Saturday, August 30, 2008

My hometown and the GOP convention

Via the Friendly Atheist, I have learned that if you visit the 2008 GOP convention website and try to click on a video, you get a symbol and photo for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic Virtual Learning Centre.

This photo is also from his site, but I went the convention webpage and found the same thing.

Hey, that's where I'm from and its a fair distance from anywhere in the US. I join the Friendly Atheist in wondering what's happening.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Worn out

I so proudly mentioned about ten days back that I had run 100km in a month and that I would attempt 50 km in the next ten days.

Today is the eighth day.

I am going to finish and maybe even beat my goal a little but I sure don't think I'll be finishing in style.

five km a day doesn't seem like that much - and it really isn't. Still, there have been a few missed days and catching up has been tough.

I made 8km the first day and missed the second day due to rain. I made another 8km on the third day and missed the fourth to family commitments. The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth days have been 9km, 5km, 8km, and 5km respectively with the last three runs progressively slower.

If you were counting, that should be 43 km. I'll finish on Saturday (with two 5km runs between now and then) and pace myself differently in September.

I hope to follow a three day cycle of 8km, 5km and 0km. I will also add some calisthenics and hopefully swimming, although scheduling swimming is a challenge. Mostly though, I will be looking at running faster, not further, for a while. I have managed a best this year of 8km in 41:07 although my most recent 8km was 44:00. I want to run 8km in under 40 minutes by the end of Sept.

Oh, I also hope to do Seoul's Terry Fox Run this fall. In Canada, it is scheduled for Chuseok Sunday (Sept 14) but might have a different date here to avoid Chuseok. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Korea (CCCK) has not set a date yet. I hope they don't throw the whole thing together with a week's notice. Anyway, information should be here ...sometime.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Maybe, just maybe, they have a point

Today, the beaches were again closed to swimming. I went to Sokcho Beach and rode my bike onto the walkway and rode to the far end, Oeongchi Beach. The lifeguards were all at the other end -more than a kilometre away - so I swam with some university students.

The bottom there is rocky, with the bottom ranging from pebbles to rocks larger than my fists. The waves were big enough to bash me into them a few times and I have some blood on my knee and I banged my head somehow. I also had a great time.

I think they should control swimming at that end and open up the Sokcho end, with the soft sand bottom. I would be more comfortable now if I had landed on sand. Still, if I get tossed around, I can see why they want to be cautious.

Monday, August 25, 2008

four days: no swimming allowed

Really, this is a photo of the 'No Swimming' sign, not the girl in the bikini at the bottom of the pic.

In my opinion, the surf has eased a little but swimming is still forbidden at all beaches in Sokcho.

Man, I want to swim in the surf - flat water is boring. I would normally say that people can judge the conditions for themselves and decide if they should swim or not. However, I have pulled several people in tubes to shore after they found themselves unable to return under their own power.
Oh, the flag says, "Su-young Bool-ga" which means 'No swimming'.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not much fun: Aug 21

I am proud that I managed 8km running today and at around the same time as I did on the track that one in the plus column for today.

However, I went to my favourite swimmin' hole, which normally looks like this:
...but today, looked like this.
I love to play in the surf but not so much when there are giant rocks just under the surface. Did I mention previously that I saw a small school of thumb sized squid here yesterday? Anyway, I was eager to snorkel further and try to find them again but obviously saw it was not going to happen.

In the evening, the little guy wanted to go to the beach (Sokcho Beach, not the above death trap). We hopped in a cab and the driver watched the Olympics while driving us. Interestingly, I had just read this post at Boingboing earlier in the day.

On the cab home, A different sport but the same thing.
Should I have stopped the cab and gotten another one? I figured they would turn the sports off once we started moving.

Brian in Jeollanam-do: White people still exotic, still all look same.

A Brian from the other side of South Korea has a video of a British swimmer in Beijing being mistaken for Michael Phelps. I wonder if he would just stop saying "Phelps", if that would help.

