Thursday, October 25, 2012

Politics is Inevitable VI

Despite their own upcoming Presidential elections on Dec. 19, Koreans remain acutely aware of U.S. politics. Especially as regards the peninsula.

Today's Joongang Daily carried a Yonghap write-up of comments made by Mitt Romney about how the Obama regime has weakened US influence around the world.
“You see North Korea continuing to export their nuclear technology,” Romney said, in what he termed evidence of a weaker America under Obama’s leadership. ... “I don’t see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding,” he said during the debate held at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
Romney is running as the Republican candidate for US President, with essentially the same neocon foreign policy ideas (and some of the same advisers) as GW Bush, under whose watch North Korea became a nuclear country to begin with. I can't say that Obama has handled DPRK that much better than W did, but we are talking about the most intractable dictatorship on the planet--and the succession of Jong-eun has made it that much more so. Still, Iraq and Afghanistan, "you're with us or you're agin' us" swagger, torture, universal wiretapping and Gitmo are all bad moves that a Romney administration would double down on.
He argued that Iran has come four years closer to having nuclear weapons and the Middle East is ridden with rising tides of violence and chaos, especially in Syria where around 30,000 civilians have been killed in prolonged bloodshed. Romney also pointed out the U.S.’ growing trade deficit with China.
Romney also seems to think that Iran is a landlocked country, whose only outlet to the waterways is through Syria. He has made this statement more than once. 1. Syria does not share a border with Iran. 2. Iran has substantial control of the Strait of Hormuz.

Trade deficit with China--got him there! During Obama's career in venture capital, he regularly bought struggling US concerns, converted their goods and chattels into salable capital, split the proceeds with his investors, and sent the jobs overseas. As a community organizer, one is focused on helping rich people improve their bottom line--petitioning city governments for more beat cops and firefighters, developing resources for early learning programs, trying to underwrite preventive medical care, looking after the 53%, you know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

School Flea Market

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Late last week, my school had an all-day flea market, that actually only lasted until noon. But there were no classes. The view above is from my classroom, where you can see the little vendors lining the edge of the soccer field.

In essence, it was a crap-swap in which all the children brought in bags full of crap from home to flog at prices ranging from 100 W to maybe 4,000 or 5,000 W tops--like for a virtually new pair of roller blades. They then go round and buy other kids' crap and return home with their bags full of different crap. The proceeds go to support the school program in some way. I assume.

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Directly above are two of the third graders who "clean" my classroom every morning. Actually, they spend about three minutes with tiny hand brooms and dustpans, like you might keep in your car, three more minutes randomly soaking parts of the hardwood flooring with wet mops, and the remaining nine minutes chasing, or being chased by, the boys who share the cleaning duty. It is kind of cute but ultimately futile as a way of cleaning a floor.

Some kids were rather slap-dash in displaying their goods, but others were quite organized. This little fellow had drawn out his floor plan in considerable detail.

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Finally, here is happy consumer with his plush toy:

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My haul included a paperback book, a clip on portable fan, a really nifty LCD reading lamp that plugs into a USB port, a muffler, a little easel for displaying framed art, and a bag to carry it all in. Under 5000 W.

Not sure yet what they may think of me as a teacher, but I will definitely be getting a reputation as a smart shopper.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Education News

About a week ago, the moderator on the SMOE FB page for NSETs politely asked that people keep comments about the Kwak No Hyun situation to themselves. Gwak is the disgraced former Superintendent of the Seoul school system, who has gone back to jail for paying off a rival to drop out of the Superintendent's race in 2010.

Korea Times is reporting that MEST (Ministry of Education, Science and Technology) will be conducting a two-week audit of SMOE:
... a team of 20 ministry officials will inspect major policies, personnel appointments as well as budget expenditure approved by Kwak.

Of course, there are the usual claims that the audit is politically motivated, what with the timing being so close to the election to replace Kwak, to coincide with the presidential election on Dec. 19, and the fact that the conservatives in power at MEST tend only to audit liberal-run education departments.

The Stumbler alerted me to the second story, from Joongang Daily, reporting that the government plans to add 2,300 English conversation teachers in elementary, middle and high schools next year.

