Sunday, April 27, 2008

Minjok in American News

The New York Times has an article about Korea’s most prestigious high school (and some other school, I don’t know).

Minjok, located in central Gangwondo (if you take the bus from Seoul to Gangneung, you will stop at a rest station next to the school – look for the traditional-style buildings next to the milk factory), sends many students to the US every year for university. I should say, to the best universities.

The article goes through the student’s grueling schedules and serious work ethic.

I know a little about the school from working at summer and winter camps for middle school students. Those camps have given me the chance to see the grounds, speak to some of the teachers and some of the students (current and alumni) who assist in running the camp.

The students, even the middle school students there for a camp, work terrifyingly hard; and pay dearly for the opportunity. In fact, paying tuition is new: the founder also ran the nearby milk factory and used its profits to fund the school. The school was free for its first few years. I think at that time the schedule was even tougher as the students and families couldn’t threaten to take their tuition elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the factory fell on hard times and had to be financially separated from the school. Tuition (I believe high tuition) was required and the camps began as a way to meet costs. In other words, although tuition is high, it is still not enough, the students are getting more than they pay for.

To learn more about the school, check the website of Alexander Ganse, who teaches history and more and posts students papers online. Their papers are the last link on this page. Minjok also has a wikipedia page.

The Marmot's hole commenters are also discussing the article.

I hope to be back there this summer.

Meta comments on exams

Here is a patchwork of photos of some student exams. I post them here partly for humour but I will also post them on my blogs for students for the next semester as a warning for them. Many students wrote, "sorry" (or "ssory" in one case). Well, many that I photographed; the students who did well typically did not feel the need to write directly to me in their exams (one who did, told me "[he] respects me" - the suck-up).

More interesting are the pictures and emoticons drawn by students who did not do well. The exam consisted of watching four 2-4 minute clips, answering questions about them and ten minutes was given at the end for another questions and to check and make changes to their exams. When did the students start drawing faces? In some cases, judging from the otherwise blank exams, they could have start upon receiving their exams.

I don't think any of these students cheated but a surprising number of other students did. As I have mentioned in the past, cheating usually doesn't help because the neighboring exams are no more likely to have correct answers.

Average student grades were around 14-18 out of 30. My police admin classes managed 22/30 on average and sports students were closer to 14/30. More importantly (for me), is that a fair range of grades were received so I can curve the scores as required.*

Anyway, click to enlarge

*The worst thing that could happen for me would be to have all students within five marks of each other - curving would be impossible. The students would probably prefer to all be between 25 and 30, but that would mean rewriting a tougher exam or increased value given to homework.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Malaria Day

It's still April 25 in North America so I guess I can still comment on it.

I recall a few things about malaria from my invertebrate zoology class. The Korean DMZ is a reservoir for one of the relatively benign forms; it's not that likely to kill you. I've had a few students who contracted malaria when doing their military service and they complained mostly of headaches.

The main site


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sleep in your exam, join the gallery

Because of the position of desks and students, I actually left the classroom through the front door and entered through the back door to shake him awake - after I took the pic, of course. He seemed pretty zonked - I gave him some candy and pointed him to the appropriate question - it was a listening test, so you really can't go back to missed questions.


The flowers have been wonderful but in Sokcho, they are found in clumps. Today, I noticed the entire mountain has turned green and its great.

Bike Repairs - Help

I'm having trouble affording bike repairs and so am posting my KB bank account so you will be able to make donations to keep the Hans Island Rider carrying his all-important message that Hans Island belongs to Canada.
Alright, I can afford the repairs but want to get the parts I want not just the ones the repairman can get easily.
Here is a photo of the front set of gears for my bike. If you click and enlarge it you will see the teeth are worn down and irregular. I need to replace the full set.
The repairman can only find a two-speed replacement for the current three speed set. I think that's strange. Does anyone know, can I get a set of three gear rings? I honestly use the smaller two rings most of the time. Well, the middle ring most of the time, and the smallest ring for hills. I have used the largest ring only a few times.