Anyway, I clicked on the 'create a link' button on his post and appear to be writing to my own blog; no idea what the format will look like.

Brian in Jeollanam-do: White people still exotic, still all look same.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The real winners of the wildlife game

Four students were stung during the game. Some of them deserved it - I specifically pointed out the hive and told students not to use the door (they are building the hive on a door). Ten minutes into one game, I see a student run through the door and slam it shut behind him. I kinda hope he was one of the stung.
Actually, the victims took it better than I would have. I am a real wimp regarding bee and wasp stings. In my youth, I stepped on a wasp hive and was stung seven times. I ran to my mother and she patted me on the head comfortingly- two flew out of my hair and stung me. Yeah, bees bother me a little but I have real issues with my mother!

Wildlife game

After teaching about how ecosystems work for three and a half weeks, I have the students role-play an ecosystem in a game whose name I have forgotten. perhaps a reader could help me out.

Anyway, in the game more than half the students are small herbivores (rabbits and squirrels). A few are foxes and a very few are wolves. I play the part of man and if I had more players there might be disease or other natural events.

All the animals need to find 2 "water" and the rabbits and squirrels need to find 2 "Food". Foxes and wolves need to catch rabbits and squirrels, while man does as he pleases.

I would prefer to play in a forest but that can be problematic for scheduling and other reasons. At the school, there was a large area devoted to tennis, volleyball and basketball courts. Each court had a fence and a few doors. There was also a breezeway and other places to hide and maneuver. Below is a picture of the most easily found envelope of 'food'.
A big problem is identifying the foxes and wolves. Well, as a nature enthusiast, I knew that foxes don't like the rain so they would naturally carry umbrellas.
Wolves love a bargain and so, quite reasonably, they carry bags for impromptu purchases.

The games lasted about 30 minutes and were enjoyed by most. Oh, to keep students in the game, the animals carried 6 (rabbits and squirrels), 3 (foxes), or 2 (wolves) "lives". The lives looked like food or water but had "rabbit" or the like typed on them.

Humiliation (2) (and pride)

In the past month, I have ran 103 km. I am excited enough to now attempt 50km in the next ten days. I know that's really not that much, but its more than I have done in any two months in the past fifteen years.

That's the pride part.

In the photo below, you might think my nipples are sticking out a little, but really those are Vaseline stains on my shirt. I mentioned a few years ago that my nipples chaffed and burned during a long run and that Vaseline was a good preventative. I didn't know then that the dang stuff would stain my shirt. I might as well sew on a scarlet letter (not an 'A', though. Well, maybe, but for different reasons) as everyone will see my shame.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Olympics (2)

In the previous post, I mentioned that I had judged debates at the camp. One of the possible topics for debate was, "The Olympics do more harm than good" and the students discussed the pros and cons of the event. As a Canadian, memories of the '76 Olympics in Montreal still rankle. Canada is still paying for the stadium, we were the first host country to fail to win a gold and... well, some other first for a negative thing. I love the idea of the Olympics but I understand that others might not.

When I was of an age to really follow the Olympics, Canada was a swimming powerhouse. To allow myself a bit of namedropping, I met Alex Baumann at a few meets and was briefly courted by his coach, the amazing Dr. Tihanyi. At Camp Chikopi, I met Sandy Goss and Mark Tewksbury, both Olympic medalists. I never met Victor Davis, but idolized him as my best stroke was breaststroke. Baumann, Davis and Tewksbury won gold at the Olympics in the same decade and it is hard to recall that Canada hadn't won a gold in swimming since 1912, when Hodgson dominated distance freestyle in a similar way that Phelps is dominating everything now.

I am happy that Canada has finally managed to pick up a few medals; four in a day. If they keep this up, maybe Canadians won't feel so humiliated.

I am so amazed with Phelps' record of 8 gold. The way I see it, competitors in a relatively new sport can manage to dominate the field. That is, swimming is not quite as venerable a sport as track is, but has a longer history than competitive canoeing and kayaking. One would expect track athletes to be tightly focused on one event only and swimmers on two or three and the canoeing events to be a free-for-all.

