Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year and all that!

Happy New Year!

Today, I managed my fifty-eighth climb of the mountain behind the apartment, six more than I had set as a goal. The goal was of value in pushing me to hike in the morning a few times a week before work. Still, as readers may know, I set the goal of averaging one hike a week only in August, with eight prior hikes to my credit. In other words, I was hiking more than two times a week just to catch up.

With that in mind, I guess I should look at 104 hikes for 2008 or even more. I don't think I can focus on that long term a goal so I intend instead to look at Jan and Feb, my time off from regular classes, and set other goals later.

So, I want to jog, hike or swim every day -I recently bought a set of tickets for the Seorak Pines Spa, which has a nice pool.

I had planned to aim for the Sokcho Triathlon in mid June but I will be away for that event. Instead, I want to run in the March 1st race around Youngnang Lake. In 2007, I managed 35 minutes for seven km. That isn't fast but it is much faster than I had expected.

I want to do a serious bike trip this spring. Perhaps I could ride to Busan along the coast then return inland.

In other areas, I want to put some real effort toward learning Korean. I am currently reading one book a day from KwandongAlex's (age 30 months) collection. I can learn a few words on the first reading, practice pronunciation and in a later reading will concentrate more on the grammar.

We will go to Canada this summer, and I want the little guy comfortable in the water before we go. He enjoys being in my arms in the water but is unable to put his face in. I took him to the Seorak Pines pool but the air was too cold and we spent most of the time in a 'warm' (not hot) tub.

Regarding TESL, I want to make useful homework and review available online. Using Windows Movie Maker or Jumpcut online, I will try to have a pronunciation segment and substitution drill online for each class. That will depend on when my university decides to let us know what texts and classes we will have in the Spring 2008 semester.

I hope all my readers enjoy the end of this year and wish all the best for 2008.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

kwandongbrian gets schooled!

GI Korea posted a summary of drug related offences in Korea by locals and by foreigners. In the comments I defended the GI, saying something like, "the new visa regs are being enacted because media falsely accuses foreigners of being more likely to use drugs." The Marmot then piped up and said, sure foreigners are no more likely to use drugs but Canadian ESL teachers are much more likely to. Then, the jerk, backed up his claim with numbers.

I do not use recreational drugs. I am curently taking some pills after a visit to the dentist and I am entirely sure why the dentist prescribed them.

Anyway, Canadians, clean up (y)our act. I am embarrassed.

Bak Tae-hwan goes coach shopping

In this post, I engage in a bit of name-dropping. I name several Olympians whom I have met but only one would recognize my name. To the others, I was only one of a multitude. I offer their names only to describe what was public knowledge and claim no special insight into their choices or behavior.


In my youth, I was a competitive swimmer of barely national caliber. I managed to scrape past the standards and qualify for a few national championship swim-meets.

To be quite honest, Bak Tae-hwan is as far beyond me in swimming ability as I am to the average Korean.

Which suggests that I cannot comment on the most recent Bak Tae-hwan news from personal experience. Ah, that news being he has fired his coach and is in the market for a new one. The new coach would be his third.

It is the second time for Park to change his coach this year. In January, when Park decided to train with coach Park outside the Korea Sports Center in Taeneung, he split with former coach Roh Min-sang, who had taught him for 10 years.

Still, even without experience at his level of swimming, I have seen world champions up close and I can certainly compare their coach/swimmer relationships with his.

I met and spoke briefly with Alex Baumann, at one time the world's best swimmer, a few times at swim meets and worshipped his ability. I also spoke to his coach, Dr. Tihanyi, as I was considering going to that university.

I raced him in the 200 Individual Medley at a meet in Laurentian University. I presume he raced the clock for no one came near him at that little meet. In fact, I paced him for the first fifty metres, mostly as a protest to my own coach for entering me in a race I disliked so much.*

And that is the key to my confusion over Mr. Baks revolving door regarding coaches. A coach is someone you need to have faith in. You can argue at times, but the coach is the expert. The Olympian I knew best (not all that well, but best), Dave Schemilt, once ranked fourth in the world for 1500 metres freestyle, followed his coach when the coach changed jobs and locations. Baumanns loyalty to his coach, Dr Tihanyi was well known. I think Victor Davis followed his coach, Cliff Barry, when he changed jobs as well.

Perhaps there is a cultural element. I am not exactly comparing this situation to Koreas dumping of Cha Bum-gun after a bad showing by the national soccer team but Koreans do seem comfortable changing course frequently.

