Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Don't Like Mondays

No news from 150 Boone of late--reached a plateau, I guess. Moving stuff into the storage unit, at least in a theoretical kind of way; waiting on Visa package, which entails trip to Korean Embassy in Atlanta; in holding pattern for e-ticket for my flight. Both are scheduled to arrive "in August." It's an annoyance, waiting.

Tomorrow, all bookcases, shelves, incidental tables go. Meanwhile, still muddling through Pimsleur lesson 8 (last of this package, and frankly, USD 300 for the full course sounds a lot); once in country I hope to find a Korean willing to teach Korean in exchange for learning English. Maybe I will try to learn Hangul in the meantime, and transfer it to what I think I know.

Still reading Korean expat blogs and gradually, tentatively, interacting with them. I'm shy, what can I say?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sometimes a bird is just a bird

All packed boxes are safely stored in my new storage unit; now it's mainly the furniture (bookcases, chester drawers, mirror vanity table, entertainment ctr, chess table, wall hangings, mirrors, etc). After that will be stools, chairs, computer table, etc. The rest goes in the yard sale or it goes to Goodwill. Marge asked, "What's the last thing to go in the storage place?" to which I said, "Sleeping bag."

Photo of fledglings on nest, taken on July 25, 2008 w/ Canon PowerShot SX100 set on Auto, 10X zoom, no flash
There has only been one family of birds this year, in the nest on the porch. They have fledged, and are about to leave the nest for good, I'd say within the week. Usually, another pair moves in and repeats the process, often as many as three times in a summer. Not to mention the cardinal nests in the privet at the other end of the porch, right outside my study window. Avian encounters are a frequent feature of my environment.

My nest--of lo! these past eight years--will soon be empty.

Photo of fledglings gallavanting in 3D, taken July 25, 2008 w/ Canon PowerShot SX100 set on Auto - Pay the thunder no mind, listen to the birds Eubie Blake

Thursday, July 24, 2008

In Today's Korea Times ...

1) Korea Telecom offers 100 Mbps internet, to differentiate itself in a market with ubiquitous 2 Mbps (that's what we call T1) connectivity--according to the article, only about 1.5 million Korean households lack hi-speed internet.

2) Seoul listed as 5th most expensive place for ex-pats to live. I think this includes rent, and having a car.

3) Latest in rash of foreign objects in food reported, along with a cover-up attempt by Lotte, Korea's second largest food conglomerate (also owner of amusement park LotteWorld in downtown Seoul). It was a 10 won coin (1 cent) in a snack called "Oh! Good Cereal Chocolate".

4) Elementary teacher apologizes for beating students with broomstick. Corporal punishment is still a common occurrence here--but this guy smacked a kid 10 times with a broomstick, and not even on the forgiving, not-likely-to-result-in-broken-bones tush.

I was on the receiving end of school whippings three times that I recall: a paddling from "Mistuh A.D." in fifth grade, involving spitwads; "tackie," a large sneaker, in standard 5 (7th grade) in Zim, I don't remember what for (but in 5A1--the top class of the school--our master was the one who gave "tackie", so we were regularly treated to kids from other classes, bending over and getting smacked right on the dais in front of the room); once in third form, "six of the best" from the Headmaster--a proper public school caning--for spilling a bottle of India ink.

They were all on the gluteus maximus, which is the proper place for spankings, not that I'm defending it--or myself. Although, I gotta say the India Ink was an accident.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Martyrdom in the Animal Kingdom

My new favorite webpage--well, not really: http://suicidefood.blogspot.com/. It is a compendium of marketing images of animals preparing themselves to be eaten, like these:

logo of Boys and Girls Club BBQ, from suicidefood.blogspot.com An advertisement for Cirque de Poulet, from suicidefood.blogspot.com

The commentary is earnest and clever, viz pizzle twists! My main interest of course is looking out for logo ideas for when I retire and open my restaurant, probably not what the blogger had in mind.

So last night I grilled pork chops, tonight I made chicken casserole.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Won't Someone Think of the Ribbons!?!