Canada has a 41 year old kayaker at the Olympics - I don't think you'll find anyone near his age in track events. It is simply too old to be competitive.

I am impressed but not that surprised that Spitz won seven gold while swimming as a sport was maturing. I am knocked-on-the-floor shocked that someone could beat that record thirty years later.

I have to suspect that my knowledge of swimming is becoming obselete - I watched Bak Tae-hwan's 400m Free several times (it was the only thing on) and many of the swimmers seemed to glide on one arm while they breathed. To me, with my background, that looks like bad technique. If Olympic gold medalists are doing it, I can admit that it is me that is out of touch.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I am typing this while waiting for a coworker to pick me up and drive to Gangneung so the post could end suddenly.

This was my seventh time working the GLPS camp at Minjok Sagwan High School but still I learned a great deal while also teaching a great deal.

Not related to academics, I am proud to announce that I managed to run 89 km in the past month on the track here. I still have a little time to try for 100 km in a single month.

This is the first time I was involved with the debate program. I am not sure if I want to be more involved but it was interesting for a short time. I judged teh group with the lowest level of English. The manager did a great job of introducing debate in a foreign language but the student's low level meant that there wasn't a lot of variety. I listened to three debates yesterday and three today, all on the same two subjects and employing the same six arguments each. I'm a lttle tired.

This has been the rainiest camp ever.

More later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don't be LEFT out tomorrow!

Yes, tomorrow is Left Hander's Day. Here is how I am preparing.

Have I gone a little overboard here? Closeup of sign below.

I just looked at my 2007 post for this day and found almost the exact same thing. No Left handed moth, so far.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics (1)

I am interested in the Olympics and some of my heros are Olympians but I've been travelling and had internet connection problems at the camp so I've only been able to see fragments here and there.

I watched the phenomenal opening ceremonies for two hours on Friday night. I felt a wonderful thrill when Canada's huge team entered the stadium- and chuckled at the one woman on the Canadian team with one hand at the side of her face and the other plugging an ear - clearly on a cell phone.

I was less touched to see "Chinese Taipei" and confused to see a "Hong Kong" team - isn't that a part of China in an even less controversial way than Chinese Taipei?

On Sunday afternoon, riding the bus to camp, I saw sports highlights on the TV. I was in the back seat of the bus so I couldn't read the screen or hear anything but I did see Pak Tae-hwan. I hope he did well in the 400 free but have been concerned about his coach hopping.
Added Monday: He won the 400. Congrats to him. I see he trained in Australia, possibly the world's swimming powerhouse.

On the bus, I also saw a bit of diving. Again, I was far from the screen - were they showing the women in the shower? What's up with that?

"PA" office

Now to ruin the joke by explaining it: This is the door to the Program Assistant's Office or PA Office. The Korean word for onion is 'yangpa', which is what the final picture says. There is also a hunk of yangpa on the bottom-right hand side of the sign.

Friday, August 08, 2008


It is so hot and I sweat so much that I actually sweat through the knees of my pants.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


Among other things, for me, camp means running laps.

Competitive swimming gave me a predilection for several things I guess, but two of them were repetition and a clear breakdown of split times in a long bout of exercise. Sure, at camp the roads are quiet and I could be travelling through a variety of backdrops and vistas but then I wouldn't know how long any individual leg of the run should take.

Here is the track I run on, encircling one of the few grass soccer fields in Korea. Sorry for the amateur stitching of photos.
I am on pace for twenty-five km a week and hugely proud of myself.

Near the end of my runs ...wait, at the beginning of my runs, there is nothing to be proud of. As an old man, the first two km are ludicrously stumbling and flailing until my legs stretch out enough to run like a human being. Anyway, at the end of my runs, I have frequently misjudged how much energy I have to spare. This makes the final laps a struggle.

