Wednesday, January 30, 2008

sledding by the apartment

The hill was tiny but we had a great time. I think that comes through even with the low picture quality. We are all wearing Alaska hats- a Christmas gift from my sister. A great time for the Kwandong-family.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


is a fan-freaking-tastic movie!

Starting my review at the end, I spent twenty minutes or more after the movie just thinking about it in general amazement.

It was definitely a movie to see on the big screen. Firstly, although the camera shake wasn't as bad as in the Blair Witch Project, it was significant. Secondly, it is a big budget film with a lot happening on-screen despite the conceit of it being filmed on a little hand-held camera.

That said, I can imagine people renting or buying it to go frame-by-frame to see some of the action.

You do see the monster and a lot of it. I would have liked to see more but then I would like to see more of the squirrels and birds my son and I watch while outside. You see plenty.

The monster is not the most terrifying part. I will leave it a secret here, although I had read about it on other sites and it still worked on me.

I said the camera shake wasn't that bad; still, the idea didn't work as well as it did in the Blair Witch Project -a group of camera enthusiasts who would naturally reach for a camera when under stress. Here, the camera man is simply the one stuck with the job rather than being eager to do it. His motivation is not clear. In both cases, the camera being used for its light or other features did work.

I saw the movie with a coworker and his wife and we originally thought the excitement of the drive from Gangneung to Sokcho would overwhelm that of the movie (the weather is somewhere between bad and terrible) but Cloverfield scared me more than a bus fish-tailing in front of us.

Let me finish by bragging that little Sokcho has a better theatre than Gangneung. Ha-ha, Gangneungites!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Christian donations not helping South Korea help North Korea

My reader(s) may know that I am not fan of religion and I hope that was not colouring my opinion when I read a Newsweek article about Christian groups donating supplies to North Korea.

In the larger picture, many international groups, the UN, for example, have chosen not to donate supplies to North Korea because North Korea will not allow inspectors to go in and see where the food and such are going. South Korean groups have taken up the slack and are more concerned with getting at least some aid to the people even while knowing most goes to the elite.

GI Korea has followed this story with a slightly different viewpoint from mine. He believes that no aid should be given without inspection. I agree that the more inspection the better, but I can understand how, if they were my relatives, I would give plenty with the hope of them getting a little.

Recently a Canadian-Korean pastor had been detained but was released. Korean citizens are not released and the GI, again, sees this as weakness on the South Korean Government's part. In this case, I think it was not the nationality of the pastor so much as the knowledge that Christian groups are responsible for a major part of the aid received. (I may have mixed up the links to the GI -sorry 'bout that)

From the Newsweek article:
South Korean churches are competing to provide humanitarian aid to their compatriots in the atheist north. It's harder to give help than it should be.

Pastor Douglas Shin has learned the cost of good intentions-especially in North Korea. Every time the Seoul-based Protestant missionary goes in with another shipment of food for the hungry, the regime's officials grab much if not all of it for themselves, he says. Once, when he tried to negotiate a visit to the capital, Pyongyang, they demanded that he bring a whole rail car loaded with 60 tons of flour and supplies. He finally bargained them down to a 10-ton food shipment, delivered just inside the border by truck from China. At least they let him hand out some of it to people on the streets.

That willingness to cut deals is making North Korea increasingly dependent on Christians from the peninsula's southern end. While nongovernmental agencies like World Vision and Save the Children, fed up with the North's rampant corruption and lack of transparency, have closed down or sharply reduced their activities there, South Koreans are racing into the void.
By that measure it's tough to beat the Rev. Yonggi Cho of Seoul's Full Gospel Church, the world's largest single house of worship, with 780,000 congregants. Early last month Cho and 250 fellow South Koreans attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the Full Gospel's $22 million cardiac center on the banks of Pyongyang's Daedong River. ...

North Korea's few churches-Potemkin temples to give the illusion of religious freedom, critics say-are getting costly makeovers courtesy of religious groups on the far side of the DMZ. Seoul's Presbyterians are spending nearly $3 million to rebuild Bongsu Church in Pyongyang, while Baptist groups are planning to invest a similar sum in nearby Chilgol Church, which was once attended by the mother of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.