Ribbons Against Mad Cow sticker, from foreignerjoy.blogspot.com
1) Well, if ribbons are against it, so am I!
(photo from Foreign/er Joy - I truly enjoy following her experiences, and those of others I've mentioned, and read but haven't mentioned yet)

2) Making very slow progress in getting house ready to sell, etc. It has been suggested I pull a quick equity line loan and put USD 5000 into it (carpet, cabinet fronts, etc). I was planning just to paint. It's possible that would improve the sale price substantially. I could end up paying that anyway if it doesn't sell in six months. It was later conceded that except the LR, the carpet was still in good shape.

3) Wonderful cartoon below, from the brilliant Chuck Jones. Lots of vocabulary words, read by Robert Morley (who achieves just the right balance of playfulness and pedagogue for my taste). It's the love story of a line and a dot, and the squiggle that comes between them:

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cars, Clans and Cookouts

Family cookout today at my brother's house. It was supposed to be at a local state park with a swimmin' hole, but Conan had to replace part of the clutch on his Mazda Protege, and Alan was helping him. After hours of grease and grunting, they got it mostly put back together, then realized they had the clutch plate in backwards. This is Reason No. 17 why I take my vehicle to a repair shop.

More of that dreaded American beef. It's amazing I'm still alive. And some really rich chocolate cake--the way I like it!

Here is a photo of the newest member of Clan Campbell, age one month.

Newest member of Clan Campbell

Friday, July 18, 2008

Twinrix Powers -- Activate!

Having done my research, the only vaccinations I need for Korea are Hepatitis A + B, Typhoid and Malaria. I got a Tdap booster six years ago, when I went to the hospital from a yellow jacket attack (turns out I have an anaphylactic reaction to being stung by 12+ of them all at once).

The Hep A+B vaccination (take 3 times) - mine was in a 5 dose boxToday, I went with Marge to get the first course of the Hepatitis inoculation (Twinrix) at her Dad's office. Yvonne gives a great shot--and I've had a few! In one month, I will go back for the second shot, and start the typhoid course, which is four pills in eight days. I will get chloroquine tablets before leaving, as I am sure to visit the few parts of Korea (like the DMZ, the North and the countryside) where malaria has not been eradicated. I took chloroquine once a week the whole time we were in Thailand and Zimbabwe.

In the middle of December, in Korea, I will have to take the last course of the Twinrix (or else the HepB immunity will not be complete and long lasting). (There is also an accelerated scheme of 0, 7 days, 21-30 days, + 1 yr booster.) There is a list of Seoul hospitals with English-speaking services on the Seoul Metro Govt website ("A Clean, Attractive & Global City, Seoul").

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

So, I have been hemming and hawing about this since I started this blog/adventure, and finally came to a decision: SELL the house. Even if it takes several months after I'm gone to get it sold, I can swing that (my last paycheck from OMA is Aug. 25, my first from SMOE is Sept. 25). Too many horror stories about distant landlords, so I'm gonna let 'er go.

I love this house: out in the boonies, lots of breathing space between neighborOver half of books and vases, lamps, clockss, open kitchen/dining/living space with a bar. But it has its problems. What, you think I'm going to list them on the Internets for all to see, when I'm trying to sell the place?

In other news, I am on lesson seven of Pimsleur, and the honorific endings and such are making more sense--I just hope the regular classes of verbs are similar to speak, be, eat, drink and know, because those are the only ones I have learned. Vocab, natch, still extremely limited, and as I have whined before, consulting the myriad other sources (Korean in Plain English, Berlitz Korean in 60 min CD, Berlitz dictionary, Your First 100 Words in Korean, and a skinny yellow dictionary I can't find lately) doesn't always validate or extend the Pimsleur approach.

However, "beer drink would" seems to be something like maek-chu-du* ma-shil-guess-seyo.

*I am making up my own pinyin, since there's no consensus anyhow. That "du" is really a "do-il" sound that is said really fast and chopped. There is no similar sound in English. However, if you look up beer, the dictionary will have maektchu, or maek-chu or similar, but not mention that you put the "du" at the end. Although, sometimes it's a "ga". Clazy.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blog News

I have been added to The Korean Bloglist. Congratulations, me!

I still spend time reading these blogs, lately folks who went to Korea one year ago, to see how the transition went--especially getting around, learning the language. And a few who are at the same stage as I am.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Buttermilk and Cornbread

According to my Dad, on the phone recently:
Buttermilk goes with cornbread, cornbread goes with everything.

