Saturday, July 26, 2008

At camp

Week one with the students is now finished. They are a good enough bunch of kids, although I have some challenges ahead.

Each student must give a five minute speech to the class (fifteen students) and the best two will enter a camp wide competition (twenty four classes but each division is only six classes). The students can write in English more or less well enough and their pronunciation is excellent so that is no problem. The challenge is getting them to speechify.

The main goal of a recent class was to make an exciting or captivating introduction. Students were told to write a maximum of four sentences to also to plan their body language and delivery.

Most students went for the 'more is better' approach and just started putting their long, boring speeches into writing. "My name is *** and I am in class 7. I am going to talk about ****..."

I have worked hard to demonstrate an interesting introduction and a boring one but the students just aren't getting it. I am not sure how to explain it better. I can only hope that one or two students understand and, in giving their speeches, show their classmates how it is done for future reference.

Next week, I must also give a speech to the assembled camp on something in the field of biology (I teach ecology at the camp). In appearance, I am an overweight, middled aged guy but in personality I am a reckless teen with a short attention span so I think I can relate to my audience. I will discuss coral reefs and occasions where I have come into contact with sharks. I plan to avoid a "I'm a cool, macho guy because I have swam with sharks" sort of speech but do hope that angle will help keep the speech interesting. I will post the speech here after I give it.

We've seen a lot of rain here and it has kept me inside but at least it's been cool. I haven't used the fan in my apartment yet but have used the blanket. The next few days look like rain but also 34 Celsius so I expect short thunderstorms and hot days.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Korean version of this mag would be good for me

Someone named Esplanade posted this entry at Something Awful's contest for reverse magazines.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

climate conditioning

The Donga has an article describing how Korea and Japan have policies for temperature regulation in government offices including a set-point for air conditioners, a not-that-cool 28 degrees. This is another article relating energy saving measures to the high price of fuel.

The point is a good one, but Korea could make maintain cool rooms (and warm ones in the winter) while making great energy savings with a ridiculously simple procedure: close the freakin' doors and windows! My head spins when I see an active air conditioner next to an open window or cold classrooms in the winter with every exterior door wide open.

I do think using air conditioners to moderately cool and dry the air is a good idea, too.

Previously at Gangwon Notes.

In which Rick Ruffin and I are in complete agreement

We are both environmentalists, although Mr Ruffin is more enthusiastic and more political than I am. We've had a few differences, more in quantity or degree than in the basic details.

He has an article in the Korea Times (I told you he was more enthusiastic - I confine my opinion to this poorly read blog) about the cost of fuel, the availability of oil and the use of bio-fuels.

It interesting the way coincidences stack up. I am reading The Return of the Omnivore by Pollan and he starts by describing how much energy goes into making corn (oil is the base for the fertilizer, is one example) and the irony of using corn to make a replacement for fuel.

The problem is that, as is the case of cigarettes, the price of fuel is wildly elastic. People are willing to pay enormous amounts to continue driving. From the article:
However, some people, in spite of high prices, still refuse to consume less. South Koreans are a perfect example. While in the United States people are consuming 5 percent less oil than a year ago due to rising fuel costs, in South Korea people are driving just as much as before.

A recent article in The Korea Times showed that bus companies are threatening to curtail their services because of high fuel costs. That's pretty strange.

These high petrol prices should be a boom to public transportation everywhere. Buses should be SRO (standing room only) because of the current high fuel prices.

The article also includes a photo of Pyeongchang government officials cycling to work because they spent all their money on wasted Olympic bids to encourage reducing fuel use -I don't know if Ruffin supplied the photo or the editors did, but it seems apropos.

Ruffin does quote Diamond's Collapse, which sits half-read on my bookshelf, describing a warning sign of cultures on the edge of collapse being food shortages. Diverting food corn to become fuel stock doesn't save fuel (at least the same amount is used in growing it) but does reduce available food for the world.

He also defers to WorldWatch founder Lester Brown on the need to reduce beef consumption as the food and area used to feed cattle could be used to feed 1.4 billion people. Again, based on Pallan's The Omnivores Strike Back, I have changed my eating habits slightly to cut beef almost completely out and get my protein from poultry and vegetable sources. On the same subject, Bizarro's Perraro advocates for vegetarianism with the catchphrase "If you think you're an environmentalist and you're eating meat, think again".

