Monday, November 30, 2009

Walkway washed out at Sokcho Beach

The Joongang provided this picture from Sokcho Beach:

A billow destroyed a 20-meter-long (66-foot-long) esplanade in Sokcho Beach, Gangwon, on Saturday. The 80-meter-long stretch of the same esplanade collapsed due to billows on Nov. 16. [YONHAP]
----- tells me that 'billow' is the right word: it means a great wave.  Still, I think someone at Yonhap or Joongang is depending too much on dictionaries.

Anyway, while I do expect that the proximate cause was a billow, the ultimate cause was smaller waves slowly eroding the beach over several months so that one wave could later complete the job.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Watching Coast Guard ships leave harbour

I drove KwandongWife to work today and after dropping her off, K'Alex and I walked on a pier to look around.  We didn't walk up to the lighthouse as K'Alex feared it would be too cold.  He did get cold, even on the route we ended up taking, so I guess he was right.

Clearly, this is not a Coast guard boat, but I found it interesting due to the tree branch on the forward mast.  Soon after, another boat with a similar branch entered the harbour (this one was leaving).  I don't know if it was the same boat, but that would be weird; returning so quickly.

A few coasties on this boat waved back to us, making the little guy's day.

This much smaller boat also headed out and was followed by an all-white boat, the Mu-gung-hwa 20, out of Pusan.

It looks official and the boats on the back look a little like the SAR boats the coasties carry.  I wondered if it were a training vessel or something.  This site claims it is a fishing boat (scroll down - I highlighted it, if you are interested).

I think this is a hazardous waste collection and recovery boat.  I saw it or a similar one a few months ago and there is a floating boom or line to contain oil spills on the back.

Again, the little guy was cold by the time we left, but we had a good time.

Migratory Birds in Korea

The Joongang has an article and map describing how and where to see migratory birds.

There are plenty at CheongCho Lake in Sokcho, as well.  The cormorants, standing on provided perches and drying their thin wings are the most interesting here.  For size and grandeur, I can't think of any better than the cranes in Cheolwon, but there aren't many specific details in the brief article.

Elsewhere online, I first found one should look for unplowed fields - the plowed fields will also have cranes, but the unplowed fields will have happier cranes.

The Visit Korea site has more information:

The most spectacular views are generally at sunrise, between noon and 2pm, and at sunset, and for the rest of daylight hours you can choose from a wide variety of attractions located near the demarcation line. North Korean infiltrating the second tunnel, Woljeong Station Observation Deck, the former Labour Party building, Baekmagoji highland (백마고지) and Dopiansa Temple (도피안사) all reside nearby. Since the Cheorwon Plain is located north of the Civilian Control Line and normally not opened to civilian access, the ecosystem is very well preserved.
Tour Course Information
* The Four Best Bird-watching Spots 
1) Togyo Reservoir (Yangji-ri): Birds dancing/taking off en masse before sunrise, vultures.
2) Dongsong Reservoir (Gangsan-ri) area: White-naped cranes, hooded cranes, wild geese.
3) Woljeong Station Observation Deck area: Observing DMZ, bird watching. 
4) Saemtong area (habitat of migratory birds): Migratory birds including cranes. 

* Caution: Illegal hunting is prohibited by any means, whether it is by means of traps, snares, toxic substances, air rifles, or shotguns.
Activity Dates
November ~ February

Private cars cannot cross the CCL (Civilian Control Line) but buses are available and frequent (so the page claims).  The site also has specific directions for travelers from many starting points. is the local site.

I went to Cheolwon perhaps eight years ago with the Royal Asiatic Society.  I think I need to return soon.  Perhaps next weekend.
Really off-topic - The Turumi site is good but has interesting English, most notably "Introduce of cranes" and "Introduce of crames" next to one-another.  Bizarro-Brian posted about another site with similar problems and a commenter defended English speaking staff and pointed the blame elsewhere: Mr Foreman said, "...I can say (at least in my experience) that the problem often resides with the company doing the actual coding of the site. Often (and regrettably) text cannot simply be cut and paste into the application that is being used to build the site. So, people who often have no knowledge of English whatsoever are asked to physically type certain portions of the site into various different applications and that is, obviously, never given back the the "conscientious native speaker" to proofread; that is where the problems resides."

The problem then seems to reside with incompatible software.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Language and KwandongAlex

"I don't want you to be going."
"No, I'm not doing that."
KwandongAlex, age 4.5 -western age.

I want you to focus on the continuous forms of the verbs above, rather than the negativity.  These were just two fairly recent examples of the way my son talks.  He is normally cheerful.

I normally focus on the content and, like all parents, I understand most of his pronunciation quirks without thinking about them.  I don't concentrate much on how I speak either.  Oops, that's wrong.  I concentrate very hard on how I speak to my students, but not so much on relaxed speech at home.

Still, I am not thinking that is the way I am speaking to him when I am staying at home.

Yeah, that looks really weird.  I don't talk like that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Solving the birthrate crisis.

Birthrate incentives need to focus of returning women to the workforce.

Korea's incredibly low birthrate has been in the news a lot lately and I recently promised a serious post on the subject.  I will try to keep this post 'serious' but I am not sure how deep or authoritative it will be.  It may be serious in tone, but not so much in length.  alright, it is finished and it is a serious length, I would say.

