Monday, March 31, 2008

Canadian Coast Guard in the news...

...and it's not good news.

After rescuing a hunting boat in Maritime Canada, an accident occurred while towing it to shore causing three deaths. I wish the families of the departed the best in this terrible time.
I do wish, though, that the editor or writer at the Korea Times had finished this sentence (click to enlarge).
I was unable to find the article online.

What are they hiding?

I should be careful with my language here, but I have to say I often feel Koreans accept things that seem ridiculous to visitors to the country. Starting with an admittedly trivial subject, they lap up horrible stereotypes about Native speaker ESL teachers. More seriously, their opinions regarding the American military presence are easily swayed and they do not appear to want to test the things the media tells them. As a final example, did anyone question Dr Hwang Woo-suk's results?

I cannot say this is the reason, the cause, but it must be related in some way: dictionaries in Korea are missing some useful vocabulary.
Consider these pictures (The first is from Co-build, from the Bank of England):

Now a Korean-English dictionary.

All are missing 'gullible'. Even the Korean term ,"속다" is missing (and that word was dang hard to find to see if it was missing). I have started a petition on Facebook and, for those not so interested in Facebook, here is another petition site. Remember, we cannot teach critical thinking to Koreans until they understand what it means to be gullible.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Do I, or should I, admire Larry Niven?

I certainly do admire many of his books. Ringworld and Footfall are two of my favourites and could be used as supplements to high school or first year university physics classes.

In Footfall, a novel about the invasion of Earth by elephantoid (not exactly elephantine - not giant, but elephant shaped) aliens, the US government gathers a group of Science fiction writers to provide outside-the-box ideas and suggestions on how to fight the aliens.

Such a group -the sci-fi writers, not the aliens - does exist. Their acronym is SIGMA and it means something important, I'm sure. At a recent Sigma meeting (the link took me to the article i wanted, a quarter of the way down the page), Niven told Homeland Security that to keep hospitals financially viable, they should create rumours in Spanish that the hospitals are killing patients and harvesting organs. That would drive away illegal aliens (of the human sort) who typically don't pay for medical services and keep the hospitals available for legal citizens.

I learned of this from Boing Boing -do I need to hat-tip a blog that in one day will have more visitors than I ever will?

Kevin has been ahead of the curve in questioning Niven's current relevance.

The Baen free library has a recent book by Niven, Fallen Angels. The book is passable but the library is great. It offers the first or first few books in various Science Fiction or Fantasy series' for free. There are also a few freestanding books by prolific authors to get you interested in their work.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Self Image

When I was working part time as a swim coach while at university, I trained many novice swimmers. They came in all sizes and shapes and at that age, fitness and skill typically meant less than body position in the water. It's a technical point but basically if the swimmers could keep their hips and legs on or near surface, they would be faster than those who did not.

Skills and concepts such as moving your hand sideways through the water as you pull to increase power in accordance with Bernoulli's principle came much later. Even swimmers who were physically fit and strong could not overcome the slowing effects of drag if they had bad body position in the water.

Again, novice swimming is very egalitarian or democratic. Actual physical prowess helps but is not decisive with the younger swimmers.

One day, a few weeks into the season, a twelve year old girl who was nearly as tall as I was joined my group. She swam well enough, nothing special, but I could see remarkable potential in her size and shape.*

I became interested in where this girl could end up and I would be her first coach! I described her to other coaches and made special note that she was only twelve and already five- eight. Remember, her height meant very little in how she would do for the first few months or more.

I am sure she heard me making this point. Whatever, she swam for a week and never returned.

I was reminded of this by the title of an article in Wednesday's Korea Times. The article is about a high school basketball sensation and the title is "Monster Teenager".

This boy is 191cm, which I think puts him around 6 foot 4 inches. This is tall, but not overwhelmingly so and hardly monstrous.

Commenter Jejujames, at the bottom of the article, agrees, calling the title "a little offencive"

Focusing on a single attribute of anyone, even if the attribute relates to the sport, is a way of devaluing any other attribute the person has. I hope this kid gets to be respected as more than a monster.