If anyone can help or give advice, thanks!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wonderful Warm Weather Weekend

On Saturday, Kwandongwife worked, so KwandongAlex and I went to Sokcho Beach. The sun was warm but occasionally a cool wind chill us. We got our feet wet but mostly played in the sand and chased and fed pigeons. A few people were playing in the water where the waves broke and seemed to be having fun but no one was swimming.Today (Sunday the 20th) was cheap day at Waterpia for Sokcho residents so the little guy and I spent several hours there. It was nice to use the outdoor pools without worrying about the cold. I think you won't notice in the photo (although you are welcome to try - click to enlarge) but the mountain behind us is still snow capped.
I can't remember which morning I took this picture but with such a busy schedule it's important to start with a good breakfast. I just wish he didn't look like a monk praying before a shrine!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

dyed hair, gray hair and giving up a bus seat

I am not a particularly vain person; I've never worried overmuch about my hair or how I compared to current fashions. I've always tried to be clean and neat but, well, I want a belt that holds up my pants, I don't really care if it matches my shoes or my eyes or whatever.

My future? (BBC photo)

I know I have a few grey hairs. Recently though, every time I look in a mirror I see more silver up there. In horror, the other day I found a looong grey hair sticking straight out from one of my ears. In relating the story to coworkers, they pointed out the other ear also sported a single long grey hair. I plucked those. The rest of my hair can continue to grey normally (although I really don't like the process).

While riding the bus from Sokcho to Yangyang a few days ago, a group of women boarded. Their faces held intricate wrinkles of long experience.

I pride myself in giving up my seat to just about anyone who needs it. People carrying children, pregnant women, disabled people and the elderly.

These women who boarded the bus had jet black hair. I kept my seat.

I feel that if you go to the effort to dye your hair, you are doing so to look younger. If you want to look younger, you have to expect to be treated as a young person. It might even be flattering to have to stand.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

K- Blogger Gord Sellar on PodCastle

UPDATE: Robbed! Gord's story has been bumped. Escape Pod is very well organized but Podcastle, only in it's third week, may still be working out the kinks and bugs. Here's hoping we see Gord's story in the next few weeks. Giant looks like a good story, too.

I have listened to Escape Pod, a weekly podcast of audio fiction for around two years now. I say audio fiction because it started with both Science Fiction and Fantasy stories but now focuses exclusively on science fiction because a sister podcast now offers fantasy.

That sister podcast, Podcastle, starting offering stories on April 1 (no joke and thanks for nothing for not commenting on my attempts at April fool's Day jokes, jerks!). Anyway, its too early to say much about the quality but I've enjoyed the stories so far and they make my commute a little easier. I expect good quality as Escape Pod has been excellent.

Tomorrow (Friday, April 18 - but probably late in the day for those of us 12 hours ahead of most of the US here in Korea), a 'miniature', a short fantasy story, will be released and the story, Pahwahke, is by K-blogger Gord Sellar. Congratulations to him and I'll be going out of my way to listen as soon as I can.

Podcastle schedule:
EPISODE 1 - April 1: “Come Lady Death” by Peter Beagle
Bonus Flash - April 4: “Stone Born” by Loreen Heneghan
EPISODE 2 - April 8: “For Fear of Dragons” by Carrie Vaughn
EPISODE 3 - April 15: “Run of the Fiery Horse” by Hilary Moon Murphy
Bonus Flash - April 18: “Pahwahke” by Gord Sellar
EPISODE 4 - April 22: “Goosegirl” by Margaret Ronald
EPISODE 5 - April 29: “The Girl with the Sun in Her Head” by Jeremiah Tolbert
Bonus Flash - May 2: “Giant” by Stephanie Burgis
EPISODE 6 - May 6: “The Dead Girl’s Wedding March” by Cat Rambo

Gord is currently on a tear about the Wonder Girls and the sexualization of Korean youth. If there is no such word as 'sexualization', then read his post. There may still be no such word, but you will have learned something.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is an overly-insistent claim of averageness pretentious?

I haven't written much in the last few days so I thought I would write about an idea for a book I had involving myself and a friend.

My friend is very much into photography. I feel a little strange saying that because I was into photography, not quite to the same extent, but still enthusiastic and willing to put extra time and money into taking the perfect shot. It must be said that I thought the perfect shot could be taken simply by taking many photos of the same object. I remember using a roll of 36 to shoot three or four things and how disappointing it was, weeks later, to open the pack of developed photos and see the same tree or bird ten times in a row, slightly different, all good, but nothing exciting.

