Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hallowe'en

Hallowe'en and April fool's Day are two of my favourite days.

Sadly, this is the first year I didn't have classes on Oct 31,so I wasn't able to dress up there. In fact, I can't find my black cycling mask so dressing up would have been a challenge.

I tried to make a doll that would hang from the ceiling of the teacher's lounge that would swing forward as the door was opened but was unusually busy at home during the week and couldn't get the stuff to work.

The best I can do, blogwise, is send you to my video from 2006.

Dawkins and Fantasy Books

I have been reading of Dawkin's disapproval of the Harry Potter series.

I found statements like these:
Richard Dawkins has a new crusade: he has declared war on fantasy - especially works of fantasy for children.
(theamericanscene) he is campaigning against Harry Potter (and children's fantasy in general)! Apparently all this magic nonsense is turning them away from science.

I am disappointed by this if it is the case. I have to wonder if it is because I think he wrote the intro for one of Philip Pullman's books (His Dark Materials).

What I have found from his own lips is a concern that stories of magic and fairies may turn children away from science (he was careful to say this needed to be studied, not that it was definitely the case).

The American Scene quotes C.S. Lewis:
Long ago, C. S. Lewis wrote, “About once every hundred years some wiseacre gets up and tries to banish the fairy tale.” Why? “It is accused of giving children a false impression of the world they live in. But I think that no literature that children could read gives them less of a false impression. I think what profess to be realistic stories for children are far more likely to deceive them. I never expected the real world to be like fairy tales. I think that I did expect school to be like the school stories. The fantasies did not deceive me; the school stories did.”

A commenter at TAS said:
It's that children who read it may come to have a worldview in which the emotional resonance of magic, mystery, deep underlying forces in the world, the numinous, the ancient, the vast and complex, the deeply meaningful, and humans' relationship with all these things are necessarily tied up with the specific sort of magic and medievalism that finds such prominence in children's literature - or at least tied up with things being other than a rational look at the world suggests that they really are.

I take this to suggest discomfort with knowledge of how tiny humankind is in the universe and how coincidences are simply that, there are no deep connections of the sort fairy tales suggest.

I don't think I ever thought there was. I hoped there was but my reading of fantasy made me, if anything, more interested in science. Alchemy led to chemistry in my case.

A video of Dawkin's discussion can be found at his website.

If he is arguing against fantasy stories, I have to agree with Tripp (books are my only friends), who quotes Alan Jacobs: "...this is suspiciously like the argument of the fundamentalists against whom he regularly fulminates. Jackass." The final word, may be Tripp's own.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Japanese imports can go faster than domestic vehicles

There is an interesting post at Boing Boing about the mystery driver of an English car in Germany. German speed cameras on the autobahns photograph the licence and the driver's side of the car but not the passenger side. As a result, the driver of the right-hand-drive British car does not show up in photos. S/he is apparently aware of this and has a Muppet in the passenger seat to be photographed.

My understanding of the traffic cameras in Korea is that they only shoot the Driver's (left-hand) side. Drivers of imported Japanese cars would be invisible to the cameras, so they should be able to ignore the cameras and drive any speed they like.

I don't want the roads in Korea to be any more dangerous but I especially wonder about speeding in Germany. I said 'autobahn' above, but I'm not sure they have speed limits. If cars are already going 200km/hr, I wouldn't want anyone abusing whatever laws are in effect.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Kotesol pics

I hope to have a substantive post on the conference up soon but Wednesday is the first day I am really free to write. I had a good time at the conference but few presentations rose to the quality level I expected.

One great part of the weekend was meeting fellow bloggers, particularly two I had never met in the flesh: The beautiful Lao-Ocean Girl and the, uh, not unattractive EFL Geek (he looks just like his avatar).

Before the conference, I did some shopping and found this sign (and, in fact, some good shirrrts) near city hall.

One of the presenters at KOTESOL discussed using art and clay in class. Her presentation was way overbooked but I saw two remarkable things at the far end of the hall; Lao-Ocean Girl and an empty seat. I sat down and introduced myself - she even recognized me! The funny thing is, I'm pretty sure we worked in Gangneung at the same time for a few years, but had never met. Reardon, did you tell her I was creepy? I will certainly seem so after this post.

Anyway, we made this gargoyle together.

I also met JoeSeoulMan, another blogger but one I had met before, on my turf. He visited Naksan Temple a few years ago and I made his acquaintance. From his office, I took this picture of the Sookmyoung University buildings where the conference was going on. Kevin, if you read this, I saw the sign for Cordon Bleu cooking and thought, I am walking where the big hominid walked.Anyway, in discussing my food shopping plans before departure, Joe ofered to help by driving me to Costco. Eventually he left me at a subway station with the two bags I'd started with and two others all hanging off me. Joe, I managed to organise everything down to two big bags and a small one.

