Sunday, September 30, 2007

Laughing stock of the meteorlogical community...

...and other annoyances.

1) Internet Explorer has chosen to list the URL three times. I now almost exclusively use Firefox.

2) Hey, tomorrow's September 31! If they get this wrong, and I don't feel reckless in saying that the days of the year are fairly predictable, how can we trust their weather reports?

3) Actually, this is okay. The website was only able to afford a few icons so clear nights are symbolized by the sun. I honestly enjoy seeing that we will have sunny skies between twelve and three am.

I did not link to the website, but you can see the URL in the photo -THREE frickin' TIMES!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Would Burkhas be popular here?

Is there much difference between a burkha and these outfits?

Well, Korean women want to be shielded from the sun but still want their slimness emphasized. Still, I think burkhas could catch on here.
Notice how much they are wearing, even gloves.
BTW, I was hiking in shorts and a T-shirt.

Travis, don't go to YongYu Island!

The EFL Geek found these photos on Dave's ESL Cafe. Happy Chuseok, White Jewish Bastards (I am quoting here).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Enjoying the (whole) day

I took the little guy to the beach around noon today and saw two white women with bikes studying a map. We went over to talk to them and I think I was able to offer a little advice and suggestions for their ride.

The conversation took a few turns because I figured they were just traveling around Sokcho. I soon learned their destination for the day was the DMZ. More, they had started in Gangneung that morning.

The distance they were going was solid, even impressive. Still, that distance wasn't what really impressed me.

I have done my riding alone so maybe it was having a friend along that did it for them but I was never able to relax until the day's ride was over. They were discussing what to do and see in Sokcho, the approximate halfway point. I have always wanted to do a ride or a canoe trip or a hike and just relax through the day. Maybe its my athletic training but I just have to finish.

The weather stayed dry so I suspect they had a long but enjoyable day.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I'm a bad man.

Perhaps a year ago, I blogged about how the management at my apartment complex placed 'No parking' signs at the entry to our complex. I'm too sick to bother looking for a link and it really wasn't that exciting, but I found someone parked in the no-parking area and moved the signs to surround the offending car.

I did that a few times. Soon the signs were looking a little beat-up and I hope that people weren't running them over in anger. Anyway, new signs are up. Oh, the signs are in two pieces and one can fill the bottom half with sand or water to ensure they don't easily get knocked over or taken. A few days ago, I found a truck in the no-parking area and a sign light enough for me to pick up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Travel Safe, Mark

When I first came to Korea in 1997, my hagwon placed me in an apartment with a few other foreigners. One of them, Mark, had been here a few years. And, until this weekend, he remained. He stayed at the same hagwon for around 15 years.

He's fine, by the way. He's in the US, clearing up some details before bringing his wife and son home. I will miss him but this isn't really a eulogy.

He was to fly out on Sunday. I don't know if he did as Kyoungsang province had some serious weather and many flights were cancelled. I'm sure he's gone by now.

We met in the apartment and said the non-committal things new roommates do. The thing that started a real friendship occurred on my first Sunday in Korea. He, a friend Erich, and I went hiking. We started really early toiled up during a hot but beautiful day in late August. The test of our friendship, which I guess I passed, was when Erich mentioned that we were doing this hike to see if it was the toughest one up Muhaksan.

"Hey. Welcome to Korea. How tough are you?"

I didn't whine and either kept up or didn't slow them much so they were satisfied. I'm somewhat of an outdoorsy guy so I was happy they considered me capable of joining them.
Later, I learned it was a test of sorts. Mark doesn't invite that many people to hike a second time.

One of my five best hikes was with Mark on Chirisan (now called Jirisan). It was Dec 28 of '97. We started in all the clothes we had but at one point we were down to shorts and t-shirts before bundling up for higher exposed ridges. It was a 20km hike and if it had been 20.5km , I would have cried.

I left Korea, then came back after an 18 month absence. We were both married at a traditional home in traditional ceremonies almost exactly a year apart. We each have a son.

We competed together on Arirang's The Contenders and won four games, losing the fifth humiliatingly badly.Mark actually added up the questions we answered and decided that we were within 50 points of each other so we made a good team.

Have a safe trip, Mark. Good luck finding work and all the rest. I will probably follow in 2009 (To Canada, not Oregon).

What's the first thing you think of when...

I feel guilty for my reaction but when I heard Korea had just opened a new kind of gas station, one that provides hydrogen gas, my first thought was, "Boom!"

On the one hand, no one uses hydrogen without some serious concerns for safety and Koreans might be in a hurry but they aren't stupid. The blurb on Arirang TV showed a hose sealing tightly into a car's tank and I am sure its as safe as it can be.

And honestly, a small hydrogen leak could be problematic but hydrogen doesn't stick around the way other gases might.

Oh, Arirang does have video-on-demand so you could find the news episode (Tuesday morning Sept 18) but this Korea Times article is probably handier. The article doesn't mention safety at all. Perhaps its a non-issue; everyone knows to be careful.

On the other hand, apparently not everyone knows that roofing and sealing materials can be flammable. Maybe people don't use tar anymore but any sealant will have solvents and they are flammable.

