Monday, August 31, 2009

Once again, a jellyfish bloom

From the Times, a yearly warning of jellyfish.

The article says the jellyfish grow to around two metres in diameter so I am confused by the picture unless the diver on the left side is a child.

I know jellyfish are carnivorous and can eat fish, but I wonder if the jellyfish are being used a scapegoats for overfishing by humans.

Other posts about jellyfish at Gangwon Notes can be found here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fishermen returned from N. Korea

I don't have any special insight to the story but it is my beat, so I should at least provide links and background.

About a month ago, a fishing boat with four crew from Sokcho crossed into North Korean waters. So far, I think no one is publicly saying why although suggestions of navigation equipment or engine failure have been common. I have not heard anyone mention espionage although it is probably in everyone's sub-conscious.

Last night, they came home. Well, they were returned to South Korean territory -with their boat. I suspect none of the crew have been home nor will be for a few days longer. They may have had some contact - closely monitored - with their family.

For my mother and other foreign visitors, I think the return of the fishermen is connected to the offers of family reunions for Chuseok (An important holiday coming soon); both are related to offering more of a carrot to South Korea. The previous government was very North-friendly but the current one is not (and I approve, for all that's worth). Threats and missile launches haven't brought significant offers of aid so North Korea is trying a friendlier tack.

Anyway, on to some links:


Yesterday, the Herald was discussing Pyeongchang:
Pyeongchang, not contented with being the best winter holiday destination in the country, is also famous for its unrelenting efforts to host the Winter Olympics. The city has failed twice in bids to host the 2010 and 2014 games, but that doesn't seem to discourage them. Gangwon Province is trying yet again to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, this time with more ambitious and systematic preparations.

This is all well and good, except for an article a month ago in the Times:
For the people of Gangwon Province, bidding to host the Winter Olympics was first an ambitious goal, then a heartbreaking defeat, and now a dangerous dream that could end up throwing their home province into bankruptcy.
But the problem is that the province's primary channel of capital inflow for the construction has for months been clogged up.

Once again, I am unable to escape the quotes feature in Blogger - I think it doesn't like Safari. I will have to jump across the partition some day and try Chrome, Firefox and Explorer to see if similar errors occur.

Anyway, 'Alpensia' - Alps in Asia, of course - is well-described in the Herald's article which is more tourism related. I want Pyeongchang to do well, but I have long been ambivalent about Winter Olympics here.

Hand of an artist

It's well-known that, on Christmas Day, many kids will take a fantastic toy out of its box, set it down and play for hours with that box. In a similar vein, after my son finished painting the last of my supply of computer paper, I looked at the results and took a picture of his hand.
Hmm, needs more red.

Kids in the Hall coming back!

Another Off-topic post.

Via Boingboing, I have learned that Kids In The Hall have a mini-series in production. The show is set in North Bay, about two hours north of my hometown.

I am a huge fan of KITH but am surprised the group is getting back together. I have heard no reports of problems within the group but some have, publicly at least, being doing much better than others. Dave Foley was the star of Talk Radio (Hartman was probably the heart) and has been in some movies, for example and although I have Bruce McCulloch's tape (!), Shame Based Man, he wasn't been very visible since KITH ended.

If you'd like to hear about the Daves they know, here's your chance.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

bloggers are harming newspapers?

Note: Either Safari or blogger is having formatting problems. If this post, not yet seen on the blog, is formatted strangely, I wash my hands of it. If you find spelling and grammatical errors, I'm probably to blame.

GI Korea has a post up about AP news expecting/requiring bloggers to either embed an AP article -with ads but with no charge to the blogger, or pay to quote excerpts.
As GI Korea says, "Interesting stuff and really something that shouldn’t be too surprising considering how more and more newspapers are going bankrupt." Still, I think newspapers are going bankrupt for other reasons. Bloggers who link back to the original article are likely to encourage visits to the paper's website, rather than discourage them.

Now, I would say that some bloggers, myself occasionally among them, do harm newspapers - or try to. Some of the reporting in Korea is terrible - from poor English to extreme and obvious bias, these papers need to improve their game.Oh, the news media in North America that credulously post anti-vaxer nonsense also deserve some attention. A few years ago, many people commented that Jon Stewart's The Daily Show was offering better 'fake news than the legitimate networks could manage. Part of why I blog is to encourage mainstream media to offer better information to the public. I blog that information because the newspapers often don't.

