Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallowe'en monster

It is a relatively cute monster - what with it wearing Winne-the-pooh pajamas and all. Still, a few students were terrified sufficiently for me to feel it was worth it.

On Thursday and Friday at University, I played a prank on classmates and coworkers at school. The craftsmanship was appreciated more than the effectiveness, I'm afraid. Still, a few students were briefly but properly terrified. As with fishing, the best reaction got away. I didn't have my camera ready for him.

Anyway, I made a dummy about a metre tall, dressed it in my son's pajamas, then taped a ruler -signifying a knife - to a hand. The most important part of the construction was the fasteners. It was hung from the ceiling at the head and toe, with the toe supposed to be permanent, while the head hook should come free, allowing the dummy to swing forward, attacking the person opening at the door. Obviously, there was a string to the door, but also an arrestor, so the dummy wouldn't actually hit the person - I am proud of thinking of that. A coworker covered the windows so people wouldn't see it ahead of time. Enjoy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I can't tell if this is a deliberate pun

From the Korean Times, I found the headline:

Embracing Minorities Key to Fertile Nations

Perhaps the 'free hugs' movement is a way to embrace foreigners.

The article is a long and thoughtful one about maintaining population sizes, how the US and France are managing it in different ways, and what Korean could learn from the two disparate* examples.

I wrote more, then deleted it. I still think the title is amusing, but I am not sure how I feel about the article. Is it encouraging births out-of-marriage or merely reporting on it? Am I so conservative that I automatically disapprove of single-mothers? I need to think more about this article and I am not sure that I will be posted the results of my meditation.
*vocab question:
This is the first time I have used "disparate" - it means something like 'diverse', right?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Marc Helgeson always gives a great lecture and his main subject is happiness. This one began with his defense for wasting time on happiness.
He started by comparing educational psychology with 'positive psychology' -how and why people feel happy. Students who are having fun are more engaged and are more likely to remember things.

Alright, how can we use positive psychology in class? If you ask students to give compliments in class, look at the event chain. Students think about the English they need, give the compliment, then it is heard and remembered. It goes through the minds of the students at least four times.

He also gave attendees a 'happiness journal' for students. I expect to use it with my third year classes next year.

The material in this lecture was meant as a supplement or as directions to keep in mind during class and curriculum planning.

To learn more, go to his website.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I hope to describe a few of the seminars I went to. I wanted to do this last year, but lost enthusiasm; here's hoping I don't this time.

I almost missed the first presentation as I had trouble with registration. Luckily, I had a small receipt from the bank machine showing that I had transferred money to the treasurer's account. Part of the problem is that the Korean software only accepts Korean length names. We found 'Bria' on a page of unknown depositors on the date listed on my receipt. Anyway, I had to enter my name into a word processor and my card was printed on the spot. It wasn't a big deal, but I waited more than half an hour to get it straightened out. I entered my name and university, but if it happens next time, I will be entering my name and "presenter" to get access to the behind-the-scenes areas.

Anyway, I did make it in in time to see Raymond Wong's presentation on having student make presentations in listening class. He clearly had put a lot of work into his class and his presentation and the information he gave us will allow me to plug it into next semester's classes without great adjustments.

Briefly, he prepared information on eight or so videos and the students (working in teams or pairs) could choose the video they liked. The students needed to find Japanese definitions (his is a Japanese university) for a word list he created. Then, he provided them with a videoscript and they made two pages of questions. Teams that chose the same videos peer-reviewed the question pages, then they were provided to other students.
Mr (Doctor?) Wong used TV programs and burned them to DVDs but I think Youtube would work just as well. He also used documentaries, rather than TV shows.

I found it very interesting and also found the person I sat next to interesting. She was wearing a nametag saying "Chris Backe" and I had thought that person was a he. Anyway, she was, in fact, Mr Backe's "guest" - part of how the registration worked. I later met the man himself.
Oh, Chris and his guest were interesting in their own rights as well. I later had lunch with them and JoeSeoulMan.

Joe taught us a new term for something I admit I had long done but hadn't known such a term existed. Spousal Money Laundering is something a man married to a Korean particularly might do. As many such men are put on an 'allowance' from wives who control finances, one way to get a little more pocket money is to go out to lunch with a group, collect cash from that group, then pay by credit card. Suddenly, one has a surplus of cash.

Meta comments on exams

I've just finished marking midterm exams. I'm not satisfied with my exam making skills, but student's marks seemed well spread out which is the main thing. I think I'm actually checking the things I think I am but it's not always clear.

In the first year book, there is a conversation with the lines:
A3: What's your student number?
B3: It is 20070000.
Oh, the threes mean these are the third line each character speaks.
On the exam, I had the same question and many times got the exact same answer (20070000). As almost all the students started at university in 2009, the above number just has to be wrong. Also, no one gets a null number (....0000).
Did the students think the conversations, rather than models to be adjusted to fit, were authoritative, historic quotes to be memorized? Mister Lee and Doctor Choi (the authors of the first year text) have done their best, but they are no Shakespeares.