I am thinking more of the famous stereotype of focus and concentration and fanaticism in Koreans. I think Mr. Bak thinks he can provide the motivation and focus internally and only needs an assistant for some technique tweaking.

Finally, there seems to be a strange dynamic regarding the sponsor, Speedo.

``Speedo and Park's parents have meddled in training Park along with the low salary,'' said the coach.

The meddling parents part is nothing new. All swim coaches (and I was one) need to be prepared for second-guessing parents. Again, I don't have international experience, but I have never heard of a sponsor being all that 'hands-on' in the actual training.

While I hope he does well, I fear that changing coaches so often will hurt him at the Olympics.

Oh, one Canadian example of a swimmer choosing coaches would be Mark Tewksberry. From Wikipedia: For some years he ranked as one of the top backstrokers in the world; never a strong below-the-water swimmer, he was unmatched on the surface, but, as the importance of below-the-water swimming increased, Tewksbury's ranking began to fall.

He eventually hired a synchronized swimming coach to train him in breath-holding techniques. That seems like a minor adjustment compared to Mr. Bak's though.


*My coach had a coherent plan and looking back I can see that if I had followed it more closely, I would have done better over all in my swimming career. I still have my problems with his choice of events for me but I respect and admire him for his efforts all the same.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Camp Kyle looks a mess.

I gotta disagree with GI Korea; Camp Kyle looks like a "no use area" to me.

Just kidding. Of course, this is Taean, where many are working to clean up the mess from an oil spill. If this pic were taken on Friday, my wife might be amongst those shown. On another day, it could be American soldiers (GI Korea, again), doing their unsung part to help.

As Rick (formerly of Ayankabroad blog) noted in a comment elsewhere on my blog, there is a lot of garbage in the bottom right of the photo. In that picture, I suggested that what looked like long construction blankets were part of the cleanup. In this picture, well, it sure looks like garbage.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Kwandongwife volunteering at Taean

VERY early today, my wife, as part of a group of Coasties, went to Taean to assist in cleaning up the oil spill. She'll return later tonight, having spent a full day on site and near to ten hours on the road to and from. Tomorrow, she will go to the office as part of the full staffing plan they are following to be as busy as the West coast Cost Guard staff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

If only there were an organization dedicated to enforcing the law

I am the son and grandson of police officers, from a country where the police are relatively well respected. I want to respect Korean police but too often I read stories like this. The whole article is upsetting but I am particularly discouraged by the ending.

First, I need to define 'coffee shop' or 다방 (dabang). Maybe a dabang can be a simple coffee shop but a 'ticket dabang' (they do use the English word) is a place where you can sign out a girl from the shop to drink coffee with you. You have probably guessed that drinking coffee is only one of a variety of things the girl will do and the ticket dabangs are understood to be fronts for prostitution.

A couple running a ticket dabang went to a chat site for teens and posted a job listing. When two girls, 15 and 16 years of age (that would be Korean age, so probably 14 and 15, possibly younger) applied, they were kidnapped and forced into prostitution.

All this is terrible. The attitude of the police officer below is, well, vomit inducing.

A source at the police said, “they [the owners of the dabang] had been punished for a similar offense about four or five months before. We really need to do something about teen prostitution in these dabangs and the chatting sites that so many of the teens use.”

Gee, if only there were laws against prostitution or kidnapping or something.

I am indebted to Korea Beat for translating the article. Yeah, thanks a lot, guys, for ruining my day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hurray for the volunteers!

I'm not really sure why I am still in Sokcho and not spending the night in a Minbak or something near Mallipo.
Ironically, one reason I am not helping clean up the oil spill on the west coast is that my wife is in the Coast Guard, an organization that is busy with the clean-up. She is not over there but to show support (or something, I can't quite figure it out), they are staying late in their offices, often until 10 pm. I have to be available to watch the little guy and so neither of us are doing anything particularly constructive about the oil spill.

The Korea Times has an article about volunteers who are helping. I wish them all the best.

Finally, a good reason to marry a Korean

If you want to, there are, in fact, millions of good reasons to marry a Korean.

The rest of this post is about the new E-2 regs. To be honest, I don't have much new to say; this is just a PSA for anyone who comes fresh to the blog and perhaps for my family to see what's going on. I offer some links at the bottom of the post.