Ruffin finishes by telling President Lee to scrap the canal project. I thought it had been quietly shelved already but perhaps it does need to be formally removed from as an option.

Not so funny

Some people aren't drinking their G & Ts. The Joongang Ilbo has an article about Malaria making a comeback. I've forgotten a great deal of what I was taught about malaria but I recall there are a few different forms and they are described by the length of their cycle. The least deadly, but still exhausting form has a cycle of three or four days. The long cycle gives the victim some time to recover between bouts. The most deadly form, Plasmodium falciparum, has no established cycle and the fever and chills come almost constantly, allowing no time to recover.

In Korea, another deadly form, P vivax, or tertian malaria, can be found.
Tertian malaria is not the deadliest form of the disease, but it is recurring and is the most widespread. This year, 338 people have been afflicted.

After an epidemic in 1970 was stopped, there were fewer than 100 malaria patients by the early 1990s. In 2000, however, there were 4,142. The number briefly decreased to 864 in 2004; in the past two years it has climbed back to 2,000.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified 22 cities and districts in Gangwon, Gyeonggi and Incheon as “malaria danger zones,” with 10 out of 1 million people affected annually.

The stats seem funny to me. Is 10 out of a million averaged over ten years? Korea has fifty million people so 500 is 10 out of a million. Frequently the number of cases is greater than that, but more, if the disease is only in the northernmost cities, we are talking about a much smaller total population. They say reporters don't understand stats, but it could be a bad translation.

Wikipedia on malaria.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Light blogging ahead

I'm amazed that I have been posting frequently enough that this post is justified. Well, maybe just barely enough - if somehow you could count this post as content, rather than meta. I'll try to add some content below.

Part of the benefits my university offers is a full medical physical. Its a little strange that I have to travel four hours across the country to get that physical but they did throw in a physical for Kwandongwife as well. I am not sure how we will take care of little guy while we're there, nor what actually is involved -we were informed the process will take three hours.

After the physical, I am off to camp. I have three days of orientation, a weekend at home, then four weeks teaching ecology to middle school students at camp.

I will bring my computer to the camp on Sunday but cannot be sure of access before the weekend.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Olympics are coming!

The Herald has an article about Korean athletes getting ready for the Olympics. I'm excited and hope they do well. I always chuckle, though, at the sports Koreans do well in. Typically, if you could hurt someone, Koreans are good at that sport.

From the Herald:
Medals are expected to be won in wrestling, archery, taekwondo, judo, swimming, badminton, weightlifting, shooting and gymnastics. Korean athletes have led in these sports since the early 1980s.
[my bolding]

Alright, swimming, weightlifting, badminton and gymnastics may not have the same relevance to violence (although the latter sport is preparation for Gymkata!)

I think Pak Tae-hwan could do very well at the Olympics, but saying that Koreans have led in this sport since the '80s is crazy. He races on August 10.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Malaria Threat in Sokcho

I can find plenty of gin in the supermarkets but no tonic. With this shortage of quinine, I predict an epidemic of malaria by summer's end. If anyone can send tonic water here, you would be supporting a worthy cause.

UPDATED July 13: Crisis averted. E-mart has Tonic Water in stock again. All is right with the world.

By the way, the wikipedia article suggests that quinine may be effective against prions - Mad Cow Disease is caused by a prion so Korean should take careful note.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Letters: I'd complain if I were hung with a gold rope!


Firstly, thank you very much for sending me my order quickly. I am very excited about reading these books.

However, I would like to quote from two portions of an email I received from your company:
Sent: July 2, 2008 11:24:05 PM
Shipped via Standard Int'l Shipping (estimated arrival date:

Although I am happy to have received my books nearly a month earlier than I expected, the difference in dates is so great that I am a little annoyed. Now, I have to do something with Masuro's stupid charity books; I had to pretend to be grateful for his loan of his books (and I was, with the expectation of having to wait more than a month for my order) and now what do I tell him? What if he asks me about the content of his books?


Honestly, I am enjoying The Omnivore's Revenge. I am likely to use some of the content in my ecology class this summer so it is both interesting and useful. I haven't started the f&SF magazine yet, but you know I am a fan.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


This morning, I took the little guy out to catch a few critters. A while ago, I bought a little plastic terrarium at E-Mart (typically for the big-ass bugs they sell) and we took it and my wife's pasta strainer (I had better clean it up well before she comes home!).