Possibly more interesting to my readers are the extra comments written on a few papers and addressed to me, rather than focussed on the exam itself (click to embiggen).

This student was not a student in the Tuesday class. I don't think he/she was a math student but I am not sure how else to explain the 'pi' signs on the face (yes, I know, the Korean letter for "YU" looks both like a Greek 'pi' and tears falling.
The big red loop, some of which can be seen means that not one question was answered on this page and the total for this page is zero.

I think the 'T's at the end of the second line are also representative of tears.

I'm not sure how I specifically helped this student but the comment is pleasant. With that score, it seems more apple-polishing than anything else, though.

This student loves me -and was paying more attention to me than other commenting students, as evidenced by the above-50% mark.

Another student loves me, although she (I blanked out the name, but it was a feminine name) was unable to look at the upper left, where I wrote my own name, for spelling purposes. On the bottom-right is the beginning of another long loop: this student did not answer the first few questions or the page at all.

Oh, I want to tell you about a great prank I played on my students. On Monday and Tuesday, I had second year exams and I had some blank exams left over so on Thursday and Friday, I would go into class early, write some notes on the board and left, absent-mindedly leaving the (wrong) exams on my desk. Then, from the corner of a window I would watch a few brave or desperate students crowd around the desk, checking out the exams. In two or three classes the students didn't notice or were too honest or apathetic and didn't move from their desks. Still, good times.


This post would have been a little more topical last week as Boingboing had posts about Dairy Drink and vitamin D Milk.
Click to bigify the picture or accept my claim that the cartons are labelled, "Milk Based Peptides".

Anyway, is this milk?

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Just got in the door. I'm going to crash soon but thought I'd relax with a beer first. I will post again, later, in more detail about various presentations.

The big-name speakers were not as interesting as in previous years but There were three presentations that I will be thinking about and researching further before next semester's classes. I also sat in three presentations about Masters programs in TESOL.

I think I spent more time with friends than at previous conferences. You couldn't walk down a hallway without tripping over a blogger - that seemed to be true for all of Seoul.
At the conference, I saw the EFL Geek, JoeSeoulman, Chris in South Korea, the Chosun Bimbo. There were even more bloggers but I got the impression that they weren't blogging anymore (John in Kwangju, what is your blog, anyway?).

While walking down the street by city hall, I saw a foreigner and asked him if Bando and Luni's bookstore was nearby. He swiftly responded, "Are you Gangwon Notes?" It was nice to bump, completely randomly, into ZenKimchi. He didn't know where the bookstore was, but may soon have a book published to be placed in such a store. Congrats on his recent wedding.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

H1N1 prevention measures: good work Korea

According to the Korea Times (my bolding) "South Korea's health authorities Tuesday reported two more deaths from the H1N1 virus infection, bringing the nation's flu death toll to 20."

I can accept that any death is one too many, but compare the death toll from Korea, population 50 million+, to that of Canada, population 32 million (my bolding):
FluWatch, will be published every Friday at 4 p.m. to provide a detailed analysis of the impact of the H1N1 flu virus in Canada.
Bi-weekly and cumulative number of deaths due to Pandemic (H1N1) 2009, by province/territory, Canada, as of 15 October, 2009, 11h00 EDT
...Total 80

Ontario alone has had 25 deaths.

I understand that the flu appears to have started in Mexico (that's still the consensus, right?) and Canada shares a continent and a free trade agreement with Mexico so people and products are more likely to cross into Canada, but this might be support for the measures Korea has taken.

I didn't care for Korea's prevention measures and didn't like having a thermometer stuck in my ear when I got to work, but it may have saved lives.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Salmon Festival in Yangyang

I meant to arrange that all my friends would be at the festival at the same time. After learning that Zovar would be there at 12:00, I arranged that my coworker friends would be there at the same time. I did, however, get the day wrong. D'oh!

Anyway, it seems that my diverse friends, and I, myself, all had fun.

And how could you not, playing in the river, catching giant fish in your bare (okay, gloved) hands?

I have all my photos in order except for the first. I meant to tease the makers of the sign after showing how much fun I'd had. Oh, well.

Salmon can't buy you happiness. Below is the saddest man ever to have a fish in each hand. Here is his blog (it's not that sad).
See, you can be happy, even if you don't catch anything.
But don't steal the carvings!
Hooray! He did catch one.
After catching them, you could them inked and a poster made. KwandongAlex is shown helping.
There was more to eat than just salmon. Either that or he was beginning to apply his Santa beard way early.
Salmon, like piranha, can skeletonize a man in minutes!
After the excitement, I took the little guy to Jin Jeon Temple. I've seen great pictures of fall colours but I didn't see a lot of colour here. Well, I did see a lot of green.