* Size seems to be more and more important in competitive swimming, at least at the highest levels. Most Olympian freestylists are well over six feet tall. At five foot ten inches I still had potential that was never realized but even if I had, my height imposed a real limit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Toll Rate changes

I was surprised to see, while watching Arirang news, that highway tolls will be reduced during peak travel times or rush hours. The brief online remark did not say when but the news anchor stated rush hour.

I think this is counter productive.

Rush hour rates should go up, while off-peak hour rates should plummet. I think every one can see some value in that. Sure, you pay more but can travel faster due to reduced traffic numbers.
Even better, from an environmentalist's point of view, would be to reduce the rate for buses (both the toll and the ticket price for riders). This might further reduce traffic, again improving traffic flow.

Or perhaps toll rates are like cigarette prices: there may be a high tolerance for rate changes and so the number of users will not change. Increasing the taxes on cigarettes does not cut down on the number of smokers and increased toll rates may not change the number of drivers. If this is the case, then I suppose then, reducing the rate would be a kindness, at least.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Should athletes be muzzled?

I am still sick and so awake at four am. On CNN I watched part of Chasing the Dream, a report about preparing for the Beijing Olympics. I only saw the last few minutes but the report questioned whether the athletes might use the opportunity to make political statements or the like concerning human rights in China.

Although not the caliber of athlete to attend the Olympics, I (and everyone, really) is of the caliber to imagine, to think about being part of the Olympics. I, and most my age, clearly remember the boycott of the 1980 Olympics. An acquaintance, Kevyn Stafford, qualified for Moscow in the 200 Butterfly (a swimming event) but was unable to go when Canada boycotted those games. Remarkably, she did attend the '92 Olympics in Barcelona for Kayaking.

As a young athlete, I felt outrage that politics would interfere with the hopes and dreams of these athletes who very often have only one shot at competing in the Olympics. I seem to recall that the average age for female swimmers at the Olympics was around 20 while the age for men was a little higher and the range was a little wider. Stafford was an exception; for most, there is no second chance.

Of course, even if countries attend, the athletes could still inject political commentary of their own. I do not remember but have read how some black American athletes gave the Black Power salute on the medals podium. Chasing the Dream gave some other examples that I can not recall.

Many nations are considering requiring their athletes to not speak out at the Olympics. I think that's a little upsetting but even more were the remarks of the world's most famous Olympic swimmer, Mark Spitz. He said, and I only saw a few minutes of the show so I don't know how he feels about the subject, that most athletes would keep their mouths shut for commercial contract reasons. According to Spitz, most American athletes of Olympic caliber have contracts with various businesses and the contracts usually include clauses covering public speaking.

I presume the same is true for Canadian athletes and those of other countries as well.

I have great sympathy for these young people, signing their first contract (or having their parents sign on their behalf?) and having their ability to make idealistic statements limited thereby.

As a high school student, I was upset by the politics in the Olympics. Now that I am older, and feel that I actually know less than I thought I did back then, I can see the reasoning and leverage the Olympics offers.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sleep in class, join the gallery

Here is the first sleeper I managed to shoot this semester. A previous class that day had a few sleepy students but they managed to jolt awake before I could hit the shutter.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Arthur C Clarke has gone to the geo-stationary satellite in the sky

(Masuro, that's how you use a metaphor)

Its strange. I am a big fan of science fiction and have the scientific background to appreciate hard S-F but have not read one of Clarke's books and have read only one of his short stories*.

I will read another one soon. Trip has a link to one available online (also here).

Here is a funny story about me that very slightly relates to ACC. Nearly twenty years ago, I travelled around the world with a long stay in India. I remember (and I know how ridiculously naive (or worse) this sounds) that I wondered about travelling to Sri Lanka and knocking on ACCs door. I reasoned that few foreigners go to Sri Lanka, and even fewer of them would be Science Fiction fans, that he would welcome my visit and invite me into his home. Imagine if I had gone to that much trouble and met the man and had him ask, "Which book do you like best?"
* The story I read involved a character, also named Arthur Clarke, living in Sri Lanka and the story involved the Russians putting satellites above the US and beaming high quality TV, including pornography (I think) to defeat the Americans...somehow.

