Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chinese fishermen kill Korean Coast Guard Officer

This has been covered on other blogs and I have nothing new to say. I join the other bloggers in hoping the fisherman, illegally fishing in Korean waters, are sent to a Fuck-you-up-the-ass type of prison for a long, long time.

I'm glad my wife is on the quieter East Coast.

The Marmot
GI Korea
Korea Times

Saturday, September 27, 2008

October festivals

I am sure the nightingale singers are wonderful. It is too bad they transposed the words "dept" and "nursing". I hope I have covered the name of the university sufficiently well but if you want to hear them sing, ask me for the university's name. They perform October 1 in Sokcho.

Snarkiness aside, there are three festivals that look interesting. I have only preliminary information now but I will try to post updates.

Sokcho Hotspring Festival. The website can be found here (Best on IE). Oct 10-16. Its a little strange that the festival ends on a Thursday. Sokcho seems to have many hot springs but don't expect a rustic pool on a mountain slope surrounded by pine - Korean hotsprings are universally piped into buildings to make Bathhouses-with-special-water. Case in point is the Chuksan Hotspring (척산온천장), which is entirely serviceable but is little more than a small bathhouse. There is another location with a similar name on Sokcho City bus 3 route that might be more extensive - I don't know because they didn't give me a discount coupon.
Also on bus route 3 are Seorak Pines and Waterpia, both of which offer hot spring water in a variety of settings and other pools. Seorak Pines has a 18 metre exercise pool, a full bathhouse (for naked use), and five outdoor pools and two saunas (co-ed, bathing suits required). I think it is 18,000 won for a day, locals half price.
Waterpia has everything. There is a full bathhouse (again, single gender), two wave pools, a children's pool, an exercise pool and several outdoor hottubs. It is expensive (around 30,000 won) but locals have a cheap day on the third Sunday of each non-peak(not summer) month.
Dae-myeong Condo has a Water park of some sort that I plan to visit soon so I can comment on it. From the window, it seems nice and costs around 22,000won - no discount for locals. I don't if it, or indeed any of the hotsprings I have mentioned have special deals for the festival - the offical website mostly described the Miss Hotspring contest - I hope it involves bikinis!

Immediately after the hotspring festival is a fantastic weekend of events. On Oct 18-19, Sokcho has a 'Culture Festival' - more details to follow but it includes a Gaet-bae race - At Expo Park, Chungcho Lake, two human-powered ferries are set up and I think that teams of five race them about fifty metres and back. I don't know about the rest of the fest, but that looks like a lot of fun and I hope I can find a team to enter.
At the same time is the Salmon Festival in Yangyang - twenty minutes away by bus. The highpoint of the festival is catching salmon in the river by hand. When you catch a salmon, you keep it. Actually, I just cuaght salmon and let them go until the time limit was almost up then caught one to take home. Ah, I let them go back into the netted part of the river so others could catch them- I have often fantasized about standing at the net and catching salmon and releasing them into the open river to be free but have never done so. (Gangwon Notes, Lao Ocean, official site).

I think this weekend should also be good for fall colours - one might have a busy weekend enjoying all on offer.

The next weekend, nothing will be happening here because KwandongBrian will be in Seoul for the KOTESOL conference. As the Geek will tell you, registering is a bother - you have to transfer money to an individual's account (David Shaffer - I believe he is on the board) which is common in Korea but seems a little hinky. He is also unexcited by the speakers - I am sure he means no disrespect to the giant Joe Seoul Man who will be presenting, ah, something. I plan to meet Joe for lunch on Saturday but hope also to see the Geek - and any readers of this blog.

Friday, September 26, 2008

my son, mocking the way I eat

I promise that the next post, whatever it is about, will not be about Bell's Palsy. After that, no guarantees.