We had high winds Saturday, Sunday and today. I worry about fires as the reservoir at Jin Jeon temple is dry.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Summer of loving, fall of segregation

I'm a little late to the story, but it's a story that many of my readers should pay attention to. A judge in Louisiana has refused to many a couple of different races.

The judge, Keith Bardwell, is willing to marry couples of any race so long as they are of the same race.

He might have a rationale for his decision, but it isn't supported by American law. I am not sure if Loving V Virginia acts as a precedent in his state - I thought it would because it went to the supreme court, but am neither American nor a lawyer.

His rationale is that children of mixed-race will have more difficulty in growing up than pure blooded children. This is such a weak argument and I would love to see any evidence for it. Who amongst us is exclusively of one race? How many marriages of single race couples are perfect?
It's upsetting and it is well-covered in the K-blogosphere and beyond. ROK Drop, Dispatches, Pharyngula, CNN.

Perhaps this will bring the hows and why of getting married to the public's consciousness and might even get people to rethink gay marriage. If you have good arguments for allowing mixed race couples to marry, those arguments all apply to gay marriage as well.
UPDATED November 4, 2009:
The judge has resigned. His resignation letter contained one sentence and did not detail why.
News article here.

hmmm... Sounds good. (2)-F1 racing Jeollanam

In Jeollanam Province, plans are underfoot for an F1 Grand Prix race track and events.
Here are some excerpts from the Joongang with my commentary.
...How does the South Jeolla provincial government plan to sell some 130,000 tickets?

A. ...We intend to sell up to 100,000 tickets to locals and around 30,000 to 40,000 to foreign tourists. The 2002 World Cup in Sangam, western Seoul, had crowds of up to 65,000. Given this past experience, we are not worried about ticket sales.
I am not an auto racing fan but I am sure there are many. Still, I don't think that the Seoul World Cup Stadium is a good example. To my knowledge, it is not chronically underused. I suspect there will be many people eager to attend the first car races, and even one or two -or even ten- races a year. I also have to wonder about more local stadiums. Why didn't they discuss the success -or lack- of Jeonju, Daejeon or Gwangju stadiums?

(Answer to a different question):
We will keep the hat-shaped circuit in the north running more than 200 days of the year by attracting other existing motor events such as A1 Grand Prix, F3 Grand Prix, Kart racing and drag racing.
I suspect they can find people to use the track 200+ days a year, but would be surprised (pleasantly, I really would like it to succeed) if it were profitably used 200 days a year.

(Regarding the distance from Seoul and Incheon Airport)
Both locals and foreigners take four- to five-hour road trips to get to Silverstone in England and Magny-Cours in France for Grand Prix events. The distance seems like a big deal for us Koreans, but it isn’t. We intend to focus on the “fun” part of going back and forth between Yeongam and other tourist attractions across Korea. We are in the middle of developing tourism products such as temple stay programs and cruises along Yeongam’s coast, which is surrounded by dozens of islets.
I can see four and five hour road trips for 'events', but there are unlikely to be "200" events a year. Still, this response has the most encouraging news. The organizers do seem to be looking at tourism in Jeollanam as a whole, rather than considering the F1 racing in a vacuum.

I do want the enterprise to succeed but we've already seen the World Cup Stadiums, empty since 2002, and various airports, empty since they opened.

Hmmm... Sounds good.

A few months ago, I helped, in a marginal way, with producing motivational slogans for an organization in Gangwondo. Based on the way it was described and the examples they gave from other groups, it seemed they felt slogans would be more cost effective than actually fixing things or making improvements. Improve attitudes and you don't need to improve facilities.

The Dong-a notes that,
To encourage childbirth, the Health, Welfare and
Family Affairs Ministry has announced six slogans.

Here are two that particularly seemed interesting.

“Childbirth is touching, childcare is rewarding, and

families are happy”;

“The joy of childbirth, growing happiness,
younger Korea”

I am the father of a usually wonderful boy and the highs I feel when things go right are very high. My son can make many things go right. He can make a similar number of things go wrong, however. My understanding is that parents experience highs and positive emotions in greater intensity than the childless can but that we also experience as much or more time at the negative side of the scale. Dealing with temper tantrums, endless negotiations for everyday things - everyday* - and guilt when you feel happy to get away for a time are all part of parenting, too.

I'm satisfied with being a parent and don't want to stop; being a parent is now part of how I define myself. Still, I'm not wearing rose-colored glasses; "families are happy" is an oversimplification, at best.

My favourite slogan, though, is the second one listed. "The joy of childbirth" -ha, ha, ha.

* Every night, I spend ten or more minutes working to convince the little one to brush his teeth, or, more accurately, to let me brush them. Every night, there are tears - only his, but I sometimes want to shed a few, too.
Not completely on topic: Kevin recently summarized a review of a book about over-dependance on positive thinking.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Friends in the Herald

Two ex-coworkers were featured in the Korea Herald for their investing skills.

With no prior experience in investing, William McRoberts went into a securities company office about seven years ago and started a profitable hobby.