I'm disappointed in Pack the El-camino

Apparently, the reports of Pol Pot's death were exaggerated and he is alive and well... and a British citizen.

He is coming to Korea and Pack the El-camino is happy about it.

Friday, March 14, 2008

It's back!

(Click to enlarge)
I don't know what attracts me to Ulsan Bowi. I do know that I find it beautiful and I miss it when it's gone.

This (Friday the 14th) morning was the first time I could see the rock formation since the weekend. The rain last night has done wonders clearing up the air.

Don't trust reason

I intend to focus more closely on issues relating to Gangwondo and Korea in the future, but this collage greatly amused me. Thanks to the catshark.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


For a week now, the skies have been grey. Visibility has seemed like a kilometre or so. Nobody and nothing casts a shadow. In the evening, you can see the headlight beams of cars. I have had a sore throat since Tuesday.

Today, I saw some shadows!

I'm feeling better today, but I've been a little grey as well. I didn't have cold symptoms exactly, but on Wednesday, I was exhausted, and had joint pain. I slept a lot and feel good this evening.

I hope I didn't annoy my coworkers too much on Wednesday. They would individually ask, "How are you?" as everyone does and I surprised them by going into great deal with a lot of whining. I guess now I will have to listen to them when they get sick. Dang, payback is a bugger.

It'd be nice to see the sun, too.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

KwandongAlex's first trip to the dentist

Marathon Man is one of my favourite movies but I have my own reasons to be uncomfortable at a dental clinic. I knew taking the little guy would be a challenge, although probably more so on his second visit.

Sokcho does not have a children's dentist (I am not sure how to spell pede**** and would hate to choose the foot doctor from spellcheck) so we had to go to Gangneung. My classes last week were simply introductions and handing out class info: the syllabus, what text we would use, and so on. I felt it would be possible to do both activities on one day. It was, but it made for an exhausting day.

We took a bus to Gangneung and the driver, as about 50% of them do, thought he was driving a sports car and raced and weaved through traffic. KAlex quickly threw up, even after being dosed with Gravol before the trip. After emptying his belly, he slept the rest of the way. As an experienced traveller, I had seen this coming and our clothes remained clean, although KAlex did smell a little like fish -from breakfast, for the day.

At the Gangneung terminal, in the time it took to cross the terminal, he was back in high spirits, dancing to music from a coffee shop as we left.

The dentists did not ask, "Iz it safe?". They were friendly and took good care of the little guy. Still, the chair had restraints and I was instructed to hold KAlex's knees through the ordeal while the dentist and three assistants did their work. After filling two cavities, we were free to go and the little guy even mustered enough energy to wave goodbye as we left.

He fell asleep in the taxi to work and I deposited him in the staff office on a table in the care of the secretaries while I bought some lunch. When I had returned, the secretaries had not moved - they were still studying the little guy, who had not moved either -not one muscle. I actually put my hand on his chest to feel for motion. Man, that was one tired little guy.

I gave him forty minutes to rest before waking him. He was quiet and unhappy for an hour. During that time, we went to a class and I told them what to expect and KAlex was coed over. He did not respond much, just played with his dinosaurs in a corner next to the whiteboard.

After the class, we had some time and he recovered. He could eat no food because of the freezing he was given for the dental work but he sucked down some yogurt drink and seemed satisfied.

Soon he was running, playing and smiling. At this point, as noted in an earlier post, he began romancing the women on campus.

After two more classes, where he was roundly admired, we were ready to go home. The taxi ride to the terminal seemed fine but the little guy was sick again soon after we got out of the taxi.

Again, he recovered quickly. He ate some pastries and fed some to the pigeons -making him happy but probably not the terminal staff.

He fell asleep before we left Gangneung and slept all the way to Sokcho, which was nice. He was awake but wanted to be carried all the way from the bus stop to home, which was not so nice.

Now, he has another cold. I think we really wore down his energy on Friday, leaving him susceptible to illness. I think I'll be brushing his teeth on the hour, every hour from now on. That sounds less annoying than making another trip like that!

