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.