The securities company he invested with had a branch located on the same floor as the hagwon where he was teaching, so one day the Canada native went in and bought 200,000 won worth of stock in a Korean conglomerate.

That didn't buy a huge amount of shares, but by the time he chose to sell them, he got 540,000 won back. This has since become a trend for McRoberts, who is now a high school teacher in Gyeonggi Province who estimates that he's doubled his money since he started investing here.

McRoberts typically invests in common stock, as opposed to preferred stock, which carries priority in the payment of dividends, but doesn't see nearly as much change in value.


Daniel Costello, originally from Canada, first came to Korea in 1996 and started investing in mutual funds more than 10 years ago.

"Investing started because I had extra money and it became part of my monthly routine," he said. While it began to help him pay his debts, "When you get into the habit of paying off your debts you have this money left over."

Costello enjoys investing in mutual funds from Korea because "your income is totally your own and you don't have to declare anything until you become a resident (of your home country) again," he said.

In addition, he calls Korea "one of the better countries" with regards to taxes: While his home country taxes 35 percent on income, Korea's taxes are at 5-10 percent.

Nice work. I wonder if they are in the lending mood.

Samba band on October 31 in Gangneung

Finally, I am reporting on an event in enough time for people to make plans to attend, if they choose.

From the email I received (Oh, and apparently, there is a coffee festival, as well):

"Brazilian Samba Band in Gangneung"
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the diplomatic friendship between Korea and Brazil, famous Brazilian Samba Musicians will visit Gangneung during the COFFEE FESTIVAL in October.
- Date : Oct. 31 (Saturday)
- Time : 7 pm to9 pm
- Venue : Dano Cultural Center
(From the parking lot in Taxibu square downtown, cross the bridge; then you will find a park, and a building. That is the one, where Danoje festival used to happen.)
-Program : - Samba Band performance
- local performances
- Jam session between Samba band and Korean musicians
* Brazilian coffee will be served before the performance.
- No entrance fee/ticket : first come, first take (Need to be before 7 pm)
- Contact point : Ms Heekyung Choi : 011-788-0005 / 033-640-5475 ~ 6
Mr. Seokje Lee : 016-399-7504
A good thing thing is that the coffee festival begins from Oct. 30 all around the coffee shops in downtown, and near the Anmok beach.
So, people can go to Anmok beach, after the concert, and enjoy all night.
Many events at the same time....Samba night, coffee festival and Halloween!

Inter-City Intangible Cultural Cooperation Network
ICCN Secretariat
Tel : +82 33 640 5475, 5476 Fax : +82 33 640 4756
14th Fl., Gangneung City Hall, 1001 Hongje-dong, Gangneung City, Gangwon Province,
210-703, Republic of Korea
Website :

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First day of commuting by car

I don't expect to drive myself to work much on Thursdays as the university shuttle bus schedule closely matches my work schedule. I have a long day of teaching and would gain only thirty minutes, at the expense of not being able to rest, read and even sleep on the road.

However, my wife's schedule and my own conflicted in the morning and I had to take our son to daycare long after the shuttle bus had left. It was handy, then, to have the car, have the option.

And, of course, I was excited about driving for the first time in several months -I had rented a car while my mother visited (ironically, I may have to again when she next visits as our car, a Korando, is a two-seater).

The two drives- there and back - were an interesting contrast. On the drive there, I was unusually alert and careful. I drove aggressively but within my abilities; chiefly because I knew my skills were rusty and was deliberately paying more attention than usual. During the drive, I expected that in the future, perhaps in two or three weeks, my skills would have recovered a little but my comfort would have increased drastically. This, I figured, would be the most dangerous time for me, as I would be more confident than warranted.

Turns out, the ride home was nearly at that risk level. I was careful but tired from teaching. There were no problems, but several times I was surprised by stoplights and cars ahead that I should have (and in the morning, would have) noticed at a greater distance. I got home fine, and I am fine (tired, though) but the ride to work was a joy. The ride home, a chore.

Tomorrow, I will drive again. I can leave home a little earlier and not push myself on the road. I also finish early and will stop a few times on the way home.

I recognize that I am making this sound a little melodramatic -I know that I don't have to summit Everest or anything to get to work. Still, what I really want to discuss is the cost/benefit for driving compared to bussing. At this point, both modes of transport have their individual strong suits.

Oh, I will stop on the way home to do some shopping and sightseeing, not rest and recover from a stressful drive or anything like that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

number 1000

This is my 1000th post.

Expect a 'What Next' kind of post coming soon. It will describe what I want the next 1000 posts to be like; as far predictions and planning allow.
I've just spent an enjoyable few hours looking at my archives. Below I liveblogged my review. At the bottom, I mentioned the few times Gangwon Notes, or myself have been in the news.


First six posts - an attempt at making my own categories or tags.

Finding my voice - a few political posts -that didn’t last.