From the Herald:
The government will soon launch a nationwide anti-abortion campaign and aggressively seek more foreigners to come and settle down here as part of efforts to keep the country's population from shrinking, a presidential council said Wednesday.
According to Yonhap News, the move comes as the country again marked one of the lowest birthrates in the world this year.

Let me start with the bad.  I am moderately pro-choice: there are good reasons to have an abortion and there are terrible reasons for having an abortion.  With one exception, I would like to separate this the subject of abortion from birthrate.  That exception is abortion due to the gender of the fetus.  I may return to this point later.

The plans to increase immigration are interesting.  I've been in Korea for a long time, possibly too long, but am not sure how educated I am about the culture (Two humourous links on the subject: asktheexpat, dokdoisours - back to serious-stuff) but this contradicts everything I know about minjok and keeping bloodlines pure.  I like the idea of Korea being more multi-cultural and being more a part of the world than it currently is, but it's clear we aren't thinking about birthrates anymore.

From the Times:
Recognizing the grave nature of this matter, the Presidential Council for Future and Vision proposed Wednesday a package of measures to lift the birthrate and provide support for childcare and education. One of the steps is to offer incentives for families with three or more children which include special interest rates on their mortgages. Third or additional children can also receive bonus scores on college entrance exams and job applications
The government has so far announced a series of different measures to promote marriages and childbirth to avert a looming population crisis. But we have to admit that those measures have proven to be unsuccessful at producing tangible results.

The Times also mentions immigration and the seriousness of Korea's low birthrate, but that's not the focus of this post.

The news about mortgages and universities is definitely part of this post.

I can't hold back from saying that it is so weird reading about such a strong government involvement in increasing the birthrate, when in the recent past, having more than one child in China would invite negative government involvement.

Alright, mortgage relief does sound like a good idea and it directly addresses the problem of finding a home big enough for a large family.  Scholarship and financial assistance would also help.  On the other hand, boosting a university entrance exam score and moving a job application higher in it's queue sound terrible.

The Chosun describes two reasons for the low birthrate.  The first is the high cost of raising a child, and the second, related, is the high cost of being a senior citizen:
Advanced countries offer comprehensive welfare benefits. They not only support the cost of raising children, but also guarantee the financial stability of elderly citizens after retirement. But the situation is quite different for the average Korean worker, who faces the constant threat of layoffs, may have already cashed in his pension, and lives in a nation where programs such as annuity insurance to prepare for life after retirement are just budding. Everyone feels pressured to have fewer children so they can save for retirement.
Here is a point that sounds exactly right to me.  I already see myself working until I am grey and bent over, then moving into a grim storage locker for my final days.  I will spend whatever it takes to raise a great child, but fear the cost of a second child.
We've heard enough from the papers; here are my thoughts.
I like the increased immigration plan for a variety of reasons.  It will bring more productive people to Korea and possibly decrease overpopulation elsewhere.  There might be a win-win thing going here and that always feels good.  I hope that immigrants can send some money home and take home some expertise to further assist other countries.  Unfortunately, this would dilute Korean stock and culture - while I don't have much respect for 'pure blood', I don't like the homogenization, the McDonald'sification  of the world.  I guess this is a luxury that we must do without to better care for our seniors.
While I do like the financial aid, I don't think it is fixing the specific limiting reagent involved.  I am a feminist and know that, in my profession, women are at least as capable as I.  Yet, somehow, women must be convinced to give up a year of professional growth, and probably longer.  Indeed, it almost has to be longer; after a year away from work, upon her return, a women might reasonably be less efficient than a man who has not taken time from work.  Presuming this is a traditional family with a wife and husband, it makes better financial sense for the man to keep working and the woman to stay home as long as is best for the child.
I love my son and love most of the time I spend with him but I also enjoy working and my job.  Most women feel the same way, I expect.  If a woman is being asked to have two or three or more children, that is a long time away from the workforce.
All this means women need educational and employment assistance for themselves as much as their children do.
Near the top of this post I mentioned abortion and new restrictions.  I can see that a lack of abortion services might raise the birthrate, but I foresee not only more children, but more miserable children.  I felt this way in the post leading up to this one - it described plans to lower the minimum age to enter school.  As a childish adult, I want to see happier children; children who are able to enjoy childhood, more than I want to see more children in general.  The Times touches on this point with "some education experts express concerns that the measure may bring about side effects such as children's difficulty in adapting themselves to school life at a younger age. They point out that education should not be tackled only from the point of economic efficiency."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I guess China won't absorb North Korea if the government falls

There has long been concern that, should the North Korean government collapse, China would move in on a 'peacekeeping' mission and somehow end up in full control.  I have seen many articles and posts on the subject, but only found this one while preparing this post.

To many Koreans, judging from past actions, this fear is reasonable.  Look at koguryo. And Gangdo.  All, right, just go to this search I made at the Marmot's hole.

And why not?  Norht Korea is said to have great natural resources that the locals were unable to recover and exploit.  Plus, the population is less well-off than China's so any assistance would go a long way.

Here is why not.  From the Dong-a:
North Korean organizations in charge of raising foreign currency are bringing in and burying industrial waste from China for money, a report released yesterday said.
One North Korean scientist said, “Our country in effect is turning into China’s industrial waste site,” adding, “Even tap water in Pyongyang has become so polluted that it is no longer potable.”
North Korea is reportedly taking in foreign industrial waste in secret in the form of its border trade with China.

