Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Superheroes and politics: a bad combination

Student elections are ongoing and a few superheroes were on hand to 'encourage' people to vote for their favourite candidate. Here I am with my trademark sun-glazed squint/smile.

Perhaps I gave their alter-identities too much homework. Whatever, this beatdown will not go unavenged... (more in a later post)
Who will save me? Check out anti-smoking ninja in this video.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm an uncle again!

My sister gave birth to AlaskaKai Beck Monday morning. I just got the news from my mom, after sleeping with the cell-phone all night. Mother and child will return home on Wednesday.


I expected a call during the night from home - well, North America. It should be good news but I don't think the "no news is good news" saying really applies here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Error-sprinkled ESL textbooks

I am using a textbook made in-house. Production was rushed a bit and the book has a few errors. Looking back over the past five years at my university, I suddenly noticed how many error-sprinkled books ('sprinkled' implies a smaller number than 'riddled' or 'filled' right?) we have used. The books made domestically appear to have more errors. I like the English Countdown textbook (but I am going to list some errors so I wont name the publisher) for the way it relentlessly repeated verb/subject agreement conversation substitutions. I liked it even though the students had two different editions (one with more errors) with the edition change unmarked or un-noted.


I want to discuss 'good' errors and 'bad' errors. Good errors, whether deliberately or not, encourage some thought and consideration of content. Bad errors might do the same but are typically spelling and grammatical errors and my students have limited English skills so spelling errors are more likely to be accepted than noticed.


Here are two errors, one from my current first year book, that appear to be useful.

In the first conversation, a shirt is being purchased for $40.00. After a 20% discount, the shirt is bought for $30.00. Wait a minute, $10/$40 isn't 20%! Here, after filling in the blanks, I ask the students if the salesperson is a good one. If need be, I ask them to check his/her math skills and occasionally used the Korean term "Su-hak", which I think means math. I like the idea of students critically thinking about their lessons - it doesn't have to be listen-and-repeat.


In the second conversation fragment, we can see that Christmas is apparently on December 31! Some students will complete the conversation without seeming to notice anything amiss but most can pick up on this error.


In this second photo, we can see many errors I categorize as 'bad'. I apologize for the occasional blurry areas.... I just looked again at the photo - I apologize for the nearly total blurry area! (I describe the picture in detail below but you can also click to enlarge.)


Many of these mistakes are spelling errors. In the upper left conversation, restaurant is missing the final 't'. I consider this one especially bad as the Korean spelling of the word is something like "restaurang" so the error may not be noticed.


I hope this post does not have any spelling errors nor examples of my frequent habit of dropping the occasional word. I will run this through spell-check before I post it. Perhaps some of these words, phrases and sentences were prepared with photo or object manipulation software to best set them on the page: that may be why no spell-check was used.


Let's hop around the photo a little. In the middle, second from the top, we can see "...for you for that that day." Maybe this isn't a terrible error. Its clearly a sign of poor editing but few students will read "that that" without noticing that something is wrong. "High hills" next to it, is funny, at least.


In the middle is the word "were't". No further comment necessary.


To the left of that and below it are two fragments worth mentioning. "to Mt. Sorak / to the amusement partk in Youngin / to the Kyungpo beach" includes several errors. Park is misspelled and Kyungpo being a proper name doesn't need 'the' and beach should be capitalized. Students really didn't notice any of those errors until they were pointed out.


To the right and below, we read about Ken. Apparently, someone took "her" umbrella. I changed "in" to "from" but maybe both are fine. Ken and Mary are on the same page. I guess the sky is brightening (or lightening) at dawn. I am not sure why Mary is frightened by it.


For completeness sake, I think the man should hike "up" a mountain rather than simply "hike a mountain."


In conclusion, I have badmouthed books written by management at my university (among others) so if you can send in some job opening information, I might be very grateful.