ESL posts

Sept 16, 2004 - the first time I posted the photo of a sleeper.

Cycling posts. Rice and farming. Hiking Environment

Right from 2005, I mention my fight with my weight. Nothing’s changed there.

March 2005 - why I don’t want a car - interesting now that I have one.

Coast Guard blogging started Spring of 2005

my first post on religion occurred in late spring.

Hmmm, the discussion around ‘Realnames’ started in the summer of 2005.

It is around this time that the boundaries for this blog narrowed a little. There were fewer travel posts after this point. (as noted in the other section below -this is when my son was born).

The MIC (Ministry of Information?) blocked blogger Aug, 2005. Kevin Kim was a leader in protesting the censorship.

Hmm. Bird Flu was the disease de jour for Fall 2005

Blogging the canal started in October 2005.

I got burned by an April Fool’s joke in 2006. someone claimed to want an international club in Korea but Canadians weren’t welcome. It looks like I bought it unquestioningly. Oh, I have a fair list of April Fool’s Jokes that were more local in scope but of fair effectiveness.

A falcon nested on a neighbor’s verandah in June 2006

Two web services- Odeo for creating MP3s online, and Jumpcut, for editing videos online came and went during the past five years. There are a few empty posts now.

I attended my first KOTESOL conference in 2006

Hallowe’en is also the time for student elections - the two are similar as they involve dressing in costumes. In 2007, a group of superheros beat me up.

My son had surgery for an inguinal hernia, June 2008

At a camp I work at, the assistants are called ‘Program assistants’ or ‘PA’s. Pa is also the word in Korean for green onion or leek. Everytime I am at camp, I have my students tape green onion to the PA office door. They (the students) love it. The PAs? Not so much. Aug 2008 and others.

Man, that Bell’s Palsy really sucked. Sept 2008.

Personal experiences and Gangwon Notes in the News:

Contenders, the arirang TV Game Show.

Naksan fire (April 5, 2005)

On June 22, 2005, my son was born and I posted a few audio blogs at the time. The service -odeo- has since ended and those posts are lost. There are several photos of the little guy from around that time.

Starting in 2006, I found that wikipedia fan death articles linked to me. English wikipedia no longer does so but some foreign language versions do. A medical professor at my university was quoted on the Wikipedia article and I interviewed him.

I rode to promote Canada’s claim to Hans Island in Spring 2006.

Gord Sellar admitted to liking my article on caring about cheating - I was so proud!

Spring 2006, I interviewed two co-workers who chose to take Korean citizenship. The interviews were commented upon by the Korea Times Going to the Blogs column, a short lived summary of blog activity locally.

Summer 2006: While in Canada, I went on a kayaking trip with friends and there was a huge storm that killed someone (same storm but different location). I commented that I hoped he at least passed away doing something he enjoyed and the sister of the deceased commented that she felt he had and she enjoyed my post.

I posted about Scott Sigler’s book (a bestseller) and he commented here.

In May of 2007, I gave a speech at Gangneung National University about foreigners views of the Korean War and continuing armistice.

October 2007: I guest posted at EFL Geek, reviewing Korean Class 101.

On February 10, 2008, you will find my longest comment thread, but it is only two people- myself and an ex-coworker who is a creationist. It was a debate between people who were once friends and we nearly remained friends at the end.

Take Back the Sidewalks: June, 2008 is a post that became an article for my university’s English language magazine. A previous article I wrote was about Lee Myeong-bak’s canal and i was asked, after this one, to please stay away from politcal articles.

I’ve gone to the salmon festival almost every year. In 2008, I was on the promotional posters and such. The organizers gave me gift certificates.

In January of this year, Gangwon tourism asked for my help in choosing an English slogan. Hmm, I don’t know how that turned out.

That brings us to 2009. That's recent enough to be in your memory.

Searching for bike trails

This is great news - if only I didn't register my car today and so never expect to ride again!

The Donga Ilbo reports that "
The Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry said
yesterday that it will search for 4,000 kilometers of coastal roads
for pedestrians and bicyclers to promote the two activities at
fishing villages."

The ministry will introduce the selected places in its pictorial

magazine’s December edition. The magazine will also contain

information on 100 fishing villages, major fishing ports and

coastal tourist attractions.

A thousand copies of the magazine will go to libraries at major

universities across the country, provincial and municipal

government offices, and tourist information booths.

The Joongang has also reports on the news with the interesting title of "bike path to link coastline". I wonder what it will be linked to.

visit Happy Bikers (Korean) and Sea Tour (also in Korean) for more information, including maps when the routes are finalized.

forest fires report

The Chosun announces that "forest fires burn nearly 900 hectares yearly". I say, that sounds pretty damn good. Canada loses 516,000 hectares a year -granted Canada is much larger, but still we also have fewer people to start fires. Korea had an average of 453 fires a year over the past five years, of which just over 200 a year were caused by hikers, with around a 100 caused by farmers.