I thought it cool that we were able to find tadpoles with almost no legs, frogs with long tails and a tiny but tailless frog - three stages at the same time. I wonder if the eggs hatched at different times or if frogs develop at varying rates.
We then went to a different pool and found salamanders. They were much better swimmers and it took me several tries to catch them. A month ago, they appeared as very streamlined tadpoles with a narrower head and slight protrusions where the legs would be - I couldn't catch them so I don't know if they did have legs at that time.
The little guy studying our catch, dinosaurs in hand.
We released the salamanders where we caught them. Here, KwandongAlex releases the frogs back into their pond.
This pic is my "Loch Ness Monster" pic. Its blurry enough to be anything you want it to be.

Before our little excursion, I coated my son with sunblock. So, no sunburn, but he did have a little trouble while scrambling over rocks. He scraped his knee and shed a little blood. Still, I think it makes him look healthier - all little guys should have bruised knees. If they don't, they are spending too much time indoors.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pack-the-El-Camino to the rescue!

I haven't been the only Gangwon blogger having an interesting time at the beach. A co-worker has been playing, spending time with family and saving a non-swimmer.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ye Ole Swimmin' hole

Can an ocean beach be a 'swimming hole'? I've always thought of semi-secret bends of a river as swimming holes. Anyway...

Just north of the lighthouse in Sokcho are a group of submerged and half-submerged boulders that make an excellent diving platform and provide a substrate for a dynamic ecosystem.

As with any good swimming hole, getting there is a challenge - you have to scramble down the breakwater tetrahedrons to reach the narrow beach.

Last year, the beach wasn't nearly so narrow. Here, I have (crappily) photoshopped in the beach as it appeared in 2007.
I am balancing on the two rocks in an area that was half this depth last year. More than a metre of sand has been swept away.
Mussels of the intertidal zone.
A group of conscript soldiers enjoying some time off.

A soldier took the above picture of me as well as this video of me swimming through an under water tunnel that, last year, was also underground.

While swimming, I found many schools of fish, a crab intermittently seen through the jungle of seaweed and a pair of nudibranches ( I think - they were as big as my head, black and dark brown and had a few snail- or slug-like tentacles). I also found a squirtgun and a pair of goggles.

Oh, last year, I found a pair of goggles with the adhesive covers still on the lenses - I guess someone bought them, tried them and could hardly see, didn't realize that the tape should be removed, and threw them away. This story has nothing to do with the swimming hole, I just think it's funny.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lobster Man!

I've watched quite a few superhero movies lately; Iron Man, The Hulk, Wanted (well, it is based on a comic book - that's superhero-y, isn't it?) and Hancock. Now, I'm ready to assume the role of Lobsterman. I don't need much of a costume, except to hide my bulging belly - okay, a big costume, my skin is bright red and my superpower is, um, ....uh, supersensitive skin? As with the Hulk, my new persona is not one I'd take by choice and it was caused by an overdose of radiation. In contrast to the Hulk, my skin is red regardless of my mood.

Anyway, the little guy and I had a great time at the beach yesterday and today. First, don't worry, I took excellent care of him and kept him with a good layer of sun block (although I forgot Sunday morning - thanks Jeannie for giving us some).

Last year, I tried to rush KwandongAlex into the water and he became very afraid. Even though we have spent time playing in the pool at Seorak Pines this Spring, he is not eager to be carried into deep water and I am letting him take his time. He is having a great time kicking through the surf.

Yesterday, I sat next to a Korean/German family and in-laws. I think they were there Friday evening, too.

Today, Kwandongwife was working so I took KwandongAlex to the beach early for the morning and was lucky enough to find a spot next to an American family. Jeannie, Aaron (?- sorry man, I've forgotten your name) and their daughter are visiting from Seoul. Jeannie made my day by making her first question to me, "Do you have a blog?" Anyway, we chatted and cooled off in the ocean for the morning. I hope they enjoy the rest of their vacation here.

We went home and the little guy went straight to sleep. We got up, I forced some mild curry rice into him (he claimed to not be hungry) and returned to the beach. To my delight, I saw the German family had also returned and sat with them. The father was lobster-red (a companion or rival to me, I now suppose) and I was a little amused, thinking how sore he would be later. They will be at the beach for the next three days -my kind of people; focusing their entire vacation around the beach - and perhaps we will catch up on Tuesday.

