, but his death has caught my attention for some reason.