Saturday, March 31, 2007

Daylight Savings...

Starts tonight or tomorrow morning here in Korea. I only mention it because Canada sprang forward three weeks ago to synchronise with the US so I was a little confused about when it starts here.

The Canadian site for Daylight Savings gives this suggestion and warning:

Although daylight savings starts at 2:00am in your timezone, it is easier to set your clock before you go to bed Saturday night or when you wake up Sunday morning. DO NOT set your clock both times!

So, if you find yourself an hour early for events and appointments on Sunday, probably you and your significant other both set the clocks forward. You should be careful about that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Good work, El Camino Driver

Melvin (blogname: pack the El Camino - I think its a travel blog) has won an award from Gangneung city for volunteering.

Congrats, Camino Driver Man!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Managing my commute

I have a good job that I enjoy doing. I also enjoy the time off, of which I have a great deal. So, I can't really complain about the three hour a day round trip commute I do to get to work. Well, I can, but few would have sympathy for me.

Why don't I move closer to work? Well, my wife works longer hours, more days a week and more months a year than I do. She deserves a short commute (and much more).

I don't really hate the time spent on the bus. This post is about how I spend my time -oh, and at the bottom are a few notes on other parts of the life of Kwandongbrian.

I am pretty comfortable on a moving platform. I have gotten sea-sick but not that badly. Even Korean bus travel is not that bad, so I am able to read without wooziness. I can't easily use my computer on the bus - there is a little too much shaking for that. Still, I have more options than Kwandongwife who can only choose between sleeping or staring out the window while travelling.

For the longest time, I listened to my MP3 player constantly. I still listen, but not as much. I listen to a little music, mostly novelty stuff, and a double handful of podcasts and audio books.

Here is what I listen to:
Science fiction and Fantasy stories, reviews and commentary:

The Rookie (Sigler) -A new quarterback competes in an interstellar football league. Good stuff for the price (free). This and other Sigler audiobooks are among the best to be found free online and I like them. Still, that means they are big fish only in a small pool.
Podiobooks -This is where I found Sigler's first book. This and many others can be found, with variable quality. Great Moments in History is a BBC educational series that is well prepared. There is also a series of interviews on intelligent design.
Escape Pod. Short science fiction and fantasy stories of high quality. Good stuff.
University of Minnesota Narratives in Sci-fi/Fantasy. A favorite author (P.C. Hodgell) and another guy (also good) discuss the history of speculative fiction and interivew a few authors. Good stuff.
Kickass Mystic ninjas - reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy, the good, the bad and the hokey.
podcasts for thinkers
In Our Time. A BBC Radio 4 program looking at subjects from science, literature, history, religion and art. Great stuff but I had to laugh at the segment on Don Quixote, who they called Don Quik-sit.
Ideas The same as above but with Canadian accents (CBC).
Quirks and Quarks A weekly science show from CBC
Science Friday a two hour weekly science show from NPR - it covers research but also political issues in science.
Skepticality An occassional show -not quite weekly about science and humanist issues.
Clean Break - An environmental news 'cast from the Toronto Star
Liminality - Charles had planned to produce weekly 'casts and I still have high hopes.
The Metropolitician - The scribbler has talked about good stuff. Most of his work is now on video 'casts but his audio 'casts can be found there.
Humor and other
Linwood Barkley - Interesting humor but based on Toronto events and not always comprehensible to outsiders.
The Now Show -Rich audio from BBC. The same caveat as above.
Jonathan Coulton - this is where I get my novelty music. Skullcrusher Mountain is the best.
Academic lectures can be found here. Some are interesting but most are straight audio from a lecture. The audio is not great and any visual aids are missing. You can find some good stuff but it takes work.
I mentioned above that I don't listen to my MP3 player as much as I used to. I just got a few books from What the Book and have relearned how much I prefer reading -audio books are not as interesting for me.
In other news, I fear that I may be beat up soon. Before Kwandongalex was born, my adventures were mostly in human-power travel. Now, I don't hike or ride as much. Today, possibly as compensation; while crossing a street, a truck turned without signalling and stopped as I was halfway across the street. I walked up to the window and the driver rolled down the window. I reached in and turned on the guy's turn-signal. I felt good about it but I also walked off quickly.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I'm still here

I've been a little busy at work with the new semester starting so I wanted to put in a reminder to check this blog everyday just-in-case!