The southerners aren't competing for converts; proselytizing remains strictly forbidden in the atheist North. The real prizes (for now, at least) are trophy assets-the kind that look good on church Web sites and help fill the collection plates. (My bolding)

Anything is an improvement on North Korea's present health-care system. Even in privileged Pyongyang hospitals lack electricity and running water as well as basic equipment and supplies. And the facilities outside the capital are far worse. At the People's Hospital in Kusong, some 30 miles north of Pyongyang, patients are X-rayed by a 40-year-old Hungarian-built fluoroscopy machine that emits dangerous levels of radiation. Orderlies fashion bandages from cotton grown on the hospital grounds, and intravenous drugs are administered with upended soda bottles. Conditions at Kusong would be even more desperate without donor groups like the Maryland-based Eugene Bell Foundation, which insists on delivering aid directly its final destination. If North Korean officials refuse, the foundation warehouses its aid until permission is given.

Regular site visits by donor representatives are basic to responsible NGO work, not only in North Korea but everywhere else, says Eugene Bell director Stephen Linton. "People who think otherwise are kidding themselves."(my bolding)

Seems I'm putting up the whole article. Let's see. A South Korea Christian group spent a million dollars (US or Canadian - they're the same now -Ha, Ha) to build a church that when completed, didn't have a cross (I guess that's bad - it was significant enough for the journalist to mention). The South Korean Jogye Buddhists rebuilt a temple at the Gumgang tourist area but it was seized by the North Korean branch of the order.

The SK government has had no luck in the construction, or supplying of hospitals and recommends against it. They supply doctors at a few hospitals in North Korea to help the citizens and teach the North Korean doctors and find that is the hardest thing for the NK government to profit from.

They also point out that Cho's church-funded hospital will provide surgery costing about $3000 in a country with a $760 per capita income.

Well, the GI and I agree that No M-hyun's government didn't treat North Korea with sufficient firmness. Although I can sympathize with the motivations of the Christian groups making donations, I don't think they are helping the situation either.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Water-Fire Festival

I think the Water-fire festival is newly invented and mainly an excuse to party in Sokcho in the off-season. That's not a bad reason, by any means. I'm just pointing out that it isn't the creation of Sokcho's rampant Roman Catholic citizen's to have a pre-Lent party; the main excuse Canadian cities use for winter carnivals.

Actually, I've been away most Januaries, working at one camp or another, so this festival could have been occurring for years.
The mascot scared the heck out of KwandongAlex.
A friendly guy took this picture for us. It would be mean-spirited to complain about his cutting the bear in half; the camera screen was uniformly black until the flash fired so he was just pointing it in the right direction.

The festival continues through the weekend. There were many craft tents for children and the fires, candles, assortment of lights and cold, fresh air are romantic, I guess, but activities for adults seemed scarce. I'm sorry, as I wrote that, I recalled that two Human-powered ferry boats were set up- possibly for racing. I would like to compete in that.

I notice, too late, that Haeundae had it's Polar Bear Swim recently. I entered one year and had a great time but hadn't read anything in later years and thought the whole thing had been cancelled. I want the Sokcho Fire and Ice Festival to include one.

How about this: for New Year's Day or Lunar New Year's Day in 2009, we have a Polar Bear Swim at YangYang Beach, next to Naksansa and Naksan Beach Hotel with it's Hae-su Sauna for recovery afterwards. Depending on responses, I will begin to make plans and try to organize the event.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Perjury trials for Canadian Police Officers

English language bloggers in Korea frequently question the workings of the Korean justice system and often reserve our harshest criticism for the police of this country for their apparent laziness and corruption. We have held the police of our own countries as being better than the ones here.

I should make one set of changes to the above paragraph. Although I think the statements are true, they refer especially to me. Imagine the paragraph above as, "I frequently the workings...reserve my harshest...." As the son and grandson of Ontario Provincial Police officers and coming from a country where a national symbol is the mounted police officer, I normally think the best of my country’s police.

This morning, I saw this news on Yahoo Canada’s front page: Police officers across Canada face once-rare perjury charges

Quote: At least eight officers, either active or recently retired, will heading be to courts in Toronto, Winnipeg and Regina over the next two months accused of an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

I do not think Canadian police officers are uniformly corrupt (nor do I think Koreans are either, just a little less professional than I would like) as at least one of the commenters felt. I actually like to read this sort of thing once in a while to remind myself that I did not come here from a perfect place and shouldn’t hold Korean services in contempt

Monday, January 21, 2008

PSA for winter pedestrians

Today, I learned, entirely by chance, how to warm my feet up if they feel cold.

I have a pair of sort of half-boots. Not at all suitable for hiking, they are a little warmer than shoes and keep snow out better than shoes as well. My boots are a few years old and it doesn't take long for my socks to get wet these days. If I stop for a few minutes and no longer keep my feet heated by walking action, they feel cold pretty quickly.