Dong Yong-seung, head of the economics and security team at Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul, said, “Though no data is available that can tell us the exact situation, Chinese companies might believe that sending industrial waste to North Korea for burial is cheaper than disposing of it in China in compliance with Chinese environmental regulations.

North Korea is also not just bringing in waste just from China. Former North Korean defector Kim Heung-kwang, now head of a coalition of former North Korean intelligentsia in South Korea, said, “Companies that earn foreign currencies brought in waste vinyl from Germany and France for 300 U.S. dollars per ton in early 2000 and buried it in soil.”

I suspect that if China is sending toxic waste to North Korea, the Norks aren't carting it across the entire country, yet perhaps we need to even more closely monitor the water that crosses the DMZ.

Mulling Things

Acocrding to the Dong-A, "Lowering of School Entry Age to 5 Mulled".

(Man, using the word, or even thinking the word, 'mull' a few times really destroys it's meaning.  Mull.  Mulled.  Mull. Mulled.  I don't even know if I'm pronouncing it right anymore.)

Anyway, back to the article
The government seeks to lower the age of school entry by a year to encourage people to have more children.

Also under consideration are incentives to households having three or more children, such as giving the third child and beyond extra credit for college entrance and employment and financial support for high school and college.

Encouraging to parents,maybe.  Even more hellish for Korean kids, definitely.
In the future, I promise a serious post about Korea's falling birthrate and methods I think would solve the problem.

For now, while the government is mulling children, I plan to mull wine.

When I was a wee lad, I read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and other fantasy fare of greater or lesser substance.  One thing that stood out was the healing and restorative power of wine and brandy.  Wine was nearly magically in it's own right.

The truth; that while good,it was nothing special, hurt.

I am hoping that mulled wine will be a wonderful evening treat after a cold day outside, warming my insides and my spirits.  I am hoping that one more dream won't be crushed.

Anyway, here is a recipe:
My favorite spices are cinnamon (6 sticks), cloves (12 whole), nutmeg (1/4 tsp), ginger (1/8 tsp), and allspice (1/8 tsp).
Combine the spices and citrus in a dry red wine, such as Burgundy. Add 1/4 cup sugar. Heat this through for at least 15 minutes, but don't boil. A clean, large coffee pot is a great method for heating the wine.
Use an inexpensive wine for this recipe. Don't get something that tastes absolutely horrible, but this is the time to look at the bottom wine shelf at the grocery store.

And here is the wine (from Gangwondo, no less):
Diony Castle Wine of Hoengseong, Gangwon Province announced on Thursday that its 2007 Domaine Han 23B received 80 points in the famous critic's 100-point rating system.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

In days of yore, when men were men...

From a review of a book that summarizes genetic research into chimps and humans comes an, I don't know, warning(?) about seeking too much comfort.
 ...humans in the last 30, 40, or 50,000 years have been domesticating ourselves.  If we're following the bonobo or dog pattern, we're moving toward a form of ourselves with more and more juvenile behavior.  And the amazing thing once you start thinking in those terms is that you realize that we're still moving fast.  I think that current evidence is that we're in the middle of an evolutionary event in which tooth size is falling, jaw size is falling, brain size is falling, and it's quite reasonable to imagine that we're continuing to tame ourselves.
Recorded history, which for me means the last two thousand years or a little more, is probably too short to really notice the changes described above.  On the other hand, reading about how the Spartans lived is awe-inspiring at least partially because of the privations they faced, and how i would likely have curled up on the ground and cried facing a tenth of them.

Yeah, my lack of toughness and resilience isn't a good indicator.  I felt much the same way in reading Johnny Reb, a book about the day-to-day lives of confederate soldiers.  The Civil War was too recent see evolutionary change in people.

Anyway, when I think of domesticated animals, I think first of dogs.  Dogs are known to be less intelligent than wolves, with smaller brains.  On the other hand, dogs are better able to read and understand human expressions.

I also think about Idiocracy.

Great, another reason to be worried about my son's future - and his children's, and their children...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Travel and finding the unexpected

Joongang has an article about travel that discusses the Moon Shin Museum in Masan and museums in Yeongwol.  It mentions other places, but I lived in Masan and this blog is Gangwon Notes, so these two caught my interest.

The Moon Shin Museum is on the edge of Muhaksan and offers a great view of Masan and it's harbour.  Along that edge of Muhaksan are (okay, were - I lived there twelve years ago) several old buildings that weren't quite decrepit and several small temples and shrines.  Also, the hike up the mountain is good fun.

Yeongwol has everything except the ocean.  It is a sort of adventure capital for Korea with rafting, climbing and might even have a paint gun area.  It is also a dark-sky zone and has an observatory.  Apparently, it also has eighteen museums.

I'd like to add to the article by suggesting that all travelers with a bit of time on their hands should ask about local museums.  They are often kitchy, but almost always fun.  Sadly, Sokcho's museum is well-done and in a modern building, but doesn't really have a special local identity.  The whale museum in Donghae, in contrast, is fantastic.
Added Later:  Joongang also has an article specifically about Yeongwol's museums:

The first museum to open was Yeongwol Book Museum, which opened in 1999 in what used to be a school. Although the locals criticized the developers for opening a museum deep in the mountains, Chosun Minwha Museum opened the following year. Museum after museum began to fill the empty buildings. 