Another thing keeping me busy is Kwandongson is sick. He's recovering and tomorrow should be fine but he's managed some incredible projectile vomiting! We've been washing clothes frequently just to keep up with the demand.

I have started comment moderation on my blog. There are no heated issues here but spam made it through the word verification filter so I felt I needed more hoops to jump through to get a comment up.

I saw Casino Royale the other day. I thought it was as good as any other Bond film but what I thought about the next day was how boring it is to simply walk up and down stairs. I think they used steps normally twice in the whole movie.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Kwandongbrian's Hinterland's Who's who

A few years ago, my mother bought a stuffed animal - a chickadee for my little one. It had a noise maker inside that reminded me of the start of CBC's Public Service Announcements about Canadian wildlife.

Here is my version:

"The phone using student is a funny fellow, shy and hard to approach. They are sociable animals and friends may make an alarm call as you come near. They prefer large classes where they can blend in."

I am almost embarrassed at how proud I am to have gotten this picture. After spotting the phone-using-student, I had to keep my tone and speed of speaking steady as I reached into my computer case and pulled out the camera. Then I had to keep the camera low and turn it on as I approached, hoping the thirty-five other students wouldn't show too much curiosity until - Snap- had the picture and a class frozen at my response. I was so proud of myself.

Oh, for nostaglic Canadians, visit the spoof page at Hinterland's Who's Who. Best viewed with a hockey jersey and maple syrup pancakes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

What is 'Eco-tourism'?

I do understand the basics. Cycling around a country is a great example of eco-tourism; not just because there is no auto-exhaust involved, but that volume and mass limitations on a bike mean you must buy local. You cannot carry a week's worth of groceries or the like. A big part of eco-tourism ethics is to help local businesses.

In this quote regarding eco-tourism in Gangwon's mountains is an example of mutually exclusive activities being rammed together:
During a conference held at the Yongpyong Resort in PyeongChang, also in Kangwon Province, the organization told local residents that more tourist attractions would be developed in the area, but would be done without damaging the environment.

In the highlands, a kilometer above sea level in Hoenggye-ri, there will be a new tourism complex, a ski resort, golf courses, 52 kilometers of trekking paths and an eco-system tour, it said.

Golf courses, with their heavy loads of fertilizer and pesticides, complete reshaping of the terrain and alteration of plantlife cannot possibly be seriously considered in an eco-resort.

I don't think one can bring eco-tourism to a location, it has to be a grassroots activity. Again, the point is that the locals can support themselves in healthy ways and the money has a chance to circulate locally.

Letting the developers into the parks

The Korea Times discusses a bill currently being evaluated that would open National Parks for development.

A bill that would allow seven national parks to be developed without concern for the environment is under consideration in the National Assembly, triggering a dispute among government offices, civic groups and lawmakers.

According to the Ministry of Environment, the Assemblys Construction and Transportation Committee is likely to endorse the bill, which applies mainly to the development of the south and east coast, on Monday.

The bill would make studies on the environmental effects of construction in these areas non-binding.

The seven areas to be affected are Mt. Chiri, Hallyo, Wolchul, Kaya, Tokyu and
Naejang national parks.


``Seventy percent of wildlife lives in the national parks, which account for 6.6 percent
of the nation
s territory. It is an international trend to preserve the environment rather than
develop it, and the bill will surely destroy that,
’’ Yoon Guk-gu, the National Park Service public relations director, said.

More than 151 civic groups in South Kyongsang Province gathered Friday to declare that
the bill would bring a development craze to rural areas, which would not benefit local residents. It is not a step toward sustainable development, they said.

I discussed development of Kyeongpo Provincial Park, comparing it to Haeundae, almost exactly a year ago and I agree with the civic groups. The money will at least leave the rural areas and may well leave Korea entirely.