Anyway back to GI's post. They want to charge people for posting excerpts? I can understand it if no link is given or citation listed. I even want to charge my own students to drive the rules of plagiarism into their heads. Is there a problem of length? Are some bloggers posting two paragraphs of a three paragraph story?

I understand that AP can easily search for their content and find those who post it, but charging such people would be very problematic. GI's post is about 'protecting content' and I had figured it was about a new kind of DRM or way to make their pages non-copyable.

Well, its a new world and we're all still trying to find our way in it. We always will be. We sure won't be going back to the 'good ole days' and we never will be. I hope newspapers can find a way to be commercially viable, but bloggers won't be going away.

Updated before I posted:
Boingboing looked into the subject over a year ago.

The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt.” I suggest it’s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with with a system of private law (the very definition of the word “privilege”) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be. See also Virgin Media claiming the right to dictate to private citizens in Britain how they’re allowed to configure their home routers, or the new copyright bill being introduced in Canada, under which the international entertainment industry, rather than democratically-accountable representatives of the Canadian people, will get to define what does and doesn’t amount to proscribed “circumvention.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

Swine flu and precautions

Ahhh! run for the hills! don't let anyone get too close! Keep away! Am I describing fear of The Happening* or viral epidemics?

Well, viruses today. There may not be enough of the vaccine when it does reach Korea to help us much. What vaccine there is, needs to go to... who, exactly? It's a tough question. My son is among those most at risk of death from the virus, but I am more at risk of catching it (I am a foreigner a teacher who comes into close contact with hundreds of students a week and, well, more below about those students) and bringing it to him.

So, those at greatest risk from the disease or at greatest risk of catching the disease; the victims or the carriers?

I don't particularly want the vaccine (Though I feel it and just about all other vaccines are useful and safe) and feel I can protect myself through various preventive measures. Earlier, I blogged about places that weren't crowded in Korea and a friend with a great sense of humour suggested that washbasins in public bathrooms weren't crowded in Korea. Here is something that we should work on. The advantage of a clean hands sort of campaign is that it is effective against more than the most recent headline-grabbing disease.

I don't think the face masks are necessary but that might be a western sort of prejudice against them. Still, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough is a smart, as well as polite idea and one that I have discussed with many classes of students who cough (accidentally?) on me.

Kim Hannula, at All my faults are stress related, a geology blog that often has good teaching content, discusses swine flu, whooping cough and vaccines. She reminded me of the crazy-ass anti-vaxers and finished with:
odds are that swine flu will start to spread rapidly through the community as soon as the students get back to campus on Monday. But if we haven't all come down with it before October, my kid and I will get vaccinated. (And I'm going to get re-vaccinated for whooping cough, too.) Because it's not just about the two of us. It's about the herd.

Brian in Jeollanam-do is, as always, on the case with a roundup. In a comment he made to his own post, he said:
It doesn't do any good to sanitize your hands when everybody projectile sneezes or coughs without covering their mouths. "disease terrorists," I think commenter nb once wrote. Coughing on people is my second biggest pet-peeve here, behind noisy eating.

kimchi-icecream brought up a good point elsewhere. They talk about sanitizing the classrooms every day, but let's not forget cleaning is often left up to the students. The same students who don't use cleaning solution, who don't use hot water, who mop the classroom floors with mops that are stored in the bathroom, and who don't wash their hands. Not only do they seem woefully ignorant about cleaning and sanitation, but if you note the half-assed way in which the classrooms are cleaned now, I don't think you'd put much faith in them being sanitary in the future.

Kimchi Ice cream discusses concerns that too many healthy people with visit the hospital:
In Korea I've often been told I 'should go to the hospital' (see here for a post about this cultural difference) for things I'd never go to the hospital for back home in Canada . . . and I think that this cultural habit may put too much stress on the medical system in Korea.

"Over 250 outpatients visited the Geoje hospital to get tested for the new influenza on Tuesday this week alone, 40 percent more than a usual day, according to the hospital.

This is a reasonable concern as, when I am sick with a minor cold, people will ask me if I've visited the hospital. Seems a little strange as pharmacies can treat the symptoms and doctors can't give me a cure for what is, after all, only a irritation. I remember some time ago, a children's clinic had a good play area and my wife suggested we take the little guy there on hot days to enjoy the air conditioning. I pointed out that sick people tend to go there.

*And I am, if not afraid, then horrified by this movie.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fall runs

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Korea has chosen not to organize the Terry Fox Run again this year. I can sympathize; to meet Canadian liability requirements would be a challenge for a small organization overseas.