I'm not a huge buttermilk fan, but I hope they have cornbread in Korea. And I don't mean dry, mealy cornbread like some people try to pass off, but sweet, moist, bacon-drippings cornbread. I know Koreans add corn to some things, but baking is not easily done in the common Seoul apartment/officetel/studio--typically, they only have a cooktop, no oven.

No clothes dryer either, apparently on the principle that it's an enormous waste of energy. Hard to argue that, I grew up with a clothesline out back, as did everyone else in the neighborhood. Buttermilk and cornbread, too.

What a Coincidence, I was in Hello, Dolly in HS!

Watched Wall-E today, and I thought it was brilliant. It started with a "short feature," so rare today that I heard a couple of kids ask if it was a commercial. The movie begins with strains of "Put On Your Sunday Clothes" from the Hello, Dolly! movie recording with a young Michael Crawford as Cornelius Hackl: Way out there beyond this hick town, Barnaby, There's a slick town, Barnaby! The camera zeroes in on what we realize is a dystopic future earth, abandoned by its inhabitants in favor of spaceships owned and operated by BuyNLarge.

Wall-E is a lone robot who collects, compacts and stacks trash, as he has done for 7000 years, all that remains of BuyNLarge's effort to make the earth re-inhabitable some day. His only companions are a cockroach and an assortment of strange bits and pieces he has collected over time (the spork is funny), strangest of all a VHS tape of Hello, Dolly! I played the Walter Matthau role, Horace Vandergelder, my senior year in high school, so you can consider me an expert (I did manage not to sing along out loud while sitting in the theatre).

The plot that develops is mainly a robot love story, all done with beeps and whirrs from the guy that did the sound effects for Star Wars--R2D2, Chewbacca, et al. The movie is an investigation of the nature of human emotion using technology as stand-in--a neat trick first done with Brent Spiner's Data character in ST:TNG.

Nitpick: The spaceship has giant Wall-A type compactors, to compact trash before it is jettisoned. No self-sustaining spaceship jettisons anything--it all gets recycled, even the bodies of dead passengers. Now I know it's just a movie, and a cartoon at that, but they worked pretty hard to get this movie right; it would have been a trivial matter to get everything they needed in that scene without foolishly tossing precious resources overboard. Also, the water stays in the pool, on the Ledo deck.

Still, it's a very well-done piece: the animation uses techniques that give it, especially the part on planet earth, an eerie realism; the main storyline is easily grasped by a child, but invites deeper ruminations on sentience and humanity as well as Thomas Malthus and apocalypse; the sci-fi is decent; and, finally, the detailed technical work--acting, sound--is peerless. Oh, and there was a short.

First Picture at a First Birthday Party

Today was the perfect chance to try out my new camera--okay, so truth to tell, I went ahead and bought it so I would have it for today. The picture below was taken in Kids and Pets mode (the pets are in the back) with a Canon PowerShot SX100 IS w/o flash, ISO 250, f 2.8 at 8.3 Mpx w/ medium compression. I haven't learned much about settings yet, so that's pretty much how it came out of the box (sized down for the web). There's a lot of redeye, and it's supposed to fix that--my Nikon D50 at school has that, too, but it's hit-or-miss, and that camera cost over three times what this one did. Still, I think this is just about the best digicam available before jumping up to dSLRs--in both price and size.

This was at the first birthday for the one second from the left (middle row). The proud dads are "the guys" from my first class--they were fifth graders together when I started at my first real job. We grew up together, in a way. Twenty years later, they have beautiful, intelligent, well-behaved children--though you can tell from the photo, they got all that from their moms.

Wow! 20 year later, my 5th grade guys
Oh, and the food was outstanding--home-BBQ pork butt and all the fixins.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reaching for the SKY ... and beyond

Many sources--from the education ministry to the media--deplore the rigid orthodoxy of Korea's college boards, but none seem willing to do anything about it. Here is father Chung Il Wook, a 50 year old accountant, explaining his decision to send daughter Min Ju, 19, to a "cram school" to improve her scores, in an article at IHT:
Sending Min Ju here was not an ideal, but an inevitable choice. In our country, college entrance exams determine 70 to 80 percent of a person's future. It's a sad reality. But you have to acknowledge it; otherwise you hurt your children's future.