By way of comparison, The Seoul Times (dated today?) states that the Naksan fire alone burned 973 hectares

Maybe I just can't process how much larger Canada is than South Korea or I am not reading these numbers right. One way or another, I gotta say loosing 900 hectares a year sounds like peanuts (my condolences to any who lost their homes or loved ones. I understand that any amount of fire might be considered too much) Congratulations to Korea's forest fire fighting crews.

Transboundary flood control talks

About a month ago, dams in North Korea released a flood of water into South Korea which killed six people. (Self-promotion links, but which also hold links to other bloggers and newspapers: here and here. Oh, and here, where I presciently discussed the threat for Water Blogging Day).

This week, talks are beginning regarding the flood and how to prevent new surprise floods. Again showing their bizarre negotiation tactics, the North have tested missiles recently as well. They seem to also be linking the flood control talks with talks about reunions.

From the Times:
North Korea has accepted South Korea's proposals to hold inter-Korean talks this week over flood prevention and humanitarian issues, the Ministry of Unification said Tuesday.

The North's latest conciliatory gesture comes one day after it test-fired five short-range missiles off its east coast.

Pyongyang is showing signs of preparing another missile test off the west coast as it warned ships not to sail through waters off South Pyeongan Province, government sources said, adding that it could be part of a routine military exercise aimed at improving capability.

And the Joongang:
North Korea yesterday agreed to the South’s proposals from Monday for the talks. Today in Kaesong, representatives from the two Koreas will sit down to discuss ways to prevent further floods at the Imjin River. Six South Koreans were killed in a September flash flood along the Imjin River caused by the North’s unannounced discharge of dam water.

The river originates north of the border and runs into the Han River in the South. Floods at the Imjin have previously caused damage to fishing farms south of the border.

North Korea has yet to apologize for the September incident. It has only said it would provide prior warnings in the future if it is forced to release water from one of its dams. The South Korean delegation is expected to further press for the apology today.
Yes, that'll be an expensive apology to get.

UPDATED ALMOST IMMEDIATELY: Yonhap announces that North Korea officially 'regrets' the deaths of six South Koreans. Again, I suspect goods changed hands to receive those 'regrets' but you take what you can get.

Kipling spider is vegetarian?

I am a big Kipling fan.

I have read and re-read the Jungle books and look forward to reading them to and with my son. Kim is another I frequently return to. Captain's Courageous, Stalky and Co and more filled my childhood. As an adult, I have enjoyed The Day's Work and the childhood favorites over again. I doubt I have read all he wrote but I am trying to.

You might think I would be happy that a favourite author has been further immortalized by having an animal named after him. I would be, but, a vegetarian spider? How about a toothless bear (or tiger, in keeping with Kipling's connection to India)? A venomless cobra?

nature science
Alright, reports are it is intelligent and as physically active as anyone who is also a fan of Spiderman (and I am) could wish. I guess it would have to be radio-active to be coerced to bite someone.

Links: Photo, essay.

Jet fighter pilots not training enough? Says who?

No one at Kwandong University, that's for sure! I have chosen to treat the frequent visit of the fighters overhead with humour, and gradually raise the volume of my voice as they cross overhead, until I am nearly screaming at the students (really, it's funny - Really, it's not scary). Many days, I do so three to five times. Those pilots from the 18th fighter wing in Gangneung seem to get enough training.

Still, the Chosun Ilbo has an editorial on the subject.
South Korean fighter pilots trained 131 hours each on average last year, according to files compiled by the parliamentary Defense Committee for this year's National Assembly audit. Between 2004 and 2006, pilots trained an average of 134 hours each, and 132 hours in 2007.

But Air Force regulations require 240 hours of flight training a year for pilots to stay in top shape. At least 180 hours of flight training a year is required for pilots to stay in satisfactory shape and 150 hours to maintain the minimum required skill level. So the average flight training hours logged last year were 19 hours short of even the minimum.
The editorial describes why South Korea needs a strong and well-trained air force and I cannot argue the point: indeed, living close to the DMZ, as I do, I want the same things the editorialist does.

Still, the reasoning for why the Air Force is not training enough is simplistic. The editorial describes rising fuel costs as the reason pilots don't train enough. Yet, my understanding is that maintenance is the main and unchanging cost and delay. State of the Art equipment need several hours of care for each hour of use. Overuse a fighter jet and pay by having time lost to repairs or loss.

I want the fighter pilots to train as much as they can but I want them to do so over the ocean and not my university.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Someone comes to town, someone leaves town.

Doctorow wrote a cool and weird story with that title, but my story deals more with how someone came and left.

My brother-in-law drove here on Saturday evening and took the bus home on Sunday afternoon.

He left us with...

A Mercedes! Alright, a Mercedes licensed engine, in a Korando (and that is now three times that I have tried to spell the vehicle name and written Korean instead).
The truck is not new but seriously 'like new'. My B-I-L took excellent care of his truck and actually took a lot of time into explaining how to care for it. He learned basic mechanics on the farm and was a driver for a general during his military service so he has the right background.