Here, KwandongAlex is teasing me for the way I pinch the right side of my lips together to avoid drooling and spilling the food. His mimicry is spot on, although I am not so cheerful about it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Han ui won

Despite my misgivings, I think the Oriental doctor performed a valuable service. I don't know the theories behind Oriental medicine, but most of the treatment seemed focused on stimulating the unresponsive muscles and, well, the whole right side of my face.

I am reminded that in university, perhaps in Vertebrate zoology, the professor told us that even though there were no good cures for damage to the spine, sometimes making an incision near the spine causes healing to the spine. It is as if the body, while healing the cut, healing elements are focused on the area and work on nearby problems as well.

I told him, among other things, that talking in class gave me a literal pain in the neck. He poked around and found a tender spot.

Part of the treatment requires that I massage the right side of my face, pushing upward with strength, 100 times and doing that ten to twenty times a day.

Then, it was time for needles and suction cups.

I should look in the mirror and see if I have a hickey now.

Here, electricity is pulsed through the needles, jerking my cheek and face muscles around.

There was also a needle in the web of my left hand - I don't know why.

The doctor told me to avoid cold water -for bathing, not necessarily for drinking. I am not sure why and I am unlikely to follow this restriction.

Bew's Fawsy

I can't blink my right eye normally. When I start concentrating on something, I forget to blink. I need to stop what I am doing and take a few seconds -and sometimes to actually use my fingers - to close my right eye. I don't plan to type for long and I will let small errors go - this is my excuse for errors in this post and is there anyway I can make this retroactive for four years to cover all my many previous errors?

Four days, fourteen hours of classes and 48 steroid pills (and many others) after being diagnosed with Bell's Palsy, i have had my second, follow-up visit to the doctor.

First, about the four days and classes. I began each class by explaining my illness and assuring them it was not contagious. Trying to talk clearly was very tiring an dgave me pains in the right side of where the spine meets the skull. I guess I was tightening muscles there to try to give that side of my face some kind of rigidity. Luckily, I had games planned for some of the classes and didn't have a lot of talking to do. I also used students to call out the roll to save my voice. Still, there were a few classes where I wanted to dopronunciation drills. The students usually couldn't hear a difference in my speaking but I really could -hence the title of this post - that is what "Bell's Palsy" sounds like to me when I say it.

Students were understanding but I am a little disappointed that only students from three classes wished me well.

It has been annoying to be unable to read for any length of time, or use the computer or even watch TV. The MP3 player has been my friend.

I have taken to eating in private to hide the way I need to push on my cheek if food falls between my teeth and right-side cheek . Also, I need to hold my right lower lip against the cup or can when I drink.

My wife and some good friends have suggested that I go to a Han-oi-won or traditional hospital for acupuncture to complement the western treatments. I am quite a sceptic, but will go this afternoon (explanations to follow).

At the doctor's office today in Asan Hospital, I heard a new set of percentages regarding recovery rates. I had been told, and had read from various sources, that 85% or so with Bell's Palsy recovery completely but today I was told thenumbers were more like 30% fully recover, 30% partially recover and 30% don't recover responsiveness in their faces. I don't think there is a missing 10%; I think he meant thirds. Anyway, this is much more terrifying! I will be looking further into this. The doctor also very clearly told me that acupuncture would not help me.

I agree with his opinion on acupuncture and felt the same way before I asked him about it despite this article from an acupuncturist in Toronto*. Still, I am willing to grasp at straws a little and getting the treatment will be easier than arguing with my wife about why I shouldn't get it.

*The Asan Hospital doctor had said that there were no studies confirming the effectiveness of acupuncture in Bell's Palsy cases and the Toronto acupuncturist's account was of a single anecdote. This reminds me of the efficiousy of headache medicines. My understanding is that most headaches fade after twenty minutes or so, regardless of treatment. For one person, having his/her headache disappear after twenty minutes proves nothing. If I get acupuncture and my symptoms fade, there is no way of knowing why or how they faded. I need to also accept the corollary - Western medical treatments are known to be unable to cure viral diseases - if the symptoms fade or remain, I cannot apply too much blame or credit to the medicine I was prescribed.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bell's Palsy

In a previous post I wrote that I had suffered another allergy attack, making my face swell and causing me to drool when I drank. It turns out that this is not due to allergies but to Bell's Palsy. The right side of my face is drooping and unresponsive. I cannot easily blink my right eye and must hold my right lower lip tight against a glass with my hand when I drink. I am having trouble focusing my right eye so I am using the larger font size.