I used to tell myself to hang on. I decided that wouldn't do for this camp. I don't want to struggle to the finish, I want to be tall and strong through the final kilometre. to this end, I now tell myself to thrive. It may seem corny - as I write this, it really seems corny, but if it gets me through a few runs, it is worth it -saying it, that is, maybe it will never be worth it for posting it online.

Anyway, it's 8:40 and I have to get to bed soon to hit the track at 6:00 tomorrow. Time to finish letters to parents.

A surprising source of humor

My friends know how powerful and frequent my sneezes are. I do NOT sneeze on people, but when there is no one in front of me, I don't hold back. I have been known to open a door into another, hopefully empty, room and rattling windows.

I did this at the camp: I stepped away from the white board, opened the door and shook the hallway walls. At the other end of the hall was the camp manager, who was meeting with another teacher.

Our manager does have his very own sense of humour but he very German. He is German, but he also manifests most of the positive stereotypes of the people. When there is work to be done, jokes are an obvious waste of time.

At camp, there is always work to be done.

Well, ten minutes after my sneeze, he was back outside my door, putting up a sign.
He was so proud of it, that he sent other teachers up to check my door.

To borrow an Aussie-ism, good on 'im; he is human after all.

Monday, August 04, 2008


A coworker was stung last weekend (July 25-ish) by a jellyfish, but I still envy her.

Due to some miscommunication or lack of communication between another coworker and I, I was stuck at camp on the weekend. Me being stuck here, by the way, was entirely my fault. Anyway, while I was here doing not much, my coworkers were swimming at Kyeongpo Beach in Gangneung. The water was murky because of recent rain they did not notice the jellyfish until one was stung.

I do not know if they used vinegar or urine or what to relieve the sting.

Elgin, at the Marmot's Hole, has found that global warming and overfishing are causing larger blooms of jellyfish around the world.

From his post:
...filefish — a natural predator of jellyfish — have been over-fished around Korea to the point where jellyfish have flourished...

and from the New York Times article he links to:
The warmer seas and drier climate caused by global warming work to the jellyfish’s advantage, since nearly all jellyfish breed better and faster in warmer waters, according to Dr. Jennifer Purcell, a jellyfish expert at the Shannon Point Marine Center of Western Washington University.

Okay, now global warming is getting serious. If it interferes with my swimming, its got to be fixed.

My coworker is fine, now.

Fire safety

I am back at camp, starting week three of four.

During the week, we have regular classes (I am teaching ecology) but every Saturday is different. Two days ago, we had survival English. Two of the classes were first aid (Which I taught) and fire safety. I am amused to see fire safety offered as there could be a bit of hypocrisy in it. Those who teach the subject are sincere, but the school management are more interested in climate control and preventing theft and possible misdeeds by students who cannot be tracked.

My classroom is in a corner so there is a door leading to an emergency exit.

Try to open that door. Do you carry an emergency door knob for such occasions?
If you could get through the door, or if you walked to the centre of the building and back through another hallway, you end up at this door, leading out. You can see the effort on my face as I desperately try to turn the knob. Locked.
I went outside and around the building and up the stairs to the other side of the door. No knob and a large sign saying "don't use. Use other door." the smaller sign, above, says, "be aware of heating, keep door closed".

There is another door on my floor that does open. Its on the other side of the building. I guess I am not really upset that the door is locked, more I wonder why did they think they needed it? Is it a legal requirement and after the building passed the local version of the building code, they felt they could lock it?
On the first floor of the building are the main entrance and two smaller entrances. One is padlocked closed and the other, above, is closed with caulking. I suppose a strong or motivated person could push hard enough to rip out the caulking, but still, it is strange. I also suspect that they could manage better climate control by teaching the students to close the main entrance doors after walking through them. Koreans, away from their homes, don't feel a need to close a door after opening it.

A few years ago, I posted a similar story about the school and how the students are locked up at night. Since that time, this big-ass mallet now sits near the main doors - the smaller fire exits are still chained and locked. I guess students could now smash the glass doors out if they need to leave in a hurry.