So I'm happy to see that the Hi-Seoul marathon, which does include an actual marathon, also has shorter runs - a half marathon and a 10km run. Here is the site.

I am not sure if Oct 11 is a good date for me as I hope to get to Seoul for the KOTESOL conference two weeks later, but I will try. I will also watch for local runs.

Kwandong foreign teachers will start the semester late

University classes start at the regular time but foreigners will start a week late. I like the idea of time off but hate to be treated differently than the other staff.

In an effort to be fair about this, I expect the foreign students will also start late but no one felt the foreign teachers needed this information. Similarly, Korean professors who travelled overseas may also be asked to wait a week - again, there is no reason to tell the foreign profs this. As a group, my coworkers and I are the most likely to be returning from overseas, so I guess it makes sense.

Still, I have been in-country long enough to satisfy quarantine requirements and want to try to teach - as a student I would have loved to hear we have a week free, but as a teacher, I want to teach.

I had thought the quarantine at other schools was for everyone, not merely the foreigners. Perhaps I was wrong about that, too.

Oh, I have a week off but have been asked to stay away from crowded places. I would love some ironic suggestions in the comments
  1. the plagiarism-investigations office of any school
  2. the line at the bank for people with no credit card debt
  3. Roh Mu-hyeon's gravesite now that Kim Dae-jung has stolen his thunder.
  4. beaches after Aug 31: "it's too cold!"
  5. ....your suggestion here...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bikes on subways

Seoul will soon allow bikes on the subway outside of peak of peak hours. In addition, bike storage will be available at some stations.

I like the ideas and hope it catches on.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Galileo's telescope

IYA2009 logoIt is 400 years old today.

I tried to buy a galileoscope - two actually - but sent them to an obsolete address for my sister. I may try again and send her two, with the expectation that I will get one at some point. Oh, they only can be shipped to American address. You could order yours here.

How do New Zealand and Finland teach science?

However they do it, they do it well. Graph from Nature.

Making the grade

Despite their small populations, they have a large percentage of top performers in science. Korea has more top performers but, due to it's larger population, a much smaller percentage. I wonder, though, if it works better for Korea as at least some Korean scientists are basically trapped here due to language and cultural isolation.

There is another interesting graph in the article but I can't understand what it is saying -the childish style is cute, but impenetrable. I'm clearly not a 'top-performer'.

Hat Tip (if needed) to Pharyngula.

Monday, August 24, 2009

'Mentee'? A good idea, but crazy name.

The Joongang has an article about 'volunteer' service that students are required to do (it being required is why I put volunteer in scare-quotes). One student who previously hated doing volunteer work is now enjoying mentoring other students. The program is in Songpa, where I once lived and worked -and volunteered myself, as it happens.

Anyway, there are two individuals involved, the mentor and the ...mentee?
“We supervise and counsel the mentors and mentees and the mentees’ guardians, and we also distribute budgets for the outdoor activities,” said Lee Yu-mi, a welfare worker in the Pungnap welfare center. “We also share information and discuss matters about the activities and the mentors.”
The tutoring is generally done once a week and outdoor activities typically occur monthly. Usually the mentors teach youngsters school subjects they’re having difficulty with.

For outdoor activities, the two participate in activities that interest the mentees, such as visiting ecological parks or observing the lives of insects and plants.
Skeptics say most high-school students participating in community service programs activities are simply trying to meet admission requirements at universities, as many universities now like to see community service activities as part of a student’s application.

I thought the word was 'mentored'. It seems Mr Domestic Bliss is mentoring a few students as well (well, showing them bugs).

Ontario students are required to perform fifteen hours of volunteer service a year in order to graduate (I think - this is long after I graduated and I haven't lived in Canada in a long time). I am not sure what the goal is; making someone volunteer wouldn't seem to encourage volunteerism in later years in my opinion. As a coach, making your players shake hands with opposing teams is a good idea but is not guaranteed to encourage good-sportsmanship. Making someone do anything is not really the best way to encourage that behavior.

Anyway, I hope this particular program works both the mentor and mentee (hee-hee) are helped by it.

By the way, to any Sokcho or coastal Gangwon people: I used to do a fair bit of volunteering but family scheduling conflicts have caused me to ease off - to nothing. If people are looking to irregular volunteering (irregular hours, I mean - a full day here or there or a few nights one week only), I am looking to help voluntees.

Is this a lily pad?