Coming up, Saturday at Kotesol...

Sleep in class, join the gallery

Friday, October 24, 2008


I sometimes wonder about my taste in, well, media. I guess that I am not particularly discriminating. I find that I am also easily swayed by other's opinions. For example, I loved the movie Cloverfield and visited a few of the associated websites before and after watching. Later, upon reading reviews, I began thinking, yeah, that was strange, the four of them, one the others hardly knew, going into the city, especially after the girl inflated and blew up. Would that guy really have filmed the whole thing? Maybe it wasn't that good?

Anyway, in some respects my opinions are easily swayed.

Case in point, I read the first ten books of the Left Behind series. I went in not expecting a lot, mostly just curious what the hullabaloo was about. I finished the ten and wasn't nauseated (I stopped at ten because later books in the series were not available at that library. I wouldn't have paid for them and perhaps that made my expectations a little lower - Woo-hoo free- crappy, but free- books!) I noted a few things strange about them wasn't really put off by them and never really articulated my problems with the books clearly.

Slacktivist is critiquing the series around ten pages a week. It took him a few years to finish the first book and should start Tribulation Force (book 2) in November. He has really articulated the many, many problems the books have.

I told you I was easily swayed. My opinion has changed from "they aren't terrible" to "they are completely terrible".

In my defence, Slacktivist has an evangelical background, of a different sort than the authors, that lets him understand their religious message better than I. He is mostly upset by the appearance of glee the 'heroes' have that many will burn in Hell. There is a strong feeling of "I told you so. Nya-nya!" in the book.

The other problem, one I had noticed, was how things were so normal in the book. Every child under the age of ...well, around puberty, is gone from the Earth as are all the Real Christians. Between one and two billion people. In addition, many cars and planes crashed as the pilots disappeared. The world is in chaos - for an hour or so.

A character is wandering around an airport after the Rapture (which took these many people away) and outside the window crashed aircraft are burning and pilots are trying to land other jets amid the wreckage. The character meets a doctor who is 'bored' and offers to treat the character's head wound. I guess the doctor didn't look out the window at the hundreds of people who needed his help.

No one seems to notice, a day or two after the Rapture, that all the kids are gone. Another character's house is robbed and his son's toys are stolen - why? There are no children and no babies will be born for the next nine months.

Anyway, the books are bad but the blog is great. Slacktivist.

I just finished reading Mean and Lowly Things, a description of a researcher's work and troubles collecting snakes in the Congo. Although the descriptions of the insects and parasites are off-putting, this researcher is living the life I thought I would be when I was young. As with the researcher, I had a fascination with snakes from my early childhood. As she is from Ontario, we even saw many of the same snakes. For some reason I ended up here in Korea but vicariously feel I was there with her catching snakes, venomous and not, in trying conditions.

Quirks and Quarks interview - bottom of page.

I grew up catching snakes but also reading Farley Mowat, who probably caught snakes, but certainly dozens of other animals, in his childhood. I loved his recollections of his childhood and his wolf research. There have been claims that his stories are more fiction than fact. He may have spent only two weeks studying wolves rather than a year and a half.

"The Toronto Star has written that Mowat's memoirs are at least partially fictional. In a 1968 interview with CBC Radio, Farley admitted that he doesn't let the facts get in the way of the truth (Canada Reads). Once, when Mowat said that he had spent two summers and a winter studying wolves, the Toronto Star wrote that Mowat had only spent 90 hours studying the wolves."

As I grew older, I learned that he was, well, an out-sized personality. A friend of the family, in the OPP, was seconded to guard the Premiere of Ontario. At an event, they met Mowat, who drank directly from the punchbowl (or some other hijink). In the car, after the event, the Premiere and the guard agreed he was a bit of a jerk (sterner language was used but I forget and am concerned about privacy).

While at university, I had a lab instructor from Memorial U (in Newfoundland). I mentioned that Mowat was a hero of mine and he was upset and amused, but held back, protecting my naivety. They don't care for him much in Newfoundland.

Anyway, I have huge, fond feelings for him and his work and felt terrible when I saw the write up for Otherwise. "Product Description
A Canadian icon gives us his final book, a memoir of the events that shaped this beloved writer and activist."
His final book? I know the guy's in his eighties, but 'final book' sounds, well, final. I want him to relax and enjoy life, but I feel sad to see the door closed and slammed shut. So far as I know, by the way, he is still alive.