You might wonder how or why he would decide to sell or give us his car. Well, he is getting a new one for himself and we helped finance him eight years ago when he bought this one.

I am excited to own a car again. Previously, I had bought a car, a Honda Civic and two weeks later, my girlfriend came to Canada. Three weeks after that, I proposed and began planning how I would move back to Korea. Nine months later, I sold that car.

I have ten months of car ownership experience and, as with most North Americans, several years of driving experience. I briefly worked for an ambulance service and so qualified for my small bus license and considered myself, again briefly, to be a pretty good driver.

Honestly, though, I am not. I might have been a fair driver (maybe) but I foresee taking the car to an empty parking lot and practicing a lot of parallel parking and reversing and such to make up for several years of being a passenger.

My son is eager to practice, too.
I won't be properly insured or registered until Wednesday, so I have a few days before my life is transformed.

Consistent readers of this blog will know that I am at least somewhat anti-private car and greatly interested in how public transportation works (or doesn't) and what alternative forms of transportation can do. I don't like the way cities and people have adjusted to make things more convenient - for cars - to the inconvenience of people.

On Wednesday, that paragraph will read as:
Consistent readers of this blog will know that I was at least somewhat anti-private car and greatly interested in how public transportation works (or doesn't) and what alternative forms of transportation can do. I didn't like the way cities and people have adjusted to make things more convenient - for cars - to the inconvenience of people.

Just kidding. I don't expect to entirely give up cycling or public transportation. Still, I will enjoy and take advantage of the increased freedom a car gives. I need to set some rules for myself, preferably before I do start driving, regarding how much I will drive and what situations legitimately give me a good excuse to drive to work rather than take the free bus.

Still, this blog will return to featuring more travel entries - even though they will be local, limited to the distance that the little guy feels comfortable with.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize

Unless CNN is having an out-of-season April Fool's joke, Barack Obama just won the Nobel Prize for Peace.

I am not particularly thrilled. I think it is too early in his presidency and, well, I like how the science prizes are handed out years after the events occurred. For those prizes, longevity is a plus as the prizes are handed out years later and never posthumously.

for Obama, this is too much, too early. He is still someone I expect great things of, not really someone who I consider as having done great things yet - okay, getting elected president is no small potatoes, but, again, it's too early - he needs to accomplish something while in office before I will be satisfied.

I think he may well deserve it in the future, but I am not sure he does, yet.

I should disclose, I guess, that I don't know what he did to win this one. Maybe he does deserve it and I simply didn't know what for.

Updated almost immediately after: Reuters has a report - I guess it is true.
The Reuters article gives a short political history for Obama but does not note any specific thing that he did to win -strange, in an article about his win.

From the BBC (My bolding):

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Norwegian committee said in a statement.

"His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

Asked why the prize had been awarded to Mr Obama less than a year after he took office, Nobel Committee head Thorbjoern Jagland said: "It was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve".

"It is a clear signal that we want to advocate the same as he has done," he said.

He specifically mentioned Mr Obama's work to strengthen international institutions and work towards a world free of nuclear arms.

It seems he won for expected, future contributions. I am not an American but I support Obama in general, just as I supported Al Gore, very strongly, for his very specific actions. Still, I think the Nobel Peace Prize is losing relevance and am not sure if Gore, much less Obama, deserve the prize. As a more local example, I am concerned that Kim Dae-Jung won his prize by buying it - in giving the North Koreans so much.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

5-Day markets in Korea

The Joongang Ilbo has an article about 5-day markets; usually farm produce and supply markets, that go on in rural Korea. These markets usually run every fifth day, not for five days straight or any such crazy thing.

Interestingly, Yangyang's O-Il jang ('oh' as in the sound of the letter is five, 'il' is 'day' and 'jang' is 'market') is not on the list. I suppose it is too small, although I have always enjoyed it.

Below is a description of five day markets and the days they run. Yangyang, not on the list, would listed as (4,9 jang) because its market runs on days with a four or a nine.

If you want to learn about five day markets in your region, follow the above link.
For more about Yangyang's unduly snubbed market look here or here.

Gangwon Province

4. Jeongseonjang (2.7 jang) - Here, the market is also a popular tourist attraction.

5. Donghae Bukpyeongjang (3.8 jang) - This is the largest five-day market in the Yeongdong area.

6. Pyeongchang Bongpyeongjang (2.7 jang) - Tens of thousands of people gather at this market in September when buckwheat flowers bloom.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

This process might have worked for Szell, "Die Weisse Engel"

Yesterday evening, I took a night bus to Seoul, arriving at the Express terminal around 2:30am. I spent the rest of the night thinking about sleeping at the Dae Jung Sauna*. In the morning, I went to Myeongji Hospital for a complete physical. I am mostly in good health (well, there should be a long line of "except for....") but have had terrible heart burn for the past few weeks.