Area residents are still at a loss to explain why so many museums opened here. However, it is thanks to the museums that Yeongwol County was designated a special museum district last year, which has led other local governments in the area to try to repeat the phenomenon to open more museums.

Universities should be competitive -but against whom?

Two years ago, one of the foreign teacher liaisons, in describing changes at the university and tightening budgets, brought up Korea's low birthrate.

"Every year there are fewer students available to come to university and our university must fight with the others to get those students and, well, stay alive"  I've put it in quotes and I am sure i have captured his point, but the actual words could be slightly different.

It was clear that we were competing with other Korean universities.

In the Herald, there is an article about universities working to enhance their competitiveness.  I am not sure who they are competing against.

Leaders of some 115 universities gathered at a forum yesterday to discuss ways to enhance the competitiveness of higher education.
The International University Presidents' Forum was held at Ewha Womans University in Seoul to share strategies for university development and improvement of educational quality.
The one-day meeting was organized by the Korean Council for University Education.
"In order to survive the growingly fierce competition among countries, universities should be the heartland for producing talented individuals with multicultural global competences and creative abilities," said Lee Bae-yong, KCUE chairwoman and Ewha president, during her opening address.

So, are universities fighting for their country's honour and standing?   The "enhance the competitiveness of higher education" bit suggests they are competing against not-university; apprenticeships, colleges, early entry to the workforce, even distance education.

In a TedTalk, Ken Robinson described how the current education systems of the world had one goal; creating university professors.  He also stated that most education systems kill creativity.  Perhaps universities could compete in innovation.

I agree with the idea that universities should provide an education, not job-training.  Yet, perhaps we need more focus on jobs and how jobs and businesses actually work at university.  I don't have the answers or suggestions as most of my life has been in education.  Still, I can see that some practical results need to be brought to the university.

I have asked some big questions and have no answers, not even if this is what the conference was all about.

Hmm, The Times has an article about Korea's 'gruesome future' which might be a little relevant.

This article is about Korea's declining and aging population.

The world's lowest birthrate here, when coupled with the highest suicide rate, also tells us something; Korea is becoming a country in which people increasingly find it hard ― and/or unpleasant ― to live. The government's demographic concerns also focus mostly on the shortage of workers or soldiers, failing to delve into the more fundamental causes of the problems.

Just think of it: Who would want to produce children in a country where everything ― entering schools, finding jobs and getting your own home ― must be won through cutthroat competition with the portion of state-provided welfare dwindling year by year?

The second paragraph interests me.  Considering there will be a smaller number of students graduating from high school, why not ease the competitiveness of the university entrance exam?  Why not drop student-professor ratios and encourage students to learn with their professors, rather than in-spite of them (If the 'in-spite of...' confuses you, you haven't taught at university).  A smaller number of students can and should mean a better quality of instruction.  We need to work to make that happen.

Updated on November 23.

From the Korea Times (I am at work and don't have time to comment further - but I did add bolding, if that makes a difference!):

The English portion of the test has once again been attacked as unfair, questions in all parts of the test have been challenged, and no doubt we will again learn of test cheats. Test proctors, too, are accused of failing to monitor tests adequately, or creating disturbances during the testing period.

A testing administrator claimed that the English test was relatively easier this year; yet, test-takers claimed it was harder than the practice questions they got from last year's test.

For those of us who live, teach and study in Korea, we must again ask ourselves: What's going on? How can we fix this mess?

High stakes

Korea's university entrance exam is the ultimate high-stakes test. It is, for some, literally "life or death." Aircraft, trains and, even private businesses adjust their schedules on test day to reduce disruptions to candidates.

Scores from the test day are the sole, or major, consideration for admission in over 75 percent of all Korean universities.

Nearly every high school senior took this test on Nov. 12. Most now feel their high school careers are over despite the fact that the school calendar runs until February.

Serious time management

I am posting this mostly to put it in an accessible place to me to read, and possibly study, later.  I understand that most self-help books and guides are crap, and the ones that do what they are supposed to, involve working smarter, not less.  Still,there's nothing wrong in working smarter.

Today, I asked my friend Cal Newport to illustrate how he completely dominates as a post-doc at MIT, author of multiple books, and popular blogger. How does he do it all?
Cal writes one of the best blogs on the Internet: Study Hacks. His guest post shows how you can take I Will Teach You To Be Rich principles — plus many others — and integrate them into a way to use your time effectively.

Friday, November 20, 2009

OoS: Happy Anniversary!

The Origin of Species is 150 years young today.

Read it, and other works by Darwin at Gutenberg.
The Panda's Thumb links to a few essays in honour of OoS. from here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

S.K plans forestation project for N.K.

From the Herald:

[F]orestation has been one of the top priorities among President Lee's North Korea policy tasks ever since he vowed as a presidential candidate to plant 100 million trees north of the border.
The president ordered related ministries on Tuesday to gauge the impact of the planned forestation project on the entire Korean peninsula and review measures to support North Korea's forestation.
Lee made the instruction while presiding over a Cabinet meeting which finalized the South Korean government's plan to cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent below expected levels in 2020, or a 4 percent reduction from 2005 levels.
"POSCO went all the way to South America to plant trees," the president said, referring to the steelmaker's ongoing forestation work in Uruguay to secure carbon emission rights.