These days, I am particularly happy that the woman of my dreams turned out to be Korean. Two days ago, the new visa regulations went into effect. These regs affect E-2 visa holders. Those married to a Korean have a different visa, the F-2. The logic appears to be that if my mother-in-law decided that I am a good enough person to marry her daughter, I must be a pretty good guy. In my case, of course, she was right.

E-2 visa holders, however, are likely to be drug-abusing, womanizing jerks with fake degrees and more care is needed to find the few who are actually clean and decent people. Well, that is the view of immigration officials (from the Korean Herald):
The new rule is the result of widespread uneasiness over the credibility of foreign English teachers; this came to a head in late October when Christopher Paul Neil, a Canadian English teacher who taught here for four years, was arrested in Thailand on child molestation charges. The recent spate of degree-forgery scandals involving high-profile Korean figures in various professions accelerated the calls to screen out unqualified teachers.

The point foreigners make is that Neil had no criminal record but did have a good degree that was actually in education. Under the new regs, he would have been welcomed into the country.

I am sure that some foreigners have used forged degrees. I am reminded of a friend who worked in Thailand. He was a straight arrow but his university doubted the qualifications of some of his co-workers and set up a second thesis defence for them. They were unable to properly defend their theses and were given the boot.

Still, these days degree forgery appears to be more of a Korean thing.

The new requirements do make sense. Proving that one's degree is genuine and that one does not have a criminal record are good things. The clearly spoken and explicit rationale are what makes this so annoying. One blogger looked at some numbers and found that foreigners are less likely to be criminals than Koreans.

There's one other things that makes it so annoying. No one is really clear on what the regulations are or how to implement them (again, from the Herald):
"I think it is a little short-sighted. Given all the work that will be required at bureaucratic levels, it would take months to get everybody to cooperate and to fulfill all the criteria in a timely manner. It could provoke a bureaucratic nightmare," said Cameron Wood, a professor at Chung-Ang University.

The ministry, however, said it launched an all-out effort at the very outset to publicize the implementation of these changes.

"On Nov. 19, we began distributing information on the changes through various organizations, including the Education Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, about 30 immigration offices across the nation, and the regional associations of private language schools. We also posted the guidelines on our website and other relevant government homepages," said a Justice Ministry official.

"On Dec. 10, we also invited consuls from embassies of the United States, Britain, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to inform them of the new law. We also answered Canada's questions on E-2 visa rules in writing. We also trained our personnel who will take charge of the matter," he added.

On December 10, they spoke to consuls from various embassies about regulations that would take effect in five days. Yeah, that's good planning.

"I took several foreign instructors to the hospital affiliated with our school. Although it is one of the largest-scale hospitals in Seoul, hospital officials say they don't conduct such tests listed in the required medical report," a university official said.

In Korea, drug tests are usually conducted at police agencies; hospitals do not conduct such tests, since there has been no demand for them, hospital officials explained.

The ministry says they are aware of the problem.

"We contacted several hospitals to see if they conduct such tests. They said they don't without a sufficient demand for such tests. We found, after some research, that the Health Ministry-affiliated Seoul Medical Science Institute ( does the tests," said a ministry official.

"If you take the test at designated hospitals, they will ask the institute to analyze the test. This will take less than one week, and cost less than 10,000 won ($11). The result will be sent by mail. We have yet to obtain the list of hospitals that are linked to the institute. We will soon release them," he added.

Perhaps they publicized the changes but did not discuss them with their own infrastructure.

The EFL Geek has been covering this issue closely. He has so many posts on the subject that i suggest just checking his archives for December and November 2007.

The Metropolitician, in his usual biting way, describes how he feels.

I quoted the Korea Herald but they lock their archive after a week. The Big Hominid has the full text.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A gum-do buddy has document trouble

A friend of mine from my Hae Dong Geum Do days is having trouble proving his degree is genuine because of its latin phrases. Good luck Tony. Article here. Thanks to the Marmot.

UPDATE: I knew a man of the same name but likely this is not the same guy. I still wish him luck, though.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Domestic incident in my apartment

There are no (major or unusual) problems within the Kwandong-family.

Yesterday, I was helping the little-guy with something and heard some wailing in the background. I didn't pay much attention to it because, well, the little guy can really wail on occasion, and he might be loudest when expressing happiness.

Eventually, it became clear that this was an upset sound from an adult woman. After a bit, I heard it more clearly and looked down into the parking lot to see a barefoot woman being chased by a man. I was still uncertain what was happening because they dodged around cars in a way that looked almost playful- except for the barefoot part.