On the topic of books that make me feel sad about their authors, Terry Pratchett has a new one out. Nation looks interesting and I will probably get it when it comes out in softcover. I am not a serious Pratchett fan but read a book or two of his a year - at that rate, it will be many years before I run out; he is remarkable prolific. But also, he has Alzheimer's Disease.
"On 11 December 2007, Pratchett posted online that he had been newly diagnosed with a very rare form of early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which he said "lay behind this year's phantom 'stroke'." He has a rare form of the disease called posterior cortical atrophy, in which areas at the back of the brain begin to shrink and shrivel.[12] Pratchett appealed to people to "keep things cheerful", and proclaimed that "we are taking it fairly philosophically down here and possibly with a mild optimism."[26] Leading the way, Pratchett stated that he feels he has time for "at least a few more books yet."...

All the best to him.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Spy Astronaut Trainee in Sokcho this weekend

Sokcho is holding a Science festival - or possibly a science fair - this weekend and I am a little so that I will be away and miss it.

I found this poster today advertising that Go-san, one of the top two candidates for Korea's trip into space on a Russian rocket, will be at the festival.

I am not sure if he is a role model. He was chosen, out of several thousand applicants, I think, to be Korea's first astronaut, which makes him the perfect spokesperson for science. On the other hand he lost his chance to fly when he was caught possibly spying, and stealing information to give to Hyundai. That doesn't make for much of a role model.

Possibly, it was an over-reaction by the Russians. If I were on the flight, I might want to know more about how the rocket I'd be trusting my life to worked.

More about espionage story at the Marmot and at GI Korea. Micheal Hurt had more on the final choice for astronaut on his Video Podcast list.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kwandongbrian becomes (or recognizes that I always have been) an old crank

This kind of thing always irritates me but especially when I am travelling with the little guy.

If you can't park the car, don't buy a car!

The signs on the windows read "no parking". If I knew how to say, "stay off the frikkin' sidewalk", that's what they'd say.

And kids, stay off my yard! Why, when I was that age, I knew...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bus safety tools, old school

I saw this on a bus in Gangneung on Friday. There was one modern hammer; small, light, red with a tiny, specially designed, glass-shattering head. That was next to the bus driver. At the back of the bus were a pair of these blacksmithing tools.
Strangely, this may be the third photo of a hammer to be used in emergencies for breaking glass (Previously here and I think there was one from the same place a year earlier.) I should make it a label or something.

Exams tomorrow: that means 44 one-t0- one oral exams in a job interview format.

Fantastic weekend

Friday, I swam in the ocean at Kyeongpo Beach, Saturday I chased salmon and today I soaked and took the waters at Waterpia with my son.

The big news is that Waterpia now has two Local's days, the first and third Sunday of each month (not peak months - July and August).

The bad news is that the price for locals is now 9,000won. That's not so bad. That's a bit more than Seorak Pines charges for local evey day but Seorak Pines, while entirely satisfactory, is not as extensive at Waterpia.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Keeping up with Lao-ocean Girl, and shame

I have always burned with Envy at Lao-Ocean Girl and the El Camino Packer for the way they got onto the Salmon Fest sign.

Ha. Here I am, with only two hangers on -coworkers. And there's more.
Man, the sun really bothers my eyes. Lao-Ocean and her cronies certainly look better than I ever will.

Anyway, the 'more' part is that I got paid!
The photographer who took the shot recognized me and asked a tourism rep for Yangyang county to talk to me about my photo. She apologized for posting the pic without asking for permission and gave me 60,000won of Festival gift certificates in recompense.

Now the shame part. I have been to a few salmon fests and consider myself quite the salmon hunter, typically catching several and handing them off to less skillful collectors.

This year, I was skunked. Now, I had the little guy in one arm the whole time so was limited in how fast or far I could reach but still, I thought I was the salmon catching master.

To rub salt in the wounds, because I had already given my belated permission to use my photo, they wanted to shoot me again this year. They had to collect a salmon from the holding pen for me and when they gave it too me, I was gloveless and it slipped away so they had to get a second one for me. By this time, I had a glove so the photo was finally taken.

The water was fantastic and if I had both someone to watch the little guy and a dry change of clothes, I would have swam and played with the fish.

Oh, speaking of acknowledging photos and such, the El Camino Packer took the shot on my masthead of me swimming in the surf (Left side, top). Thanks. No 60,000won for you. Oh, thanks for the video in the post below.

Thanks, El camino packer

On Friday, I met the El Camino Packer and I tried out his stand up paddleboard. He arrived at the beach before I did and I walked to the water's edge seeing him paddling nonchalantly along.

I tried to be polite and listen to him as he explained how to use the board but I was mostly thinking, "Let go!"

Turns out, it isn't nearly as easy as he makes it look. Below should be a video (I can't see it while editing) of me trying to paddle his board while he narrates.

Salmon Fest

Its Saturday morning and I can see we will have great weather for the festival. Part of the fest - the best part- is wading in the river, catching salmon in your gloved hands. Last year, we practically wore winter clothes from the knees up and stumbled around on numb feet. This year we can stumble around in shorts!