If you need super-assistance, set out your lobster light or else summon me with Aloe vera.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Summer is here!

And I may have killed my wife and child. They were tired and went to bed early. I turned the fan on in the room, then, to keep the noise and light out, shut the main door and veranda door - they are in a sealed room with a fan on! And, the fan has no timer!!
If you don't know what I'm talking about, have a look at my post on fan-death.

More seriously, suddenly we have great heat and humidity. At the end of each sentence here, I am wiping my face with a handkerchief. It may be time to look at air conditioners.

Its been a week or more since I last tried the ocean. It was cool in June. Now, its perfect.

Friday, July 04, 2008


I'm out of fresh reading material and of the books I have that I do reread, I have already done so. I have a new order coming in from Amazon - What the book was out-of-stock or something for a few of my choices - but they won't arrive for a few weeks.

What to do?

I do have some podcasts to catch up on but, while I enjoy them while exercising or commuting, I much prefer books when the option is available. When I have books, I get a backlog of pods to be listened to but when I don't have books, I am searching for new pods halfway through the week. That's where I am now.

Here's what I've read recently (purchase links are to What the Book):

Quantico, by Greg Bear. I chose this book on Tripp's lukewarm endorsement. I normally enjoy Bear's stuff so I thought I'd chance it. I liked it. The story is of a time slightly in our future and about two generations of FBI agents tracking down a domestic terrorist. A major part of the book is the infighting between various federal agencies, while some cool and horrible weapons are used. Purchase.

Finding your inner fish by Neil Shubin. My friend Patrick, who is concerned that there aren't enough transitional fossils, this is the book for you. A non-fiction book on evolution, it describes why we humans are the way we are. It even explains why men get inguinal hernias - of special note to my family. Purchase.

Various books by Neal Stevenson. I actually didn't care for his Baroque Cycle but clearly found something of value there seeing as I have since read Snow Crash (fantastic!), Cryptonomicon (very good), and Zodiac (very good). In the Baroque Cycle, a character would step through a doorway into a seventeenth century street and Stevenson would paint, with marvellously fine detail, what the character was experiencing. There was a remarkable texture to the descriptions. Unfortunately, and this is purely from my recollection, when Errol Flynn-style swashbuckling occurred, and it did quite often, the excitement seemed mired in the details. The future queen of England is being chased down a street and her lover leaps from one horse onto her pursuer's horse - thrilling but only afterwards because I was still processing the details of the street. Purchase (books by Stevenson)

Snow Crash had everything. It is funny and satirical, it smoothly meshed fantasy and science fiction, it had conspiracies, chase scenes and wild sword fights. I borrowed it from a friend and will probably buy it for myself to read again sometime.

Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin. A biography and not my regular sort of reading material at all. I bought it because the guy was interviewed on CNN and thought my wife might be interested in it. She started it but became busy with other stuff. I read it because there was nothing else in the house. It makes me wonder; I think that Jenkins guy was a traitor to defect to North Korea but feel Li made the right decision. I guess that's an example of my prejudices and the propaganda I was exposed to. Purchase.

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. An attempt to read a classic. Well, I succeeded, so I guess it wasn't an attempt. I don't read a lot of crime fiction and this didn't move me to read more. I hope I will not be shunned for dismissing Chandler like this. Purchase.

The Drawing of the Dark, by Tim Powers. Its a sort of Arthurian retelling set in Vienna in the 16th century. I first read it in high school and have reread it many times. This is one of the few Powers books where the hero ends the tale still retaining all his extremities - I think the hero of Forsake the Sky ends up being a multiple amputee and to lose a few fingers is to get off lightly. He, the hero that is, does take quite a beating, none the less. Purchase.

To help me out, send your used books to KwandongBrian at Kwandong University.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Sellar in Podcastle

I read and enjoy Gord Sellar's blog and am impressed and happy to see an acquaintance get recognition. He is mentioned in this week's Podcastle. Congrats!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day, I guess

It is indeed Canada Day.

What I'm guessing is how happy you lot are. I am sick with something; every twenty minutes or so, I ache all over, feel hot and sorta feel like throwing up. A few minutes later, I feel okay but tired until the next bout.

I hope everyone else has a happy Canada Day.