This was surprising, because I just moved to an elementary school because they'd de-funded the high school English conversation program. Ah, but then I read this:
“These teachers will not be woneomin [native speaker] instructors, but native Korean instructors who are fluent in English,” said Lee Jeong-ah, an English education official at the ministry.

Just where they will find 2,300 Korean teachers fluent in English is left as an exercise for the reader.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wronggly

Every morning, I arrive at school well-early, in order to both chill and psyche myself for the day to come. For at least ten years, part of my morning regimen has been playing the word games at the Merriam-Webster website (http://www.merriam-webster.com/game/index.htm). I am not unhappy that they have "monetized" the website with ads and even ad screens (keeping it free or me), but kind of irked with this banner ad they've been running recently:

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See the problem here? The so-called "grammar-checker" has not corrected a single grammar error in the text. The fact that there are no grammar errors to be corrected in the sample is hardly an excuse--how can I trust a "grammar checker" program that can't tell the difference between spelling and grammar? I doesn't.

In addition to the daily games at M-W.com, I highly recommend the daily game called Common Knowledge here: http://www.puzzability.com/cgi-bin/commonknowledge.pl

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inappropriate Tee-shirt

On Monday and Wednesday, I teach two "extra" classes, called Speaking Class, in the first of which, for first, second and third grade students, I noticed the shirt below, being worn cluelessly by a third grade girl, quietly and efficiently going about her work:

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It's no "Too Drunk to Fuck", I'll grant you, but come on.

Chuck Sheperd's "News of the Weird" has a story this week about South Korea, referenced from Bloomberg, with the title "Men Want To Be Pretty, Too":
For some reason, South Korea (with about one-sixth the men that America has) is the world's largest consumer of male cosmetics, with its leading company approaching $1 billion a year in sales. According to a September Bloomberg Business Week dispatch, South Korean males became fascinated with the country's 2002 World Cup soccer team's "flower men," who had smooth, flawless skin, and the craze took off from there. Said a male college student, "Having a clean, neat face makes you look sophisticated and creates an image that you can handle yourself well." Makeup routines include drawing "thicker, bolder" eyebrows and, of course, expert application of lipstick. Said one admiring woman, "I feel like I have more to talk about with guys who use makeup." [Bloomberg Business Week, 9-17-2012]

Friday, October 5, 2012

China 2012: Tanner and Nancy's Wedding Festivities

For my Chuseok holiday, I went to the Jiangxi Province of southeastern China, not, as the post title might suggest, for Tanner and Nancy's Chinese wedding, but for the post-wedding festivities, as they were previously wed. Basically, I came along for the food.

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I arrived at Nanchang late on Saturday, and we (including Tanner's mom Ginny) made our way to the city's Western bar, called the Phoenix, which was one of T&N's haunts when he taught here a few years ago. A comfy place with a nice porch--the weather was spectacular the whole time. Lunch the next day was at a place selected by Nancy's friend Chris, and it was awesome. The pics below are of a really tasty fish dish (and I say that not being a fan of stewed fish) paired with bok choy, underneath which is pig's intestine as a stir fry. The other dishes were nearly as awesome but didn't photograph well.

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We went for a walk in the local park, and i caught a nice snap of the young couple:

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We drove two hours to Fenyi, a new hotel, and a smallish banquet with members of Nancy's family--aunts, uncles, Gran, etc). I have no pictures, sadly, because the food was incredible, and well-presented. After dinner, we went for a walk around the lake to look at the full moon (it's the Moon Festival in China, Chuseok in Korea) and eat moon cakes. The next day was a large luncheon banquet attended by about 200 people. Pictures below: Nancy's parents, the banquet hall, second floor.

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Here's some food, all delicious: lamb, pork balls, pork and rice with corn, turtle soup, spicy pork, rice flour buns, more pork.

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Our final banquet was in the next town over, whose name I don't remember, but Tanner described it as Minneapolis to Fenyi's St. Paul. Instead of one big room, the dinner took place in a number of smaller rooms, with one table in each. The couple spent time, as traditional, going from room to room toasting with water-weakened baijo. More great food, of course, but the star was the lamb. The last picture was taken by Tanner, and shows all the guests at the head table, with the remains of the meal--look at all that food!

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