How so? The top tier of most any business is occupied by folks who attended Korea's top tier universities, a trio called SKY, for Seoul National, Korea University, and Yonsei. While the media seems to be in agreement with the unfairness of it all--and the toll it takes on the nation's young--they still laboriously report what college was attended by anyone in the news, new CEO, incoming minister, outgoing minister, whatever.

The NYT examined an emerging trend a few months ago, of Korean students aiming for top American schools, like Princeton, Yale and Stanford--Harvard has 37 Korean undergrads, according to the article, more than any country besides Canada and the UK. Most of these are graduates of a handful of expensive private schools (the article examines two of them) who undertake a regimen similar to the cram school students. They are highly motivated:
[Kim Soo-yeon’s] highest aspiration was to attend a top Korean university, until she read a book by a Korean student at Harvard about American universities. Immediately she put up a sign in her bedroom: “I’m going to an Ivy League!” [She was accepted by Princeton in March.]

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Shoe shine

Big News! I bought the tennis shoes I'm wearing to Korea!

Okay, not so big news, but pretty good savings: I usually spend, oh, $80 on a pair of shoes, but I saw these at Kohl's (when I was getting a new tire) on sale for USD 50. Then I saw exactly the same pair--new balance 507--on the sale table today at Dick's Sporting Goods for thirty bucks. That's about 60% off.

The choice of brand is no accident, as my two current tennies are new balance (485 and 495) and have held up much better than the Nike and Reebok pairs they replaced. I also plan to take my Rockports and Tevas, both of which have some mileage on them. Not sure about the Bean duck shoes.
Busdriver and his shoes, photo by joshuainkorea.blogspot.com
Shoes and Korea, despite my boring minutiae, are an interesting topic as Koreans take their shoes off when entering many places, a fact one needs to consider. I will have to get some really cush slippers. This picture is from An American in Geoje.
http://shoesoffatthedoorplease.blogspot.com/ is dedicated to, well, taking our shoes off at the door.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Some Dates in Korean History

2333 BC - founding of Joseon by Dangun
676 AD - unification of the Three Kingdoms by Silla
1377 AD - first use of metal moveable type printing press
1443 AD - Hangul, written form of Korean, devised by King Sejong
1950 AD - North Korea invades the south
1980 AD - Gwangju Democratization Uprising
1987 AD - first direct presidential elections slated in South Korea
2008 AD - first trial by jury in Korean history; jurors don't want to waste more than one day away from work, so proceedings are a marvel of Asian efficiency. Read more at International Herald Tribune.

Monday, July 7, 2008

As Time Goes By

Please attend the tale of WD4NGB, who spent twenty-two years in the US Army, including four stints in Korea, stretching the whole of his career: the first in 1960-61, the last in 1981-82--from the period of Syngman Rhee's ouster and Park Chung-hee's coup to Park's assassination and the civil unrest that followed.

WD4NGB is the ham radio call sign of Bruce Richards, who has had a fascinating life, and usually a camera to record it with. Best of all, he has converted and shared some of his photos on his webpage at QSL.net. He also provides some context and history and the occasional humorous observation, such as when describing his memories of 17th Trans Bn, I Corps, 1960:
I remember my Squad Leader was Cpl Ortez, or Ortega, and my Plt Sgt was SFC Robinson, who loved Vat69 Scotch and milk, but I have no idea what I had for Lunch yesterday.

I have two little pics here from his website, to entice you to check it out--Ouijongbu, old and new:
Photo of a street in Ouijongbu, 1960 by Bruce Richards Photo of part of Ouijongbu, 2008 by Bruce Richards

Alert readers and others may recall that Ouijongbu was the closest village to the 4077th, generally speaking. I intend to visit as many locations named in the TV show M*A*S*H as I can during my stay. Now, I wonder which set of skyscrapers has that time capsule from the second-to-last episode (As Time Goes By) buried under it?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fourth of July Cookout

I went down to Greenville for a patriotic cookout with my Dad and brother Alan, who shot the video below on his cell phone. Those are some nine dollar sirloins, there, "plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt," as Melville would say, except I use Montreal steak seasoning. There are a few different brands, but Montreal is the important part; a properly grilled steak, (even if it's) American beef, is a beautiful thing, worth celebrating on the fourth of any month.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Engrish, the Language of Love

Speaking English may be more than a key to advancement in your job in the Land of the Morning Calm, according to this story at today's Korea Times. Here's a good quote:
"I like men speaking good English. It makes them look sexy, intelligent and very competent,'' said Yang Mi-kyoung, a 24-year-old who works for a fashion goods company. "They also look very confident and I feel I could proudly introduce him to anyone,'' she added.