Images provided by NASA showed that vast forest fires hit a large part of central North Korea last month.
The U.S. space agency said multiple fires had been burning in North Korea since mid-October, with several hot spots located in a mountainous region in the center of the country.

Here is an Lee Myung Bak project I can agree with wholeheartedly.  It seems to have everything one wants in an aid project: benefit to the North Koreans, benefit to the South Koreans and benefit to the world.

For the North Koreans, planted trees will stabilize hillsides, reducing erosion and mudslides.  In the long term, the wood can be harvested.

For the South Koreans, stabilized hillsides and deep tree roots hold water in the soil, reducing floods - like the one that on the Imjin River, starting in North Korea, but killing six South Koreans in late summer.

For the world, well, the article discusses carbon offsets, so that's clear.  There's more.  When a poor country loses it's forests, it becomes a lot poorer, fast.  I am thinking of the world's best/worst example of that: Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  The D.R. side has forests and is relatively well-off, while Haiti is a craphole.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

El Camino Packer explains bowing to US conservatives

I'm sure everyone has read or seen complaints by Americans by Obama's bow to the Japanese emperor.
Just in case, here is the background (from the Packer's site):
But it’s not appropriate for an American president to bow to a foreign one,” said conservative pundit William Kristol speaking on the Fox News Sunday program, adding that the gesture bespoke a United States that has become weak and overly-deferential under Obama.

The Camino Packer explains what I felt, but does it more eloquently than I seemed to manage:
 I guess no one told them that there is such a thing as different cultures and different greetings. All the former Presidents were Caucasian and never grew up in a multicultural society like Hawai`i or are multiracial. This just goes to show the rest of the world that Obama is a worldly leader.
There is a little more at the Camino Packer's site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A typical day at work

Here I am in my blogging persona.  You mean not everybody makes a fake 'press' card to fit in their hat when they blog?

I chose to take public transit to work today.  I first take an city bus, then an inter-city bus.  Between buses, I had to wait a bit so I visited the ocean.

Homework, based on what turned out to be difficult exam questions, included the request that students compare themselves to me.

Apparently, I have a nose like [a] high mountain. And yes, I am afraid of the dentist.  I mean, I've seen Marathon Man - and had plenty of work done.

This homework looked too good to be true.  The next request was to tell me about a time the student had been happy (this is a different student, by the way).   There was one thing that the student really should have noticed, whatever his level:

It will be easy to you to find, and probably you would have found it without the circle.  Especially with the source in Korean and translated onsite.

Okay, back to my alter-identity:

Skindleshanks in the Herald

Photo from the peak of Seoraksan. Also from the Korea Herald.

Now its time for you to dust off your blog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Leonid Meteor Shower

I remember sleeping out on the backyard of my house when I was 14 or so, to get up and watch the meteor shower.  There were two or three per minute and it was fantastic.

On the other hand, many meteor showers are more like a drizzle (to a layman like me, anyway) or a fizzle.  Boring!

Still, a friend mentioned on Facebook that the Leonid meteor shower was coming soon.  I hope there's something to see, but I fear there will be too much light-pollution and there will be little to see.


When people hear about an impending meteor shower, their first impression may be of a sky filled with shooting stars pouring down through the sky like rain. Such meteor storms have actually occurred with the annual Leonid meteor shower of November, such as in 1833 and 1966, when meteor rates of literally tens of thousands per hour were observed.
In more recent years, most notably 1999, 2001 and 2002, lesser Leonid displays of up to a few thousand meteors per hour thrilled skywatchers.
This year will be not set any records, but ...
[for] much of Asia, India and Indonesia, the corresponding calendar date will be Nov. 18. It will be 12:40 a.m. in Moscow; 3:10 a.m. in Mumbai; 4:40 a.m. in Jakarta and 5:40 a.m. in Beijing, Unfortunately from Tokyo and across Australia, the sun will have already risen, effectively hiding the meteor outburst.

It is yet possible that some meteors will be seen before the peak.  Tomorrow night and Wednesday morning, we will be on the roof.

Remember, keep looking up!


Internet use guide for foreigners

Yonhap reports that:
South Korea launched Monday an interactive guide for foreigners wishing to use South Korea-based Web sites more easily.
The site in question offers assistance for foreigners wanting to use Korean sites that require using your ID.  ID numbers in Korea consist of two six-digit numbers; the first six are your birthdate and the second six, well, are mostly random.  However, the first digit of the second set reflects your nationality.  If it starts with a '5', you are a foreigner.  My son, with dual citizenship until he reaches eighteen,  has a different first digit, and my wife, Korean, has a different digit yet.  Shamefully, I do not know my wife's ID number, so I cannot tell you what the number is for Koreans.

However, I can tell you that it is the one that works on Korean sites, and the foreigner's number does not.

Anyway, the website describes itself as "Internet guide of identical person acknowledgement on alien in Korea".  Everywhere, the website confuses 'Identity' with 'Identical' in a really maddening way.

Amusingly, the Korean version of "John Doe" or "John Q. Public" is "Hong Gil Dong" - a local hero for Gangneung.