More seriously, I like the idea of deliberately-written errors that students can be encouraged to find, discuss and correct on their own or in class. Spelling errors are not appropriate (for beginner classes) but grammar errors could be. So long as students are aware that errors have been added, I like verb-tense disagreement or content errors (such as the math error that literally did not add up.) Other examples for future texts could be placing November in the Spring or lunch at night. Perhaps there could be a conversation about badminton balls, using three chopsticks or riding a bus to Jejudo.


Heres to celebrating errors.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Brother-in-law's wedding

The Kwandongfamily went to Kimhae for Kwandongwife's brother's wedding. I took many photos but will only post a few of plants I saw and allow family to choose which pictures are for the public.
These are two pictures of drying garlic. The left was with the flash. Which do you think is better?These bean plants grew on and over a roof at the in-laws farm.

Traffic in Busan was terrible and we almost were late to the wedding. 'We' being the mother, father, myself and two other relatives. The bus, with the younger brother among others, was late.

The wedding went smoothly with a few red-eyes from family but no wailing -sounds like the perfect emotional level.

A group of school children (the bride and groom are both teachers) sang in a cute but halting manner. The lack of polish was cute but there were a few angry faces from the students as they went by. I think the students were a mix from the two different classes (and different schools) so I wonder if the anger was aligned on class lines.

I think of Gangwon as being rural but Kyeongsang has its rustic spots as well. The parents-in-law have no computer and neither do the nearby houses. This isn't bad but noteworthy. There are a lot of tunnels in the area and nearby Changwon has the longest tunnel in Korea. That suggests the area is at least as mountainous as elsewhere.


Although I don't follow copyright infringement stories in Korea particularly closely, this coffee shop in Sokcho caught my eye.

As I understand the situation, Korean courts tend to allow Korean businesses to very nearly copy foreign trademarks but require foreign companies to remain very distinct from Korean brands. The Marmot (actually Dram man) has been following the story. Here is one post of his on the subject.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Push for 5 seconds

This sign has been in a university bathroom (maybe all the bathrooms, I don't know) for months and I was never sure what it meant (click to enlarge). It looked like "5 seconds.....", but what is "Noolleo Ju Saey Yo"?
Yesterday, I was in the bathroom while a Korean English teacher was also there. I asked him about the sign. He said, "Push for five seconds". All I could think about was straining to pee faster. Who goes to the bathroom that fast? I think you would do yourself injury.

It was only after he had finished his job and held the flush mechanism, that he said, "hold this for five seconds". That made a lot more sense. Korean bathrooms often have stronger odours because few Koreans do flush the urinals.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


After completing the exam, this student was bored and wanted some kicks. The sort of kicks one gets from defacing university property.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gore's Peace Prize has Sci-fi story written all over it.

I think it's great that he received it and his work regarding global warming is something I respect. I don't mean science fiction as works of bad literature and worse internal consistency.

Still, as I understand it, he received the Prize for educating people about global warming so the world's people can do something about. This will reduce water scarcity in the future. More water available to more people will reduce wars fought over this resource.

Al Gore has won the Peace Prize for reducing conflict in the future - how cool is that?

Partial text of the award can be found at the Panda's Thumb.

Friday, October 12, 2007

26 summits

You may recall that I decided I should hike the big hill behind my apartment an average of once a week this year. I made the decision in August and so have been trying for three or four hikes a week to catch up. I haven't caught up but I am on schedule to make the 52 with time to spare.

Hopefully, the hiking here will prepare me for Seoraksan. It past time that I returned to the park's peak, Dae-chung-bong. I plan to hike up in December from O-saek on the shortest route and again a few times in January before crossing from O-saek to Seorak-dong, a much longer hike.

One funny thing about the hill behind my apartment is that my son may have more summits under belt than I do. The babysitter frequently takes him up, possibly more than once a week. I'm not sure if I should ask or not. I was surprised when I learned they did the hike as he likes me to carry him when we go up. The babysitter says she does not carry him. I wonder what her secret is.

I wrestled with this last point for a while but decided I am not giving away any military secrets. Earlier, I described how an ajumma army had been clearing brush and cutting the grass on the mountain. Recently, the literal army has been up, refurbishing their foxholes and such.