Lazy public worker may be sent to labour camps.

From the Joongang:

According to the city, incapable and idle public workers will join a team that will look for people throwing cigarette butts, vehicles violating speed limits or research the traffic volume on the roads. After six months, the workers will be reevaluated and those with low scores will be discharged for another six months.

The three the suggestions for idle public workers might first sound reasonable but all require some kind of training.

I wish I knew more about what police officers do in Korea instead of what they seem to do. What I have seen of police officers here does not make me proud to tell people my father was a police officer in Canada - but, like so many things in Korea, this is an area that a non- speaker of Korean can only see the surface or read the cover -there just has to be more depth.

Still, my wife, as a Korean Coast Guard officer* trained for twelve weeks and still recieves on-the-job training.

"Incapable" public workers don't seem to be an obvious choice to put into confrontations and that is what's suggested. They aren't picking up cigarette butts, they are 'look[ing] for people throwing cigarette butts'. They are going after speeders.

I could understand getting them to clean streets and giving them whistles, cameras and tickets to go after illegal parking but ... maybe the goal here is to get them into so many confrontations they quit.

*My wife is an officer in the police sense of the word, I don't know how that relates to working the ships. My father was a constable for much of his time in the Force and I think that is comparable to an enlisted soldier, rather than an 'officer'.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hwa-am Temple and Daesoonjinrihoe

Yesterday, Masuro paid me a visit and we went to Hwa-am Temple.

On the way there, we were never lost but we were often not where we planned to be. I dont navigate nearly as well as I thought.

Eventually, we reached the temple. Hwa-am Temple is next to Misi-ryeong tunnel, a little north-west of Sokcho. It is a small temple in a beautiful location. It was quiet although there are many Condos nearby; in the tourist season, I have seen many busses and cars jamming the narrow road reaching the temple.

On this quiet day, we just drove right to the temple grounds. Masuro pulled out his big-ass camera and we toured the temple. Upon reaching the three local gods shrine (Chil-seong, San-shin and the other guy), colorful, of a pleasing shape and in a natural mountain valley with a river in the background, Masuro took a photo of semi-coiled piece of rusted fence wire.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Hwa-am Temple has its own fire truck- they've learned from Naksan, I guess.
Masuro at work.

Later we hiked to a big boulder above the temple. The trail beyond was closed to grounds recovery. I scrambled about on the boulder and learned how old and cowardly I have become.

The view from the boulder.

On the way home, we passed a big and ugly condo and Masuro commented that when Koreans build western-style architecture, the results are mixed at best. They seem to do very well at traditional Korean architecture. (Send your complaints to---). At that moment, we saw the roofs of a large temple over the trees lining the road.

Nothing to do with the story; just some funky cabins.

I had heard of the place and knew it wasn’t a Buddhist temple exactly but didn’t know what it was. In we went. We were stopped at the gate by men with traffic batons and Masuro asked in Korean if tourists were welcome. They nodded and let us in but the atmosphere was beginning to coalesce around us. Two men, with good English, met us when we parked, welcomed us and invited us to look around, requesting we not take pictures at certain areas. So, in we went and still didn’t know what this place was for.The Main entrance gate.

Maitreya Buddha (Buddha of the future)

The grounds were huge and empty.

The grounds were huge and empty. Although we saw bags from some group –visitors, students, fugitives, who knows, we only saw a few individuals, wearing a badge and quietly watching us. In front of the Buddha of the Future, a man told us about Daesoonjinrihoe. Jesus and Buddha both have prophecies for return. This religious group believes they had a joint incarnation in Korea and are/is expected to return again. There may be a Dao connection in this fusion religion as well.

The buildings were huge, well decorated and in a pleasing style – much as Masuro had said. Still, the constant observation, the welcome without much explanation and the tag I was asked wear while on the grounds made us feel uncomfortable. Everyone was as pleasant as could be but I just felt a little like I had visited some Montana backwoods compound.

As we left, we were invited to return in early May, when the flowers bloom. The grounds are fantastic and despite my irrational discomfort, I hope to get the little guy and Kwandongwife there for the flowers.