The scary thing is how free the website (and presumably, the Korean government) expects us to be with our passport number and similar data.

"In case you input wrong alien registration (or domestic residence statement) or wrong name and number with your passport  Alien shall input name and number same as that on the identification card (Hey, they used the correct ident.... word)  exactly.  And you shall input your name with English capital letters.

To keep my commentary simple, the site needs work.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nov 14 Club Ride

I don't know why but I have always found Ulsan Bowi beautiful.  Five years of seeing it almost daily has not changed that.  This pic was taken at Sokcho Expo park before the start of the ride.

Here are two 'Beware of Mountain Fire' signs.  There were perhaps five more in the area.

This is why:

As I mentioned earlier, reservoirs are dry.  There is little water to be found, although I have seen no warnings in downtown Sokcho.

The ride last week was short and the only challenge was a one kilometre section that was dirt road.  This ride was nearly fifty kilometres and involved quite a climb.  There was a hill of 7% and another of 9%.  I don't really know what that means, but it can't be good when they go out of their way to measure and label it  Anyway, we stopped here for a few minutes at Dowon 'Resort'.  Above is Dowon Lake but I am not sure what or where the 'resort' is.  Still, it was goshdarned beautiful - at least when the 'lake' was out of sight.

Here are two club members returning down the hill.  I am the only rider with a road bike, which gives me a slight advantage on level ground, but a great advantage on the downslopes.  Still, the others were plenty fast enough and I was feeling a little grim by the end of the trip.

We ate lunch at a Chu-a-tang restaurant.  If you don't know what Chu-a-tang is, imagine a handful of cute little eels, and put them in a blender.  At the restaurant, a little girl was playing with a batch of fresh Dwenjang and even eating a little.

I don't know if I want to join the club.  On the one hand, I could have ridden as far or farther on my own in less time - chiefly because it took a while for club members to arrive at Expo Park and my bike and riding style are different from that of the club's riders.  On the other hand, I have not ridden since early October, except for club rides.  This ride was the longest or second longest of the year for me.  In addition, I was shown places I had not seen before.

What I need to do is do more riding on my own - or really, any form of exercise - in addition for the club rides.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

E-books in the classroom

I have mentioned E-books and their readers (by 'reader', I mean the electronic device, like Amazon's Kindle.  Hmm, I wonder how many ---er words now refer to electronics, rather than people.  Computer, Rice steamer, Typewriter....) at least once on this blog, and have been considering getting one for years.

Although my Korean language studies have stalled, I think e-book readers would be great: many allow you to store a book and an MP3.  You could easily read and listen at the same time.

Also, as an opinionated person, I often want some evidence close-to-hand to support my claims.

Finally, I love to read and even if a book file were as expensive as a paper book, I would save on postage.  If/when I start my Masters, having the necessary books in a convenient device instead of going without-
I am unlikely to visit the University in question often - will be very valuable.

The Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is looking at e-books for Elementary school students.

Korea envisions digital school books ushering in a new chapter in education. Now, if only government authorities could find a company to make e-book readers for the schools to use.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is planning to spend 18 billion won (about $15.5 million) to establish e-book infrastructures in 110 schools in rural communities around the country, where the digital transition is to be tested first. 

However, there are concerns that the project could be derailed. The consortium that the government picked to provide the e-book readers, led by LG Dacom (LG Group's fixed-line telephony unit) and American computer giant Hewlett Packard (HP), is showing signs of bailing. 

More than 9,800 e-book devices are required for the project, and the government insists it won't be spending more than 1.1 million won for each unit. However, LG Dacom and HP are finding it hard to keep the price of the device below 1.3 million won.

Another company offered to build the readers for 900,00 but they offered "an inferior device".  I would love to see the readers in question.  The top-of-the-line Kindle goes for around 400,000 won so I guess these ones would have homework and some interactive capabilities.  a commenter at the Korea Times article described how American test users were unhappy with the ability to take notes.  I think most readers have some bookmarking, and highlighting functions as well as the ability to take some notes.

The Herald is also looking at e-book readers:

For starters, Samsung Electronics, the country's biggest electronics firm, unveiled an e-reader that attempts to mimic what Amazon's Kindle can do, except for the U.S.-based bookseller's already sizable library. The smaller yet recognizable Korean firm iriver, known for its MP3 players, also put out a similar e-reader armed with a 6-inch screen and QWERTY keypad.

The e-book reader initiatives by the major device makers have helped create a growing list of news articles about the fledgling market in recent weeks, and Korean publishers are now duly set to focus on the topic of digital publication in the forthcoming Paju Bookcity Forum (, which will kick off its two-day run on Nov. 19 under the theme of "Evolution of Books & Future of Digital Publication."
...experts said the e-book market in Korea will confront many difficulties before taking off. Among the thorniest issues are the standardization of e-book formats and new practices for copyright arrangements regarding e-books and other new platforms.
Baek Won-keun, chief researcher of Korean Publishing Research Institute, said that publishers will struggle for a while to come up with a viable vision about the act of reading itself at a time when other options such as video gaming, Web surfing and mobile texting are widely available. "At the heart of the problem is that people are spending less time reading books in general and we have to think about whether we can persuade them to read books again by offering a digital version."  