In the upper pic I am trying to smile evenly. Below, I am trying to forcefully close my eyes.
Bell's Palsy is of unknown origin and tests typically rule out other possible causes for the unresponsiveness. It is likely of viral origin and my blood test confirms that; I have a high white blood cell count, particularly of E-Lymphocytes, which fight viral infections. The doctor told me that another type of white blood cell, which primarily fights bacterial infections was low but I didn't keep track of the name, I think it was the E- neutro(cyte).

I have been given a whole lot of pills - 12 steroid pills to be taken each morning as well as three other pills to take three times a day and eye drops to lubricate my eye as I often have to use my finger to close it completely.

It is amusing that I am now on steroids as I have just started the 100 pushups workout plan suggested by the EFL Geek - I hope he doesn't think I am cheating - look out Barry Bonds!

In researching Bell's Palsy, I have learned that former Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien had Bell's Palsy as a child and apparently suffered permanent damage as he was easily caricatured as speaking from one side of his face. A friend of mine, Rowdy Roddy Swimmer also seemed to speak from one side - I will have to ask if he had Bell's Palsy. Anyway, it is typically temporary and I should be fine in a few weeks. In the meantime, I will be working hard to speak clearly for my students -my 'P's are now a Korean style 'F' - "I like to eat affles!"

More info at WebMD or at Wikipedia - and thanks to my mom, a retired nurse who explained some of the details to me. Great thanks to my wife who came with me to the hospital and took care of the little guy after working a 24 hour shift at the Coast Guard.

Oh, some words I may need for classes:
not contagious
전염성이 있지 않음

Bell's Palsy
Bell's 마비

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chuseok weekend: jellyfish and allergies

KwandongWife is working (a lot) so we aren't travelling this weekend.

KwandongAlex and I went to the beach on Friday afternoon and had a great time -it's a shame that he is getting comfortable in the water at the end of the season. We swam again on Saturday, spending several hours there.

The strange thing was the beach was full of moon-jellies on Friday, but they were entirely absent on Saturday.Photo from Chemistry and Biology.

On Saturday night, I drank some water and tried to swish it around in my mouth and ended up spilling some on my shirt. Today, Sunday, my face is partially swollen and tight feeling. My left eyelid feels heavy and closes easily. My right eyelid, in contrast feels tight and takes effort to close - it stings much of the time and I sometimes hold the eyelid down with my finger. I don't think I am slurring my words but my lips feel the same way; the left side is heavy and the left side is tight. Oh, don't panic, loyal reader; I have a few allergies and blame them for the swelling and such - I don't think I have had a stroke or anything to affect one side of my face.

I went to the hospital and got two needles - Ketaricin and Dexa - and a few pills, but have noticed no change in my condition.

KwandongAlex was as understanding as a three year old can be and we spent most of the day at home and at a nearby playground.

Church of England apologizes to Charles Darwin

The Daily Mail uses the word ludicrous in the title of its article. The Vatican apologized to Galileo some time ago so it may be ludicrous but not unique. I might use the word ludicrous when describing the actions of religious groups but this is at least a step in the right direction.

Dr Brown writes: ‘People, and institutions, make mistakes and Christian people and Churches are no exception. When a big new idea emerges that changes the way people look at the world, it’s easy to feel that every old idea, every certainty, is under attack and then to do battle against the new insights.

‘The Church made that mistake with Galileo’s astronomy and has since realised its error. Some Church people did it again in the 1860s with Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

'So it is important to think again about Darwin’s impact on religious thinking, then and now.’