Fire Prevention

The big blogs have been covering the Bill Kapoun story so I felt I had nothing special to offer on the subject. For my mother and those few others who hadn't heard, Bill, a 26 year old teacher in Seoul, was burned when his apartment caught fire. He didn't have insurance because he was only working part-time and the site linked to above is for fundraising.

UPDATE: Terrible news, Bill Kapoun has passed away. The Korea Times (via The Marmot's Hole and Brian in Jeollanamdo) has the story. Donations are still requested as medical bills to date are enormous.

I still don't have a special or a new viewpoint on the tragedy but I do have selfish questions. Or one question: What are these things?


'1' is above the stove, just over where a person using the stove would stand. I guess that it is an emergency shower, full of water or other fire-smothering material. I have not touched it in three years, nor seen any documentation on usage. What is it, how do I use it, how do I maintain it?
'2' is on my kitchen ceiling. It looks like a smoke detector and I see that it is connected to wires in the ceiling so it doesn't need batteries. It appears to have an LED but the bulb is dark.

'3' is in my livingroom (and similar others in the bedrooms). Again, the LED is dark.

This commenter at the Marmot's Hole bought many smoke detectors and is selling them (at cost) with the proceeds going to Bill Kapoun. My hat goes off to this wonderful person. I, by contrast, am going to look at a smoke detector or two for our apartment.

I am not completely selfish. I will also make a donation to Bill:

Help Bill Fund
P.O. Box 283
Bloomington, IN 47402

IF IN KOREA - direct transfer into this account
KB Bank
794002 04 03 1635
Warren Franklin-William Fund

Friday, March 07, 2008

Already working on being a heartbreaker

The little one came to work with me today for reason worth their own post -and that post will explain why I am too tired to get into it now -and was quickly working some magic with the ladies.

The first woman he kissed was a complete stranger (way to go, son!); a student who walked by with friends, cooed over him, then asked for a kiss. Alex readily complied. I pulled my coworker away from making a request of his own - he's a married man, for crying out loud.

Then a staff member, hearing the story, asked for her own kiss - and was wonderfully kind enough to wipe the runny nose she became aware of during that kiss.

Intelligence vs Wisdom

Someone didn't get the message: Intelligence is knowing the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in fruit salad.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

MP, don't cry.

I really shouldn't be flippant about this.

Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, died recently.

My coworker, MP, plays D&D online. I usually feel superior to him because I gave up that silly, childish game when I finished high school. That silly, childish, wonderful game...

I am sure I still have a stack of D&D books at my mother's house and doubtless a few bags of dice of ridiculous sizes as well. To remember how fun, imaginative and foolish D&D gamers can be, visit this site dissecting the thought processes involved in making monsters.

I remember, as well, some controversy that arose in a supposed correlation between playing D&D and Satan Worship. Author Michael Stackpole tested that claim and found no evidence for it.

A poem to the passing of Gygax can be found here.

Although I played the game frequently and enthusiastically, I seem to recall at some early point in gaming, I began to dislike Gygax for some reason. I hate to speak unkindly of the deceased and I don't remember the details anyway, but I think it was about commercialization of the game. That was more of a big deal to a teen than it might be now.

Whatever the case, hearing his name brings to mind an adolescent boy (me) with my adolescent friends (exclusively boys) discussing going into pubs, drinking and bragging, discussing how a Permanent Light spell cast on a frisbee would be great for investigating long tunnels and outrageously flirting with (imaginary) women, human or otherwise.

My best wishes to his family in a difficult time.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Enforce Research Ethnics!

I try to not comment on every English error I find, but sometimes I just have to share (and need to post about something). This photo is from the Korea Times (Mar 5, 2008) and they corrected the online version.

I remember a few years ago when everyone was chuckling over George Bush's "Fool me once, sham eon you. Fool me twice, ..., ..., won't be fooled again" remark. Someone commented at the time that Bush probably couldn't imagine feeling shame himself so got confused with the proverb. I imagine, with plagiarism rampant, that Koreans may have similar trouble thinking about ethics. Or maybe, they are trying to blame Warda, the Egyptian researcher who collaborated with Han Jin (more in the former link above).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Evaluations of Professors May Be Made Public

According to the Herald, Dongguk University publicized the evaluation scores of over 1000 professors. This act upset the teaching staff. (EFL Geek- I think my link works but I was unable to follow your instructions - right-clicking gave me no options regarding frames).