Although standardization is an important issue, the thorniest issue I know of is sharing books and efforts to stop same.
At No substance, All Eloquence, Clay discusses the problems with Digital Rights Management (DRM, software that controls what rights you have toward your MP3 files, e-books, and videos).  Quoted with original bolding:
So long as DRM is used in digitally delivered literature, it will never be “permanent” in the way a wood pulp-based text is. So long as its possession is revocable, an e-book will only ever exist as a disposable, ephemeral set of data, unsuitable for the sort of long-term collection we build upon our bookshelves.

Did someone talk about DRM?  Cory Doctorow must not be far away.
Hmm, after a second glance, it is still Boingboing, which Doctorow is editor of, but Rob Breschizza wrote the article I am currently looking at.
I recently talked to Sony's Steve Haber, President of Digital Reading, about its flagship ebook reader. Named the "Daily Edition," it hits stores next month. Notwithstanding differences between each manufacturer's respective libraries, it offers all the best features of its main rival, the Kindle. But Sony says it offers one thing that Amazon won't: actual ownership of your books.
Breschizza also compares a few readers:

Sony's new reader also features a 9" display, page-changing swipe gestures, annotations and a cellular connection to download new titles on the go. At $400, however, it's as pricey as the top-of-the-line Kindle DX that it resembles; Sony already has a new generation of cheaper e-readers out which lack the fancy features and big screen.
Barnes and Noble announced its own reader, the Nook, a few weeks ago. At $260, it's competitively priced and has a secondary LCD display. It also focuses hard on consumer-friendly features that Amazon seems unwilling to indulge: in its case, books can be shared between devices and even with friends. Not all books will be available, and shares are limited to 14 days at a time.

I remain interested in buying one and I like iriver's other products but it remains difficult to choose.  The keys are 1) owning the book (or it being clear that I don't), 2) able to read a variety of formats - I want to read text files, PDFs, HTML and whatever formats Amazon and others use and 3) the ability to take notes easily.  I don't need many other features - I am willing to do my up and down loading connected to my computer so I don't need wireless capabilities - but having an included MP3 player would be nice.

Friday, November 13, 2009

snow and cloud at Seorak National Park

Levy and gate in Gangneung

I wrote earlier about the four rivers project and how I wasn't sure if it was a good thing or not.  I remain suspicious but look at this wall and flood gate in Gangneung

It has been raining for the past few days but the water is well below the level of this parking lot.  In the past, however, it has reached this high and the wall (is it a levy?  I think so.) and gate have been needed. Evening the flow of rivers might well be good for everyone, including the fish.

So there is H1N1 in North Korea

Yonhap brings word that a recent defector was diagnosed with the disease.  His condition is 'stable' - I hope that means he has or will recover.

Dying from voluntary overtime

From the Korea Times, I learned that Koreans really can work themselves to death.

Deaths that occur during "voluntary" nightshift should be acknowledged as industrial incidents and should be compensated for, a court ruled Wednesday.

According to the Seoul Administrative Court, a man identified as Park died after having run night shifts at a car accessory plant for more than five weeks in a row. The widow asked the government for compensation, but her request was rejected because he had volunteered.

This is almost the entire article. No word is given on where or how Mr. Park died. I can accept that the man wanted to work or needed the money or the like, but why would the plant want someone to work that long? If someone works himself to death, I would definitely be suspicious of the last few days products.

"I want a car built between Tuesday and Thursday and not by anyone who has worked double shifts for five straight weeks, please.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

sleep in class, get posted on the internet

In the first year ESL textbook I use, students are expected to listen to a conversation and fill in the blanks.  It takes too much time for me so I made it homework for my students to fill in the blanks.  The answers are on the next page but upside-down.  Most students turn the book back a forth to read and remember a few words, fill them in, then flip the book again.  This student sped things up by carefully ripping the answers out and holding them right side up next to the conversation.  I approve.

No book, sleeping in the corner.  I disapprove.  No credit for attending this class.

No flu, flu and Bird Flu/ no jets today

Editted before posting: The links are good. I had to search for sentences in the article, and google gave me full URLs for linking purposes.

I am using my old computer at work. I seem unable to see the full links for newspaper articles. The URLs I am using here for linking are only to the newspaper main page. I'm sorry but you'll have to hunt through to find the articles I am describing. I will edit the post this evening to include links.
From the Dong-a, I learned there is no swine flu in North Korea:

North Korea officially refers to swine flu as new influenza, but many in the North call it swine flu because of international media.

The communist country said yesterday that it has no cases of the flu so far, adding it has no reason to hide any flu outbreaks.

Pak Myong Su, in charge of infectious disease control at the North’s Health Ministry, told the Japan-based daily Chosun Shinbo Oct. 14, “A weakened health infrastructure doesn’t lead to the outbreak of the new flu. If so, this will not undermine our image.”

I recall the communist countries of Europe denying that AIDS existed in their pure and more-wholesome countries. They certainly feared that news of such diseases would undermine their image. Of course, it would be challenging to undermine my image of North Korea.
I was interested to read, though, that it was known by the public as swine flu because of 'international media'. I guess international bad news is transmitted there.

Elsewhere in the article, I learned that there is a new flu from China that medicines don't work on and that North Korean doctors don't have the ability (testing materials or knowledge, I don't know) to recognize the swine flu. But there is no swine flu in North Korea. And it there were, it wouldn't reflect badly on them.