Knowing some English increases your chance at a hot date on Friday, or even mIllus. for Foreign Language Proficiency Advantageous for Datingarital bliss in the long run. Speaking a foreign language is viewed as a "basic attainment" by most of the 557 Korean singles interviewed for the poll in the story. However, many respondents "had little expectation for themselves in improving their language skills." Some hoped their future spouse would teach their future children English, to help save money on expensive hagwons. I love the cartoon. "A,D,C,B,Q," he says to her, "English." Smooooth.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Tale of Sir Bridgestone the Flat

1) I had a flat today--well, not an actual flat but the S-10 started shaking really badly, so I pulled into the parking lot of a not-yet-open car dealership along Hwy 16 and found the tread was separating on the driver's side rear tire--and used AAA for the first time (only got it with this vehicle, though I gotta say it's the way to go if you drive a beater). I don't usually buy bad tires, but I did have to get the one that failed today as a used tire when I ran over a chunk of metal on I-75 heading north from Macon, long story. Still, that tire had good tread depth left, as do all my tires, when I last checked.

Anyway, I rode in the cab of the tow truck with a tooth-impaired-differently-abled fella named Jim who moved to Newnan in 1992. Made me feel old school. We talked about the weather, the traffic, the growth of the area, Smith's Store, the movies and how they charge an arm-and-a-leg for popcorn. On a good day, Jim will do 15-20 calls; he lamented being off this past weekend, when it was busy. While we were in tow, he got a call for his next pick-up, which would be right across the street from where he was taking me for a new tire. Thankfully, the S-10 emerged none the worse for wear, and retains her imprimis.

2) I completed my errands and ate at Gandolfo's, where I usually get the Knuckle sandwich and soup, especially if it's the taco (soup). Today, I had broccoli salad and a Dagwood. I may have a new favorite.

3) Some of the stores are closed/ing in the strip of the shopping center adjacent to the tire place (other parts, like Home Depot, Circuit City, Kohl's, etc seem okay). Goody's is selling everything including the shelves, the good shoe place is gone, TJ Maxx is gone; the only remaining parts are Cici's Pizza ('nuff said), eyeglasses, the crappy shoe place, and the Christian bookstore, whose window display had inflatable beach items like palm trees and patio chairs, juxtaposed with the Narnia books. Summer reading.

It looked cheesy, but probably no more so than the display I did at Waldenbooks for a reprint of the Oz series in 1985 in which a silhouette of the Wicked Witch on her broomstick with a cotton ball script "Surrender Dorothy" glued to carefully cut-out letters trailing behind, was suspended from the ceiling by fishing line. Scotch tape was involved. Indispensable, even. From the correct angle, the whole thing appeared to float in air over a pile of the massive series, many of which were not written by Baum.

4) None of the Nancy Drew books were written by Carolyn Keene at all, and even Millie Benson didn't write alot of them. She was part of Edward Stratemeyer's Syndicate, which was responsible for The Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon, Tom Swift by Victor Appleton and others, like the Bobbsey Twins, which I never read. An amazing operation they had. This article at Wikipedia (a good place to start, but never your final source) says the syndicate was unknown to the public until publishers sued each other over the rights in the late 1970s. Certainly it was unknown to me, though by the late 70s I was on to other reading and didn't learn about it until much later.

That's a different thing than the Baum oeuvre being taken up by someone else; this was done pretty surreptitiously also in the case of V.C. Andrews, who wrote only the first four of the blond attic-dwelling Dollanganger children stories. Yeah, I read them, too.

5) There is no No. 5.

6) I was looking at cameras in the aforementioned Circuit City and really saw the price divide between single body cameras and digital SLRs. However, the optical zoom difference is getting lower--they had two models with 12X for around USD 300. Entry level SLRs are 600 and much bulkier. Carrying around an expensive camera is something I have done for years at school, but it definitely gets in the way. The more I think about it, the best optical zoom plus high px in the slimmest, most manageable package is what I need. Any thoughts?