I might make a whole post out of the point but I have to say I wasn't sure if I should mention the military activities on the hill. I finally figured that nearly every hill and mountain in Korea has fortifications to some degree so the simple statement of their existence wasn't a blow to national (or my) security. I gave a speech at Gangneung National University on the subject and told them I just wasn't sure what was acceptable or customary, much less legal. I would welcome comments on the subject. Can I take and post pictures of military fortifications? Would it be wise to give details on fortifications defending my own city? Does anyone care? Have I watched too many AFKN PSAs describing OPSEC? Should I remove a few paragraphs of this post?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Korean Language Podcast

The EFL Geek has found a KSL website that includes free mp3s. Korean Class 101 seems like a well-made site. I registered for the free service which includes a week of premium. I haven't even listened to the content yet but I am already considering paying for basic or premium service.

Chunk Edited out here. No big deal - I felt I had passed beyond humor into rudeness.

I will review my thoughts on the first few lessons in a few days.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Cephalopod Awareness day (And Canadian Thanksgiving)

Apparently, today is International Cephalopod Awareness Day. The website suggests that today is a good day to share stories about our 10 and 8-tentacled friends (hence 10/8 on the calendar).

I was going to try to photoshop a picture for my story. I would have to, because I have never seen the cephalopod in the wild that I can find in most markets in Sokcho. Although I have hiked many times in Seoraksan National Park and even up the little mountain behind my home, I have never seen San Nakkji.

All I can do is imagine the graceful octopus swinging easily from tree to tree. I guess it would hang upside-down so as to not support the head against gravity. Perhaps the tentacles have much-reduced suction cups as tree bark is too rough to permit a good seal.

Yeah, photoshopping would have been better.

HT: to Pharyngula

Saturday, October 06, 2007

"...Bowling resurrection east..."

Every semester I tell my students not to use an Internet translator and explain that I will know when if they try.
I asked my third year students to write three or more sentences about their first love and this was one reply. I think the student actually opened her heart and tried to tell me real details instead of glibly floating over the subject (which was all I wanted; when did you meet, how did you meet, what happened to the relationship -my abbreviated answers being, in public school, we were classmates, and I was shy and never said anything - we are merely acquaintances now). Unfortunately, although she bravely chose to write about emotions, she lazily chose to cheat on the homework.

I am not particularly angry. When a student cheats, they get zero and I don't waste time checking the work. When the answer is as crazy as this, I am too amused to be upset. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

New phone

My first cellphone in Korea was free. I paid 20,000 won and had about 30 minutes calling time. I think people could call me even after my minutes were gone. It was pretty handy because I am a face-to-face talking kind of guy. Phones are for sending information, not chatting.

Later, when I decided to stay in Korea for an extended period, I bought a phone. It had a Korean interface because I was sure I would soon be speaking Korean fluently (strangely, I still have a groundless optimism about someday learning more than grammarless, single-word utterances).

It was a good enough phone five years ago but I couldn't do much with it. Yesterday, I picked this up:Two points: first, the screen looks unclear because it still has the cellophane cover on it. What's the deal with these super slim phones that are so delicate you need to buy a case for and keep wrapped?
Second, it came with a 'cellmate'. If I ever go to the big-house, I guess I'm prepared. Ah, its the charger, if you are curious.
The back of the cellmate included two PSAs regarding missing children. I'm not sure why that's noteworthy but it caught my attention.

I can already do more with this phone than the old one. I can store names and numbers and find them again. You might wonder why, on a phone with an MP3 player and a camera, I am proud of that. I downloaded the English user's manual but even still, it took a visit to the vendor to manage this small step. The English is okay, but there isn't enough of it. It's as if the writer got tired halfway through each set of instructions. I can start many things but how to finish them is a matter of trial and error. Do they think it is obvious how to save the change you make?
It isn't.
I found myself wondering if they would honour the warranty if I brought it in after smashing it against a wall.

I will try not to and now have a task for my students - teach me to use my phone (I've done this before in actual classes but this time it would be a voluntary thing before or after class).