Now, I have learned that when my feet feel cold, I should simply not look where I am walking for a few steps. Almost certainly, there will be a broken half-tile or curb hidden by snow for me to half step onto...

My gosh, one's foot immediately feels warm, almost hot, after flexing it over until one is nearly standing on ankle bones!

It took a few minutes to walk normally after the incident, but that foot felt warm all the way home after that.

Good boots might be a better idea, all things considered.

RIP, Sir Edmund Hillary

One of the world's great heros has passed away. (Yahoo News)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

High and middle school camp for Gangneung Students

Despite more than a few complaints before and during, the camp actually went well. The pace was tough; we had a group of students for two and a half days, a half day off, then another group. Each day was around 14 hours long and there was a lot of stuff to be covered. Two and a half days isn't that long for the students but repeating it three times wore us down. Our assistants, Kwandong U's English Lit students, probably worked even more hours and were unfailingly cheerful.

I intend to post about the good and bad parts of camp but not now (and probably I will wait too long and let it go). Here are a few photos from camp.

Students had time to learn some shopping English then had a flea market where they could buy and sell items. Each student was expected to bring something to sell and most did. Students were given play money to shop with, which confused me. The item they brought (and bought) cost real money so had 'real' value. Other items might have a greater or lesser 'real' value, but most students were taught to suggest around ten dollars of play money to have the ability to bargain and haggle.

Anyway, the atmosphere was pretty quiet so I tried to sell some milk tea. Click to enlarge.The first two camps were for high school students and the third for middle school students. The middle school students were not nearly as active in class and this student slept in two different classes. I became annoyed enough to stuff his hood with snack food and affix a sign to his back. The other students told him about it so he didn't wear it around the camp so I was disappointed.

Kwandongbrian: motivating other bloggers!

In reading about the death of Bobby Fischer last night, I immediately went to my chess-loving friend's blog and realized that he would sleeping. I didn't have his phone number to wake him up and get him to work so I emailed him (too bad he doesn't have a "You've got mail" audio clip to awaken him in emergencies like these).

Anyway, he got right to work; turns out what I knew about Fischer is all that people care about: He was a anti-Semitic crazy man who won some games many years ago.
Check out Port Coquitlam Odysseus for more.

Treehouse on Lake Muskoka

Here is a pretty cool treehouse I found online and it is to be found somewhere near my hometown of Bracebridge.

From the site:
Posing as a Japanese lantern on stilts, Kos’ creation floats within the fir trees on Lake Muskoka, Ontario.

What’s more, the design frames spectacular views of the forest, from inside, out, down and up!

Now, I think it is a cool design but homes near Lake Muskoka generally have a view of the lake rather than the forest. I wonder if this treehouse does have a view of the lake but that view wasn't photographed: trees are pretty interchangable but I suspect that I could identify the location (or huge swaths of where it isn't) if I saw some shoreline.

Some day I will own my own house and I have been wondering what I would want it to look like. I have matured enough to no longer want the largest house possible although not enough to cancel my plans for a fireman's pole (to descend from the second floor to the first, not for dancing, you pervert!)

HT to Freshhome and Clicked. (Do I need to hat tip blogs with thousands more readers than I have?)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another reason to be glad I'm married.

Its funny that in appreciating one's spouse, the trivial reasons seem somehow profound and the big reasons are trite. "She makes me happy to enter the house", "Caring for her makes me feel cared for" and the like are all good (and true) but unremarkable.

I've been at a camp for the last ten days. Well, I was at camp for six days, spent a day at home and returned to camp for three days. After the break, I forgot my towel and asked a co-worker is he could lend me one from his home (he went home each evening). Naturally generous, he gave me a towel of his and it was a western style full-size towel, an unexpected treat after years of drying with hand towels.

Also unexpected was the history of my friend that it revealed. As it absorbed warm water, it released collected odours. I could tell that my friend's bathroom is a little musty, that he smokes but only occasionally and that he probably used it as an oven-mitt when grilling meat.

I realize that this post seems unusually petty, even for me, in highlighting the housekeeping patterns of my friend but on the plus side, I am complimenting my wife in encouraging careful cleaning at home. It is not that my wife is a June Cleaver sort, doing all the cleaning; I do most of the dishes and all of the vacuuming and some of the laundry, but that she sets a good example for me to keep up with.

Nama-Lama, thanks for always having towels that smell fresh from the drying rack.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

first chung-dae hike of the year

Very early in January, I hiked up Ulsan-bowi. I seem to have misplaced my photos but I may post one or two when I do find them.