Longtime readers will know that I am interested in environmental issues and using hydrogen gas is great for the environment. The exhaust is water, which could be broken back down into hydrogen fuel again. This is a great step for Korea and I feel bad that I immediately imagined what the explosion would look like.

Canada has been using hydrogen fuel cells for nearly ten years, I think. The Canadian company Ballard was a pioneer in the field and some buses in Vancouver run on Hydrogen. I don't know of any trouble there.
I am out of the loop though. The last time I heard hydrogen being discussed as a fuel source, people were wondering how to store hydrogen in non-gaseous form to avoid Hindenburg-type accidents. The video on Arirang appeared to show a transfer of gas, not the use of hydrogen salts or anything.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What to do on yet another rainy day?

I guess we'll just camp in the kitchen!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another Thursday, another hike

A week or two ago, I was commenting on how clear the air was. Now, not so much.
Here are pics from Aug 28 (top) and Sept 13. As always, click to enlarge.

It was a great hike. Well, 'hike' may be exaggerating. The signs do say 'deung-san' which means hike, but I think the trail more of a mountain-book path -my translation for 'san-chaek-ro' (A proper translation would be nature trail or walking path).
There were places on the path in which I could almost believe I was the only one on the mountain. I even found myself looking for wildlife and trying to walk quietly to better find some. Beyond squirrels and several birds, I didn't see much wildlife, though.
On another part of the hike, I came across a man playing a trumpet - his music carried for minutes along my walk.
Mountains are a little strange to a guy from central Canada -well, strange for me. I guess I always had an impression of mountains as being natural but basically of a pyramid shape. Travel in southern China did nothing to dispel that image with isolated mountains popping right out of rice-fields. Chungdaesan, like most mountains, has more of an octopus shape. There are ridges and low points followed by new high points and branching ridges.
What I'm getting at is that I got lost briefly on the mountain. I followed a new ridgeline and thought I could just go down a slope and up the next and be on a familiar trail.
Nope. I was in shorts so bushwhacking through thorn bushes didn't seem fun. I ended up backtracking a great deal but also met a few interesting people so I can't complain too much.
In the past two weeks there has been a lot of work on the trails. New steps have been added and a barbed-wire fence put up to keep people from making new trails all willy-nilly.

I understand how people could use the, uh, backpack to carry stuff up but I think they would have to make a special trip just to carry the wheelbarrow up - the trail is too narrow and steep to push it except for at the top.

I have also seen new 'San bul Jo Shim' (beware of forest fires) signs. Hopefully they are an indication that the rains have eased for a bit - I don't want fires but dry weather would be nice - maybe rain at night would be acceptable.
Later, I saw the main reason for the warning about fires. The work crews have been piling kindling and firewood to dry everywhere.

Okay, that's not really firewood. Still, I don't know exactly why the brush was cleared. The grounds have a neater, more park-like appearance but that's not a good reason.

"Wrinkle in Time" author, Madeleine L’Engle, passed away

She was a favorite author of mine in my early adolescence. I enjoyed her, "A wrinkle in Time" series and also a series about a marine biologist and a Catholic priest who carried a gun and were involved in solving crime and defeating spies. The series, as described above, sounds ridiculous but wasn't; I may reread a few books now that I think about them.
Apparently, she died a week ago but I hadn't heard until now. I learned about it from msnbc.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fan -freaking- tastic weather

Today may go on record as having the best weather of the year. I think the Nomad would empathize with my frustration with the weather and how grateful I was to see blue skies and such.
I started the day with a short hike with the little guy. We just went high enough to get clear views of Ulsan Bowi and I don't remember seeing it glow like this before. (Click for larger image)

Then we went to the beach. I hope Japan doesn't suffer too much damage from the typhoon but I do feel selfishly grateful that we had both blue skies and monster surf. Somewhere, there must be trouble to make surf like this. Below, Kwandongalex is on a level stretch of beach about five metres above sea level. (Click for larger image)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Sports in Gangwondo

The Tour De Korea is apparently running right now. For the past five years, the cycling race has gone on in my backyard and I have never been able to see any part of it. Watching the cyclists on their long races would not be that exciting - "here they come, there they go, time to go home." but in Yangyang they do some laps on a relatively short course so there is more to be seen. I have always had to work or otherwise been busy when the race is in town.

This year, I just feel sorry for the riders. The weather has been crappy and cycling (those bikes typically don't have fenders to block rain off the tires) would be miserable and possibly dangerous. Good luck to all of them.