Dr Brown argues that there is nothing incompatible between the scientific theories adopted by Darwin and Christian teaching.

In using "the Church" to describe the offender with regards to Galileo and Darwin, does the Church of England trace RC history as it's own until they split?

In reading the article, I think the goal of the apology was not to make Mathhew Chapman or the other descendents of Darwin feel better (although the Church would not be displeased with that outcome) but to show opposition to creationist Christians. Possibly after being an upstart youngster, the Anglicans want to be an elder statesmen to the modern anti-science upstarts.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book Review: "Next" by Michael Crighton

I read a few dozen books a year; it's strange that I feel compelled to review Crichton's work and not many of the others.

I should review more books as they keep this blog in the public eye somewhat. My most popular post, with a steady five or six hits a week is the review I did of Guns, Germs and Steel.

Anyway, I have been a fan of Crichton since Jurassic Park. After that book, I went back and read many of his previous books, although not Andromeda Strain for some reason. I enjoyed them all, although State of Fear least of all.

In my review of State of Fear, I stated that Crichton's book are both adventure stories and careful discussions of current issues in science. Typically, both are interesting but even if you don't care for the lecture, the story is thrilling on its own.

This is not true with Next (I couldn't get a link in Firefox and had to use Explorer to do so). In this book, the issues of owning cell lines and genes is examined. There are two transgenic animals - one is a terrifyingly strong chimp-boy who comes to the rescue with monotonous regularity, and a man whose cells are owned by a Californian University along patent disputes, genetic cures and organ smuggling.

There are probably more situations brought up - there are, in fact, too many. In the middle of the book, in two places, a doctor who sold his sperm to a sperm bank is sued by his genetic daughter because he had a gene that increased te likelihood of addictive behavior. His lawyer advises him to settle and this thread in the story is never revisited.

Elsewhere in the story, the daughter of a main character, sixteen years old, is selling her eggs to a clinic to make money for "breast implants". This vignette ends with the parents being angry.

Yet, elsewhere, a coroner is selling body parts without permission.

These three stories are interesting indeed, but disconnected with the main plot line. Doctors from UCLA saved the life of a cancer patient simultaneously using new research and performing new research. They do save his life but his genes are patented - the university owns them, he does not. He becomes involved in corporate espionage and researchers from the university hunt down his family because they carry genes owned by the university. This story is exciting and well done, but it is somewhat hidden as Crichton tries to show all the other confusing and dangerous aspects of genetic research.

Another target of Crichton's concern is the poor job journalists are doing in explaining and researching the issues. Almost as a running gag, he includes clips form newspapers discussing whether blonds will go extinct through the book.

As a further explanation of why I am posting a review, there are two mentions of the infamous Dr Hwang Woo-seok, the cloning researcher who falsified research. See, the book mentions Korea so it is acceptable grist for this mill.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Terry Fox Run cancelled for 2008 in Korea

From the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Korea website:
The CCCK has been the organizer of the Terry Fox Run for the past 15 years. While the amount of funds raised for cancer research in Korea and the total number of participants has continuously been growing, organizing the event has become increasingly more difficult. As some of you may know, The Terry Fox Foundation has implemented stricter guidelines on local organizers in recent years. Regulations about sponsorships and commercial exposure combined with requirements for liability insurance are some of the factors that limit our ability to hold the event successfully. Finally, with 300 volunteers and numerous suppliers and partners to manage, the Terry Fox Run is an extremely resource-intensive event for our small organization to hold.

They plan to skip 2008 and run an excellent one in 2009. There is no word on whether the run will take place every other year or if this is a one-time thing.

They have good reasons but I wish they had mentioned this earlier. Internationally, the run will take place next week - did they really wait this long before making their decision?

I know I should be running for personal reasons but preparation for this run was a major motivator for me. I need to find another event now.