Actually, I may not go in. We didn't buy a ticket but I just want to watch and show the little guy the fish.

I may still have salmon in the freezer from last year.

More, and more blogging in general, after the fest.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

blogging and Blogger

Blogger has a new feature called 'Following'. If readers so choose, they can become 'followers' of this blog. Its an interesting idea and a reasonable extension of blogs as popularity contests. It may be similar to the number of friends you have on Facebook; publicly available knowledge of how popular you are - in this case, only if your readers use blogger (or have a blogger ID, I guess) which sure limits the number by a half or two thirds, I think. In my case, fifteen blogs that I read daily are on blogspot out of just over thirty. I can, but have not yet, add a widget to my blog listing my follower(s) -one for now, so it is not that exciting. I can also read the blogs in a reader on Blogger, whether or not they are on Blogspot.

Ironically, I use it now for the blogs that aren't updated frequently - Party Pooper, I'm talking about you - for the feed. I know that the Marmot will have new material up every day and even a few times a day, so I might as well go there and have access to comments as well as posts. This means I am mostly a follower of relatively static blogs. "Nothing much happens on your blog so I follow you" is the message I am really sending. Of course, if I pick up a few more followers then, I would add the widget and add others to my following list but, for now, its not that useful.

To be clear, I am not asking or urging others to 'follow' me, just commenting on the value or lack of value of the feature.

Something unexpected happened a few weeks ago in the comments on this blog. Three years ago, I discussed a newspaper review of Sokcho and picked up an unrelated comment about an adoptee whose family, unknown, is/was living in Sokcho.

It is an interesting comment, in that the adoptee got into serious legal trouble -apparently he killed a man -and is in jail and, I guess, looking into his background as a way to relieve the boredom. A friend of the man wrote the comment as the man injail cannot access the internet.

Anyway, a month ago, another person, anonymous, left a comment about the man; cheifly saying that he should be "six feet closer to hell for what he did...". I struggled with the issue of deleting or posting the comment and, today, have posted it. I am not clear in my mind why I posted it and am interested in comments what you would have done.

I do not have a policy, in my head, or posted, on comments and perhaps I should make one. I do not see it as a censorship issue as the anonymous poster could make his/her own blog, even while remaining anonymous, and post the comments. I sympathize with the man in jail a little, even though I know almost nothing about how or why he is there (presumably he murdered someone) but I am also a law and order type ( the son and grandson of policemen) and definitely sympathize with anyone who lost a friend or family member to violence.

Friday, October 03, 2008

War in Seoul

My father, as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, battled biker gangs in Wasaga Beach during the May 24 Weekend (A Canadian holiday - Queen Victoria's birthday, I think) several years in a row. I was too young to know about it but apparently he would come home bleeding on occasion.

I was intrigued, then, to hear that "Seoul Declares War Against Bikers". Turns out they aren't related. I don't think there are motorcycles gangs of the Hell's Angel sort here. There will soon be a crackdown on motorcyclists - mostly delivery-people - who drive on sidewalks and park illegally.

I am happy to hear about the former and suspicious about the latter. I haven't had much trouble here in Sokcho but occasionally did in Seoul and annoyingly frequently in Masan, with motorcyclists driving on the sidewalk. In Masan, they would even bump into my leg and honk the horn. I learned to not move out of the way of the jerk.

The crackdown on illegal parking is a good idea, but why pick on motorcycles and motorcyclists? Motorcycles don't take up much room; start the parking crackdown on cars. Get the f---ing cars off the sidewalks. Get them off the crosswalks. Then, worry about the parked motorcycles. Heck, do that concurrently, just be sure to include cars.

One commenter on the Korean Times article claims the crackdown will not work because police will not be able to catch fast moving motorcycles. I agree that the crackdown will not work - or will work for only a short time, but not for the reason the commenter gave. We aren't talking about open roads and racing, we're talking about parking (pretty much the opposite of racing) and driving on sidewalks, which is done because the roads are jammed with traffic. If the motorcycles had clear roads to drive quickly on, they wouldn't be on the sidewalk in the first place.

By the way, what's keeping my pizza?
Possibly related.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


The right side of my face, paralyzed for two weeks by Bell's Palsy, is becoming more mobile. My hideous left-side-only smile of a week ago is now a somewhat less hideous one with the right side at least stretching a little. In time it will be the hardly-hideous-at-all smile I always had.

I am blinking comfortably again and able to read and use the computer mostly painlessly.

I have a way to go yet, but I feel so much better. There were some dark days when I wondered what job I could pick up that didn't require me to speak much or to read or focus my vision. Not everyone can be a Korea Herald proofreader.