Anyway, I know more about photography now but don't pursue it in the same way anymore.

My friend, married but childless has a set of relatively high-end cameras. I said he was childless, but really he has adopted the cameras and treats them much as I treat my little guy.

He is also taking a photography class and studying the work of famous photographers (and more than just the nudy photos!)

His work has taken him to look for interesting contrasts in light and texture and, well, I'm not sure what.

And that is the idea for my book.

Last year, around this time, we went to a temple in Sokcho and took many pictures. One thing that stands out for me, though, was the way he turned his back on the white-capped mountain, with its bits of green and new purple flowers, and ignored the riot of colours of the temple and instead shot a twisted bit of rusty wire.*

This is what our book would be about. We would go to beautiful places and I would shoot, in a generic style but clearly and mostly competently the backgrounds, while he would shoot the light under a door pushing away shadow, or, um, something. I would also shoot him at work, although most of those shots would be of him behind his camera pointing at something not caught in the quality of my photo.

The whole book would display his artiness and my lack of comprehension. To put us both in a negative light, his pretentiousness and my wilful ignorance. The auteur and the layman, the specialist and the generalist.

In the course of the book there might even be a character arc. Would I become more knowledgeable and begin to understand what the heck my friend was thinking or would he, uh, whatever the lessening of his character of photos would be?

My suggestion for this book to him didn't go well. He's not interested. Oh, well.

If any publishing execs are reading this and interested in the concept, offer me money and I will try again to win my friend over to the idea.
* While at the temple, he did take a few landscape photos and some shots of me. Naturally, for the sake of the book's concept, we would focus (pun intended) on our differing styles. Naturally too, the photos of me were well done - a challenge with my features and terrible poses in front of any camera, but expected with his skills.
Oh, if my unnamed friend wants his name here, please leave a comment or an email ( although I am worried the hypothetical publishing execs might try to cut me out of the deal if they know who you are and can deal with you directly).

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Early April, the season of temple fires

Luckily, it is not in Gangwondo this time. Ah, luckily is probably not the right word. Fortunately for Gangwondo, it is not a local fire. Yeah, that's better.

A fire in Jeollanamdo threatens the Buddhist temple, Unju-sa.

Photo from Naver News -story found through Koreabeat.

To read about a local temple fire, see here for my coverage of the Naksan temple fire, the day after and a year after.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The man, the myth...

Maybe even the (blogging) legend, The Big Hominid is moving. As always, I will probably keep him on my blogroll for another month before fixing the link.

He will be preparing for a wonderful sounding walk across the US in support of inter-religious dialogue and news on the subject can be found here.

I guess that people who set off on endurance trips don't compare themselves to others - the motivation comes from inside, not from outdoing another traveller's accomplishment. I hope that's the case, because I enjoy endurance travel with the huge opportunity for personal reflection and my bicycle trip across Canada (78th time I've been able to work that into a post!) is far overmatched by the scale of his trip.

In the linked post, he states that his walk may whittle him down to a less freakish size. Perhaps he has been in Korea too long; I think that once he arrives in America, he will be average sized and average shaped. I should say North America (or even Northern North America) because Canadians are no smaller.

If he imagined marching through the woods with other hikers making claims of seeing Bigfoot, well, he should have stayed here. Besides, as a half-Korean, I doubt his feet are beyond size 10 and he can probably buy shoes anywhere (sorry, the complaints of this large-footed author are not relevant here).

I'll be following his march as closely as I can and wish him the best.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Talk about niche markets

Does nobody care about trichonosis?

I don't eat a lot of red meat. I even make my spaghetti with diced chicken rather than beef meatballs.

A few months ago, I bought some American chuck roll and made some great steak sandwiches.

I decided to try ham. I don't know why, I just never was into it before.

At E-mart, I checked out the "cooked ham" and all the meat I saw was pink! That's cooked? I don't need it to be well-done, but pigs carry some nasty parasites. Can I at least have it done medium?

So much for that experiment.

Be careful out there.