Let's look forward to an excellent run next year and if anyone wants to volunteer for it, be sure to contact them.

Crash # 3

Firstly, I'm fine. The car accident happened in an intersection below my window; the third one in a month.

I am not sure how or why these crashes are occurring. They all sound the same and occur in the late evening (this one occurred around 8:40). I am in my apartment and I hear a brief wail of brakes and a solid bump. No one appears badly injured.

I haven't seen the actual impact, only looked out the window a few seconds afterwards. I am unable to figure out what happened. Clearly, one car has broadsided another but was the T-boned car crossing the intersection from the side street or did the driver attempt a wide U-turn across four lanes?

What I can comment on with some authority is the unprofessional-ness of most people afterwards. There are no hazard light flashing on any vehicle although the tow-trucks all have their roof lights on and turning. Happily, there have been no fights or loud arguments, just people working to solve the problem - although in the last two cases, the person stepping out of the, uh, broadsiding car has been on the phone. I hope they have just called for assistance.

Have a look; the two pics are the same image, the second one labelled and a little smaller.

The police drive everywhere with their roof-lights on but turn them off at the scene of an accident?

There are three tow-trucks and a car carrier (I don't know what to call it - the car is driven onto the bed of the truck) in the pic and all have their lights on. However, at the bottom-left of the photo is a tow truck blocking the side street. Only the carrier was used and in leaving, one tow truck ran a redlight with a little toot of its siren.

Accident vehicle #2 is black and has its lights turned off. Even if it has suffered a complete electrical failure (it hasn't; it drove off when the police were through), someone should use a flare or fluorescent marker or something.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Left hand: What is the right hand doing?

There is an interesting pair of articles in the Korea Times. On the 2nd, there is a brief report that the Canal project may be revived (background on the canal here, here, here,...) Two days later, reports of a North Korean dam affecting water flow in the Han River are described.

Boy, there's an angle I hadn't even considered; the canal is clearly a bad idea for financial, environmental and agricultural reasons - but it is also susceptible to sabotage by the Norks?


I am a big fan of Firefox and my computer is getting on in years so I am unwilling to download new browser software but Google's new browser seems interesting (I'm also a big fan of Google). I had to chuckle, however, at the self-importance of this headline, "MS Dominance Thwarts Google Browser’s Foray." Korea isn't really the centre of the world, guys.

The article is a little more evenhanded, describing the troubles Chrome has in Korea. The article then goes on to describe upcoming trouble Korean web designers will face; the possible phasing out of Active-X. I don't know much about ActiveX, except that it can be a path for viruses and other problems.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Eco-friendly driving – probably an oxymoron

Sarah Stefanson writes for and an article of hers was featured on the homepage for Yahoo Canada on September 1. As it was about driving and the environment, I gave it a read (I click on about one in fifty of the featured articles, I guess).

She does give some good tips for conserving gas while driving but I really see no honest effort to be eco-friendly.

She seems to be missing an important point about how vehicle-use consumes energy, looking at the problem in the most simplistic and car-friendly way possible. That point is, the energy it takes to drive any car anywhere is more than matched by the energy needed to produce that car and probably not far off the energy needed to make and maintain the roads and infrastructure necessary for driving.

One suggestion is too keep the trunk clear and not carry too much extra weight. She should follow that thought through and consider the absurdity of using a one tonne vehicle to transport a ninety kilo person (thats me, by the way, not her).

When I return to Canada, I will likely have to buy a car. Things are pretty spread out there, unlike my situation in Korea.

To be honest, I will likely even drive frivolously on occasion, so maybe a few of her suggestions have merit. However, her attitude is more irritating than than her supposed eco-friendliness.

I love my car. I love it on days when I drive past pedestrians walking through rain, sleet and snow. I love it because it lets me sleep in an extra half hour every morning since I don't have to catch a bus.

What a jerk. Those poor bastards, doing their part to protect the environment or too poor to own a car; I love driving past them and laughing.