I was at the in-laws for a day on the weekend and found my little guy with this plant.Most lily pads I've seen have a definite 'start' and 'finish' to the leaf - at 11:40, the edge clearly folds into and at 12:20, it bulges out again, showing apparent endpoints. Not this leaf.
They grow in swampy water, like lily pads, but the stalk is strong enough to carry the leaf well above the water.
Finally, do these look like frog eggs or the like? I have heard of some frogs that glue their eggs above the water, so that the tadpoles dive into the water upon hatching.
The visit with the in-laws went well, with me managing to not embarrass myself in helping with the farm-work. I helped plant about twenty rows of potatoes, each row around 200 metres long - with the whole extended family, it took around four hours.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In honour of Left Hander's Day (Belated)

I received a compliment a day or two after Left Hander's Day which was was surely inspired by that day.

I've been playing frisbee with a few friends lately. On the day in question, it was just two of us and my friend told me, "I'm glad [name] isn't here. H[is/er] throws are so accurate that I don't get to run much and it's boring. I don't have that problem with you."

Can you think of a more left-handed compliment then that?

Since my friend reads this blog, I know what you mean and am just happy to play. No hard feelings.

toronto Star Scientific Literacy Test

The Tor Star archives its articles after a week or so. If you want to do this test, hurry!
Here is the link.

I will try to write my comments below in white. After the test, highlight the area below to read (AFTER THE TEST!)

I got five wrong (#2,16,22,24,26)

#2 I don't understand. Sure, the side facing the sun is illuminated, but I thought the phases came from the Earth's shadow.

#16 - Am I confused by the 'best describes' part? I thought the sun and the Milky Way would be the same age, and both younger than the universe.

#22 I was wrong and shouldn't have been. I guessed 'b'.

#24 DNA allows cells to run chemical reactions? Well, it creates catalysts, but chemical reactions will happen come what may.

#26 Our ancestors go all the back to the pre-Cambrian and beyond. Go far enough back and we are related to plants.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

fifth international archery contest in Sokcho

As I am out of town, I forgot about this but a friend on Facebook reminded me this morning.

At the Hwarang training centre this weekend is a mounted archery contest (Hwarang is the name for Shilla knights of yore). After a short search, I could not find any information about the event this year. A British team attended last year and, at some point, a Korean archer was filmed at the event.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lefthander's Day


See previous posts: 2008, 2007

Sunday, August 09, 2009

looking for photo-editing software

One surprise I have found with the iMac is that, while the photo-editing software has some technical features, it lacks a lot of the simple stuff I enjoyed with Microsoft's "paint" - part of the Windows accessories package.

As a teacher, I like to take pictures and then write text on them -maybe a label or caption. I also like to be able to point at or circle a specific part of the picture.

As an enthusiastic amateur, I also like to occasionally stitch three or four photos together to make a panoramic view.

As a blogger, I like to resize photos to very specific sizes.

With iPhoto, I appear to be able to do none of these things. I can blur part of a picture, which is great if I want to remove recognizable features of person's face to preserve anonymity and the crop feature is better that Window's version but if I want to resize a pic the simplest options are "large, medium and small".

I am looking at GIMP, Serif Photoplus and a few other free editing software programs online, but getting GIMP to add a phrase to a picture is overkill. Its not clear to me that Serif Photoplus has an Apple version.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Korean swimming pioneer passed away

I wish I knew more about Cho Oh-ryun and his accomplishments before he passed away. He apparently swam from Ulleungdo to Dokdo (which surely means it belongs to Korea) and other, notable distances.

Gangwon travel suggestions from the Herald

A excerpt from a tourism piece about the province:

If you want to drag your family to the beach, but want something extra with your trip or a longer stay, head out to Gangwon Province. There are a bunch of things to do in Chuncheon, and there are several areas with pensions near the city, particularly to the southwest along Cheongpyeong Lake. The usual conveniences of a small city - supermarkets, bakeries and pharmacies - are here, and there are options for cycling and other leisure activities by the river.

Day 1: Travel to Chuncheon, stopping off on the way at Petite France - a cluster of French style buildings themed on Antoine de Saint-Exupery's children's book "The Little Prince." Tucked appropriately in the folds of the hills surrounding Cheongpyeong Lake, it's a pretty impressive stab at creating a piece of Europe in Korea.

As an old(er) guy, I like the emphasis on children's activities in the article. There is a lot here that I, a Gangwon resident, would like to do.


If it looks like something you'd want to do later, save it. The Herald has (or maybe had) a policy of archiving material for only a week.