Finally, the woman cowered behind the security guard who did a good job of settling things down. I returned to the apartment only to notice that while I'd left the door open, a visitor had let herself in.

I don't really care for little dogs but this one was energetic and friendly... and quiet! The little guy was very excited to have a visitor but not quite sure what to do. He would approach the dog and in stepping away would become concerned that the dog followed. I think he is more used to dogs we meet outside; dogs with leashes that one can approach and move away from at will.
After things had settled down a bit, I carried my son and the dog down the hallway, soon pinpointing angry noises coming from above. I found the unhappy couple, with the man appearing to be leaving, travel bag in hand. The woman saw her dog in my arm and picked him up, thanking me.
Their previous wailing was only a prelude to the new wailing when the little guy realized we were departing without the dog. I fear that I may have hearing loss in my right ear.
I wonder what a good opening would be for me to go up and ask to borrow their dog.
"You've been fighting and screaming at your husband, or shacked-up boyfriend, or
whatever; you're probably not in good condition to care for a dog. How about giving her to me for a few hours?"
Yeah, that sounds good.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Baby news

The following story or event in my life is going to be boring for those without children, moderately interesting to those with young children, and thrilling to my mother. I could have emailed her and wrote about what happened last night or even told her on MSM chat. I think, though, that I want to remember and record this for my benefit. Perhaps when I am angry with my son, I could read it and relive it to calm myself down.

My little guy hates having his hair washed. I am not sure if it is the water in his eyes or ears that bothers him most, or perhaps he got a mouth or nose-full once or twice. It’s definitely clear that he hates it, though.

Yesterday, he was having a bath, more for play than any other reason. I was watching him, sitting on the closed toilet lid. We had the door shut to keep the warm moist air in and both were naked.

He started to splash water around and after he got me with a ladle-full, I sat closer to the tub. He poured water over my head and seemed to get the idea of washing my hair.

He poured water over my hair. It took him a long time because, well, he’s a baby and most ladles arrived over my head with very little water remaining. Still, he managed.

Then, he got some shampoo. Actually, he used the closest bottle, which was rinse. One hand kept my head in position so he simply pushed the spigot on the bottle and then scooped up the rinse from the side of the tub.

He was very careful about using washing my hair completely. Firstly, he used about a litre of rinse. After that, he massaged my hair and head for a surprisingly long time. I had to encourage him to go back to ladling water to remove the shampoo and he continued to massage my head as he poured the water.

It was a wonderful ten minutes or so-perhaps not that long, but I felt close to him right up until I had to wrestle him back into clothes. Then the wailing and confrontation with a totally alien consciousness returned.

Perhaps another time I will try to record a minute or so of his washing my hair. I warn you that at least one of us will be dressed, though.

In other baby news, a certain Gangneung blogger may have to turn in his el-camino for a more family-friendly vehicle as he is now a father. Congrats to Paktheelcamino!

Excited to see this movie

The Golden Compass.

Second edit: More spelling errors - I am having trouble with firefox, so I am using Explorer right now. I really miss the automatic spell-checking.

I had a graphic from the movie but noticed I had mispelled a word in the title. Considering how I tease people -gently - about such things, thanks for not tormenting me on the subject.

Anyway, in correcting the title, I lost the graphic.

I still want to see the movie.

murder and stolen military weapons in Kanghwa-do

Last night my wife, a member of the Korean Coast Guard received a message on her phone that weapons were missing in Kang-hwa do. I didn't understand why Sokcho would be notified, being on the other side of the country and all that.

It turns out that the weapons were not merely missing but that soldiers had been assaulted (and one killed) and the weapons were stolen. I had been under the impression that a routine inventory at a Coast Guard arsenal had come up one short.

This is a country with no firearms (except a few shotguns that farmers use, it seems) so missing rifles (to say nothing of grenades) are a big deal.

I wouldn't have mentioned the news, considering it possibly confidential, but Korean news sources are reporting it and the Marmot has an English report.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hike 46

Tomorrow should be hike 49.

The views are great during this cold weather.

While resting on the peak, I heard an occasional buzzing and thought it was someone's phone on vibrate. Turns out, it was the camera on this fire-watch station. All the kiosks are manned these days.
On my way home, I learned the road, under construction forever, is now finished. Getting to and from the mountain will now be a little more challenging.
In possibly-related news, there is a global helium shortage.