I saw signs in Gangneung for Winter 2018 -yep, those are Olympic numbers and Pyeongchang is trying again. I'm sick of it - good luck to them but I hope it's a low key thing for a few years.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Apparently it's not about English as a Second Language

The Korea Times has an article about 'Extended Shelf Life' products. There I was fancifully imagining ESL Milk's special English properties. It would compete with Einstein milk (clearly with physics-enhancing properties) and DHA milk with "DHA naturally secreted directly from cows" (I shouldn't use quotes- that's close but not quite right.)
Oh, this photo is from South Korea ESL Blog.
The article tangentially describes a troubling change in shopping and eating habits.
First, an amusing quote:
To meet these "non-fresh'' demands, local manufacturers are catering for a variety of options with longer life and taste.
A 'longer ...taste'. Hmmm. The reporter has been writing about the claims of Oriental Medicine too long.
Confectionery maker Shany began selling mass-produced bread made with natural yeast baked under an all-natural fermentation process.
While typical expiration dates for baked goods are usually a week-long, Shany's latest stays fresh for about 15 days.
North America is moving away from bread with high preservatives content while Korea may soon embrace their version of Wonderbread.
A final quote:
A recent report by global consulting firm Frost & Sullivan showed that the study of antimicrobials and other antioxidants _ which are considered ideal extenders _ will be at an all-time high and the demand for ESL goods is expected to have a high impact from 2006 to 2012.
Retailers welcome the forecast, as extended shelf life means they are left with better margins by cutting goods gone bad.
"Retailers like full shelves and if goods can be kept fresh for long, it serves a benefit for manufacturers, retailers and consumers,'' said Lee.
Science Friday, an NPR weekly radio program, recently had a panel discussing food and food quality in the US. One of the panelists commented that Twinkies which can remain 'fresh' just about forever, cost less than fresh, unprocessed food and what a sad description of our priorities that was. The audio can be found here.
I don't know what tomatoes used to taste like but I've listened to oldtimers go on about how farmers selected for beautiful red tomatoes and somehow forgot to select for taste. This new change is not about taste but quality and healthiness.
Extended Shelf Life food would be great for travellers but do we need it at home?
Do I sound like an oldtimer now?
The earliest example I can think of regarding rushing to use ESL products would be vitamin pills. I give one to Kwandong Alex everyday. They don't go bad and you can buy six months of a year's supply at once.
But the pills aren't perfect. Yahoo search turned up this site which describes vitamin C pills and how overdosing can damage your DNA. Its hard to overdose with oranges - you'd need a truckload of them but only a few concentrated pills. It also mentions that the foods high in vitamins are also healthy for other reasons - meaning you would need to take the pill and the fruit for full benefit.
Well, now I know what I'm looking at in the supermarket. I won't be buying the ESL milk exclusively out of amusement anymore.

Dirty foriegners (I know, redundant) offered a 'blood for soap' deal

Anyone who donates is given a choice of thank you gifts. On this, my second donation, I chose the soap travel pack. Probably I will refuse the gift next time.
This time, they had a short English announcement - it chiefly said I needed a translator although I managed to answer the questions without outside help. The questionnaire should be answered, "Yes, no, no, no..." -All 'No's after the first answer.
Added Later:
I just listened to Escape Pod's "The Giving Plague". Its a story about why people give blood. If I ever write about fiction and science fiction that have actual science education value, this story will be in the top ten. Listen to this for fun or as a supplement to your biology degree.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Fishing for compliments?

After work on Friday, I went with coworkers to Kyeongpo Beach. There was pretty good surf for body surfing because of a sandbar thirty or so metres off-shore. We swam for an hour. Some guy whistled and possibly told us to return to shore -presumably he was a lifeguard or some such. We ignored him.

After we did get out, a coast guard boat made a few passes, then left. We speculated that the 'guy' called them.

When we were ready, we swam again and met a few Kwandong students, including one who spoke English well. They were swimming nearby when Pack-the-elcamino and I climbed out. One was yelling, but not in an urgent voice, "Help, help." We stared at each other I decided to humour the students. I jogged over and swam out to a group of four students. They pointed to a girl, much further out, in a tube.

I swam out to her.

Although not crying, she was clearly happy to see me and I towed her slowly in.

Really, I am not fishing for compliments. This isn't a story about any supposed heroism. This is a story about (young) adults who weren't able to judge the risks properly.

Many times I have seen for myself and heard reports from others, that when lifeguards stop a swimmer from going too far from shore, they explain, "Others will attempt to copy you and get into trouble."

We were swimming in deep water and deliberately ignored a (possible) authority figure who tried to call us in. Did the students, sheep-like, follow us into a situation they couldn't handle?

Another facet of the situation is that they left the girl out there alone. I think, of the five students, a few could swim, but were not quite strong enough to tow the girl back to shore. When they called us, there was a girl relatively far out (fifty metres or so), a group about half way to shore and another girl even closer to shore. I understand that the English speaker may have felt he was needed to get our attention but to leave the girl completely alone out there boggles my mind. That the group stayed at a halfway distance and no-one actually came to shore to speak to us, nor returned to the girl's aid confused us and made us feel the students were joking and being silly.

Anyway, comments about my heroism are welcome but unnecessary. Comments about the behaviors described in this post are welcome and, in fact, requested.
In other news, I have completed thirteen climbs of the little mountain so am at one-quarter of my goal. On the far side of the mountain is a spring and a rabbit hutch. For some reason, the hutch was locked open and only one rabbit was still inside.

I met this guy during my climb. I wish I had a better macro feature.
Today, Saturday, the Kwandongfamily hiked up before the rain. Well, before the rain reached us; it appears Ulsan Bowi was already receiving rain.