Songang U is considering following suit (publicizing evaluations, not getting upset - well, maybe getting upset, but that likely isn't planned).

Graduate business schools are also likely to make evaluations public.

I am a little torn on the idea. My evaluations have been uniformly good (Nothing like the Big Hominid's, but I don't bribe the students, either) but I have seen some strange comments from time to time. One student added a comment that I should have spoken more Korean in class- I can speak a little, but I am expected to stick to English in class. My classes start and finish on time (one of the criteria on our eval list) but sometimes my co-teachers do not. Do the students understand to score us differently?

Of course, my only job is to teach. I don't do research, nor am expected to. I make no publications in peer-reviewed journals. I was hired for my teaching ability and don't mind being evaluated on it.

North American university professors are expected to do research and, in some cases, the students are expected to be grateful to be near such a knowledgeable professor that they make the effort to learn the material themselves if the lessons are not clear. I am not sure if I was clear. If the animal behaviour professor, hired for his journal articles on the subject, isn't a great lecturer, the student should be motivated to do further study on his/her own.

My animal behaviour professor, by the way, was a great lecturer - the above was only an example.

I am not as brave as the Big Hominid and my classes are different and I have different limitations placed on me by my school. Still, I will post one class's evaluation of me per year (first year, second year and third year) and the average evaluation scores come June.

Endangered animals taste delicious!

I am late to the party but is what I want to write about at Gangwon Notes.

I learned from the Idiot's Collective, via the Marmot's Hole that the Joongang Daily newspaper has been reporting about endangered animals and at the end of the article, giving details about where to eat those animals. "Grey Whales haven't been seen in the East Sea for twenty years... Here are restaurants where you can try Grey Whale."

From the Joongang:
...The Whale Research Center at the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute recently announced that it is offering a 10 million won ($10,670) reward for any sighting of a gray whale, dead or alive, in the area. The gray whale was last seen in the East Sea in 1964.
The same institute is also offering 5 million won to anyone with a photograph or videotape of a live gray whale in the sea. ...

For whale meat, check out Wonjo Gorae Matjip (052-261-5060), or The Original Whale Deli, which charges 30,000 won ($32). The better known whale meat restaurant is Gorae Halmaejip (052-265-9558), or Whale Grannie¡¯s House. The menu includes whale stew.
A cheaper option is to buy whale meat in Joongang Market in central Ulsan, but be ready to compromise on sanitation.
Oh boy, "compromise on sanitation". I remember telling my mom that my university roommate and I had "different tolerances for cleanliness" than she did. She thought that was pretty funny, too.

March 1 Marathon

Man, I love being able to say I just ran a marathon.

Maybe Koreans don't share the history of an ancient Greek hero running 26.**miles to warn Athens about the Persians (I know, we don't have the history either: 26 miles was what fit inside London when they held the Games). Anyway, any long run is called a marathon here.

At my current fitness level 7 kilometres sure felt like a long run, although I would have completed it then looked for more athletic stuff to do twenty years ago.

I'm happy with my performance. Around Christmas, I started going to a health club a few times a week and steadily increased my treadmill running distance. Before that, I hiked up the local mountain several times a week. Still, it was only three days ago that I ran 7km inside at the health club, and that was not easy.

Running outside felt great. Today's wonderful weather didn't hurt at all. I ran faster and enjoyed it more today than I have running indoors. I found I could measure my performance by looking around - I could see a few hundred metres down the course which is much better than watching the treadmill's odometer.

I was running at nearly my maximum speed for the entire race. I was at the point where I felt fine when I inhaled thinking, "One, two" and exhaled thinking, "Three, four". The count corresponded to my pacing. Interestingly, my mind wandered and I found myself singing silently. Um those points aren't that interesting, this is: when I was singing, even though I wasn't enunciating the words, my breathing changed to match and I began to cramp up. I had to return to thinking about other things or counting.

My time was within a minute of last year's time so I'm happy about that - again, it was much faster than I expected to go.

Film the gasping foreigner!
I made KwandongAlex his own entry number and we posed after the run.