I am still awaiting the results of most of the tests (X-rays, pulmonary tests, bloodflow to brain, eye tests and photos and more**) but I was mostly interested in what the scope shoved down my throat would find.

First, the process itself - and if I were able to talk during it, I would have answered any of Szell's questions -"Is it safe?" or any other. Depending upon careful timing, I was given a pill, a liquid to swallow, an injection, another liquid and a liquid spray before I faced the snake (I suppose it literally was a "one-eyed snake").

The second liquid paralyzed my throat so I could swallow - it was soon after taking this that I almost choked on my own saliva. Nurses came running and I was given strict instruction in broken English on how to breathe - slowly and deeply - and to spit up the saliva in my mouth.

Oh, don't worry about the injection. It was just a standard shot in the bum, not some Tarentino-esque needle to the chest or stomach.

Finally came the tube. It went down my throat, into and through my stomach and into the top of my small intestine, nearly one metre total.

Probably the worst part was seeing the numbers on the tube as they disappeared into my mouth. No, the worst part was seeing them come back out and then go back in as the doctor saw something he missed. Yeah, that may beat out the near-drowning event before the scope started.

Alright - good news time.
Probably the best part was hearing that the polyps in my stomach wall had shrank and the pain I had felt was not from spreading cancer. I have to admit some difficult nights thinking about how my father died (from cancer) when I had recurring stomach pain. Oh, I should explain that I had the same test done at the same location a year ago. The physical checkup is a gift from the university.
Also good news was finding that the acid reflux was from a treatable problem - some bleeding in the lower esophagus. Two months of pills and I should be okay. I do hope though, that the doctor wasn't making that up and that the bleeding wasn't from his damn 'scope.
*on one of my first trips to Seoul, ten years ago, my girlfriend (now wife) explained that "Dae Jung" wasn't named after the president but meant "The people's". This was "The people's sauna". I was so proud of my, clearer and more evocative translation; "For the great unwashed". - Good stuff, huh?
**Most of the tests are done by (skilled) technicians rather than doctors so realtime analysis is infrequent and brief. This was a good, and terrifying, example from my 2008 visit: "Fat is infiltrating your liver. Next station, please."
Oh, in the title, of course I am referencing one of the best movies of all time, Marathon Man.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

I don't care who's #1, do we beat ....?

Here in Korea, the title would finish with "Japan".

I am not sure if I have mentioned Korea's apparent inferiority complex regarding Japan on this blog, but if not it is only because that is quickly one of the basic assumptions or filters every foreigner uses when interpreting Korean politics and attitudes. Birds gotta fly, tigers gotta hunt and Koreans gotta talk about beating Japan.

With Canadians, the same is true but the question would end with 'the US'.
From Yahoo Canada News:

UN index rates life best in Norway, worst in Niger; Canada is at 4th place

BANGKOK - Norway enjoys the world's highest quality of life, while Niger suffers the lowest, a United Nations agency said Monday, as it released a ranking that highlights the wide disparities in well-being between rich and poor countries.

Canada was listed fourth, well ahead of the United States which was in 13th place.

Some rankings are given on Wikipedia (No UN results came up on the first page of a Google search for "united nations quality of life ranking"). Sadly Korea (#26) is listed as significantly below Japan (#10).

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Happy Korean Thanksgiving!

(For my mom and possibly a few new arrivals in Korea.)

Yeah, I'm sort of kidding. The only similarity between (Canadian) Thanksgiving and Chuseok is the approximate date. Perhaps they both reference the Fall harvest but Chuseok is mostly about ancestor worship which is completely alien to the North American holiday.

Koreans celebrate Chuseok by parking their cars on highways for up to twenty hours, I don't really see the fun in it but Korea is the country with the highest average numbers of hours worked and among the lowest in productivity so taking twenty hours to drive 400 km might be patriotic, I don't know.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Another boat comes south

One Free Korea links to a Korean article about eleven defectors who escaped North Korea by boat recently. Click on my link and look at that boat and imagine how far they had to travel and how bad it must be there to attempt it.
Koreabeat has a post about another defector, a young girl whose mother didn't make it -I think she is alive but still in the North - and the family who adopted her.
[H]er birth mother was caught by Chinese police and deported to North Korea. Mother and daughter have had no contact at all since. Yeon-ah then made her way to Laos and Thailand, and from there to South Korea. There are currently 90 such North Korean orphans living in South Korea, with between one and nine more arriving every month. Few are adopted.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sept 30 bike trip

I am embarrassed that my longest cycling trip this year was yesterday. I rode to Yangyang and back. My neck was sore when I finished but it was a great trip.

I stopped briefly at Naksan temple.

Ui-seung-dae is in trouble. It appears that the cliff is eroding and the ancient site of the pavilion may not remain much longer.

I don't know why these scarecrows are here, but they are colorful.
I found a row of sheaves of rice drying in the sun.