The last six days were spent at a camp for Gangneung High School students and a later post will describe that experience. I arrived home yesterday and early this morning went up the mountain.

This is a small, easily accessable peak and I normally carry nothing but the camera but with the snow, I dug out my toys. I brought my half-size crampons and a hiking stick with me and should have brought my gators, as well.

The snow was normally ankle deep but the wind carried snow from the valleys and dumped it on the ridges so some drifts were over knee deep. I made it up without crampons but decided to put them on for the descent. I am not sure if I needed them but they made me more adventurous and fast on steeper slopes. I only wish they were easier to put on and take off.

Nun Saram (눈사람)

There are two problems with attempting this pun. First, it's hard to get good contrast with snow and (related, I suppose), the shape may appear to be more 유방 than 눈.

For my mother, and in case the picture is of that poor a quality, Nun means both snow and eye. The picture is not of a snowman but an eyeman. Further complicating the issue is the iris and pupil look a little similar to the naughty bits of a woman's breast.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Father-of-the-year? Probably not.

I have been considering writing a post about fatherhood over the past few weeks. Over that time time, or a bit longer, parenting has become more enjoyable. I couldn't have said I was becoming a better parent but that parenting was better than I, childless until age 37 and comfortable in that state, had imagined. My post would have described the ways I have been connecting with my son.

Last night I connected with him in a new way by giving him stomach flu. He's had a bad night. We all have.

Today, I go to a camp for a week. I can only hope that when I return, the wife and mother-in-law have either dodged the bullet or recovered completely by then.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Starting to recover

About 30 hours later and 3 kilos lighter, I can walk across the room without stopping for a rest. Acute gastro-enteritis sure beat the snot -and more objectionable stuff- out of me but I should be fine by tomorrow. (Spellcheck tells me 'gastro' is not a word but it looks right to me).

The Big Hominid described a stomach flu going on in Britain and when I commented that I might have it as well...nothing. Thanks for the sympathy, jerk! Oh, and it you're visiting, I can't find online the name of the crowd control gas from Blish's Cities in Flight (its effect was similar to the flu I have now).

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Justice is a bitch (and perhaps a little humourous)

Yesterday morning, my wife went to work, leaving me, our son and her mother (visiting for a few weeks) at home.

She called me soon after she left to warn me that someone had thrown up in the large elevator. If you were wondering, our apartment building has two elevators, one larger than the other. If I wanted to go somewhere today, I should take the smaller elevator.

I told my mother-in-law. Well, I tried to tell her. what she heard was that her daughter had thrown up in the elevator and that, apparently, I didn't care.

While I was watching the little guy, she went out and cleaned the elevator. I might have seen her leave but we have a few jars and such in front of the apartment and probably thought she was doing something with them.

She worried about her poor daughter all day and likely was thinking a few bad things about her uncaring son-in-law.

When we were all home in the evening and my wife learned about the problem, my first reaction was to laugh a little. Then, I felt bad thinking about the poor woman cleaning some stranger's puke. If you have the proper distance, as my readers do, that may add to the humour.

Later that evening, I felt a tension in my stomach and tried to use the toilet and to burp without any relief. I went to bed around ten and woke up at eleven to use the toilet. I woke up at eleven-thirty to use the toilet. I woke up after twelve to use the toilet, and to hold a bucket to my face while sitting on the toilet.

I will hold off on further details. I currently have nothing left to expel and am feeling a tiny bit better.

Still, I will work on my communication with my mother-in-law and try not to send her about playing in stranger's vomit ever again.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

7:00AM at the Beach

The Kyoungsangnam-family are visiting and we all got up early and went to the beach to watch the sunrise.

In addition to being dam' cold, it was also dam' fun. We had to park a kilometre away because there were so many people but the comradry improved the atmosphere.
We were in time to get a space on a pier with an unobstructed view and all were dressed well enough that we could cheerfully exclaim, "Cold, isn't it".
A few moments after the sun appeared, bolloons were launched. (Click to enlarge)
The intrepid explorer (I guess you could click to enlarge, if you wanted to).

7:00AM at the Beach

The Kyoungsangnam-family are visiting and we all got up early and went to the beach to watch the sunrise.

In addition to being dam' cold, it was also dam' fun. We had to park a kilometre away because there were so many people but the comradry improved the atmosphere.
We were in time to get a space on a pier with an unobstructed view and all were dressed well enough that we could cheerfully exclaim, "Cold, isn't it".
A few moments after the sun appeared, bolloons were launched. (Click to enlarge)
The intrepid explorer (I guess you could click to enlarge, if you wanted to).