There is swine flu in South Korea but today is the University Entrance Exam and there is no second chance to take it. You take it today or you wait a year.

From the Joongang:
High school seniors nationwide had their temperatures checked at schools where they gathered for last-minute preparations yesterday, and re-takers underwent the checkup process at regional education offices. Some 677,000 people, up 18 percent from last year, will be taking the state test, which will decide their college admission next spring.

Under the Education Ministry guidelines, there will be two separate rooms at each school acting as a CSAT venue for students who are confirmed with and suspected of having the flu.

Each room can house between 15 and 28 students. Some 14,000 teachers nationwide who have been selected as supervisors of the flu rooms have been vaccinated. Anyone showing flu symptoms during the test will be relocated to the separate rooms.
Wow! "Yes, we know you have swine flu and, hysterical exaggerations aside, it can kill you. You can take the test in that room, over there. Feel a little dizzy? Just hang onto the sides of the desk a moment. We'll give you until six PM to finish the exam. You can see a doctor or take your medicine after that."

Although my sympathies go out to all the Entrance Exam takers today, I particularly feel for the sick ones. Fighting!
I am thrilled though, to be teaching today without the frequent roar of fighter jets training overhead. The whole country changes it's behaviors to allow the students the best conditions to work.

I don't know if the migration patterns of birds are responsible but bird flu virus has been found in South Korea recently. From the Chosun (and a good link!):
The resurgence of bird flu in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province is causing concerns to health authorities as the H1N1 flu scare continues. A low pathogenic bird-flu virus was found in excrement of migratory birds in a reservoir in Chuncheon. Despite the low infectiousness, health authorities claim they cannot rule out danger to humans or mutation and pledged to stay alert.

The worst-case scenario is that patients infected with the H1N1 virus could additionally contract bird flu, leading to a mutation that gives rise to a new supervirus. "But that doesn't necessarily mean that a new form of virus will be formed when the bird flu virus appears amid the spread of H1N1 virus," a health official said. "But if that did actually happen, the situation we've seen so far would be a mere shadow of what lies ahead. That's why we have to take preventive measures."
Viruses can share genetic information so I guess a 'supervirus' could be created. As I recall (Bird Flu is so 2005), bird flu wasn't very contagious between people. You could catch it from a bird but not spread it to other humans. Simply making it infectious among humans would be a big step toward 'supervirus' status.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Indian English teachers in Korea?

From the Joongang:
Starting in the fall semester next year, around 100 teachers from India will be teaching English at elementary, middle and high schools nationwide, a high-ranking official with the Education Ministry said yesterday.

The ministry has recently confirmed a plan to “improve the system for assistant native teachers of English,” including hiring English-speaking Indians.

“The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement signed between Korea and India last Friday has opened a 1.2 billion-strong Indian market. We expect a number of qualified English teachers from India will come here,” said the source.

Also mentioned at The Marmot's Hole and Brian in Jeollanam-do's blog.
Brian quotes and says:
The ministry has spent more than 300 million won a year on hiring and training those teachers but experienced difficulty gaining sufficient “qualified” teachers, given that only 13 percent of them have official teaching certificates.

I wrote about the misuse of "qualified" and "unqualified"
in the Korea Herald in June, and have addressed it many timeson this site, to such an extent that I thought we moved beyond that misnomer. I guess it bears repeating, for those who missed it the last few times around, that it is Korea itself that determined a four-year degree and the right passport are the qualifications for teaching English here.
However, I'm sure these teachers come cheaper, and I consider their introduction more indication---together with the new domestic English test, the thousands of Korean English "lecturers," and the increased contract funny business by public schools---that South Korea is moving away from hiring native speakers from the Big 7. Though thousands of native speaker English teachers have been hired for public schools over the years, a near-total lack of planning and support on the part of co-teachers, schools, and education offices has prevented them from reaching their full potential and has essentially set them up to fail. I suspect it won't be too long until the NSET experiment is over.
Indeed, at the 2008 KOTESOL conference, one of the big-name speakers, in describing the future of ESL, discussed the end of "Native speaker English". The example given there was of a Chinese construction company hiring English teachers from Germany, who were more interested in communication, than in proper use of articles and the like.

Certainly, any teacher brought here from India will be well-qualified and experienced. In a third-world country with such a huge population, you're either good at something or you're unemployed. Students will learn excellent English-for-communication, although they might ask, "What is your good name?"

On the other hand, Korea Beat, in discussing a completely different article, reports that racist attitudes in Korea are unchanged. I should add that my very-traditional in-laws welcomed me into their family without reservation.

KwandongAlex is hungry - maybe more later.- Okay, he's fed. Post is as complete as it ever will be.

Remembrance Day

There were a lot of kids buying Ppeppero at the store this evening. Ppeppero Day sounds like a fun day and not more commercial than Christmas, just more focussed on what should be bought.

For me, on the other hand, it is Remembrance Day. Image from Wikipedia.
Remembrance Day
Canadian-style poppy worn on lapel

Also from Wikipedia:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

There was more on a Canadian veteran's website.
I know that a few people from my hometown fought here in Korea. I regret that I cannot find the photo I took of the memorial at Memorial Park in Bracebridge.